Looking Forward While Looking Back: Future Classic Car Show 2019 – Scottsdale, Arizona

Posted in Car Show, Integra, SLX on January 14, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Integra GS-R):  250,590

I saw a meme on Instagram the other day that said something like, “I called out for Alexa when I meant to summon Siri.  I can’t believe I’m living in an era when I get my robot servants mixed up.”  If you’re my friend Rob, it gets even more complicated.  He has a Rumba that he named Steve, who works on Thursdays.  I wonder if Steve gets along with his fellow e-housemates.

Truth is, we are living in the future.  The year 2019 just seems so far out there, it’s still tough to comprehend.  And things really start to sink in when you realize that by some of the cars from your high school era are now becoming classics.  Yikes.  Thankfully, there are events like Future Classic Car Show that give us a chance to reminisce a little on those oft-forgotten rides from 1975 onward.  These are cars that are positioned to be (or are already becoming) collector vehicles.

My 1992 Integra made its live news debut two days prior to the event on Phoenix’s Fox 10 Studios at a 5-minute preview for the show.  The video is posted here.  It was a fun experience to gush about my car for 45 seconds on TV.  My moment in the spotlight starts at about 1:40 in.

Now in its fourth year, the ClassicCars.com “FCCS” was held on Sunday, January 13th on the upper levels of the Scottsdale Quarter parking garage – a venue vast enough to accommodate nearly 100 “official” show cars as well as many, many other spectator vehicles that were equally worthy of recognition.  The panoramic view of Phoenix’s surrounding mountain ranges made it a nice venue for the scenery aside from just having great cars to look at.

The show itself served up a vast array of cars – domestics and imports, stock and modified – each with a proud owner by its side and a cool story to tell.  I especially enjoyed bumping into a few friends from the local automotive community as well as making new friends.  My car happened to be parked a few vehicles away from an exceptionally clean 1986 Accord LX-i hatchback and I had a good time chatting with its owner.

The crew from ClassicCars.com, including Carter & Nick, were making the rounds to meet & greet the cars & the drivers.  You can see Nick starring in the “Driven” series on the company’s YouTube channel.

Visiting me for the event were two of my friends from Las Vegas:  Brandon and Dane.  They showed up in a couple of exceptionally cool cars – Brandon’s new TL Type-S and Dane’s Dodge Stealth.  I got the chance to drive both over the course of the weekend.

We all made a quick visit to Zinburger for a bite during the afternoon and then returned to the show for another lap and the awards ceremony.  Sponsors and stakeholders did a great job of recognizing the cars and participants who stood out.  Until next year, enjoy a few more photos of the phestivities!

Not-so-candid camera

Loved the button-mania on this 1980s Trans Am – notice, only 8,000 miles!

Recognize this one?  You’ll see a blog post soon about a NEW Supra (which has very big shoes to fill)

Lineup – you can see the variety here

Love a clean yellow Mazda RX-7

There’s something special about these Toyota pickups.  And if you look closely, you’ll see my friend Trent’s black 1992 NSX way in the background.

My Teg was sandwiched between a Cadillac Seville (diesel!) and an Audi sedan

Is that S2000 wing wild enough for ya?  And a rare 5-speed Lexus SC300 too.

Whoa, how many “Black Ice” tree air fresheners did this guy need?

Last couple small unrelated updates:  Anybody want this little Integra?  Seattle, Washington.  1992 GS 5-speed with 130,000 miles, being sold by my friend Stephen.  It’s super clean.  Contact me if you’re in the market!

I’ve done a few small updates to my new-to-me Acura SLX, including hunt around for parts at the local junkyard.  I saw a few things I wanted off this late-1990s Trooper but it had 2 vehicles stacked precariously on top of it and I didn’t dare get too rowdy.

Not bad looking for an old box.

Engine detail – before

After.  It’s subtle.

Finally:  I have to close out this blog entry with something a little different.  Some of you know or have at least seen photos of my friend James De La O, who joined me and a few others inside the showroom at Pikes Peak Acura last July at NALM 2018.  He was proudly displaying his red first generation Legend sedan that day.

He’s at front left here in our group photo.

We lost James over the weekend at age 34.  The impact hits our Legend community especially hard because his wife, Kiley (in the photo behind James, at top left) is also a longstanding member of the family that this group of people have become.  I felt like taking a short drive this morning in James’ honor because years ago I remembered seeing a street in north Scottsdale with James’ same last name.

James was a great guy and I am honored to have gotten to know him over the last 10 years.

Life is way too short.  Glad to have great people to spend it with.  As my mom likes to say, “Carpe diem.”  Thanks for reading!

I’m Officially Insane: Acquiring a (Cheap) 1997 Acura SLX – the “Acuruzu”

Posted in SLX on January 1, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (NSX):  113,832

Odometer (SLX):  178,359

Oh no I didn’t.  Oh, yes I did.  Roll those eyes!

On August 18, 2017, I got an email – as I often do – from someone who heard of me through the Jalopnik article on my crazy obsessed garage / collection.  This one came from a guy named Wyatt in southern California who had a 1997 SLX.  It reads as follows:

Pretty sweet.  Well, cutting to the chase, Wyatt only kept that SLX for 16 months and put about 2,000 miles on it, and now it’s mine.  Funny how things work out sometimes.  It’s no mystery I’ve kind of had a hankering for one of these quirky vehicles for a while.  I first wrote an article about it back in March 2014 where I introduced my blog audience to this creation of badge engineering.

You see, this isn’t an Acura at all.  Or a Honda, for that matter.  It’s an Isuzu, and in light of the surging demand for SUVs in America in the late 1990s, Acura’s new MDX wouldn’t be ready for 5 more years, so they slapped an “A” emblem on a Trooper and went with it.  The vehicle only sold about 6,500 units in its 4-year lifespan, making it even more rare production-wise than the generation 1 (1991-05) NSX.  The shaded center section here reflects annual sales between 1996 (at bottom) and 2001, totaling 6,590.

Wyatt’s SLX was a bit of a rarity – a 1997 base model in Fir Green Pearl over Light Silver Metallic two-tone paint.  The base trim level meant it had no alloy wheels, no heated seats, no leather (though someone had later added it, aftermarket), and no fog lamps.  Still, its original MSRP was somewhere in the mid $30’s.  It was originally sold via a dealership called Acura 101 West, in Calabasas, California.

Its first owner was named Jeff and he kept it for an impressive 18 years after his purchase in September of 1997, always registering it in the southern California region where it was kept free of inclement weather and probably rarely driven off pavement.

But the off-pavement potential is specifically what attracts me to having an SUV, especially a cheapo one that I don’t mind beating up from time to time.  In all my car comings and goings, I’ve never owned a 4×4, despite the fact that sometimes I drive my poor front-wheel-drive cars like they’re rally machines.  So the fact that I could have a large, high-clearance vehicle on standby for the occasional camping trip is pretty appealing.  And, the price was (very) right.  So I bit.

Due to an intermittent slipping transmission issue in 4th gear, we decided it would be best to have the vehicle transported as opposed to driving it the 400-someodd miles from Los Angeles to Phoenix.  I later asked my mechanic about the transmission, and he said, “This vehicle has the 4L30-E transmission, which is perhaps the most problematic trans ever built.  It’ll be $2,800 to rebuild.”  That’s encouraging, haha.  It took about a week for the SLX to arrive via transport carrier.  Wyatt sent this pic while it was being loaded.

Here’s a pic while it was being unloaded at my house.

My first dose of reality came when I took it to the Honda dealership down the street to have the oil changed since it was 2+ years old.  “Your belts need changing, but we can’t get parts,” the service advisor told me.  “Same a few other things. About all I can do for you is get you new tires and change your fluids.”  So this is what it’s like owning a vehicle based on a chassis from a manufacturer that’s been out of business for 10 years.  In fact, almost exactly 10 years.  Isuzu pulled the plug on all U.S. market operations on January 31, 2009.

A couple of friends correctly guessed which vehicle I’d acquired based on some of my prior mentions of wanting an SLX.  Jason solved the puzzle after seeing a comment I made on Facebook just a couple of days after getting it.

Woody was thrilled that I finally followed through on this February 4, 2011 Facebook post saying that “one day” I’d get one.

We’ll see where I go with this one!  It’ll be like no Acura I’ve ever experienced before, I am certain of that.  Here’s a 7-minute video introduction.  I’ll keep you posted.  Thanks for reading and watching as always, and Happy New Year!

First day!

A YouTube viewer also suggested I need an Acura SUV.

Ready to unload from the transport truck.

This is what they call the “safari sunroof.”  It’s massive!  And still works – most of the time!

Paperwork and manuals.  This SLX was sold with a lot of “Total Luxury Care” (TLC) materials.  That was Acura’s roadside assistance program back in the day.

Detail work has started but is not yet fully underway.  I did clean up the chrome center caps to the wheels with some Mother’s mag & aluminum polish.  Here is the before:

And here is the after!

First fuel up.

A great deal of maintenance was done on this vehicle (per Carfax, anyway) at a place call H&H Motors in Van Nuys, California.  I was able to look them up and about to reach out to inquire about getting service records, but then I saw that Yelp says the place has closed.

Chillin’ in the backyard while waiting for the new garage floor.

A few photos from an evening at Dreamy Draw Park off the 51 freeway & Northern Avenue in Phoenix.

Not bad!

Comparison with 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec.  Vehicle design has come a long way in 22 years.

Wyatt was happy to hear that I’m enjoying the vehicle.  He posted this to his Instagram story.

Initial detail underway – console before.

Console after.

Wax job in the garage.

Stay tuned!

Closing note here:  I’d like to put in a plug for my friend Rick who has been a garage inspiration of mine for many, many years.  Rick has a channel on YouTube called RAD Garage (which, incidentally, just surpassed 3,000 subscribers yesterday – congrats, Rick!).

His content centers around his incredible garage – the tools, the decor, the supplies, and vehicles that inhabit it.  Rick’s attention to detail – and I mean, the most fastidious attention you’ll ever see – is a total inspiration to anyone who’s ever obsessed over his or her vehicle’s cleanliness.  Thanks Rick for featuring my garage on your blog.  Here’s the link so my readers can check it out.

Link to Rick’s YouTube.

At Last, a Showroom Floor: Metallic Epoxy Coating in the Garage

Posted in House on December 30, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  564.765

It’s that time of year once again where I give a summary of annual mileage.  Check out the chart below for highlights from 2018.  The car that I drove the most – the 2013 ILX – also cost the least to maintain at around 2 cents per mile.  But what’s interesting was how cheap my highest mileage car – the 1994 Legend coupe – also was to maintain, costing me only $311 to drive over 7,000 miles this year.

The NSX had an expensive year, but that didn’t necessarily translate into a pocketbook impact for me.  One of the service advisors at my local dealership covered a timing belt & water pump for free, in trade for some help I gave him selling a vehicle.  So in the end, of the $4,000 or so shown there, I was only out of pocket maybe half that.   Enjoy geeking out on some data with me!

My coworkers got crafty with Photoshop for my 37th birthday.

In the nearly 2.5 years I’ve owned my current home, I’ve always wanted to dress up the showroom.  Simple concrete is so drab, plus when you’re parking a fleet of 2+ decade old cars, you accept the fact that they’re all going to leak a little.  And my floor was starting to look like polka dot street art with the drips all over the place.  As you can see in this before & after photo, I’ve elevated the look of the garage in a big way.

To get this all done, I engaged the efforts of Eric and his team at Brilliant Epoxy Floors, Inc, based in Scottsdale, Arizona.  They completely transformed the look of my 988-square-foot, 6-car garage by fulfilling a 3-step process:  Base coat, metallic “Quicksilver” epoxy, and top polyurethane.  The sequence took about 5 or 6 days to complete because we had to wait (and weather is cooler than usual this time of year) for the surface to cure / dry in between stages.

Then I waited another 6 days before attempting to drive cars across it.  Meanwhile, my backyard was full of cars and starting to look a little bit hillbilly with cars parked every which way.  In all, the cars spent 12 days outside getting leaves & bird droppings all over them.

Yesterday was the big debut when I was finally able to park indoors.  I am thrilled with the results!  A couple of observations I’ve already made:  The new floor does show dust and dirt pretty readily – from footprints, tire treads, etc.  It’ll be extremely slick to walk on if it gets wet.  But, spills and leaks (oil or anything else) will wipe up really easily.  Let’s see how everything holds up over the next few years!

Here is a timelapse video showing stages 1 & 2 of the refinishing process.  In all, I captured about 1,000 pictures at a 20-second interval with a small camera mounted in the southwest corner of the garage.

NSX & Integra “before”

Blank slate ready for customization:

The Brilliant crew showing up for day 1

End of first / base / single-color coat

Coincidentally, while the Integra sedan was out back, I received an order for a 1:43 scale model car in the mail – a twin to it!

Day 2 complete!  You can see the metallic swirl starting to take shape here.

Meanwhile, the cars sat out back like this for almost two weeks.

Complete!

Even the “new car” went inside for a bit.  Now you know what it is.

Few more shots of the garage, all staged & ready.

Thanks for reading & watching!

December Updates: Cabin Weekend, Christmas, & Coming Attractions

Posted in Blog, Brochures, Car Show, ILX, Legend, NSX, Road Trip, Utah on December 27, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  212,097

Odometer (Something New):  178,351

Trip Distance:  210 Miles

Time once again to play catch-up on current events.  I’m turning 37 years old in 3.5 hours, so if I don’t wake up tomorrow morning due to old age, I at least want the Drive to Five community to know how I spent my final weeks, right?  Oh and the odometer teaser above – more to come on that.  I might have bought myself a 4,615-pound birthday gift.

First of all, I ended up being featured on Hello Road‘s YouTube channel with a quick feature from the Radwood show a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles.  Check out this video at about 6:42 on the clock.  Huge thanks to Ethan Tufts for the feature!

A couple weekends ago, I joined 6 friends and headed for the hills northeast of Phoenix.

Our destination was a cabin in Pine, Arizona.  Pine is only a little over 100 miles from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it has a woodsy culture, far cooler temperatures, and lots of wildlife.  I took the ILX for this trip which made light work of the grades rising out of town on Highway 87.  The climb goes from about 1,000 feet above elevation to a little over 5,000, making it a popular way to climb out of the boiling hot valley in summertime.

2012 road tripping:

2018 road tripping:

Among our destinations were the Early Bird Cafe above – which I’d visited six years prior – for a hearty and delicious breakfast.  Unfortunately, employee Katie (pictured in the 2012 pic in orange) no longer works there.  After that, we checked out Tonto Natural Bridge, the “world’s largest natural travertine arch.”  Most of the trails within the park were closed for construction this time, but we were able to hike down toward the riverbed and see some of the mossy waterfalls.

Sam, Adam C, Kenny, Adam S (back), and Tyson, Riley, Chandler (front)

I was delighted to have my friend Brandon from Las Vegas visiting for several days, and then today had another visitor – this time it was my buddy Alaeldeen from all the way in Edmonton, Alberta.  Fun fact:  He owned the Clarion Legend coupe for about two years.

Here’s Brandon:

The gang at brunch:

Here’s Alaeldeen:

I’m also playing caretaker for my friend Branson’s Legend coupe which will spend a few months at my house whilst his home in the Salt Lake City area is getting some garage upgrades.  It’s a sweet ride.  My backyard looks like a bit of a parking lot (or junkyard?) as I’m awaiting the cure of an epoxy sealant on the garage floor.  That story will get its own blog post in the coming weeks.

This past weekend, the ILX ‘front-wheel-drive sleigh’ took me to Christmas festivities in southern Utah, where I got to meet my youngest niece who is named Ava Mae.  She’s a real cutie.  I also reconnected with a few friends including my friend Shaun who recently picked up a 1997 Acura 3.0 CL that drives like a real peach for having 206,000 miles on it.

Cute baby up above, cute babies right here too:

Following I’ll share a hodge-podge of the rest of the pictures from these recent adventures.

NSX roller shot by my friend Michael

And the coupe at the same time

Checking out my buddy Travis’ new-to-him 1995 LS automatic – it needs work, but it’s a start!

Michael’s new 1993 Integra LS at right.

Out at the Pavilions car show and an RSX-S joined me.

Couple more shots of Branson’s coupe:

Literature swag update:  Special thanks to my buddy “on the inside” at American Honda (you know who you are!) who hooked me up with these amazing items.  This first one is an actual binder dated 2001 which shows approved paint & interior finishes for dealerships.  Like actual dealership showroom carpet samples!

Couple pics of the ever-evolving showcase:

New 2008 TL spiral booklet added, too.

Finally – My brother has just as many toys as I have, and here’s his latest.  This 1954 Ford truck is powered by a supercharged GM “LT4” V8 engine with around 650 horsepower.  I know, a Chevy engine in a Ford.  He’s going to tune it for another 75-100 ponies.  Watch out.

Have a great weekend and New Year celebration if I don’t post here before!

“Radwood” 1980s-1990s Car Show in Los Angeles at the Petersen Museum

Posted in California, Car Show, Integra, Road Trip on December 3, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Integra Sedan):  73,102

Trip Distance:  762 Miles

Some things just get better with time.  And other things, even though not “good” by many definitions, still deserve a chance for recognition and appreciation.  Like this one:

Matt Farah, a notorious automotive journalist known for his podcast “The Smoking Tire,” made the comment during the closing awards ceremony at the Los Angeles Radwood show on Sunday afternoon, “To the guy with the Pontiac Bonneville SSEi, this is your show.  You’ve waited your whole life for this.” And he’s right – what other car show anywhere in the world welcomes a car like an Oldsmobile Ninety Eight or a Chrysler Town & Country wood-paneled convertible?

It’s those “malaise” era cars from the 1980s and 1990s that some of us grew up behind the wheel of, I’m happy to report that my third “Radwood” car show and celebration of culture from that two-decade era was a total success.  Here are write-ups from prior Radwood shows.

This time around, I took the opportunity to debut my new (to me) 1992 Integra GS sedan that I picked up in May in Southern Utah.  Of the couple hundred cars on display, I had 1 of only 2 second-generation Integras, and mine was the only 4-door “DB1” sedan version.  Dominating the playing field were German cars, especially BMW, Mercedes, and Porsche.  I was glad to have a little exclusivity, and at least I was able to park by some fellow Honda-heads, including David in his 1994 Legend and Mike in his 1989 Prelude.

My drive to Los Angeles was filled with traffic, rain, and traffic because of rain.  All of that contributed to making my normally-six-hour-drive take about eight and a half hours.  I spent a couple of days in West Hollywood part of town, including a meet-up with my friend Wyatt who has a 1997 Acura SLX that I got to drive.  What a ride!  It was a little clunky, top-heavy, and the transmission slipped, but it solidified my need to own one in the next year or two.

Radwood this time took place at the world-renowned Petersen Museum at the intersection of Fairfax & Wilshire just a couple of miles south of where I’d been staying in WeHo.  The lineup of cars headed into the venue quickly confirmed that I’d found the right place, and the 1983 Dodge van ahead of me got me high on exhaust fumes while we idled our way to the check-in staff and were directed to parking spaces. on the upper levels of the structure.  It took just a few minutes to get the car dusted off; my little Integra has only about 73,000 miles on it and has been extremely well preserved.

Throughout the day, I bounced around the parking structure interacting with friends I’ve made through the crazy automotive enthusiast network over the years.  For me these events are even more about the people who attend them than about the vehicles themselves.  Best of all, the 1980s and 1990s culture was well represented in forms other than the cars we’d driven:  Blasting on the loudspeaker were hits from Madonna, fanny packs and bright colors were the apparel of choice, and we were surrounded for just a few hours by the carefree, big-hair, analog lifestyle of the 1980s.  The chicken tenders and tater tots from the food truck weren’t bad, either.

Representing as sponsor for this event was Acura corporate, which surprised me, but I was happy to see it.  Andrew Quillin from the company’s Public Relations area had brought out a red 1991 NSX, a yellow Integra Type-R, an Integra from the RealTime race campaign, and the 1995 CL-X concept car which had to be transported via mechanical means other than its own, since it doesn’t have a drivetrain.  The booth drew a good amount of foot traffic throughout the day and I got the chance to briefly rub shoulders with people like Jon Ikeda who is the brand’s General Manager.

Speaking of star-studded encounters, I got to shake hands with a couple of YouTube celebrities including Ethan Tufts of Hello Road and Tyler Hoover of Hoovie’s Garage.  Tyler’s channel recently hit a half-million subscribers so I congratulated him on that well-deserved accomplishment.

All too soon, it was time to wrap up the festivities at the Petersen, and Radwood’s Bradley Brownell distributed 7 awards – not just for cars, but some were for wardrobe and wheels.  I rolled out of the parking garage a little before 4:00 p.m. and set my sights eastward for my 400-mile return trip.  With 1990s music on the playlist, of course.  Thanks for coming along!

Entering California

Traditional photo-stop in Desert Center, right off Interstate 10

Evening meet-up with Sofyan Bey of Redline Reviews

Saturday morning visit to Honda’s original headquarters at 4077 Pico Boulevard (circa 1959).

The SLX and the Integra

Spotted from the parking garage by Motor1’s Steve Ewing on the way into Radwood

My friend Rob’s Legend sedan looking fantastic

I loved the gear shift lever in this Oldsmobile.  It spells out “Reverse, Neutral, Overdrive,” and so on.

Does this car make you think of the movie Planes, Trains, & Automobiles?

So 80’s!

My friend Leon’s Mercedes S-Class “Grand Edition,” one of only 600 cars in that package for the year, in stunning Obsidian Black and complete with a cellular telephone.  Leon was taking care of important business when I captured this photo.

Here’s Ethan from Hello Road.

My friend Serge’s 4Runner was full of period-correct swag, including a Blockbuster rental video.  Be Kind, Please Rewind.

Pre-departure from the deck of the parking structure with Joseph and his amazing 1991 Integra GS.

My friend Brandon’s new 2007 TL Type-S manual.

Visitors from CA, FL, and MA – and a Thanksgiving Trip to PA!

Posted in Blog, Misc Travel, NSX on November 26, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend Sedan):  160,454

It’s common for me to have a guest in town from time to time, but rare for 3 to arrive simultaneously – and that’s what happened this past week when Brian, Jason, and Conor flew in to spend a few days with me and the rest of the Phoenix crew.  Brian’s from Orlando, Jason’s from San Francisco, and Conor’s from Boston.  My guest book is getting a lot of new entries lately.  I think I’m on page 27.

Conor and I started things off right with a drive to the neighborhood Starbucks in the NSX.

Jason arrived in his 1987 Volkswagen Scirocco 16-valve.  He’s had the car for over two decades and it has gone through 9 engines during its 130,000 or so miles.  The level of dedication that Jason has for his Scirocco is unmatched!  Reminds me of someone else I know!

Here’s a sneak peek at his comprehensive maintenance spreadsheet, which doesn’t just include a maintenance summary, but also miles per gallon (every fuel up since he’s owned the car) – with graphs – as well as dyno results, weight & balance information, alignment specifications, you name it.  This guy gives me a run for my money.

Other visitors stopped by just this past weekend, including my NSX-owning friend Brent and his family members from southern California.

I’m Legend-sitting for a friend for a few months.  My friend Branson left his 1995 LS coupe 6-speed with me while he has some garage improvements underway at his home in Utah.  Cayman White Pearl is such a sweet color on these cars.

The 1990 Accord EX celebrated a small milestone at 137,000 miles.  I used it as my work commuter for a couple of days.

Check out this article I wrote for ClassicCars.com

https://journal.classiccars.com/2018/11/19/how-one-car-led-to-my-lifelong-fascination-with-acura/

If you get a chance, swing on by my friend Xavier’s YouTube channel called “Sit n Clutch.”  He has some great talent in filmmaking and exceptional taste in automobiles.

Thanksgiving was a little different this year.  I haven’t talked about it on the blog before, but a health condition called hemifacial spasms has kept me on edge for a few years now – it’s an intermittent, involuntary twitching of the eye & mouth on one side of my face.  You already knew I was messed up in the head, but this just made it clinically official.  Haha.

After a great deal of research & preparation, I underwent neurosurgery last Tuesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

For 6 days, I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in the “Oakland” area just east of downtown Pittsburgh, which was walkable from the UPMC campus.

Local friends rolled out the warmest hospitality, including my friend Carol and her husband Jeff who took me out in the Waterfront district for dinner one night.

Luckily I was prepared with my heaviest winter coat – which I don’t think I’d put on since Detroit Auto Show in 2017.

The procedure – called “Micro-Vascular Decompression” (MVD) involved the creation of a surgical access port into my cranium behind my right ear, wherein my doctor was able to go in and microscopically re-route the artery that was causing me trouble.  I was under anesthesia for over 4 hours.

But the next day, miraculously, I was released from the hospital and back to sightseeing, if you can believe it.  Even brain surgery can’t make me sit still more than 24 hours.  My friend Adam had flown out from Phoenix to keep me company and we checked out the sights.

The capstone of my visit to western Pennsylvania was a cozy Thanksgiving dinner hosted in this 1930s home in Forest Hills owned by my friend Drew.  He served up a full homemade feast.  The fire was crackling and the food was fantastic.

I hope all my readers had a great holiday!  Stay tuned for weekend adventures as I take the 1992 Integra sedan to this coming Sunday’s “Radwood” car show in Los Angeles.  It’s gonna be totally tubular.

Day Trip: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southern Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX, National Parks, Road Trip on November 11, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  209,416

Trip Distance:  260 Miles

“Where should we meet up on Saturday?”

“Why?”

“Just so I can do a little mapping on times and distances.”

“So Why?”

That’s how a planning conversation about this trip could have gone.  Because, of all the places our group could have picked to rendezvous before venturing into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, we picked the town of Why, Arizona.  And the term “town” is used very loosely, since it’s home to only about 100 people.  And, as we discovered, its only restaurant (Granny Mac’s Kitchen) is closed on Saturday – the one day of the week that we’d be visiting.  Guess we’ll have to sample Granny’s culinary creations on a future trip.

I’ve visited Why before – about 5 years ago, actually, and discussed a little about how its name came to be.  The intersection of State Routes 85 and 86 originally created a Y shape, but for safety reasons were later transformed to meet at a T.  It was here in Why, at the Why Not Travel Store where James Lee of Six Speed Blog and I awaited arrival of Jason from Driven for Drives.  In addition to snacks and drinks (though I was disappointed the nacho cheese machine was out of cheese), the Why Not store also sells Mexican automobile insurance policies for travelers who are on their way south of the border.  A liability-only policy runs $35 per day and “full coverage” rates vary.

We didn’t stick around long, because we had turf to cover a little south of Why.  Tucked into the far southern reaches of Arizona – literally, touching the international border with Mexico, is a special place that is remote in geography and picturesque in landscape.  Even now, when Arizona’s weather is at its prime and tourism should be at its peak, we had the park largely to ourselves.  Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was established 81 years ago in 1937 and sees just over 1/4 million visitors per year.  By comparison, another of Arizona’s parks, the Grand Canyon, sees about 7 million visitors per year.  I much prefer visiting the lesser-traveled park units.

Now with 3 cars in tandem – my ILX, James’ tester Corolla hatchback, and Jason’s Mazda 6, we visited the Kris Eggle Visitor Center.  It was named for a 29-year-old border patrol agent who was killed in the line of duty in 2002 by a Mexican drug smuggler.  The dangers of being so close to the border are very real, and even today, visitors are encouraged to travel in groups and only visit during the day.

A 15-minute overview film taught a little about the terrain and its history.  I noticed that a pair of hikers inquired with the park ranger about getting a token for completing one of the hikes, and later learned that any visitor who hikes 5 or more miles in the monument is eligible.  We also saw a 7 or 8-year-old take a “ranger oath” with his right arm extended.  Traditions like that make visits to the parks memorable.

The Ajo Mountain Trail was the main attraction for us, and despite the fact that it was rugged and unpaved for most of the 21-mile loop, we knew we had to check it out.  Per-car admission was $20 but to me it was worth it to be able to say I’ve “been there, done that.”  I led the way and kicked up a pretty good cloud of dust for my followers while we stayed in touch by walkie-talkies.  The trail extends eastward to the foothills and curves up to a panoramic lookout over the terrain.  The Sonoran Desert, we had learned earlier in the film at the visitor center, is notoriously one of the most “green” types of deserts, and even in summer displays a wide variety of plant life.  One of those plants, the Organ Pipe Cactus for which the monument was named, is native to the area and highly prevalent.

Since amenities immediately near the visitor center were few, we decided to back-track to the town of Ajo for a bite to eat at Agave Grill before splitting ways for the evening.  James gave his hamburger a little more pizzazz by adding avocado, bacon, and a fried egg.  Jason and I couldn’t help but play copy-cat and order the same thing.  The owner of the restaurant later came out to let us know how much the kitchen staff had enjoyed putting together our custom-ordered burger creations.

But the next time I visit, it’ll be on a non-Saturday so I can see if Granny Mac’s food compares.

Signage indicating proximity to Mexico.  Here’s where we headed south from Gila Bend on Highway 85.

Cab of an old pickup truck made into a fountain – with music playing from inside it!

Coyotes on the loose!

Your one-stop shop:

Jason received this text on his phone as we neared the border (though we didn’t cross it!)

Need a place to store your car?  Or your gun?  While in Mexico…

From the Why Not Travel Store:  “If you need a penny, take one.  If you need two, get a job!”

Interior of the OPCNM Visitor Center

Jason making some purchases

Headed out on the Ajo Mountain Road

Not a great place to have low clearance and low-pro tires!

Quick break near a summit on the trail.

Check the size of that saguaro cactus.

“Double arch”

Dinner spot at Agave Grill in Ajo, Arizona

The burger that wasn’t even on the menu.  We’ll call it, “James’ Juicy Creation.”

Hope you enjoyed coming along!