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On the Road

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Northwest Driving

I confess I'm having a tough time choosing where to take you. From the river canyons of Montana to the rolling hills of the Palouse country south of Spokane, the number of choice roads is just incredible. We have a truly great diversity within an easy day's drive from Sandpoint.

I’ve got a number of roads I hope to outline on maps and tell about in words. It's more than a whim...it's become my business to take you along. Whether the sun's out or not, it’s my joy to drive new roads and old highways looking for that special place or thing, trying these autos under all conditions. 

If I picked river roads alone, I’d hardly run out.  Most of the rivers in our region have have highways or paved roads running much of their length. Just pick one and drive it.

In all this wandering wondering, I drive with eyes open to the beauty of the Northwest. It creates a thankful heart.

We rode in comfort on upholstered seats trimmed in leather.

The Mazda MPV Minivan’s 200-hp 3.0-Liter V6 afforded a pleasurable drive. She had plenty of power and zip in that tight engine, too. Equipped with power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, I took the corners with ease and at maximum allowable speed. Not to worry, a variable-assist speed sensor gave me precise control winding up or down tight river roads.

Mazda employs a 5-speed automatic overdrive transmission in this recreational vehicle to save you gas. The shifting is seamless and without effort on the part of the vehicle. Mazda marketers claim they built in the soul of a sportscar. I truly had that feeling, partly ascertained by virtue of the engine whine, but that computer-assisted suspension had something to do with it as well.

On the inside we had all the comforts you should expect in the $30,000 class. (Depending on options, you can range between a list price of $28,230 and $31,615.) Notable and unique to this vehicle was its power-slide side door. It opened and closed by itself, once prompted by a person, and locked magnetically.

I enjoyed the audio controls on the steering wheel, though that’s not so unique. A lot of vehicles now support that feature. But I also enjoyed an 8-way power driver’s seat, with adjustable heat settings. I thought about all those times past when I got into a rig homebound with a cold butt and legs or a tight back.

Another feature good for a river drive, especially this time of the year, is the Minivan’s heavy-duty wiper motor. Lot of bugs, you know, in the air along those rivers. It’s what brings the flyfishers out. But windshields are a hard place to collect insect samples so having an extra large reservoir (as the MPV has) and that heavier than normal wiper motor is a notable plus.

Comparing the Mazda MPV to other comparable minivans I’ve driven, it brags of having a greater pull capacity than most. In our part of the country, you want a recreational van to pull a boat out of the water. Though the minivan isn’t meant for horse trailers or camping trailers, it will pull 3,000 pounds safely, according to the literature they supply. I’ve seen some that would hardly pull half that, so that’s a good mark too.

Mazda has given you some find point safety features with plenty of crash protection. Comfort-wise, you can carry seven and entertain those in the rear seats (in the options) with a DVD entertainment center while keeping yourself happy up front with a 6-disc, self-loading CD player.

I rate this one worthy of river roads if you don’t go too high into the mountains. It’s not for hunting. Highway travel, sport transport and picnic-style recreation are ideal for this vehicle. Stay down on the lower roads with this one and you won’t be disappointed.

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Dwayne Parsons Dwayne Parsons

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driving, Mazda MPV

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