Archive for February, 2015

Drive to Five Review: 2015 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD

Posted in Arizona, TLX, Vehicle Reviews on February 25, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,599


Odometer (ILX):  113,669


Odometer (TLX):  3,177


Trip Distance:  334 Miles



“It’s that kind of thrill.”  It was a pretty bold move on behalf of Acura’s marketing department to center the TLX launch campaign around the world “thrill.”

The car is, after all, just another midsize family sedan in a crowded market segment.  The majority of the 20,000 or so TLX models that have sold since the car went on sale last August are probably dutifully shuttling executives to work, hauling mom or dad to the grocery store, or basking in the sun at the mall parking lot.  But when called upon, can the TLX provide the driving excitement that Acura promised?

I’d been itching for a chance to do a full evaluation on the all-new Acura TLX since I saw the Prototype version debut in its glistening “Athletic Red” paint job at the Detroit Auto Show over a year ago.


Since then, I’ve been behind the wheel twice – once for an initial test-drive from my local dealership, and once during last October’s Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year event.  Both of those cars – as well as the one that I’ve been tooling around in for the last few days – were V6 models.  The TLX is also offered in 4-cylinder configuration, powered by the same 2.4 liter that’s now standard on the smaller 2016+ ILX model.

Let’s talk tech later.  How is this thing to drive?  Well, I was working from home the day that it was delivered, and the first place I needed to go was to get lunch.  It took me a minute to tell myself silently, “No clutch.  Just a brake pedal and pushing buttons.”  I’ve been kicking at a clutch pedal since I was 17 so every time I get into an automatic, it’s culture shock.  In the 3 miles from my house to the nearest Panda Express, though, I was already sold.  Perhaps it’s because I’m used to a 113,000-mile ILX suspension, but I couldn’t get over how smoothly the TLX carried itself.



Where To?

To really put this new TLX to the test, I decided I needed introduce it to one of my favorite Arizona scenic byways:  Highway 77 through the Salt River Canyon.  I’ve blogged about the route a few times, most recently on my Christmas Day trip, but the place is cool enough that it deserved another look.  Our 300+ mile route offered a combination of freeways, two-lane twisties, and some good inclines for power evaluation.  As with most of my drives, the participating vehicles were assorted.  In the mix this time, we had a 2015 Lexus RC-F, a 1998 BMW M3, and the 2015 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD.  The Lexus was piloted by friend and colleague James who authors Six Speed Blog.


It became quickly apparent that the TLX was definitely the preferred “cruiser” of the pack.  It plays in a different realm than the two door sports coupes, pampering its driver and passengers in creature comforts and a smooth ride.  A few spirited acceleration runs up the highway to redline with the paddles, though, taught us that the 3.5 liter V6 has a nice audible growl when pushed, and its 290 horses did a respectable job of keeping up with the Lexus’ 467.


One place we got to hear those horses gallop was through the 1/4-mile-long Queen Creek Tunnel just east of Superior on US Highway 60.  There’s something about being inside a tunnel that makes every car fanatic want to roll down the windows, hammer down on the throttle, and listen to the symphony of intake & exhaust echoing off the walls.

I remember seeing an old Acura TV commercial awhile back that criticized some luxury automakers for making their cars too isolated.  The basic message was, “If you separate the driver too much from the road, a driving experience isn’t an experience at all.”  I feel like that’s where the TLX strikes a nice balance — it’s a car that you can drive cross-country without getting exhausted, but it doesn’t feel like a vault and there’s still a fun-factor when you want there to be.





On the outside, the TLX exhibits a conservative shift from the polarizing, angular design of the 4th generation TL.  Perhaps it’s even too conservative, some of the people in our group said.  My test car’s “Black Copper Pearl” paint gave off a nice brown sparkle in direct sunlight and looked pretty much black in every other lighting condition.


I’m of course a fan of the “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps, now standard across the entire Acura lineup as of the 2016 model year.  My test car was equipped with the Advance package, which means I got LED foglights as well.  Those two lighting systems make this the best car I’ve ever driven with regard to nighttime illumination.  Speaking of lighting, the Advance package also gave me “puddle” lights underneath each sideview mirror that turned on when approaching the car at night.


My demo TLX was outfitted with 18″ wheels, but the accessory 19’s really make the TLX pop:





Inside the cabin, my test car’s “Espresso” leather interior got a lot of positive feedback.  Finishes have a premium feel to them, and a few people commented on the stainless steel looking dash trim.  Interior designers have obviously gone to great lengths to make the TLX interior a nice place to spend time in.  Heated & cooled seats keep things comfortable, but I wish they could be activated via button or dial rather than the touch-screen interface.  Throughout the course of the day, I test-drove (test-sat?) every seat including the back.  Head & leg room are great, and I liked the HVAC vents for the rear seats.


The center console has a handy rubberized platform/tray for your iPhone or iPod, and the plug-in jack is easily accessed underneath.  The gauges, as in every Acura I’ve driven, are perfectly laid out for at-a-glance feedback.  Driver visibility is excellent all the way around – made possible in part by that “frameless” rearview mirror attached to the windshield.  I loved that the sideview mirrors on the TLX dim at night just like that center mirror does.  It really helps keep the glare down.

The instrument panel is outfitted with Acura’s signature dual-screen layout, to which I’ve already become accustomed in the RLX and MDX on my reviews previously.  The lower touch-screen controls the climate and audio functions, while the upper screen is for display-only.  I usually left it on map view.  It does take some time to become acquainted with the controls, but the menus are intuitive, screen resolution good, and response time immediate.

I do find it odd that a $46k car doesn’t have an electronic tilt/telescoping steering wheel.  It’s repositioned via old-fashioned lever underneath it.  Even my 1994 Legend coupe has power controls for the wheel.  That being said, the TLX interior was still praised many times throughout the day (and week) as an extremely comfortable place to be.




From a tech perspective, the pieces are all there.  I played around with the ELS stereo system and pushed the bass and subwoofer all the way to the max.  It rocks nicely.  I recommend playing Metallica’s “Unforgiven II” at full volume to experience it like I did.

There are plenty of creature comforts like push-button start and auto-unlocking doors when you walk up to the car with the key in your pocket – these are much-appreciated standard fare on even the base TLX.

I’m not thrilled with the fact that the volume & track adjustment button are the same on the steering wheel (spinny up/down wheel for the volume, left/right toggle for the track).  My fat thumb accidentally changed the track a couple times when I was going for the volume.  Additionally, we were bummed to learn that the car doesn’t allow Bluetooth phone pairing while the vehicle is in motion.  I understand the logic, but even as a passenger that functionality is locked out.


The TLX’s driver-assistance tech is extensive, starting with a standard back-up camera.  I liked the blind spot detection system which illuminates an indicator on the A-pillar when a vehicle is positioned in the blind spot.  The TLX also has sensors all the way around it – and they’re ultra sensitive too.  Even if someone is walking along next to the front of the TLX, it displays “approaching object” on the screen and gives an audible beep.


Finally, the adaptive cruise control is a handy feature that tells the car to keep a pre-set distance between itself and the vehicle ahead.  If you inadvertently ever hit something with the TLX, you really aren’t paying attention.


Quote of the day goes to Ryan who excitedly ran up to me and said, “Acura hasn’t lost their soul!”  He’d just discovered that the TLX has a feature, just like his 2006 Acura TL does, that will roll up/down all the windows & moonroof by sticking the key in the door lock and holding it left or right.  That discovery pretty much made his day.

Driving Experience

The TLX’s direct-injected 3.5 liter V6 engine is the star of the show.  It delivers 290 horses’ worth of usable power throughout the rev range, but really starts to come alive after about 5,000 RPM.  I can only imagine how nice it would sound with a sport-tuned exhaust system of some sort – perhaps as an option on an A-Spec TLX if there ever were such a thing.  Acura, are you listening?


I’m still waiting for the 9-speed automatic transmission to woo me since I’m first and foremost a “stick shift” guy, but I certainly realize what a minority that makes me.  Understandably, that number of gear selections does make for some pretty extensive gear-hunting while in motion.  When prompted via throttle input, there’s a pause of questioning before the TLX gives you forward momentum.  Using the wheel-mounted paddle shifters helps the situation, and “Sport” mode forces the car hold each gear a little longer.  That gives you an experience that’s about as close as you can get to a manual transmission without having a clutch pedal.


There are obvious benefits to having so many gears from an MPG perspective:  From Payson to Scottsdale on Highway 87, we cruised at 80 mph in 9th gear while the engine barely breathed – sitting at fewer than 2,000 RPM.  That bodes well for fuel economy, with the TLX getting 21 city & 31 highway.  The auto start/stop feature helps with that too, when idling at a stoplight – though I wish the system wouldn’t always default to ON each time the car is started if I’ve manually deactivated it.

I described the handling feel to a friend as compared to having super glue on the tires.  Equipped with Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD), the TLX is darn near impossible to break loose in any kind of cornering situation.  The car stays planted at speed.  Perhaps that “low center of gravity” was thanks in part to the fact that the car carried 4 occupants for most of our day, but it really did inspire a great deal of confidence on some of the technical parts of our drive.


Final Take

The TLX excels where its engineers wanted it to – it’s a competent cruiser that blends just the right amount of refinement with recreation.  Its few shortcomings are outweighed by its virtues, and it’s a car I would feel right at home putting 500,000 miles (or more) on.  It’s just too bad my fortune from Panda Express discouraged me from taking on another car payment.


Please enjoy the rest of the pics from our trip below!

21 year gap in automotive advancement:


Getting ready to head out on our drive


Pit stop just east of the Queen Creek Tunnel on US 60


Gotta love that “Dakar Yellow” E36!


RC-F following TLX


Pit stop in the Salt River Canyon, with Jack and Peter


Salt River as seen looking east from the base of the canyon


James, Chris, Tyson, Ryan


Taking a breather and enjoying the scenery


Back to the cars we go


Welcome to Show Low, Arizona


Lunch spot:  Licano’s Mexican food & steakhouse


Eight hungry roadtrippers


And a 9-story iPhone tower


“Can you hear me now?”


Thanks for joining on the drive!

Throwback Thursday: 10 Years Ago in Utah

Posted in Legend, Throwback, Utah on February 19, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,592


Odometer (ILX):  113,347


Odometer (TLX):  2,736


Ten years ago, I was 23 and the Legend was 11.  It had traveled a mere 159,000 miles.  Those were the days!  Today, we’re taking a drive back in time to the year 2005.  George W. Bush had recently been sworn in on his second term as president.  Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast.  Will Smith starred in the movie Hitch.  And Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” was the most-downloaded song of the year.  Can you believe it’s been a decade?


In February of that year, I was a plowing through my undergraduate degree at Utah State University in a town called Logan. The highlight of my college career was meeting Bill Nye the Science Guy at an assembly.


I’d only owned my 1994 Acura Legend for a couple of years, but I was already documenting my travels with plenty of pictures.  Here are a few shots I dug up from the “Feb 05” archives in a box and scanned.  Indeed, back in that day I used to have nearly all of my digital camera’s photos printed up as 3×5’s at Walmart.  I’m glad THAT tradition fell by the wayside.  I’d have filled a library by now with all the volumes of photo albums.

In the below photo, I was hanging out my sunroof whilst paying a visit to my friend Nate.  As you can tell, Nate was quite the Honda-fan, too.  Notice the Accord, the Odyssey, and three Legends (besides mine) at his family’s home in Sandy, just south of Salt Lake City.  There’s a black 1995 LS coupe peeking out behind the white sedan.


I decided to send the picture to Nate and see if it looked at all familiar to him.


Sounds like Nate’s family has upgraded to newer cars.  He said his dad’s now in a TL Type-S and his mom is in a newer Odyssey.  At least they’re still as Honda-loyal as ever.  Here are a few other pictures I dug up.

Snow Canyon State Park, St. George Utah


Winter evening in Cache Valley, northern Utah


From that same photoshoot:  Train tracks.  Don’t try this at home, kids!


Highway 89 through Logan Canyon.  This scene brings back memories.  I’ll never forget the day I was off galavanting after a fresh snowstorm and decided to pull a U-turn in some snow on the side of the road.  The snow ended up being a lot deeper than it looked, and I got my car hopelessly stuck.  Cell service sucked but my little Samsung flip-phone eked out a call for help to a tow company operated by my dad’s friend, and a guy came to shovel/push me out.


Frosty morning before hiking to class (yes, uphill both ways, in the snow)


Speaking of snow:  We did get our fair share that winter.


The aftermath was pretty entertaining.  I don’t even know if I owned an ice scraper.  I know that I don’t have one today.


Camouflage.  It fits right in with the background.


I bet it was a good ski season that year.


Mostly cleaned off.


Antelope Island, an island in the Great Salt Lake.  The entire island is a state park.


So that was February 2005 in a dozen memorable pictures. Before we know it, we’ll be in the year 2025 and I’ll be reminiscing about 2015 just like this.  Meanwhile, over at my house, there’s new kid on the block this week.


More to come!

Saturday Drive: Lynx & Watson Lakes in Central Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on February 15, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,587


Odometer (ILX):  113,171


Trip Distance:  226 Miles


I recently saw one of those “You know you’re from such-and-such place when…” lists.  It talked about the joys of living in sunny Arizona — a place where the best parking spot is determined by shade, not by distance.  One of the items on the list was “You no longer associate bridges or rivers with water.”  That is pretty true!  We have dozens of bridges that cross over dry riverbeds.  Many times, the only times those rivers get wet is during our rainy “monsoon” season in late summer.

For some reason, it’s tough for people to believe that we do have our fair share of water here in the Grand Canyon state.  Central Arizona has a couple of beautiful reservoirs that I’d been wanting to check out for some time now, and I thank my friends Peter and Jack for cluing me in on them.


The Prescott National Forest covers 1.25 million acres of land in north-central Arizona and is an easy getaway (< 2-hour drive) from the Phoenix area.  The key draw is the climate, since temperatures can be up to 20 degrees cooler in the summertime than they are in Phoenix. I took off on a Saturday morning and headed north on I-17 to do a little exploration of my own.  Traffic was on the heavy side until I broke away on Highway 69 toward the Prescott Valley area.


A few minutes from downtown Prescott, Lynx Lake is a hot spot for fishermen since it’s stocked regularly with rainbow trout by the Arizona Fish & Game Department.  It covers 55 acres and was formed in 1952 when a dam was built on Lynx Creek downstream.  I took a little one-lane road to a parking area along the south end of the lake.  I didn’t linger longer than a few minutes for pictures.  Oddly enough, when I sent a picture of my car to Peter, he responded within minutes by sending me a picture of his car parked in the exact same spot.  Great minds think alike.


Just 7 miles away from Lynx lies an even larger body of water called Watson Lake that dates back to the early 1900s and covers 70 acres of area.  I paid my $2 day-use entry fee using the automated machine at the entrance to Watson Lake Park, then cruised around to see what this place was all about.  A group of 25 or more motorcyclists had overtaken one of the parking lots, so I continued driving around and found the entrance to a boat ramp.  I figured – what the heck – and drove down the ramp.  Unfortunately, parking was not allowed so I had to loop back to the visitor lot to leave the car there.  That was fine since it was a perfect 70-degree day and I wanted get out of the car and hike around anyway.



Watson is surrounded by a variety of sandstone rock formations.  Water conditions were calm and I watched a few people launch kayaks from the ramp.  For being a Saturday, things were pretty calm and quiet, tourist-wise.  I plopped down on a rock and just soaked in the scenery (and sunshine) for about 20 minutes.  When the time came to exit the park, there was a lineup of a half-dozen cars waiting to pay at the gate and enter.  I rolled down my window down and held out my parking pass.  A woman in a black Honda Civic graciously took it from me when I offered it to her. Saved her $2!

I had just one more place to visit before my trip was complete.  I’d recently learned of Jack Ass Acres in New River off I-17 just north of Phoenix, so I pulled off the interstate long enough to get this picture.  Jack Ass was once a gas station, convenience store, and souvenir shop but it appears to have been abandoned for decades.  The building’s roof is crudely lined in barbed wire and the paint it peeling from every panel.  Still, it makes a fun pit stop!


It was a fun day experiencing some of Arizona’s beautiful scenery and I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the pictures here.

Heading toward Prescott Valley on Highway 69


Quick stop in the historic town of Dewey-Humboldt


Lynx Lake entrance


Approaching the parking area at Lynx Lake


Access to Lynx is via this one-lane, pine tree-lined, loop


Photo-op at Lynx


The ILX parked momentarily on the boat ramp at Watson Lake


Driving back up the boat ramp at Watson to the parking lot


Unfortunately, no swimming allowed!


A kayaker sets sail


Back to the parking lot


Another area of the lake with a dock


Heading back home, northbound on Highway 89


That’s not confusing at all.  Two highways named “89A”?


Jack Ass Acres as seen from New River Road


Jack Ass sign


Starting this Wednesday, I’ll be in a 2015 Acura TLX for a week to drive & review it.  Where will I go?  Wait & see!

Quick Eats: MacAlpine Restaurant in Phoenix

Posted in Arizona, ILX on February 11, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,536


Odometer (ILX):  112,778



Let’s shift gears today (literally and figuratively) but keep our road trip right here in town.  Sometimes we are so busy looking for out-of-town travel opportunities that we forget to look for those hidden gems in our own backyards.


Back in 1929, a small pharmacy opened up on 7th Street in Phoenix, Arizona.  Technically, though, in those days even 7th Street (which today is about as “Central Phoenix” as it gets) was outside city limits.  Some 86 years later, that same location lives in a sort of time warp as a soda fountain that pays tribute to the olden days.

My friend Kevin and I are always on the hunt for unique dining opportunities, so when we were planning a catch-up meal (or ketchup meal?) we decided to check out a place that I’d passed by dozens of times but never visited:  MacAlpine’s.  It took me about 35 minutes in rush hour traffic to get from my place in Scottsdale to the small brick building at the northeast corner of 7th & Oak Streets.  I found suitable ILX parking (read: door-ding-friendly) along the south side and had about 20 minutes to kill until Kevin arrived.


That worked out perfectly, since MacAlpine is joined with an antique store and there is a lot of “stuff” to browse.  I played around with a vintage TV set and record player, then thumbed through a 1958 issue of Arizona Highways magazine.  There were at least a dozen sets of antique patio furniture sitting on the sidewalk outside, so I also spent a few minutes out front watching the sun go down and the cars whiz by at 50 miles per hour on the busy 5-lane road.  Surely if I had been on that same front porch in 1929, the scene would have been quite different.


Kevin arrived and we seated ourselves in a booth and got comfortable.  The stools and bar date back to 1938 when the original pharmacy was first turned into a soda fountain by Fred MacAlpine. Bonus points if you can find me in the reflection in this picture!


A jukebox nearby sang songs from the 40’s and 50’s while we took a minute to make our menu selections.  The menu itself was a little daunting – hundreds of flavors to choose from in creating a “custom” soda.  I ordered a lime, lemon, raspberry concoction of some sort on ice.  It was straight sugar but totally delicious.  For the main course, the meatloaf called my name.  It didn’t take very long until it came out of the kitchen piping hot with a side of mashed potatoes and steamed carrots.  I give it an A+ rating – highly recommended.  Dinner is served starting at 5 p.m. and the restaurant closes at 7, so the window is short but the rewards are worth it.


My favorite item on the menu – and one that I’m determined to go back and consume – is called “The Legend.”  It’s a 10-pound ice cream sundae that sells for about $100.  Can you imagine?  It should be free to anyone who can finish it in one sitting.  For anyone visiting the Phoenix area, take the time to swing by and try out the patio furniture and the sodas.  You won’t regret it. Here are a few pictures from our short trip back in time.


Arrival heading northbound on 7th Street


Vintage sign remains


Building as seen from across 7th Street


Some of the bric-a-brac for sale.  I love that word because it’s fun to say.


Ice cream flavors of the day.  Sadly – I did not have the appetite after that soda & meatloaf!


Dining area.  It looks like a lot of clutter, because it is.


Candyyyyy.  I almost picked up a box of candy cigarettes for a friend of mine.


Is this the Brady Bunch set?  Nope, just furniture for sale at the antique store next to MacAlpine’s.


Classic AZ Highways!


Check out that meatloaf!


MacAlpine Restaurant:

2303 North 7th Street

Phoenix, AZ 85006

(602) 262 – 5545

Last note:  For those who were following it, the newly-redesigned 2016 ILX went on sale yesterday.  Here’s a great write-up by my buddy Steve Siler from Road & Track.  Will I be upgrading mine?  Nah, unless the stick-shift transmission option comes back.  But still – looks like a sweet ride.


“Weekend Roady” Blog & Minnesota’s Northwest Angle

Posted in Arizona, Blog on February 8, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend Coupe):  532,525


Odometer (Legend Sedan):  146,224


Odometer (NSX):  99,460


Odometer (ILX):  112,556



For about nine hours each weekday, I’m surrounded on 3 sides by turqouise fabric cubicle walls at an office.  Sometimes I forget what the weather is doing outside, or even if it’s daylight out yet.  Cubicle #1G010 can be a dreary place to reside for 33% of my waking life, but I found a way to make the view a little more appealing.  For about the last 7 or 8 years, I’ve had a huge 5-foot-wide US map hanging up on my wall.  Every once in awhile during the workday, I’ll spin around in my office chair to look at it, and I’ll zone out while contemplating the many uncharted destinations that are begging for a visit.


Where to next?


I was getting lunch with my coworker Brandon the other day in the cafeteria and learned that he’d recently moved to Arizona from Minnesota.  I remembered seeing something about Minnesota on the map at my desk.  “You know anything about that piece of the Minnesota,” I started, “That isn’t connected to the mainland?  Don’t you have to drive through Canada to get there?”  Brandon’s geography teachers must not have fulfilled their obligations because he didn’t know what I was talking about.  The area I was focusing on was this (circled):


I went back to my desk after eating my chicken & broccoli, determined to find out the deal.  What I discovered was that this piece of Minnesota – referred to as the “Northwest Angle” – is inhabited by 152 hearty individuals and is indeed only accessible by one of two paths:

  1. Driving through Manitoba, Canada and passing through the “un-manned” border checkpoint.  There’s a telephone located there that you have to use to call and make your declarations.
  2. Crossing Lake of the Woods.  During summer, by boat, and during winter:  by ICE ROAD.  That’s right, my readers, when the time is right, you can drive your car across 20 miles of frozen solid ice to get to this remote area of Minnesota.


Check out this article from just a couple of weeks ago where a semi truck broke through a crack in the ice.

Sounds like an adventure waiting to happen!  I don’t know when I’ll next make it to Minnesota – I’ve yet to set foot in that state at all – and I don’t know if it’ll be during the depths of winter when I do, but you can bet this is going on my bucket list.  During the course of my online research I stumbled across an insightful write-up by Philip Sites called “The Weekend Roady.”


I was immediately drawn in because his posts are entertaining and educational.  This guy gets out almost every weekend to explore the open road. Sounds like my kind of fun!  Here’s Philip’s post about the Northwest Angle.

(photo credit Philip)


This weekend, I have company in town from LA.  My friend Brad has been visiting for a couple of days.  Yesterday morning, we stopped by the monthly Scottsdale “Cars & Coffee” meet-up.


Later, we dropped off the NSX for an oil change.  It’s sitting at around 99,500 miles.


This rare Honda S2000 “CR” was also looking pretty nice.


Brunch this morning at “The Good Egg” on Central Avenue.  Here, I’m demonstrating proper parking in an end space.


Kelvin showed up in his immaculate 1993 NSX.


This time of year is the best in Phoenix!


Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!

Northern Arizona Part 2: Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, ILX, Road Trip on February 4, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,455


Odometer (ILX):  112,326



The story of our weekend’s canyon crusade left off when we had finished visiting the Utah/Arizona state line after our hike through Antelope Canyon.  But the fun wasn’t over quite yet.  Turns out, the timing was perfect to make a sunset-time visit to nearby “Horseshoe Bend.”  That name refers to a section of the Colorado River where it makes a 180-degree turn just south of Page, Arizona.  We were not prepared for the grandeur of this site!

Just a 3/4-mile hike from the trailhead, we stood at the edge of a 1,000-foot dropoff that rivals the nearby Grand Canyon.  We had to hike along the rim of the canyon with care, as the sand on the rocks made for a slippery surface.  None of us felt particularly like taking a freefall to the Colorado, though Peter stood on a pretty precarious looking ledge as if he entertained the idea:


Here I dangled my legs out a little.


Sunset lighting and some fresh rainwater puddles in the trailhead parking lot made for the perfect photo-op on our way back to Page.  Can you believe these pics we got of the ILX?!


Our night finished out with an enjoyable Italian meal at Strombolli’s.  Best of all?  We banned all electronic devices.  Here’s how that played out:  At one point, someone realized that all eight of us were iPhone users.  Naturally, we had to stack all the iPhones up in the center of the table for a picture.  This triggered an idea.  “Hey,” I said.  “Let’s challenge ourselves to leave these phones here for the entire meal and not touch them.”  I saw some fear struck into the eyes of a few, but we all agreed.  And what a great hour it was!  Talking — without feeling the need for constant text-messaging and Facebooking.  Just like in the olden days.  Stephen missed out on 24 text notifications but the rest of us only had a few.


iPhone Jenga


We all crashed out after an exhausting day and a dip in the Comfort Inn hot tub.  Sunday morning, I peeked out of our second-story hotel window and saw that the sky was completely clear and there was a thick layer of frost on every vehicle in the parking lot.  Sure enough, my weather app confirmed that was was a mere 30 degrees outside.


We fueled up on hot breakfast in the lobby and headed out on our return to Phoenix by about 9:30 a.m.  In Flagstaff, we had a driver change and Peter took the wheel while I lounged in the back seat.  Peter commented that he felt that the ILX was faster than his Acura TSX which has a similar horsepower rating.  He had a great collection of tunes to entertain us with for the 2-hours remaining in our drive:  hits like Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time,” and Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”  Nice selections, P!

Phoenix was crawling with Super Bowl festivities so my friend Scott and I couldn’t resist the temptation to drive over to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale later that afternoon to see some of the chaos.  Sure enough, road closures, coned-off lanes, parking attendants, and plenty of police presence kept us from getting very close to the venue.  I did still manage to get a picture of the ILX in front of Super XLIX!  It was taken sometime during the second quarter of the game.


Please enjoy the rest of these pictures and a short video from Horseshoe!


A few photographers waiting for perfect sunset lighting


Pretty amazing all around


Silhouettes of our group


Back at the trailhead, some pics of the cars in the puddles


Talking on 8 iPhones at once at dinner


Chilly Sunday morning


Highway 89 southbound with the San Francisco peaks in the distance, approaching Flagstaff


Peter at the wheel of the ILX, and Chris in shotgun


Driving past the Super Bowl while it was going on!


Super Bowl pic with my buddy Scott from Massachusetts (obvious Pats fan)


Hey, did everyone see the side-by-side of the 2013-2015 ILX next to a 2016 model?  Thanks to Acura Connected for the image.  What are your thoughts on the changes?


Northern Arizona Part 1: Antelope Canyon

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, ILX, Road Trip on February 2, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,450


Odometer (ILX):  112,154


Trip Distance:  572 Miles


Saddle up for a drive!  We’re past due for some high adventure.

The area along the Utah-Arizona state line is one of the most oft-photographed locations in the southwest.  The Grand Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, Monument Valley, and other landmarks offer endless opportunities for backcountry exploration in some remote – and stunning – desert landscapes.  This weekend, I took a couple of friends to a little-known slot canyon located on the Navajo Indian reservation near the small town of Page, Arizona:  Antelope Canyon.


Named originally for a herd of antelope that freely roamed the area, this canyon is a very sacred place to native people who live in the vicinity.  From the Navajo Nation website:

To older Navajos, entering a place like Antelope Canyon was like entering a cathedral. They would probably pause before going in, to be in the right frame of mind and prepare for protection and respect. This would also allow them to leave with an uplifted feeling of what Mother Nature has to offer, and to be in harmony with something greater than themselves. It was, and is, a spiritual experience.

Like other canyons in the area, Antelope was formed over time by erosion from rainwater which has cut the deep channels in the sandstone rocks while also smoothing the edges to create the “flowing” appearance of the walls.  Since 1997, the canyon has been accessible via tour guide only.  Part of the reason for that is because the dangers of slot canyon hiking can be extreme:  that same year, 11 tourists were killed by flash flooding in Antelope.  Back then, the ladders going down into the canyon were wooden and got swept away.  Today, metal ladders are bolted into place.  The “upper” canyon that we hiked didn’t require any ladder access.


Caramel frappaccino in hand (or in cupholder, rather), I cued up the windshield wipers on the ILX on Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. and set out for the rainy open road with three friends:  Chris, Peter, and Stephen.  Our drive northward on I-17 to Flagstaff was wet and foggy, but we arrived just in time to meet up with a car-full of other roadtrippers who would be joining us for our excursion.  Jason of Driven for Drives brought along Alec, Jennifer, and Jouhl in his recently-acquired 2004 Mazda 6.  Now with 8 of us in total, we had about 130 miles left to go before hitting our destination.


Highway 89 descends from Flagstaff’s pine-covered 7,000 feet in elevation to the barren, yet beautiful, red sandstone valley below at around 4,300 feet.  We entered the Navajo Indian reservation which covers 27,000 square miles and spreads across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah.  By this time, the sun had started peeking through the clouds and the scenery was non-stop.  I kept a close eye on Jason’s Mazda’s headlights in my rearview mirror and he didn’t fall too far behind.


By about noon, we’d rolled into the small town of Page, Arizona.  Page thrives on tourism thanks to being on the shores of nearby Lake Powell and close to Antelope Canyon.  However, because January is off-peak, we found very little traffic or difficulty getting a table at lunch right away for our large group.  The “super burrito” at Fiesta Mexicana hit the spot – and soon, we were ready to go canyoneering.


Much like the early pioneers must have arrived in covered wagons, we donned our sweatshirts climbed into the bed of a lifted Ford F-250 pickup with a blue canopy overhead and our tour guide from Antelope Canyon Tours gave us the lowdown.  “It’s a 20-minute drive to the mouth of the canyon,” she said, “and half of that will be on a dirt road.”  Sure enough, before long we were bouncing along in a sand-covered wash toward Upper Antelope Canyon.


This particular stretch of the canyon is only 1/4 mile long but has some of the most incredible rock formations I’ve ever seen.  With each turn, our guide would shine her flashlight and point out different features & shapes:  the face of Abe Lincoln, the “Heart of the Canyon,” a pattern that looked like it was woven, and many others.  We did the best we could to get some pictures along the way but in the 120+ foot depths of the canyon and under mostly overcast skies, many times it was too dark for a photo to do it justice.


The next chapter of our day was a quick jaunt to the Utah state line just a few miles north on Highway 89, for the sake of a couple individuals in our party who hadn’t yet been to that state.  Jason turned over the Mazda to me for part of that drive, and I fully enjoyed it!  We had thought of touring nearby Glen Canyon Dam but the visitor center had closed at 4:30 p.m. right as we arrived, so we had a brief pow-wow in the parking lot to decide our next move.


And for that next move, you’ll have to tune in next time!   It’s special enough that it deserved its own post.  Thanks for coming along, and enjoy the rest of these pics and a short video in the meantime.

Road trippers Stephen, Peter, Chris, and Tyson


Approaching Flagstaff on Interstate 17 northbound


I’m okay with those gas prices in Flag!


Gearing up to head out


Suspension bridge in Cameron, Arizona:   Built 1911, it’s 680 feet in length.  It was damaged by an overload of sheep in 1937 (!) and was retired in 1959.


The “Little Colorado River” which that bridge crosses.  Looks pretty muddy to me.


Lunchtime for some hungry travelers in Page at Fiesta Mexicana


Our limousines for the next portion of the trip


Awaiting our 1:30 p.m. tour departure in Page


Peter, Stephen, Chris, Jouhl, and Jason riding along in the back of the truck


Entrance to Upper Antelope Canyon


Inside the canyon


Views all around


Jouhl and Jennifer looking up


Tyson and Jason


Tyson, Jason, Jouhl, Stephen – and Peter in front


And the entire group, on our way back through


Not allowed!


Back at Comfort Inn – Room 324 gave me a perfect view of the cars.


Utah state line with Jason


Lake Powell – 9 trillion gallons’ worth!  I took the ILX across this lake on a ferry last year.


Glen Canyon Dam, completed in 1966


Hey, check out that milestone!


Until next time.  Oh, and a shameless plug!  Mom’s Lexus is for sale.  Link!