Acura ILX Trip to Utah: Silver Reef Mining Town

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!

10 Responses to “Acura ILX Trip to Utah: Silver Reef Mining Town”

  1. Kevin Amoth Says:

    I bet the gas station owners didn’t have any problems when they filed for a name search! Fantastic blog and pictures.

    • Thanks Kevin! This was a fun one to put together. I had a blast taking the grandparents along for a little drive. In August, I’ll be taking my grandma, my mom, and my aunt on a drive all the way from Phoenix, Arizona to Spokane, Washington. My mom’s already asked me to look into rooftop cargo carriers for the ILX for additional luggage capacity… Oh boy!

  2. Tyson, great history lessons there. Sounds like you had a great trip. I liked reading about your time with the grandparents. I also enjoyed seeing your brother’s Nova. That thing was sharp! The color seemed fitting for that body style. I was thinking I should take my Accord to the same place that did that paint job…so it could be painted RIGHT! Your family looks like fascinating people to be around. Cherish them and keep sharing!

    • Jason, thanks for reading, and I’m glad you enjoyed the story! It’s definitely a lot of information to digest but I have a great time documenting my travels. I believe the Nova paintjob was done in California but I’m not sure of the facility’s name. Your Accord is going to look really nice with those HFP side skirts installed! What’d you decide to do in the back? Leave it alone or find an HFP piece for that as well? Look forward to seeing your car in a couple more weeks out here.

  3. Thanks for the post, Tyson. Over the weekend, I was hanging out with some of my car buddies. One of them has a ’70 Nova with well over 300,000 miles on it. His Aunt bought the car new in 1970 (he still has the order form and window sticker listing the optional rubber floor mats. Lol) and she sold him the car when he turned 16 (his first car). He’s had it ever since. We’ve since rebuilt the engine, trans and suspension to more modern standards, and installed 4 wheel disk brakes. But it still has the original (and extremely tired) dark green paint. While we were hanging out, one of his friends pulled up in his new acquisition: a 1976 Coupe Deville with 30,000 original miles. It’s been in storage for 20 years, and the interior is perfect. 500 cu in engine. What a beast. We’re thinking “road trip” in the Caddy, as soon as we put new tires on it and give it a once over.

    • Jon, that Cadillac would make an ultra plush road trip ride! Keep me posted if you guys follow through with that! That Coupe Deville is over 19 feet long, is over 4 feet longer than my ILX sedan. I bet the hood on the Caddy goes forever. Anyway, I’d love to see some pictures of your buddy’s 1970 Nova, even if the green paint isn’t show-quality status. Sounds like a relatively well preserved example, especially if it’s still running after 300,000 miles! I’d better be careful or I’m going to get the classic car “itch” and need to get one myself…

  4. That Chevy Nova looks INCREDIBLE!!! What a beautiful color for a paint job. I love old cars like that. One things I miss about old cars is chrome front and rear bumpers. You can paint a modern car with that same color and it will not look as stunning. The combination of the chrome wheels, chrome stripping around the windows and specially chrome front and rear bumpers with that paint looks fantastic.

    • You’re right – the chrome on today’s cars is a lot more subtle. I am reminded of my late grandfather’s 1950 Buick Special that had a REALLY toothy chrome grille.

      Those were the days! Anyway, I’m glad you liked the Nova. The next time I’m up in Utah (probably another 4-6 weeks) it’ll have a new radiator and be ready for me to test drive. I’ll definitely be getting some additional pictures and video at that time.

  5. Great post and a kick ass looking Nova!

    • Dave, thanks! I appreciate you still reading along and for your continued involvement with the Acura forums. You’re definitely keeping the Legend enthusiast world alive with the group buys you’ve put on. Anyway, I agree on the Nova. I’m going to try and talk my brother into letting me borrow that thing for a couple of weeks this summer. It’s A/C-equipped but I’m not so sure that it’s ready to keep up with Phoenix temps…

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