NSXPO 2015 in Palm Springs, Part 3: San Jacinto Mountain Drive & Agua Caliente Closing Banquet / Ceremony
I put over 13,000 miles on NSXs today. Considering I’d guess about 130 people took today’s 103-mile scenic drive that I helped plan out, that comes out to 13,390 miles. So – sorry to all those collective NSX owners who have lowered the values of their pristine low-milers on account of me!
It was another “crack of dawn” type of morning for me and it’s been a very busy day on the go. We’ve just concluded this year’s formal event out here in Palm Springs with exception of an open-to-the-public aspect of NSXPO called “NSX-tra” which will take place tomorrow morning.
Our participants on today’s mountain drive on the Palm to Pines Scenic Byway started lining up in the surface parking lot around 7:30 in the morning. Prior to today, I had driven this same route a couple of times.
This time, it was the real deal.
My own car was piloted by Peter Cunningham and his wife, so I had the great opportunity to hop onboard with a couple of other gracious drivers who had a passenger seat available. The first was John in a 1992 Berlina Black model with 110,000 miles on the odometer. We cruised the 30 miles out to Banning and then re-staged the cars to wait for a couple of the other drive groups to arrive before proceeding up the mountain.
The next car I hopped into was a rare (1 of 50) 1999 “Zanardi” edition NSX owned by Glen Kawano of San Diego. His car handled the curves amazingly, and I enjoyed getting to know him over the course of the next couple of hours while we made the loop via Highways 243 and 74, back to the host hotel in Rancho Mirage. Peter took great care of my car and while he was still out and about with it, I made use of his Cadillac SUV rental car! The timing was perfect because I had to run over to Walmart and pick up some receptacles for raffle tickets. It just so happened that the most suitable (and cost efficient solution) was to buy 26 blue plastic pumpkins at $1 apiece. You should have seen the looks people were giving me as I rolled through the checkout line with a heaping cart full of blue pumpkins.
LA Prep arrived to get some cars loaded up on the stage for the evening’s show, so I gave them a hand with load-in. We arranged the Zanardi NSX, the new NSX, the RealTime Racing NSX, and a club member’s car (an all-original 1993 that had driven the farthest @ over 3,000 miles from NY). Our cocktail hour and vendor merchandising show kicked off at 4:00 p.m., and doors opened to the banquet hall at 7:00. Our attendees were treated to a feast for the ears, eyes, and tastebuds for the rest of the evening. NSXPO director Chris Willson kicked off the ceremony with a few words, and then the curtains opened to show the gleaming cars on stage while a dramatic 2-minute Acura “brand” video played on the huge screens flanking the stage and the spotlights danced around energetically. It was awesome.
Our keynote speakers were Michael Cao, Acura Interior Design Project Lead, Ted Klaus, Large Project Leader for the new NSX, and Peter Cunningham, award-winning race champion over his 30-year career with the RealTime Racing team. During this same time, dinner service was provided. I had to laugh when Peter gestured to the racecar behind him. “Well, the right rear quarter panel on that car is original,” he started, “but the rest has been through a lot.” We took a short intermission after Peter’s comments and gave people one last chance to buy raffle tickets for the $30,000 in prizes to be given away. Jim Cozzolino took the stage to draw tickets for 26 prices, the biggest of which were a $2,500 clutch from Exedy and a $3k set of Rays wheels.
The conclusion of the show was the presentation of signed & framed posters featuring all the attendees grouped around the cars (the photo that was taken on Thursday night at the air museum). Recipients of the posters were Ted Klaus, John Watts, and Peter Cunningham. I must say it was an honor to spend the evening among the likes of such high class people. The level of camaraderie and respect has been extremely evident throughout this entire event.
Staging for the morning’s drive
Riding with Glen in his Zanardi. Check those driving gloves!
View from the cockpit
At 6,000 feet in elevation, it was THIRTY degrees cooler than we had yesterday at the track in Thermal!
Twisties on Highway 74
Back at the hotel with Glen
Helping the LA Prep crew unload the new NSX and other show cars for the stage
Getting things situated
Jon Ikeda, head of Acura Division, and Jessica Fini, National Public Relations Manager
Senior Manager John Watts displays some of Acura’s wares at the merchandising booth in the lobby
Tables inside the banquet hall were spotlit in different colors
Peter Cunningham at the mic
Ryu Asada – NSX owner and Mattel employee. He designed the Hot Wheels NSX!
With Ben and Graeme – these guys are my Legend brothers. The 3 of us all have Legends & NSXs.
And lastly, our NSXPO Planning Committee, minus NSXCA Liaison John Komar. These guys have been amazing to work with.