Archive for October, 2013

ILX Drive to Utah: St. George Marathon

Posted in ILX, Road Trip, Running, Utah on October 6, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  55,836


Odometer (Legend):  527,113


What does it take to travel 26.2 miles?

When I’m in my 2013 Acura ILX, it requires about .79 gallons of premium unleaded gasoline.


When I’m equipped with nothing more than a pair of running shoes, the fuel requirement is a bit more involved.

  • 1/2 bagel with peanut butter
  • 5 bites of a chocolate mint “Builder Bar”
  • 3 “GU” energy gel packets
  • 1/2 a banana
  • 6 orange slices
  • est. 1/2 gallon of water and/or gatorade
  • and 1 red vine licorice strip at mile 18

I think my car wins by a landslide in terms of efficiency.  Let’s talk about running.

The very world’s first marathon dates back a very long time:

The modern marathon commemorates the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield at the site of the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C., bringing news of a Greek victory over the Persians. Legend has it that Pheidippides delivered the momentous message “Niki!” (“victory”), then collapsed and died, thereby setting a precedent for dramatic conclusions to the marathon.

Say what?  We commemorate the event of this soldier’s death by subjecting ourselves to the same tortuous treatment?  You bet we do.  And sometimes we even have fun doing it.  This weekend, I drove my Acura ILX about 850 miles round-trip to my hometown of St. George, Utah to compete in a marathon hosted there.


I’m happy to report that I did survive the event and even performed a little better than anticipated.  This was the 5th time I’ve finished this race, and I plan on competing again next year. The ILX, as always, made the trip to Utah flawlessly.  I invite you to follow along on the journey via the photos below.


Highway 93 between Wickenburg and Wikeup, Arizona offered a nice backdrop for some photos as I was rolling through last Thursday evening.


Dusk is my preferred time of day to take car pictures.  The ILX has great lines:



The face of determination.  In the 16 months I’ve had the ILX, it’s probably made this trip to Utah a dozen times.


First order of business upon arrival in Las Vegas, Nevada was picking up my friend Jeff who’d flown down from Calgary, Alberta.  Jeff is a marathon runner, too, and a quick one at that.


No trip to St. George would have been complete without seeing these little munchkins, my nieces & nephews.


Jeff and I did a little climbing in the red sandstone rocks just north of town.  The word “Dixie” painted on the rock has been there for over a hundred years.  The area was settled originally by Mormon pioneers who were from the south.  The area’s climate made it a great place to grow cotton, so St. George became known as “Utah’s Dixie.”



Race day!  Early on Saturday morning after a 40-minute bus ride to the start line, we freezed our buns off in 40-degree temperatures with lots of chilly wind until things got underway.


And we were off!  Jeff and I (and my mom, who was also running) got separated from one another right away in the crowd.  For the first couple of miles, runner traffic was heavy.  I took the below picture at around mile 14 when Snow Canyon State Park came into view.


I wonder what was on my playlist at the time.  Typically, the songs I like best when I’m running are ones that have a good beat.  Here’s one example on YouTube which is a remix of the Cranberries song “Zombie.”


My fan club (of which Grandma is president!) was alongside the road at about mile 24.  She’d put together a sign for me.


If I’d been running this race prior to 1924, I would have crossed the finish line then.  The “original” marathon distance was 24 miles, but an additional 2.2 miles were added at the Olympic games in London so the race could finish in front of royal family’s viewing box!

There were lots of clever signs along the road, including this one near a mortuary.


Others that I laughed at:

  • “WTF” (Where’s the Finish!?)
  • (with a picture of Sweet Brown) “Tired?  Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!”
  • “Run Faster.  I Just Farted.”
  • “Worst Parade Ever.”
  • “That’s Not Sweat.  It’s Your Fat Cells Crying!”

Whatever the message, it was great to have a diversion from the pavement and I love the crowd support that is always in abundance at the St. George Marathon.  My final stats are shown on the graphic below.  My finish time was 4 hours, 18 minutes.  That put me smack-dab in the middle of my “age grade.”


When we dig a little deeper into the data, it’s easy to see how much I was slowing down toward the end.  I started out with a sub-9-minute mile, but by the end I was taking nearly 10 minutes per mile.


Jeff blazed through the race in 3 hours 28 minutes.  My mom’s finish time was 4 hours, 3 seconds!  I was the slow poke of the group. We treated ourselves to popsicles, fruit, bread, water and all kinds of other refreshments at the finish.


The first place winner in my division, Bryant Jensen, finished in 2 hours 15 minutes!  That works out to a 5:15 minute mile pace.  Unbelievable speed to maintain for that kind of distance.  Below, Jeff and mom were taking time for a stretch.  Hey guys, easy on the paint job please!


Cheesy photo-op required.


Time for Play-Doh with the kids.


Just a few hours of relaxation later, Jeff and I departed through the Virgin River Gorge on Interstate 15 southbound to make the 100-mile trip to Las Vegas, Nevada for the night.


A true oasis in the desert, this city gets a little more colorful every time I visit.  Las Vegas is a true 24/7 entertainment destination.


I parked next to a Sundance Gold Pearl 2001 Acura CL Type-S at our hotel, the Mandalay Bay.


Later that evening, we did some walking (or better yet, hobbling) around to see some of the sights.  The New York-New York Casino is famed for its architecture in the likeness of the NYC city skyline, except with somewhat miniaturized buildings.  There’s a roller coaster that circles the property.  I won’t be riding it any time soon!


We ran into our friend Deena on the Las Vegas Strip.


Pictured here are Paris and Planet Hollywood casinos.


It was a great night out on the town, though I was exhausted from the run earlier in the day.

This morning on my drive home to Phoenix in Boulder City, Nevada, I hit a fun milestone in the ILX.  If only the outside temperature had been 6 degrees cooler, this would have been 55,555 miles at 55 miles per hour in 55 degrees.



Drive to Five Review: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4MATIC Wagon

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on October 2, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  527,087


Odometer (ILX):  54,879



I think the Phoenix-based automotive press fleet company is trying to tell me something:  the first two vehicles I’ve been been able to review (Mitsubishi Outlander, and now the E-Class Wagon) have been family-hauling 7-seaters.  Time for me to think about settling down perhaps?

I fell in love with the Mercedes E-Wagon at first sight.  My first thought when I approached it was, “AMG sport wheels and cross-drilled rotors… on a wagon?” It was 2:30 p.m. on a Wednesday and the E350’s Palladium Silver paint was blinding in the Arizona sunlight, but I wanted to study each and every one of the body’s curves.  The best way I can describe this car:  It’s a sports car with seating for seven.

The E350 Wagon hadn’t been in my driveway longer than 5 minutes when a neighbor from across the street came over to check it out.  He’s a former Mercedes-Benz E320 owner and marveled at the advancements.


“This is really new,” he said.  I assured him that, indeed, the car had just 1,363 miles on the odometer.


… And that new car smell, which I just can’t seem to get enough of.


Later that same day, I received this text from my roommate while I was out for a run:


Needless to say, this Benz gets plenty of attention!

But how does it drive?  It took me some time to become acquainted with the cabin.  In German fashion, the adjustments for the driver’s seat position are located on the door panel.  I finally got comfortable and then had to figure out how to operate the transmission.  A lever to the right of the steering wheel makes that pretty straightforward.


The sly grin on my face as I rounded the first corner was just the beginning.  When held at higher RPM with the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, the E350 becomes a torquey monster.  Its 302 horses and 275 lb-ft of torque are enough to make the driver forget that this is, after all, a wagon.  Well done, Mercedes.


The engine has a nice tone and even though heavily sound-deadened, still growls when you really want it to.  The cabin feels tight and quality.  I enjoyed the solid feel of the doors as they closed.

My test car was equipped with a whopping $9,970 in optional equipment, including the following:

  • 3-Spoke Sport Steering Wheel
  • 18-Inch AMG Wheels
  • Heated Front Seats
  • High-Performance Tires
  • Premium 1 Package (Navigation, Traffic, Weather, Rear Side Window Sunshades)
  • Lighting Package (Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Full LED Headlamps with Curve/Corner Illumination)
  • Sport Package (Lowered Suspension, Sport Body Styling)
  • Parking Assist Package (Active Parking Assist, Surround View Camera System)
  • Driver Assistance Package (Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Cross-Traffic Assist, Pedestrian Recognition Braking)

That list of add-ons brought the as-tested price of my wagon to $70,215:  roughly twice as-equipped price of my 2013 Acura ILX.  It’s hard to say if this is twice the car, though.  There are plenty of examples of Mercedes automobiles achieving mileage in the several hundred thousands, but how much does it cost in maintenance to get one there?

I talked with the local Mercedes dealership here in Scottsdale.  This car’s first oil change is scheduled at 10,000 miles and costs $235.00.  Thereafter, “major” maintenance is every 20,000 miles at around $600 each time.  Doesn’t seem all that bad, but I’d like to put one of these to a long-term test and see how it fares.


Styling from the front 3/4 view is aggressive with a wide-mouth front bumper.


The back end of the Benz sure is beefy.  Surprisingly, though, rearview visibility is good from inside the cabin.


My roommate’s brother currently drives a 2010 E350 Bluetec.  He commented that the 2014’s seats are much better.  He liked the gauges and the active front lighting system.  Let’s take a look at our interior accommodations.

First class (front buckets):


Coach (2nd row bench).  Nice leg room here and easy step-in.


And Economy (rear-facing 3rd row / bench in the far back).  Forgive me for not raising the headrests for the picture.  This cute little seat is best reserved for kids.


This Active Lighting System really is definitely all it’s cracked up to be.  Instead of just shutting off immediately when you hit the switch, the lights actually dim out slowly.  Kind of a neat feature.


Look closely underneath that gigantic star emblem on the grille and you’ll spy one of several cameras on this car.


Together, they make an “around-view” birds-eye-view of the car when it’s in Reverse (note left side of screen).


I do love these AMG 18″ wheels.


Here are my “Likes” about this E350 (Random Order):

  • Steering wheel grip & hand-holds.  It’s one of the most comfortable wheels I’ve ever held.
  • Power is more than ample and this car is far more FUN than I anticipated it would be.
  • Paddle shifts command near-immediate reaction from the powertrain.
  • Handling is amazing for a vehicle of this size & profile.
  • For the most part, controls are intuitive.
  • Technology & driver-assist features are advanced.  Back-up camera is very clear.
  • Elegant touches (example:  strip lighting illuminates the lower half of the instrument panel at night)
  • Estimated 26 mpg highway is great considering the level of performance in this car.
  • 4MATIC All-Wheel-Drive system gives all-weather capability and confidence.
  • Very tight turning radius for a vehicle of this size.


  • Call/ “help” button is next to (and same size as) map light button on overhead panel.  I accidentally activated a call when trying to hit the button for the light.
  • Active seat belt tighteners cinch up the belts after you click them into place.  I’m guessing these could be turned off, though.
  • Car defaults to ECO mode when first started.  When in ECO, the car’s engine shuts off at stop lights.  The re-start is very smooth, but I didn’t like how ECO seemed to prevent the climate control from working full-blast in the hot Phoenix afternoon.  Again, perhaps customizable?
  • Needs cooled/ventilated seats for a car of this pricetag.
  • Cruise control lever is hidden behind/below the steering wheel and no controls are on the wheel itself.

Other than those few items, there’s very little NOT to like about this Mercedes.  $70k is a big chunk of change – and probably more than I’ll ever spend on a vehicle – but this car definitely delivers in ways that should make Mercedes proud.  I’d rock this wagon on a cross-country road trip any day of the week.

Many thanks to Mercedes for the vehicle loan!

I flew to Dallas last weekend, so I need to play catch-up on mileage somehow.  Don’t despair; a road trip is on the way.  Tomorrow, I’ll depart for St. George, Utah to compete in the 37th annual marathon there.

The ILX will get a solid 800 or more miles on it by Sunday. And you can bet I’ll report back with the latest.



Have a great weekend!