Archive for February, 2013

Arches National Park: Southeastern Utah in the ILX

Posted in ILX, Road Trip, Utah on February 26, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  519,826

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Odometer (ILX):  29,917

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Over a 3-day weekend, I drove nearly 1,500 miles in the ILX through some of the most scenic (and remote) roads in the country.  I’m going to break this trip write-up into the 7 destinations that I visited.

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(1)  Cisco, Utah Ghost Town

Back in December, I first learned of a town called Cisco when I was riding Amtrak’s “California Zephyr” train line from Denver to Salt Lake City and we railed past it.  The image stuck with me and when it came time to do my 2013 annual trip planning, Cisco made the list.  I’ve always had a fascination with ghost towns and one of my favorite ILX road trips was to Modena, Utah a couple months ago.

This time, I had a friend driving along.  Ryan from Logan, Utah has a black 1996 Audi A6 Quattro with 225,000 miles on it. Ryan and I have known each other since his Acura Legend-owning days.  Our meeting point on Saturday morning was Salina, Utah, a tiny town just north of Interstate 70 on Highway 89 in the central part of the state.  I made my way northbound from St. George on Interstate 15 first.  When I took the ramp for eastbound I-70, this was one of the first distance markers that I saw:

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Traffic?  No such thing out here on an early Saturday morning in February.

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Pulling off at Richfield for 91-octane fuel at Flying J.

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When was the last time you saw — or used — a payphone?  You’ll be humming the tune to Maroon 5’s song “Payphone” for awhile now.

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Only about 15 miles further east down the road, I met up with Ryan in Salina at the Burger King there.  While I waited, I had some Cinnabon rolls – my diet was horrible that day.   But that was a tasty breakfast!

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We made our way eastbound on the 70 to Green River – no services for 110 miles!  Again, this is some remote back-country.

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The scenery is great.  We went up through a mountain pass and then had many many miles of 6%+ downgrades as we made our way toward the 191 interchange.

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Green River was kind of run-down and the cold wind was unpleasant.  Chilly enough, in fact, that I didn’t even stop for a picture of this building on Main Street, but rather took it on the fly.

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Our next stop after that was Cisco.  This town was once a water-refilling station for locomotives but it has been abandoned for decades.  The movie “Vanishing Point” was filmed there in 1971.  The town was a little – well, a lot – off the beaten path.  I led Ryan and we went on Hwy 128 after exiting I-70 at mile marker 204.

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There’s a point at which a sign denotes that the road is no longer state-maintained.  We kept going beyond that.  Several miles, in fact.  Soon I could see the decrepit buildings of Cisco on the horizon and I pulled over when we got there.

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Time to take a peek inside some of these run-down relics.

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This place is so remote and eery.  As we walked around in mud that nearly sank us to our ankles, the door to an open motorhome blew back and forth in the breeze and squeaked like something from a horror movie.

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I hopped up inside the motorhome pictured at left in the above and saw that there was an unopened packet of Ramen Noodles on the kitchen counter.

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Some vinyl records were scattered across the floor, along with a bunch of trash.  We looked inside a number of the other abandoned vehicles around the area.  There isn’t a single home that appears to be inhabited at this time.

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Even the “best-kept” ones are boarded up with No Trespassing signs.

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Anybody looking for a clean one-owner 1980’s Camaro?

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Ryan and I found the post office.  It was a tiny one-room shack that reeked horribly of cigarette smoke, even with the windows broken out.  A leather chair and a desk still sat behind the counter.

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That picket fence out front could use a fresh coat of paint.

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A sign about postage rates hung on the wall above the desk, dated 1995 (see in the picture below).  I don’t think this place has seen much activity in at least the last 18 years. This article, which features an interview with Cisco’s last “postmistress” herself (Sharon Dalgleish), discusses what it’s been like for Cisco over the years.

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Notice the mud caked onto my shoes!  It’s a good thing my ILX has all-weather floor mats.

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Here is what the post office once looked like.  I would have loved to visit Cisco during the town’s boom.

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After a few pics, it was time to get the heck out of there.  Here we’re parked in front of the Cisco Landing Store.  I imagine it’s been closed for quite some time. The restrooms are outhouses.

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(2)  Highway 128 & Dewey Bridge

Next we turned toward Moab on two-lane Highway 128 where a sign told us it’d be 42 miles away.

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My Garmin GPS absolutely refused to let me go that way – it told me for the next 10 miles or so to “turn back!” but I was determined to scout out this road.  As it turns out, the scenery was well worth any additional mileage!  Rolling hills, transitioning from snow-frosted rocks to giant red-rock walls alongside us.  We crept along parallel to the Colorado River.

I passed a sign for the historic Dewey Bridge and immediately hit the brakes in the ILX (luckily Ryan wasn’t following too closely in his Audi).  This landmark bridge has some fun history.  Here’s a quick run-down:

  • Constructed in 1916 by Midland Bridge Company of Kansas City, Missouri
  • Bypassed in 1988 by a new bridge for automobile traffic to the west
  • Restored in 2000 as a pedestrian and bicycle path
  • Burned down in 2008 by a 7-year old playing with matches!

Before:

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During the 2008 fire:

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And this past Saturday.  All the remains from the bridge are the cables!

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Charred stump:

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When it was constructed, Dewey Bridge was the second longest suspension bridge west of the Mississippi.  From Wiki:

In 1916, the bridge was dedicated with a strength test by having approximately 70 attendees attempt to cross the bridge at once. The total was seven wagons, two people on horseback and several on foot. The bridge was designed to support the weight of six horses, three wagons, and 9,000 pounds (4,100 kg) of freight.

Then I had Ryan drive through a huge mud puddle and took some pictures.  What’s Audi “Quattro” AWD for, anyway?

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We continued the remaining 30 or so miles to Moab via scenic byway 128.

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High canyon walls prevented my satellite radio from getting any signal.

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(3)  Arches National Park

In 1996, the state of Utah launched a new style of license plate to celebrate the its centennial.  The main feature on the plate was Delicate Arch, a massive sandstone formation in Arches National Park in the southeastern part of the state.  Ever since then (I was 15 at the time), I’ve wanted to see the arch in person.

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While the northern part of the state is home to what’s become known as the “Greatest Snow on Earth,” the southern part of the state has a vastly different (desert) landscape.  Utah is home to FIVE national parks, including:

  • Arches
  • Bryce Canyon
  • Canyonlands
  • Capitol Reef
  • Zion

Each one is unique in its own way.  I’ve not yet had the chance to travel to Capitol Reef or Canyonlands.  This past weekend, I crossed Arches off my to-see list.  Arches is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches.  It covers over 76,000 acres and was designated as a national park in November 1971.

Ryan and I made it to the junction of 191 near Moab and headed north.  Ryan parked his car in a lot and hopped in the ILX with me so we could drive on into Arches just a couple miles up the road. Entry was $10 for our car.  The road climbs sharply and winds along though some of the most spectacular rock formations I’ve ever seen.

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We found our way to the Delicate Arch trailhead and parked.  At this time it was chilly and overcast, but no moisture.  There’s an old log cabin at the trailhead too — the original home of the Wolfe family, settled in 1888.

The hike was only 1.5 miles each way but quite steep as we scaled the sandstone rocks.  Though at times we were scaling the surface of rocks, our pathway was still well marked thanks to stacked rocks that would guide us.

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Soon we got to a point where the trail was hugging the side of a cliff and it was COVERED IN ICE!

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I couldn’t even go a step further until I got on my hands and knees and crawled.  I never fell but I slipped a number of times.  We encountered a really friendly girl who told us we were close to the finish so we pressed onward.

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Suddenly, we did arrive!  Pictures do not to the arch justice.  The arch is absolutely huge, at 65 feet tall.

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Climbing it is not allowed.  Right in front of it there’s a HUGE sandstone bowl that you could fall into.

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And a drop-off on the other side of it, along with various formation around the rim of the bowl.

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To put things into perspective size-wise, look at us standing below the arch here:

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The downhill hike went faster but was treacherous with the ice.  The snow started picking up heavily as we got to the lower elevations and approached the parking lot.  We opted to head down the hill toward the visitor’s center.  Ryan and I made our way through Moab and then headed southbound on Highway 191 in the snow.

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Snow was accumulating pretty quickly at this rate.  Of all the beautiful days in the forecast, we had to pick the one that had inclement weather!

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(4)  Hole In The Rock

Can you imagine carving an entire home out of the inside of a sandstone rock?  That’s exactly what a man named Albert Christensen did.  It took him 12 years to carve a 5,000-square-foot home into the red sandstone just south of Moab.  The home, called Hole N” The Rock, is open for tours for $6 but the gates were closed when we drove past.  I visited this place in my Legend in June 2005 when it had 176,000 miles on it:

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Because of how well the rock insulates the home, there is no A/C required during the summertime!

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Cozy little interior:

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And a picture from Saturday with the ILX:

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(5)  Monticello, Utah

On the road again – southbound on Highway 191.

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As my friend Kristy was telling me directions to her family-owned pizza business, she told me “Go past the light 2 blocks.”  THE light.  As in, there’s only one in town.  We’re talking about a very small place here (1,958 people to be exact).  I liked this run-down service station.

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Kristy and her sister were the only ones working at Thatzza Pizza at 201 South Main Street.

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Fast, friendly service – right here!

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Ryan and I made chit chat – I hadn’t seen Kristy for a couple of years since she lived in Phoenix.  It was good to catch up.  We ordered a ton of food – meat lover’s pizza and some cheese bread for me.  Ryan got some special ‘jalapeño bacon’ on his.  Kristy set us up a table to eat in the back room while she visited with us.  She told us about her 3.5 year old daughter and how her home is a converted movie theater.  Thanks, Kristy!

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Ryan and I wanted to head southbound on 191 before it got too dark.  It was only 20 more miles to our nightly destination in Blanding, Utah but the snow was blizzard blowing and there were probably at least a dozen or more deer warnings in that 20-mile stretch of road!  I was ultra paranoid since I’ve been known to have deer encounters before.  It was a white knuckler at 45-55 mph the entire time, but we made it.

(Flashback) Four Corners

Here’s a place I’d wanted to revisit this weekend but didn’t.  Four Corners is famous because it’s the only spot in the country where visitors can simultaneously stand (on all fours, anyway) in four different states — Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.  This spot was first marked in 1875, with the first permanent marker being placed there in 1912.   Despite its remote location, Four Corners is visited by thousands of people each year.  Here is a picture from a visit to Four Corners in the Legend in 2005:

fourcorners

(6)  Highway 261 & the Moki Dugway

On Sunday morning, Ryan and I were the only ones at the Blue Mountain Inn in Blanding.  We had the entire continental breakfast to ourselves – it was eerily quiet at the hotel (probably because it was 1 degree outside and tourist season has not nearly begun).  It was a gorgeous blue sky morning with fresh snowfall outside.  I randomly discovered a new road that I thought would be fun to try.  It was Hwy 95 west to Hwy 261 (“Trail of the Ancients”) south. It all started when I saw on Google Maps what looked like a teeny little “knot” in the road, circled in green here:

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A closer look:

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Hmm.  Let’s zoom that once more:

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Whoa – sign me up for that curve action!  When I went to satellite view, I was a bit discouraged to see that the road is unpaved, but after a little bit of internet research I was assured that conditions were acceptable for passenger car travel and only 3 miles of it are unpaved/gravel.  Highway 261 is a favorite among many.  In fact, I learned about one particular lady who’s been going there every year since 2002.

I was nervous about road conditions due to the snowy weather the night before, but at the same time I was somewhat excited about the idea of trying an all-new route.  This would also allow us to go right past Monument Valley on Hwy 163.  Plus, I’d already seen Four Corners so it didn’t have as much appeal.  Ryan was totally amped about trying the new proposed route because of a 3-mile dirt section called Moki Dugway.

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There was snow accumulation on the road as we made our way southbound on 261.  Based on the fact that there were zero car tracks, we must’ve been the first ones out there that morning.  I was nervous but I kept both hands on the wheel and a moderate speed.  Ryan tailed me in the Audi which is equipped with AWD and snow tires.  The ILX was sure-footed and confident with its Michelin Pilot tires.  We passed only 2 vehicles in the 30 or so miles until the Moki Dugway section started.

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Warning!

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5 mph corners!

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Then the adventures began.  The switchbacks on this road are awesome!  I had Ryan snag some pictures from a high vantage point as I snaked around the bends.

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No guard rails here.  We were about to experience an 1,100-foot drop in only a 3 mile distance.  Hold your breath.

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Remember that twisty road I’d seen on Google Maps?  Feast your eyes:

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Look very closely at this next picture.  There’s a tiny silver speck toward the right hand side of the frame.  There’s my car.

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These Utah grades were no match for the ILX’s 201-horsepower engine and exceptional braking.  Ryan’s Audi has a 12-valve V6 engine.  He says the car’s not overly powerful but the transmission is geared smartly – the car uses its power (172 horses) well.

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I will definitely be going to back to revisit that section of Highway 261 in the near future.

(7)  Monument Valley

Our last destination was on Navajo land where we would see sandstone rock formations up to 1,500 feet tall.  This map shows (location “A” – the red flag) where Monument Valley is located, at the Utah / Arizona state line.

monument_valley_map

About 10 miles after the Moki Grade we joined with Highway 163 and headed through the town of Mexican Hat, named for a rock formation that looks like a sombrero.  I had stopped here in 2005 on a “Utah Tour” in the Legend.

June 2005 in the 1994 Legend LS Coupe

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February 2013 in the 2013 Acura ILX

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Not a lot has changed in 8 years!

Ryan took this picture while he was following me down this forever-long straightaway on Highway 163.  They call this the “classic road shot.”

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As I shared in a prior Drive to Five post, Monument Valley is my favorite place to drive.  I took the Legend there in 2008.  It was only $5 to enter the Monument Valley park – the rate hasn’t changed in the last 5 years!  Monument Valley was established in 1958 as a preserved environment under the Division of Natural Resources.

monument_valley_entrance

Ryan opted to park the Audi and we took the ILX on the 17-mile dirt road which starts right off the Visitor Center parking lot.  Road conditions were unfavorable thanks to some rocks and ruts, blowing sand and snowflakes at times, and temperatures in the high 20’s and low 30’s.  But I carefully got the ILX through it.  We got some funny looks from people in 4×4 trucks.  But the scenery was unmatched!  We saw these 11 landmarks and many others.

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Another size comparison.  Can you see me standing there in my blue hoodie?  These sandstone cliffs make you feel absolutely tiny.

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We saw a few rental cars out and about – Chevy Cruze, Ford Mustang, Dodge Avenger.  But nobody else was crazy enough to take an Acura on a road like this, except for me.

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We enjoyed the scenery from the comfort of our heated leather seats.

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Ryan taking pictures from the passenger seat:

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Here’s a video of the ILX coming up the last stretch on our return to the Visitor’s Center.

Thank goodness the ILX has over 6 inches of ground clearance, because I used up each and every one of them!

Homeward Bound

The remaining 320 miles home to Phoenix were nice and relaxing.   Our next stop was in Kayenta – tiny little town with stray dogs running all over the place.  Interestingly enough, the Burger King there was the nicest BK I’ve ever been to.  We topped off our tanks at Chevron and then headed on Highway 160 westbound toward Hwy 89.  There was not any noticeable “extra traffic” due to the detour of 89 from further north (cracked highway near Page) that was sending people our way.

We had snow flurries off and on until the junction past Tuba City where 160 meets 89.  Then Ryan followed me the remaining 14 miles to the Cameron Trading Post next to the bridge.  He took Hwy 64 to the south rim of the Grand Canyon.  I was on my own after that – only a short stop in Flagstaff to top off my tank, then homeward bound.  The storm clouds at 7,200 feet in Flagstaff weren’t dropping much snow, thankfully.  I’ve never been so glad to see 50 degrees on the external temp readout before – that happened in about Camp Verde, Arizona on I-17.  It was great to be home!

Coming Attractions

I’ve got a trip planned to New Mexico in 10 days, and I received approval for some time off in August to go to the National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) in Asheville, North Carolina.  This’ll be a fun 3,960-mile trip!

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“Santa Claus” Arizona & Payton’s Lexus IS300

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip, Utah on February 22, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  28,895

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“On the road again.  Just can’t wait to get on the road again.”  Willie Nelson said it right!  Tonight I’m in my hometown in St. George, Utah.  About 215 miles into my 422-mile drive from the Phoenix area, I pulled off Highway 93 just north of Kingman, Arizona for a few pictures in the town of Santa Claus.  Well, ghost town, I should say.

Starting in the late 1930’s, Santa Claus was a popular tourist destination along the highway.  There was an inn and a restaurant, featuring such dishes as “Chicken A La North Pole,” and “Rum Pie A La Kris Kringle.”  The business owners even offered a remailing service whereby people could direct letters to have them postmarked as “Santa Claus.”  This is similar to what happens in North Pole, Alaska, where I drove the Legend in 2006.

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There isn’t much that remains today of this place.  Popularity declined in the 1970s.  By the 1980s, it had been removed from maps, and in 1983, the entire town was put up for sale for $95,000.  Nobody bought it.

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However, it’s still up for grabs if anyone’s in the market for some prime commercial acreage:

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A few years ago I stopped here in the Legend.  At the time, the wire fence hadn’t yet been installed and I wandered through the buildings.  It was quite the eery feeling, since the buildings have been abandoned since the mid 1990s.  I will update this post when I get home to Arizona on my laptop computer and dig those pictures up.

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Christmas Tree Inn, 1940s

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Christmas Tree Inn, 2013

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An old wishing well is about all that remains of the landscaping.  When I stopped here the last time, there was still a miniature train called “Old 1225” out front on a small section of track.  It has since been removed.

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Here’s the Santa Claus gas station in 1940:

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And below in the background, you can see what it looks like today:

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The “Entrance” sign, and all wood trim, is very weathered and worn.

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Next up, after rolling through Las Vegas, I pulled off for a restroom break in Glendale, Nevada.  There wasn’t much to see:

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A sign on I-15 northbound announced “Winter Driving Conditions,” but to me it looked like “ideal” driving conditions.

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Finally I arrived in St. George after exactly 6.5 hours of travel time.  First stop was to check in at my brother’s business, called H&S Performance.  They specialize in diesel performance parts, but they’ve got a few other toys sitting around, like this 1997 Lincoln Towncar stretch limousine.  I’ve driven it a few times and it’s a riot.  Anyone who drives it is required to wear a chauffeur cap that stays with the car at all times.

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My younger brother Payton (25) picked up a new ride a couple of weeks ago that he’s wasted no time in modifying.  This is his “Intensa Blue Pearl” 2002 Lexus IS300.  The metallic blue color is stunning in person.  Payton’s first car was a 1986 Acura Legend base model sedan that we’d picked up for $300 and he drove for a year.  He’s come a long way!  This Lexus has just under 123,000 miles on it.

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This car is powered by a 3.0 liter 6-cylinder Toyota 2JZ-GE motor that pushes 215 horsepower stock.

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It looks like the first generation IS (model years 2001-2005) and the ILX are pretty similarly proportioned from this angle.

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Payton’s windows are tinted at 20% all the way around — the same level of tint that I have in my car.  The wheels are called Work Emotion CR Kai.  They’re 18 x 8.5 front, 18 x 9.5 rear, and +38 offset all around.  He had to roll the fenders just slightly to keep them from rubbing under load.

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The suspension setup is an adjustable BC Racing BR Series coilover suspension.  Payton took me for a ride in the IS and for being aggressive visually, it still rides really nice.

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Since these pictures were taken, Payton tonight wrapped the roof in black vinyl.  It looks extra sporty.

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One of my favorite interior features of these Lexus IS300s is the “cue ball” shift knob.

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This IS is highly optioned, with the rare factory flip-up navigation unit.  Controls are located near the center console and are really intuitive to operate.

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Engine is totally stock now.

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I’ve had a great evening spending time with my family here.  My grandma “Doce” is one of my blog’s most loyal followers.  Tonight we had dinner at her place.  Our fingers in this picture are pointing to a spot on the Utah page where we’re currently standing – in the city of St. George which lies in the southwestern corner of the state.  Thanks gma for coming along with me as my permanent passenger on these drives!

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And this here’s my pride and joy – my niece Vivienne.  She’ll be 2 years old in April.

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The Legend is doing well.  I noticed that my passenger side bumper turn signal lens is cracked and filled with condensation, but when I went to order a new one I learned that it’s been discontinued.  This is becoming more and more common as time goes on.  First, the accessories were discontinued.  Now, the impact is even hitting “real” parts.  I ended up finding a used one on Ebay and it’s being shipped currently.

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Here’s a fun Legend that popped up this week in Tucson.  347,000 miles.  And somehow it ended up with “pie plate” OEM 16″ wheels off the 1996-1997 Acura 3.5RL (refinished in black).  It looks decent for the mileage!

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And a quick note of congratulations to Francesco from Italy!  Drive to Five has been following his mileage accumulation since May 2012 when he had 240,000 miles on his 2005 Fiat.  Last Thursday, he rolled the 270,000 mark.  That comes out to 167,813 miles.

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His car continues to look great both inside and out.

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Can’t wait to see that 300,000 mark!

One final story to close with:  I was fueling up with some 91 octane at a station off the Brigham Road exit in St. George.  A long-haired young guy, probably in his 20’s, started approaching me and I thought for sure he was going to ask me for money.  Well, he did, but he did it cleverly:

  • Him:  “Hey man, if I play you a couple of songs with my guitar, would you be willing to spare a gallon or two of gas?”
  • Me:  “Don’t worry about the songs, but here’s $5.”
  • Him:  “Cool, thanks man!  What’s your name?”
  • Me:  “Tyson (and we shook hands).  Good luck with the guitar.  And thanks for the offer!”

As I was getting back into the ILX, he said, “Thanks Tyson!”  I noticed he was driving a gigantic 1980’s GMC conversion van.  My $5 is probably only going to get him 15 miles in that thing.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Snow in Scottsdale, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX on February 20, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  519,776

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Odometer (ILX):  28,402

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There’s a reason I choose to live in the Phoenix, Arizona area:  I love the sun.  We get more than 300 days of sunshine per year.  The temperature reaches / exceeds 100 degrees Fahrenheit over 110 days per year (that’s 30% of our days!).  Needless to say:  it’s toasty — which is why today’s weather threw everyone for a loop.  Suddenly at work, all of my colleagues flocked to the windows and exclaimed that it was snowing.  It’s the most accumulation I’ve seen in the 7 years I’ve lived in the area.

To those like my family who live in Utah, this is nothing.  But to those of us who are used to shorts & flip-flops year-round, it’s a bigger deal.  And traffic on the roadways reflects that.  Thankfully, my work commute is on back-roads.  The 101 freeway southbound was a parking lot, last I checked online.

Will the cacti survive?

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Leaving the office:

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It just doesn’t seem right to have palm trees & snow in the same picture.

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Soon, though, everything had melted.  Ahead of me on Arizona Highway 87, storm clouds loomed:

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And then came the rains:

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But they made for an amazing sunset, and since I had my SLR camera in the car, I pulled into a random rain-filled alley and snapped a few pictures.

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Elsewhere in the state, other crazy things are happening.  Highway 89, one of the roads that I’ve traveled countless times on my trips to Utah, buckled due to shifting mountains – presumably from the moisture.

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The “A” marker shown here at the Utah/Arizona border is the location where it occurred.

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What a crazy experience that must have been for the drivers who came across it.

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I’ll be traveling in that area this weekend with the ILX so the new detour (which adds 45 miles) will affect me.  Imagine what it would have been like if I had encountered this gaping hole!

Just so I can include some Legend pictures in this post:  How about a similar white background that ISN’T snow?  These are pictures from June 2007 when I was scouting out the area a week prior to competing at the Bonneville 100 open-road race.  The Legend had 290,000 miles on it, and I was visiting the Bonneville Salt Flats in northwestern Utah.  These flats are famous for their sheer… well… flatness!  Land speed records are set here frequently.  The salt flats cover an area of 40 square miles.

Bonneville_Salt_Flats_Acura_Legend_1

Bonneville_Salt_Flats_Acura_Legend_2

During rainy season, it’s highly possible to have “standing” water on the salt flats.  Once I saw a 4×4 pickup completely buried to its axles in salt mud.  Exercise caution if you ever venture out there!

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Bonneville_Salt_Flats_Acura_Legend_4

Remote area near the salt flats:

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Finally, a little bit of trivia:

When people learn about how many miles I drive every year, I often get asked, “Don’t you spend a fortune on gas?!”  Well, here’s the answer to that.  Yes, I spend quite a bit.  I always fuel up with 91 octane gas.  Below is a spending report that I pulled from my primary Wells Fargo checking account, showing only expenses related to Automotive / Transportation:

auto_spending

In the second half of 2012, I spent an average of $647.66 per month on gas.  The highest expense month, July, was nearly double that amount (as some may recall, that’s the month when I traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for NALM).  As fuel prices inevitably start creeping up this time of year, it definitely dampens my desire to keep driving all over the place.  At least I know the ILX is getting 32+ miles per gallon!

Stay cozy out there, my friends.

Trip to San Diego, California in the ILX

Posted in California, ILX, Road Trip on February 17, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  28,229

28229

I love southern California.  From 2001-2003, I lived in north San Diego County.  Over the last 10 years, I’ve traveled back frequently.  This time, I decided to take my friend Jack along for the ride.  Here’s what our route looked like:

ilx_san_diego_trip_map

  • Trip distance:  882 Miles
  • Observed fuel economy:  32.0 MPG
  • Other Acura ILXs seen on the road:  0

6:30 a.m. came bright and early on Saturday morning.  I watched the sun rise in my sideview mirror as we made our way westbound on Interstate 10.
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Treat stop in Tonopah, Arizona at 339th Avenue.  Dawn in the desert is a beautiful time of day with its soft light.

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Shortly after the crossing the California state line, we had to stop for a mandatory California Agriculture Station inspection.  Though, it was hardly an “inspection,” since the representative merely waved me onward and we rolled past.

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Jack’s favorite song came on my Sirius XM radio so we had to sing along.  I think I had it stuck in my head for the entire rest of the day.

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Once again I’ve maxed out the timer on my ILX’s information display in the gauge cluster.

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This fuel stop at Chevron near Indio, California looked a bit like a Honda meet, with a silver Accord and an Acura RSX joining the party.  Premium (91 octane) fuel ran $4.59 per gallon.  I topped off the ILX’s 13-gallon tank and we were on our way.

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Jack and I soon passed the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm, home to over 3,000 windmills.  The blades on each one of these windmills are 116 feet long and when they’re spinning, they sweep an airspace of just under an acre!

jack_with_windmills

From I-10, connected with US-60 west and then I-215 south, which turned into I-15 south.  Soon we arrived at our first destination.

One of the towns that I lived in was Fallbrook, located in northern San Diego County.  At the time, I was volunteering as a representative of my church and Fallbrook was my assigned area.  The town’s claim to fame is that it is the “Avocado Capital of the World.”  There’s an avocado festival held each year in the spring.  Southern California is home to 59,000 acres of avocado groves, accounting for 95% of the United States’ avocado production.  I’m getting hungry!

August 13, 2001

I was 19 years old and driving a church-issued Chevy Prism.

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February 16, 2013

Age 31 and driving a 2013 Acura ILX.

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Notice that the sign has changed slightly over the last decade.  The font and image are different, the population has gone from 38,000 to 44,000 and somehow the city’s elevation has mysteriously “sunk” from 900 feet to 685 feet!

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Highway 76 took us toward the Pacific Ocean.  Soon we were breathing that fresh humid air and the water was in sight!

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The “Strand” is a stretch of road that winds along the beach in Oceanside.

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The ILX found its way to some convenient hourly parking while we wandered to lunch and soaked up some sunshine in 79 degrees.

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This is the view on the Oceanside Pier.  It was first built in 1888 (but has been rebuilt several times since then).  It’s 1,954 feet long, making it the longest wooden pier on the west coast.

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At the end of the pier is a restaurant called Ruby’s.  I had a mushroom, Swiss, avocado burger and it was excellent!  Here are a few other sights from around the area.

pelican

oceanside_beach

acura_ilx_in_oceanside

I paid a visit to a couple of great families in the area, including the Cordadas:

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And the Linvilles, Veronica and Renzo.  The picture I was holding here is a shot from 2001 when I used to visit them regularly.

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These cookies are called “alfajores.”  They’re Peruvian and have dulce de leche filling.  Veronica knows how to spoil me!

cookies

Our next journey would take us through Escondido (Spanish for “hidden”) on California State Route 78, also known as the San Pasqual Rd.  We climbed from Escondido’s 600-foot elevation through a series of tight, banked curves up the hillside.  Soon we arrived on Main Street in Ramona, at 1,400 feet.

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I lived in Ramona for about six months in late 2001.  The below is a picture that was taken of me back then.  While the town is only about an hour or less from downtown San Diego, it definitely feels quite remote and is a taste of the “countryside” for those in San Diego who wish to retreat from the hustle and bustle.

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Ramona, interestingly enough, is referred to as the Valley of the Sun — as is my hometown, Phoenix, Arizona.  Jack and I grabbed drinks at a gas station where the 78 highway arrives into town.  We’d soon be traveling those remaining 23 miles (see the sign in the background) of country roads to Julian.

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Heading eastbound from central Ramona.

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We made a quick side-trip to see the home that I lived in during my time in Ramona.  It was actually a converted horse stable – a two-room tiny dwelling.  It didn’t have (or need) air conditioning but we used a space heater during winter months.  Why I was standing on the rooftop when this was taken in 2001, I have no idea.

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Yesterday, this was as close as we could get, due to a posted “No Trespassing” sign.  The property may have changed owners.

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The view, however, was every bit as great as I remembered it being.

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We began to climb even further in elevation as we approached Julian.  This tiny town owes its heritage to the mining industry and it experienced a gold rush after ore was discovered there in 1869.

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Main Street in Julian was bustling with tourist activity.  This guy was offering carriage rides with his miniature horse.

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We parked and took a walk around.

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Here’s a look at Main Street in Julian.  This place is most famous for its apple pies.  Still full from lunch at Ruby’s, we didn’t partake this time, but I’ve had the pies before and they’re amazing.

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The town sits at over 4,200 feet – high enough that snow storms are common during the wintertime.  Weather was amazing during our visit, but there were piles of melting snow scattered in various locations along Main Street.

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I took a peek inside the Chamber of Commerce.

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When I saw the below picture hanging inside a Julian coffee shop, it caught me by surprise.  It’s a sketch of an old Ford pickup parked in front of a place called Shady Dell.  Shady Dell is located in Bisbee, Arizona, 478 miles away from this location!  I was just there a few weeks ago in the Legend.

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More from Main Street, Julian:

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Dropping back down the hill toward sea level, we popped in to see the McBrides – these are some of my favorite people.

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We took Highway 67 to Poway Road into Poway, then got on Interstate 15 southbound to Highway 163 southbound.  For those who may someday travel to San Diego, make some time for dinner at Luna Grill Mediterranean Cuisine on University Avenue.

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The chicken kabob was absolutely amazing!

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This morning at the Best Western, the ILX awaited us anxiously for its 367-mile final leg of our journey, back home to Scottsdale, Arizona.  Jack drives a yellow BMW M3 6-speed, but he enjoyed his time in the passenger seat of the ILX.  He also took full advantage of the seat heaters.  It was a gorgeous 76 degrees outside during the drive home, yet he had the seat heater in “HI” position the whole time!

san_diego_hotel_parking_acura_ilx

For most of this last part of the trip, we stayed on Interstate 8 which runs along the Mexican border.  There are a number of places where motorists can look to the south and see the international border fence very close to the freeway.  There are also multiple stretches of this road that actually dip below sea level.  Just west of Yuma, Arizona, we rolled through the Algodones Sand Dunes.

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The dunes cover an area 45 miles long and 6 miles wide.  A hundred years ago, it was nearly impossible to traverse these sand dunes by car.  But 98 years ago in 1915, a wooden “plank” road was installed over a 7-mile stretch.  See the background of this picture:

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Almost all of the plank road has since been removed or otherwise destroyed.  Just a very small section remains for display purposes.  It is very weathered:

wooden_plank_road

plank_road_detail

The road was used between 1916 and 1926.  The marker in the below picture was put in place October 16, 1971.  It reads:

This unique plank road seven miles long was the only means early motorists had for crossing the treacherous Imperial Sand Dunes.  The eight by twelve foot sections were moved with a team of horses whenever the shifting sands covered portions of the road.  Double sections were placed at intervals to permit vehicles to pass.  California Registered Historical Landmark No. 845.

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The ILX awaits in the distance.  I didn’t cruise around the sand dunes much because I didn’t want to get stuck!  Today, the Algodones Dunes are used by a variety of recreational vehicles.  Jack and I saw a bunch of people out cruising around on ATVs.

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That was our two-day SoCal adventure!  Exhausting, yes.  Worth it?  Without a doubt.

NALM 2013 Announcement & Acura RLX Reviews

Posted in NALM, RLX on February 15, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  519,715

519715

Odometer (ILX):  27,319

27319

I’ve always loved being on the go.  Check out the scowl on my face while I rolled around on this Big Wheel in the early 1980’s in northern Utah.  Road rage?

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Later I graduated to a “big kid’s” bike.  However, those mismatched tires weren’t very stylish.

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I guess I’ve come a long way!  Here’s the ILX on a chilly (for Phoenix!) morning.  Only twice have I had to activate the defrosters on the mirrors and the rear window.  This was one of those days.

frozen_acura_ilx

But once the Arizona sunshine comes out, it’s a gorgeous time of year for us.  I took the Legend to work just one day this week.  Here’s a picture at a church building on Shea Boulevard in Scottsdale, Arizona:

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Saguaro Cactus off Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard:

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And northbound on Highway 87 for a quick afternoon run up the mountain:

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Sunset time:

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Fueling up in Payson, Arizona.  This sign surprised me — not the speed limit, but the fact that they use radar in a 25 mph zone!  Can you picture a cop alongside the road with his radar gun nabbing people for going 35 in a 25?  I guess it could happen!

Mazatzal_Payson_Arizona_Acura_Legend

Now in its 9th year, the National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) brings together Acura owners and enthusiasts from around the country for an annual gathering.  Last July, NALM was hosted by a team of individuals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and I drove my (then month-old) 2013 Acura ILX the nearly 4,000 miles round-trip to attend.  It was the first year that my 1994 Legend wasn’t present at a NALM since the event’s first year in 2005 in Dallas, Texas.

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wisconsin

Today, it was announced that the 2013 event will be held in Asheville, North Carolina from August 22-26, 2013.  If I’m able to pull this off, it’ll be a 3,990-mile round-trip long-haul.  And I think I’ll bring the Legend back since it was absent last year.  Is the old car (and am I!) up to a 4,000 mile trip?  We shall see.

scottsdale_to_asheville

The Legend went in for its 160th oil change at Acura of Tempe this week at 519,701 miles.  The technician was extremely thorough in his inspection and made a list of quite a few maintenance recommendations:

  • Front differential seal
  • Driver’s side steering rack boot
  • Passenger side inner CV boot
  • Passenger side lower ball joint bushing

He indicated that these leaks (at this point, anyway) are minor and do not affect driveability.  I’ll hold tight on having any repairs done at this point.  The car still runs & drives just as smooth as can be.

While I waited for my car’s service, I enjoyed the amenities of the Customer Lounge.

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I peeked into the service bay (looking to see if my car was on the lift, of course) and I spotted the all-new 2014 Acura RLX in there.  Two of them, actually.

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That sure is a light colored interior!  This is the inside of a black RLX.  The instrument panel has two touch-screens.

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The RLX will be priced between $48,500 and $60,000 depending on how it’s equipped:  Base, Navigation, Technology, and Advance.

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This car boasts 6 world technology firsts and 13 Acura technology firsts in a press release that was distributed today.  In addition to the innovative P-AWS (Precision All Wheel Steering), it’ll also offer the following which I thought were pretty cool:

  • LKAS (Lane Keeping Assist System):  Detects lane markings on the road and actively assists the driver in keeping the car in a detected lane.
  • Automatic Brake Hold:  Maintains the vehicle’s position without the driver having to maintain pressure on the brake pedal.  This one I’d have to experience to see if I like it or not!  I’d be afraid not to “hover” my foot over the brake pedal just in case the car started rolling again.

Autoblog posted a review of the RLX and said that it handled ‘light on its feet’ for being a nearly 4,000 pound car.  A video posted to YouTube today by the Temple of VTEC shows some of the all-wheel-steering action.  That 3.5-liter, 310-horsepower powerplant sounds great under wide-open throttle.

This car technically has sixteen (16!) headlights.  These are a patented design called “Jewel Eyes” – a first for Acura AND for the industry.

RLX_front_acura_of_tempe

Simon, the technician who installed the accessories on my ILX last June, was working on putting some bodyside moldings on the white RLX.  He said that the car handles amazingly.  Can’t wait to try one out!

I’m off to southern California in the Acura ILX tomorrow morning with two friends so stay tuned for a write-up in the near future!  Check out the picture that new owner “tech332” (Danny) from Texas put together for his Silver Moon ILX. The top image is of his car, and the bottom is a photoshop rendering of the look he’s going for.  Pretty cool!  Thanks, Danny, for sharing.

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100,000 Views

Posted in Milestones on February 12, 2013 by tysonhugie

I’m crazy about milestones.  In the world of Honda/Acura automobiles, we all know that 100,000 miles is just the beginning.  On March 21, 2011 I made my first post here on WordPress and tonight the blog hit 100,000 views since that date.  I intend to keep sharing these adventures with my readers as long as they’ll keep coming back for more.  Thanks again for being part of the ride.

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Acura_ILX_right_rear

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When I left the office around 4:30 p.m.:

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And tonight by 8:30 p.m. when I checked the next time:

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While I’m out driving the wheels off my Acuras, there are other cars at the opposite end of the mileage spectrum that sit in storage for 40 years or more.  One example that I learned of today is this white 1967 Chevy Corvette 427 V8 with a 4-speed.  The car is a one-owner, unrestored, garage-kept time capsule with just 2,996 miles on the odometer.  Get comfortable in your chair and scroll through the detailed story and many pictures behind this awesome ride.  Here’s the link.

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Drive onward, friends.

 

 

Mark’s Subaru SVX & Tovrea Castle Tour

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Reader's Ride on February 10, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  519,511

519511

Odometer (ILX):  27,117

27117

acura_ilx_at_caremark

Back-Story on My Friend Mark

Back in July 2007, I went to an Acura Legend meet in Austin, Texas.  My car had just barely under 300,000 miles on it at the time.  In a wild series of events, I ended up hitting two deer on Highway 290 just west of Austin that weekend.  Unbelievably, the damaged Legend still hobbled its way back to Arizona, and then to Utah for a front end rebuild. Here’s a thread with some pictures of the meet.

Taking over a gas station:

Gas_Station

Legend lineup (and a Taurus in the mix):

Austin_Legend_Meet

Dining at Bone Daddy’s BBQ:

bonedaddys1

One of the great people who I met that weekend was my friend Mark.  He showed up to the Acura Legend meet as the odd-man-out in an extremely clean Chestnut Brown Metallic 2000 Ford Taurus.  Mark and I have kept in touch since then.  I recently learned about his search for a rare mid-1990’s Japanese coupe called the Subaru SVX and I randomly decided to take a peek at the local Phoenix area craigslist posts to see what I could find.  I stumbled across a pretty immaculate black one and forwarded the link to Mark.  Well, fast forward several weeks to now:  Mark ended up striking a deal with the seller and buying that car.

He flew in to Phoenix on Friday night and we picked up his friend Russell later that same evening.

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The ILX got shuttle duty as we drove the 103-mile drive to Tucson where Mark was to pick up his new ride Saturday morning.

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Having way too much fun.  Russell, in the back seat, is a Ford fan and knows everything there is to possibly know about Focuses.  (Foci?)

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And of COURSE I was proudly wearing one of my Acura hooded sweatshirts.

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Mark taking care of business.

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Finally, we arrived at the designated meeting place & time in Marana, just north of Tucson off Interstate 10.

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Here’s what gets ME excited:  maintenance records!  This huge folder dates back through the car’s entire lifetime.

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Mark installing his temporarily permit before departing on his 1,300 mile drive home to Houston.

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Customary “key handoff” picture with the seller, Rich.

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Regarding his new ride:  The Subaru “Alcyone” SVX (which stood for “Subaru Vehicle X”) was sold from 1992 through 1997 but in fairly limited numbers (fewer than 2,000 per year).  All came equipped with a 3.3 liter 6-cylinder engine and a 4-speed automatic transmission.  Most were all-wheel-drive but a few were sold as front-wheel-drive.  Mark’s 1995 SVX is a top-of-the line LSi with leather and all the toys.

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Here’s the view from the backseat.  I’ve always wondered what those half-windows were like.  The rear ones actually go down, just like the Legend coupe’s do!

SVX_view_from_inside

Of all the places I could have taken these two Texans for lunch, they wanted In-N-Out Burger!

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Double-Double with cheese.

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Following Mark to a shop called Motorsport, on 1st Avenue & Grant in Tucson, where Mark picked up a couple of goodies for his SVX.  He bought some JDM clear corner lenses and an Alcyone center taillight panel.

following_mark_subaru_svx

Here we are parked next to a rare French Citroen SM.  This car is quite odd to look at.  A Citroen enthusiast friend of mine, Scott, told me that these cars have hydraulic suspensions.  They can actually lift up on 3 tires and thus do not require a jack when changing a flat.  How odd!

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The shop also had this white Taurus SHO with a 5-speed manual transmission.  You don’t see many of these!

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Group shot:  Russell, Tyson, Mark

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Mark and Russell are well on their way home to Houston now!  Safe travels guys!

Tovrea Castle

Ever since I moved to Arizona in early 2006, I’ve known of this castle off the Loop 202 freeway just east of central Phoenix.  It’s so perfect that it looks like a wedding cake.  I learned that it was called Tovrea Castle but it wasn’t until today that I truly got up close & personal with this interesting structure.  Once a home, it’s now owned by the city of Phoenix which offers tours.  I was in today’s tour group for the 8:30 a.m. session, so my friend Kevin and I went to check it out.

Tovrea_Banner_Picture

Tovrea was built from 1929 to 1931 by an Italian native named Alessio Carraro.  He intended for the castle to be a hotel and resort, but just two years after the castle’s completion, it was sold (presumably due to financial difficulties during the Great Depression).  One of the problems was also the fact that the adjacent property was a stockyard, and who would want to stay at a resort next to a stockyard?  The castle was bought by Edward Tovrea at that time.  Just a year later, Edward passed away, but his wife Della continued to live there until her death in 1969.

The city of Phoenix purchased the castle and the 35 acres that it sits on in and it’s been open for tours since last year (Arizona’s centennial year) after it underwent a restoration effort.  The cactus grounds that surround the castle have over 5,000 cacti.  So come with me on this tour of a historic Arizona landmark!

Here’s what the castle looks like from the Loop 202 freeway between the cities of Phoenix and Tempe, Arizona.  It’s the closest I had ever gotten to it, until today.

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Arrival at the visitor’s center on Van Buren Road in the ILX.

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The castle is pictured in the background here:

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Our tour guides took us back in time and shared lots of details about this place.  The river rocks that line the cactus gardens were hauled by the truckload from the Salt River.  Mr. Tovrea once owned over 250 acres of land but the castle now sits on just 35 acres, as some of the original parcel has been sold & developed.

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The rocks were painted white by the original builder.

Our 8-person group hopped into a golf cart and we were driven around the grounds while we learned about them.

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Among the odd features of the landscape surrounding the castle are a reflecting pool, an aviary, and even a horseshoe pit.

castle_east_side

Some of these Saguaro cacti have been here since 1928.  We know this because Carraro’s landscaper marked them by wrapping a piece of wire around the base that had a tag on it.  The cacti are still thriving.  These types of cacti can live up to 200 years.

cactus_wire

This was taken from the south side of the castle on one of two leveled-out mounds.  It is presumed that these areas were either intended to have later structures built on them or to serve as parking lots.

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A wooden shack that still stands on the property (not pictured) was home to the 15 workers that Carraro employed while the castle was being built.  Apparently, he would show up at the beginning of each day and draw a picture in the sand/dirt of what he wanted them to accomplish that day.  He didn’t adhere to any kind of blueprint.  The ultimate definition of “winging it!”

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Another small home on the property.

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Finally we got to approach the building from what would have been the main hotel entrance.  Notice the Arizona state flag flying from the top of the castle.

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Inside the lobby, we got to see artifacts that had been preserved from the castle.  Among other things, a spittoon is there.  When the restoration effort was taking place between about 2009-2011, workers tried to preserve as much of the original structure as they could, and they saved any special items like that which were found.

tyson_in_main_lobby

The castle actually look a lot bigger from the outside than it is on the inside.  A second lobby at the other end of the building contains a scale model on display.  We only were able to tour the main and basement levels of the structure, since the City of Phoenix has deemed the upper floors not able to withstand the weight of larger tour groups.  In the second level of the castle, there are 6 bedrooms that share 1 common bathroom.

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This steep staircase leads down to the basement, which was our next stop after the main level.

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Ever seen anything like this?

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From a placard about this metal box:

The metal box is an “annunciator.”  Patented by the Edwards Company in 1882, it contains a set of white tags numbered from one to twelve.  Wires connected the machine to the basement and rooms upstairs, enabling future guests to gain the attention of a hotel employee simply by pressing a button.  It probably emitted sound.

For me, the most fascinating part about the tour was the following story about Della Tovrea who was attacked while sleeping in the kitchen in November 1968.  Burglars had entered around 11:00 p.m.  Check out the full story on this picture:

della_burglar_story

The bullet hole remains in the ceiling to this day!

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fireplace

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Pictures from the basement part of the tour:

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The basement had a ceiling plaster that looked like an upside-down lemon meringue pie.  I didn’t get a picture of it, but there was a huge safe and a vault down there.  This hallway from the basement leads to the cactus gardens outside.

Tovrea_alleyway

I had a great time on the tour.  I wish I could’ve had “unsupervised” access to the ENTIRE facility because I guarantee there are many secrets to be discovered.

Hanging with Ryan, Spencer, & Ari

It was time for a little Sunday drive in the Legend, so Ryan joined me for an afternoon trip to a part of Phoenix called Ahwatukee.

1994_legend_sedan_coupe

We visited Ari who’s been working on restoring a Milano Red 1993 Legend LS Coupe 6-speed manual.  Spencer’s Cashmere Silver Metallic 1994 Legend LS Coupe 6-speed manual is in the background.

ari_and_spencer_coupes

This car has about 205,000 miles on it but drives really well.  Aside from some cosmetic issues (clearcoat peeling, dash cracking), it really seems like it’s good for another 200,000 miles or more.

ari_milano_coupe_2

These cars just keep going and going.  Anyone else see this 350,000 mile 1994 Legend on craigslist in New Jersey this week?

ari_milano_coupe

These cloth seats were some spares that Ari had sitting around.  Since the car is an LS, it left the factory with leather seats but at 20 years old, those were well beyond their usable life so Ari swapped these in.  They look and feel really nice.

ari_1993_legend_milano_6mt_interior

Ari’s also working on dismantling a 1992 Legend LS sedan in his backyard.  This guy knows every nut and bolt of a Legend.

ari_1992_legend_back

Just a little bit taken apart in here:

ari_1992_legend_interior

Next, I followed Spencer over to one of our local “Pick-&-Pull” junkyards.  For $2, you bring your own tools and wander around the lot looking for anything that might be of interest or value.

spencer_acura_legend_driving

Spencer’s car looks and runs great for 228,000 miles.  He and his father recently redid the interior with fresh new leather.

spencer_1994_acura_legend_ls

Arrival at the Pick-&-Pull facility off 56th Street & Chandler Boulevard.

spencer_tyson_legends

There were at least 8 or 9 first generation (1986-1990) Legends in the yard, but this was the only second generation (1991-1995) that we ended up seeing.  It was a 1992 Legend LS sedan in a non-factory color.  We learned from looking at its door jams that this car was originally a Cashmere Silver color.

g2_sedan_at_junkyard

When I’ve got Acura-owning friends at my house, the neighborhood must wonder about my sanity!  As well they should.  Thanks Ryan for stopping by.

acuras_at_tysons

Have a great week!