Saturday Road Trip: X Marks the Spot, Musselman Honda, and SidDesign

Odometer (Legend):  549,077

549077

Odometer (ILX):  187,814

187814

Trip Distance:  232 Miles

phx_tus

The weird, the offbeat, and the random destinations of the world always pique my interest.  How many people do you know who would drive out to the middle of the desert just to see a 60-foot-wide piece of concrete in the shape of an X that’s been there for 50 years?  I guess I’m that person.  And thus the reason why fellow blogger Joe of Bowtie 6 emailed me back in October about an article he’d seen on NPR on that topic.

x

The article talked about something called the “CORONA” Project.  During the Cold war in the 1960s, the United States government needed a way to calibrate its satellite system.  Someone came up with the brilliant idea that they could install X’s in the desert for the satellites to hone in and affix on, thereby increasing the accuracy of any images being returned.

Sounded like a road trip opportunity to me!

sunland_gin_x

I headed out from the Phoenix area in the ILX on Saturday morning and it only took me about 45 minutes to get to the first X.  You’d miss it if you weren’t looking for it:  Tucked away southwest of the intersection of Jimmie Kerr Boulevard and Sunland Gin Road, I drove right to it thanks to a map I’d seen online.  Each of the 272 X’s were 60 feed in diameter and consisted of 4 pieces angling outward.  They are placed at 1 mile intervals in a satisfyingly perfect configuration for someone who has OCD like me.  The center has a small, metal, round marker.  This one said:  “$250 fine or imprisonment for disturbing this mark.”  I wonder if that’s still the case?

survey_mark

Some 50 years later, it’s no surprise that many of the markers have been destroyed or removed completely as development of the desert has moved forward and the markers are no longer in use.  Only about 117 of the 272 are still left.  Handily, Google gives us a map showing the location and status of each marker.  Purple = gone.  Yellow = damaged.  Blue = present.

targets2

Let’s zoom in on that a little more.  You can clearly see that urban development is coming from the northeast.

targets

The next stop on my Saturday tour was a historic motorcycle dealership in Tucson.  Helen Musselman and her husband started selling motorcycles in 1945 and became one of the first “official” Honda dealerships in 1959.  She’s worked there since the beginning, and at 98, she still hasn’t retired.  Back in August, Honda’s “Kokoro” Tumblr page written by Charles Schnieber featured a YouTube video of her.  I fell in love with Helen from the get-go.

tyson_at_musselman_honda

Musselman Honda is located in central Tucson just south of a busy road called Grant.  The overall look of the building has not changed in the 70 years of its existence.  What I found even cooler was that the showroom has an entire room dedicated to historic photos, shop manuals, and motorcycles themselves from Honda’s history there.

musselman

I spoke with a sales representative and asked if Helen was in.  “She takes weekends off,” he said.  “We need to get her signing autographs – we get people in here all the time asking for her!”  It’s too bad I didn’t get to shake Helen’s hand, but I did peek inside her office.

club_21_review

I had a hankering for chips & salsa so I looked up reviews for local lunch spots and was sold on the above review.  I ended up going to another historic Tucson destination:  A family-run Mexican food spot called “Club 21” on the east side of Oracle Road.

club_21

I had the place to myself – which is either good or bad depending on your perspective.  The food was tasty, though, so I enjoyed the peace and quiet.  I always find it amusing when a server brings out a plate and says “Careful, the plate’s hot.”  It seems to happen at every Mexican joint I’ve ever visited, just before my fingers get fried for trying to turn the plate around on the table.  Just once in my life, I want to be told “Touch this plate – it’s fine.”

tyson_at_x

On my way back to Phoenix, I did stop for one more X.  This one was off Battaglia Road near the teeny town of Eloy.  It actually took me a couple of tries to find it because the surrounding area had overgrown with tumbleweeds, but I tracked it down and took a few photos.  I’m sure the people driving past were wondering what kind of crazy nonsense I was up to taking pictures of a piece of concrete in the middle of a field.

The last thing I want to show you today is a special story about my friend Sideiq, better known as just “Sid.”  After a recent Jalopnik website feature of my car collection & garage, Sid emailed me offering to do some digital artwork of my vehicles.  Sid is more than just your everyday artist.  He has cerebral palsy, and he was diagnosed at a year old.  From Sid’s bio:

“I was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when I was a year old.  Cerebral palsy affects my muscle coordination, particularly with my arms, legs, and speech.  Because of my disability I use my feet and toes to control the computer with an oversized keyboard and trackball.  I get around in a motorized wheelchair that I also control with my foot.  But these hindrances do not hold me back from translating my goals and dreams into reality.”

This week, Sid sent me two digital images:  A G2 Legend coupe and a G1 NSX, beautifully framed.  How cool is this?

package

Unpacking

opening

And showing them off

pictures

Sweet.

sid_etsy

I’m thrilled with the pictures and can’t wait to hang them up in my home.  For anyone wanting to check out Sid’s website, he’s at SidDesign.com and his Etsy page is here.  Thanks, Sid!  You’re awesome.

And thanks to the rest of you for reading!

Abandoned gas station in Eloy, Arizona

eloy_gas_station

One of my favorite stops on the Phoenix-Tucson drive.

picacho

This concrete pad used to be a Nickerson Farms restaurant that was demo’d.

nickerson_farms_picacho_gone

Guard rail in the middle of nowhere!

guard_rail

Arrival at Musselman Honda in Tucson

ilx

Neat image of Honda’s original US distribution office on Pico Boulevard in LA that I visited last month.

pic

Vintage pic of Musselman Honda

musselman_vintage

16 Responses to “Saturday Road Trip: X Marks the Spot, Musselman Honda, and SidDesign”

  1. As always Tyson, awesome post! The story of the “X”s marking the spot is very interesting indeed. The fact that there are still some left is remarkable. The icing on the cake is the picture of the marker from the Corps of Engineers.

    Another example of the Cold War – just imagine the amount of $$ it took to carefully plot the exact spot for the markers back in the day. Plus the construction costs, etc that went with it. Gotta love it!

    I share your feelings about the mexican restaurant – even here South Carolina every time I visit a mexican joint I am reminded of the “hot plate”! I guess it is a mexican food thing. 😉

    Cheers!

    • Thanks Joe for being the inspiration for this trip / post. I know – I think it must have been a very expensive program in the 1960s to map all those out and put them in place. Hope you had a a great weekend!

  2. Loved the story of Helen. Can’t believe that she’s 98! She sounds like she’s got a wicked sense of humour too! Think you’ll have the Legend ticking over 550k before the end of the year, Tyson?

    • Hi Adam! Not sure on when 550k will happen but hopefully soon. I could technically knock out the last 900 or so miles on a single weekend if I really wanted to. Maybe I will. Hope things are going well in your neck of the woods. How’s your ride?

  3. Awesome post! That zoomed in map of the Corona x’s looks like a massive game of Connect 4.

    Those drawings are terrific- I especially like the one of the Legend coupe. Really cool stuff! And Helen is amazing. I really hope that if I reach 98, I’m as active and sharp as she is!!

    • Thanks Tim! I know – I can’t wait to get the artwork up in the garage and really get that place decorated. As for Helen, I’m hearing she may actually be 99 now. And still working! Amazing lady she is.

  4. Conor Kenrick Says:

    I might kidnap Helen. She is AWESOME!

  5. Here I thought this was going to be about an Arizona Stonehenge thing erected by some offshoot of the Druids…

    I must admit I’ve never heard of this project before glad u made it out to find it as it may not be around much longer.

    BTW Sid’s digital images are outstanding! It will go well in the Hugie Acura Showroom (HAS?)

    As for Helen and the Tucson store I’m surprised Honda hasn’t flown in or her out for a recognition ceremony?

    Excellent post as always…

    • Sid’s work + some other pending artwork will soon make its way onto the walls of HAS. A friend of mine commented that all I’m missing now is a gift shop and some T-shirts. Guess it’s time to work on a logo / design. Haha. And, I’m ready to roll out the red carpet for you whenever you’d like to stop by and check it out. I’m in Utah for family festivities this Fri-Sun but sticking pretty close to Arizona for a couple weeks after that.

  6. How cool are those X’s. it is a shame you didn’t get to meet Helen. That would have been something!

    • All the more reason to plan another trip to Tucson, I guess. Maybe I’ll see if I can take her to lunch sometime. It was fun to look at the motorcycle collection anyway. They have GoldWing models in there that are worth more than most of my cars!

  7. Midnight Mystery Says:

    Hey Tyson, I’m still alive!!!

    I’m just without internet most of the time, and have to expedite any posting and reading I do…

    Not much going on… The RDX is at 188623 currently… Man, you’re catching up, fast!!!

    • Hey Wes, thanks for checking in even though your time with Internet access is limited! Keep chugging along in that RDX!

      • Midnight Mystery Says:

        Thanks!!! She’s running fine, I just want to drive something else sometimes… But she’s not going anywhere…

        I’m at 188,697, and adding 20 today, then 130…

        Yesterday, riding around the country, and to town twice, I totaled 143 miles!!! Man, I wish I got better than 19 mpg…

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