Archive for the Arizona Category

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

group

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

havasu_sign

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

desert_bar_sign

Sam following close behind in the A4

audi

Almost there

dirt_road

Nice layer of dust here.

dusty_ilx

Paying my respects!

church

Parking is very limited out there in the boonies

no_parking

Sample of the menu

menu

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

bridge

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

fire_truck

Dirty Acura and dirty Audi

acura_audi

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

beyond_hope

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

beyond_hope_original

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

hy_65k

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

sedan

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

high_mileage

Visit to the 2017 Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction

Posted in Arizona, Car Show on January 26, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  550,387

550387

Odometer (ILX):  190,802

190802

“You barely put a dent in that.”

esprit

That’s not a comment anyone wants to hear when they’re walking past an $800,000 supercar like music legend Steven Tyler’s Hennessey Venom, or a 1 of 1 Pontiac Kammback Trans Am, or a showroom fresh 47-year-old Chevy pickup with 400 original miles on it.

Fortunately, my friend Chris wasn’t talking about denting a car.  He was talking about putting a dent in this gigantic footlong jalapeño & cheddar sausage I picked up from one of the vendors at Saturday’s 46th annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction.

sausage

You’ve never quite seen an automotive buffet like the one in Scottsdale, Arizona this past week.  Over an 8-day period, some 1,700 collector cars found new homes in one of the best-known and widely-viewed auctions in the country.  For anyone with a hankering for a slice or two of literature and automobilia, that’s on the menu too.  Since 1989, Scottsdale’s venue for the Barrett-Jackson auction has been Westworld, not far from my home.  My friend Chris flew in from Baltimore to see what all the sights, sounds, and tastes had to offer.  We didn’t go home hungry.

barrett_tent

Chris and I attended the auction on Saturday morning.  Weather in the Phoenix area had finally broken from a 4-day stretch of rain – much to the relief, I’m sure, of the many people who had their prized, gleaming garage queens out in Westworld’s staging areas for display prior to being auctioned.  The ILX got stashed several miles away in the offsite parking lot and we caught a shuttle bus to the epicenter of activity.

tyson_chris_barrett

It was a star-studded afternoon:  Justin Bieber (Ferrari 458), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Chevelle), and Burt Reynolds (Trans Am) each took the mic at different times during the day to hawk their rides.  Chris and I made the rounds in both the interior and exterior staging areas.  High-dollar “Salon” cars had premium parking in the enclosed areas nearest the auction block.  Other cars – not quite as elite but still well out of my price range – resided in the external grounds shaded by tents.

nova

There didn’t seem to be much rhyme nor reason as to how the parking was arranged.  It wasn’t uncommon to see a Volkswagen Beetle parked next to a Hummer, parked next to a 1962 Chrysler.  But that’s what kept it interesting.  There was something for everyone.  And new this year, there was a live video stream on B-J’s website so that the “auction action” could be viewed by car enthusiasts both near and far.  In all, the week+ long festivities wrapped up with $102 million in sales, with the auction being attended by 320,000 people in person.

desoto

Now the automotive buffet got even more interesting.  My friend Jonathan Klinger from Hagerty called and offered a couple of tickets to skybox #11 in the auction hall – an exclusive opportunity to rub shoulders with the cast & crew from Velocity TV channel.  Not to mention, snacks and drinks were on the house, and the view from high above the show floor couldn’t have been better.  I’ve now been spoiled with skybox access twice, since last year I attended in Acura’s skybox when the 2017 NSX VIN 001 was auctioned off for $1.2 million.

barrett_view

Barrett-Jackson truly was a feast for all the senses.  Now if only I could have brought home some take-out.  In the form of a shiny new toy, of course.  Many thanks to the organizers of Barrett-Jackson for admitting me with a media credential this year!

Here’s a short video I captured of Bieber’s Ferrari on stage with a few of his comments at the end.

Bus ride from the “offsite purple lot” where we’d parked the ILX, several miles away.

bus_ride

Media creds!

barrett_media

This NSX used to be Berlina Black.  It’s a custom build by Clarion car audio.

clarion_nsx

The “Salon” area, including Justin Bieber’s matte-blue-wrapped Ferrari in the foreground.

salon

This 1958 Chevy Corvette was named “Eye Candy.”

eye_candy

30-year-old Buick GNX with only 1,524 miles on it.

gnx

I always think of Skittles candy when I see a color like this McLaren was wearing.

mclaren

“Breathing New Life Into a Legend”

bronco

Loved this “barn find” Shelby Cobra GT 350.  They didn’t even run it through the coin-op wash!

barn_find_shelby

shelby_barrett

The “tri-five” (55, 56, 57) Chevy Bel Airs are always a hit.

interior

I loved the design on the dashboard of this 1962 Chrysler Imperial.

62_chrysler_dash

Only 246 miles on this Pontiac!  Talk about fresh.

246_miles

Quick meet-up with RealTime racing legend Peter Cunningham.

peter_tyson

This pair of 1970 Chevy pickups came from a barn in Alberta, Canada.  Each one has fewer than 1,000 miles on it.

pickups

What’s not to love about a bright red 1990 Lotus Esprit?

lotus

Outside tent area with vendors and more cars

barrett_outside

Sing it with me.  “Apple bottom jeans….”

boots_with_the_fur

Custom car builder Dave Kindig in the background at the Velocity TV skybox.

dave_kindig

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. on stage talking about his Chevelle.

earnhardt

“Chasing Classic Cars” host Wayne Carini.

tyson_wayne

Thanks for coming along!

Rock & Roll Marathon Weekend – Future Classics Car Show – & Special Visitors

Posted in Arizona, Car Show, Running on January 22, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  550,387

550387

Odometer (ILX):  190,476

It’s been a full house at Hotel Hugie this week.  I’ve had company cycling in and out for the past week or so and I’m happy to play host!  Visiting from Palm Springs, California was my friend Scott who came to town on business AND to market his bright yellow 1977 Honda Civic which went up for sale at a collector car auction later in the week.  It brought $14,000!

77_civic

Last Sunday, I ran the 14th annual Rock & Roll Half-Marathon in Phoenix with my mother who had driven down from Utah.  Race day weather couldn’t have been better:  even though the forecast had called for a 30%+ chance of rain, things stayed dry and the overcast skies kept it from getting too warm.  In the end, I somehow pulled off a 2 hour, 22 minute finish time with mom sneaking past the finish line at 1:58.

tia_tyson_after

Darn it mom, I’ll beat you someday.

race_stats

On Monday evening I attended the second-annual “Future Classics Car Show,” sponsored in part by ClassicCars.com, Hagerty, as well as other names in the collector car industry.  It was open to all years, makes, and models, but I opted to take my 1994 Legend GS sedan since it hadn’t seen the light of day in a few weeks.  The car didn’t exactly fit in — most vehicles in the show were more of a ‘tuner’ variety, with big wings, decals, and racing wheels.  But I was happy to represent the all-stock Japanese luxo-sedan.  Parked next to me was my friend Kyle in his 2005 Pontiac GTO, which incidentally ended up winning a trophy in its class.  Congrats, Kyle!

lineup2

On Wednesday, I made a trip to the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport to pick up my good friend Chris who’d just flown in 5 hours from Baltimore to spend a few days with me.  Chris and I have been ‘car friends’ since the late 1990s when we were both dabbling in Honda Prelude circles.  This week, he became the first of my friends who has driven all 6 of my cars.  There you go Chris, the proof is in writing!  You win the grand prize!

tyson_chris

It was an action-packed few days complete with highs and lows.  Mother Nature dished out lots of rain which put a damper on Chris’ travel plans, but it didn’t keep him from taking a trip to Sedona in the Legend sedan and hiking 7 miles in the mud to Devil’s Bridge.  Getting there was an adventure in itself.  He’d intended to take the NSX but only made it 15 miles north of town when the car left him stranded thanks to a faulty ignition switch.  A $195 tow and $101 (parts & labor) repair later, the car was back on the road the next day thanks to Science of Speed in Chandler.  First time that one has seen a tow truck in the five years I’ve owned it!

nsx_tow

On Friday, I telecommuted and supervised Chris while he did some ILX maintenance for me, including replacement of rear brake pads, the engine air filter, and the serpentine belt.

chris_brakes

I introduced him to my favorite Mexican place, “Lose Dos Molinos,” on Camelback Road later that evening to compensate him in part for his labor efforts.  A couple of other special guests made their debut at my home including Mark McCourt and Jeff Koch from Hemmings, then Jonathan Klinger from Hagerty.  Talk about friends in high places.  I was honored to have such automotive elites checking out my home and garage.  I thank them for helping keep the car collecting community alive.

tyson_mark

Speaking of car collecting, you’ll soon read more about my trip to the 46th annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Auction which was our source of entertainment all day Saturday.  Watch for an upcoming post on that.

Which brings us to the final chapter of Chris’ visit, in which we took a 250-ish mile round trip to Tucson & back in the Legend coupe to tour the Pima Air & Space Museum, a collection of hundreds of retired aircraft.  My favorite was getting to see the Douglas VC-118A that served as Air Force One for Presidents Kennedy & Johnson during the early 1960s (pictured below). On the way back, I introduced Chris to In-N-Out Burger, a favorite fast food chain in this region.  He said the shake wasn’t half bad.

air_force_one

presidential_aircraft

That puts a wrap on what you’ve missed during the last couple of weeks.  Now, make the most of the few minutes of the weekend that remain!  I know I will!  Until next time.

Interior of Scott’s 1977 Civic.

77_civ_gauges

Some literature my friend Richard sent me.  Love this old stuff!

brochures_from_rich

Scott gave me a huge “A” for my garage.  It used to adorn an auto show display booth.

big_a

Also had a visit from my friend Ryan and 3 of his 4 kiddos.  The guest book is filling up nicely!

ryan_tyson

Not to mention this crowd of troublemakers I hosted for pasta dinner the night before the half-marathon.

group

Another shot from the Future Classics Car Show

lineup

Grabbing a bite with Sam and Kyle

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Headed to pick up Chris from the airport and my friend Lance happened to be right behind me!  He snapped this shot!

coupe_airport

Chris’ arrival.  He’s come out at least 3 times now from Baltimore to visit.

chris

Shots Chris took with the Legend sedan on the Red Rock Scenic Byway in Sedona, Arizona.

red_rock_scenic_byway

gs_sedona

Maintenance underway!

chris_filter

Mark from Hemmings gave me these awesome VHS promotional tapes from the 1990s!  I can’t wait to put them to use!

vhs_tapes

This postcard was inside one of them.  “The question isn’t whether to lease an Acura, but rather which Acura to lease.  We understand what a difficult decision it is, and we recommend you seek professional help.  From your professionally helpful Acura dealer.”  Love that!  I’ll take one of each!

legend_vigor_lease

Visit from Hagerty’s main man in Traverse City, Jonathan Klinger.

tyson_jonathan

Hitting up a mecca for airplane geeks

pima_air_space_museum

The SR-71 Blackbird, this example from 1964, maxes out at over 2,100 miles per hour and flies at 85,000 feet.  This is a serious aircraft.

sr71

Double-double, animal style!  If you know what that is, you’ve been to In-N-Out Burger.

chris_in_n_out

The Legend Rolls 550,000 Miles on a Christmas Trip to Utah

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Legend, Milestones, Road Trip, Utah on December 26, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  550,085

550085

It took me 5 years to go from 500,000 to 550,000, but I finally got there last night.  I made a Christmas 800-mile round-trip to southern Utah this weekend and celebrated the milestone on my way home, along Highway 93 just north of Wickenburg, Arizona.

wikieup

Mechanically, it was smooth sailing aside from adding a little power steering fluid and getting a check-engine light.  As a matter of fact, somehow I achieved 29.7 miles per gallon on the way up Friday night.  I guess that’s partly thanks to the fact that my speeds were usually between 65 and 70 miles per hour.  They still haven’t paved an interstate between Phoenix and Las Vegas so it’s mostly back roads for that 4.5-hour stretch.

550000

Fittingly, my return trip took me through “Santa Claus, Arizona” – a now-abandoned tourist trap that in the 1930s was a gas station, gift shop, and restaurant.  Vandals have destroyed what’s left of it, but the map still clearly confirms its existence and I stopped for a few pictures at Saint Nick’s run-down residence.

santa_claus_map

The place can be yours, if the price is right!

santa_sign

Snow-capped peaks in the background – it was chilly out there, for Arizona standards anyway.

santa

Here’s the roll-over video and a few scenes from Santa Claus.

A few other photos from recent events.  Allie from Acura mailed me a “Nouvelle Blue Pearl” 2017 NSX model car.  I told her it’ll go nicely in my garage!

blue_nsx

Fueling up in Wickenburg on Friday afternoon

wickenburg_fuel

Sunset when rolling through Las Vegas, Nevada

vegas

Visiting mom, and also a visit from our friend Jack

tyson_mom_jack

Re-creation of a 20-year old photo (top) taken in 1997 with mom’s Legend.

1997_2017

My brother’s 1993 Legend LS 6-speed (139,000 mi) next to mine.

payt_legend

The ILX getting snowed on in Holden, Utah.  Jack – from a few pics above – borrowed the car this weekend and put it to good use.

ilx_snow

My uncle Dande picked up a 2013 ILX too.  “Polished Metal Metallic” automatic.

dande_ilx

Family photo of mom’s side of the family.

mcgregor_fam

A few other videos for your viewing pleasure today.

ILX in snow – thanks Jack for the clip:

Link to Xtreme Coupe YouTube channel – my brother’s page.  Watch his Lexus IS300 project updates:

Link to interesting video on the evolution of automotive design:

Link to Hagerty Engine Rebuild Video of a Chrysler motor.  Pretty fascinating stuff:

Have a great week!

Dirt Playground: “Willcox Playa” in Southeast Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX, NSX, Road Trip on December 18, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend coupe):  549,086

549086

Odometer (Legend sedan):  150,755

150755

Odometer (Integra):  238,331

238331

Odometer (Vigor):  106,387

106387

Odometer (ILX):  188,457

188457

Odometer (NSX):  106,412

106412

Trip Distance:  390 Miles

willcox_map

My maturity level took a deep dive on Saturday when I sat in my driver’s seat and looked out upon a gigantic expanse of perfectly flat land in all directions.  I was unsupervised.  I had a slick-shifting 6-speed transmission at my fingertips.  And my sense of adventure begged me to go have some fun.  So, I hit the Traction Control button to deactivate any kind of traction aid, gripped the steering wheel, and let ‘er rip.  Result?  I haven’t had that much fun driving a car since my autocross adventure in 2009.  Talk about a riot.

ilx_willcox

My friends Jason and James were there to witness it — encouraging it, even.  The Willcox Playa – some 3.7 square miles of dirt flatlands – is a dry lake bed in Arizona’s Cochise County in the southeast corner of the state.  But for me, it was a playground where I could pretend I was a professional rally driver.  I can only imagine how much more fun the experience might have been in a rear-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive vehicle.  Time to plan another trip back.

willcox_dry_lake

This weekend trip started out as an excuse to meet up with one of my road trip partners in crime, Jason Pawela of Driven for Drives.  Jason was crazy enough to join me on the 8,000-mile Alaska trip earlier this year and I hadn’t seen him for about 6 months since.  We decided to plan a lunch meet-up at the exact geographic midpoint between us:  Willcox, Arizona.  The town of 3,700 people lies 194 miles from Phoenix and 195 miles from Las Cruces.  It was absolutely perfect from a logistical perspective.

willcox_entry

Joining for this one was another seasoned road-tripper, James Lee of Six Speed Blog, who typically joins our group drives in whatever “flavor of the week” he’s road testing at the time.  This week, it happens to be a saucy red 2017 Toyota Corolla with a host of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) goodies.  Yes, I just used the words “Corolla” and “racing” in the same sentence.  I was surprised, too.  Jason’s car of course was the 2004 Mazda 6, now with 217,000 miles and still as robust as ever, and I was in my 2013 ILX.

haskell_lineup

It took us about 3 hours to get to Willcox, and we met up with Jason spot-on at our 1:00 predetermined time.  Dining options in a town of 3,000 people are sparse, and I’d already eaten at 2 of the 3 top-rated spots on Trip Advisor.  (See:  Chiricahua National Monument road trip).  Next on the list?  “Grandma D’s Cafe.”  It sounded safe.  And it ended up being one of the most hospitable places I’ve ever dined.

gma_sign

haskell_maley

Housed in the historic part of Willcox at the northwest corner of Haskell Avenue and Maley Street, the place appeared to have been there forever.  Luckily we had enough time to eat before the 2:00 p.m. closure (grandma cooks breakfast & lunch only!).  I went with the Cochise Burger, adorned with green chiles, avocado, and an over-easy egg for a little extra protein.

grandma_d_willcox_arizona

Grandma was nice enough to get a photo with us and I jotted down our blog websites on a notepad for her.  If you’re reading this, thanks for the hospitality and the great food!  Hope to see you again, Gma!

dirt_road

At this point, we did a car-key-swap and I got to drive Jason’s Mazda the few miles toward Willcox Playa.  To get there, we headed west on I-10 about 4 miles, then south on Highway 191 to a dirt road turnoff that we’d scouted out thanks to Google Earth.  The entrance to our playground was right where we thought it would be.  Luckily for us, the dirt was hard packed for the most part — I’m sure if it had rained recently, we wouldn’t have gotten past the gate.  And also luckily for us, we didn’t venture into any dangerous parts of the Playa.  It wasn’t until after our visit that I read online that the U.S. Military uses portions of the area as a bombing range.  Yikes!

It was a memorable journey for us and I hope you enjoyed being a part of it!  Some additional photos and a short video are below.  Don’t mind the circus music 🙂

Fueling up at Picacho Peak, midway between Phoenix and Tucson

picacho_gas

Entering Grandma D’s in Willcox

cafe_sign

The Cochise Burger at Grandma D’s

burger

Lined up outside the restaurant:  James’ Corolla, Jason’s 6, and my ILX

three_cars

Park near the railroad tracks

ilx_corolla_6

Arriving at the Willcox Playa

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Clearly James was having a good time!

james_driving

Where’d those skid marks come from?

ilx_back

Getting down and dirty.

ilx_willcox_4

ilx_willcox_3

Wide open spaces, just like that Dixie Chicks song.

6_ilx

It was colder than it looks.  Definitely a breeze in the air!

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Headed back to Phoenix near Picacho Peak (at left) on Interstate 10

ilx_picacho

I’m going to put in a plug here for my friend Darren of “IDrewYourCar.com.”  Darren contacted me after my recent Jalopnik feature offering to do some digital artwork for my garage.  I am thrilled with what he put together for me!  Each of my five “old” Acuras has been drawn up in exact detail and printed in 13×19 size.  Even the colors are spot-on.

idyc_pictures

nsx_idyc

idyc_pics_2

A perfect addition to the garage!  Thanks Darren!

idyc_pics

Finally, I’m a nerd about anniversaries and last night just happened to be my 5th anniversary with my 1992 Acura NSX.  It was December 17, 2011 when I flew to San Jose, California and picked up the car.  Last night, James and I went over to Tempe Town Lake for a couple of celebratory photos with the Mill Avenue Bridge in the background.

tyson_nsx_2

Of course I wore a T-shirt to match the car.  Duh!

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It’s been a fun 5 years and 26,000 miles with that one.  Have a great rest of your weekend!

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

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on December 4, 2016 by tysonhugie

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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?

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Unpacking

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And showing them off

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Sweet.

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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

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

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

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Guard rail in the middle of nowhere!

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Arrival at Musselman Honda in Tucson

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

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Vintage pic of Musselman Honda

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Saturday Drive: Remember the Alamo (Lake), Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on November 13, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  184,729

184729

Trip Distance:  303 Miles

alamo_map

Nature’s peaceful silence was remarkable as we looked out from the Bill Williams Overlook upon one of Arizona’s most remote bodies of water, some 40 miles out into the desert northwest of Wickenburg.  Aside for the crunch-crunch of shoes on the gravel when someone walked, it was perfectly quiet and there wasn’t another soul as far as the eye could see.  We had to stand there and appreciate it for a few minutes.

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Just then, the growl of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle broke the silence and we were joined by what may very well have been Alamo Reservoir State Park’s only other visitors that day.  Lance from our group called the biker couple “Merl and Pearl.”  And they were pleasant company!  Nice enough, in fact, to snap a photo of us.

group_at_alamo

It had been awhile since I did any exploration in the Great State of Arizona, so I pulled out Google Maps a few days ago to see what I could dig up.  A search for “Arizona State Parks” gave me a myriad of results so I started looking at places I hadn’t yet been.  One such destination was Alamo Lake, tucked deep into the wilderness of La Paz County and far from any sort of modern civilization.  The map, in fact, reveals just how far away it is from everything.  And – how far it is from Nothing.  Seriously,  “Nothing, Arizona.”  It’s on the map, right there to the north.

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The lake covers 4,900 acres and was created in 1969.  Today, it’s occasionally open for water skiing and other recreational sports, but due to exceptionally low water levels currently (some 45 feet below normal), only fishermen and swimmers are allowed out on the lake.  Darn, I forgot my swim trunks.

alamo_distance

Our day started out in Central Phoenix where my friend Mike and his family met up with me, James, Lance, and Miles to set out in 3 vehicles for the ~300-mile round-trip loop to the lake and back.  I took the lead in my ILX, with James and Mike following in a 2017 Cadillac XT5 and a 2017 Acura TLX (a loaner thanks to Pauly Acura in Chicago since they have Mike’s 2009 TSX captive for an airbag repair).

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The first 100 or so miles of the trip were on the highly-traveled Interstate 10 corridor which connects the Phoenix area to Los Angeles.  From there, we headed north on Vicksburg Road which would soon connect us with US Highway 60.  The 60 was once the main thoroughfare from Phoenix to LA long before the interstate punched through the desert.

One of many oases (I think that’s the first time I’ve used that word in plural form) along the path was the teeny town of Hope, Arizona.  It consists of little more than an RV park, gas station, church, and antique store.  But perhaps its most remarkable feature, for me anyway, is the sign greeted by visitors as they exited the east end of town, which in gramatically-incorrect form, tells people they’re now beyond hope.

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Our trio of vehicles headed north on Alamo Highway from Wenden and ventured deeper into the desert for the next 35 miles until we arrived at the park entrance.  I counted just a couple of other vehicles along the way.  The park ranger at the small visitor center was very friendly and gave us some tips on how and where to navigate our way around the area.  He even waived our $7-per-car entry fee and gave us passes for free.  He recommended hitting up the Bill Williams Overlook, which was our next stop 1.4 miles up the road.  That’s where we met Merl and Pearl.

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By now, everyone had worked up an appetite.  I’d noticed a couple of small blue signs alongside the road on our way to the lake which read “WAYSIDE.”  I’d also asked the park ranger about this.  It’s a restaurant, he told us.  But it was about 3 miles down a dirt road.  I looked to Michael and asked if he’d be okay taking his 2,700-mile (loaner) TLX on such a road, and he said he didn’t mind.  Of course he didn’t!

wayside_road

Wayside was indeed quite the oasis.  I couldn’t help but wonder as I kicked up a cloud of dust on the dirt road headed toward it, passing massive Saguaro cacti, “There’s a restaurant out HERE?”  We had the entire wait staff’s attention as we placed our orders for green chili burgers, chili cheese fries, and fried zucchini.  There was a surprising selection of food for being in the middle of nowhere.  Our orders took a while to prepare, but we enjoyed the downtime because it gave Lance a chance to battle me in a game of billiards (in which I beat him).

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Heart attack, coming right up!

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The return trip took us through more of Arizona’s oft-bypassed and cowboy-themed Western towns including Aguila (Spanish for “eagle”) and Wickenburg.  The sun was starting to creep below the western horizon in our rearview mirrors by the time we arrived back in the Phoenix Valley.  It was a long day but enjoyable thanks to the great company we had.  Thanks for coming along for the adventure!

Group shot at the entrance/exit to Hope

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Lonely desert backroads

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Entrance to Alamo

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Map of the Alamo Lake area in the Visitor Center

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Narrow road toward the dam (damn) overlook

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Some dam facts for you

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You can see how low the water level is right now

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ILX & TLX with their occupants, minus Michael’s 7-month-old baby Benjamin

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Looks like a nice swim

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5 MPH, 5 MPH, 5 MPH.  Do you think Wayside Oasis doesn’t want people to stir up dust?

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Arrival at our lunch spot

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The Wayside doesn’t look like much.  The staff members were nice, though!

wayside

…. Plus you can get gas there.  87 octane for $3.65.  No Premium available.

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Pennies on the men’s room floor!

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