Archive for December, 2012

Drive to Five 2012 in Review

Posted in Blog on December 31, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  518,255


Odometer (ILX):  23,812



Determined to close out the year doing what I enjoy most (driving!), yesterday I took a drive in the Legend to the mining town of Superior, Arizona.  It was about 60 miles each way.  On the way there, I pulled off US highway 60 for a few pictures at a place called Florence Junction.  Enjoy!




Driving along “El Camino Viejo” – translated:  The Old Way.







Many thanks to those who have followed the blog this year.  There is much more to come, so keep those seatbelts fastened and I hope you enjoy the ride in 2013 as much as I will.  I’m just getting warmed up with my travels in the 2013 Acura ILX, having logged about 24,000 miles since I got the key in June.  Meanwhile, the Legend of Legends, my 1994 LS coupe, continues its journey with regular updates to be shared here. prepared a 2012 annual report for Drive to Five (link at the bottom of this post).  A few highlights follow.

Top viewing countries in 2012:

  • USA:  48,084 views
  • Canada:  5,347 views
  • Italy:  1,702 views

Every continent on the globe has visited this site at some point this year.  Here’s a shout out to those 9 folks in Nigeria!

Very special thanks to my top commenters:

  • Mom (Utah)
  • Dave (Washington)
  • Marc (New Jersey)
  • Kevin (Georgia)
  • Jeremy (Utah)

You’ve all given me the motivation to keep blogging!

The highest-traffic day on the blog in 2012 (with about 1,900 views) was June 14, 2012 when I announced that I’d begin driving a new 2013 Acura ILX 6-speed.


Thanks again, and here’s to open roads, green lights, and more exciting Acura adventures in 2013!

The rest of the report, prepared by WordPress:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Birthday Bash #31

Posted in ILX, Legend on December 30, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  518,130


Odometer (ILX):  23,729





That sunset is for real!  Just one of the many reasons I love Arizona.

Some of the greatest people drive Acuras!  Six years ago, I met a guy named Sivaram when I transported a 1994 Legend GS 6-speed from San Francisco to Las Vegas for some friends in Georgia.  I never thought that I’d keep in touch with Sivaram but over the years we’ve corresponded via email.  He happened to be vacationing for Christmas in the Phoenix area so I invited him to stop by the house this week.

December 17, 2006


December 25, 2012


I turned him loose behind the wheel of the Legend.  He admitted it had been a number of years since he’d driven a stick shift vehicle, but he quickly got comfortable and handled it like a pro.  In fact, he prided himself on the ability to shift the car with just one finger.  That’s how smooth this Legend’s gearbox operates, even after all those miles.


My friend Ryan was in town from northern Utah for a couple of days.  Ryan’s owned a few Acuras but currently drives a Honda S2000.  His most recent Legend was a 1994 GS sedan 6-speed.  We got together in May 2010 at the Utah State University campus in Logan, Utah for a few pictures of our cars together.  My Legend had 420,000 miles on it.


Ryan sold his car last year.  This was one of his last pics of it:


But I let him take my sedan for a spin so he could re-live the experience.


And we grabbed some In-N-Out Burger on our way to the airport.


Thanks, Ryan, for the visit and for washing the ILX while I was at work on Wednesday!  That was a real surprise!

It’s been nonstop company at the house this month.  My dad and stepmom arrived on Wednesday night.

I’ve always wanted to take a hot air balloon ride, so Friday morning I fulfilled that wish on my 31st birthday!  My stepmom Tanya and I headed to North Phoenix near the Deer Valley airport in the Legend, arriving at 7:00 a.m. for our sunrise flight with Rainbow Ryders.

Fun facts:

  • During our 1 hour, 16 minute flight time, we traveled 7.9 miles
  • Our highest elevation was 7,200 feet (1.4 miles) above the ground.  Temperatures were chilly up there!
  • Our pilot gave a demonstration with a business card.  He threw it out of our basket during descent.  A business card falls at 800 feet per minute.  At that time, we were falling at 900 feet per minute so we were actually able to watch ourselves leave the falling card above us!  It really is tough to grasp the fact that you’re descending, and especially at that rate!
  • The air was so clear that at our highest point, we were able to look toward the north and see the San Francisco Peaks in Flagstaff, Arizona which are 135 miles away.
  • Our pilot, Taylor, had been flying for 12 years.  He told us that commercial certification requires 30 hours of flight time.



Our basket held 12 people.


It got colder at the higher elevations.  Pictures can’t effectively convey just how huge these balloons are up close!


Great view from up there.  It was interesting to be able to look into peoples’ yards.  Dogs were barking at us.  A few homeowners stepped outside to wave at us.  Since the balloon is silent when it’s “coasting,” we could even yell down to the people on the ground and tell them good morning!


Certificate of completion!


Here’s a short video I took with my phone while mid-flight.

We dined at one of my favorite local restaurant chains, Oregano’s Pizza Bistro.  I’d highly recommend the Big Rig pasta with chicken — and no meal at Oregano’s is complete without a chocolate chip half-baked pizza cookie and vanilla ice cream for dessert.


Quick shot with my dad and the ILX.  This guy taught me everything I know about how to take care of a vehicle.


Dinner with friends & family at Kona Grill / City North in Phoenix.


When my dad drove down to Phoenix on Wednesday, he brought my old N-Scale train set.  My grandma and I put this masterpiece together back in 1996 when I was 14-15 years old.  It has paper mache mountains, a resin lake, two tunnels, and even illuminated buildings in the “town” (which I named Tysonville).  I dug out the diesel locomotive to see if it still worked.  Sure enough!  Looks like I was putting miles on toy train sets long before I was driving the wheels off a car.


The ILX and the sedan got a bath yesterday morning, and the ILX was also treated to a one-step Meguiar’s cleaner / wax thanks to some help from my dad.


The ILX also got its leather treated with “Leather Care,” a product by Griot’s Garage.


Met up at lunch with my friend Jeremy who’s driving his “new” (to him) 2006 Honda Accord coupe V6 6-speed.  He picked up this car in Memphis, Tennessee on Thursday morning and he was in Scottsdale, Arizona (nearly 1,500 miles away) the following night.  This guy puts on miles like I do!


Really clean Accord, and it’s a fun car to drive too.  It’s got just over 114,000 miles on the odometer and still has an extended warranty to 120,000.


A fitting headline for my blog on the cover of this Sports Car Market magazine:


Hope all my readers enjoy their New Year celebrations!

Utah Holiday Travels

Posted in Ghost Town, ILX, Road Trip, Utah on December 24, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  23,385


Dashing through the desert in a 201-horse, front-wheel-drive sleigh.  That’s how I kicked off my weekend on Friday after work.  When I wasn’t spending time with family or friends, I was behind the wheel of the Acura ILX over the last few days.  Here are the details of my travels!

About 3 hours (200 miles) into my drive, I stopped for a little Route 66 side-trip in Kingman, Arizona.  The original highway, now bypassed by Interstate 40, is called Andy Devine Road.  Even though it was after-hours, I made my way to the Visitor’s Center (which used to be the city’s power plant, thus is now named Powerhouse Museum).  There’s a marker here that denotes the site’s elevation:  3,333.3 feet above sea level.  A spike in the building denotes the exact location.



I circled the location of the sign in red here, on the building behind the ILX.  Photoshop skills at their finest.


When was the last time you saw a pay phone?  Better yet, when was the last time you USED one?


Across the street, a 1928 steam locomotive was on display. This one was Santa Fe #3759 – a “4-8-4” style that was built in 1928 and ran until 1957 when it was donated to the city of Kingman.  It’s sat in its current location for 55 years!  The locomotive reportedly ran 2.5 million miles of service before its retirement.  Now that’s something a half-million miler like me can appreciate!  Each year during this season the train is decorated with Christmas lights so I got a few pictures before continuing on my way.



In Las Vegas I met up with Drive to Five fan Jessie, who is a proud Legend owner.  His Rosewood Brown 1992 L Sedan automatic has only 134,000 miles on the odometer.  Jessie strives to keep his car running in tip-top shape.  I was privileged to take it for a drive around the parking lot.



Saturday in St. George

Hike time!  On a cool (30-degree), crisp Saturday morning I picked up my mom, my stepdad, and our friend Holly for a trip up to Snow Canyon State Park by following State Route 18 which leads north from the St. George area.


About 10 miles up the road, we arrived at the trailhead for the Cinder Cone hike.  The hike itself was only 3/4 of a mile long each way, but it traverses some rocky / jagged terrain and ascends about 500 feet in elevation.





Reassurance marker along the way, though trail was clearly visible.


Last stretch before reaching the summit.


Freezing but still celebrating our arrival at the top.


The views from the top are spectacular.



Since Cinder Cone is an ancient (and now extinct) volcano, from the summit, the crater is still visible.


Our descent went much more quickly and we soon enjoyed the comfort of the ILX and its heated seats to take us back to St. George.


Sunday’s Ghost Town Road Trip

Modena, Utah.  It’s a town that I visited 7 1/2 years ago in my then-175,000 mile Acura Legend.  I felt like giving it another look to see what’s changed.  As it turns out, aside from a few more years of aging, it sits largely the same as it did in 2005.  On a crisp Sunday morning I headed out from St. George Utah via State Route 18 to explore some of southwest Utah’s backroads in the ILX.  Total distance was about 170 miles round-trip.


As I began my climb to the higher elevations, I started seeing white-capped mountains in the distance.


Soon I was passing through Veyo, Utah (population of 483 people as of the 2010 census).  This giant red sign advertising Veyo’s famous pies caught my eye on the roadside.  More on that later!


I decided to take an 8-mile detour to the east to visit a tiny town called Pine Valley.  This place is a popular cabin destination for folks in St. George who want to escape the triple-digit temperatures during the summer months.


This was the first time my ILX had seen snow, so I pulled off for a quick picture.


Arriving in Pine Valley via Grass Valley Road.  It was a crisp 27 degrees Fahrenheit according to the ILX’s exterior temperature readout.


I got a picture of the Pine Valley Mormon chapel, which was just starting to welcome its guests for the 10:00 a.m. Sunday service.  This chapel was built in 1868 by Ebenezer Bryce, who used the scheme of an upside-down boat.  Today, it’s the oldest continuously-used Mormon meetinghouse.



Next it was time to loop back to SR-18 and continue northward.  The summit on this road is elevation 6,150 feet.


At Enterprise, Utah, I veered right to stay on SR-18 for another 15 miles or so.


Closing in on my destination!  From the intersection of SR-18 at Beryl Junction, Modena lies another 16 miles west.  During this 16-mile stretch, I counted only two other vehicles that I encountered.  This is an extremely remote location!  Speed limits are 60 mph which seems agonizingly slow for the wide open stretches.




Unfortunately, the Last Chance Saloon is no longer open for business. I would have loved a bite to eat.


The 1936 schoolhouse is probably the best-preserved building in town.  From the “360 Cities” website regarding Modena:

“With the advent of the railroad in Iron County and its arrival in the Modena area in December 1899, Brigham J. Lund, along with two partners, E. M. Brown and Jose Price, started a small business venture here. In time they were freighting to St. George, Utah; Pioche, Nevada and Delamar. Lund soon bought out his partners and in 1903 incorporated under the name of B. J. Lund & Company. The name “Lund” is still found on several buildings in town including the General Merchandise & Hotel building. By 1903, a U.S. Weather Bureau office had also been established in Modena. The Last Chance Saloon now closed and boarded up is a reminder of a distant era.

The change from steam to diesel by the railroad brought about the demise of Modena which today is almost a ghost town. Only five families remain. There is a small convenience store/post office and a gas pump (no services available as of this writing) in town which served locals and others working the silver, iron ore, and beryl rock mines around the area. A stone school building is one of the more imposing solid structures in town. Edna Thorley 91, taught elementary school children in the building. She still lives in town and keeps up scrapbooks filled with memories of the past and present. Just north of town is the Modena cemetery.



B.J. Lund & Co:  General Merchandise & Hotel.  This place has been around for over 112 years.



I left the ILX parked for a time and wandered around on foot to explore some of Modena’s streets.  It was eerily quiet aside from the crunch of my shoes on the snow.  I intentionally kept quiet because I didn’t want to awaken any dogs that might be in the neighborhood.


I was able to boost myself up and peek inside the hotel’s main floor.  When I visited Modena in 2005, I actually went inside, but given the latest “No Trespassing” signs, I decided to play it safe this time.



Back side of the hotel.


And a few other buildings within walking distance.



Here’s a shot looking inside the General Store area of the Lund Hotel.  I wonder what this place would have looked like in its heyday – bustling with people and commerce as the steam locomotives brought people from near and far.


Here’s a fun “then and now” look.

June, 2005:


December, 2012:


This building was at one time the post office.  When I visited in 2005, it had a (dry) gas pump out front which has since been removed.


Some background information here.  Can you believe this place didn’t have electricity until the 1940’s?


I was intrigued by this little 2-room wooden home.  Let’s take a look inside, shall we?



Someone left a pair of boots in there.


Quaint little bedroom!


And a stack of newspapers dated 1985. The one on top was dated January 21, 1985.  I wonder if someone was still living in this little home 28 years ago.



Another home.



Beryl Junction fire truck.


It was last registered in 1998.



There’s a cool, serene feeling about being the first person to walk or drive on freshly-fallen snow.


I’m as intrigued by abandoned cars as I am about abandoned buildings.  This Buick Regal 2-door caught my eye.


The driver’s side door was ajar, so I went ahead and took a look inside.


This interior is in pretty remarkable condition aside from the dust.  Throw a little vinyl conditioner on those seats and you’d be set!


Is that a CB radio I spy?


According to the license plate sticker, this car was last registered in 1989.  The odometer shows only 75,000 miles.


Calling all Drive to Five car geeks.  Can anyone identify the year of this Buick?


Now’s when I really started getting a sense of adventure.  I drove past a road called “Old Modena” road.  I thought I’d give it a quick drive to see what was down there.  Except, this road quickly turned to dirt.  Well — make that mud.  So much for my clean ILX.


Just a couple of miles down the road, conditions got quite a bit worse or I would have continued.  The last thing I needed in this remote area was to get my car stuck.



I took the 9-mile drive to the Nevada state line.


Looks like I’m due for a car wash.



Looping back, I’d been thinking about those famous Veyo pies the whole time, so I grabbed a peach pie.


From there I took a new route home by heading west on Center Street.  The 2-lane highway curved through some 15-25 mph turns which were fun in the ILX.

Since this was a new stretch of road for me, it seemed fitting that this song came on my iPod.  I really enjoy this one from Linkin Park and I played it 3 times back-to-back.

Soon I was rolling through Gunlock, Utah.


Gunlock’s fire engine looked to be in only slightly better condition than the one in Modena.  Gunlock is home to fewer than 300 people.


Gunlock Reservoir State Park.


And now at the lower elevations, the beautiful red rocks of southern Utah lined the road.




That peach pie was amazing, by the way!

Christmas Eve – Return drive to Phoenix from southern Utah

Today’s final trip of the weekend was 453 miles.  Instead of taking the same ol’ route past Hoover Dam and down Hwy 93, I instead cut south at Boulder City on Hwy 95.  This is an arrow-straight multi-lane highway named Veterans’ Memorial Highway.  A series of signs along the roadside at certain intervals denote which veterans are to be remembered (there’s a sign for WWII, Vietnam, and others.  I remember noticing that the last sign said something to the effect of, “Veterans of the continual war on terror”).


But first, I had something to see in Las Vegas.  Some of my readers may remember a cartoon called The Simpsons.  Well, thanks to Roadside America, I learned that there is in fact a home in the Henderson suburbs that was built after the design of the cartoon home in 1997.  It’s in the South Valley Ranch community off Boulder Highway.


Check it out!  And disregard the filthy car, please!


Compare to the cartoon version:


Pretty fun.  I wonder how many people drive by it each day for a picture.

Here’s where I veered off US93 and took the 95 southbound.  “Cal Nev Ari” (noted on the sign) is a 400-person community at an intersection of California, Nevada, and Arizona.


Lots of vast open land out here!  The speed limit dipped quickly to 25 mph as I rolled through Searchlight, Nevada.  This town is so teeny I couldn’t even find anything worthy of a photo-op.  Amazingly, at one time this was a boom town that had a population greater than Las Vegas.  Today, there are fewer than 600 residents.


When I approached Hwy 163, I headed toward Laughlin Nevada.  The road drops sharply in elevation toward the Colorado River in the valley below.  Laughlin is the third most visited casino and resort destination, after Las Vegas and Reno.  I did not pit stop here but did snag a picture of the Riverview Casino out my passenger window.


The road climbs from the riverbed up to another pass and then on through Kingman.


And 3 hours later I was home sweet home in Scottsdale.

I’m exhausted from these travels and looking forward to spending the evening relaxing with friends.  Hope everyone has a safe and happy Christmas tomorrow.

Tucson Trip: Josh’s Acura Integra

Posted in Arizona, Legend, Reader's Ride on December 20, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  517,831


Odometer (ILX):  22,228


Is there such a thing as too much speed?  If there is, then my buddy Josh is pushing the limits.


He’s got a car that in my mind is the ultimate “sleeper.”  From the outside, it’s your standard 1995 Acura Integra LS coupe with a lowered suspension and some custom wheels.  Big whoop, right?  That’s until you peek under the hood or sit inside while it wickedly rumbles at idle.  This car gets up and goes.  In fact, under acceleration there’s so much power that the tires can’t even grip. Josh had to “feather” the gas pedal to prevent it from breaking loose entirely through all the gears when he took me for a ride.  I’d get myself into major trouble with a car like that.

For my Sunday drive this past weekend, I drove about 130 miles each way from Scottsdale to Tucson, Arizona in the Legend.


The ILX took a break and chilled out at home.


The I-10 corridor between Phoenix and Tucson is a critical piece of infrastructure because it connects the two largest metropolitan areas of Arizona.  According to a 2008 AADT (Annual Average Daily Traffic) study, I-10 sees over 1/4 million cars a day in Phoenix and over 200,000 a day in Tucson.  As of October 2012, there are now advanced discussions taking place regarding the implementation of a passenger rail system between the two cities.



Here we see the back side of the Santa Catalina Mountains that border the north side of Tucson.  One of these peaks is Mount Lemmon, home to a particularly fun 25-mile curvy road that I drove with the ILX in August of this year.


Premium fuel was only $3.27 at the Chevron on Valencia Road in Tucson!


On the way to Josh’s place I drove past the Pima Air & Space Museum.  This airplane graveyard of sorts is 80 acres of parking for 300 aircraft.  For airplane geeks, this is probably like Disneyland.  There’s an SR-71 Blackbird among other notable aircraft on display.  The next time I’ve got a few minutes I’ll plunk down the $15.50 admission and take a gander.




Here’s Josh – it’s not a very flattering pic of either of us!   This guy’s a big Honda / Acura fan, though.  His first project car was a Civic hatchback.


Finally I got to take a look at this Taffeta White beast of Josh’s.


Believe it or not, this car started out life as an automatic transmission 1995 Integra LS.



Those are Honda S2000 seats in there!


Here are the tech specs, per Josh:

  • 84.5mm Darton Sleeved B18A1 bottom end
  • JE Pistons
  • Manley Rods
  • OEM Honda B18A1 Crank
  • OEM Honda B16 Head Ported by Endyn
  • Skunk 2 Pro-1 Camshafts (nice lope)
  • Supertech Valves
  • Supertech Titanium Valvesprings
  • Supertech Titanium Retainers
  • 72mm Throttle Body
  • Edelbrock Victor X Intake Manifold
  • 1000cc Injectors
  • Walbro 450 liter/hr Fuel Pump
  • GSR Transmission w/Quaife LSD
  • Full Race Manifold with a Garrett 3076R with Tial BOV and Tial Wastegate.


The Integra runs on E85 and makes 450 horsepower on 16 pounds of boost.  Based on my experience in the passenger seat, those 450 horses are all very much alive and kicking.  I’m glad I used the restroom before taking a ride.

Thanks, Josh, for letting me take a look at this one-of-a-kind Acura and feature it on the blog!

Have any other Legend fans out there seen this $18,000 Legend GS 6-speed with 98k miles on it in the San Francisco Bay Area?  Wow.

12-17-2012 8-31-11 AM

12-17-2012 8-30-21 AM

More on the racecar ILX that Team Honda Racing – West put together:  This is a really great write-up on the the Acura ILX competing at the Thunderhill endurance (25-hour-long) race event in California a couple of weeks ago, written by racecar driver Edward Sandstrom from Switzerland who was one of 5 individuals who spent time behind the wheel.  He’s 2nd from the right here (photo by Larry Chen).

12-17-2012 9-36-30 AM

ILX Type-S?  In our dreams.  Actually, though a Type-S package isn’t offered by Acura for the ILX, one Dallas-based dealership has taken the opportunity to create their own.  Looks like this one’s outfitted with blacked-out (plasti-dipped?) Premium 17″ wheels, the OEM under-body kit, and a red Type-S badge on the decklid.  Thanks, Jeff, for sending!


Even though it won’t be a “white” Christmas for me here in Scottsdale, the season is still very much in full swing.  I wonder what I was asking Santa Claus for when I sat on his lap 27 years ago!  Toy cars, no doubt.


Last week I went to a holiday concert featuring skilled pianist Nicole Pesce.  She’s got talent like you can’t believe!  This is one of my faves by her, though it’s not Christmas-related.  Nobody gets into the spirit of the season more wholeheartedly than my friend Chuck.  His home is always decked out to the max, and he even has a nightly “light show” that’s synchronized to music.  You’ll see in this picture Chuck’s 1993 Acura Legend LS coupe (just 30,000 miles young) and his wife’s SC300.


A video taken from the driver’s seat of the ILX while tuned into Chuck’s FM radio station.


This was “too” memorable to miss as a photo opportunity.


And a chance meeting at the grocery store parking lot with a cousin (2006 TSX).


Grab some ‘nog and hit the road this weekend.  I’m off to southern Utah tomorrow after work, so the ILX will get some road time.



Legend EGR Maintenance

Posted in Legend, Maintenance on December 15, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  517,488


Odometer (ILX):  21,846



Holidays are in full swing!  I saw a blue Civic sedan in the parking lot at work this week with antlers and a red nose on its grille, and a coworker gave me a PEZ dispenser as an early Christmas gift.  It seemed fitting to let everyone know what it takes to motivate me to get things done at the office, so a colleague made me a sign for my cubicle:

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My workplace is pretty excited about Acura.  Yesterday I parked next to one of my favorite Acuras of all time – a 2007-2009 TL Type-S in brilliant Kinetic Blue Pearl paint finish (rare color).  This car when equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission is a total dream.




A very appropriate song for me came on the radio while I was commuting home through Fountain Hills, Arizona this week.


Over the last few hundred thousand miles, one recurring issue I’ve had with the high mileage Legend is a check engine light for a fault in the EGR – exhaust gas recirculation – system (“code 12”).  Performance has always been unaffected but the light will illuminate on longer highway drives after an hour or or two on the road.  Legends are notorious for having clogged EGR systems so I went and and ordered a brand new EGR pipe, along with an EGR valve itself, and had them installed by Wes at Highline Import Auto.

My friend Marc in NJ who has two mint-condition Legend coupes performed the same maintenance on his recently.  Except, Marc’s cars have just a fraction of the miles that mine does.  This is the EGR pipe that was pulled from Marc’s 60,000 mile 1994 LS coupe.

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Here are the factory parts that I provided to Wes for this maintenance:


Somehow mine wasn’t even bad at all!  This is a picture of the one that was removed.  Back at 434,740 miles I had it cleaned out so maybe that’s why it doesn’t look too bad.


Wes also noted that the clutch hydraulic hose had sprung a leak so he took care of that well.  He calls the Legend “Ol’ Besty.”  Well, Betsy is back to top notch now.

ILX News Bits

Word on the street is that there could potentially be some changes coming up with regard to the available drivetrain configurations of the ILX.  Here’s a news article that discusses the possibility of implementing the 2.4 liter 201-horsepower engine in the automatic transmission cars (instead of the current 2.0 liter, 150-horsepower variant).  This would be a big change since the automatics are the volume leader when compared to manuals and hybrids.

The reviews keep coming in.  Here’s a test-drive by Motoring TV.

Sometimes, the overseas cars get all the goodies.  In the Legend world, everyone loves importing special JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) one-piece headlight / corner lights and other things that weren’t offered in North America.   Revealed recently, the Chinese version of the ILX appears to have some neat features too that we won’t see here.  This car has clear colored turn signals in the headlight housings, turn signal indicators on the mirrors, and special taillamps with a clear/amber section in the lower half.  I want a set of those!

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Here’s a video advertisement of the Chinese ILX as well:

Remember the “Endurance Racer” ILX that appeared at the SEMA show in Las Vegas last month?  The 25-hour race took place last weekend and the Team Honda Research-West ended up in 5th place, but also set the fastest race lap in the class.  Congratulations to the THR-W crew!


My little Silver Moon racecar got some fun wet-weather driving the last couple of days as we’re getting some rare rain here in Scottsdale.  We only get about 8 inches of rain per year (and thus the reason we’re known for over 300 days of sunshine per year) so when it does come, everyone gets excited about it.  Seattle, by comparison, gets 38 inches.  I may or may not have intentionally swerved into a puddle yesterday on the way into work.  The ILX is as sure-footed as can be thanks to its Michelin footwear.

In closing, if you’re a Honda fan you’ll enjoy stopping by Driven for Drives, a blog by my new friend Jason from New Mexico.  The site is dedicated to (as his header states) documenting Jason’s “Life with his 7th Gen Accord.”  You’ll see that since he picked up his 2004 Accord Coupe in August of this year, he’s already made some substantial upgrades and enhancements.  I’m subscribed for further updates!  Thanks to Jason for reaching out.


California Zephyr Train Ride

Posted in Trains on December 9, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  21,594



The Acuras got a break for a few days!  The ILX was parked at the Phoenix airport since Thursday night.  Some may remember this September’s “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles” trip that involved a Southwest Flight, an Amtrak ride, and an ILX drive.  Well, I’ve done it again.  This weekend, I flew from Phoenix to Denver, rode a train from Denver to Salt Lake, and flew from Salt Lake to Phoenix.

Amtrak’s California Zephyr is a 2,400 mile rail line that goes from Chicago to San Francisco, but I only covered a 15-hour, 570-mile section of that.


Here’s what the entire weekend’s route looked like, starting at the lowest point in Phoenix.

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All aboard the California Zephyr!


Thanks to our gracious Denver host Ryan (and his pup Charles) for having us in his nice 1900 home and shuttling us to the Amtrak station on Friday morning.



Check-in and seat assignments (seats 37 & 38 were our homes) took just a couple of minutes.  Our print-out was scanned, we were directed to car #511, and we stashed our gear onboard.


Here I am standing in front of 1 of the 2 GE Genesis Series 1 diesel locomotives that dragged us to Salt Lake.  This one was manufactured in June of 1997 and has 4,250 horsepower.  I wonder how many miles it’s traveled in 17 years?


First order of business once onboard was getting some breakfast!


One of the great things about train travel is the sense of community & friendliness onboard.  Matt and I were paired with a couple of nice guys at our breakfast table in the Diner Car.  Merv (22) and Amos (21) had been onboard for a couple of days already – they’d started in Delaware and were heading to Emeryville, CA (San Francisco Bay Area) and then taking a shuttle to Tijuana, Mexico.


Merv and Amos are from an Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The farthest west they’d traveled until that day was Nebraska – with wide eyed wonder they took photos out the windows of our car as we rolled along the Rocky Mountains.  The two of them looked like they could be related but told us they were just friends.  They’re traveling with 14 other people and the trip will take them 2 weeks to complete.  My perceptions of the Amish as a technology-averse population were quickly abolished when I saw Merv pull out his cell phone that looked like its capabilities could put my iPhone 4 to shame.

Our train’s conductor told us about the upcoming route via the PA system.  We’d be passing through a total of 42 tunnels throughout the day – 27 of which would be in a 30-minute window of time.   As we made our way west from Denver, the train slowed to 35-40 mph at times on some of the tight corners.


View from the lounge.  We spent most of our time in here. The seats face outside and there are ceiling-to-floor windows.


One of my favorite features of this train ride was getting to travel through the Moffat Tunnel.  This 1928 passageway is just over 6 miles long and lies at the Continental Divide west of Denver.  When it was completed, it saved 154 miles of travel distance because before that the tracks had to go south and around the mountain range.  The Moffat Tunnel’s summit (at 9,000 feet) is the highest elevation of any Amtrak train in the U.S.


Here’s another tunnel we went through.




At higher elevations, the weather outside turned colder and there was snow on the ground and in the air.


I took the chance at Winter Park, Colorado, to step outside for some fresh (cold!) air.


And again at Granby, Colorado as we worked our way through the Rockies.



Some other folks from Merv & Amos’ party joined on the platform as we waited a few minutes before heading out again.


Back underway, we start to parrallel the mighty Colorado River.


Lunch was an $11 penne pasta special with meatballs.  We were seated with Claudia who hails from Berkeley.  She was riding Amtrak because she doesn’t like to fly – and who could blame her?  The views of the iron red cliffs with a dark green river in the canyon alongside us were better than any restaurant could offer.

The conductor again alerted us to some trackside vistas – above us on the cliffside our sights were directed to a small cut-out road high in the mountain.  “Dead Man’s Curve” is a particularly tight corner that has claimed the lives of many.  One blue station wagon lies halfway down the hill – it’s sat there since the 1950’s as a reminder of just how dangerous that highway is.  See that speck in the middle of the picture here?  There’s the wagon.


As we crept closer to the western border of the state, we parralled Interstate 70.


We spent a good chunk of the afternoon in a 2 hour “black hole” of cell phone service.  It was a great excuse to turn off our phones and enjoy the scenery as it passed us by.  As we approached “No Name, Colorado,” I was amazed at the construction of Interstate 70 that weaved alongside us.  This is reportedly one of the most expensive stretches of interstate that’s been made.  Here’s video showing a small piece of it – notice the eastbound and westbound lanes are on split levels.


Glenwood Springs, CO – our next stop.  This one was complete with a gift shop inside the station and a museum with model railroads on display.



Here I’m pictured with our conductor, Doney Stewart who loves his job!



This is what the accommodations look like in Coach.  The seating arrangement here is actually better than most first-class airline accommodations.  Footrests, reclining seats, TONS of leg room, an abundance of overhead storage space, and plugs for our electronic devices!  This is the life.


Union Station in Grand Junction was a memorable site.  Running ahead of schedule, we had 30 minutes to spare while new passengers boarded and remaining passengers took their smoke breaks.


Two run-down building relics stood as memories of what was probably at one time a thriving railway station.  Most of the windows were boarded up but we were able to peek inside and get a look at the interiors.



I was able to peek through an opening in one window at the interior of the station.





Old boxcar on display in Grand Junction.





There was a shift change with our engineers and the new guy was a living deck of Trivial Pursuit cards.  With each noteworthy railside attraction the conductor would come on the intercom and tell us what we were looking at.  “Ruby Canyon,” known for its red sandstone rock formations and the jewel green river, was an amazing sight at sunset.



We passed by a ghost town called Cisco, Utah – former 2,000-resident uranium mining town with its heyday in the early 1900’s that’s now become nothing more than a handful of decrepit wooden buildings and three (3) residents.  Our conductor mentioned that even the buildings that do remain are slowly being torn down by residents as a source of firewood.  I made a mental note that I need to return to that place when the Legend or ILX when I’ve got some time to spare and feel like trekking to the Colorado/Utah border.  More on Cisco here.


Dinner reservations were at 5:30 p.m. and again we were joined by Claudia, but also met another new friend – Peggy who was on her way from Denver, CO to Davis, CA to visit her daughter for the holidays.


I was dining on salmon when we rolled into remote Green River, Utah for a couple minutes at the station there.  Green River is a town on Interstate 70 which parrallels the train tracks.  By this time, nighttime had fallen and we could see nothing outside except for a strand or two of Christmas lights on some of the homes.  As we were stopped, Peggy remarked, “Where’s the station?  It feels like we’re parked in the middle of a wheat field!”


The next several hours were relaxing as the lounge car cleared out from the earlier hustle & bustle.  The “observation” windows don’t hold nearly as much allure when there’s nothing to view through them except pitch blackness.  But I enjoyed the peace and quiet.  We arrived in Salt Lake 30 minutes ahead of schedule!

All in all a great trip.  The rest of the weekend was filled with family and friends in northern Utah.

Many thanks are due to my good friend Tyler who shuttled us the 80 miles from Salt Lake City to Logan, Utah in his 1989 Honda Accord LX-I coupe.  Tyler’s old Honda has only 96,700 miles on the odometer and is truly a time capsule.  It looks and rides amazingly for its age, and that’s due in large part to Tyler’s watchful care.


Bonus points to anyone who can identify this “period correct” song we were jamming out to in Tyler’s coupe.


Hot cocoa for all.  This is something I don’t often indulge in when I’m in Phoenix.  It’s just too warm for that!


After a viewing of Christmas Vacation at my mom’s place (and competing with her to quote just about every line!) it was time for a party with my dad’s side of the family.

The location for the party was Herm’s Inn – a now-restored building that was at one time a gas station at the mouth of Logan Canyon but now serves as a restaurant.  The building once lied on the main highway that’s since been bypassed by a larger, wider one to the north.  It sat vacant for decades until opening just a year or two as a restaurant.  It was a great evening to spend with my cousins and other extended family who I sometimes only see once or twice a year.

Here I am pictured with my brother Payton and sister-in-law Kali.


Airport shuttle for today’s Salt Lake City – Phoenix flight was provided by Acura – my friend Jeremy’s Acura MDX, that is.  His 2007 with the Sport package and 93,000 miles is equipped with more gadgets and gizmos than I’d know what to do with.  The SLC area got a dusting of snowfall last night and my favorite feature on the MDX was the heated (and individually climate-controlled) rear seat.


Thanks, Jeremy!



And last but not least, a window seat on Southwest for my return to the desert.  Exhausted yet smiling from all the great memories from the weekend.


Thanks for being a part of the journey.

ILX Sales Performance

Posted in ILX on December 5, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  21,491


With anticipation, I look forward to receiving the press releases the first week of each month illustrating the sales performance of every vehicle in the Acura lineup, but specifically the ILX.  I was pleased to read that the ILX had a huge upswing in sales for the month of November, jumping to 2,108 units from 1,529 the prior month.  I think the momentum will continue!

Automobile Magazine has an ILX in their long-term test fleet.  Check out some of the staff’s comments here.  The car community is catching onto the ILX and recognizing its place in the lineup.  The enthusiast community, too, continues to grow.  For some fun ILX destinations on the web, check out:

With an Arizona sunset in the background, you can truly make a photo-op out of just about any setting — including a landfill, which is exactly what I did here.  I was on my way home from work this afternoon via the southbound “Beeline Highway,” Arizona State Route 87.  The setting sun was just right, so I pulled off (plugged my nose) and grabbed these shots of my Silver Moon ILX with my Canon Digital Rebel XTi camera.


Established in 1993, the Salt River Landfill covers 200 acres and services the communities of Scottsdale, Mesa, Gilbert, and Tempe.  If I’m going to post pictures of my car somewhere, I might as well make my message educational, right?


I keep discovering features about this car that I never knew existed.  Today’s learning experience:  The car will actually let you close the moonroof AFTER you’ve shut the car off.  I pulled into my driveway, hit the Engine Stop button, then realized I’d left the roof open.  For kicks, I still reached up and hit the close button.  It closed the roof.  Pretty remarkable thought has gone into every feature of this car.

There’s one thing I’ve had pretty remarkable luck with on the old Legend.  Light bulbs!  While I’ve replaced a couple of taillight bulbs, and a couple sets of marker lights over the years, I’ve never done any of the interior lights.  They’ve finally decided to start burning out.  Yesterday when I drove home from work, my climate control bulbs were on the fritz.


Until I tapped the control unit with my finger, then some of them (well, half the temp dial anyway!) lit up.  I’ve still got to get around to replacing the 2 or 3 bulbs in my instrument cluster that have gotten tired and extinguished, too.


The joys of owning an old car!  I’ll be out of touch until after the weekend, as my holiday travels are taking me (by plane and train, this time!) to Colorado and Utah.

Safe travels to my fellow Acura-Holics out there.

Mystery Castle

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on December 2, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  517,298


Odometer (ILX):  21,385


This weekend I’ve hosted my Salt Lake City-based friend, Branson here in Phoenix, Arizona.  We went out on the town to explore some of the area’s “points of pride.”  The first was my rooftop.  We had to do a check-in and see how my rooftop durability test fleet is holding up.  There are six 1:18 scale die-cast cars on my roof.  A couple of them have been up there for nearly 3 years.


This 1957 Chevy Nomad ain’t looking so hot.  Whitewall tires are now “Yellow”-walls.


BMW 3-series has some faded taillights.


We then pulled the two Acuras out for some photos in Tempe, Arizona near my home.  It was fun to be able to see my own Legend driving down the road.










We headed out in the Legend to hit up lunch at Zoe’s Kitchen, then headed up to South Mountain Park — the largest city park in the United States.  It covers over 16,000 acres of land just south of Phoenix.  There’s a fun 5-mile twisty road (speed limits posted at 15 mph) that winds to the summit overlooking the Phoenix valley.  The Legend, though a bit floaty with its worn-out suspension, was still fun to drive up the mountain.



Had the air been clearer, this could’ve been a great shot of the Phoenix valley in the background.


The summit, called Dobbins Lookout, sits at elevation 2,330 feet.



There’s a stone structure at the top of the mountain.  It’s not clear whether this was once a dwelling but I think not.


Our next destination was a 67-year-old castle made of garbage.  That’s right!

Tours are offered at the Mystery Castle for 7 months of the year, from October through May.  This 8,000 square foot home was built over a course of 15 years by Boyce Luther Gulley until his death in 1945.  He’d add on to the structure with each passing year, procuring building materials from the surrounding area.  Most of the home is constructed of garbage, essentially.  Recycled materials like bricks, telephone poles, glass bottles, and even the hubcaps of Boyce’s old car were used.

At the time when the home was built, it was a remote 10 miles away from Phoenix down rugged dirt roads. The home was built for Boyce’s daughter Mary Lou who at the time lived in Seattle.  It wasn’t until after Boyce’s death when Mary Lou was 19 years old that the family learned of the inheritance and moved into the castle.


Today, tours cost $10 and take about 45 minutes.  Branson and I got to see both levels of the home as well as its 18 rooms and 13 fireplaces.  One of my favorite features was a bar next to a wishing well of sorts – a pulley system that could be used to bring drinks up from the level below.  It was called the bar of wishes.  As our tour guide put it, though, “But it was a dry bar and a dumb waiter, so don’t get your hopes up!”

Another of the fascinating features was a trap door in the lower level.  At Boyce’s request, Mary Lou and the rest of the family were not allowed to open the trap door until they’d lived in the castle for 2 years.  Within the trap door they found two $500 bills (that must’ve been a sizeable chunk of change in the 1940’s!), some gold nuggets, and a Valentine letter that Mary Lou had sent to her father when she was growing up.

I’d toured the castle a few years ago and I had the chance to meet Mary Lou.  She’s since passed away (November 2010) but right up until her death she was still able to scale the steep staircases around the property.  She had an affinity for cats, and the castle was home to up to 18 at a time.  Mary Lou’s favorite cat, Cleocatra, is still alive.


Master bedroom.  This place didn’t have electricity until 1992!


View of Phoenix from the kitchen area.  The windows are all hand-made and thus wavy due to glass irregularity.


Our tour guide enthusiastically educated us on this crazy piece of architecture.


Here’s a look at the Legend parked in the desert while we toured one of the patios.


A 1948 Life Magazine feature brought attention to the castle with a picture of Mary Lou at the top of a freestanding staircase in one of the courtyards.


This “Window to Phoenix” was framed by discarded bricks.  When the home was built, the entire town of Phoenix would fit in the window.


Entrance to the lower level consisting of a chapel and a bar.


Here’s an ancient organ in the castle’s chapel.  It was brought in from Tombstone, Arizona.  Notice the window in the wall – it was made from a hubcap off the builder’s car.


And so concludes this tour of offbeat Phoenix roadside destinations!  Hope everyone else had a great weekend, too.