Archive for September, 2012

Road Bucket List

Posted in Road Trip on September 27, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  515,676

Odometer (ILX):  15,511

Life is a highway; I wanna ride it!  All night long.  Anyone who’s followed my blog knows that to me, the journey is way more important than the destination.  I’ve decided to start a record of roads that I absolutely have to drive someday.

1.  Pacific Coast Highway – all the way from Seattle to LA

2.  KEY WEST via Florida Route 1!  Yes please.

3.  The Million Dollar Highway – western Colorado.  I just learned about this one today!

Do any of my readers have any recommendations?  What are some roads in your area that would make for a great Acura-driving adventure?  Check out this awe-inspiring picture gallery of 29 of the world’s best driving roads.  Here’s another one with the 19 “most complex” roads in the world.  The tunnel in China?!  I’m practically drooling.

A Little Architecture History

But this is a car blog, right?  I’ll get to that.  A friend forwarded me a petition this week and asked me to “Save the home of David & Gladys Wright.”  Not one to usually pay much attention to forwarded emails, I decided instead to actually research this one.  Turns out, there’s a pretty cool story to go along with it.

In 1951, just 8 years before his passing, revolutionary architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed and built this home for his son David.  At the time, its design was borderline crazy – concrete block construction, circular orientation. The entire 2,200 square foot home, in fact, was elevated from the ground on pillars!  The idea was that when built this way, the desert breeze could be enjoyed.  David passed away in 1997 and his wife Gladys died in 2008.  It’s been unoccupied ever since.

Shortly after construction in the 1950’s.

And a more recent picture.

The home is now apparently in jeopardy of being razed in favor of building new homes on the site.  So what did I do?  I took a little Acura ILX detour on the way home from work.

Location:  5212 East Exeter Boulevard, Phoenix Arizona

From overhead, the home truly is just a circle on a huge piece of property – pictured here at center.

That’s some bright afternoon sunshine on a shiny car, but I for sure found the house.  This was taken from the west side of the property on Rubicon Avenue.

I peeked over the chain link fence and snapped this picture.

Indeed, the views of Camelback Mountain are pretty sweet from this street’s location!  Can anybody spot a new accessory on my ILX?

If any of my readers wish to sign the petition as well, it’s located here.  There are lots of nice homes in this area now!  I’d love to own one of these fine estates.

This trip to the Wright home was almost as intriguing as the time in January 2010 when I went with a couple of friends to tour the Phoenix “Mystery Castle” which was built in the 1930’s and constructed entirely of garbage!

It seemed only fitting that I also treat the Legend to a little history lesson this week as well, so on Wednesday night I set out on a quiet solo drive to downtown Phoenix.  My first destination was the historic and haunted Hotel San Carlos, located at 202 North Central Avenue.  The hotel in its day (constructed 1927, opened 1928) was modern and elite.  As fate would have it, though, one of the hotel’s first guests checked in and never left.  Legend has it that her spirit lives in within the hallways.  Actress Leone Jensen dove to her death from the roof of the 7-story building just two months after it opened.

The hotel has since endured multiple ownership changes and renovations, but still retains its original look and feel.  The website gives a little more detail about the timeline of its existence.  I wasn’t able to park in front of the hotel for a picture on Wednesday (light rail track in the way) but visibility would have been poor at nighttime anyway, so I stashed the Legend in an adjacent parking structure and walked a couple of blocks to the corner of Monroe & Central where the hotel is located.  The lobby is complete with many historical artifacts, including some original room keys, newspaper clippings, and a matchbook.

I spoke briefly with the front desk attendant and learned that “ghost tours” are offered on Saturday and Sunday nights at 7:30 p.m. for a $13 fee.  I’ll be making a trip to participate in one of those in the near future, I think.

Ready to head home, instead of taking any freeways, I decided to take Van Buren Rd all the way from Central Phoenix to my home in south Scottsdale.  I wanted to experience a tiny taste of the landscape that people looked at before I-10 and Loop 202 were around.  The road was eerily quiet, as is much of central Phoenix after-hours on a weeknight (unless there’s a sporting event in town).

Run-down motels dominate the sides of the road – places like the Paradise Motel.  I’d be afraid to even stop for a picture there, let alone spend the night.  Shortly up ahead, though, a monstrous neon sign shone like a beacon in the night.  I’d reached the site of Bill Johnson’s Big Apple.

From the eatery’s website:

Bill Johnson’s Big Apple, an Arizona restaurant chain for over 55 years, has been serving country style breakfast, mouth watering BBQ and delicious steaks.  Generations of Arizonans have dined at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple Phoenix restaurant since 1956. Get into cowboy mode where the Old West spirit comes alive through a sawdust-covered floor and a hearty, down-home menu loaded with barbecue and fried items.

Sounds good enough to eat!  And I have dined there – it’s worthwhile.  I’ll be back soon.  Meanwhile, a Legend picture sufficed.

Honda’s Proving Ground

Ironically, less than a week after I posted a write-up about my visit to the Nissan Proving Ground for the 2012 Z Convention in my 2013 ILX, Inside Line posted a story about having visited Honda’s facility in their “test car” 1991 Sebring Silver Acura NSX.  The place is located in Mojave, California – a remote desert area about 100 miles north of Los Angeles.  I don’t yet know specifics beyond that but perhaps someday I’ll check it out!  Road trip, anyone?

From the Inside Line article:

ILX Text Messaging Interface = Functional!

Technology is fun!  Earlier this week, I took off from work to grab lunch at Pei Wei in Fountain Hills, Arizona and while driving was alerted on the audio display in the dash that a text message had been received.  It appears that after having gone through several “un-pairing / re-pairing” exercises with my iPhone and my ILX, they decided to get along!  I’ve yet to investigate just all that this system is capable of, but here’s what I know so far:

When I’m driving and receive a text message, the screen will tell me who it’s from and ask if I’d like to view it.

If I hit “Yes”, it’ll read the text message aloud through the car’s speakers, but give the following message:

Since a stick shift vehicle doesn’t have “Park,” I waited until I stopped for lunch and set the parking brake.  Sure enough, when I went into the PHONE menu on the dashboard and scrolled down to Text Message, Branson’s message was there:

Pretty sweet!  I haven’t yet played around with the automated replies.  Perhaps I can customize one that says, “Leave me alone.  I’m driving to five.”

What Color Would You Want?

Now that the Acura ILX has been on sale for a few months, I decided to do a quick Autotrader survey to see what’s listed currently in the new car market as of September 27, 2012.

Automatic ILX:

  • 6,491 vehicles available

6-speed Manual ILX:

  • 355 vehicles available

Wow!  Only 5.1 percent of Acura ILXs currently available in the U.S. on Autotrader are equipped with a manual transmission and the 2.4 liter engine.  Being the data junkie that I am, I took my research a step further.  Of the manual cars, the following are the color breakdowns:

  • Black (Crystal Black Pearl):  99 cars
  • Silver (Silver Moon):  77 cars
  • Gray (Polished Metal Metallic):  55 cars
  • Burgundy/Red (Crimson Garnet):  31 cars
  • Blue (Fathom Blue Pearl):  22 cars
  • White (Bellanova White Pearl):  7 cars

Since that only totals to 291 cars, the other 64 MT-equipped cars may not be advertised with their colors listed.  I’m really surprised that the white is so low volume!  No surprise on the black being high on the list, though.

Photos in order of ranking:

Until next time!

Acura ILX at a Nissan Z Convention

Posted in Arizona, Car Show, ILX on September 23, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  515,647

Odometer (ILX):   15,400

I drove my ILX on a high-speed oval track!  The banked curves on the closed course begged to be taken at speed!  Even with a chaperone van guiding me, I was allowed to achieve 95-100 mph and it was a thrill with the windows down, moonroof open, and XM radio loud and clear.  It kind of felt like this (minus the tricked out NSX):

This weekend I attended a special event at the Nissan North America proving grounds.  It’s extremely rare to get an inside look at the site where a vehicle manufacturer does its durability testing. Usually, the only time the public can see inside the facility is through commercials like this.

The ZCCA (Z Car Convention of America) selected Phoenix, Arizona as the host city of the 25th Annual ZCON (Z Convention).  ZCON, much like the National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) that I’ve attended for 8 years, brings together owners & enthusiasts once a year in a different part of the country.

As part of the festivities, the Nissan Technical Center of North America (NTCNA-AZ) sponsored a tour day & autocross event.  NTCNA is located about 50 miles from my home in Scottsdale, south of the Phoenix area next to a small town called Stanfield.

I headed there bright and early on Saturday morning (only 72 degrees!  Fall is here!) in the Acura ILX to see what the event was all about.  My soundtrack was provided by Metric.  Really loving the Synthetica album — plus, it has special meaning since I got to meet the band a few months ago!

A quick pit stop in Maricopa, AZ at the Amtrak train station was a necessity.  I was reminded of my recent Planes, Trains, & Automobiles weekend.  This particular station, codename MRC, is a stop on the Sunset Limited train line which runs from New Orleans, LA to Los Angeles, CA.

This sunrise is for real!  No photoshop needed!

Soon I was seeing signs for the Nissan Technical Center.

Finally, the entrance to the facility.  Right after I took this, I pulled up to the security gate and (along with all other entrants to the campus) was forced to surrender my phone.  It stayed with the security personnel for the duration of my stay at NTCNA.

First order of business was a riding tour of the grounds.  As I hopped into a white 11-passenger Nissan NV people-hauler van for a tour around the track, there was a family that joined on my particular tour.  It was Randy and Ilene Rodriguez with their two small children.  Randy is a lead designer at the Nissan Design Center in La Jolla, California.  He’s also the “father” of the revolutionary exterior of the current Nissan 370Z bodystyle which debuted for the 2009 model year. Here’s a picture of Randy with his creation at the Toronto Auto Show that year.

This June 2009 article contains a little of Randy’s story with the 370Z.  Interestingly enough, the article was written for Import Tuner magazine by Carter Jung, who as of last month is now working in Acura Public Relations.  Carter is responsible for the development of press kits, photography and video assets, as well as other communication duties.

Randy’s since done some impressive things too, such as pen the design of the upcoming Infiniti Emerg-E concept vehicle which, when it hits production, will be Nissan’s answer to the formidable upcoming 2015 Acura NSX.

We were driven throughout the expansive facility which contained a number of cool features, each designed with vehicle testing & evaluation in mind:

  • Mud Splash:  They can drive vehicles through depths of water to evaluate intrusion
  • Salt Spray:  Corrosion testing bay
  • Frame Twist:  This one’s only for the trucks, though it looks like it’d be a blast to take a car on.  It’s a roller-coaster wavy road intended to determine if the chassis will withstand highly uneven surfaces
  • Marketability Course:  Here, there are sections of road that are modeled after (and constructed identical to) real-life roads.  Expansion joints from a freeway in New Jersey, concrete freeway, twisty banked curves from San Gabriel, California, and a deteriorated stretch of highway near Detroit
  • ‘Hot soak’ area with cinderblock walls that block any wind movement and are used to keep air still to see if a vehicle will overheat (a true test of durability when it’s pushing 120 degrees here in Arizona!)
  • Cold chamber which allows a vehicle to be run from cold all the way up to normal operating temperature.
  • High speed oval!  Minimum speed here is supposed to be 90 miles per hour.
  • A series of ramps, curbs for impact testing, and other fun features.

Here’s what the area looks like from overhead.  They actually allow farmers to grow crops from within the oval!

After the riding tour, I was allowed to drive my own personal car on the track!  I followed half a dozen Z cars as we traversed these various types of terrain again.  The highlight for me, without a doubt, was the high speed oval.  I can only imagine what it might’ve been like if I really let loose and got into triple-digit speeds.  Again, without a phone or camera, you’ll just have to picture it in your minds, but it was remarkable and I promise I was grinning the whole time.

Randy signed my copy of the 2012 ZCON program:

I had the privilege of shuttling his wife Ilene and kids back to their hotel which was about a 30 minute drive.  They enjoyed the ILX amenities!

One of the most popular bodystyles of Nissan Z at the event was the “Z32,” better known as the 300ZX, which was sold from 1990-1996.

I had a great time exploring the proving grounds.  Maybe someday I’ll get the chance to visit the location where Honda does similar testing.

How’s this for a blast from the past?  I was rooting through an old box of junk and came across these ancient driver licenses.  Turns out I’ve been driving (matchbox cars, then RC cars, apparently) since I was only 3’9″ and weighed 54 pounds!

This next one was from when I was 5’2″ and 96 pounds!

My how times have changed. Another treasure surfaced in those boxes, too.  Micromachines!  Anyone else who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s has to remember these.  Commercial narrator John Moschitta spoke so fast I could barely understand him!  Loved the commercials, though.

Speaking of the olden days, my old high school friend Jaesi posted something on Facebook about how certain cars reminded her of friends from our graduating class.  The thread lit on fire within the first couple of hours with about 200 comments from others in our class who loved to reminisce about the cars we drove and memories we had with them.  It made me dig out this picture to contribute to the dialogue.

As I already shared in a prior post, I’ve always been one to obsess over getting just the right parking space wherever I go.  That was definitely the case at Pine View High School in 1998.  My red 1989 Honda Prelude 2.0 Si was parked right out front, along the road.  No door ding potential here!

ILX Updates

A few lucky people have joined the ranks recently of 2013 ILX owners.  One such individual is Colin from Honolulu.  I met him via the Acura ILX Owners & Enthusiasts Facebook group.  Colin upgraded from an Acura RSX to a Bellanova White Pearl ILX 2.4 6-speed and shared his story on the following link.  Congratulations, Colin!

I’m upgraded to iOS6 on my iPhone 4 but I’m still having a tough time getting the SMS text messaging set up.  Any tech people want to walk me through it?

One of my favorite features of the ILX is this great cutoff line with the projector HID headlights.  The song playing on my iPod when this was taken is “One Day” by Matisyahu.  One of my current faves.  Give it a listen here.

Legend Updates

Tomorrow, 9/24/2012, will mark the 18-year anniversary of the date that my 1994 Legend LS coupe was purchased new by its original owner in Pleasanton, California with only 288 miles on the odometer.  I was lucky enough to score all of the original Bill of Sale paperwork when I bought the car in early 2003.

Saw a pretty sad looking 1991-92 Legend sedan in central Phoenix.

Coming Soon from Acura – Trip to the LA Auto Show!

In April of this year, the new 2014 Acura RLX concept car was unveiled at the New York Auto Show, bring some much needed updates to the aging RL platform that’s been around since 1996 when the Legend (as we know it here in the USA) was discontinued.

The car reportedly will come with Acura’s new Precision All Wheel Steer system (reminds me of my old 4WS Prelude!).  The car will be powered by an all-new 3.5-liter direct-injected VTEC V-6 engine producing 310 horsepower.  Design wise, Acura is also raising the bar.  My favorite feature is the “Jewel Eye” headlights.  From a press release that was distributed earlier this week:

Acura’s exclusive Jewel Eye™ LED headlamps use a dual-stacked array of multiple high-intensity LED lamps, with ultra-reflective optical lenses and high-gloss trim, to provide powerful down-the-road illumination, while simultaneously giving the RLX a distinctive and bright-eyed look in both daytime and nighttime conditions.

Since the New York show, many have speculated about just how “true” to the concept vehicle the actual production version will be.

Well, I’ll get a firsthand look in a couple of months!  The production version of the 2014 RLX will be unveiled at the Los Angeles Auto Show.  I’ll be attending the event as a media colleague during the press days on November 28 & 29!  Can’t wait.

It’s been a productive weekend for sure.  To top it all off, I organized the car detailing supply closet.

In closing for today:

I really liked this commercial for the all-new 2013 Honda Accord.  It really captures how Honda and Acura recognize their customers and build their vehicles to fit well into “real life.”

Happy weekend everyone.

Twin Arrows

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on September 19, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  515,564

Odometer (ILX):  15,127

I get a kick out of visiting offbeat roadside destinations!  Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Roadside America is one of my favorite websites to kill time on.  After seeing this music video which was put to Depeche Mode’s song “Route 66,” I was intrigued by a set of matching arrows made from telephone poles featured multiple times during the song.

After a little more research, I was inspired to take a 360-mile round trip Saturday drive in the Acura ILX to find these very same arrows.



The arrows lie along what is now Interstate 40, about 25 miles east of Flagstaff Arizona.  For me, that meant climbing from about 2,000 to 7,000 feet elevation and into Coconino County where the Ponderosa Pines dominate the landscape.  Perfect weather and a full tank of gas to burn?  That’s all the reason I need.

Interstate 17 northbound from the Phoenix area was pretty much wide-open.  I set the cruise control in the ILX to 80 and enjoyed the scenery.  I did discover one inconvenience.  My ‘main’ iPod (a beastly 80 gig “Classic”) has 15,605 songs on it.  It was handy to be able to control the iPod using the audio interface on the instrument panel, but when I had a craving for a particular Hoobastank song, I had to scroll through 1,011 artists manually until I got to Hoobastank.  There must be a more convenient way to do that!  I’ll have to research it when I get time.

A quick side-trip to view a quaint looking log cabin estate alongside the interstate.  Six “No Parking” signs in a row.  Yet I parked there!  But only for long enough to capture this picture of something that I thought looked pretty absurd.

Finally I connected with Interstate 40 in Flagstaff and took it to Exit 219 where the Twin Arrows lie.

Twin Arrows started life as the Canyon Padre Trading Post in 1949.  By 1954 when this picture was taken, it was a bustling stop along Route 66.  Interstate 40 came along in the 1970’s and paralleled the old road, but probably pulled business away from Twin Arrows because it made Flagstaff (just 25 miles away) even more readily accessible.

Even up until this picture was taken in 1998, the cafe was pretty well kept.  In further research, I learned that this cafe is in fact a  “Valentine Diner.”  A Kansas-based company mass produced these metal diners and delivered them to their destinations on flatbed trucks.  This is reportedly one of 7 remaining prefabricated Valentine Diners left standing in Arizona.

However, the cafe was closed that year and the last 14 years have really taken their toll.  The arrows themselves were restored in 2009 but the rest of the property has become a trash pile.

The price of the last fuel dispensed at this station, according to one online resource, was $1.39/gallon.

In 2003, concrete barricades (visible in the background of the above picture) were installed along the frontage road preventing access to the site.  However, I was able to drive around the barricades about 1/2 mile up the road and back-track on a dirt road to get to Twin Arrows for a closer picture.

My mission of getting to the arrows had been accomplished, but I wasn’t finished with my adventure.  My curiosity got the best of me and I decided to see what the inside the buildings might be like.  I don’t think this stove has cooked a meal in a very long time.

Ever heard of Urban Exploration?  Little did I know that there is a whole ‘hobby’ around going into abandoned buildings and taking pictures there.  I’m fascinated by it.  In fact, there’s even a website/forum dedicated to providing a venue for people to share their experiences.  It’s called the Urban Exploration Resource.

I had to be careful where I stepped since I was in flip-flop sandals and there was broken glass everywhere.  Also, if the pictures appear blurry it’s because I was in a hurry!  I didn’t want to A) get caught inside in case it was trespassing, B) get attacked by anyone who might be crazy enough to live inside this place, or C) encounter any rabid animals who’d made it their home.

An eery feeling overcame me as I saw a remaining booth from when the diner was in operation.

This garage didn’t have any cool treasures inside it, but I looked.

Finally I’d had my fill of Twin Arrows so I decided to head back to Flagstaff.

Having worked up an appetite, and determined to continue to experience some historic landmarks, set my sights on one of the few remaining restaurants that’s still in operation from having been around during Route 66’s heyday:  Galaxy Diner.

On the way there, I spied some other interesting places, like the “Route 66 Dog Haus” where you can drive through the center of the building to get take-out.  The lettering above the opening reads:  “IF IN DOUBT, BACK IT OUT.”

Historic downtown Flagstaff.

And my next destination, Galaxy Diner at 931 West Route 66 Drive.

Stepping into this place was a trip back in time.

I sat at the bar and chatted it up with a few locals who were enjoying lunches as well.

My selection:

And the temptation was just too strong – I caved and got dessert.  I asked the waittress, “Can I just get a small vanilla sundae with a little hot fudge?”  She brings me this creation and asks, “Is that all you want on it?”  Holy cow!  Sugar overload.

The Galaxy hosts a hot rod car show every Friday night.  Plenty of great selections in that jukebox!

Farewell, Galaxy, and thanks for a great meal.

Back to Phoenix I went.  About 20 miles south of Flagstaff, I hit 15,000 miles.  Here’s a video I captured.  I’ve realized it’s a lot more “suspenseful” to watch the miles roll by for this car than for the Legend because there’s no tenths digit in the odometer!  I had to keep the camera glued to the display while I waited for it to turn.  Skip past the first half of the video – it’s boring!

The great news is that my ILX is getting phenomenal gas mileage.  This trip meter was reset when I got an oil change 395.8 miles ago.  The car has achieved 34.7 miles per gallon since then.  Awesome!

Other High Milers

My friend Wayne in Houston who bought my old 1994 Legend GS sedan in Sirius White Pearl sent me an email today.  His service advisor at Sterling McCall Acura shared some pictures of a 1993 Honda Accord that’s well into “driven to five” status.  This sedan has over 566,000 miles on the original engine.  It’s had one transmission replacement.  Remarkable!  This 1990-1993 bodystyle of Accord is so bulletproof.  It’s the same drivetrain that achieved 1 million miles in Million Mile Joe’s car last year.

Check out Margaret Dunning from Plymouth, Michigan.  She’s 102 years old and still driving a 1930 “straight 8” Packard.

Margaret is an inspiration!  At her age, she’s still probably a better driver than most young folks on the road.  Best of all, she appreciates each vehicle for its truly unique characteristics – because not every car is just “four tires and a steering wheel.”  My favorite part – and you’ll have to watch until the very end of the clip – is when she puts out a towel on the running board of her Packard before she gets inside.  Love this lady!  She reminds me a little of Rachel Veitch who I blogged about in April as still driving her 580,000-mile 1964 Mercury Comet.  Keep on rolling, Rachel and Margaret!


Ever wondered how to capture that perfect automotive photograph?  This short 3-minute video highlights a few of the tips that I’ve used over the years and easy tricks that I’ve also seen the professionals use.  Thought some of my readers might find it interesting.

Happy hump day!

Friday Flashback: AZ Route 66

Posted in Arizona, Legend, Road Trip, Throwback on September 14, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  14,765

I love roads and maps as much as I love cars.  I could (and do) stare at the huge US map in my cubicle at work for hours daydreaming about the places I’d love to visit.  I remember as a kid riding with my grandpa in his silver Buick Park Avenue with digital speedometer and seeing him set the cruise control exactly at 65 miles per hour on Interstate 15 in Utah.  It took a very long time to get to our destination 400 miles away at the other end of the state.

My friend Tony from Toronto sent me a link discussing some of the “World’s Fastest Roads.”  I found it fitting that the Bonneville Salt Flats were included in the list.  I first visited the Bonneville Salt Flats in November 2005 when my Legend (at the time, sporting 2004 Acura TL wheels) had 195,000 miles on it.

For the most part, I’m a very conservative driver and that’s one of the reasons why I think my Legend has lasted as long as it has.  However, every once in awhile I do get the need for speed.  I’ve raced the car twice in competitive events.  I’ve already shared before that there’s a stretch of Interstate 15 in central Utah that has sections posted at 80 mph.  As many may know, Texas recently raised the speed limit to 85 miles per hour on a 41-mile stretch of a toll road between Austin and San Antonio.   That’s quick!  What does the future hold for our speed limits?

My friend Tyler shared the following video with me this week.  I love Depeche Mode and I love Route 66, so I figured it was worth sharing!  Many of the scene locations shown in this video are familiar to me.

Many of you who followed my travels in July to Milwaukee and back will remember that I visited a bunch of Route 66 destinations along the way in my ILX, like this National Route 66 museum in Elk City, Oklahoma.

However, this was far from the first time I’ve retraced this historic road’s route.  So thanks, Tyler, for inspiring today’s Friday Flashback.  Here is a look at a road trip that I took in March 2007 when my 1994 Legend had about 280,000 miles on it.  My friend Kevin came along for the ride (and in fact played the role of tour guide most of the way).

A coworker and I decided to take a road trip today to the northwestern part of the state to hit up some old touristy destinations off Historic Route 66.  The main goal was to visit a small old mining town called Oatman, which was made largely obsolete with the construction of I-40 to the south.  With the freeway, no longer did people have to go through Oatman to get to California, and the town has been mostly unchanged for several decades.

One of the first stops, just outside Bouse, Arizona, was Ma & Pa’s.  They really did have almost anything!

Then we stopped in Lake Havasu City, where the London Bridge is now located.

Then it was off to Needles, California – a quiet railroad town that didn’t have much to offer.

Finally we headed toward Oatman on old Route 66.  It’s a windy two-laner and the routing has been unchanged since the road was first put through in the 1920’s.

You can tell these guardrails are ancient.

Starting to go up the hill toward Oatman.

Oatman is where I put the red dot in the western part of the state, in the middle of the “U” that I-40 makes.

Here is some basic background history on the town.  They still to this day have wild donkeys walking all over the streets (you really have to watch your step or you’ll end up with a mess on your shoes).  People buy carrots at the souvenir shops to feed them.  There was a gunfight reenactment while we were there!  You can see in some of the pictures that there are people dressed up like cowboys.

Pulling up to main street.

We went inside the Oatman Hotel (1902) to check it out.  The building looks like it’s straight out of 1910 inside, old and run down but it’s awesome to see how the old hotels were.  This particular hotel had a lot of history since Clark Gable spent his honeymoon there.  Here’s the view going upstairs to the rooms.

Hotel history.

View from inside the hotel looking out toward main street.

The bar in the hotel has walls and ceilings COVERED with $1 bills.  I would guess several thousand $ worth.

Here’s a look at main street Oatman.  The hotel you see pictured there is the one we went inside.

Since there are so many wild burros around town, there are a lot of shops with “ass” incorporated into the title.  This was one of my faves:

Leaving Oatman, the road starts up some very serious grades.  Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, the cars had difficulty making it up.  In fact, I picked up a reprint of a 1946 Guide Book to Highway 66, and it has the following quote about the steep grades:

“For eastbound cars which cannot make the Gold Hill Grade, a filling station in Goldroad offers a tow truck which will haul your car to the summit.  At last inquiry their charge was $3.50, but may be higher.  Cars with trailers may need this service.”

I thought that was funny… People would pay $3.50 to have their cars towed to the top of this summit.  Luckily the Legend crested the hill just fine.

This is part of Route 66 from a viewpoint.  There were some very tight hairpins and switchbacks but we were never able to pull off to get a photograph of those.

Route 66 here in the background behind the coupe.

Just after Sitgraves Summit, 66 drops down sharply in elevation and the next noteworthy roadside attraction is Cool Springs.  This little gas station actually burned down in 1968.  All that was left of it for about the next 30 years were the front rock pillars.  Then in 2003, it was rebuilt.  They no longer sell gas but they do sell a lot of souvenirs.

Hope you enjoyed the drive!  It was about 12 hours worth today.

OH – and one more thing…

I’ll give you one guess why I bought this postcard in Oatman!!  🙂

Those with a keen eye for Acuras will notice the blue 1986-1988 Acura Legend sedan parked behind the yellow pickup truck.  That was a great drive!  It’s one that I’d like to take again soon in the ILX so see if any of the infrastructure has changed in the last 5 years.

ILX News – Top Safety Pick

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded the 2013 ILX its top rating of GOOD for its ability to  protect vehicle occupants involved in front, side and rear crashes, plus rollover performance.  Awesome!

I’d like to know if there are any updates to the Project Acura ILX being built for competition by Team Honda Racing – West at the Honda Performance Development HQ in Santa Clarita, CA.  I’ve been watching the THR-W blog but haven’t seen anything since the announcement in July.

This week, my ILX got its 3rd oil change on 0W20 synthetic oil.  At the time when I took it in, the oil life remaining still read 60% on the Maintenance Minder display, but it had been 5,173 miles since my last appointment on August 7th.  Acura of Tempe took care of it in short order.

Whilst enjoying amenities of the customer lounge, I took a look at the ILX that’s currently sitting where my Legend coupe was a couple of weeks ago.  It happened to be a Crystal Black Pearl 2.0 automatic with the Tech package.  The VIN ended in 000096, so this car rolled off the Indiana production line just 14 cars after mine did!  This car may very well have been transported to Arizona on the same truck that mine was.

And Lastly

I decided to check on my rooftop durability test fleet.  Just over a month ago, I sprayed the 6 test vehicles with a concentrated salt spray solution to see how the finishes stand up to the ultimate corrosion evaluation.  See for yourself!

The Maserati 3200 GT has turned pink.

The Aston Marton’s lenses and windows have further deteriorated.

And the 1957 Nomad’s hood and roof are peeling.

For reference, here’s what the Nomad looked like 18 months ago.

This diecast car experiment is more fun than I had ever anticipated when I put these cars on my rooftop a couple of years ago.

Have a great weekend!

Family Time: Trip to Beaver, Utah

Posted in ILX, Road Trip, Utah on September 9, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  14,604

It wouldn’t be a Drive to Five weekend unless it involved traveling at least 1,000 miles, right?  If the Grand Canyon National Park hadn’t been in my way of getting to southern Utah to visit my family, it would’ve been a lot shorter.  Maybe someday they’ll bridge it.

After spending Friday night in my hometown of St. George, Utah, I joined 5 other family members for an annual pilgrimage of sorts.  Each fall, we visit the location where we’ve buried the remains of my great-grandmother, “Granny,” far into the hills of a remote canyon in central Utah.  We took two vehicles and the Acura ILX was one of them.

The 100-mile drive to Beaver from St. George goes quickly via Interstate 15 thanks to its 80 mph speed limit for most of the way.  My cousin Dillon and his wife Crystal joined me for the drive up.  Thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, Dillon was able to be our DJ and we rocked out to some music selections from his iPhone as we motored northbound.  Turns out we’re both fans of the musical group “Fun.”

Beaver‘s a 2,500-resident town that claims its fame as being the birthplace to Philo T. Farnsworth (inventor of TV) and the birthplace of Butch Cassidy.  Beaver is also home to the ‘best tasting rural water’ , based on a 2006 contest that spanned the entire United States.  We didn’t stick around town long enough to appreciate the water, but instead continued our drive and climbed State Route 153 to the east which would lead us up the Tushar Mountain Range, shown as the curvy yellow road in the following map.

The ILX hugged the curves during our ascent into Beaver Canyon.  A river parallels the two-lane highway and the landscape is very green.  Moonroof-open is the only way to travel on a road like this in September.

About 10 miles up the road, however, we were met with a road closure due to installation of a water main.  “You can go around,” a UDOT representative told us, “But it’s a 22 mile dirt road detour via Kent Lake and I wouldn’t take that car on it,” as she motioned to the ILX.  Bummed out but still determined to make our trek, we parked the ILX and piled into the Dodge Nitro to resume our adventure.

As it turns out, having a high clearance vehicle was definitely a necessity.  The detour was full of washboard, ruts, and huge potholes that bounced us around plenty.  We maxed out at 10,000 feet in elevation – this road was way up there!  We did make it safely to our destination (though an hour or so delayed) and pigged out on our picnic lunch.  Here are some pictures from our Saturday activity.

The red rocks of southern Utah have made the area famous for its popularity as a place to film old Western movies.

The climb into Beaver Canyon is (as my grandpa says) “gargeous” this time of year.

But here’s where we encountered our little speed bump in the plans:

No matter – we ditched the ILX for Jodi’s Dodge Nitro 4×4 and left the ILX at the roadside for a few hours.

The rest of our voyage up the mountain looked something like this, but with some sections of road in far worse condition and with steep grades.

The scenery, though, was phenomenal.  Anderson Lake looked like a nice place to stop for some fishing if we’d been prepared.

Grandma in the cargo area – yes.  She insisted!

Bathroom break and a chance to validate our directions.  It’s a good thing we stopped, in fact, because for a short time we’d been traveling the wrong way.  Though they may not be highly visible in this shot, my cousin Dillon (in front of the Dodge) is facing probably a dozen cows that were creeping closer to us.

Finally, we did reach our picnic destination along a small creek.

It took a few retakes (and a few laughs) to figure out Aunt Jodi’s iPhone timer and find something to use as a tripod.

The drive back down the mountain went much more quickly.  After retrieving the ILX, we made a customary stop at Mel’s Drive-In on Main Street in Beaver for ice cream.

Mom got a vanilla cone since twist cones weren’t available that day.

Saddle up!

And we’re off again.

What a great way to spend the afternoon with family!  Nothing like a road trip to bring us closer together.

Following are some of the other pictures from this weekend.

The ILX prior to this trip, by the way, got its first wax job with Meguiar’s Gold Class.  My fave!

Highway 93 in northwestern Arizona.  Home to Nothing.  Literally.  This town – if it can even be called that – is the town of Nothing.  Population 4.  The “All Mart” looks like it’s been closed for quite some time.  From a placard that’s since been removed from the site:

Town of Nothing Arizona. Founded 1977. Elevation 3269ft.
The staunch citizens of Nothing are full of Hope, Faith, and Believe in the work ethic. Through the years, these dedicated people had faith in Nothing, hoped for Nothing, worked at Nothing, for Nothing.

One of many call boxes along the highway.  While I had always thought these were kind of obsolete now that so many motorists are driving around with cellular telephones, the advantage of a call box in an emergency is that the exact location is immediately known by the dispatcher at the other end of the line.

Wikieup Auto Repair.  Wikieup, Arizona.  If you want their attention (per the sign to the left of the picture), you’ve got to “Honk 3 or 4 Times.  Or Call.”  Anyone need a spare hubcap or two?

Wikieup is also home to the Snoopy Rocket.  Yeah, I wasn’t sure what it was either.  But in this picture you can clearly see that the roadside attraction was clearly made out of a telephone pole and features a wooden Snoopy (or two) riding on top.  Bizarre?  You bet.  But totally worth stopping for an ILX photo-op.

I got Rick-Rolled by the ILX right around this time on Pandora – my ’80’s on 8′ station always gives me something to chair dance to!

St. George, Utah Legend sighting.  Rare 1991 L model “Golden Glow Pearl” coupe.  It’d seen better days but it’s a rare color!

Highway 91 in St. George became known as St. George Boulevard and is still one of the main arteries through town.  While many of the old relics of the mid-1900’s have long since been demolished, a few motels like the Sands Motel are still in operation.

I especially like that in the year 2012, the Sands is still advertising the fact that they’ve got color RCA TVs in each room.  When was the last time any of us saw a black and white TV?  I might actually pay extra to stay in a motel room that had one!

While reminiscing about the past, I also drove to and hiked around this old tunnel which in its day was the gateway into town from the north, long before Interstate 15 was sliced through the bluff.

A visit to grandma’s place after that – and what do I find?  Old school pictures on the wall.  I’m at the left.  Bleached hair was all the rage in high school in the late 1990’s.  I promise.

Grandma’s in a Heather Mist Metallic 1997 Acura 3.5 RL seen across the street in this picture.  It’s been in the family since 2004.

Morning hike with a view of the landscape in my beloved hometown.

This morning, I had the chance to chauffeur some very important people to church with me.  My grandpa and grandma took their first ride in the ILX and commented on how smooth it was.

I made the motion to swing into a parking space right near the front door to the church building.  “What are you doing?” Grandpa asked me.  “Just parking,” I responded.  “No, go all the way to the end!” were his instructions.  Sure enough, Grandpa knows proper parking technique!  Must run in the family!

After saying my farewells, it was time to start my 6.5 hour return drive to Scottsdale, Arizona from St. George.  Here’s a state line sign that I hadn’t captured yet.  The Silver State!

I observed 34 mpg in the ILX from Mesquite, Nevada to Kingman, Arizona, about 150-160 miles away.  Just north of Kingman on Highway 93, some ominous storm clouds loomed just ahead.  Sure enough, I got dumped on.  The volume of rain was so bad, in fact, that many cars had pulled off to the side of the road and were waiting the storm out with their emergency flashers activated.  I motored on at a safe rate of speed and got through without any issues.

By the time I got to Phoenix, it was a nice evening out.

And it wouldn’t be a Drive to Five blog post if it didn’t end with a classic Arizona sunset.

This coming Wednesday I’ll celebrate 3 months of Acura ILX ownership and I must say that the nearly 15,000 miles we’ve already shared together have been memorable!   Thanks as always for coming along for the ride!

Dealership Debut

Posted in Legend on September 4, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  515,208

Odometer (ILX):  13,396

For this post we’ll take a ride in Marty McFly’s time machine DeLorean to the year 1994 when Acura Legends were still sold new.  The old 515k Legend found its way into the dealership showroom for some display time.  Here are the latest images of the half-million miler at Acura of Tempe, courtesy of John Bazay.

Many thanks to John for his efforts in capturing these awesome images!

Service Manager Bob Santa Maria said that they received a lot of positive comments about the car during its stay there.  When I picked it up today, it fired up on the first try after having sat in the showroom for 10 days straight.  It also hadn’t leaked a drop of any fluid on the dealership’s tile floor.

This was the 4th time the old Legend sat inside the comfort of a dealership.

In May 2006, I put the car in the showroom at CU Auto Sales in Salt Lake City, Utah with my friend Branson’s “twin” 1994 LS coupe.  Mine had 218,530 miles on it.

In November 2007, Acura of Tempe, Arizona had it for a couple of weeks at 302,801 miles.

In June 2008, Planet Acura of Buena Park, California had the car for a day at 327,698 miles.

If only I had an air conditioned garage at home, it’d be a lot more comfortable place to putz around on the cars!

ILX News

ILX August 2012 sales numbers are out:

  • June:  1,081 units
  • July:  1,410 units
  • August:  1,733 units

The great news is that the car is catching on!  September will probably be the month when we see sales crest the 2,000 mark.  For a recent review of the 2.4 ILX like mine, check out this write-up by Winding Road.  They definitely captured the car’s “addictive” nature, as noted in the following excerpt:

In general, the ILX 2.4 comes together well as a package. Especially because of that motor/gearbox combination, it’s easy to find it a bit addictive. Don’t be surprised, as an owner, if you find yourself offering to drive to dinner more than your fair share.

Shout out to my friend Rich for sharing this picture of his “Legend Coupe Farm” in Georgia.

  • 91 Wht/Blk L 5MT 238K
  • 94 Blk/Blk LS 6MT 194K
  • 95 DMM/Type E LS AT 300+K

There’s just something about these dang Acuras!  They’re a lot like Lay’s Potato Chips:  You can’t have just one.

Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

Posted in Road Trip on September 2, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  13,314

In the spirit of this 1987 John Candy & Steve Martin movie, this weekend I embarked with a friend on a 2,400 mile, 3-day trip that involved traveling via some very diverse modes of transportation.


  • Phoenix AZ to Los Angeles CA via the 2013 Acura ILX
  • Trip Distance:  372 miles
  • Travel Time:  6 hours


  • Los Angeles CA to Albuquerque NM via Southwest Airlines Flight #1269
  • Trip Distance:  666 miles
  • Travel Time:  1 hour, 50 minutes
  • Albuquerque NM to Los Angeles CA via overnight Amtrak “Southwest Chief” train ride
  • Trip Distance:  787 miles
  • Travel Time:  15 hours


  • Los Angeles CA to Phoenix AZ via the 2013 Acura ILX
  • Trip Distance:  372 miles
  • Travel Time:  6 hours

This ought to be a fun evaluation of different travel experiences:  Price, comfort, speed, convenience, & amenities.

Who will reign supreme?


Interstate 10 is familiar ground for Alex the ILX as he’s traveled there a few times already.  Fuel in Blythe, California topped off his belly.

The Garmin Nuvi GPS system that I’ve put 20,000 or so miles on led the way.  Great music, customary desert sunset, and a smooth riding car.  This is the life!  I let Matt take the wheel for a good portion of this drive to LA.

Neat feature discovery!   Let’s say you’re cruising at 75 mph in 6th gear with the cruise control engaged.  A hill comes up and you start losing speed.  Typically, a downshift to 5th gear would cause your cruise to turn off and you’d have to reset once you got up to speed.  Not so on the ILX!  If you move from gear-to-gear within 5 seconds, the vehicle actually keeps the cruise control activated.  In other words, shift from 6th to 5th, release the clutch, and your cruise is still on while you resume your target speed while climbing the hill.  Very handy.

I wanted to pit stop again at Desert Center, a run-down ghost town on a deserted stretch of the interstate in California.  I first visited here last month on my way to San Francisco and back.  Unless that’s 91 octane, don’t get that fuel anywhere near my ILX!

The cafe which was once a 24/7 operation has now closed.  However, I had to laugh at the sign posted on the front door asking passers-by to pay $1 to use the facilities.

There’s just something eerily appealing about a scene like this.  It felt like a movie set.

And in the distance to our east, the August 31 “blue moon” (a once every 2.5 year occurrence, apparently) lit up the sky.

A couple of old pickup trucks are still solid as can be, minus some surface rust.

That driver’s seat, though, could use some help.  With the number of miles I put on my Acura vehicles it’s a mystery why my interior doesn’t look just like this.

As we emerged from the high desert into the lower elevations, the ILX gave us a scare at 12,700 miles just east of Indio, California.  A warning on the gauge display alerted us to a “charging system” malfunction.  I consulted the owner’s manual and learned that this warning means that the battery is not charging.  I once had a similar issue with my 1994 Legend when a faulty alternator (the car’s first, by the way) left me stranded in Las Vegas at just over 400,000 miles.

Matt and I decided to press on to an exit at Washington Rd in Indio and shut the car off to see if we could reset any potential error.  Indeed, the problem appeared to have self-corrected when we got back on the road.  The Renaissance Hotel near LAX Airport awaited us!


The ILX got ditched at $15/day covered parking near LAX Airport at The Parking Spot, while we hopped on a shuttle bus and headed for the Southwest terminal.

Since I opted for Southwest’s $10 “early bird” check-in option and a boarding priority of position A31, I was able to have my pick of any number of seats but I settled in 8A with a window just over the left wing.

Check out the girl two rows behind me.  Was she excited to be in my picture or what?

For a short time after takeoff from LAX, we cruised out over the Pacific Ocean before looping back.

Less than two hours later, we were on the ground in New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment.”

My friend Sean who’s a local to ABQ picked us up at the airport in his snazzy 2012 Honda Accord V6.  Sean’s an Acura Legend owner (1991 base model sedan) who I’ve known since 2005 but who I last saw in February 2011 on my way to Denver, Colorado.

We took a drive to downtown Albuquerque along Central.

There just happened to be a “grower’s market” at a park in the area so we stopped by for a walk through.  Pictured here are Matt and Sean admiring some artwork for sale by local folks.  We test drove some AMAZING homemade salsas and chocolates.

For lunch, Sean thought it fitting that we hit up Frontier.  This restaurant’s been around since 1971 and is located right across the street from the University of New Mexico campus.  Little did we know what a treat we were in for!

The menu is huge!  And the ordering system unlike any I’ve ever experienced.  There are 8 or 9 order-takers ready at the cash registers.  Patrons wait in line until they see a green strobe light flashing over the next available cash register.  It felt a little bit like a trip to the DMV!

I went with the Western Omelette which was to die for, but Sean made sure we gave the famous cinnamon rolls a try.  Buttery goodness!  And washed down with a glass of fresh queezed orange juice.  I’d go back to Albuquerque again just to have another taste of this stuff.

After meeting up with some other folks from Sean’s family, Lynette and Coco.

We did a little shopping at Nob Hill. I came across a small shop called Beeps that sold my favorite sour candy:  ZOTZ.  Anyone else heard of these?  Yum!

Rolling around in a Mazda5 to see a few sights from here.

Now at the Alvarado Transportation Center in downtown Albuquerque.  Pictured are Matt, Tyson, Sean.  We arrived prior to 3 p.m. and had a little bit of down-time before our train’s 3:45 arrival from Chicago but it was nice to relax.

Here it is!  The 12-car-long (counting 3 locomotives) Amtrak train rolled up right on time.  Each car has its own attendant who comes outside and sets up a yellow step-stool to aid passengers in getting in.  There’s no security screening, no baggage check, no ID verification.  Just show your printed itinerary and you’re on!

Arrival video here shot with my iPhone.

A poorly focused picture of the Amtrak route map shows where our route would take us – starting in Albuquerque and ending the following morning in Los Angeles.

We had time for a train walkaround before boarding.

Fuel capacity on each of the 3 diesel locomotives was 1,800 gallons!

Don’t get in the way of this thing!

Inside, it’s a maze of skinny hallways and sliding glass doors into individual private “roomettes.”  Our car was called a Superliner and we were on the upper level.  On this particular Amtrak train, there were three classes of fares available:

  • Coach class – standard bus-style seating (large, plush chairs, though, with tray tables and foot rests)
  • Roomette – this is what we had, room enough for two to sleep but no private bathroom or shower (we used the common facilities on the lower level)
  • Bedroom – these are all-inclusive rooms that have built in toilet and shower facilities.

A view from the hallway of our small roomette.  There are two seats facing each other.  The chairs fold into a bed at night.  A second bed folds down from up above, creating a bunk bed setup.  Our room assignment was car #331; room #8.

Each of the cars in the train is separated by a dual set of doors that can be opened at any time by the push of a large button.  Matt and I were able to walk the entire length of the train from inside before even leaving from Albuquerque.

The dining car, all set up for the night’s guests.  We had to make a reservation for what time we wanted to dine.  Our fare included meals.

View from aboard the very last car in the train, looking back, just prior to departure.

And we’re off!  My favorite place to lounge was, appropriately named, the lounge car.  There are lots of available seats and a ton of windows to soak in the view.

Slowly making our way out of ABQ.  Our train cris-crossed Interstate 40 a number of times but for a good portion of the trip was covering remote terrain that I’d never seen before.

Food for thought, printed on the beverage cups:  “Rail consumes less energy than car or air transportation.”

The lower level of the lounge car had a snack bar that sold various things.

Incredible sunset while working our way through Arizona.

Finally, time for our 8:00 p.m. dinner reservation.  Each table of 4 must be filled to capacity, so we were ‘assigned’ a couple of new friends to enjoy our meal with:  Robert and Sean.  Robert’s from California City, CA and Sean from Los Angeles.  It was great to visit with them.

The signature entree was the $25 steak.  I went with chicken which was served with salad, roll, mashed potatoes, and fresh steamed veggies.  Again, our meals had been included in the train fare so we only had to worry about carrying cash for our server John’s tip.

A very quick 8:51 p.m.stop in Flagstaff, Arizona gave us a chance to step outside and catch some fresh air.

All aboard!


I had a great night’s rest despite the occasional horn from the locomotive and the clickety clack of the rails as we motored along westward.  By sunrise we were already nearing Riverside, California.

We got to Los Angeles’ Union Station a little bit ahead the scheduled 8:15 a.m.  Our car attendant, whose nametag said “E. Rogers,” was very helpful!

Always riding in style, our next mode of transportation was my friend Brett’s 1994 Acura Legend L sedan.  Brett’s car is in phenomenal shape for its 244,000 miles.

We made our way toward LAX Airport where the ILX awaited us.  On the way, though, we grabbed some breakfast at a Denny’s that actually offered complimentary valet!

Brett takes a seat in the ILX to check it out.

Acuras old and new, with their owners.  Thanks Brett for the luxurious shuttle service!

Since we were only a couple of miles from the ocean, I couldn’t resist a quick drive-by.

The ILX at Dockweiler Beach State Park ($10 to park here for the day).

Nothing quite like it!

From there it was a 6-hour stretch of freeway to get us home to Phoenix.  All was well until just a few miles from home when we got a fuel cap warning.  I’ve had this pop up before but it always seems to self-correct after stopping and re-starting the ILX.

Indeed, the problem seems to have resolved itself with the next restart.  And with that, I’m home at last!

Here were our people movers this trip, with some specs on each one.

Southwest Airlines – Boeing 737-700 Airplane Specifications:

  • CFM 56-7B26 jet engine
  • 26,300 lb-ft of thrust
  • 137 passengers
  • Cruising speed:  514 miles per hour
  • Fuel capacity:  6,875 gallons
  • Weight:  84,100 pounds

Amtrak – GE Genesis Locomotive Specifications (Our Superliner had 3 locomotives):

  • 7FDL16, 4 stroke cycle engine, with EFI
  • 4,250 horsepower
  • ~250 passengers & crew
  • Cruising speed:  79 miles per hour
  • Fuel capacity:  1,800 gallons
  • Weight:  266,000 pounds

Acura ILX Specifications:

  • 2.4 liter inline 4 cylinder engine
  • 6 speed manual transmission
  • 201 horsepower
  • 5 passengers
  • Cruising speed:  80 miles per hour in a 75 zone
  • Fuel capacity:  13.2 gallons
  • Weight:  2,978 pounds

And some of my own comments on how each of these excel in comparison.

Southwest Wins:

  • Speed.  This is about the only thing I think I absolutely find superior from taking the flight.  We were about 90 minutes from wheels-up to wheels-down.  Remarkable considering the distance we had traveled.
  • Air travel is just a pain!  Robert, who we met at dinner, said it best when he emphasized his distaste for flying: “If someone was flying into see me, I’d rather have them fly into Vegas and spend a couple extra hours driving there than EVER have to deal with LAX airport.”  He himself avoids flying at all costs due to the hassle at the airports.  His train ride was taking him all the way from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Amtrak Wins:

  • Space.  You can take whatever you want on this train!  The baggage car will accommodate it.  And, unlike any airline, there’s no baggage fee, period.
  • Timeliness.  Unlike the airline that is plagued by inevitable security-caused delays, Amtrak’s system is fast and efficient. We were within minutes of all our anticipated arrival and departure times, and even arrived early to our final destination in Los Angeles.  In contrast, when we drove to LA on Friday night in the ILX we were delayed at least 15-20 minutes by an accident on Highway 60 near Riverside, California.
  • Relaxation.  Here’s a huge, open lounge where you can wander about at your leisure, watch the countryside roll by, and not have to worry about watching the road or missing your next connection.  Truly a great way to chill out and still get where you’re going (on time!).
  • Mobility.  Unlike in a car where you’re confined to just the passenger compartment or an airplane where you’re strapped into a tiny seat, this entire train is your playground.  No seat belts required here!  We spent some time exploring the upper and lower levels of the train.  There are padded seats facing either side of the train, and booths for people who want to play card games or sit and read a book.
  • Connectivity.  Though cell service isn’t always readily available, there are no restrictions on electronic devices whatsoever.  Also, no worries about the dangers of chatting on the phone (or worse, text messaging) while driving.
  • Efficiency.  As Amtrak’s already noted on their plasticware, rail travel is the most efficient when compared to the automobile and airplane.
  • Service.  The crew aboard the train are pleasant people who I think for the most part are in this career because they enjoy it.
  • Amenities.  Unlike Southwest, on Amtrak each sleeper car has juices, waters, and ice freely available for passengers to help themselves.
  • Ease.  No TSA hassle!  No needing to arrive 2 hours in advance.  Zero security or ID checks.  Just show up with a reservation and hop onboard.
  • Sociability.  The train is a great place to make a friend!  While I sat in the lounge admiring the passing scenery, a young girl randomly started talking to me. “Where you heading?” she started with.  It was a conversation with a complete stranger.  Matt and I also made friends with our table-mates from dinner.  People just seem kinder.  One older woman with Parkinson’s disease was so shaky she could not lift her suitcase so she asked us to assist.  She was so extremely grateful.

Acura ILX Wins:

  • Climate Control.  The accessibility to immediate climate control functions is a welcome feature.  Our roomette on Amtrak was very warm when the sun came streaming through the window, and on Southwest there’s nothing you can do except hope the air fan from up above is working.
  • Comfort.  The seats in the ILX recline farther than anything on Amtrak or Southwest.  Unless, of course, you count the beds on Amtrak.  The suspension on the ILX also seems to better absorb the rugged LA freeways with less turbulence than our flight and less shaking around than our train ride.
  • Audio & Technology.  Neither our Boeing 737 nor our Amtrak Superliner car offered music playing capabilities to keep entertained.  The ILX’s 7-speaker Premium audio system saw plenty of use during the 12 hours or so that it was driven this weekend.
  • Cost.  At 32 mpg highway, it only cost us around $110 to drive the 800 miles round-trip to Los Angeles and back from Phoenix.  By comparison, our fares were $110 each on Southwest from LAX-ABQ and $174 each on the ABQ-LAX Amtrak fare.
  • Travel Options.  When I drive, I take control of when I’m stopping and what I’m seeing.  In a train or airplane, every passenger is merely a passive onlooker to where the pilot or engineer decides to take them.  I love that when I drive, I can see a random offbeat roadside attraction and take a pit stop if I want to.  This is how I truly get to know the areas in which I’m traveling.
  • Adventure.  There is a sense of accomplishment that comes with planning a roadtrip and then taking it to completion, especially when it involves overcoming detours, finding a new destination along the way, or taking an uncharted route “just because.”
  • Convenience.  The car is ready to go at a moment’s notice.  No reservations, no booking.  Just hit that push-button start and roll.
  • Style.  There is just no denying that it’s fun to ride around in a vehicle that’s fun to look at and even more fun to ride inside.  Due to the ILX’s newness it’s also still a very exclusive way to travel.  We didn’t see any other Acura ILX on the road this trip.

In the end, it’s impossible to declare a ‘winner’ among such different competitors, but my independence and love for the road will always lead me to choose automobile travel as the personal fave, and the ILX is a great means of experiencing that.  That’s my take on how this Planes, Trains, Automobiles weekend shakes out!

Whichever mode of travel you choose, please enjoy the ride and take pics!