Legend Drive: Casa Grande Ruins in Coolidge, Arizona

Odometer (Legend):  518,624


Odometer (ILX):  25,497


What started as just a little Sunday drive to get the 5W30 blood flowing through the old Legend’s heart ended up being a 105-mile, 2 hour drive.  I visited some 700-year-old ruins from an ancient civilization that once bustled in the middle of the desert between (the areas now known as) Phoenix and Tucson.  Yes, 700 years!  The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument is a 472-acre site that is home to ruins dating back to the 1300’s.


Sunny skies, open roads, and 50 degree temperatures had me itching to spend a few minutes behind the wheel, even though I’d just driven to Sedona and back in ILX the day prior.  So, the old Legend cranked into action and we rolled eastbound on I-10 toward the exit for Arizona Highway 387 north.




The ruins are just outside the town of Coolidge.  It was $5 to enter the site.


Pictured behind the leftmost Saguaro cactus (and just below that sun flare) is the biggest structure on the site — a once 4-story building known as Casa Grande (Spanish for “big house”).


I didn’t check out the 20-minute video in the visitor center but instead made my way directly to the ruins themselves.


A model inside the museum shows what the Casa Grande looked like when it was built around 1350 A.D.


This is what it looked like in 1880.


According to one of the interpretive signs, in 1892, this area was designated as a federal preserve and a custodian was hired to safeguard the ruins.  In order to slow the inevitable erosion and decay of the ruins, in 1932 a massive roof was constructed over the ruins.


This location is the site of the first known civilization in Arizona.  Multiple buildings once stood here surrounding an oval court which is believed to have been a place for community activities for the Hohogam people.  Hohogam translates to “those who have gone.”


Certain features of the Casa Grande ruins align with the belief that this was a prehistoric observatory.  Certain openings/windows in the structure align with various notable times of the year, like a window at the upper left corner of the west wall that aligns with the setting sun on the summer solstice (June 21).


“If these walls could talk,” what would they tell us?


I peeked inside the gated-off entrance and snapped a picture looking upward.




“Compound A” is captured below with a small house in the foreground and the big house in the background.  From one of the signs:

Imagine the scene in the early 1300s:  People are working; grinding corn, cooking meals, weaving baskets, making clothing and pottery, and going to and from the fields outside the compound.


It’s not clear why the Hohogam people departed from this community in the 1400s.


From the Casa Grande monument, I went down the street to grab some fuel and a beverage at Circle K.  Premium ran $3.33 / gallon (mom – this one’s for you – I know that’s your favorite number!).


The surprise was inside the store, where I learned that this my friend Rosalinda works there!  She was on the clock.  I’ve known Rosalinda and her husband Mark for many years now because of their Acura ownership — I met them at a Legend meet locally.  In fact, their wedding day itself was a meet.  Here’s the happy couple pictured in front of the 1989 sedan and my 1994 coupe back in May, 2009.


Awhile back, Rosalinda sold her 1989 Legend L sedan and picked up a 1995 Miata Special Edition instead.  It’s a whole different driving feel!


Rosalinda gave me the keys to her Miata and I took it around the block.  I didn’t want to give those keys back.  It sure made my Legend feel like a yacht.


Thanks for the test drive!


Here are some of the pictures that my friend Beau took on last weekend’s Sedona drive:







My friends and I checked out the Barrett-Jackson auto auction this week.  Each January, this auction brings around 1,400 high-end and classic cars to Scottsdale to be auctioned off (list here).  Among some of the notable rides, I saw the Batmobile (learned that it was actually built on the frame of a 1955 Lincoln Futura).

They also had one of two 1968 Dodge Chargers that were used in the movie The Fast And The Furious, and a truly immaculate YUGO.  I never thought it would be possible to see a vehicle with both the motor and the spare tire sandwiched inside the front engine compartment until I saw that beauty.  Sadly, I didn’t see anything from Honda or Acura.

Here I am with a 1956 Buick that had fewer than 6,000 original miles on it.  That paint is factory original!


Here’s the F&F car:


And a 1981 Zimmer.


Doesn’t it make you think of Cruella DeVille?


My mom’s in town for this weekend’s Rock & Roll Arizona Half-Marathon.  While it’s 1 degree Fahrenheit in her hometown, she’s been sitting by the pool and soaking in 72 degree rays here in Scottsdale.  The ILX made a great loaner car for her.  “That shifter is fun!” she said.


Looking for a used Legend?  For $2,200, buy a $43,000 car!  This is one example of a Legend for sale in Missouri that’s outfitted with just about every factory accessory that was available in 1994:




I spy:

  • Cornering lights (rare!)
  • Fog lights
  • Gold accent grille
  • Gold emblems
  • Moonroof visor
  • Mud guards
  • Rear wing spoiler
  • Factory cell phone (rear window-mounted antenna)
  • Floor mats

Fully loaded.  I like!

For the latest in ILX reviews, check this latest by Autoblog.

Sounds like overall they’ve got a lot of positive feedback on the car.

Acura’s reboot of the near-premium compact car might not be as enthusiast-oriented as the old Integra, but rather than attempting to recreate what has become an iconic model, Acura has focused on offering a broader range of model choices, which ought to help attract more new buyers to the brand whether they are stepping up from a Honda or trading in another luxury make. With its limited scope (one powertrain and no options), we’re not sure what chords the ILX 2.4 will strike with consumers, but we just can’t knock a car that brings a luxuriously appointed sporty sedan to the sub-$30,000 price bracket.


Have a great weekend!

5 Responses to “Legend Drive: Casa Grande Ruins in Coolidge, Arizona”

  1. Hello Tyson.

    Do you think the museum made an error by naming it “Great House” in the inscription next to the glass cover instead of Big House as the name translates from Spanish?

    Also, do you know what the distance is from the Casa Grande to the place where the Anasazi had their cliff dwellings? They also lived in the SouthWest and also abandoned their homes around the same time period if I am not mistaken.

    • Carlos, I had the exact same thought process when I saw that they’d translated “casa grande” to “great house,” but I’m not a native Spanish-speaker so I guess they must know better than I do.

      Regarding other ruins, yes, it only takes an hour or so from the Phoenix area (but heading north, instead of south like to Casa Grande) to get to Montezuma Castle ruins which date back to 700 AD. I haven’t yet been there but it’s on my list of places to see. Check out the pics:


  2. Tyson,

    I have not driven the Miata but I have sat in one at a local auto show recently. Before I sat in one, I had considered it as a possible replacement car to my TSX in the future when my car could go no further. After sitting in it, I realized that I could not keep considering it.

    Even without driving it, I could tell that the seats would not be very comfortable for long periods of time on the road. I would be fine for an hour or less but not past that.

    The flaw of the seats is a flaw that I believe all two seat sports cars without a backseat have. You simply cannot recline the driver’s seat like you can with cars with backseats. The seats only go back a limited amount of distance.

    WIth my car and with your car, we can basically recline our driver’s seats like a Lazy Boy recliner. This has helped me in the past during long distance trips. My car seats are very comfortable during long distance trips.

    Tyson, since you do a lot of driving, what is your record in terms of time and distance for driving any car from one place to another without any stops (like for gas and food)? My personal best in my car is a drive of 6 hours and 422 miles nonstop from Miami to Georgia on my way to New York.

    I don’t know if you have driven the 2004-2008 TSXs. To my body structure, the seats are supremely comfortable. I have never driven such a comfortable car in the past. I would never have been able to do six hours nonstop in the Miata or any of the other cars I have driven in the past. Take care.


    • Carlos, I agree – “most” sportscars are not long-distance friendly. For any type of distance driving, I want something plush and luxurious. In terms of record time/distance driving, I think you may very well have me beat. I typically break up my drives into sections of about 250-300 miles. I’ve found that to be my optimal interval so that I’m making good progress, yet not wearing myself out. On especially long drives, I like to take a lap around the gas station or restaurant to get my blood flowing again.

      Many years ago, my brother bought a 2001 Lexus IS300 on Ebay in Jacksonville Florida. I flew out there and drove it home to him in Utah (2,183 miles) without getting a hotel. I power-napped in the back seat a couple of times. I don’t think I’d ever do that again.

      I’ve driven one 2006 TSX and it belongs to my friend Chanc. I was very impressed with the ride.

      • 250 to 300 miles per drive is a good policy to have. It is one that I usually follow. The 422 mile drive was not the usual.

        If i average 80mph on the highway, 250 miles is very reasonable taking only slighty more than three hours. Throw in XM radio and its variety of music and it easy to do.

        You mention that you drove a 2006 TSX. There were only very minor cosmetic differences between the 2005 and 2006. The rims are different. The dashboard is slightly different. And I believe it has a slight horsepower bump of an additional 5 horsepower. Everything else should be the same including the suspension settings and drive feel.

        One of the things I like most about my car and which the 2006 TSX should also have is the center console sliding cushioned bar. When I extended it forward, I can fully rest my right arm on it and it is very comfortable on lost distance trips. I dont know if you tried it or if your ILX has this feature. It makes me feel like I am sitting on a lazy boy recliner. It is great.

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