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ERIC BERGESON COLUMN: Tooling through Arizona in a red Mustang

After a couple of weeks in the Minnesota cold, I decided enough of this, I am going to Tucson. I had some air miles that were set to expire, which a person can't let happen, so I flew.

After a couple of weeks in the Minnesota cold, I decided enough of this, I am going to Tucson. I had some air miles that were set to expire, which a person can't let happen, so I flew.

The money saved on the airline ticket was soon spent on a rent-a-car. All they had left was a bright red Ford Mustang, and for that they wanted a little extra, even if it was the only car they had.

Rude shock No. 2: Thanks to a world-famous gem and mineral show, prices for a room at my usual abode in Tucson had risen from $45 to $219. Cheaper hotels were full.

In the driver's seatSo, I jumped into the red Mustang and headed up to Phoenix.

I have always wanted a red Mustang - although if I bought one at this stage in life, I am sure the neighbors would talk.

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So, what better way to get my mid-life crisis out of my system than to rent a red Mustang for a few days in a far-away state? Better than buying one back home only to trade it in for a Park Avenue when the time came to act my age again.

Down lowDriving the Mustang was a new experience for me. Compared to my pickup, in which you view the world from on high, the low-slung Mustang made me feel like I was sitting deep in a bathtub, peering over the rim.

When I got into traffic, I looked up at all the trucks around me and felt downright squishable. I pulled myself up using the steering wheel so I could get a decent view of my surroundings, mostly the undersides of semi-trailers.

When it came time to get out of the Mustang, I struggled. A sports car door is twice as long as most car doors, so the door hits the car next to you quicker and leaves you less room to squeeze out.

In a Mustang you're darn near sitting on the ground in the first place.

ExitingTo escape, you have to hoist yourself up, then squeeze sideways through the narrow gap, a maneuver which if done 20 times a day would be all the exercise one would need.

After I got my feet on the ground and was contemplating how to get my knees out of my face enough to hoist myself up without pulling the door back into my shins, I wondered if cars like this shouldn't come with some sort of button you could push so the paramedics would come if you got stuck.

My mid-life crisis was over in a few minutes. Struggling out of the Mustang made me feel 80 years old.

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In the end, the best way to escape a sports car is to slowly open the door until it presses gently against the next car, fall to your knees through the narrow opening, sprawl onto the pavement, roll under the door, kick it shut, then pull yourself to your feet using the external door handle.

Other traitsAfter four days of driving the Mustang, I caught on to other things as well. I found the well-hidden tilt mechanism underneath the steering wheel.

Lowering the wheel made me look a little less like an old lady and gave me an unobstructed view of the world around me.

Even with the wheel lowered, I gripped the wheel tightly at 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock. I'll leave driving with one forefinger low on the wheel to the young and the restless.

I discovered that the Mustang had some oomph, too. No problem getting up to speed. The real problem is realizing that you just went from zero to 80 in a few seconds, when you probably should have only gone from zero to 55

After a few days, I started feeling pretty hip in my red Mustang, darting across lanes, roaring down freeway entrance ramps. I cranked the stereo and rolled down the windows - before realizing that loud Bach organ music was probably not going to make me one of the gang.

So it is with a mid-life crisis. After a while you realize that you probably never belonged in a red Ford Mustang in the first place.

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