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New harpmobile- the most expensive accessory-(I hope!!)

  • Mary Ellen
    Mary Ellen Fitzgerald

    Went looking at minivans today- I feel like I'm regressing- I did the minivan thing already in the 90's, and have been suv'ing since. But it's getting tough to get everything, including myself, all  the way up there, and the mileage stinks!

    So far I've looked at the Quest (HATED  the console) and the Odyysey, and will probably get the Odyssey.  With all the bells and whistles, 'cause I want the doors to all open by remote. The rear seats go flat, and I can put the "pedal harp I don't have" on it's column straight thru the middle if I take out the mid-seat console.

    Does anyone have any experience with this car, or any other suggestions?

    Then starts the Harp Quest in earnest.  But then, am I accessorizing the car, or the harp?

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    replies to "New harpmobile- the most expensive accessory-(I hope!!)"
    • Laura
      Laura Smithburg Byrne

      Dear Mary Ellen,
      I have to RAVE about my new Toyota Sienna XLE for a harpmobile. My poor old Chevy Suburban was nearing 200,000 miles and dying a slow and expensive death. I decided to buy my first new car at the age of 43 as I am on the go with my harp gigs, students, and my three kids. I perform frequently and move my harp between 1-4 days a week and travel a bit depending on the season and how many rehearsals I have before a concert. Let me tell you how much I LOVE my new car!
      The console is beautiful and comfortable for a shorter woman to reach. The Mc- factor is excellent all the way back to the third row with cupholders in convenient spots. It has automatic door opener buttons on the remote key chain and within the car. Both side doors and the hatchdoor open at the touch of the button. The back third row folds down completely into the cargo space.I lay down a plastic patio lounge chair pad and I load the harp in on its' column . I slide it in between the two captains chairs where I pad around the harp with a body pillow so it is snug between the seats.There is hardly a lip where the back hatch closes but my pad is long enough to cover it while moving the harp. I move my harp with the column, bass, and full travel covers for padding and security for every gig.
      I  hook two short bungee chords through the Lyon & Healy travel harp cover cloth handles on the back of the neck on both sides and secure it to the hooks above the sliding doors(where you would hang your clothes). The harp is secure no matter how many sudden stops or sharp turns I take while maneuvering through  rush hour traffic. When you take out the captain' s chairs out  there is a lot of room for harps.
      I have safely moved three pedal harps on their columns, a troubador harp and a dolly too.
      For working families this car is a dream. When I come back from a gig and have my harp in the car there is room for my three kids, their backpacks and sports gear.
      Plus, there is still room for groceries! My  teenage son can plug in his MP3 player, my daughters can watch a movie, and I pick the radio station I want to listen to.
      I bought the navigation system for those weddings way out in the boonies. I bought the sunroof for sanity (for anyone who's has ever been trapped in a mini-van with teenagers you know what I am talking about)!
      The great thing about toyotas is that they are so reliable and last a long time. I have to say this is the best car I have ever driven (lived in) as a  professional harpist/Mom.   Recently, I  saw a commercial that describes my life perfectly.
      Picture this, two kids sitting in leather captain's chairs with headphones on watching
      a DVD player playing cards inside their toyota sienna.  The Dad asks them to come see the treehouse he has been slaving over in the back yard and he is dismayed that they would rather stay in the car and "play" . This is my reality!
      If you see me on the road honk your horn and wave at the happy "Harplady"!

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    • Rosalind
      Rosalind Beck

      I have an Odyssey, and I just love it.  My 2005 Odyssey replaced a 1992 Chevrolet Impala station wagon.  The only negative is the fact that the second-row seats do not fold flat.  You must remove them in order to transport the harp horizontally.  These second-row seats are very heavy, so I have taken them out and they are permanently stored.  If I need to have people ride with me (when I'm not moving a harp), the third-row seats pop up very easily, so the Odyssey can then seat a passenger up front, and three more in the third-row.seats.  I have never, ever transported any harp I have ever owned on its column, although I understand that there are harpists who can do it safely. (My caddy is just not set up that way.)  Good luck to you no matter which vehicle you select!

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    • Donna
      Donna Germano

      I have an older Odyssey (98) and love it.  I will probably get a newer one in the next few years.  I always load with the column down between the middle seats, back row stays folded down. You can bungee the harp to the  fastening bars at the upper sides.  After 2000 the Odysseys got bigger, more the size of the American minivans.  The newer ones might be more level to the back loading area.  Mine has a few inches drop and that is not great.  You can't beat Honda for reliability.

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    • Aimsy
      Aimsy W

      Try looking at a Skoda Fabia Estate or a Suburu Forester - my family and I both drive these cars, buying them specifically as 'harp-mobiles' and they've been wonderful.

       

      Don't know about availability outside of the EU though...

       

      Tip: Try and avoid resting the harp on it's column in a car - puts a huge amount of stress and pressure on the column :)

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    • Evangeline
      Evangeline Williams

      I had always heard that column loading was safe and perfectly okay to do.  In factsome of the harpcolumn harpmobile reviews mention how many people can fit in a car with column loading.  

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    • Christian
      Christian Frederick

      Hi Mary Ellen,


      I have the Quest with the big cool console. It looks soo cool, but I totally regret buying that mini-van. The console sticks out where my right knee usually rests, and the front seat is pushed up so there is no room for a 6'3" big guy. Although the Quest is made in the USA, it's obvious it is designed by short little Japanese people. This was a huge mistake for me....and now I long for that wonderful '96 Dodge Grand Caravan. As a tall person, I learned the expensive mistake to never buy a Japanese car again.


      Best Wishes....I think the Chrysler/Dodge Grand Caravan is the wisest choice.

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    • Mary Ellen
      Mary Ellen Fitzgerald

      Hi

      I ended up getting the Honda Odyssey.  It is HUGE inside, and I regularly travel with 2 32 string harps on their sides in the back, without having to move the 2 captains chairs.  With the cnter concole out in the middle, I think I can get a grand right  down the center with out any trouble.  Not that I have one.  I currently have a L&H 85XP, and am planning on going to Chicago in Oct to see my new niece, and tour Lyon  and Healy and Venus. 

      I had trouble with the Quest console bumping my knee--I can remember the same trouble with the full size Dodge van I had in the 90's.

      At any rate, my back and neck are happy that I'm not lifting things into an SUV any longer, I'm using regular gas instead of premium, and getting way better mileage.  I'll be taking the new van to Somerset next week with 2 big folk harps and 3 adults.  I'll let you know how it goes.

      Now if I can just get up the nerve to try putting my 85xp into it. Maybe when it cools off a bit.

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    • Donna
      Donna Germano

      Glad to hear you like the new Odyssey!

      By the way, I was taught the safest way to load the harp is on the column.  If you load it flat, I was told to prop up the harmonic curve with something like pillows, so the weight of the harp does not rest on that end. That's where you don't want undue stress.

      You shouldn't have any trouble with the 85 XP.  So is the back loading area of the Odyssey flat now or is there a drop at the trunk closing area?

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I don't know where you learned to move a harp. From all I know and have experienced and been taught, it should lay flat on the side without discs, fully and evenly supported like on a mattress larger than the harp, not on lumpy uneven pillows. The side has to be protected from scraping and bumps as well. Having it lay on the column exposes the neck to flexion and torsion if it is not rigidly held still and encased. It is a problem when so many cars are not long enough, but don't compromise the harp's safety! I did see a handyman's van, who had installed pegboard along the side. This seems to me like a good set-up, so with a pad between the harp and the wall, you can strap it at multiple points, but still, this would not be so stable, and would create stress where-ever the straps were. 

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    • Patricia
      Patricia Jaeger

      Regarding loading a  pedal harp on its column: I have an older Lyon and Healy Style 17 with a gold crown that  I was told is "pot metal". If the harp were ever transported on its column, the edge of this crown,  protruding  past the column as it does,  would bear a lot of weight, even if cushioned somehow, and would soon crack and break, since pot metal is not very strong.

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    • Catherine
      Catherine Rogers

      Back when most of us drove station wagons, I loaded my harps lying flat, disc side up, on a pad or mattress and that was fine. I've been using minivans since 1989 because they have more room than today's smaller wagons and use the space more efficiently. I've been loading on the column since then and have had no problems with any of my harps, and technicians who regulate them say they're fine. That said, I do use a padded cradle which holds the column just below the crown, so there's no pressure on that part of the column. I also use cushions under the base and on both sides so the harp is protected from bumps and cannot move. My husband and I have built the same system for several of my friends. If they'd had problems or damage, I'm sure they would have told us.


      There are more details to this system than mentioned above, but my point is that so many people have been loading on the column for so long that, if it were bad for the harp, the resulting problems would have appeared by now. If you are careful and know what you are doing, either method of loading should be fine. As long as you are happy with your method, it's good.

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    • Donna
      Donna Germano

      Actually, I learned to load my harp at the Richard Petty Driving School.  They said to just lay it flat on the disc side, in the back of a pick up truck.  You don't need cases or tie downs although if you are also carrying some 2x4s or sheet rock you might want to close the tail gate.  Then drive as fast as you can and be sure to slam on the brakes whenever needed.

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      The reason I don't agree is that a neck replacement is not something that would show up immediately. It may seem like normal aging when in fact it has been hastened by on-column transport. Unless the whole harp is rigidly fixed in place, you are leaving its knee-block, the most vulnerable part of the harp, unsupported. I think it is far wiser to err on the side of caution. If you can move it in its trunk on the column side, that would seem safe. I would like to be reminded, does the higher floor of the van make it easier to load or harder than a lower station wagon floor?

      As for the pick-up truck, you forgot to mention adding the chains, jacks and shovels to pack around the harp!

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    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      P.S. It seems like it has been ten to fifteen years that many people have been using smaller vans, which is not long in terms of harp lifespan and seeing wear-and-tear show up. As I said, I would choose extra care. I took enough risks with my harp, and it has had to have two neck replacements, a bottom-body frame repair twice, a new base and refinishing. I would add to any cradle something to cup around the knee-block and attach to the bottom of your cradles to hold the angle of the harp steady. My first teacher, Frances Miller, had something made for her wagon, that looked like the backside of a trunk. It was a wooden tray with sides, with hand holes on the sides, that would slide out and lay down, she would set the harp into it, pick it up and slide it in, and attach it with bungee cords to the wheelwells of her Country Squire. It was fantastic. Now if someone would make one of those available cheaply! No slush on the bottom of the harp, no scraping on the car. She had two made and that's all.

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    • Catherine
      Catherine Rogers

      Personally I find it easier to load into a slightly higher vehicle because you aren't lifting the harp, you're laying it on a cushion on the lower edge and then lifting the base and sliding. So at least half of the weight is resting on the car and you're not having to lift the total weight of the harp. (Of course there's a carpet on the ground under the base of the harp, even using a base cover.) The higher the vehicle, the less you have to bend over to load, which should be better for some people's backs.


      My column fits into a cradle with wheels that roll on a piece of carpeted plywood on the floor of the van. This protects the carpet of the van for resale value and covers any holes in the floor where the removed rear bench seat would latch into place. (Dodge Grand Caravans have seats which fold into the floor but the shorter Dodge minivans don't; my rear bench seat stays in the basement from the day we buy the van until the day we sell it.)


      As mentioned earlier, the crown pokes out of the end of the cradle so there is no pressure on it, either.


      Since the kneeblock is up in the air, so to speak, there is no pressure on it. Seems like having no pressure on the neck would be better for it since it's most vulnerable. Someone once said laying a harp on its side would hasten twisting of the neck; I can't think of any practical way to test that.


      Many people ask me if harpists move their harps in the trunks, but that makes the whole process heavier and more unwieldly, and I've never been able to get a trunk in anything smaller than a pick-up truck. Even those old fibreglass trunks, though lighter than wood, were more trouble than they were worth. I could roll one but never lift it even if empty.

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    • Elizabeth
      Elizabeth Volpé Bligh

      Donna, do you mean to lie it down on the side with the pegs down? If it goes discs-down, the discs can get damaged or broken, and at the very least cause problems with the regulation.

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    • Donna
      Donna Germano

      Please. That was a joke.  I don't put it in a pick-up truck either!

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    • Evangeline
      Evangeline Williams

      Minivan is easier to load, at least for me, because when you tilt to lie it down on its back flat, you have less to lean/distance to go...I hope my description makes sense.  I can load by myself into the minivan usually, but not the wagon.  I've been stuck having to load into the wagon by myself before-I had some pads/gym mats from target that I put standing up so that I had less distance between the harp and it's landing zone.  I am in the search for a new car and as much as I love wagons and hate parking vans, if I ever want to load this thing myself and become an independent harpist (as opposed to one depending on a roadie), I may end up with an wagon-SUV crossover since they are more car like but a bit higher off the ground than wagons. 

      We do column load occasionally, and I hate it!  We've done it maybe 2x now, and its a 2 person job, even for my most experienced harp loaders (family members).  The only times we've done that is when we wanted to sit more than 2 people in the car.  The harp is pretty well supported up top between the two middle seats, and we wrap blankets in any blank space between seat and harp. 

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    • Evangeline
      Evangeline Williams

      If she only made two, is she willing to let people use the idea and make their own?  Is there a picture or drawing out there of it so people can figure out how to make them? 

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    • Kimberly
      Kimberly Rowe

      Mary Ellen:


      I just saw your post. I too and the proud owner of a brand new Honda Odyssey. LOVE it!!!! On our last harpmobile review I picked the Quest as my favorite, but in the end I went with the Odyssey. I was extremely disapointed to enter the minivan phase of life (I don't even have kids!), but I was tired of cramming a ton of stuff alonog with the harp into my SUV. I just completed my first long distance trip with the Odyssey and it was really great.


      I LOVE column loading the harp. It is easy to do yourself if you put down some plastic office chair mats to help the harp slide in easier. I moved my two middle seats together and put the harp down the passenger side, which allows a ton of room for stuff next to the harp. All the technicians I've talked to say this is perfectly safe for the harp, and actually better for it since the harp is not resting on the extended soundboard "wing." (No matter how much padding you use, the harp still rests on the wing if you load it on it's side.) Regardless of the harp's safety, I have to say that I am much more concerned with my own personal safety and I feel much more secure knowing that if someone rear-ended me, the column of the harp is not pointed directly at my spine as it was in the old SUV. My assistant here at the HC (Alison Reese) was rear-ended in her SUV a few month's ago, totalling the car, but fortunately the harp was not in it. It got us both thinking about personal safety and what would have happened to her in the crash in the event her harp was in the car. Alison also now owns an Odyssey!


      So, I am a big fan of my Odyssey. I got the one with the navagation system and an added bonus is that on my recent trip to Georgia and back to PA it found me three Starbucks in the middle of nowhere! Yippee!


      KIM

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