Archive for March, 2015

Road Trip to Dallas Part 1: Ten Roadside Attractions

Posted in ILX, New Mexico, Road Trip on March 31, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,825


Odometer (ILX):  119,076


Trip Distance:  2,205 Miles


Howdy.  First of all, let’s cut to the chase and get acquainted with the native language of Texas before we go there.  “Y’all” is used when addressing 2-3 people.  “ALL y’all” is in reference to a larger group.  The tricky part is when y’all becomes possessive.  Example:  “Is that y’all’s car?”  See, I don’t even know if I’m comfortable using that many apostrophes in one phrase.

For a couple of months now, some friends and I had been planning on a Texas trip.  From the beginning, I had always told them, “I’m driving.  I’ll see you guys there.”  I resisted multiple pushes to book a flight.  It’s not that I have any problem with getting on a plane, but for me, the journey is as much of a vacation as a destination.  Thirty hours in a car sounds like a pretty good time to me.  And you’re reading this because you probably agree.

The last time I was in Dallas was September 2013 for some diesel truck races with my dad & brothers.  However, I cheated that time and took a flight to/from on Southwest Airlines.  Aside from that, I’ve been through the DFW area a number of times on my cross-country adventures, and it’s a fun place to make a stop.


(that picture pulled from my State Lines post)

I departed last Wednesday after work and headed as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Jason of Driven for Drives welcomed me and my ILX with red-carpet treatment for our overnight stay at his place off Interstate 25.  The next morning, it was off to the races.  I had places to go and people to see.  Motivation for the drive was provided by a limited-edition Starbucks “Birthday Cake” frappaccino (thanks to my friend Jim for the travel tip!) which I picked up at the location on George Dieter Road in El Paso.

Over the next 10 or so hours, I watched West Texas fly by in all its grandeur.  My life became a country song:  I was surrounded by boots, spurs, pickup trucks, and blue jeans.  When I rolled into the Pecos, Texas “Stripes” gas station on Interstate 20 (only part of which had actual concrete pavement) around mid-morning, I took a look around me and felt a little out of my element.  Everyone in line at the Subway inside had on flannel except for a woman with 1980’s hair and polka dot leggings.  Culture shock.


I zoomed back onto the interstate via the “feeder” (frontage road) and re-set the cruise control at 83 miles per hour.  Most of that area has an 80 mph limit which helps the miles go a little more quickly.  The problem with maintaining that speed in an Acura ILX is that the engine is whirring at nearly 4,000 RPM even in 6th gear.  Luckily I had 15,605 amazing songs on my iPod to drown out the motor noise.


By dusk I had entered into the western end of the 7-million-resident Dallas – Fort Worth “Metroplex” and its maze of under-construction freeways.  My friends welcomed me with a collective roll of the eyes.  Was it really worth all that time in the car?  They asked me.  To keep things easy and share some of my trip highlights, I’ll itemize my list here and you can judge for yourself whether you blame me for driving.

After 2,205 miles, I can confidently say it’s a trip I’d make again and again.  Hope you enjoy taking a passenger seat to some of these neat attractions, and thanks as always for coming along.

1)  Odessa:  World’s Largest Jackrabbit

In 1932, the teeny Texas town of Odessa became home to the world’s first jackrabbit roping competition.  During the town’s annual rodeo, Grace Hendricks roped a rabbit from horseback in 5 seconds and won.  The jackrabbit roping competition was met by outcries from animal lovers and was discontinued until 1977 when a second competition was held.  After that, the Humane Society put a stop to things with a court order.  Today, an 8-foot-tall rabbit stands at the Chamber of Commerce on 8th Street.


2)  Odessa:  Replica Stonehenge

Just a few miles away from the rabbit statue, I entered the campus to the University of Texas, Permian Basin.  We’re all probably familiar with the “original” landmark Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, but this one was erected only 11 years ago.  Most of the slabs on display here are 19 feet tall and weigh up to 20 tons each.  The layout of the stones is accurate to the real Stonehenge, but the sizes are a little bit smaller.  Pictured in the far background is a Home Depot.  This is definitely not England.


3)  Colorado City:  Radio Station Microphone Sign

There’s a radio station called KVMC that’s been broadcasting since the 1940s.  A couple of decades later, someone took a picket fence and made a piece of artwork out of it, creating a giant replica of the original microphone.  It still stands today in front of the radio station along the frontage road to Interstate 20.


4)  Abilene:  World’s Largest Paper Airplane

On 1st Street in Abilene at the Sparhawk Art Gallery / Bed & Breakfast, there’s a 30-foot-long version of a paper F15 aircraft.  This one, however, actually appears to be made of wood.  When I pulled into the narrow Sparhawk parking lot, I immediately spotted the aircraft toward the back and rolled there for a few photographs.

When my work there was through, I started to drive away and a woman came running out of the small building with something in her hand – a “regular sized” paper airplane.  I rolled down my passenger window, thinking perhaps I was getting in trouble for taking pictures on private property.  “Here!” she said.  “You have to take this with you!” and she handed me the paper airplane.  Soon, a man named Donovan came out too.  I got out of the car to talk to both of them, and Donovan handed me a second airplane.  He had folded both of them.  “They don’t fly well, but I only used one sheet of paper each, and a tiny drop of glue.”



5)  Abilene:  Dino Bob & the Slug Bug

This work of art dates back to the late 1980s when artist Bob Wade perched a Volkswagen Beetle on top of a garage, with a dinosaur nibbling on it.  The dinosaur and VW were moved in 2007 to their current location where they oversee a facility for children’s literature.


6)  Abilene:  World’s Largest Buffalo Skull

Here’s another fun landmark not far from Dino Bob.  Sculpted in 2012 by artist Joe Barrington, this buffalo skull measures 26 feet across and weighs 2 tons.  The eye sockets are big enough to crawl through.  I resisted the temptation to try that out.  This is located at a visitor center called “Frontier Texas.”


7)  Fort Worth:  U.S. Bureau of Engraving & Printing

This is one of only two places in the country where paper money gets printed (the other is in Washington, DC).  Photos here are scarce – in fact, I got yelled at by someone in the lobby of the Security building for even taking this picture of the sign from the road.   Before we were allowed inside, all cell phones had to be left inside our car.  But the inner workings of this building are fascinating!  We took a 45-minute self-guided tour on an elevated catwalk that actually overlooks the factory floor, its machines, and the production staff.  I paid $22.50 for an uncut sheet of four $2 bills at the gift shop.  How about a few fun facts?

  • The estimated life span of a $1 bill is 5.9 years
  • The estimated life span of a $100 bill is 15 years
  • There have been no bills printed in denominations greater than $100 since 1969
  • Each production day, the facility I visited prints $17 million in currency per hour
  • “Paper” money is actually mostly cotton and part linen

Now you know!


8)  Fort Worth:  Fort Worth Stock Yards

Here, a 206-acre area that used to house a huge livestock market is now a historic district that retains its Wild West heritage with saloons, rodeo grounds, and souvenir shops.  Originally inhabited in the 1860s, Fort Worth Stock Yards officially opened up in 1890 and became a historic district in 1976.  My friends and I enjoyed wandering around and exploring the pedestrian-friendly blocks.  We had delicious lunch including bottled IBC Root Beer at a restaurant called Star Cafe.


9)  Fort Worth:  Water Gardens

The Water Gardens are located right in downtown and have been there since 1974.  Within the 4-acre park, there are several different water features including an “aerating” pool and a “meditation” pool.  My favorite feature was the Active Pool which is a terraced waterfall that steps down 38 feet below ground level.  Visitors can step down into the base of the waterfall next to a pool at the bottom.  The roaring sound from within the center is amazing.  I took a short video to show the experience.  I panned around from inside the waterfall, then recorded going up the steps to exit, then did a pan of the overall facility.  This particular pool was redesigned from 2005-2007 after 4 people died there.  It is now 7 feet more shallow than it used to be.

10)  Irving:  Dr. Pepper Bottling Plant

This is the home of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group in Irving.  Perfectly visible from Highway 482, we pulled off the road quickly here to get a picture of these massive tanks designed to resemble soda cans.


Texas and its people were most welcoming, and I can’t wait to go back again.  The drive would be worth it even if just for the food:  Tillman’s Roadhouse in the Bishop Arts District on 7th Street gets high ranks from me.  First of all, the mac & cheese with bacon is amazing, and secondly:  YOU CAN COOK S’MORES AT YOUR TABLE!  They bring miniature stoves out along with a variety of marshmallows, some chocolate squares, and poker sticks.  What a way to do dessert!

Please enjoy the rest of the pics if you’d like.

I-10 eastbound, passing Picacho Peak in Arizona


Overnight stay with Jason and a look at our recent March-April 2015 feature in Arizona Driver


Drive Friendly – The Texas Way


Interstate 10 through El Paso, Texas


“Happy Birthday” Frappaccino at Starbucks in El Paso (yes, it has pink whipped cream)


Old school maps.  That’s how I roll.


Those mountains are in Mexico.


This is how close I was to the international border (blue dot).


I-10 / I-20 split.  From here, I headed toward Dallas.


Stonehenge in Odessa


Lots of water towers!  This one, in Big Spring.


Crumbling building in Colorado City, Texas – and a dually pickup truck that is a perfect representation of the “typical” west Texas automobile of choice.


Paper airplane from Donovan at the Sparhawk Art Gallery in Abilene.


Getting closer!


Hotel for the first two nights:  Omni.


View of central Dallas from the 22nd floor of the Omni hotel.


Brunch with friends in Oakcliff area.


$22.50 worth of money!  I think the Bureau of Engraving & Printing ripped me off.


Roadside scene in Fort Worth, Texas near the Stock Yards.


Check out those bar stools!  Scott, Tyson, Kyle, showing some skin & booty.


Lunch spot.


Entering the Active Pool at the Fort Worth Water Gardens.


Hanging out near the pool.


“Only in Texas” will you see a banner like this at the entrance to your hotel.


Dinner at Tillman’s Roadhouse


Hotel for night 3:  Aloft in Las Colinas area of Irving, Texas


93 octane!  Didn’t feel too bad paying $2.64 for the rich stuff.


Definition of an easy drive:  Next turn in 633 miles!


Sunrise in my rearview mirror departing the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex on Sunday morning.


Homeward trek to the I-10 / I-20 split again.


Fuel & stretch stop in Van Horn, Texas.  Home of the Sands Motel.  My favorite part of the sign was the spray-painted “American Owned” comment along the bottom.


Entering the Land of Enchantment:  New Mexico.


RealTime Racing Driver Peter Cunningham

Posted in Blog, TLX on March 24, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,818


Odometer (ILX):  116,671



Let’s talk about some pedal-to-the-metal, high-revving adventures today.  With all the hundreds of thousands of miles I’ve traveled, I consider myself a seasoned driver, but certainly not when it comes to racing.  My younger brother Payton is the race driver for the H&S Motorsports team in Utah, but I don’t stand a chance at matching his skills.  (Here’s a short clip from about a year ago when his Ford Lightning got into the 8-second range in the quarter mile dragstrip).

My race experience, on the other hand, has been limited to just a few events, including the following which stand out in my mind:

  • Autocross race in the Legend at NALM 2009 in Springfield, Missouri (photo below where it looks like my car might roll over)
  • Bonneville 100 (100-mile, 105 mph) open-road race in rural Nevada in 2007 & 2008
  • Those handful of times I took my 1989 Prelude on the 1/4 mile strip at the old airport at age 17



Some people just seem to have a gift for high-speed driving.  One of those is seasoned race veteran Peter Cunningham, who over the course of his 28-year racing career has taken home nearly 100 professional race wins across 12 different North American road racing series.


Peter’s race history goes back to when he founded a company called RealTime Racing in 1987.  RealTime is based in Saukville, Wisconsin, just north of Milwaukee.  Since those early days, American Honda and the Acura Division have partnered with RealTime for performance driving events.  Peter has raced in such cars as a 1992 Integra GS-R and even a Honda Civic 4WD Wagon.



Today, Peter and his relatively new colleague driver Ryan Eversley, continue to pilot the RealTime team to wins year after year.  RealTime has amassed nearly 6,000 followers on Facebook and Peter’s Acura TLX “GT” has shown up at multiple Auto Shows, including its original debut (which I attended) in January 2014 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan.  I most recently checked the car out at the Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) last September in Long Beach, California.  Thumbs up!


Last night, I met up with Peter as well as his Team Manager, Nathan Bonneau, who happened to be visiting the Phoenix area for a Bridgestone Tire event at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.  We grabbed a bite to eat at a restaurant called Roy’s in Chandler and visited for a couple of hours about the latest happenings with RealTime.


Peter also showed me photos a few of his latest Honda & Acura acquisitions.  Just a few weeks ago, I helped him scope out a local mint-condition 1990 Acura Legend LS Coupe with only 36,000 miles on it.  That car has now made its way into Peter’s collection in Wisconsin.


RealTime’s full race schedule is posted here.  Later this week, he and his crew are off to St. Petersburg Florida for the Grand Prix event there.  Good luck to them and I’ll stay tuned for the results!  Peter gave me a couple of RealTime posters as well as a T-shirt that I’ll proudly be wearing in support.


Coming up next:  A 2,132-mile, 5-day road trip to Dallas, Texas that starts tomorrow.  I probably won’t be doing any blogging on-the-fly (or, on-the-drive, in this case).  But I’m planning on sharing a few highlights on my Instagram as the trip progresses.

See you soon.

Legend Spy Shot Roundup #4

Posted in Legend, Spy Shots on March 21, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,749


Odometer (ILX):  116,494


Odometer (NSX):  99,627




It’s that time again, folks!  Let’s take a look at some of our reader-supplied Legend pics.

Over a 10-year span, there were 477,831 Acura Legends sold in the United States.  Twenty years later, how many of those are still on the road?  Half?  Maybe even fewer?  Either way, they’re getting to be a rare sight these days.  But somehow, all of you keep spotting them on the roadways and sending them to me.  Please enjoy the latest collection of submissions.  My friends Jack and Conor are tied for first place with the most Legends captured since last time, with 5 each.

I’ll kick it off with a unique shot.  Hass in Michigan sent me a pic of this restaurant.  I told him we have to eat there the next time I’m in Detroit (most likely for the 2016 North American Int’l Auto Show in January):


Now, in alphabetical order, here are the entries for this round:

Beau – Arizona



Brad – California


Brock – Arizona (what is up with that parking job?)


Chris – Maryland


Cody – Utah


Conor – New York






Cory – Arizona


Dave – Washington


Dillon – North Carolina




Jack – Arizona






Jason – New Mexico


Jim – Arizona



Mike – Arizona


Nick – Utah


Ruben – Arizona


Ryan – Arizona


Ryan – Utah


Scott – California



Sofyan – District of Columbia



Tim – New Jersey


Thanks to all who have shared these fun pictures with me.  Keep them coming, and have a great weekend!

Drive to Five Review: 2015 Acura MDX – Off-Roading in Bloody Basin

Posted in Arizona, MDX, Road Trip, Vehicle Reviews on March 17, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,742


Odometer (ILX):  116,312


Odometer (MDX):  7,636


Trip Distance:  164 Miles



“What are your weekend plans?” asked Carin at Great Clips while she worked the sides of my head with the hair clippers.  “I’m going on a little off-road drive with a few friends,” I told her.  I could see the wheels spinning figuratively in her head, probably thinking of some extreme rock-crawling adventure with Jeep Wranglers.  “What are you going to drive?”  “An Acura MDX,” I told her.  “Wait, isn’t that a luxury car?”  I took a minute to educate her.  What’s the point of having a four-by if you aren’t going to use it?



In November 2013, I did a full review of the then-new 2014 Acura MDX.  For the 2015 model year, the MDX carries onward unchanged (“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”) and I was again this year given the chance to put Acura’s best-selling SUV through a real-world driving evaluation over the past week.  My test MDX was born in Lincoln, Alabama but already had over 7,000 miles on it by the time it arrived at my house.  It was painted Obsidian Blue Pearl and loaded to the max with option packages.  Bottom line on the as-tested vehicle was $57,765.  I’ll share details about those options later on.

For a chance to exercise this luxo-SUV on a variety of road conditions, I asked around and got a few recommendations.  The route that we chose would give us a taste of freeway, two-lane, and off-road sections over the course of its 160-mile length.


From Scottsdale, eight of us headed out on Sunday morning with a foursome of varied sport utility vehicles:  2003 Ford Expedition, 2015 Nissan Murano, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and the 2015 MDX.  The grades on Interstate 17 climb sharply from the Phoenix Valley toward Flagstaff.  The MDX cruised comfortably at 75-80 mph and it’s difficult to tell you’re even going that fast – wind/road noise is near non-existent.  Our destination was Forest Road 269, also known as “Bloody Basin Road.”  It takes off from I-17 at mile marker 259.  From there, the pavement ends and the fun begins as the road heads eastward through some remote backcountry that is rich in history.


Along the way, we would be passing by Indian ruins and other abandoned dwellings.  Bloody Basin gets its name from a series of armed conflicts between new settlers in the area and the native Apache people.  One particular massacre happened in 1864 when a party led by a man named King Woolsey killed 29 Indians.  Legend has it that the stream ran red with their blood.  Bloody Basin Road goes through the Agua Fria National Monument, a 50,000-acre area that contains some well-preserved ancient ruins that were occupied between 1250 and 1450 AD.


But you didn’t come here for a history lesson.  How about that MDX?  Over 50 miles of rough dirt road later, I can attest:  This SUV is as refined in rugged territory as it is on a high-class date to the symphony.  Bloody Basin dished out its fair share of terrain that made us raise our eyebrows in wonder:  Do we have enough ground clearance?  Is this going to scratch one of the wheels?  How deep is that water?  No task seemed too difficult to undertake.  The MDX’s MacPherson-strut-equipped suspension kept Chris’ Starbucks beverage from sloshing around too much on the washboard ruts.  And that, in his book, was enough to give it a firm stamp of approval.


Prior to the off-road portion, Mike in the Expedition had remarked:  “I brought tow straps in case we need to pull any of these ‘cute-utes’ out of the rough stuff.”  Well, Mike didn’t end up needing those straps after all.  In fact, we rolled onward confidently in the comfort of ventilated seats, XM radio, and tri-zone automatic climate control.  Heck, if we’d had enough riders, I could have had people in the back seat watching movies on the ultra-wide 16.2″ DVD system with headphones!


Meanwhile, each of the dozen or so vehicles which passed us going the opposite direction gave us the same look of, “What do they think they’re doing here in that?”  It seemed like all the other vehicles on the trail were lifted 4Runners or full-size pickup trucks. The route was full of scenic photo-ops so we took advantage of the chance to pull over and enjoy it (and, to give the dog Jake a chance to stretch his legs and lap up a little bit of water).


At one point we decided to take a steep side trail to the top of a small mountain.  The MDX 3.5-liter V6 pulled the vehicle effortlessly to the summit without even requiring a lot of throttle input.  It produces 290 horsepower and is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted with paddles on the steering wheel for maximum control.


King of the hill!  No sweat.


After about 27 miles, we made it to the junction with Forest Road 24, also known as Seven Springs Road, where we hung a right and continued on in the rough stuff.  That trail passes by a recreation area with picnic tables and a creek.  Eventually it becomes Cave Creek Road and goes past Sears Kay Ruin which I visited last year.  By this time, we were all ready to kiss the asphalt because we’d been eating dust clouds for the last few hours.


Beau and I were following Matt & Alan and I noticed that Matt’s right front tire looked low.  Sure enough, it quickly deflated and we all pulled over for some emergency roadside action.  In a matter of minutes, they’d thrown on the donut and we continued on our way.


The remarkable thing is that despite everything we’d thrown at it, the MDX alignment continued to track straight and true.  Not one shimmy, shake, or rattle, manifested itself once we got back to paved civilization.  In fact, the MDX out-paced the other 3 vehicles by sprinting through some fun corners on the two-laner heading past Bartlett Lake.  The Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive system shows its value both on-road and off.  Multiple times throughout the day, people remarked about how composed and sure-footed the ride was.  It inspires confidence to be in a vehicle that is capable of virtually any type of terrain.

I spent $4 at the self-serve coin-op car wash and by nightfall, the MDX looked as good as new again.  It’s a vehicle that gives the creature comforts of a luxury sedan, the people-hauling capability of a minivan (it seats 7), and the go-anywhere versatility of a 4×4.  Coming from my daily driver ILX, I enjoyed the higher step-in height and the more empowering sense of “presence” on the road.  It’s no wonder the MDX is Acura’s best-seller.  Many thanks to the folks at Acura for allowing me a few days behind the wheel.

Here are the rest of the pictures and a short 1-minute video from our little day-trip.

Entering Agua Fria National Monument – before getting too dirty.


Pit stop overlooking the Tonto National Forest


Ridin’ dirty


Obsidian Blue started looking like Dirt Brown.


Jewel Eyes


Rav, MDX, Murano, taking a break along Seven Springs Road



Bloody Basin is part of the 3,000 mile route from Mexico to Canada called “Great Western Trail”


So.  Much.  Dust.


Matt & Alan swapped out the Murano spare tire here alongside the road.


Lunch at Big Earl’s Greasy Eats in Cave Creek.  I’ve blogged about it before.



MDX Equipment, As-Tested

MPG 18 city, 27 highway, 21 combined

Tech Package:

  • Navigation system with Voice Recognition
  • ELS Premium Audio System with 12 Speakers
  • HD Radio
  • Tri-Zone Climate Control
  • LED Puddle Lights

Advance Package:

  • Collision Mitigation Braking System
  • Sport Seats with Perforated (and Ventilated!) Leather
  • Remote Engine Start
  • Lane Keeping Assist System & Adaptive Cruise Control

Entertainment Package:

  • 16.2″ DVD Rear Entertainment System with Wireless Headrests
  • Heated 2nd Row Seats
  • Rear Door Sunshades


Press Previews: 2015 Chrysler 300 & 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA

Posted in PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on March 15, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,734


Odometer (ILX):  116,158


Every so often, as a member of the Phoenix Automotive Press Association (“PAPA”), I get an up-close-and-personal look at a new vehicle that’s coming to market, and I like to share those experiences with you.  This week, I attended two media events where automakers invited PAPA affiliates to check out their latest offerings.

First up, on Tuesday, Chrysler hosted a small group of journalists at the Salt River baseball fields in Scottsdale for an introduction to the newly-redesigned 2015 Chrysler 300 just prior to the Colorado Rockies vs. Seattle Mariners spring training game.


My first look at the refreshed 300 actually took place at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November.  At that time, I put together a short 2-minute introduction video about the 300 in collaboration with Redline Reviews.

Manager of Media Relations Communications, Jiyan Cadiz, took a few minutes to kick off the presentation with an overview of the Chrysler sedan family and the 300’s place within it.  Brand Manager John Zaremba then spoke to some of the key attributes of this bold American sedan.  For 2015, the 300 brings more bang for the buck than ever before.  A redesigned front end with a larger grille exudes the new “face of Chrysler,” and LED foglights and taillights round out the exterior.


The 300’s starting price point at around $31k puts it right in the midst of a fierce market but Chrysler hopes that luxurious things like standard leather and a rotary shift selector will nudge the car to the top of buyers’ consideration.


Chrysler has also engineered 4 unique trim levels in an effort to please just about everyone.  The base “Limited” is powered by a 292-horsepower V6 and can be equipped with all-wheel-drive.  Also available are “S,” “C,” and “Platinum” variants.  We got the chance to see a Jazz Blue “C” model.  The color really pops, and the lighter interior with nappa leather sets it off nicely.  A panoramic moonroof is a nice touch on an 88-degree day like the one we were having.


Chrysler’s 300 is a nice statement of ‘American Attitude” and I look forward to test-driving one soon.


Here’s a picture of me enjoying the spring training game with automotive spy photographer Brenda Priddy.


Thanks to Chrysler for allowing us the inside look at its new car!

The second new vehicle I got to experience this week was the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA.  Anna Kleinebreil, Assistant Product Manager for CLA, GLA, and SLK, spoke to our group which was assembled at the Phoenix Art Museum on Wednesday evening.  The all-new GLA is Mercedes’ latest entrant into the very hot SUV marketplace and it’s based on the successful CLA sedan which has been around for a couple of years now.


At our disposal when I arrived in central Phoenix were a GLA250, a GLA45 AMG, and a C400 sedan.  I had the chance to experience all three.  Mercedes has its sights set on Generation Y with the new GLA.  The company is banking on the fact that 25% of its sales volume will come from its “NGCC” (New Generation Compact Car) lineup of automobiles, of which the GLA is a part.


Currently available are the GLA250 and the GLA45 AMG, both in “4MATIC” all-wheel-drive.  Soon, Mercedes will also debut a front-wheel-drive GLA250 as well, making it the first time the company has ever offered a front-drive SUV.  The “Mountain Gray” GLA that I drove had a base price of $33,300 but was highly optioned out with Panoramic Sunroof, Bi-Xenon Headlamps, Premium Package, Interior Package, Multimedia Package, Sport Package, and Driver Assistance Package.  $48,605 all-in.  That’s a big chunk of change but if you’re buying a Benz, go all-out!


Interior accommodations are top notch as would be expected in a vehicle from M-B.  I’m still trying to get used to the display screen since it kind of looks like an iPad Mini glued to the dashboard.


The GLA250 goes head-to-head with the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3.  I haven’t yet driven either of those, but I did leave with a very good impression of the GLA.  Its 2.0 liter turbo 4 cylinder cranks out 208 horsepower which is enough to give a quick pace.  The transmission is a 7-speed DCT with paddle shifters on the steering wheel.


Behind the wheel, you quickly forget you’re driving a high-profile vehicle since it handles like a sports sedan.  It does take a bit to become acquainted with the controls.  I reached for a shift lever that wasn’t there, only to realize that Mercedes puts its drive selector on a stalk attached to the right side of the steering column.  (Kind of like what my 1986 Chevy Celebrity had, but a little bit more advanced with some push-buttons!).


Now, here’s the evil twin to the standard GLA250:  the GLA45 AMG.  Black means business.


Aside from the obvious cosmetic differences from the base model, the 45 packs a punch under the hood as well with 355 horsepower.  Colleagues Beau, Kyle, and I took it for a spin and right away noted how much quicker it was than its sibling.  Special race-inspired seats offer maximum grip from their beefy side bolsters.  The exhaust note is amplified and acceleration is vastly improved.  All in all, it makes for a much more engaging driving experience.  The GLA that we drove had over $5k in other upgrades like a Multimedia package, bringing the as-tested sticker to over $62,000.

The AMG model even has red seat belts.  Sporty!


Thanks to Mercedes for hosting the PAPA group at this special event!

Throwback Thursday: Prelude of 15 Years Ago

Posted in Prelude, Throwback on March 12, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,698


Odometer (ILX):  115,966



Let’s wind things way back to the year 2000.  “Y2K,” my friends.  Raise your hand if you remember what a big deal it was… and what a big deal it wasn’t.  I was a senior at Pine View High School (go Panthers!) in St. George, Utah.  I filled up 28 CDs with hundreds of songs I downloaded for free on Napster.  Those CDs, incidentally, are still around!  I’d recently upgraded my 1986 Chevy Celebrity to a fancy sports coupe, my Phoenix Red 1989 Honda Prelude 2.0 Si.

I’ve already blogged about my Prelude ownership history a number of times (1) (2), having gone through nearly a half-dozen of them.  This one, though, was special.  I took pride and joy customizing it the way that any high schooler would:  Big rims, rockin’ stereo, and custom red LED accent lights underneath the dashboard.  It’s a good thing my tastes have matured a little.

So, on a sunny Saturday I headed out to get a few pictures of my Prelude on a remote road toward the old airport on the south end of town.  In January 2000 when these pictures were taken, I’d just turned 18 years old a few weeks prior.  My Prelude was already on its second set of custom wheels, some 16″ 5-spoke Enkeis that I got from my brother Bentley.  And that license plate – 4CRUIZN – became my signature nameplate for years to come.  Even today, my posts on many car forums and even my YouTube account are searchable by that name.


OEM Half-Bra, and one – two – three – yes, four foglights.  Hey, I was 18.  Don’t judge.


That sticker on the rear window said “Injen.”  It’s a company that made performance air intake systems.  Except, my Prelude was equipped with no such product.  For some reason I just felt inclined to advertise for them.


I think the rear 3/4 shot was perhaps the most flattering for this car.  Though, I do miss pop-up headlights.


In all honesty, I think those 3rd generation Preludes are just as fun to drive as my current Acura NSX.  And even back then, I was racking up a few miles and taking note when big milestones happened, like this 150,000 rollover shot.


Not even 6 months later, I’d upgraded to even bigger wheels and this awful Wings West spoiler.  Let’s not even get started on the white tuxedo, skater shoes, and frosted hair tips.


I’ve shared this before, but it’s been about a year ago.  Honda loved my Prelude / tux pictures so much that they used one of them in a national TV commercial.

My phone blew up for a few weeks while it was airing.  I loved it.






Haha, my friends are the best.  And little did I know that little red Honda would be seen by so many people, so many years later.  Meanwhile, as long as we’re back in Y2K, look at what my mom was driving at the time.  This was her 1993 Acura Legend L sedan, which I’ve also blogged about before.


Those were 16″ “Optima” polished aluminum 7-spokers, and let’s not forget to take note of the chrome fender accent pieces.


Mom’s plate “GOTIAGO” was a continuation of her old 1990 Integra‘s “C TIA GO.”


Family road trip to Bear Lake, at the Utah/Idaho state line, later that same year.


Hard to believe that 15 years have come and gone!  Thanks for coming along for my time travels as always.

Coming Attractions:  This just showed up at my house for a week.  I’m planning on getting it dirty.


Utah Weekend Trip & NALM 2015 Announcement

Posted in ILX, NALM, Road Trip, Utah on March 9, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,664


Odometer (ILX):  115,833


Trip Distance:  847 Miles


Most people wouldn’t consider it worthwhile to drive nearly 900 miles for a < 24-hour stay at a destination.  But, I guess I’m not “most people.”  I took off on Saturday morning and headed for my hometown in southwest Utah to spend a little bit of quality time with my family there.  I’ll spare a lengthy road trip recap because I’ve blogged about the route dozens of times in the past, but I did manage to get a few pictures that might be worth sharing.


Here’s the Virgin River Gorge section of Interstate 15.  For about 10 miles, it winds along the base of a canyon next to the Virgin River.  Here’s what makes this very short stretch of road unique, though.  It’s located in Arizona, yet it connects a town in Nevada (Mesquite) with a town in Utah (St. George).


St. George is home to about 77,000 people – at least as of a recent 2013 census.


My brother Bentley and his wife Kyann were very welcoming at their home.


One of the highlights of the trip for me was driving my brother’s fully restored 1968 Chevy II Nova SS.  It’s powered by an LS3 V8 motor and it has a T56 6-speed manual transmission.  The car was dyno-tested a couple of months ago at 416 horsepower at the wheels (so, a little more than double what I’m used to driving daily).  I fell in love with this car by the time I had driven it to the end of his street.  The burbling sound of a V8 and the endless torque made me want to get a little naughty and light up the tires.  I managed to behave myself.


With my nephew Beckam


Interior of the Nova.  The gauges, steering wheel, and radio you see here are all aftermarket.  There’s not much on this car – aside from the body itself – that’s original to the car’s 1968 model year specifications.


Made a couple special visits, including a shopping trip with my 3-year-old niece.


Also did a little route planning with grandpa.  He gave me some tips for a drive to Idaho that I’ll be taking with my dad later this year.  Stay tuned for more on that in the coming months!


Sunday morning’s return drive to Arizona via Highway 89A through Fredonia, Arizona.  The Ship Rock Motel looks to have been abandoned many years ago.  At one point I believe some of the rooms had been converted into apartments but as of today it appears the entire facility is pretty much condemned.


As the road crested to 7,900 feet in elevation at Jacob Lake, there was snow on the sides of the highway.


It was a perfect chance to crack open that moonroof and watch the pine trees fly by.


Arriving Jacob Lake.  This is the junction with Highway 67 which serves as the gateway to the north rim of the Grand Canyon.  I’ll be visiting that area again in late May for a rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike.


Don’t even think about using a phone on some of the roads in that area.  “No Service” is the only way to roll.


And that reminds me why that piece of road made me so happy.

  • No outside worries
  • Light traffic
  • Nice road conditions
  • Great curves
  • Perfect weather
  • Drink in the cupholder
  • Driving barefoot and rowing a manual gearbox
  • Designer Skyline” by Owl City playing on the iPod

Just the open road, some good music, and a chance to clear the head.  My next stop was in Marble Canyon along the Vermillion Cliffs.  I happened to spy a 1991-92 Legend L sedan there.


A few pictures along the road in that area.


Endless hiking opportunities.


Waiting for a gust of wind to topple this fist-shaped rock onto my car.


Hope you enjoyed the pics.  One more announcement while I’m posting this today:  For its 11th Annual Event, NALM is going back to where it all started way back in 2005:  The Lone Star State.


The Houston-based ground team has won the bid and has been selected to host this year’s National Acura Legend Meet.


So, it looks like I’ll be going to Houston from September 24th through 27th to attend this special event.  The planners have a great itinerary planned including a track day at MSR Houston, a dealership open house at John Eagle Acura, and a car show at Mayday Garage.   Here’s a look at where the event has been held in prior years.

  • 2005: Dallas, TX
  • 2006: Tulsa, OK
  • 2007: Las Vegas, NV
  • 2008: Chattanooga, TN
  • 2009: Branson, MO
  • 2010: Salt Lake City, UT
  • 2011: Morristown, NJ
  • 2012: Milwaukee, WI
  • 2013: Asheville, NC
  • 2014: Southern California
  • 2015:  Houston, TX


Over and out!

Ludacris’ Legend Love

Posted in Legend, Throwback on March 5, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,654


Odometer (ILX):  114,724


I consider myself pretty skilled at car karaoke.  When a song like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody comes on my iPod or the radio, there is no stopping me from belting it out just like Wayne & Garth in Wayne’s World.  I took a year of choir in 6th grade, and I took piano for about 6 months at age 8 until my instructor made me cry.  That was the end of that, and my musical talents haven’t developed any further since.

Some people got a heck of a lot more musical know-how than I did.  One of those is Christoper Bridges, better known by his stage name Ludacris.  The 37-year-old has had a wildly successful career in the entertainment industry, centered largely around his rap music.  Ludacris has published 8 albums since his first in 1999 and has soared to the top of the billboard charts plenty of times.  His film career is nothing short of successful, too, having appeared in 18 movies including four Fast & Furious movies.


But speaking of fast and furious, did you know that Luda’s automotive tastes align very closely with many of ours?  I present to you the album cover for his 9th and latest record, set to debut on March 31.


We are looking at a Cashmere Silver Metallic 1993 Acura Legend LS sedan.  Ludacris has proudly owned this car since the early days of his career, and to this day it’s his favorite automobile.  The album cover – entitled “Ludaversal” – also features Ludacris’ private jet.  I find it pretty awesome that a guy with 20 million Facebook followers and countless other fans is staying true to his trusted old Legend.

Luda talked about his Legend on the Ellen show last year.  “It’s one of those things I will never get rid of,” he said.  Sounds like Ludacris and I have quite a bit in common!  Especially since he notes in the video that his car has over 250,000 miles on it.  Here’s a short video clip capturing those comments.

Hey Luda, you’re only halfway broken in.  And check this out – great minds must really think alike because I have a picture of my Legend with an airplane, too.  Different settings but same idea!


“My” version of the Legend-airplane shot was taken just a little over 10 years ago, in February 2005 during one of my first road trips through Arizona.  My grandma and I had driven to Phoenix from Southern Utah to visit my great-aunt who was receiving care at one of the hospitals there.  Grandma flew back to Utah, but I continued my big road trip by making my way toward sunny (or rainy, rather) San Diego.  These shots was taken in Gila Bend, Arizona.



In the spirit of a little throwback, since it’s Thursday after all, here are a few other shots from that same trip.  First of all, here’s my skinny self at Hoover Dam just outside Las Vegas, Nevada on Highway 93.  This was back in the day when the highway traffic used to actually pass over the dam. Today, a multi-lane bypass bridge carries traffic across the ravine a little bit downstream (and cuts travel time by about 20 minutes in the process).


Rain on Interstate 8, and my (only) 159,000 mile odometer reading.


Stopping in Algodones, Sonora, Mexico for a quick drive-through.  I was really going out on a limb here:  No passport, no Mexican insurance policy, and no prior knowledge of how to find my way around town.


Morning shot at the pier in Oceanside, California.


Lastly – Check out this high-mile Legend!  (thanks Scott for the tip).  It’s sitting at 392,924 miles and for sale currently on Ebay.  Though, it doesn’t have the original engine, and cosmetically it’s looking quite ragged.  Still, it’s nice to see another Legend that has covered some distance.


Yikes!  Who let the grizzly bears get in there?



Have a great Thursday!

Saturday Drive: Thermal, California for “NSXPO” Recon

Posted in California, ILX, Road Trip on March 1, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,645


Odometer (ILX):  114,580


Trip Distance:  570 Miles


Panic attack.  It’s alarming to see flashing red & blue lights in your rearview mirror, especially when they seemingly come out of nowhere.  It was a normal Interstate 10 commute across the desert on Saturday evening until three or four black & white Ford Explorer highway patrol vehicles blasted up from behind and passed me like I was sitting still.  I’d guess they were doing at least a buck-twenty on the speedometer. I exhaled in relief that they weren’t coming for me, but I thought to myself, “I’m going to see them again.”  Sure enough, I’d just crossed over the California/Arizona line into my home state and traffic came to a halt.  There were enough red & blues in the distance up ahead to light up a Vegas nightclub, so I knew things didn’t look good.


For 45 minutes while I sat in the ILX at mile marker 2, I entertained myself with Instagram and some classic 1990’s CDs I’d brought along (who doesn’t love a little K-Ci & JoJo, Creed, or Everclear?).  A few vehicles started turning around in the median to head back to Blythe but I decided to try and wait it out — whatever “it” was.  I got out of the car and grabbed my sweatshirt out of the backseat, then wandered over to the driver’s side of a semi truck that was idling next to me.  Its driver was on his cell phone examining a spot on the fender of his truck.  Except, it wasn’t just a spot.  “Bullet hole,” he pointed and said when he saw me walking up.  What I thought was just an accident was in fact the result of a high-speed chase and shots fired!


So that’s why every police cruiser in eastern California was blocking the road ahead.  The truck driver said he’d seen a black SUV fly past and he’d heard a noise but at the time didn’t realize a stray bullet had come his way.  I started chatting it up with a few of the drivers in the I-10 parking lot around me.  There’s something about being stranded together in a traffic jam that makes people band together – it’s like we all shared this common bond and we wanted to swap conversation about what we thought was going on up ahead.  I spoke for some time with a man and his sister who were en route from Oxnard, CA to Tucson, AZ with a Penske moving truck.


On the bright side, the traffic delay was a nice pause on my drive and a chance to see the desert sunset.  After another thirty minutes or so, we finally were allowed to creep past the carnage of a rolled “getaway vehicle” black Chevy Tahoe and continue on our way.  So, that was probably the peak of excitement from my 9 hours in the car on Saturday.


Why the drive?  This was a “business” trip, in a sense.  Each year, the Acura NSX Club of America (NSXCA) Board of Directors votes on submitted bids for an annual NSX gathering called NSXPO.  It just so happens that the 2015 event will be held in Palm Springs, California.  Three colleagues and I are putting the puzzle pieces together to organize the itinerary for our event which will be held in October and is anticipated to draw over 200 vehicles.  Some of you may recall when I took my drive to Idyllwild last fall to scope it out as our proposed drive route for NSXPO.

This time, the recon mission was to check out our racetrack facility.  The Thermal Club, located in Thermal, CA is a members-only facility that has 4.5 miles of freshly-paved, beautiful track.  Administrators have graciously agreed to host our group during NSXPO so Chris, Les, JC, and I met up to get an exclusive tour.  From the Cottonwood Springs exit off Interstate 10, I drove through Box Canyon toward the town of Mecca about 20 miles away – this was all “new” road to me, and the scenery did not disappoint!


Thermal lies just a few miles north of Mecca and there’s really not a heck of a lot there – except this glorious track.


Thermal Club is a high-class place for high-speed cars.  What was once just a remote piece of land next to the airport has been developed into an oasis for car nuts.  The first thing I noticed after the security guard granted me access from the gate on 62nd Avenue was that BMW had a Performance Center on-site.  At couple dozen “M” cars were parked and awaiting test drives as part of a training program.  I was surrounded by cars worth more money than I’ll make in my lifetime.  During our tour, we walked through a garage that had three Bugatti Veyrons in it.  That’s $3.9 million worth of cars!


The highlight of our visit was getting to ride as passenger in an Ariel Atom while Thermal member Rahul drove each of us around on the track.  What a riot that car is!  Powered by a 2.0 liter Honda 4-cylinder motor, the Atom is so light and nimble that it seriously felt like a go-kart.  Well, a go-kart on steroids, caffeine, and with rockets attached to it.  I don’t think I’ve experienced that many G-forces in a very long time.  Thanks, Rahul, for the test ride!


The last stop on my SoCal adventure for the day was to pick up a box full of goodies from my friends Scott & Sandy.  Acura brochures!  Scott worked for over a decade with Acura’s ad agency and managed to collect a bunch of materials (43 pieces, in fact) that he decided to share with me, knowing how much I geek out over auto literature.  Check out all these beauties.


Thanks for joining on the drive.  Here are the rest of my pictures.

Headed westbound on Interstate 10 and rocking out to my CDs


Exit 168 would take me to Box Canyon


Road headed to Box Canyon


A few shots from within the canyon itself




You know it’s a light traffic day when you can be comfortable stopping in the middle of the road for a picture


Just before exiting the canyon


Arrival at Thermal and seeing a lineup of BMW performance cars


Thermal racetrack, looking toward the west


Interior of one of the Thermal Club buildings


Thermal Club map showing the 4.5 miles of track, and the homesites surrounding it


Beautiful day in Palm Springs


Visiting my friends Sandy & Scott in Palm Springs


Stuck in traffic later that evening on I-10 eastbound


Finally getting past the incident after a long wait


Does anyone else agree that I must own this sweater from the a 1988 Acura magazine?