Glancing at the odometer, I saw it click over to 207,000 miles. The car still seemed to be running ok, with just a slight oil leak requiring a quart of oil in between oil changes. Still, I’d seen some specials online for some pretty good deals, and I didn’t want to get in the same situation as with my previous Subaru Forester.
Back in 2009, I took a photo of my 2001 Subaru Forester on a deserted road in western Colorado. It had turned over 200,000 miles and I wanted to note the occasion. I’d never made it that far with my previous cars. A mere 10,000 miles later, though, it would all come to an ignominious end in Lake City, Oregon.
Unbeknownst to me, the differential fluid had been slowly leaking out the car due to a sloppy mechanic. By the time I noticed the whirring noise, it had reached the point of wrecking the gearing of the car until one day it just completely seized up unable to go forward or backward.
“The labor alone to take it all apart would cost you $2000, and who knows what kind of damage there is. If I were you, I’d get a new car.”
So, we found ourselves in a mad dash to find a new car in twenty-four hours in Denver. By the end of the day, I found myself the proud owner of a one-year old red Forester.
Fast forward nine years later, and I wanted to take a more proactive method. Both our cars are still running, but it might be good to think about what kind of car and the best possible deal we could get rather than allowing the car to break down again.
Bryon and I are old school and seem to be two of the few people left who prefer driving a manual transmission. After years of living in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, I feel even more strongly about that.
I learned to drive “stick shift” at 16 years old. My brother drove stick and it seemed cool, especially on the sports cars like Mustangs and Corvettes. At the time, my dad owned his own car dealership and I was working there during the summer. I begged him to teach me.
“Ok, go get the keys for the Ford Fiesta in the used lot. We’ll take it out and go get dinner.”
“Really, you’re going to let me drive the stick shift? Cool!”
It took me less than a minute to kill the engine. The next 15 minutes were filled with grinding the gears, killing the engine again at a stop light, and the car rolling backwards down a hill. All part of the joys of learning stick shift. It was an eye-opening experience, but I would not be deterred.
Days later, I sat in an old Bronco in the parking lot, practicing first year, second gear.
“You’re letting the clutch up to quick! Try again, slowly….” yelled one of the sales men.
Today, I love driving manual transmission. I feel like I am engaged in really driving the car, instead of letting the car drive me. In the mountains, if you don’t let the engine slow down you car when you’re driving up and down mountain roads, it’s a sure recipe for burning out the brakes. Supposedly, variable automatic transmissions are supposed to shift for you, but I haven’t found that to be the case, so as I drove my old Subaru automatic, I was always downshifting anyway.
As we set about looking for a new car, our requirements were simple. Four wheel drive and manual transmission.
What we found was disappointing and saddening. Just five years ago, the o
ption were many. Now, only three car manufacturers offered vehicles with those two requirements — Jeep, Subaru, and Mini. Apparently, Bryon and I are part of a dying breed of stick shift enthusiasts. Ok, maybe we did have a couple other requirements in mind — namely, ground clearance for all those rocky trail heads we drive to for our Fourteener hikes, and cargo space to hold all our skis, camping gear, as well as two large, fuzzy dogs.
And so we were left with Subaru – thus the reason so many populate the roads of Colorado and more are sold here in this state than any other.
This morning, I glanced out the door into the garage, gazing upon the shiny red Forester. It won’t stay that way for long, but it will be much used and loved.
The perfect mountain car.