Group Road Trip to Skull Valley, Arizona & Kyle’s Pontiac GTO 100,000 Milestone
Odometer (Legend): 543,032
Odometer (ILX): 160,566
Trip Distance: 253 Miles
One of these things is not like the others.
No matter how hard James tried, he couldn’t get his weekly test vehicle, a 2016 Nissan Titan, to blend in with the rest of the participants on this weekend’s half-day jaunt to the Prescott National Forest in north-central Arizona. Maybe that’s because the Titan is a 3.5-ton, 20-foot-long behemoth compared to the cars it accompanied. No matter; we don’t discriminate. In fact, it was fun to get a look at Nissan’s fancy latest truck.
It was a perfect day to get out of town (when is it ever not?) so we rallied the troops around 10:00 in the morning and 7 of us headed north in search of cool weather, curvy roads, and tasty eats. Sounds like a winning formula for my kind of Saturday. Our hodge-podge of vehicles spanned a variety of types:
- Brad: 2013 Audi RS5
- Jack: 2006 Acura RSX 5-speed
- James: 2016 Nissan Titan
- Kyle: 2005 Pontiac GTO 6-speed
- Tyson: 2013 Acura ILX 6-speed
Chandler and Rob also came along for the ride, and they swapped between the cars throughout the day.
This was a special day for Kyle’s GTO as it surpassed the 100,000 mile mark not long after starting our drive. Since interstate traffic was moderately heavy and we had 4 other cars in tow, Kyle opted not to pull over to the shoulder but Rob as passenger was able to capture the odometer reading just in time. Kyle’s car was by far the loudest of our bunch with its roaring exhaust system that probably activates car alarms with just its burble.
It wasn’t long after our fuel stop in Wickenburg on US Highway 93 that we veered eastward on Highway 89. Looming ahead of us was what we call the Yarnell Grade: a sharp-curved stretch of highway with two lanes in each direction that climbs from about 2,000 feet in elevation to about 4,700 feet.
Some of the turns are posted as low as 25 miles per hour so it’s quite a technical piece of road. Sadly, this is where James had a distinct disadvantage in his pickup truck. I was still impressed at how well he tossed it around given its heft.
A Corvette club had parked its cars all the way down the main street in the tiny town of Yarnell, so we didn’t stop there but continued on to the junction about 8 miles down the road where we would head toward our destination of Skull Valley. Nestled in the mountains on Highway 10 lies a teeny little town of 743 people. While amenities are scarce – in fact, just one market – Skull Valley is only 20 miles from the larger town of Prescott so it’s not entirely isolated from civilization.
The town’s name comes from human remains that were found when the area was settled. Those remains were determined to have been the result of battles between the Native Americans and the early settlers in the 1860s.
We snagged a few photographs and watched a freight train go clanking by, then changed things up a bit by swapping cars. I took the keys to Jack’s RSX, Kyle took my ILX, and Jack took Kyle’s GTO. Right off the bat I noticed a few things about the RSX that I fell in love with. The overall visibility is amazing thanks to thin A-pillars and a low hoodline. I love how the gauges are set up with zero mph / RPM in the 6:00 position on the dial.
Since Jack’s car is not a Type-S, that means it only has 155 horsepower as opposed to the 201 that the S got. But you honestly can’t tell! The car revved excitedly and its light chassis felt nimble. The 5-speed gearbox has that perfect Honda seamlessness to it, and on some of the steeper grades I downshifted to 3rd or 4th gears to get the revs up. The steering wheel has a small diameter and good feel, and perhaps what surprised me most was just how tight and quiet the cabin was for being 10 years old. It made my 7-year-newer ILX seem so loud in comparison.
But, apparently Kyle liked my music selections while he was driving it…
Rosa’s Pizzeria in downtown Prescott was the next destination for our hungry bunch, so we stashed our vehicles in a 4-story parking garage a few blocks away and wandered over to grab a table. Our waiter had it pretty easy since 6 of the 7 of us ordered the exact same thing for lunch: The “Rosa’s Special” Chicken Martini. Chandler was the only one who had to go against the grain and make things difficult.
We made a quick visit to Lynx Lake on the way out of town and it was bustling with people out for Saturday recreation, then completed our loop on Highway 69 and I-17 back to the Phoenix area.
Hope you enjoyed coming along for the drive! The rest of my photos are below.
Northbound on I-17
Chandler as passenger in the RSX
My ILX as seen from the sideview mirror of James’ Titan
Check that out! Look: a Sugar Daddy and a Big Hunk
Fuel stop at Mobil in Wickenburg
Heading up toward Yarnell on Highway 89
Next stop Kirkland, then Skull Valley, then Prescott. I covered Bagdad in another post.
These pumps in Skull Valley were out of order.
Lunch spot in Prescott