“Santa Claus” Arizona & Payton’s Lexus IS300

Odometer (ILX):  28,895


“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.


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.


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


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.


Christmas Tree Inn, 1940s


Christmas Tree Inn, 2013


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.


Here’s the Santa Claus gas station in 1940:


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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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



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


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.


Engine is totally stock now.


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!


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


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.


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!


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.


His car continues to look great both inside and out.


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.

8 Responses to ““Santa Claus” Arizona & Payton’s Lexus IS300”

  1. I used to have an 02 IS300 in Millenium Silver Metallic. It is by far my most favorite car that I have owned to date. I absolutely love the Intensa Blue Pearl color. Very rare! I would love to pick up another IS some day. Congrats to your bro. Post more pics, would love to see the progress on mods.

    • Asim, the silver is a great color on the IS too! How come you ended up getting rid of yours? My brother is already shopping for mods. A $7k turbo kit is on order for it :-). I’ll post updates once he gets it installed.

  2. Hey Tyson – I just came across your blog while obsessing over my new ILX 2.0 Tech that I purchased last week. Your blog is great, I look forward to keeping up with your adventures in the car, hope you’re enjoying it.

    Thanks for sharing

    -Greg in Denver

    • Greg, congrats on the acquisition of your 2.0 ILX! I’m jealous that you got all the tech goodies on yours. What color did you opt for? I’ve got a few near-Denver driving destinations on my list for this year – hopefully our paths cross. Thanks for following the blog and I hope I don’t bore you to death! 🙂

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