Saturday Drive: Thermal, California for “NSXPO” Recon

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?


14 Responses to “Saturday Drive: Thermal, California for “NSXPO” Recon”

  1. You drove 9 hours and had to contend with bullets flinging across the freeway, and I drove 14 hours and had little more than a few threatening snowflakes? I’ll take the snowflakes any old day. I am glad you and your car were spared from harm. How fast did your go-kart ride take you? And did you squeal? haha. That’s what 165 MPH did for me. I may or may not have sworn a time or two as well.

    Always an adventure waiting to be had…. ride on!

    • I don’t think the ride in the Atom was necessarily that fast — maybe 100 mph max speed in the back straightaway — but it was the cornering that really made it fun. I think the car only weighs something like 1,300 pounds so it can really handle.

  2. autoscribe74 Says:

    What a fantastic gift from Scott! I understand how that must have felt to receive. And can you imagine how “tasteful” that 100% Orlon sweater must be, in person?! Love it.

    • Haha, I know! I already admit that 1/3 of my wardrobe has a Honda or Acura logo sewn onto it in some form. I’ve never even heard of Orlon before but it doesn’t sound all that comfortable. Scott is the MAN! I am getting quite the library of literature. Hope you had a great weekend, Mark.

  3. Looks like a really fun trip! You do the coolest trips.

    • Haha, thanks Cody! There’s so much to see & do within a day’s drive from this area (and from your area). Side note – I’ll be in your hood this weekend. Arrive Friday night, leave Sunday morning. If you get a free second, hit me up!

  4. Tyson, that’s was quite an adventure you had there on I-40! Good thing no one was hurt from it all. That box of brochures look amazing! You know how I like to hoard stuff like that so I’m very intrigued! I NEED to take a look next time I’m in town. 🙂 Loved the pix of the canyon. I have a few of the RSX in that area somewhere in the midst of my hoard. Also, you were so close to Salton! (Spoiler alert?)

    • Ugh, you KNOW I was looking at a map and realizing just how close I got to Salton. Bombay Beach was calling my name. Soon I need to get back out there. I hope that by the time you’re over to browse my catalog of brochures that I’ll have it better organized. Right now everything is kind of haphazardly sorted into boxes in my closet. Project for someday!

  5. Jeez. I guess you should pick up some Kevlar before hitting the highways. Glad you had a fun adventure, and good luck finding that Acura sweater!

    • Haha, seriously. I didn’t realize that the I-10 corridor was such a hot spot for crime activity. It’s the middle of the freaking desert! Drug bust, I bet. Anyway – the search for that sweater is ON.

  6. Thanks so much for putting so much effort into this blog, I love reading about your adventures.

    Thought this was cool- According to wikipedia, the Ariel Atom is also built with a “K24Z7” motor in it, just like your ILX and the Civic Si! Although, it does make a bit more power.

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