Archive for April, 2013

Acura ILX Trip to Utah: Silver Reef Mining Town

Posted in ILX, Road Trip, Utah on April 28, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  521,890


Odometer (ILX):  36,193


Here in Arizona, we’ve sprung past spring and already entered triple-digit-temperature range.  These are the days when I’m glad I didn’t opt for that Crystal Black Pearl paint color on the ILX that I often lust after.  Silver Moon exterior + tinted windows = a nice, cool interior.

I made my way to my hometown in southern Utah this weekend to spend some time with my family there.  My first stop on this 6.5 hour one-way trip is Kingman, Arizona in the northwest corner of the state.  Kingman’s claim to fame is that it’s a surviving city from the original Route 66.


There not a heck of a lot to see or do here, but the Budget Inn Motel’s rates are reasonable ($19.95) and they’ve even got color TV!  I opted to not stay there but rather continue on the rest of my journey.  Maybe some other time.


I reached cruising speed of 70 mph on Highway 93 leading up to Hoover Dam.  The ILX revs quite a bit higher than my Legend did at this speed in 6th gear, but the fuel economy doesn’t suffer.  I still pulled an average 32.6 miles per gallon this trip.


It was a moonroof-open afternoon — partially because someone had spilled gas at the Mobil station in Kingman and I had some on my shoes.  I didn’t want to get high off fumes in the cabin of the ILX.


Arizona is chock full of mining history.  One particular mining establishment that’s no longer in existence is called Cerbat.  As the historical marker states, Cerbat thrived in the 1860’s but all the buildings are now gone.


Denim must be the thing to wear when you’re on a motorcycle ride these days!


Just a little farther north, the Uranus Gas Station came into view like an oasis in the desert.  This place is nearly impossible to miss, in fact.  The building itself was just recently repainted in crazy colors and they’ve got a fuel tank out front advertising the fact that you can shoot a machine gun here.  I didn’t have time to do so, but thought it would make a fun photo-op.


I wasn’t kidding.  These people actually named their gas station Uranus Gas.  At least they’ve got a sense of humor.  And both times I passed the station this weekend, it had several customers.  Hey, the name got ME to stop, didn’t it?


Finally I arrived at my first destination:  Las Vegas Motor Speedway off Interstate 15 just north of Las Vegas, Nevada.  Here, I was going to be meeting up with my brothers Bentley and Payton of H&S Performance who had trailed their Dodge Ram race truck for some Friday night 1/4 mile dragstrip time trials.


The LVMS track first opened in 1971 but underwent a $72 million upgrade in 1996.  Today it’s one of the finest racing facilities in the southwest.  The H&S Performance race team was already at work when I arrived to greet everyone.


I’m pictured at left in the below picture.  Payton (center), and Bentley (right) are my younger brothers.  Payton drives the race truck.  He said that unfortunately it makes all other vehicles else seem painfully slow, but he did borrow my ILX for a bit this weekend and enjoyed running an errand in it.


The cockpit retains few of its original appointments.  This Cummins truck has been gutted, rollcaged, and built to be a screaming machine.  When race time comes, it’s wearing 4 “slick” tires since he races in 4×4 mode.  It launches hard!


As fate would have it, though, the night’s festivities were cut short when a transmission failure sidelined the truck fewer than a hundred yards after launching from the start line.  H&S will go back to the drawing board this week and implement a fix.


Loading back up as the sun starts to set in the Nevada desert.


As nighttime descended, we rolled onward to St. George, Utah — another 100 miles up Interstate 15.

On Saturday morning, I had the great opportunity to chauffeur two special guests around in my Acura ILX.  My grandpa and grandma have been among my most loyal blog followers over the years, so I thought it appropriate to invite them along on a short Drive to Five adventure.  We departed St. George and made our way 15 miles north of town to the old mining establishment (and now ghost town) of Silver Reef, Utah.


Our total trip distance was fewer than 50 miles but gave us front-row seats to some of the most spectacular scenery in this part of the country.


We exited I-15 at Exit 22 (22 miles north of the Arizona state line).


We made our way through Leeds, Utah and headed west just one mile to get to the townsite of Silver Reef.  New, large homes surround the site where a bustling town of silver miners thrived over 134 years ago.  The red rock scenery of this area brings thousands of tourists per year to southern Utah for hiking opportunities.  Grandma gave us a wave and we continued our tour.


Along the very narrow, winding road through Silver Reef, we saw a couple examples of old mining equipment.


Next, we took the opportunity to wander the site on foot and learn a little more about its history.


Silver Reef’s story mirrors that of many other boom towns of the same era.  A rush of miners caused the area’s population to soar as high as 2,000 people, but only 15 years later, people had begun moving on.  The first silver strike in Silver Reef happened in 1866 when a prospector from Nevada, John Kemple, discovered a vein of silver in the sandstone there.  A total of 21 claims were staked over the next few years as prospectors came from Salt Lake City and beyond.


In its heyday, Silver Reef’s Main Street was a mile in length and was lined by many businesses (credit:  Wikipedia):

By 1878, the town’s business district consisted of a hotel, boarding houses, nine stores, six saloons, five restaurants, a bank, two dance halls, a newspaper called The Silver Echo (which later became the Silver Reef Miner),and eight dry goods stores.

One of the few buildings still standing today is this Wells Fargo Express.  In 1985, an organization was formed for the purpose of preserving the remaining structures as well as setting up a museum in the Wells Fargo building.  The museum is still in operation today.


Silver Reef sits a bit higher in elevation than the surrounding landscape, so gorgeous views can be seen in virtually every direction.


Silver Reef, as a wooden sign (below) on the premises announces, is the only place in the U.S. where silver has been discovered in sandstone.



Next to the Wells Fargo museum, there are mining artifacts and other period items of interest.


This was a place definitely worthy of the name “wild” west.   I learned that there are written records of at least 3 gunfights in this area and one murder.  Gambling is a recurring theme in the accounts of these incidents.


Unlike most of the communities in southern Utah, this settlement never had a Mormon chapel.  It did, however have a Catholic church and we learned a little bit about that on the informative placard where my grandpa is standing in the below picture.


Behind us here lies a wooden table.



Upon closer inspection, we found a metal plate at the end of it which read:

  • “DUNHAM” Economy Table
  • 853 Mission Street
  • So. Pasadena Calif U.S.A.
  • RPM Instructions
  • Coarse Feed – Long Stroke – 245 RPM
  • Fine Feed – Short Stroke – 285 RPM
  • Slime Feed – Short Stroke – 325 RPM

Google has surprisingly revealed very little about this type of equipment and how it operates.  I suspect that the wooden slats are designed to filter through the extracted ore but I’m not clear how it works.  Anyone with information, fill us in!

A few of Silver Reef’s other buildings are now just freestanding walls.


This was a great step back in time.  I wish I could have seen what Silver Reef looked like in its prime.


After exiting Silver Reef and making our way down Old Highway 91, we paused for a drive through some tunnels leading to the Red Cliffs Recreation Area.  I couldn’t help but notice the clearance height was 11 foot 9 inches.


That reminded me of a railroad trestle in Durham, North Carolina with clearance of 11 foot 8 inches.  That bridge catches the rooftops of so many trucks and motorhomes that a nearby resident set up 2 surveillance cameras.  It’s been crashed into 61 times on camera – usually by people in rented trucks who probably aren’t pay attention.  See for yourself!

Our last viewpoint was that of Quail Creek Reservoir (600 acres; established in 1985).  It’s a popular destination for recreation.


Thanks, grandma and grandpa, for coming along for the ride!

I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with other members of my family, but since I come from a family of car-loving people, there was still plenty of time to enjoy our four-wheeled toys.  My brother recently picked up a hot new ride:  1968 Chevy Nova SS.


This fully restored muscle car is finished immaculately in a color from the 2006 Corvette called “Monterey Mist Metallic.”  The color is stunning in person.

Under the hood, the car’s original 350 cubic inch V8 was removed, balanced, bored, and stroked to 388 cubic inches.  It develops 450 horsepower (more than double the power of that 2.4 liter ILX sitting in front of it — though, remember, my ILX has half as many cylinders, too!).  Either way, we’re talking some serious power!

The reason why my brother sought after this car was because my dad’s first car was a Nova of the same year.  He owned it during his teens and built quite a racer out of it.  We dug up this picture of him dating back to the late 1970’s.


The “new” Nova has a T5 Borg Warner 5-speed manual transmission and a rebuilt 12-bold 3.73 Positraction rear end.  Unfortunately, due to a radiator leak, I wasn’t able to take the Nova for a spin but I’ll definitely be taking it out on my next trip to Utah.


I think those 17″ American Racing Torq Thrust wheels look awesome on it.  Best of all, the car came with all the build receipts and even the original 1968 “Chevy II” owner’s manual.  I can’t wait to take the SS for a spin!


Nephew “Rex” (age 1 month) and me checking out the Nova powerplant.


My classic car encounters continued just an hour later when my friend Cody showed up in this 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle.  Some of my readers may remember Cody (with a high degree of jealousy!) as the lucky guy who owns a 1993 Acura Legend 5-speed sedan with only 65,000 miles on the odometer.  Well, Cody’s other ride is equally drool-worthy.


We’re looking at a truly unmolested example of a car that has some of the most documented history I’ve ever seen.  Cody’s dad bought the car brand new in Salt Lake City, Utah and it’s been in the family ever since.  In fact, this was Cody’s first car.


Check out all that original paperwork!  The interior has been redone and is pretty much immaculate.  Cody’s built a website dedicated to the “forgotten” 3rd generation Chevelle here.


He even let me take the old Chevelle for a spin.  Here’s a video of my goofy self enjoying a drive in this 40-year-old classic.

As my trip neared a close, I said farewell to my niece and nephews.


And I headed out toward I-15 and Phoenix, by way of Las Vegas yet again.


Thanks for being a part of my travels this weekend!

Acura RLX Close-Up & a 1,000-Horsepower Pickup

Posted in RLX on April 25, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  521,877


Odometer (ILX):  35,228


Is anyone else out there as addicted to craigslist as I am?  Sometimes it’s just entertaining to browse and see what’s out there.  My friend Jason taught me an interesting trick:  Click into the “Free” section of your town’s craigslist page, then hit the button for “Map View.”  You’ve just given yourself a birds-eye look at anything within range that might be worth getting up off the couch or office chair to go pick up!  Around these parts, it’s usually just free dirt, but you never know!

Anyway, here are some nice finds from the Automotive section.  First, a sweet low-mileage Legend sedan for any Dto5 followers who might be interested!  It’s not every day you see a 1995 model year with only 28,000 miles on it.  Check it out here on craigs in Syracuse, NY.


Have you ever seen a nice interior?  This one is Type-E (Taupe) – the same interior color as my Legend.


The only thing that struck me as odd on this one is how the owner has “double-badged” the car.  Notice how the trunk lid has L E G E N D spelled out in the center (proper 1994-1995 badging), but then also the smaller LEGEND at top right.


And here’s another super nice coupe in New Jersey, for those who prefer 2 doors instead of 4.  This is a 1991 Legend LS coupe.  It’s got 45,000 miles and available for $9,000.  The pricetag is a bit of a shocker, but to a collector, it could be a bargain!


Random Legend-related video:  Remember Cash for Clunkers in 2009?  I know of a few people who “cashed out” by sending Acura Legends to scrap.  Here’s one Legend’s death caught on camera.  Looks like a Cashmere Silver Metallic L or LS sedan with 206,000 miles on the odometer.  It probably could’ve gone much farther.  This video gives me nightmares!

On Wednesday, my 2013 ILX received its 7th oil change, and still at the same dealership where I picked up the car new last June.

While I was waiting for the ILX to be serviced,  Acura of Tempe salesman “Josh” took the time to give me the complete tour of the all-new 2014 Acura RLX.  The Bellanova White Pearl RLX on display had over 600 miles on it; it’s been the demo car for the last several weeks.  It’s equipped with the Technology (Navigation) package but not the top-line “Advance” package.  Still, the car definitely impresses. It’s a $54k ride in this trim.


Here are a few of my observations from my short walk-around and test drive:

  • P-AWS (“Precision All Wheel Steering”) does feel a lot like my old 1989 Prelude Si 4WS.  The back end “kicks out” a bit under very tight cornering at low speeds.  It can take some getting used to but the response is great!
  • Acura has gone to great lengths to make this a quiet ride!  The side windows are double-paned – you can actually see both layers of glass pressed together when you roll them down.  The cabin is whisper quiet.
  • This car has a ton of room.  Even with a 6′ tall driver positioned with more than ample leg room up front, I had tons of extra space behind him in the back seat.
  • The trunk pops open ALL the way with the remote key fob, instead of just springing ajar lightly like most do.
  • Power folding sideview mirrors are a nice touch.
  • The center console / armrest opens MULTIPLE different ways (from the left, the right, and front).  There’s cavernous storage both there and in the trunk.
  • I really love the high gloss trim on the interior.
  • RLX has two different screens – one larger 8″ screen mounted high in the instrument panel (map) and another lower near where a radio would be.  The climate control functions are unique:  You can pull up a screen that shows a range of temperatures and just touch the “number” of the desired degree, instead of scrolling up/down.
  • Radio volume on the steering wheel is a rolling wheel instead of a toggling switch.  I like that – it seems much more intuitive.
  • Power on tap is more than ample.  This 3.5 liter V6 is Acura’s first direct injection motor.
  • Capless fueling is innovative.
  • The doors sound with a resounding “thunk” solidly.  This is the kind of thing we expect from a flagship model from a luxury automaker.  I like it.

Here’s a look at that capless fueling system.


The interior trim that I enjoy.  Notice that the RLX also has a push-button parking brake and a feature called “Brake Hold.”  The Brake Hold keeps the car at a standstill without having having a foot on the brake, whereas other cars would idle forward.  The feature can be deactivated.  It’d take some getting used to.


That double-paned glass I was mentioning earlier.


Logical gauge layout – something I’m already used to seeing.


Here dual screen layout of the instrument panel.


And that spacious rear passenger area.  All it needs is a footrest and it’ll be as accommodating as that Amtrak ride I took a couple months ago!


Overall, this car looks like a winner.  And even Motor Trend agrees.  Check out this article where the RLX was pronounced a winner versus the Cadillac XTS4.


The new RLX is nicely executed!  Well done, Acura.

Breaking News about “Breaking Point”!  

While I strive for maximum engine durability on my Acura from a mileage perspective, my brothers strive for maximum durability from a POWER perspective.

The gearhead in me has always wanted to see an engine blow up.  My brothers, Bentley and Payton, pushed a GMC diesel pickup to its limits today and had that very thing happen.  H&S Performance is a Utah-based company that specializes in diesel pickup performance.  The level of power that can be unleashed from today’s Ford, Diesel, and Chevy diesel engines is pretty unreal. Bentley is co-founder of the business and Payton drives the truck and operates the dyno.


Today, they achieved a whopping 1,086 horsepower and 1,911 lb-feet of torque from an “LML” motor in a Duramax truck that has stock internal components (injectors and the like).  These guys kept throwing more power at it by way of nitrous oxide (NOS) to see just how much it could possibly take.  In the end, this truck blew past the 1,000 horsepower mark and spewed oil all over the floor when a rod punched a hole through the engine block while the truck was running 3 shots of nitrous on a dyno run in 6th gear.  That’s some serious power!

This is the victim truck:


Bentley and Casey, H&S founders, pictured here:


The end result?  Carnage.  Oil and engine parts all over the shop floor.


The final video is still pending, but in the meantime, the entire 3-hour live feed from Breaking Point 2 available online.  The truck’s 1,086-horsepower run starts at about 3 hours 46 minutes, and the catastrophic blow-up dyno run starts around 3 hours 56 minutes.  Tune in.  It’s worth a watch.  Here’s the site link:  Breaking Point 2.  And the video, here.

Can’t wait to see what they destroy next.  And you can bet I won’t be handing them the keys to my ILX anytime soon.

Arizona Acura Legend Meet: Space Age Restaurant

Posted in Arizona, Legend, Road Trip on April 21, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  521,840


Odometer (ILX):  35,000


Here’s a family portrait if I’ve ever seen one!  These people are as crazy about Acura as I am.



There aren’t quite enough Acura ILX owners to get a meet together in my area yet, but I’m still hanging out frequently with the old Legend crowd.  I’ve been going to Legend meets for over 10 years.  This weekend, I got together with a bunch of other Acura fans and we took a scenic drive to lunch.  Final stats:

  • 8 Legends
  • 2 Miatas

Trip Distance:  192 Miles


This was our initial meet-up in Casa Grande, Arizona.




We made our way via Florence Boulevard to Interstate 8 which would’ve led us to San Diego, California if we stayed on it about another 5 hours.  Exiting at Gila Bend, this sign gave an idea just how close to the Mexican border we were.


As the entrance sign at the west end of town announces, Gila Bend is home to fewer than 2,000 people.  Or, more specifically, “1,700 friendly people, and 5 old crabs.”  Thankfully, we didn’t meet any of those crabs during our short visit.


Gila Bend was founded in 1872 and named for a 90-degree bend in the Gila River near where the town is located.  The Space Age Lodge and Restaurant opened in 1963 and has been a signature landmark on the main road through town ever since.


On Saturday, our group took over part of the dining room and enjoyed the space-themed decor as well as the cuisine.  The chicken quesadilla was most excellent, and if my friend Ari’s chocolate milkshake tasted half as good as it looked, I bet that was tasty too.  The restaurant itself is also known as “Outer Limits.”



If it’s offbeat, I’m probably going to want to eat there!  The theme here reminded me a lot of the Red Planet Diner in Sedona, Arizona where I went with some friends back in January.


Joe, Michael, and Ari


Tyson, Robert, and Gabe


Kelvin and Ian


There was a special occasion for our Legend meet.  Long-time Legend enthusiast Rosalinda chose to spend her 29th birthday with us.  Mark and Rosalinda have shared many of their special days with their brothers and sisters from the Acura family.  Even their wedding in 2009 had multiple individuals from the Legend forums invited.


Here’s a video of our group’s talent (or lack thereof) at singing happy birthday to her:

Back outside, it was time to line up the cars for a traditional photoshoot.  This looks like we’re preparing for some type of group huddle but we were really just shooting the breeze and talking cars.



Here are the individual rides and a little bit of information on each.  First is Austin’s 1987 Legend sedan. This car is was the oldest in the bunch but still ran amazingly.  Austin swapped the transmission on this car from an automatic to a 5-speed several years ago.  He also owns a Sherwood Green 1994 Legend GS.  Legend owners, I’ve found, often prefer to own multiple versions of the car.


This is Gabe’s 1992 Legend LS coupe:  yet another Legend that has at one point in its life undergone major surgery.  This car is special because the motor itself is in fact out of a 1997 Acura 3.5 RL.  Gabe’s car is equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission and he’s got a lot of nice upgrades both inside and out.


Here’s the newest member of our Arizona Legend owners club:  Joe.  Joe picked up this 1995 Legend LS coupe just a couple of weeks ago from a local craigslist listing.  It’s a Cashmere Silver Metallic automatic with about 150,000 miles on it.  Joe is glad to be onboard with the Legend family and aside from an intermittent ABS light illuminating on the dashboard, says that the car is running great.


Here’s Jordan’s 1991 Legend L coupe.  Jordan’s done some motor work on this one.  Instead of being equipped with a “Type I” 200-horsepower engine, it’s been swapped to a 230-horsepower “Type II.”  Jordan has a full exhaust system and some other performance upgrades to keep himself ahead of the pack when it comes to acceleration.


And this is Rosalinda’s 1993 Legend sedan, with the appropriate license plate “93LEGND.”  This is a custom two-tone paint job that is one of a kind.  The car is running on 17″ wheels from a 2004 Acura TSX.  This is actually a set of wheels that I used to own and I told to the Bandonis a few years back.


Here’s Michael’s 1994 Legend LS sedan. This car is painted pearl white but it used to be Desert Mist Metallic like mine.  Michael’s got some suspension upgrades like Koni red struts and he does all the work himself.


This is my 1994 Legend GS sedan 6-speed.  I’ve had it for 5 years but it usually gets driven fewer than 2,000 miles per year.  When I picked this car up, the intent was to have a replacement for the Legend coupe, which at the time had over 300,000 miles on it and I thought might be nearing the end of its useful life.  As we now know, that Legend coupe never ended up dying.  The sedan turned over 144,000 miles on its way to the meet.


These are some rolling shots from our drive westbound on Interstate 8 from Casa Grande to Gila Bend.



The abandoned gas station where we took our pictures was a destination in itself.  Anyone who follows my blog knows that I have a fascination with creeping around abandoned places, so I couldn’t resist taking a peek inside this one.


The roll-up door on the side of the building was already open, but inside it looked like just a bunch of junk.



Rosalinda’s 1993 Legend definitely won the award for the cleanest engine bay.  Immaculate!


It seemed only fitting that Mark wore his “I void warranties” T-shirt, based on the Miata he was driving.


Here’s Mark (and his steering wheel) goofing off in the Space Age parking lot.  Mark’s Miata packs quite a punch.  It’s got over 270,000 miles on the body but the entire drivetrain has been enhanced.


Turbo!  Mark’s 5-speed Miata would undoubtedly out-accelerate and out-handle any of the Legends at the meet.  He’s also equipped it with a full rollcage.  This is a race-ready ride if I’ve ever seen one.


And, it’s tradition for Mark to sprawl out across the hood of my car at meets so we carried on that legacy.


This is Ian’s 2012 Mitsubishi Lancer.  Ian’s been a part of Drive to Five since I first met him over a year ago and he was driving a Civic Si at the time.  The Lancer is a nice replacement!


A few other pictures from throughout the day.



Gabe captured this picture of me driving back to the Phoenix area via Highway 238.


It was great to once again reunite with old friends and share our love for these great cars.

Today, I did a little junkyarding in the 2013 ILX.  There’s a local “pick & pull” yard in Chandler, Arizona where you can pay $2 (and bring your own tools) and help yourself to any parts you’re looking for.

Among the treasures I walked out with, I found a “Type II” badge from the intake manifold of this 1994 Legend GS sedan automatic.


It looks right at home placed on the 2.4 liter powerplant of the ILX, right?  Ha!


I have always loved the bodystyle of the 1987-1990 Acura Legend coupe like this:


I found one of those cars in the junkyard, too.  It was in pretty sorry shape.


However, the taillights looked good and they are particularly rare, so I grabbed them.  The 1990 model year was the only year when the lenses were clear / red as opposed to amber / red.  I’ll clean these up and re-sell them.


Gotta love scavenging.  Hope everyone’s had a nice weekend!

Friday Flashback: ABC15 News Feature

Posted in Legend, Throwback on April 19, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  521,642


Odometer (ILX):  34,848


On June 16, 2009, my Acura Legend made news headlines on the morning program of Phoenix, Arizona’s ABC15 program.  Automotive journalist Michael Hagerty had interviewed me a couple of weeks prior regarding a piece he was putting together on vehicles with over 200,000 miles on the odometer.  My Legend, with just over 378,000 at the time, qualified.  Here’s a picture from our meet-up:


I was lucky that a friend saved a copy of the video, since the article has now expired on ABC15’s website.

In the nearly four years since the clip aired, much has happened.  My Legend went on to drive to 500,000, and Michael Hagerty moved on to other career avenues.  He’s currently the editor of auto-review site TireKicker.  He’s featured my Legend as one of his “TireKicker Time Machines.”  (Page Link)

I also recently checked in with Dave Poore, the owner of that 1972 Chevy Impala that was featured in the same video.  The Impala, “Archie,” is alive and well.  It’s since been wrecked – and totaled (for the second time) – but, as the license plate says, it “STILRNS.”  Here’s Dave’s latest report from his email to me:

Archie is still sitting at about 400k. He blew a front tire at 70mph on the 101 in mildly heavy traffic in the middle lane. That was a little scary.


In fact, Dave has even recently used the car in an annual drive called the Cannonball.


Dave has a fun website about his adventures with Archie and the other cars in his stable.  Check it out at


Now, moving forward to 2013 (and very fitting for this blog), TireKicker just a week or so ago posted an article about the 2013 Acura ILX.  Michael discusses some of the pros and cons of Acura’s entry level luxury compact.  Check out the write-up here.

2013 Acura ILX 2.0L

Happy Friday to all!

Acura ILX Drive: Gates Pass & Old Tucson Studios

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on April 14, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  521,637


Odometer (ILX):  34,590


Trip Distance:  241 Miles


The Phoenix-to-Tucson Interstate 10 corridor is already a familiar route for my Acura ILX 6-speed.  I’ve driven those 120 miles many times — it’s nice to escape the big city (Phoenix metro area is home to 4 million) for a smaller town feel.  Tucson has just over 500,000 residents and affords great attractions — and more importantly, great roads.

Many months ago, I learned about a must-see “driver’s road” called Gates Pass that existed in the mountains west of the Tucson valley.  It wasn’t until today that I was able to actually experience it.

Making my way out of the Phoenix area, I veered east on Interstate 10 from Loop 202.



About 96 miles after hopping on the 10, I exited Speedway Boulevard in Tucson and noticed that there were signs guiding me to Old Tucson to the west.


Saguaro cacti thrive in this dry, desert environment.  Speedway Boulevard soon slimmed down to 2 lanes from 4, and I started seeing warning signs for Gates Pass.




Gates Pass is a scenic stretch of road that was named after Thomas Gates.  It originally dates back to 1883 when he wanted a shortcut through the mountains.  The road officially starts 7 miles west of Tucson after exiting Interstate 10 at Speedway Boulevard.  Though only a very short 6 miles in length, it’s notorious for being dangerous.

Gates Pass is one of the most dangerous areas to drive around Tucson. The road is narrow and winds around the edge of a large mountain with just a few feet space between the edge of the road and a deep drop off to the valley below. Because of this driving danger, Gates Pass is not open to commercial and large vehicles over 40-50 feet long.

Well, here we go!


Entering Tucson Mountain Park, which encompasses about 20,000 acres of land and established in 1929.



Getting creative with camera angles.  I took it slow and enjoyed the scenery.  Thankfully, there was very little traffic.



I pit stopped at a pullout to enjoy the view for a few minutes.


And soon thereafter, I descended the cut of road seen in the background here.  No guardrail, just some 10 mph curves that have to be handled very carefully – especially when bicyclists are encountered (which is what happened to me!).


I met a very nice couple who took this picture for me.  I asked, “Make sure the car’s in the picture too,” which of course led them to ask why.  I ended up spending about 15 minutes telling them everything about the car and the blog.  They loved it!  And I did, too.


Continuing on Gates where the terrain leveled out a bit.  There were a few more pullouts for photo-ops.


After my drive through Gates, I made a stop at Old Tucson.  This is an old movie set dating back to 1938.  It was first used as a backdrop in the movie “Arizona” (1940) but has since been used in over 400 movies, TV shows, or other features, most of them Westerns.


Entry is $17 for adults but Arizona residents get a $3 discount.  I arrived just in time for the doors to open at 10:00 a.m.


When I set foot into Old Tucson, I truly felt like I was teleporting myself 150 years into the past.  Dirt streets surround over 60 buildings that have been created as part of movie sets over the years.  Even the employees wear period-correct clothing and ride around on horses.  I had to be mindful to watch the ground for horse droppings!

Here’s a (poor quality) video that I shot with my iPhone while wandering around.  The soundtrack that I added seemed very fitting.


I took a 30-minute walking tour with about 25 other people.  Old Tucson gets its name because it’s actually modeled after the original Tucson, Arizona from the year 1863.  When Old Tucson first opened, Gates Pass was only a 1.5-lane dirt road and was very treacherous.  Still, 15,000 people attended opening day and paid 25 cents each for admission.


This original 1939 adobe building is modeled after the first school house in Tucson, built in 1868.  In some films, though, this building was used as a bar instead.


John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Elizabeth Taylor, and Kurt Russell are just a few of the stars who have walked these streets.  This taxidermy shop is one of the original 1939 adobe buildings as well.


Here I am standing in front of the Hotel Del Toro.  This was used in the 1986 movie “Three Amigos.”  That film was supposed to be set in Mexico — thus the reason for the Spanish looking architecture seen here.


I could almost feel the presence of Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, and Martin Short!  The mountain behind them in this picture is clearly visible while standing on the main street in Old Tucson.


Here are a few other shots from around the town.  There are various shops throughout the grounds.


The Saloon and Hotel below doubles as a 13,000-square-foot sound stage and it was built in 1968.


In the distance below, the Mission can be seen.  Unlike most of the other buildings in Old Tucson, this is not a “four-sided” building – it’s only a facade.  The original Mission burned down in a 1994 fire and the replica didn’t have an interior.




Stagecoach rides were available at the O.K. Corral for $3.  I didn’t take the time to do this, nor the (free) 7-minute train tour, but the next time I go back I will definitely check them out!


Speaking of trains, on display at the north end of the facility is this 1872 steam locomotive.  It was used in the film Union Pacific in the late 1930’s, as well as the Clint Eastwood film “Joe Kidd.”  At one point during this locomotive’s life, it was even shipped to Switzerland to appear in a movie there.


Here’s a look inside the courthouse, furnished and ready for its next film debut.


No Acuras allowed.  We travel by horse & carriage around here!


This was my favorite place in all of Old Tucson:  Rx Elixir.  It’s a sandwich shop and soda counter.


Peeking out from above that colorful Mexican blanket is Sharon, the operator of the Rx Elixir.  I went with the Cold Turkey & Cheese Sandwich for $9.  It was a huge sandwich!  Sharon fixed it up with sourdough bread and some homemade pesto mayonnaise.  I highly recommend it.


Here I am about to indulge in my delicious and wholesome lunch.  That ice cold Sioux City Sasparilla root beer really hit the spot to wash it all down.


On my way out, I went inside another of the buildings and saw this prop cannon that was used in the John Wayne 1960 film “The Alamo.”


Last shot with the ILX next to an original lift on display out front.


From Old Tucson, I headed north on the curvy, two-lane Kinney Road.  This was a great driving environment for the ILX with its tight suspension and 6-speed transmission.  I drove past the western region of Saguaro National Park.

That’s a wide road!


This small wooden sign caught my eye in a tiny town called Picture Rocks (population:  8,139).


The Community Center, as it turns out, is that trailer in the background below.  It’s no wonder the sign says “Donations Needed.”  This place has seen better days!


Just a bit further up the road at the intersection of Sandario & Picture Rocks, I found a very special place.


Ladies and gentlemen, I think I’ve found my next auto mechanic: Titan Tire & Wheel.  Just to be sure you won’t miss it, it’s painted bright red and yellow.


But wait!  There’s more.  They also have and “sale” railroad ties, in case I’m ever looking for any!  Talk about one-stop shopping.


Batteries too!  Well, I’ll be darned.


Whoa!  HELLO!!  They do oil changes.  Think they’ve got 0W20 oil in stock for my ILX scheduled maintenance?


Kidding aside, I love places like this.  And I’d happily let them work on my ILX.  Maybe just for a tire rotation.


The ILX flew past this lineup of mailboxes so quickly that I didn’t have time to count them, so I promptly pulled over and looped back.  There were 37 of them in a row!  Some in decent shape, others barely standing.


There was just one more place that I wanted to check out on today’s adventure:  Nickerson Farms Restaurant in Picacho, Arizona off Interstate 10.  After having inhaled that turkey sandwich at Old Tucson not long before, I was far from hungry.  But Nickerson isn’t the place I’d go to satisfy my appetite anyway.  You see, the restaurant’s been closed for over 30 years.


That old boot next to the sign presumably used to have another one next to it.


This particular Nickerson Farms is believed to be the best-preserved of of all the Nickerson “hulks” that are still standing today.  It was in operation from the early 1960’s until 1979.  Since then, it’s been completely abandoned.


In the below picture, see the vehicle parked in the shade underneath the arch that’s farthest away?  That is a blue 1980’s Pontiac Sunbird.  When I pulled up behind it in the ILX, a young man shot up lightning-fast in the driver seat.  He’d been napping in there.  I think I gave him the scare of his life this afternoon!  After parking, I assured him that I was “nobody,” and that I didn’t care if he was catching some shuteye on the shade.  It looked like he’d been living in his Pontiac for some time.


Since the building is clearly visible from Interstate 10, it’s become the victim of plenty of acts of vandalism over the years.  Windows are boarded up.  The brick facade on the exterior has crumbled entirely.


The dual glass doors at the entry way were broken out.  I ducked underneath the handle and let myself inside the building to take a look around.  I was glad to be wearing tennis shoes instead of flip flops due to all the glass on the floor.


The creepiest part about this place was that the original red Naugahyde diner booths are still there, covered in over 3 decades worth of dust.  There were enough holes in the walls to allow a little bit of natural light inside the building, but I relied on my camera’s flash to capture the scene better than my eyes could.


Books and garbage littered the floor.  I looked down and saw this little gem:  A 1990 Buying Guide Issue from Consumer Reports.  I couldn’t resist flipping to the section on Acura vehicles.  Page 165 has the comments on the Acura Legend, which at the time was still in its first generation:

The Acura Legend felt sporty.  Handling was precise and acceleration strong.  Seating was roomy and very comfortable.  The Legend has an excellent repair record.  Bumper test damage:  None.


Time to get out of there – this place was giving me the creeps. Back out the broken glass door I went.


And homeward bound with yet another fun Acura adventure under my belt.  Thanks for coming along as always!

Scorpion Gulch

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on April 10, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  34,184


Ham, sausage, bacon and sharp cheddar.  Those fine ingredients are the makings of the Country Combo omelet at my favorite brunch place in Phoenix:  The Good Egg on Central Avenue.  On Sunday morning, the Acura ILX made its way there with its cousin, a 2006 TL owned by a friend of mine.


Jeremy’s TL has just 111,000 miles on it.  The 2004-2008 TL bodystyle has been a longtime favorite of mine.  This TL is powered by a 270-horsepower, 3.2 liter 24-valve V6 engine.  Jeremy regularly gets 29 mpg on the highway.


After brunch I had a few minutes to kill so I continued down Central Avenue to the south.


At the entrance to 15,000-acre South Mountain Park lie the remains of a building that was once a candy store. The building was constructed in 1936.  As of the 1960’s when the owner was in his 70’s, it was still in operation.  It’s called Scorpion Gulch. Here’s a picture of the area from an undated historic archive:

Scorpion Gulch-Smaller

Oddly enough, I’ve lived in Arizona for over 7 years and never even seen a scorpion, but apparently they’re out there.  I’ve probably jinxed myself and will have one in my shoe tomorrow morning when I get dressed.

ARKive image GES055347 - Arabian fat-tailed scorpion

During late 2012 and early 2013, a “stabilization” effort took place at Scorpion Gulch wherein new window frames were outfitted for the building and the roof was removed (it was too dangerous before).  Only the walls remain.


From a 1966 article about Scorpion Gulch:

In 1936, Lunsford purchased the 100 feet of frontage. He personally hauled the rock and built the store with living quarters attached where he and his wife lived and operated the business. His wife died several years ago and Bill now lives alone.

He doesn’t make much money, what with giving away bottles of pop, and he is one of the few remaining merchants who sells penny candy. He probably gives away more candy than he sells. He just can’t resist giving away candy and pop to his “grandchildren” who lack the necessary money.

It would’ve been great if Scorpion Gulch was still in business so I could buy a drink and a treat.

Does anyone else get nervous like me when they see these “SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE” devices that you can’t back over?


Fun with a mirror in a parking structure in central Phoenix.


And some raindrops later in the week that did little more than muddy up the car.



At the other end of the country, Alan in Florida is putting his 1992 Acura Legend sedan to the test.  He recently pulled a boat with his car.  Now there’s a fine looking tow rig if I’ve ever seen one.  I’m sure he turned a few heads at the marina.


On Monday night, I had a visitor from out of town.  Jake has a 1992 Acura Legend LS Sedan in Sirius White Pearl with 135,911 miles on the odometer.  He’s had it since Fall 2011 and and it’s in excellent condition!


Keen-eyed Legend enthusiasts will notice that Jake ditched the factory 15″, 20-spoke from 1992 and replaced them with some really nice refinished 16″ GS wheels.  His updates carried on to other parts of the car, too.


Up front, a body-color front grille graces the hood.  And inside, Jake has incorporated a GS shift knob.  He went to great lengths to track down some dual piston “Type II” brake calipers and installed those too.


Jake’s next plans for the Legend are some new leather and possibly some window tint.


Thanks for stopping by, Jake!


Finally, I recently came across a list of the 27 “official” Parkways, Historic Roads, and Scenic Roads in the state of Arizona.  It’s time to start crossing these off.  Here’s the list (website allows download of the 6-page PDF).

One in particular that caught my eye was Sky Island Parkway.  So many nearby roads begging to be driven!


Let’s see where I end up next.  Saddle up.

Acura Past & Present

Posted in ILX, Legend, Throwback on April 5, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  521,628


Odometer (ILX):  33,775


Sometimes, history can be fun.  When the Acura brand was born, I was just 5 years old.

“Acura’s Bargain Birth” is a 2011 article on the beginnings of the Acura.  Here’s a link to the page.  The Acura concept was initially called “Channel 2.”  The thought of bringing a car with a V6 powerplant and a pricetag of over $20,000 to the Honda family of automobiles seemed by many to be crazy in the early 1980’s, but that was the idea.  In February 1984, a press release announced the creation of the second brand, which at the time hadn’t yet been named.  I thought this excerpt regarding the Acura name itself was fairly interesting:

The name came from NameLab’s Ira Bachrach, whom Elliott described as “a nutty linguistics professor, with an office on a houseboat in the San Francisco marina.” NameLab proposed a derivative of the Latin word “Accuratus,” which means, “careful, accurate, exact.”

Acura didn’t have a logo until three years after its launch. Initially it was a set of widely stretched mechanical calipers, with a cross-beam that made the logo look more like an “H” than an “A,” in tribute to Honda.

But when Munekuni showed the logo to Soichiro Honda, the company founder said the calipers should be closer together.

“Mr. Honda had no problem with the brand having a different name,” Elliott said. “Actually, Mr. Honda regretted putting his name on his car. We took the Honda name off all Honda products in the U.S. at about the same time as Acura launched. We talked about not putting the Acura name on the car, but it was a new brand, so we had to have it.”

Acura’s first dealership was in Claremont, California and it was called Metro Acura.  Today, there are 272 dealers.


The man at the helm of Acura’s public relations during those formative years was Kurt Antonius.  I have a bunch of old press materials in my literature collection, and one of them is this Press Release dated October 4, 1991 announcing the features of the 1992 Legend.  Kurt’s name is listed as a contact in the header.


Kurt has since retired from the Honda organization but in September 2010, I had the privilege of meeting him at a special Honda S2000 event at the Honda / Acura Headquarters in Torrance, California.


To me, he and the others who led the early efforts of creating the Acura brand were pioneers.  Acura truly did trailblaze the way for other Japanese luxury brands that soon followed suit around 1990 (Lexus, Infiniti).  This is a picture from the February 1989 Chicago Auto Show when the revolutionary all-aluminum NSX sportscar was unveiled.


Thanks Ryan for sharing the article.

Twenty seven years after its introduction, the Acura name to me is still synonymous with precision and performance.  My 2013 ILX 2.4 is a great example of that.  It was a big jump for me to take a 19-model-year leap forward when I retired my 1994 Legend from daily duty and started driving a 2013 ILX.

This week, I had a friend in town from Salt Lake City, Utah for a few days.  At 6’6″, Jeremy doesn’t fit in very many cars, but the ILX seemed to accommodate him well.  He borrowed the car during his Phoenix visit.  He’s owned his fair share of Acuras and definitely joins me in appreciation for the brand.


My car is now 1/3 of the way to 100,000 miles already!


Jeremy sent me a picture of the iMid display showing a call from me.  That was kind of a trip.


Last night, we took the ILX to the “Old Town” Scottsdale for dinner with a couple of friends. The underground parking deck off Camelback Road was eerily vacant but it made for a photo op that was too good to pass up.





On the Legend front, aside from cleaning off the bugs that I picked on my way home from Utah this past weekend, I haven’t done much with it.  I’m getting excited for the Arizona Legend Meet that’ll be held two weeks from tomorrow.

Anybody looking to be my stunt double?  There’s a twin to my Legend and it’s for sale currently in Florida for $3,800.


The ad copy is shown here.


That interior doesn’t look half bad for its age!


For those who are still hungry for a little more of a history lesson today, several weeks ago, I came across an old CD-ROM in my literature collection called the “1995 Acura Advertising Planner.”  It was full of treasures.

This one is my favorite:


Here are some of the others that I enjoyed.















And finally, I feel inclined to share on the blog these latest renderings of the 2014 Acura RLX, courtesy of Dillon – aka “Hondatalover.”  With a few enhancements to the already-handsome RLX design, he has made the conservatively-styled car into a show-stopping hot rod.  Look at those gigantic split 5-spoke wheels.  I love what he’s done there.



The RLX is now, by the way, on sale as of a couple of weeks ago!  I might head over and build & price one of my own on shortly.

RLX SH-AWD online1.121watermark

Thanks Dillon for sharing these!  Hope everyone has a great weekend.