Archive for February, 2017

Two in One: San Vegas and Las Diego Road Trip Weekend

Posted in California, ILX, Nevada, Road Trip on February 17, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  550,486

550486

Odometer (ILX):  192,625

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Trip Distance:  1,000 Miles

trip_map

Yeah, I know.  Who RSVPs to a birthday party in one state, and a bachelor party in another state, on the same weekend, and still attends both?  You’re looking at him.  And here I am 1,000 miles later to tell you how that all played out.  The good news is that it feels amazing to go from the awe-inspiring 54th floor of the Cosmopolitan on the Las Vegas Strip one day, to the picturesque and sweet-smelling Mission Beach of San Diego the next.  The bad news is that coming back to reality bit.  Hard.

This past weekend’s adventure started with me scooping up my friend Kyle at his place in central PHX and us making our way, Taco Bell crunchwrap supreme in hand, in the ILX to Las Vegas.  It’s a drive that takes about 4.5 hours through the picturesque yet pretty barren reaches of Highway 93.  We arrived just in time to join the rest of our gang for a bite to eat at Buffalo Wild Wings before venturing out on the town.

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And I can assure you, what happened in Vegas that night will stay in Vegas.  Well, I take that back.  The group text message with 8 people in it became a dumping ground for all the photos and videos from that night’s debauchery, and they will forever live on in the memory bank of each participant’s iPhone.  But this isn’t the time nor place to divulge any of those details.  Las Vegas Boulevard, known better as “The Strip,” is home to some 62,000 hotel rooms.  Tourists are out on the streets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  There is seriously no end to the available entertainment and we got our share of it.

group

On Saturday morning, we pulled our acts together in time for brunch at “Guy Fieri’s Vegas Kitchen and Bar,” home to some of the best nachos I’ve ever had.  They’re called “trash can nachos” and basically come out in a big tin can that gets dumped on a plate in the center of the table.  Trust me, they were amazing.

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Snoozing passengers!

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Kyle, Lance, and I hit the road by early afternoon for the next chapter of our road trip weekend:  a bachelor party in Southern California.  Luckily the drive was a breeze with 95% of it being on southbound Interstate 15.  We stopped briefly in the middle-of-nowhere town of Baker, home to the World’s Largest Thermometer at 134 feet tall.  In typical fashion, traffic was slow-and-go the closer we got to the Los Angeles area, but as dusk settled in, we kept cranking the iPod and karaoke’d to classics like Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” (a song now 20 years old!) to pass the time and the miles.

Primitive but predictable, the Motel 6 on 2nd Avenue in downtown San Diego was our resting spot for the evening.  We had just enough time to freshen up there before heading to dinner and a night out on the town at Oxford Social Club in the Gaslamp District.  I felt like a true A-Lister there:  VIP entry, special reserved seating, and a meeting with the owner himself who came over to shake our hands.  The lights and music raged onward as we celebrated the upcoming wedding of my friends Wade & Rustin until the wee hours.

Speaking of, this is what happens when you’re part of 2 massive group texts and you put your phone away for a few minutes.  Ugh, the anxiety of unread messages.  I put both threads on “do not disturb.”

unread_texts

And what California trip would be complete without a stop at the beach?  My phone told me we were a mere 14 minutes from Mission Beach so we saddled up in the ILX and went to check it out.  The smell of a fresh sea breeze and the sound of crashing waves will never get old.  We wandered northbound along the sand for a little while before looping back to meet the rest of the gang in Little Italy for brunch at a spot called Prepkitchen.

ocean_front

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The final leg of this epic weekend journey was the stretch of Interstate 8 that links San Diego with the Phoenix area, an oft-desolate road that runs parallel to the Mexican border.  Kyle took the wheel from the halfway point in Yuma onward, which was great because I needed some time with my eyes off the road.

The gang in an elevator

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View from the Cosmopolitan hotel room

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Soaking it all in, with Lance

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This was the burger I had at Guy Fieri’s restaurant.  I liked the fries better!

burger

Stop in Baker, CA with Kyle along I-15 southbound.

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Gas prices there, ouch!

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World’s Tallest Thermometer – 134 feet tall – indicative of the highest temperature ever observed in Death Valley nearby.  Notice it was only 67 degrees at the time of our visit.

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Continuing on down Interstate 15

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California’s inspection stations have never caused me too much delay.  I just get waved through.

california_inspection

i15

Ahh, the beach!

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Looking northbound alongside the sidewalk at Mission Beach in San Diego

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ocean_front

Fuel and bathroom break in Gila Bend, AZ on the way back to Phoenix Sunday night

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Check out this story about my friend Steve who flew across the country recently to buy a minty 4th generation Honda Prelude and drive it all the way back to Arizona!  Congrats, Steve!  I’m looking forward to seeing the car when you visit tomorrow.

And finally, does anyone out there want to be my twin?  This Legend coupe is up for grabs in the Los Angeles area!

twin

Have a great weekend!

Road Trip to Nellie E. Saloon (AKA “Desert Bar”) Near Parker, Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on February 5, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  550,420

550420

Odometer (ILX):  191,409

191409

Trip Distance:  334 Miles

desert_bar_map

Food is such a great motivator.  I’ve endured a yawn-inducing corporate seminar because there’s a free meal involved.  I ran a 13.1-mile race last month just because there were all-you-could-drink chocolate milk bottles at the end.  And this weekend, I drove 6 hours and over 300 miles (10 of them on some of the rockiest dirt road stretches I’ve ever put my car through) to pay $12 for a cheeseburger.  It was worth it.

burger

The Nellie E. Saloon, better known as just the “Desert Bar,” is just my kind of place.  This one came at the recommendation of my friend Chris who’s always on the lookout for driving opportunities to obscure destinations.  The drive took me and 3 friends to the Buckskin Mountains in the remote and sparsely-populated western reaches of the Grand Canyon State.  It’s a beautiful area:  The Colorado River slices through the middle of the desert and creates a border between Arizona and California.  Spring breakers flock to the area for wild times at Lake Havasu.  But our destination was far from any such refreshing water supply.  It was tucked deep into a dusty canyon.

hills

And it seems we weren’t alone.  Hundreds of Jeep owners, ATVers, and campers had the same idea that we did and the saloon was a hoppin’ place on a Saturday afternoon.  Getting there was (more than?) half the fun.  The closest town to the saloon – Parker, Arizona – was hosting an off-road race called the “Bluewater 425” which brought out all sorts of desert-goers.  Think baja race.

primitive_road

dusty

About 4 miles out of town on Highway 95, we headed east on Cienega Springs Road and were immediately warned by a roadside sign about primitive road conditions.  Not to be turned away, I gripped the wheel and shifted the ILX into low gear for a bumpy ride.  Sam Haymart, of TestDriven.TV fame, followed closely behind in my cloud of dust with his 2017 Audi A4.  We might have been the only ones crazy enough to subject our luxury sedans to such rocky terrain.

At certain times, the narrow road was only one lane wide and we had to carefully maneuver around oncoming traffic.  The 5 miles of dirt took us probably 20 minutes to navigate, but eventually we arrived at the oasis:  A sprawling, multi-level restaurant and bar crudely constructed inside a canyon with surrounding parking.

solar

From the parking lot, we could hear the bass beat of live music and the closer we got, the louder the music – and the crowds – became.  The lunch rush was in full swing at 12:45 p.m. – amazing because the place had barely opened for the day at “high noon.”  There were various places to order and the seating was “wherever you want.”  I grabbed my cheeseburger and sought after some shade on a set of bleachers.

The people-watching was some of the best I’ve ever had – it seems a few folks had a started happy hour early, as the Coors cans were clearly everyone’s drink of choice to wash down their burgers.  The band played on, and I couldn’t help but sing along for a line or two when the song “Wagon Wheel” came on.

piano

We took a short post-lunch hike to the summit of a rocky overlook.  It gave us a great view of the entire bar area and the surrounding hills.  Desert Bar was lined by a few rusting carcasses of old vehicles including a fire truck.  I noticed upon surveying the parking lot from that vantage point, about 95% of the vehicles in the parking lot were higher clearance AWD trucks and SUVs.  It was probably for good reason, too.  While fair weather cruising wasn’t a huge challenge, I imagine that any sort of inclement weather would pose a real road muddy hazard for someone like me taking a car out there (next time I’ll take an SLX).  And while owner Ken could probably attract a lot more visitors if road conditions were improved, the challenge of the trek is part of the allure.

parking_lot

Tyson, Sam, Rob, James

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Ken’s vision of the Desert Bar started in the mid-1970s when he had acquired the land of an old copper mining camp.  By 1983, he had acquired a liquor license and started hosting guests in a makeshift building.  And in the 1990s, further improvements were made to the site including construction of a small church and a covered bridge across the ravine between the parking lot and the main stage.  By the looks of things during our visit, more enhancements are probably still underway as we saw some concrete & rebar walls going up.  And the entire place is now powered by solar panels.  Brilliant, actually!

inside_bar

We made our way back to civilization in one piece and perfectly satisfied with our 6 hour trip for a nice, greasy burger.  For anyone looking for an easy day-trip from the Phoenix area, Nellie E. is a definite hit.  But keep in mind its limited operating hours:  It’s only open from October through April, Saturdays and Sundays, from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m.  And the entire operation is cash only!  Don’t even think of trying to pay with plastic out there.  Have fun and check it out sometime!

Related reading:

  • Castle Hot Springs because it’s a similar oasis type place in the desert
  • Mystery Castle because Desert Bar reminded me of this type of architecture
  • Alamo Lake because the Wayside Oasis restaurant was equally challenging to get to
  • Lake Havasu because it’s nearby in the region and another great destination
  • Six Speed Blog to check out what James has been up to
  • TestDriven.TV to see Sam’s auto news and reviews

Road trippers!  Yoohoo!

yoo_hoo

Headed toward Parker

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First sign about the Desert Bar, about 4 miles before we got there

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Sam following close behind in the A4

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Almost there

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Nice layer of dust here.

dusty_ilx

Paying my respects!

church

Parking is very limited out there in the boonies

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Sample of the menu

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Bridge connecting the parking lot with the upper level of the restaurant

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Fire truck that was used at one point to bring in water to the facility.

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Dirty Acura and dirty Audi

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Passing through “Hope, Arizona” on the way home.

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They’ve fixed the sign!  This was taken last November.

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Congrats to faithful reader Hy on (finally) hitting 65,000 miles on his 2004 Acura TSX 6-speed manual!  And, happy birthday today!

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Horrible winter weather here in Arizona for a Legend GS sedan cruise the other day.

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And lastly, check out this cool “infographic” someone shared with me on the highest mileage cars of all time.  (credit)

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