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Saturday, June 14, 2014

My New Triathlon Car

2004 Saturn Vue

I had to go car shopping. I had no choice. My beloved Saturn Vue was rear-ended about two weeks ago.
I knew with it being 10 years old with 152,000 miles the insurance company would not want to fix it. They totaled out the car. My old friend was gone and I needed to find a replacement.
So it was time to shop to find another car that would work as well for me as my Saturn.
I had a couple of requirements:
·        My triathlon bike had to fit in the back of the car without taking off the front wheel.
·        I had to be able to add a kayak rack to the roof.
·        Dark interior that was the one thing I did not like about my last car. I loved the emerald green exterior color, but hated the beige interior since it showed dirt and every scuff mark from taking my bike in and out of the car.
·        Option for a sunroof.
·        Good gas mileage, at least 29 mph highway ( that is what the Saturn got)
·        Total cost under $30,000 since I would be paying cash.
·        Larger size car for protection in an accident. After being in more than one rear end accident I am pretty sensitive to this. I have been hit twice will sitting at stop lights and once while waiting at a stop sign at a freeway exit ramp.
A couple of nice to have but not required:
·        Manual transmission. I am one of the few people I know that really likes driving a manual transmission. Plus I think they give some control in icy or snowy conditions.
·        Backup camera
·        Navigation system
·        Nice interior
Because my car was 10 years old, I had been giving some thought to my next car. So here are a couple of cars I looked at but did not test drive. I did some car dealership visits on a Sunday when they were closed to look around.

Nissan Xterra:  I get my service done at the Nissan dealer because they took over Saturn service. I love the look of this car; it was in my price range and has an internal bike rack. This one failed on gas mileage with 21 mph highway.

Ford Escape: I love the older Escape SUV and had considered this car. I saw the new escape when renting a car from the Ford dealership. It is too small in the back to fit my bike and looks now like a mini crossover and not an SUV.

Ford Edge:  I really wanted an SUV because I do occasionally drive on dirt roads when I camp or go to Northern Wisconsin.  This one is too much a crossover and was outside of my $30,000 price range.

RAV 4- I rented one of these in St. Croix a couple of years ago.  It is a nice fun car, but too small to fit my triathlon bike.

Jeep Compass- This car met most of my requirements, but I did not like the look of the front of the car, so it got the boot.
I ended up test driving a Subaru Outback, Subaru Forester, Chevy Captiva, and Chery Equinox.

Subaru Outback- I love the look of this car even though it is technically a station wagon. It many of my requirements.  They offer a nice discount for National Ski Patrol members. Because I am a member I have been seeing my fellow patrollers drive this car for years. It also is not as high as an SUV which would make getting my kayak on and off easier. I was prepared to fall in love with this car.  It has plenty of room in the back for all my camping gear, skis and triathlon bike.  I did a test drive and was really disappointed. The engine was really noisy and I could hear all the road noise.  The interior was also not very nice and honestly looked a bit cheap compared to other cars. On the plus side there is an option for a manual transmission. The car was fun to drive and handled well.  We took it on a road full of potholes and you could not even feel the holes when you went over them. 

Subaru Forester- I drove this model with a manual transmission and sunroof. The sun roof was huge and let in lots of light.  The stick for the manual was really spindly and I did not like that.  The car handled well and was much quieter than the Outback. It had the same problems with the interior and I did not like the look of the exterior all that much.  Plus if I wanted a dark interior and a sunroof I was limited to white, grey or silver for the exterior color.

Chevy Captiva-   This is really a 09 Saturn in disguise.  It has a Daewoo engine, and some upgrades. I loved the look of this car because it is so similar to the newer Saturn’s.  It is only available new as a fleet car, but quite a few are on the used market. They are used mostly by rental car companies. I found a used one in Iowa that was red with leather seats, a sunroof and 8000 miles on it. It would only be $200 to transfer it to Milwaukee. So I found a dealership in the Dallas area with similar equipment to test drive.
There had been some complaints on line of engine problems and when I test drove it I could see why. It is a four speed automatic transmission. When I drove it the engine really seemed to rev up to high rpm’s before it shifted.  I always shifted based on engine sound and would have shifted well before the automatic transmission did. I was concerned about wear on the engine from the late shifting. The car was fun to drive, handled well and the interior was great. Lots of room in the back for all my stuff. I would say it ended up number two to the car I did buy.

Chevy Equinox
I see these cars everywhere.  When I started looking I asked one of my friends how she liked hers. She had driven Subaru’s for years and recently bought an Equinox. She liked both, but had a better service experience with Equinox.
This car met all my requirements and most of my nice to have features. The interior looked nice. It was very quiet to drive and with a 6 speed auto transmission it shifts well. It also has a manual transmission option on the console. I will have to try that soon. It handled well and can be taken on dirt roads as long as the drive is not too technical. I am not looking to off road with it.
It has tons of room in the back for my triathlon stuff and has an option for a kayak rack.   I got a model with a back-up camera and sunroof. I picked the ruby red exterior with black interior.  I think it is a nice looking car.  Not as pretty as my emerald green Saturn Vie but close.
It gets a best in class 32 mph per gallon highway. It is equipped with OnStar so I have turn by turn navigation through them. The car has road side assistance for 3 years.
GM was offering the best incentives.  My brother was able to negotiate a deal for me from Texas over the phone. All I had to do was go to the dealership and pick it up.

My New Tri Car
It is not love at first site, but I am hoping I will learn to love my new car as much as my Saturn. It certainly is nice to have a new car and not be worried about being stranded somewhere when I drive to a triathlon out of town.  Looking forward to lots of new adventures in my new car! So my new triathlon car is the Chevy Equinox.  I've even had a chance to load some gear in it for a tri workout.
I had my bike trainer and my training bike loaded in the back for my workout on Saturday and there was still enough room for my workout bag.

Competing for Team USA at PATCO June 2014

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a three time participant of the Boston Marathon.  She was the 2012 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division. In 2013 she qualified as a member of the Team USA Duathlon Team. And was eligible to compete in 2014 at the Age Group World Duathlon Sprint Championship in Pontevedre Spain.  She chose instead to represent the U.S. at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.

She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” that details her experience as a CMT affected athlete.

You may visit her author page at:

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 150 members in 29 states. We also have members in Australia, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site; or

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

Additional Link
Follow CMT affected Paratriathlete Timmy Dixon

Keywords: Running, Running and CMT, triathlon, triathlon and CMT, athlete and CMT, cycling and CMT, paratriathlon, challenged athlete, Team CMT, Running for My Life-Winning for CMT. Hereditary Neuropathy, Charcot-Marie-Tooth.
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  1. Oh my! That looks really bad. Your car looks pretty totaled, but I'm glad you seem to be doing fine. Good thing that you didn't sustain any serious injuries. Car accidents are life threatening and I wish everyone would just stop driving so recklessly. Anyway, your new car looks great and the color looks amazing. Drive carefully now and good luck with your triathlon workout.

    Floyd Pratt @ XL1 Motorsports

  2. Oh my! It seems that the accident was really terrible to bring such kind of damages to your car, and I’m sorry to hear that. Anyway, your new car looks gorgeous. I’m glad that you found a car that suits your preference, though it’s not the same as your previous one. Thanks for sharing that. May you go on many wonderful adventures with your Chevy Equinox! Take care always!

    Diane Wilson @ Fletcher Chrysler