Archive for May, 2015

Memorial Day Drive to Punkin Center, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on May 30, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  126,950


Trip Distance:  218 Miles


Greetings!  How’d everyone spend last weekend’s holiday?

My buddy Lance visited from Dallas for a few days and it seemed only fitting that I treat him to a good old-fashioned Arizona road trip.  I rounded up a few other guys and we hit the highway at 10:00 a.m. on Monday morning in my 2013 Acura ILX and in James’ 2011 Kia Forte 5-door SX.  After a quick fuel stop at Chevron on Highway 87, we continued northbound to the exit for a teeny town called Gisela.  I’d visited the area two years ago but wanted to introduce my 4 friends to the sweet 5-mile road leading there.


The other place I’d wanted to check out was a town off Highway 188 on the way to Roosevelt Lake called “Punkin Center.”  Now, there’s absolutely nothing to see or do in Punkin Center.  Well, I guess there’s a thrift shop, a little bar & grill, a quaint lodge, and a few locals who looked at us like the foreigners we were when we rolled into town.  After staging the Forte & the ILX for a picture in front of the signature Punkin Center sign, a couple of rough looking guys rolling by in a Dodge pickup truck rolled down their window.  “You guys gonna drag race?” the driver asked James.  James told him that we were.  Ha!


The lodge at Punkin dates back to 1912 and is available for $235 for a one-week stay.  I might have to plan a longer trip out.  From there it was time to head out and grab a bite to eat.  I’d found a decent looking place about 30 miles down Highway 188 called Boston’s Lake House Grill.  We dined on a cheese crisp with green chile and then some greasy hamburgers.  Even better than the food was the audio soundtrack.  When Paula Abdul’s 1988 classic “Straight Up” came on the surround sound, our entire table lit up in karaoke unison.  The forest service guy with the big mustache in the corner booth may have given us a dirty look at around that time.


After din, we did a car & driver switcheroo – I took the Kia this time – and we completed our loop via US Highway 60 on through Miami, Superior, and into Apache Junction at the east end of the Phoenix metro area.  I found the Forte to be quite the impressive little ride.  James’ car has only 49,000 miles on it and looks/smells new.  The seats were my favorite feature.  I haven’t had a car with cloth seats since my 1989 Prelude when I was 17!  I forgot how comfortable they are!


Thanks to the guys for joining us, and to the rest of you for tuning in electronically.

Ready for roll-out!


Kevin, Peter, Tyson in the ILX


Taking a break in Gisela


James and Lance discovered they had matching fluorescent yellow shoelaces


Next stop:  Punkin Center


Few pics in Punkin Center.  It’s like Halloween every day!


Even on a holiday weekend, not much happening here!


Couldn’t resist a couple pictures at the (orange) entrance sign to town


Having way too much fun


View of Roosevelt Lake from Highway 188


Lunch menu at Boston’s Lake House Grill


ILX looking all photogenic on Highway 60 just east of Superio


Peter taking a picture.  And people taking a picture of me, taking a picture of Peter, taking a picture.


Goofy kids.


Jump!  In the style of those old Toyota commercials (“I love what you do for me!”).


In-car karaoke, courtesy of Lance, Peter, and Tyson.

Next up:  Ever wanted an inside look at the Grand Canyon?  I’m about to take you from the South Rim, deep down to its base at the Colorado River, and up the north side… via 26-mile hike.  My legs are burning from yesterday’s trek but the story was worth it.

Stay tuned.


Drive to Five Review: 2015 GMC Canyon & 2015 Toyota Tacoma – Tackling Schnebly Hill

Posted in Arizona, Road Trip, Vehicle Reviews on May 27, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  533,651


Odometer (ILX):  126,281


Trip Distance:  269 Miles



As if I didn’t get enough dirt caked in my nostrils the last time I left the pavement (see the blog write-up from March when my friends and I took an Acura MDX off-road), we were determined yet again to explore the great outdoors in the interest of real-world automotive evaluation.  This time, instead of crossover SUVs, we took a pair of pickup trucks.


The GMC was finished in Bronze Alloy Metallic, with specs as follows:

  • 2.5 liter Ecotec Inline-4 Engine
  • 6-speed Manual Transmission
  • $24,915 As-Tested

The Tacoma came in “Inferno” exterior color, with these features:

  • 4.0 liter V6 Engine (236 hp)
  • 5-speed Automatic Transmission
  • $39,579 As-Tested

Now, certainly this isn’t a “fair fight.”  The Tacoma costs 58% more than the Canyon and it’s a good deal more capable in an all-terrain situation.  Our intent was not to put these pickups head-to-head, but rather to review them independently of one another and bring up the merits and criticisms of each.  The icing on the cake was getting to explore one of Arizona’s many gorgeous regions, that of Sedona.


Contender Details

About that Tacoma:  TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development – the company’s performance line (or “in-house tuning shop” as they call it).  The division dates back to the 1990s when it was first created with a focus on performance parts for racing applications (NASCAR, Baja racing, and the like).  (EDIT:  A savvy reader has corrected me – the TRD concept dates all the way back to 1957 and the American division was founded in 1979).  Today, TRD goodies have trickled down to the everyday passenger cars & trucks available at your nearest dealership.  The TRD Pro package brings in a few special things including upgraded wheels, Bilstein shocks, different front grille / badging / shift knob / floor mats.


Since our test Tacoma was a 2015 model year, it represented the last of its generation.  For 2016, the model has been completely redesigned.  I already got a closer look at the new 3rd generation Tacoma at the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, but it hasn’t yet gone on sale (estimated deliveries starting in 3rd quarter of this year).


The GMC Canyon and its twin, the Chevrolet Colorado, debuted in 2004 as replacements for the GMC Sonoma and Chevrolet S-10 midsize pickup trucks.  The Color-anyan twins are now in their second generation, having gone on sale in 2014 as 2015 model year trucks after a reveal at last year’s Detroit Auto Show.  The Canyon comes in three trim levels and is styled similarly to its larger GMC Sierra full-size pickup truck sibling.  Our tester was the base model with 4-cylinder motor the manual transmission.


About the Road

Schnebly Hill Road is only about 13 miles long, but due to the rugged and challenging terrain it can take up to 45 minutes to traverse.  It drops over 2,000 feet in elevation from its start at Exit 320 on Interstate 17 to where it arrives in the beautiful red rock landscape of Sedona.  We were well-equipped for virtually any type of terrain, since both trucks have long-since been proven as capable rigs.  Just in case the terrain got a little too tough, James took along a 30-foot-long tow strap.  Suffice it to say, at the end of our drive, his first words were, “Dammit, I didn’t get to use the tow strap.”  That means both these trucks showed their skill and reigned victorious.


Aside from those 13 rocky miles, we did get another 256 miles behind the wheel of these trucks – on pavement.  Our paved route took us on a variety of road conditions, from 75 mph two-lane freeway to 35 mph in-town driving, to a few curvy twists, turns, and roundabouts in the towns of Sedona and nearby Oak Creek.  So this evaluation reflects the real world driving experiences of both on- and off-road nature.


Who’s Going?

For this drive, we had just four participants:  myself, James, Chris, and Mike.  Each is a certified ‘car nut’ and highly qualified to criticize or compliment anything on 4 wheels.  We ended up having a blast in the process.  After putting the trucks through their paces on a variety of terrains, we dined in style on the outdoor patio at the Javelina Cantina in artsy Sedona.  That chicken chimi was one of the best I’ve had.  But, this isn’t a food review, so let’s get to the “real” meat & potatoes of why you’re here.

GMC Canyon Review

The Canyon needed to rev out to crest the elevation change on I-17 between New River and Flagstaff, because it only had 200 horses at its disposal.  Still, both Chris and I commented at how smooth the gearbox was and how refined the ride was for a $24k base model pickup.  There are certainly no frills – the sideview mirrors are completely manual in nature, there’s no sunglass holder… but all the critical pieces are there.  The seats were comfy and the ride quiet.  I had to take a conference call about NSXPO for about 30 minutes while Chris drove.  I had no problem with background noise despite the fact that we were cruising between 75 and 80 mph for most of the time.


As we exited the pavement at Schnebly Hill Road, I got a little nervous for a few reasons.  1)  There were clouds in the sky and I knew if we got into a muddy situation, 2WD wasn’t going to do us much good.  2)  The plastic front air dam on the Canyon is so low to the ground it makes clearance a concern.  And 3)  We passed at least three bold “in-your-face” signs explicitly warning us about the rough nature of the 12 miles of road ahead.  Was the Canyon up to the task?  Without a doubt.  Twice, we had obstacles present themselves that required someone to be outside the vehicle guiding the driver.  But both times, we made it through with nary a scuff.  The biggest challenge – and one that I actually turned the keys over to James for – was when a large set of rocks blocked the road and it was inevitable that low air dam would make contact no matter how we traversed them.  With a look of determination like I’ve never seen before, James threw the truck into first gear, gritted his teeth, and powered through.  I felt like giving him a round of applause.


The Canyon is a perfect all-around pickup truck.  It’s composed and comfortable enough to use as a daily driver without that whole “it rides like a truck” driving dynamic.  The stick shift makes it engaging to tool around in.  Visibility was good.  It was easy to park.  And while the cabin was tight – especially the rear seats – the use of space is thoughtful and there was never a moment of discomfort for us in the front.

The Canyon is a winner.  I’d drive one.

Toyota Tacoma Review

This truck is so “in your face.”  There’s a TRD emblem slapped on just about every panel.  Combined with the highly visible front skid plate, Inferno red color, and aftermarket-looking wheels, it’s a truck that looks like it has a point to prove… even when it’s standing still.


Here’s the weird thing about my take on the Tacoma:  Even with all that 4×4 garb, I found it more behaved ON pavement than it is OFF.  Let me elaborate.  At 75 miles her hour, I found it more comfortable than anticipated.  The V6 revs effortlessly.  The ride is nice, and high level of visibility gives a great sense of confidence.  Off road, it’s almost like the suspension has been too stiffened.  The truck would probably have handled better with some sandbags in the bed to add a little weight – we felt like the tail end wanted to dance around too much.  A little disconcerting to me was how much the steering wheel jerked around while on the rough stuff.  It seemed to require a high level of constant re-centering – more so than the Canyon did.


Criticisms aside, the Tacoma TRD Pro succeeds effortlessly at what its engineers designed it to do.  It took one look at the biggest road obstacles we encountered and laughed out loud.  I remember driving behind it at one point and thinking to myself, “There’s no way he’s going to straddle that rock and not hit it.”  And, without a flinch, the truck made it.  That high ground clearance was truly a blessing.  The Tacoma was extremely sure-footed.  Where the Canyon spun its wheels a couple of times on sand-covered rocks, the meaty BF Goodrich tires on the Tacoma gripped like a pair of steel pliers.  Look at how the Tacoma’s color make it almost camouflaged in the desert!


Just because I was IN a Tacoma for a good chunk of the day, I started noticing just how many of them there are on the road.  Toyota has hit a home run with this truck, and it’s no wonder the platform has been changed so little since its debut in 2004.  Resale values are sky high even on well-used models.  I remember looking for a used one for my dad and being amazed at what people were asking.  So that’s good news for anyone looking for a great return on investment.  Bottom line on this one is:  It feels like a fun “last hurrah” for the outgoing body style.  Toyota has thrown everything except the kitchen sink at it, reflected in the $40k pricetag.  Personally, I’d encourage potential buyers to hold off on pulling the trigger until the new 2016 model has hit the streets.  It’ll probably be worth the wait.

Thanks for joining for the drive!  The rest of the pictures and a short video are below.

Northbound I-17 with some fairly heavy holiday weekend traffic


Passing the Tacoma in the Canyon


Here, knowing that the dirt road is not suitable to most passenger cars, travelers are given alternate route options to Sedona


Last shot of the trucks before we got them dirty


Chris showing how tight the rear seats in the Canyon are.  Great for kids, though!


Couple pictures from Schnebly, an awesome viewpoint about 6 miles into the dirt road portion



Tyson and Chris


Canyon in the canyon


Mike and Tyson in the bed of the Tacoma


James, Chris, and Mike, enjoying a few minutes of fresh air before getting back into the pickups


Javelina Cantina in Sedona


I couldn’t not post a picture of the best chicken chimichanga I’ve had in months!


Quick last plug for a friend.  Looking for an IMMACULATE and rare Acura Legend?  Here you go:

“Bill Johnson’s Big Apple” Restaurant – Final Visit

Posted in Arizona, Restaurants on May 25, 2015 by tysonhugie

Busy holiday weekend, travels underway, and you’ll read more about them soon!

But here’s a quick story about a short breakfast meet-up on Saturday morning that might be of interest.


It’s the end of an era:  This little neon sign in the front window of a landmark Phoenix restaurant has been turned off for the last time as of yesterday.  After 59 years, one of the only remaining “original” businesses from historic Van Buren Street has shuttered its windows and will be paved over to make way for a parking lot for the nearby community college.


You may recall my restaurant write-up about Bill Johnson’s from last year.  At that time, I noticed just how quiet the place was, customer-wise.  It’s no wonder that with decreased traffic and increased expenses, general manager Randi Beswick said they just couldn’t hang on any longer.  It’s sad that the dining tastes of Phoenix residents have shifted away from such a historic and unique place.

Since the final closure date was announced last week, people started coming out in droves to support the restaurant.  Upwards of 3,000 visitors per day were willing to wait up to 2 hours for a table so they could enjoy some of Bill Johnson’s BBQ for the last time before the restaurant closed on Sunday.  Here were some of the headlines in the news:




The Bill Johnson’s sign has been impossible to miss for nearly 6 decades on the south side of Van Buren at 38th Street.


The building itself embraces the Wild West theme with its cows perched at each end of the rooftop.


On Saturday morning bright and early, I met up with 3 friends to sample the breakfast fare.  The restaurant had opened at 6:00 a.m. and I arrived around 6:15.  I was able to get seated right away, but there was a steady stream of incoming customers and it wasn’t long until they started having to wait to be seated.  Devan, Kevin, and James joined me.  Our waittress, Bonnie, told us that she’d worked an 18-hour day the day prior.


This is a letter posted at the entrance to the restaurant.


Menu.  I went with the Bill’s Breakfast Omelette.


It didn’t look like much but it was tasty as can be, and it came with a side of wheat toast.


Afterward, it seemed only fitting that we grab a picture of Devan’s silver Acura TL and my Acura ILX with the sign out front.



Thanks for coming along to enjoy some tasty grub with us.

Press Preview: 2016 McLaren 570S

Posted in PAPA, Vehicle Reviews on May 22, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  533,595


Odometer (ILX):  125,855



It’s fun to dream.  Most of us will never own a vehicle with a six-figure pricetag, but that doesn’t stop us from obsessing over them by doing things like making them our smartphone wallpaper backgrounds.  I was invited as a PAPA member to get a sneak-peek of the new McLaren 570S model at a dealership last Friday evening at a VIP event for automotive media.  The 570S Coupe has a base price of $184,000 and it was unveiled to the world at last month’s New York International Auto Show (photo credit to Autoblog for the above & below).  That pricetag makes the 570S the company’s least expensive car sold in the United States.


McLaren’s dealership on Raintree Drive in Scottsdale, Arizona is very simple and unassuming from the exterior.  As a matter of fact, I’d driven by in the past and didn’t even realize it was there.  Unlike other car dealerships, they don’t need balloons, bright signs, or fanfare to attract people.  When you’re spending $200k on a car, it’s a little different purchase experience than tire-kicking at CarMax.


When I arrived, there were hors d’oeuvres and cocktails being distributed by a fancily-dressed waitstaff.  The 570S was under a white sheet until 7:45 p.m. when a countdown on the flatscreen TV went from 29 to zero and the cover was pulled off dramatically.  We then heard from some McLaren employees including an engineer named Chris Goodwin who played a key role in its development and who told us he’d personally logged “thousands” of miles in the 570S as a means of testing and evaluation.  He’d flown in from the U.K.


Like other McLaren models, the new 570S has a mid-engine setup, rear-wheel-drive layout and carbon fiber construction (for strength and light weight).  The performance stats on this “baby” McLaren are impressive:  Zero-to-60 happens in a flash at just 3.1 seconds.  Product representatives told us the car can accelerate to 124 miles per hour in 9.5 seconds and has a top speed of 204 miles per hour.  Got a need for speed?  Here’s your car.  Now, if only it didn’t cost as much as I owe on my home mortgage.  You’ll need a $10,000 deposit to secure your spot in line for the car when it becomes available.  The dealership doesn’t yet know how many cars they’ll be allocated, and there will be a 4-month wait from the time of order until delivery.


The representative joked, “McLaren has no intention of building an SUV.  We are a sports car company.  Mid engined, rear-wheel-drive is what we do.”  He also went on to emphasize the fact that the brand is not going for high-volume sales and considers itself in a special niche. I was surprised to learn that despite McLaren’s longstanding reputation in automotive racing, the company has only been in the business of making “road” cars for about the last four years.  The McLaren name has been around in racing since the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix.  Today, the McLaren Formula One team is actually called McLaren Honda.  Why?  Honda builds the engines!  No wonder they’re so successful!

Here are some nitty-gritty specs on the new 570S supercar:

  • 3.8 liter V8 twin-turbo motor
  • 562 horsepower; 443 lb-ft of torque
  • 7-speed dual clutch transmission
  • Double-wishbone independent suspension
  • 19 inch wheels (285 width rear tires!)
  • 17 available exterior colors

Starting with just one roadgoing model, the MP4, the McLaren lineup of cars now consists of a wide range of cars, from this “entry level” 570S to the $1.15 million “P1” model.   The 570S will go head-to-head in the same general price class as the not-yet-on-sale 2016 Acura NSX.  Now that’s a drag race I’d pay money to see.  Below are the rest of the pics from my visit to the preview event.  Thanks for reading!

Bunch of McLarens in the service bay


This one in the showroom is the 650S model


Want it?  That’ll be $390,286, please.


Here’s the interior.


A few more pics of the 570S on display


Lots of carbon fiber


Are they still called “Lambo doors” when they’re not on a Lambo?




Beefy brakes!


And a couple of ‘twinning’ silver 6-speed Acura sedans last weekend for good measure.

What’s up for the weekend here in Arizona?  Well, James from Six Speed Blog and I have a couple of 2015 model year pickup trucks at our disposal.  And we’re getting them dirty :).  More on that next week.


Happy holiday weekend to all.

Hiking Shaw Butte to Abandoned “Cloud 9” Restaurant in Phoenix

Posted in Hikes, Legend on May 18, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  533,559


Odometer (ILX):  125,623


Remember that classic 1985 movie, Goonies?  It’s one of my all-time faves.  I can’t believe it’s 30 years old.


So, there’s a scene in the movie where some kids go hiking around in an abandoned restaurant in search of buried treasure after finding a map in someone’s attic.  Sounds like my kind of adventure, and that’s why I love the movie.


Oh, and I also loved it because of some sweet off-racing scenes with a Jeep Cherokee 4×4.


I get a kick out of “urban exploration.”  One of my most memorable road trips ever was when I hiked around the ghost town of Modena, Utah.  I’ll never forget the feeling of uneasiness as I climbed rickety wooden staircases and wondered if they’d crumble under my weight.  The thrill of discovery, adventure — and sometimes, of getting caught in a place where you shouldn’t be — is fun for me.


A few friends, family members and I (hi, mom!) are planning a 20+ mile Grand Canyon “rim to rim” hike a week from this Friday.  We’re insane, yes.  But, as part of the training for that, I’ve started seeking out local Phoenix-area hikes a couple of times a week in preparation.  My friends Rustin and Wade told me about a 3-miler with a nice 900-or-so foot elevation gain near 7th Avenue & Peoria in north-central Phoenix.  We met up at the trailhead last Wednesday after work and set out with Wade’s dogs, Abi & Jackson, leading the way.  The path was called Shaw Butte:  Trail #306 in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.


According to the “Health” app on my iPhone, we climbed the equivalent of 68 flights of stairs.  I was panting more than the dogs were by the time we reached the summit.  The hike was just what I needed to get my heart rate up, and the views were awesome.


The icing on the cake, though, was getting to wander around the remains of an old restaurant that’s been gone for over 50 years now.  Cloud 9 opened in the early 1960s as a luxury restaurant for the Phoenix elite.  According to one video account, the facility was small and could only accommodate about 30-40 people.  In all my googling, I wasn’t able to find a picture of the building from when it was open for business.  On November 8, 1964, the building burned down.  There are suspicions that the demise of the building may have been related to gang or mob activity, but nobody really knows for sure.

Even when the restaurant was in operation, the road was too rough to be traversed by passenger cars so people were shuttled to the summit by four-wheel-drive vehicles.  Today, the location is part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve System and it’s not likely it would ever be built up again as a commercial business.

cloud 9 sign

The round-trip hike took us about an hour and a half.  Here we are getting ready at the trailhead.


Wade takes the lead


Now it’s Jackson’s turn.  This is the crumbly road that once led to the restaurant.


Staircase and some old kitchen equipment


This concrete pad is where the tables once would have been.  There were glass windows along the edge.


Abi, Rustin, and Wade as silhouettes on the Cloud 9 patio


It would have been a great view from the restaurant – especially at night.


Taking a break with the pups


Sign along the roadway


Photo op.  Color coordinated – unintentionally (I promise)


Best thing about the Acura ILX?  Huge cupholders that can accommodate gallons of diet soda after a hike.


Now that we’ve worked up an appetite, I’ll do a quick share about a local restaurant that I checked out for the first time over the weekend. This one’s for you, Dave in Seattle!  I know my friend Dave is a BBQ fan so I thought he’d appreciate this.  It’s Honey Bear’s BBQ – family owned and operated since 1986.


I was one of only 5 people in the restaurant at about noon on a Saturday.  Had my share of parking spot choices, and I took an end space as usual.  There wasn’t much traffic on Central Avenue.


Inside view – pretty quiet.


Those are some soft drinks you don’t see very often:  RC Cola, Sunkist, and Hires Root Beer.


“You don’t need no teeth to eat our meat.”  How’s that for a motto?


And here’s that pulled pork sandwich.  Delicious, I’d say.  The only issue was that the meat was so juicy, it soaked through the bun and I ended up having to eat everything with a fork.


And we’re off to cruise down Central on a full belly.


Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Reader’s Ride: Tim’s Honda Accord Coupe

Posted in Reader's Ride on May 15, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (NSX):  100,449


Odometer (ILX):  125,273


Today, I’m going to hand the mic over to a friend who wants to share his own automotive story.  Since this blog launched in early 2011, I’ve been contacted by so many cool people and I love it when they share road trip stories, mileage achievements, or anything else with me.  My friend Tim first contacted me three years ago, in April 2012, when he had recently surpassed the 150,000-mile mark in this 2003 Honda Accord EX V6 Coupe:


Since then, Tim and I have kept in touch – including for a window of time when he departed the Honda family for a stint with Subaru:


Now, he’s gone full circle and re-joined the Accord ownership community.  Here’s his own write-up, along with a few pictures:


I watched an interview with Irv Gordon a few months ago, and he said that when he bought his now-famous Volvo, his first weekend was spent just driving his new car, and he put about 1500 miles on it between Friday and Monday. I did not really understand what he was saying until this past weekend. Now, I totally get it.

I owned a Subaru Impreza, and truthfully, I had been tiring of it for some time. The Subaru is a lot of fun in the snow. Unfortunately, it’s not as much fun any other time. It is light and boxy, so it doesn’t handle crosswinds well. You feel the road surface too much, and I have to spend a lot of time correcting the steering as I drive. The alignment is fine and the wheels are balanced, but it’s just a small car that does not do long distances well. I’d arrive at my destinations exhausted. I frequently take trips to Boston, and I’d be a wreck by the time I got there. I knew I wanted something different.

And I missed Honda. I had owned Hondas for almost twenty years, and my uncle had bought my previous car, a 2003 Accord coupe. Whenever I would see him, I’d ask if I could drive my old car. I missed the responsiveness of the Honda V6. I missed the smooth ride that could also handle the twisty stuff. I missed the H on the wheel (no, seriously). So I looked online at the used inventory at my local Honda dealer, Burns Honda in Marlton, NJ. I’ve always had good customer service experiences there. I bought two cars from them over the years, and also had them do all my servicing. I spotted a listing for a white Accord V6 coupe, 2010, with 50,000 miles, so Monday I went to check it out after work. To my surprise, it was already sold. The salesman showed me a red 4-cylinder Accord coupe (2012, I think) that I test drove. It was nice, but it was not what I wanted. I also test drove a 2013 Honda Sport, which disappointed me (see below). I really did not find anything that I wanted on the lot.

So I was standing in the dealer’s lot, trying to convince myself to keep an open mind and perhaps consider the red coupe when the white Accord I wanted drove past, a big “SOLD” sign hanging from the rear view mirror. It was being taken to the service bay for final prep before delivery to its new owner. I watched it go past, longingly. The salesman saw my expression and said,”Hey, listen, we get these in from time to time. If you want, I’ll call you when we get another V6 Accord coupe on the lot.” I left, disappointed.

That was Monday. Wednesday night I got a call from my salesman. They had a gray Accord V6 coupe which had been traded in that earlier that night. Might I want to come up on Thursday and look at it? I’m pretty sure I didn’t even let him finish the question before I said,”Yes, and don’t show it to anyone else!”

I work for a university as an administrator. Thursday I had an all-day meeting on campus. It was a really productive meeting, but honestly, my brain was focused on checking out the Accord. As soon as the meeting was over, I got in my Impreza and drove as fast as I legally could down the NJ Turnpike to get to the dealer. I checked in with the salesman, and he walked me over to an absolutely filthy gray Accord coupe. I mean, forget parking under a tree. This car looked like it had been parked in a forest and left there. “We can clean that! You’ll see! It will look like a different car!” the salesman exclaimed, reading my facial expression.

I looked under the dirt, leaves, sap, and everything else, and I saw that there were no major dents (a few dings here and there, but that happens), the paint was intact, and the carpets and upholstery were in great shape. I took it for a test drive…. two years with an Impreza and its dinky little flat-four engine, I had forgotten the joys of VTEC and the Honda V6. Wow. Just wow. I loved the test drive and knew that, barring any major problems with the deal, this would be my next car.


We went back to the salesman’s desk and hammered out a deal within fifteen minutes. I got what I felt was a fair price on the car and a fair price for my trade-in. I had done research on what both of those figures should be, and the dealership’s initial offer was actually pretty close to what I wanted. It just took a few minutes of talking to finalize a deal that satisfied me.

The only problem was that because it was after five o’clock, and the car needed significant preparation, I wouldn’t be able to pick it up until Friday. I left the dealership at 7:00 pm, with a plan to pick the car up at 3:30 pm the next day. Talk about an agonizing 18.5 hours! I barely slept Thursday night (I was really excited, what can I say). It didn’t help that the dealership gave me a loaner Honda CR-V. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the loaner car, but a CR-V will never ever be confused with a sports car. Anyway, at work on Friday, I told my co-workers the news, and they were excited for me. I had them all laughing when I showed them the timer I had set on my iPhone. It was counting down until 3:30 pm. Every so often, someone would pop their head into my office to ask how much time until I got the car, and I would eagerly respond: “Four hours, thirteen minutes!” “Three hours, twenty-eight minutes!” “Two hours, seven minutes!” Finally, at 3:00 pm, I set out from work to go get my next car.


Did you ever see the video for “Last Friday Night” by Katy Perry? Katy Perry’s character starts out as a socially awkward nerd, gets a makeover from her friend, and turns into a gorgeous girl who is the life of the party? That’s EXACTLY what it was like seeing my car, all cleaned up. It came out beautifully. They also did about $1200 worth of work to prepare it, including new brakes, a new tire, oil and transmission fluid changes, some repairs to the exhaust system, and some other minor items. After shaking hands with the salesman and getting the keys, I departed for the Jersey Shore. My family has a house near the town of Cape May, and we had a small gathering there Friday night.


I think I giggled the entire drive to the shore. It’s about an hour and a half ride, and I spent the whole time driving with a big grin on my face. The power from the engine, the responsiveness of the chassis, the comfort of the ride… the car is content to be a long-distance cruiser, and then can instantly turn into a willing dance partner when I want to drive with some enthusiasm. Honestly, I started feeling like Ayrton Senna in the McLaren-Honda MP-4/4 on the streets of Monaco or the back straight of Hockenheim.

It’s a beautiful car, too. Every time I come out to my car, I feel like I want to pinch myself,”Wait, that’s MY car?” Really, I’ve never had this visceral of a reaction to a car before. I’ve liked all my previous cars (even my Subaru). But this is love. This is a car I could easily keep for years and years, and not outgrow or lose my interest. And, as I said in my initial email to you, at the risk of sounding sappy, I feel like I came back home. At the time that I switched to Subaru, Tyson, I shared with you that I felt like Honda had lost some of its mojo. And I still think that there is a problem: Honda had a vibe in the 90’s and early 00’s that I do not feel like they have fully recovered. The Prelude, the S2000, the CL, the NSX, the Integra… all those cars are in the past. But this Accord coupe surprised me. It manages to channel a lot of that Honda-ness that I thought the company had lost. It’s sporty. The engine is a gem. It’s comfortable. Good fuel economy. It comes alive when it’s pushed. The Honda Accord Sport sedan I test drove was everything that is wrong with Honda- too big, too slow, too complicated. This Accord coupe, though, is everything that is right, and reminds me of the Hondas that I owned in the past. Just better.

Anyway, thanks for reading my story.

And it’s good to be home.


Thanks again, Tim, for sharing this with us!  And nice job on proper parking with that new Accord.


Have a great weekend, all!

Road Trip to Lake Havasu City, Arizona: Driving the London Bridge

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on May 11, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  533,499


Odometer (ILX):  125,027


Trip Distance:  412 Miles


Before we get started with today’s drive, I need to get a nursery rhyme stuck in your head:

London Bridge is falling down,

Falling down, falling down.

London Bridge is falling down,

My fair lady.


There now.  Let’s get in the car and check out a fun Saturday road trip destination about 3.5 hours west of Phoenix.

In 1958, there was not much to see in the Mojave Desert at the Arizona-California state line.  From a barren wasteland, a man named Robert P. McCulloch had a vision:  He wanted to build a city.  He purchased 3,300 acres of land on the east side of Lake Havasu on the Colorado River and planned it out for 4 years.  Later, he picked up another 13,000 acres.  Lake Havasu City was established in 1963, incorporated in 1978, and continued to develop in the ensuing decades.  Today, LHC is home to about 52,000 people.  It’s a popular destination for spring breakers, water recreationalists (I just made that word up), and snowbirds who escape the winters up north and park their fifth-wheel trailers for a few months in Arizona every year.


One of the city’s biggest attractions is a 930-foot-long stone & concrete bridge that was once a critical piece of infrastructure way across the Atlantic, in England.  From 1831 until 1967, this bridge spanned the River Thames in London.  But Robert McCulloch wanted so badly to bring a “centerpiece” to his newly-founded community that he purchased the entire bridge from the city of London and had it transported, piece by piece (they were numbered to keep them in order), to western Arizona.  It took three years to re-build the bridge in its new location, and it opened for traffic in 1971.  It connects a small island in the Colorado River with the rest of Lake Havasu City.  The area surrounding the bridge is understandably themed as that of an English village.


James from Six Speed Blog and I headed out in our luxo-rides around 9:30 in the morning.  This week, his test car was a 2015 Mercedes-Benz C400 sedan.  I took my tried & true 2013 Acura ILX.  Most of our drive was on hum-drum Interstate 10 which is always plagued with way too many 18-wheelers clogging up the fast lane, but a couple hours into it, we entered the back roads and things got a lot more interesting.


For about the next 90 minutes, Highway 95 ran parallel to the bright turquoise Colorado River.  There were homes lining the river for most of the way, and we spotted a few boaters out enjoying the beautiful Saturday weather. It wasn’t long until we closed in on Lake Havasu City.


The name of the road which passes over London Bridge is (not surprisingly) McCulloch Drive, named for the man who purchased & reconstructed the bridge back in the 1960s.  The first thing James and I wanted to do when we arrived in town was get some lunch, so I picked a top-rated (well, 4.3 out of 5-star) spot for us to check out, called Barley Bros.  From our booth, we had a sweet view of the bridge outside.  I went with a chicken club sandwich and James went for a “lobster burger,” but the thing we both raved the most about was the garlic cheese bread we got as an appetizer.  The bread was so soft it almost melted in your mouth!


There are shops, food trucks, and other vendors along the water underneath the bridge, so we hiked down a couple flights of stairs and wandered around a little to check out the area.  James spotted a jet ski rental place so we decided to try something spontaneous and check out the pricing.  Champion Rentals offered pontoon boots and watercraft for rental by the hour. Jet skiing is something I hadn’t done for probably a decade and a half, but back in the day, my family spent a ton of time at the lake.  Here’s a picture of me in summer 1997 at Lake Powell in southeastern Utah.


And another shot of me (left) and my dad (right) following the boat.


James had a little experience with personal watercraft too, and we both kind of wanted to have some fun.  For $75 each, we plunked down our credit cards and booked ourselves on a couple of black & white Yamaha WaveRunners.  I was surprised at how “little” training the owner gave – basically a few instructions on operation of the machines and a how-to on buckling the life vests, and we were off!

It took us 10 minutes to idle our way out of the “No Wake Zone” in Thompson Bay but immediately afterward we hit the throttles and had a drag race.  My WaveRunner somehow was a good deal quicker than James’ so I left him in my dust.  Or, in my wake, rather.  We had a lot of fun tooling around and got plenty wet in our everyday apparel – including shoes & socks which ended up being squishy and wet.


After our hour of fun, we turned our watercraft back in and went back to the cars.  We fueled up at a station called “Terrible’s” (not sure why anyone would name a business such a thing) and started our return drive to the Phoenix area.  This time, I took the extremely posh Benz.  Coming from a high-revving 4 cylinder to the Mercedes 3.0 V6, I was immediately blown away at just how refined the car felt at 70 miles per hour.  It effortlessly floated along with zero wind noise.

At one point I needed to pass two slow-moving semi trucks on Highway 95 and I discovered just how quickly the car can scoot!  Its 329 horses are readily available to gallop.  The head-up display made a handy way to tell current speed and direction at all times without taking eyes off the road.  I had to chuckle when James pulled up behind me at a stop light and his iPhone bluetooth paired with the Mercedes’ radio and started playing his music.  As soon as I pulled away at the green light, the music cut back out again.


For the return trip, we opted for a little different routing.  Instead of taking Highway 95 down through Quartzsite and getting on Interstate 10 from there, we headed southeast on Highway 72 through some rinky-dink towns like Hope and Salome.  There really wasn’t much to see, but the seclusion and feeling of remoteness made it fun and the road had a bunch of whoop-de-doos.  One 30-mile stretch between Salome and I-10 had at least 40 or 50 warnings painted on the pavement in giant block letters: “WATCH FOR CATTLE.”  Since it’s open range out there, I’m guessing they have a high incidence rate of car-to-cow contact.  I didn’t see a single cow in the whole stretch, however.  We did make a quick stop at a teeny chapel.  This one was just a tad larger than the one I saw in Yuma back in September.


The day concluded with a memorable 125,000-mile milestone in the ILX.  Next month, on June 12, I’ll celebrate my 3-year anniversary with that car.  Hard to believe how quickly the years (and miles) have flown.  Thanks for being a part of today’s drive and I look forward to having you along for many more in the future.  Below are the rest of the pictures and a short video.


Exiting Interstate 10 and heading north on Highway 95


Hey!  I think I found out where I need to build a home!


Arrow-straight Highway 95 heading north toward Parker, Arizona from Quartzsite


In Parker, a junction with Highway 62 which leads toward California


Onward toward LHC


Getting closer!


Welcome to Lake Havasu City!  “Play Like You Mean It.”  Ha!  It’s no wonder Havasu is such a hot-spot for spring-breakers.


The ILX with the London Bridge in the background


Driving across the London Bridge.  I wonder if even those light fixtures are original?


Peeking out toward the mighty Colorado River.


Lake Havasu City is a true oasis.  It’s nothing but barren Mojave Desert in every direction.


A good look at the bridge from the south side.


We saw this guy doing acrobatic tricks on some crazy looking “water jet shoes” of some sort.


James cruising along on his WaveRunner


Getting a little wet in the middle of the lake


Pre-departure fuel stop.


“Suds your Duds” Laundromat near Bouse, Arizona.


Couple hours from home.


Picture from inside the tiny chapel on Salome Road


We did sign the guest register!


Car swap again off Interstate 10