Anyone who has been around the Baties very long understands that we pile the miles on our vehicles going to and from all our meetings and activities.

Such wear and tear can also bring out the gremlins in said vehicles, and the last 10 months we have had more than our fair share of ghouls bouncing around the emissions and fuel systems on our SUV crossover.

Starting in February and continuing through November, I was averaging at least one check engine light a month. After about the third trip to the shop, I was beginning to think our car had a love affair with the shop crew. Thankfully, all but one of those trips was covered by our extended warranty. Trust me, as hard as we are on our car, we have always invested in an extended warranty.

Had Sheldon Cooper of the TV show “Big Bang Theory” been riding with me, he would have been beside himself. I would ignore the light for at least a week each time, hoping it had just been a glitch in the system. Due to the terrible shape of our roads because of all the flooding this past year, at least one of those lights was actually attributed to a loose wire, but sadly only once.

After multiple trips to the shop and different looks by different mechanics, it was finally decided new upgrades to the emissions systems on that particular model meant our car didn’t like the dust from our gravel roads. That meant we’d have to trade our car in after only two years when we normally try to drive a model for at least four years. The dust factor is a problem since I’m not about to move, and most other vehicles of that same genre are out as replacement options since they too have similar emission systems.

So what to do? With the dealer’s help, we researched a couple of different vehicles and finally opted for a higher profile model — i.e., one that sits higher off the ground with a slightly different emissions system.

Now we are in the learning process, as it is an entirely different make of car than we’ve ever had. All the controls are in different places. Hubby searched for 10 minutes the first day just to find the latch for the back hatch. Plus, the only way to open the gas cap is through a button inside the car. No exterior opening is possible.

Another rather unnerving feature is the engine shuts down if you sit longer than five seconds at a stop light or stop sign. We first experienced this phenomenon with a rental car in England when we were there five years ago. It can be overridden by pushing a button on the dash, but it has to be done every time you start the car.

An entirely different computer screen is filled with unfamiliar symbols, and trying to set our favorite radio channels took another chunk of time. We discovered that those are tied in with the favorite seat setting button. You must set the radio stations first, then set your seat. Otherwise every time I would adjust the seat, the channels would revert to the favorites of whoever had driven the car last before we bought it.

Gone is the hands-on instruction manual that used to take up half the space in the glove compartment. The pages are now loaded in the car’s computer and accessible only through the central viewing screen.

We also discovered another nod to the digital age. There is no CD player. If we want a favorite album by a favorite artist, we must download it and import it via Bluetooth. If these steps sound like a foreign language, you are right. Thankfully, I have a techy Hubby and younger daughter to guide me through the digital forest.

On the other hand, this model is loaded with more creature comforts than we’ve had before. A heated steering wheel is just the thing for Hubby’s arthritic hands as winter begins. For me, I will look forward to summer’s warmth and the chance to try out the vented seats, especially since our seats have black upholstery that will quickly heat up in the sun.

We have four-wheel-drive and that coupled with the higher clearance will hopefully ease trips to town on snowy roads without having to resort to taking the pickup.

The hands-free phone hookup is also handy, and we’re still researching how to use the Wi-Fi hotspot we discovered while changing screens. Yes, a far cry from the three-on-the-tree ’68 Chevelle I started driving in high school, but I’ll take it.

Oh, and for the first time ever we will have a sun roof. Our older daughter assures us that is a fun extra to enjoy in the summer and on moonlit nights. Moonlight nights? Hmm.

Freelance journalist Barb Bierman Batie grew up near Battle Creek, Neb., and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She has written for local, state, regional and international publications and joined the Midwest Messenger crew in 2010. She can be reached at editorial@midwestmessenger.com.

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