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Reverse parking aid is radio host's secret weapon

'I always have to drive a 4WD because of what time I go to work in the morning - I cannot battle snow, says Colleen Rusholme.

Della Rollins/Della Rollins/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

You may recognize her voice from your daily morning commute.

Colleen Rusholme hits the radio airwaves at 5 a.m. each day with co-host Howard Glassman, better known as Humble Howard, on Toronto's Boom 97.3 FM, formerly EZ Rock.

To ensure she gets to work on time each morning, Rusholme insists on a four-wheel-drive vehicle; nowadays, that's a 2009 Ford Escape Limited 4WD SUV.

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"I always have to drive a 4WD because of what time I go to work in the morning - I cannot battle snow.

"So I did my research and I thought it's time to go with a Ford. I've been super happy with it." Her last car was a Nissan X-Trail.

She appreciates the small details in her Escape. "I love the limo floor lights - you can change them. I have this really weird routine where, every day when I go in my car at 4:30 in the morning, I change the colour of the light - it's pink, then blue, green, white.

"Every day is a new day, so I get a new light every day. I actually take requests if I have guests in my car - what colour do you want? I know it's weird," she laughs, a little embarrassed.

Her favourite feature is the reverse parking aid. "I can park like nobody else right now. We actually had a competition at work - can women parallel park better than men? It's on YouTube.

"But I didn't tell anyone I had this beeping reverse so I rolled up all the windows. It's on camera but no one knows that I knew that Mercedes is behind me because I can hear it.

"I nailed it! I don't think I can drive a car without it any more. I use that sensor all the time," says the 36-year-old native of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.

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But there's one thing she'd ditch on her Escape - the automatic door locks. "When you drive, the doors automatically lock, so if you're taking a friend and they don't know you very well they think you're imprisoning them.

"As a woman, I lock my doors right away especially at that time of the morning when I go to work. I don't wait for them to lock.

"When I have eight grocery bags in the back and I forget I have to unlock the back door - that's when it's annoying."

Another annoyance at the moment is the oil light - it keeps coming on, even though she says she doesn't need oil. She has a service appointment to fix it.

"I think it's a young, hip car. I feel like it suits me.

"It's black. I don't have to go up into it; I can just glide into my seat. I love the sunroof. I love the leather interior for my dog - I can just wipe up the hair.

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"I feel like I'm cool in it," says Rusholme, who launched her radio career as a weekend reporter at CFRB 1010.

She bought her first car, a used 1985 Honda Accord, at 21. She spent all her savings, $1,200, on it.

"I was driving that Accord and it literally fell apart in the CFRB parking lot - the bumper fell off. Half of it was on the pavement; the other half still attached. I calmly got out of the car, walked to its rear and kicked off the other half. I then picked it up and threw it on the lawn, got back in my car and drove away. It felt really good."

The Accord was riddled with problems. "It would stall when I turned right. It had some faulty issues with the gas tank. It would think that it was empty when I turned right so I could only turn left. Any time I had to leave the house it was always a nightmare in that car …

"Also, I would put gas in the tank and watch it literally run out on the pavement at the gas station. You could hear it - it sounded like pee. Then the boyfriend at the time smashed it into a brick wall. He was not a good reverse parker. And at that point, we just didn't care," she laughs in retrospect.

"The first car I bought when I had some money was a Toyota Corolla - I loved it. I actually cried when I gave it up. She did a lot for me - I called her Corolly. It was a good car - no accidents."

Rusholme loves road trips. "My best friend, Sara, and I took off and went to Cleveland to check out the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That drive, going down the highway and cranking the tunes - the Def Leppard. I love car memories. I'm an eighties retro girl. I listen to old Depeche Mode, New Order. ZZ Top is great driving music."

"You have your best conversations in the car because you're looking forward and you don't have to look at the person. I grew up in a house where we did really long road trips to Florida. I grew up in a Volvo and Volkswagen family."

She got her licence driving her dad's 1984 Volvo station wagon. "I passed everything except for the parallel parking, which is funny because now I'm so good at it. I think the guy felt really sorry for me and just gave it to me."

"I drive somewhat like a cab driver - I'm assertive. I will butt in without offending. I will always wave.

"I've only had one speeding ticket in my life and I learned my lesson.

"My father claims to be the best driver ever - he drove a Jeep in the army. Under his wing, I learned how to drive defensively like him."

For now, Rusholme won't part with her Escape. But just as she appreciates classic music, she likes old cars. Her dream car is "an old muscle car like a Dodge Dart. That would make me happy. I think they're super cool."

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About the Author

Petrina Gentile is an award-winning automotive journalist - one of the few women who cover cars in Canada. Her life revolves around wheels. She has been writing for the Drive section since 2004. Besides auto reviews, she also interviews celebrities like Norman Jewison, Patrick Dempsey, Rick Hansen, Dean McDermott, Russell Peters, and Ron MacLean for her My Car column. More

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