Acura Group Drive Part 2: Madera Canyon in Green Valley, Arizona

Odometer (Legend):  528,557


Odometer (ILX):  65,397


Welcome back!  It was an Acurrific Saturday with our caravan of three Acuras around the hills of Tucson, Arizona.  This is a continuation of our adventure from that day full o’ fun.  After having visited the Kitt Peak National Observatory, the next destination on our radar was a small canyon located about 25 miles south of Tucson called Madera Canyon.


From the Kitt visitor center parking lot, we stood about 4,000 feet above the elevation at the valley floor below.  We eagerly climbed into our sport sedans and set out to experience an exhilarating drive.  Paul led the way in Sport mode with his pearl white TL SH-AWD, while I followed closely behind in the ILX and Jason brought up the rear in his black TL SH-AWD.  The Kitt Peak access road is a driving enthusiast’s dream:  a 12-mile narrow two-laner with plenty of blind/sharp corners and some seriously panoramic views of the valley floor below.   All drivers’ eyes, however, were glued to the road ahead rather than the peripheral views because the highway begged to be experienced at speed.

Thankfully, the ILX 2.4 is a high-revving machine and I was able to go easy on the brakes as I slid the gearbox between 3rd & 4th gears and listened to the growl at 4,000 RPM and higher.  At over 65,000 miles I’ve yet to do any work to the brakes and I’ve only had the manual transmission fluid changed once.  It’s still as smooth as the day I got the car with 16 miles on it in June 2012.  And even without AWD, it held its own against the TLs in the corners!

After the refreshing (and remarkably traffic-free) descent to the valley floor, our Acuras then made their way across Highway 86 toward Interstate 19 and the town of Green Valley.  As I’ve blogged before, I-19 is the only interstate in the country that is signed with metric distances.  At Exit 63 (63 kilometers from the Mexican border) we exited for lunch at The Olives Bistro. From there, we were just moments away from our final destination for the day.

Madera Canyon (madera, by the way, is Spanish for “wood”) winds some 25 miles through the Santa Rita Mountains as it gains elevation.  The canyon is one of the southwest’s most popular places for birdwatching.  There are over 250 species that call this area home, including 15 different species of hummingbirds.  The two-lane road that winds its way through the canyon is a dead end.  There is a visitor parking lot at the end that also doubles as a trailhead for a half-dozen different hikes.  Jason, Paul, and I hiked about 30 minutes toward Josephine Saddle before deciding to double back.


The few times when we stopped to catch our breath on the steep incline, we noted how silent it was.  No rustling of leaves, no sounds of traffic.  It was just us and nature.  On the note of “sounds,” we did have one funny realization over the course of Saturday’s trip.  Each time we’d all pull our cars over to get a group picture, as soon as we exited our vehicles with our key fobs in our pockets, our Acuras would beep due to the key proximity sensors alerting us that the keys were not detected.  It was a symphony of Acura beeps and we had a good laugh about it.

On the way out of the canyon, we made a pit stop at a gift shop full of bird feeders, postcards, and walking sticks.  Here are the photos and a video from the rest of our Saturday trip!

Metric units of measure abound in the regions surrounding Interstate 19 south of Tucson


Only in Arizona do you have to watch out for prickly cacti when exiting your vehicle.


Lunch at The Olives Bistro was excellent.  I recommend the hummus!


From there, we were only about 10 miles from the southern end of the Madera Canyon road.  State Route 83 is accessed via a separate (dirt) road that branches off the main highway.  I’ll save that drive for another day!


It was a perfect afternoon to explore a new destination.


Can’t complain about the scenery in the rearview mirror, either.


We drove over a total of five one-lane bridges to get to the trailhead at the end of the canyon.


Jason rolled down his window and all I heard was Journey blasting at full volume.


Map in hand, we paid our $5 for day use and headed to the Mount Baldy hike trailhead.


I definitely didn’t have the energy to attempt Mt. Wrightson at 10 (steep) miles round-trip.


Taking a quick breather.



Back at the cars!  There was a family the came walking past.  “Look at all the Acuras,” one boy said as he pointed to our trio of backed-in cars.  We all just laughed.


There’s a warning sign you don’t see every day!


This gift shop was full of knick-knacks, but I decided against making a purchase.


Alright, classic car gurus.  Tell me what we’re looking at here.  I’m guessing 1952 Chevy station wagon.  The body was remarkably rust-free!  This was sitting hidden off the main road, tucked away.


Fun restoration candidate for someone!  Jason’s first comment as we were walking up to it:  “Hey, is that a first generation HHR?”  Haha.


Thanks, Paul and Jason, for a great day on the road!


Heading back toward civilization.


Jason’s TL was my GoPro stand for a few miles.


Great driving music.  Give it a listen.


What Arizona road trip would be complete without a stunning sunset?


The end.  Until next time, at least.

6 Responses to “Acura Group Drive Part 2: Madera Canyon in Green Valley, Arizona”

  1. Kevin Amoth Says:

    Rock Me Amadeus will never replace Top Gun in my “itch.” Great read Tyson.

    • I know I could never find a song as suitable for spirited Acura driving as “Danger Zone,” but every once in awhile I find one that’s ALMOST as cool. Thanks for reading, Kevin. I look forward to seeing the itch in about 6 months.

  2. I beg to differ with Kevin regarding Amadeus versus Danger Zone (Top Gun). Haha. I guess it depends on how fast you’re driving. Did you and Paul not get the memo to Jason to wear gray? Looking good ya’ll!

  3. That Go-Pro couldn’t have been a better investment. Loved the video and some of your photos could be ad-worthy! I’d say no Acura in this trio is better than the other. All we needed to complete the picture was an NSX. 🙂 Oh, and it’s funny because I deliberately left my gray shirts at home since I ALWAYS wear gray. Haha

    • I love my little GoPro! The more I learn about it, the more impressed I am with it. Great buy @ $200 – I’ve gotten my money’s worth. The NSX will come out of hiding this summer for a drive sometime, I’m certain. It would’ve made a great canyon carver for Kitt.

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