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Kickin’ Back/Kelly Fosness

Out with the old, in with the new

January 14, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

It's true what they say about cars. By the time you dig yourself out from under all those monthly payments, it's time to look for a new one.

Case in point: My 2003 Oldsmobile Alero.

I picked up my shiny, red two-door at a dealership in L'Anse back in 2005. It was an Avis rental car in Chicago (which explained the worn-off arrows on the radio's seek button) before I drove it off the lot with just more than 23,000 miles on it.

The Alero was a good car to me over the last seven years or so that I drove it. And aside from general wear and tear - brakes and rotors, a couple front-end springs, a few deer dents and tires, of course - I never had any major problems with it.

The only beef I did have with red was winter driving.

Front-wheel drive didn't mean squat navigating in Houghton from November to March. I racked up more miles and burned up more gas taking the long way from A to B just to avoid routes along Bridge Street and MacInnes Drive.

Not to mention ground clearance was minimal. If I didn't gun it through snowdrifts I could pretty much bank on having to assemble my three-piece shovel that mom got me from L.L. Bean for Christmas "just in case."

Well, not anymore.

On New Year's Eve, I test drove what is now my newest set of wheels - a 2009 all-wheel drive, five-door hatchback Pontiac Vibe. I've had it for just over a week now and I'm still settling into the cockpit, testing all the fancy-shmancy knobs and buttons.

When I picked it up, the salesman at Parkway asked me if I had any questions about features, functions, etc, but I was so darn eager to take off I said, "Nah," shook his hand in thanks, hopped in and away I went.

In a way, it was almost like driving a loaner where you trade keys, hop in and just start driving. Until it rains, you have no clue how to work those wipers.

I ran into that sort of situation Wednesday when the big storm blew in. After work, I thought I'd head to my sister's in Allouez to show her my new car (and snag a homemade pasty since she was making them that day) only I couldn't figure out how to turn on my wipers. Every time I twisted the wand, the back wiper swished back and forth and every once and a while, fluid came out.

Meanwhile, I was stuck behind some big rig that was flinging up gunk on my windshield.

Heading down U.S. 41, I was sinking in my seat, leaning to the right and then to the left. When I had no more clear openings, I pulled over and used the old snowball trick.

I balled up a handful of powder and rubbed my windshield clean with my mitten.

Instead of a pasty that day, I just headed home. I knew I had some homework ahead of me.

Wheeling in the driveway, I threw my shifter in park and opened the glove box to get the manual. I never realized how much space I had in there. I mean, I could fit a duffel bag in there easy.

And besides the glove box, I had storage nooks all over the place - front to back - that I hadn't seen. At that point, I realized I never actually looked at all the features up close. So I sat there for a while in the driver's seat, and took it all in.

I have a new car, new payments and lots of reading ahead.

Kelly Fosness can be reached at



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