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 firstname.lastname@example.org.