I went recently to a Secretary Of State office in downtown Chicago to get my Real ID. Part of my thought process was that since I had all of the required documentation, and while this was still fresh in my brain, it made sense to just go ahead and do it. According to a little internet research, it appears as of this writing that a Real ID will be required for U.S. air travelers by May 3, 2023. (That’s a Wednesday, just so you know.) It feels great to have gotten this done far in advance of the deadline, versus my normal tendency to wait until the last minute, at which point the lines will probably be ridiculous. The Department of Motor Vehicles had me in and out of there in very quickly, efficiently, and courteously, and I was impressed. I ended up not even having to take that morning off from work to do this as I had originally planned.
Walking through Chicago’s Theatre District in the Loop to get to the DMV office in the lower level of the James R. Thompson Center always puts such a big smile on my face. I still remember what it felt like to have first arrived in this beautiful, historic city in my late twenties, with my spirits and confidence buoyed by having just gotten a promotion and a relocation package from my employer at the time. During my first year or so in Chicago, it felt almost like one extended vacation that was broken up by a Monday-through-Friday routine at the office. I had previously worked week-long stints in my company’s offices in other major U.S. cities, and being in Chicago felt almost like a continuation of that. Public art sprinkled throughout the downtown grid of almost perfectly parallel and perpendicular streets, like Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” sculpture in the John C. Kluczynski Federal Plaza and Helmut Jahn’s “Monument With Standing Beast” (pictured above) in front of the Thompson Center, serve as happy touchstones.
I didn’t want to be caught without a Real ID once I had a hypothetical lineup of places to go and things to do, so getting one was essential to not having to worry about it anymore. I was already thinking about going to Arizona to visit friends when I passed our featured Kia Sedona near the James M. Nederlander Theatre (formerly the Oriental Theatre; pictured above). My friends don’t live in Sedona, but this minivan still made me think of them, as well as a lot of other things: seeing more of the United States, family vacations, and road trips. It also made me think of how utterly forgettable the styling of the first Sedona was. I used to think it reminded me of the slightly rounded, 1991 – ’95 edition of the minivans from Chrysler Corporation, but looking at it again, I see more than a little Ford Windstar in those rounded Dial deodorant soap-like curves and corners.
I’ve never been to Sedona before, but from what I’ve read and the pictures I’ve seen, its broad vistas of red rock formations and natural beauty look truly awe-inspiring and probably must be seen in person to be believed. A place like Sedona and its vivid and unique brand of North American nature appears on the surface to be one hundred eighty degrees from that of most places I’ve ever lived before, and for that reason, I think it deserves a spot on my to-see list. However, the aesthetic merits of Sedona-the-place and Sedona-the-minivan, especially in the latter’s initial 2002 – ’05 iteration, couldn’t be more diametrically opposed, to my eyes. It’s not that I think the first Kia minivan sold in the U.S. is ugly. It’s just not memorable. At all.
According to Consumer Guide, these early Sedonas packed a lot of value into their asking price when new, back in the days when content for the money was Kia’s main calling card. The Sedona’s strengths included good interior and cargo room, being about the same size as rival Toyota Sienna and slightly longer than the non-“Grand” Dodge Caravan. I would never have guessed this by looking at a Sedona, as its styling has always somehow suggested a much smaller vehicle than either of those other minivans, or any of its other intended competition.
Downsides included lackluster fuel economy and acceleration. The 195-horsepower, 3.5 liter V6 that powered both the standard LX model and the upmarket EX was EPA rated at 15/20 mpg with its five-speed automatic transmission, but managed only 15.6 mph in CG’s test. Even the 2004 Dodge Caravan equipped with the 215-hp 3.8L V6 was rated at 17/23 mpg, managed 17.1 mph, and could do 0-60 mph in a hair over 10 seconds. The Sedona took almost a full second more. This actually doesn’t seem like that big of a gap to me, but no one said the 3.8L-equipped Caravan was a paragon of acceleration. Whatever… these are family haulers that no one is taking to the track on weekends.
I feel like the owner of this Sedona did an admirable job of bringing a bit of vacation-like flair to his or her example with this exuberant, homemade paint job and copious use of stickers on the lift-up tailgate. I’m not saying it’s a roadgoing Picasso, with the styling of the brand-new Kia Sorento SUV behind it being genuinely attractive, by contrast. I can, however, appreciate the level of commitment on display in having made this Sedona look like something not manufactured by Kenmore, even if it still looks like it was styled by Fisher-Price.
I’m convinced that if you can’t look or act a fool just a little bit while on holiday, then you’re not doing it right. I’m not recommending doing bodily harm to yourself in acts of overindulgence, but rather that I’d encourage simply letting loose before the realities of adulthood start to beckon you back to your regularly scheduled programming. Whenever I do go on that first, major vacation this year (with my new Real ID), I’ll plan to make the most of it right up through the end. I may not make it to Sedona from Phoenix, with roughly 115 miles between those two cities, but whatever it is I do to relax, I’m going to do my best to make it memorable, like the celebratory paint job and graphics on this otherwise invisible Sedona.
Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.