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SNOW + MANUAL TRANSMISSIONS = STAY OUT OF MY WAY

I began driving manual transmission cars in my early twenties. Ever since, manual transmissions have been my choice. From my old Triumph Herald to my VW Bug (the original, not the recently marketed faux-Bug) to (I'm ashamed to say) an AMC Hornet Sportabout to a rickety old Toyota wagon to a series of Ford Taurus 5 speed wagons, we've always had a stick shift in the drive...until recently.

About five or six years ago, we took title first to a Caravan then a Taurus, both automatics. Understand, all of these vehicles - with the exception of the VW - were bought used. Find a good body, replace the drive trains as necessary. That's my motto. But folks...American folks...don't buy sticks any more. Ford quit putting out the manual wagon. No used sticks to be had. So we bought what we bought and drove lazy.

Then, this spring we closed down our small business and didn't need the Caravan for deliveries and therefore didn't have to support its 16 MPG motor. Ain't cars.com a wonderful thing? I searched for a manual transmission vehicle and lo and behold, a four cylinder, 5 speed Toyota Camry was waiting for me. I sold the old Caravan for $1,500 and bought the Camry for $2,000. It's a 1995 with 150,000 miles on it but it was a one-owner car, the owner was a mechanical engineer, and he had every piece of paper that he ever spent on the vehicle. I call him Gandalf the Gray and he's a runner.

So we had our first snowstorm of the season and I'm doing a late night blues show on the radio and it's one AM and the snow's coming down hard and I'm on my way home. By George, I've got a front wheel drive 5 speed under me. And suddenly I'm in the left lane going 20 miles an hour faster than anybody else on the highway.

Damn, I love 5 speeds.

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