Archive for the California Category

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


Odometer (ILX):  192,625


Trip Distance:  1,000 Miles


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.


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.


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.


Snoozing passengers!


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.”


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.



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


View from the Cosmopolitan hotel room


Soaking it all in, with Lance


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


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


Gas prices there, ouch!


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.


Continuing on down Interstate 15


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



Ahh, the beach!


Looking northbound alongside the sidewalk at Mission Beach in San Diego



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


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!


Have a great weekend!

Quick Trip to Los Angeles: Historic Honda Roots & Dinner in West Hollywood

Posted in California, Car Show, ILX, Integra, Maintenance, NSX, Road Trip on November 20, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  548,869


Odometer (ILX):  185,579


Trip Distance:  758 Miles


Would you believe that American Honda, the powerhouse that sold a record 1.5 million vehicles across the Honda and Acura brands in 2015, got its humble roots selling just motorcycles out of this small office space in Los Angeles?  Some 57 years ago, here at 4077 W. Pico Boulevard, the company first took root in the United States, but it has forever since changed the landscape of the powersports and automotive industries.

American Honda's first corporate office - Pico Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.jpg

Today, that same office space has changed hands probably more times than one could count, and is currently leased by an acupuncture & wellness facility.  Sadly the condition has deteriorated substantially and the neighborhood isn’t all that great.  I happened to be in the area yesterday morning so I stopped by for a pre-sunrise photo.  The building is available for lease, and it would sure be a lot of fun to move in and create a museum or replica of the way things used to be.  Dreams.


Looking westward down Pico Boulevard.  The roads were surprisingly quiet at this hour.


Thanks to the lady selling tamales on the street next door for taking this quick shot of me.


Last Sunday, I met up with a few fellow second-generation Acura Integra drivers at a park in Tempe, Arizona for a little meet & greet.  Now 26 years old, this bodystyle has aged pretty well and the few that survive are in the hands of enthusiasts like the handful of guys I met that day.  It seems most people consider the Integra a blank canvas upon which to express his or her own sense of style, but I’ve decided to keep mine original to its 1992 factory configuration.


It’s always fun to meet with other car-nuts at events like these.  Especially in cases, like this one, where the host brought out Dunkin Donuts to share with everyone.  Thanks to German for that!


For years I’ve waited for the right opportunity to take a photo of my “Vig” at “The Vig.”  The Vig is a restaurant on 16th Street in central Phoenix that has some of the best brunch in the valley.


The 1992 NSX has been under the knife for the past week or so, getting a completely refreshed Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) to rectify a warning light that’s been showing up for a long time.  Braking performance under normal circumstances have been unaffected, but the ABS is deactivated when the light is on.  This is a very common issue for the early NSX models like mine, and luckily Science of Speed offers an upgrade kit designed specifically for this application.  It involves retrofitting the later model year (2002-05) NSX components.


I’m picking up the car the first part of this coming week.  SOS did also recommend a few other maintenance items that will wait until my next major “90K” service coming up in 4 years.  The timing belt and water pump were changed in January 2011 under the previous owner’s ownership, so they aren’t quite due yet.  That was a $2,200 service at the time.

For having driven the NSX 26,000 miles in the 5 years I’ve had it, it’s actually been relatively inexpensive to own & maintain.  GEICO did just raise my 6-month premium to $179 because the street address at which I now reside is higher risk.  Interestingly enough, the NSX is still far cheaper to insure with full coverage than the 2013 ILX (which comes in at over $300) even though the NSX is certainly worth much more.


This weekend’s travels took me to California on Thursday afternoon.  The Los Angeles Auto Show kicked off last week with Media Days being held on Wednesday and Thursday.  Typically, I would have been there as a journalist with the Redline Reviews team to cover the event’s new car reveals, but my work time-off situation wouldn’t quite allow for it.

Still, I was determined to participate in the after-hours stuff so I set out in the afternoon for what should have been a six-hour drive to Hollywood for a dinner engagement with about 30 other people.  Lucky for me, I also gained an hour due to time zones because that drive in reality ended up taking over 8 hours.  Construction zones in multiple places on Interstate 10 and the expected LA rush-hour traffic made for slow going.


My Garmin Nuvi GPS unit crept up its ‘delay’ timer the closer I got to my destination.


At least red is a pretty color!


I did finally make it to the venue at “Tortilla Republic,” though, and just 15 minutes before it started.  Here, I’m pictured with Sofyan, Aaron, Rob, and Peace who are the backbone of the Redline media group.  I’m hoping to partner with them in two months at the Detroit Auto Show if I can play my cards right with the time-off request.  Cross your fingers!


Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame” is home to 2,500 stars like this in the ground.  It was walking distance from my motel and I happened to snag a picture of one of the stars, Mariah Carey’s, while en route to breakfast on Friday morning.


Sunrise in downtown Los Angeles


I made one major pit stop on the way home, to see some friends in Palm Springs.  Scott & Sandy are a couple who I’ve featured on the blog previously.  Their ever-evolving automotive collection spans a wide variety of tastes, from their 1992 NSX to a 1980s Mercury Bobcat (rebadged Pinto), to their latest:  a 1964 Mercury Park Lane which they just had brought over on a transport truck from Houston.  It’s waiting for some brake work so we didn’t take it for a spin, but those guys sure have some great taste in cars!


I took a spin in their 41,000-mile (!) 1976 Cadillac Seville which rode like it was on a cloud.


Also checked out Scott’s latest toy:  a 1991 Civic “RealTime 4WD” wagon that he’s going to restore.


Many thanks to Scott and Sandy once again for their hospitality.

Finally today – I’d like to make a quick introduction to my friend Melissa, who has launched her own blog.  It’s called “Working from Home.”  In today’s workplace, thanks to the advances in telecommuting, you can be in virtually any part of the world and still be connected to your day job.  I’ve participated in conference calls from the road, logged into my email from airplanes and hotel rooms, and been on Skype meetings while in another state.  It’s starting to matter less and less that you’re seated in desk 4S018 at Phoenix Plaza Corporate Office staring at 4 cubicle walls.


Case in point:  I worked with Melissa on a daily basis for over 4 years, but I never met her.  She was over 2,500 miles away at our Rhode Island office and I was based in Scottsdale, Arizona.  Did the geographic distance make us any less productive as coworkers?  I honestly don’t think so.  And herein was born the opportunity for Melissa to create an outlet where she could share some of her learnings over the many months of working from home.

Be sure to check out the article “Are You On Mute?” under the “Real Work” section.  It’s one of my faves.

Have a great Thanksgiving week!

Wheeled Weekend: ALV 2016 Awards Program; “Neo Classics” Japanese Classic Car Show

Posted in California, Car Show, Integra on October 25, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Integra):


Trip Distance:  758 Miles


Let’s test-drive some new cars!  Today’s update brings you a summary of my wild & crazy weekend o’ fun.  The first half consisted of an automotive program local to the Phoenix area, and the second half involved me taking a crazy drive to California and back so that I could be there for fewer than 24 hours.  Sounds like me, right?

For the last 5 years, I’ve volunteered to help with a Phoenix area “COTY” (Car of the Year) program that caters to folks who are athletic in nature.  It strives to weed out and select the new vehicles each year that stand out as superior for those who demand more from their vehicles:  Those who participate in outdoor sports, primarily.  So it makes sense why GM entered its new Colorado pickup truck, and also why they chose to outfit it with all sort of accessories like an optional kayak rack in the bed.


This year’s “Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year” (ALV) program was based at the San Marcos resort in Chandler, Arizona.  In all we had 28 new vehicles vying for awards in 8 categories.  The two-day event was structured with a media/journalist day on Friday and then a consumer/athlete day on Saturday.

Prior year ALV event write-ups can be found here:

New this year was a destination drive to lunch in Fountain Hills, Arizona at the Eagle Mountain Golf Resort.  In the afternoon, there were both on-road and off-road short drive routes made available for the 35 or so journalists who attended.  The location, Butcher Jones Recreation Area, was perfect for both types of driving as it was adjacent to a nice, curvy two-lane paved road as well as some gnarly dirt backroads.  I got a chance to try my hand at driving a new Toyota Tacoma TRD on some incredibly gnarly terrain using its “crawl control” feature.  The Ram Rebel won first place in the extreme off-road category.


I also got my first chance behind the wheel of Acura’s second-generation NSX supercar, stickering at $197,000.   The NSX was entered in the event as a special feature only, since clearly its abilities from a cargo-carrying and off-road perspective are limited.  Acura’s Allie Coulter reserved a 40-mile drive for me in the car and I must say I fell in absolute love with it.  While the driving experience differs dramatically from that of my 1992 NSX, that doesn’t make it “bad.”  It’s just a 2017 approach to a 1990 formula, and that means the car is faster, safer, more technologically advanced, and…. missing a clutch pedal.  I can honestly say that’s the only place I find fault with it.



How does the car behave, anyway?  I punched it in Sport Mode getting onto the Beeline Highway southbound and it kicked me back into my seat.  Zero-to-sixty only takes about 3 seconds in that car, so the G-forces are enough to plant you firmly in your nicely bucketed seat.  The intoxicating part about driving the NSX is the growl of the motor behind the cabin.  It emits such awesome sounds at any RPM.  Visibility was better than I’d expected.  And the car turned more heads on the 101 southbound freeway during rush hour than a supermodel.


On Saturday, there were test-drive opportunities made available to about 60 athletes who came to the San Marcos to evaluate vehicles and cast their votes.  Other key winners were the Nissan Titan, Kia Cadenza, Kia Soul, Volkswagen Golf, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Nissan Armada.


At the conclusion of the ALV awards ceremony, I grabbed the Integra and hit the highway to drive off into the sunset on Interstate 10.  For the next 6 or so hours, I let the I GS-R’s 1.7-liter, VTEC engine sing to me at 4,500 RPM at 80 miles an hour.  Traffic in Corona, California was jammed thanks to road construction, but I finally made it to my hotel in Torrance a little after 9:00 p.m.


This was only the second year of the “Neo Classics” 80’s & 90’s Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS).  It is hosted at Toyota’s headquarters.  Last year, I attended with my Legend coupe.  This year, I decided to showcase my ‘newest’ car, the Integra.  I was in good company.  Just moments after my arrival, a squad of “DA” bodystyle Integras like mine rolled in and I was able to park next to them and make a few new friends.



I also reconnected with a few old ones, including Jeff Koch from Hemmings, Ryu Asada who’s a designer at Mattel / Hot Wheels, and Ben Hsu from Japanese Nostalgic Car.  The quality of both cars and of people is always exceptional at the JCCS event so that’s why I hope to keep attending year after year.

Thanks for coming along on my weekend adventures!  The rest of my photos and a short video are below.

ALV kick-off dinner last Thursday night at “La Stalla” in Chandler, AZ (sponsored by Toyota)


Groups assembling to do the car drives & reviews


Acura’s 2017 MDX Advance


Sweet NSX photo captured by Mark Elias Media Services


Love the design of Kia’s new Cadenza


Davis Adams from Honda, along with a couple other event participants around the new Ridgeline


Nissan’s Titan showing some off-road prowess


Breakfast is served!


Midpoint / driver change for Friday’s media drive


The Ridgeline pickup bed doubles as an ice cooler!


Biggest downer about about Fiat 124 Spider which was entered:  this automatic transmission.


With Shad (GM) and Darryll (VW)


Audi’s new Q7 was on-hand for evaluation.


Its most intriguing feature to me?  Four-wheel steering.  My 1991 Prelude had that!  Here is comes as part of a $4,000+ option package.


With Will who drove up from Tucson to participate


Now, for some pics on the LA trip:  Quick visit to Honda HQ in the Integra


Arriving at the show at the same time as my friend Chris in his immaculate second-generation Prelude.


Lineup of “DA” Integras.  These guys were all California locals but very welcoming!


With Chris and his Prelude.


One of the Integras had Honda S2000 gauges!


Say what you want, but I loved this ultra base model 1985 Civic DX with only about 40,000 miles on it.


Aztec Green shining during a brief glimpse of sunlight (it was overcast most of the day).


I love seeing original ads & paperwork laid out like this on display.


Ultra clean Honda CRX.  It’s tough to find one of these that hasn’t been heavily-modified!


Armando and his two Subaru SVXs.


Met a new friend named Brian who drives this immaculate Berlina Black 1991 NSX.


And Chris brought out his real Polaroid camera and took this shot (which he later scanned for me).  It’s hard to believe just how far camera technology has come.  But I love how vintage it looks!


Quick Trip: “The Quail” Motorsports Gathering in Monterey, California

Posted in California, Car Show on August 21, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  544,256


Odometer (ILX):  180,000


Happy weekend!  I spent a day rubbing shoulders with the automotive elite at an exclusive motorsports show called The Quail in Carmel, California on Friday.  Some 3,000 entry tickets were pre-sold at $600 apiece.  I was lucky to score one for free, thanks to prior involvement with the NSX Club of America and the fact that Acura is a major sponsor of the event.  It was a feast for the eyes, ears, and tastebuds.


From the moment I showed my credential and was given a site map / lanyard, I turned my gaze to the entrance of the event.  Immaculately manicured lawns were lined with brightly-colored supercars and exotics.  Event workers dressed head to toe in white apparel flanked the entryway.


This was not just your everyday “car show” in a Home Depot parking lot with people plopped down on camp chairs and shooting the breeze.  Instead, wait staff brought around wine, champagne, and caviar.  There were 5 or 6 different tent pavilions with free regional-themed food and live music.  And I don’t think any vehicle on display had a value of fewer than six figures.  Many were seven.


I made the rounds as I worked my way toward the large Acura display and was greeted by a couple of colleagues who were already there:  Chris Willson from Science of Speed, and May Lee, the VP of the NSX Club of America.  On display was an elevated white platform with the Acura Precision Concept in the middle, with the NSX GT3 racecar on the left and a ‘street’ NSX at right.  Around 11:00 a.m., seasoned racecar driver Dario Franchitti arrived for some interviews.  I shook his hand and we talked a little.  He’s no stranger to fast cars, having won 4 Indy races.  He’s ordered a “Nouvelle Blue Pearl” 2017 NSX which will be delivered to him later this year.


Right down the street, the Bonhams collector car auction was taking place all day.  My friends Scott and Sandy were selling their 1959 Mercury Park Lane – lot number 74 – and hoped for a good outcome.  I caught a shuttle ride over there to meet up with them.  The entire area was bustling with people, music, and activities – with auction bidding coming over the loudspeaker in a British accent.  “Nine hundred fifty, do I have nine hundred fifty?” he’d ask.  Seriously?  $950,000 – people spend that kind of money on cars.  The most expensive car sold this week in Monterey was a 1955 Jaguar D-Type that went for $19,800,000 at RM Sothebys Auction on Friday night.  Pocket change.


The quick in-and-out Monterey trip capped off with a car event that differed greatly from The Quail.  It was called Concours d’LeMons, and it was a tribute to “the oddball, the mundane, the truly awful of the automotive world.”  Scott, Sandy, and I cruised in their Mini Cooper over to check out the festivities in Seaside on Saturday morning.  The Concours is free and “you get what you pay for.”  This tongue-in-cheek poke at the hoity toity Pebble Beach and Quail crowds seems little a little more my style.  We saw an Amphicar, a couple of AMC Pacers, and of course a Yugo on the grounds.  My friend Jason Cammisa from Motor Trend was on-hand as one of the judges.


And with that, I was dropped at the curb of the cute but functional 4-gate Monterey airport and shed my fleece sweater, knowing that in about 2 hours I’d be back in the desert’s inferno and dealing with nearly twice the temperature.  Thanks for coming along for the adventure!  And, many thanks to the folks at Acura for making it possible for me to attend.  Here’s a very short video, along with some of the other photos I took.

Porsche-mania:  Cars for sale at Bonhams.


Breakfast is served


Ultra rare BMW “Z1” with only 34 kilometers on it.  This went for $90,000.


Ferrari something-or-other that’s worth more than any home I’ll ever own.


Love these lines.


Hey, finally a red car I can relate to.  This 1991 NSX with 85,000 miles looks showroom fresh and belongs to Acura headquarters.


A few celebrity sightings, including this one with Acura’s Chuck Schifsky.


RealTime’s Peter Cunningham, whose collection I visited in Milwaukee last month.


Science of Speed’s Chris Willson


Acura PR’s Gary Robinson


A few folks from Hagerty Insurance, including Jonathan Klinger who inspired this blog 5 years ago.


Like the colors of Skittles candy.


With my buddy Donny from Cadillac, leeching off the free food at the Rolls Royce booth.


Feasts for the eyes, too.


Acura CEO Jon Ikeda – a friend of mine since his days with the Acura Design Studio.


Scott and Sandy’s 1959 Mercury with 40,000 original miles, which went for $40,000.


Scott and Sandy themselves.  Thanks for the hospitality, guys!


As seen from the parking lot of the Concours d’LeMons.  Hey, wait?


The original owner of this 1987 Chevy Cavalier was especially proud of it.  And he’d driven it all the way from Michigan!


Before you go, check out the website of author Darius Nabors.  He and his friend Trevor set out 59 weeks ago to visit all 59 national parks in 59 weeks.  They’ve achieved their goal!  I learned about Darius while thumbing through the American Airlines magazine on my flight from Phoenix to Monterey on Thursday night.  Congratulations, Darius!


Weekend Road Trip: Phoenix to San Diego, California for James’ Birthday

Posted in California, ILX, Road Trip on July 18, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  543,881


Odometer (ILX):  175,686


Trip Distance:  730 Miles


You really can’t get a much better  7-day weather forecast than this.  Highs in the 70s. Lows in the 60s.


It’s no wonder us Phoenicians don’t think twice about flocking to the coastline in mid-summer for a gasp of sea air from time to time.  Yesterday afternoon, I was sprawled in the shade of a palm tree on the grass at the Hotel del Coronado.  The Pacific coast was a picture of perfection:  a light breeze, the sound of the crashing waves, and the smell of fresh flowers.  The grounds at the “del” were immaculate as always.  The historic hotel, built in 1888, has always been a place for San Diego’s elite to vacation.  It’s no wonder the cost for 2 hours of parking is $30 and brunch costs $90.


My seven friends and I didn’t pay for either, as we’d opted to park several blocks away (for free) on a surface street and we ate at Panda Express instead.  But at least the scenery didn’t cost us a penny, and I think a couple of the guys may have even snagged a seashell or two to take home as a souvenir.

The reason for the season was a birthday gathering:  James turned 30 last week and he decided to take the party to Southern California.  It’s only about a five-and-a-half hour drive from Phoenix to San Diego, and with enough advance notice, James was able to arrange an “AirBNB” home for our group in the convenient North Park part of town, right off the I-8 and I-805 freeways.


Kyle took the wheel of the ILX on Friday afternoon for the drive out so that I could telecommute from the road, in the passenger seat.  By the time we descended to sea level at the coastline, the sun had dipped below the Pacific and nighttime had fallen.  Our three-story home for the weekend was right off Idaho Street & El Cajon Boulevard:  “The Gateway to Mid City.”  Saturday morning took us to Pacific Beach which was bustling with people and entertainment.  The water temperature was brisk initially but really not all that bad.  I’d forgotten my flip-flops so I spent $5.99 on a two-pack of them at CVS Pharmacy which promptly fell apart as soon as a strong wave ripped one off my feet.  I guess I got my money’s worth.



We spent the evening in San Diego’s uptown “Hillcrest” district, exploring the streets, freeways, and cuisine.  I twas a a contrast to see the many people outside enjoying the weather.  Central Phoenix after-hours is usually somewhat of a ghost town in comparison.


That brings us to our visit to Coronado Island on Sunday morning.  Once isolated from ‘mainland’ San Diego, Coronado (Spanish for “crowned one”) became connected in 1969 thanks to a 2.12-mile, curved bridge.  It’s five lanes wide with the center lane reserved for emergency use as well as a reversible lane for peak traffic times.  Up until 2002, the bridge cost a $1.00-per-car toll for westbound traffic, but that toll was discontinued after the original bond had been paid.  Today, the roadway carries 75,000 vehicles per day.  We encountered fairly heavy traffic not on the bridge itself, but after arriving on the island and making our way to Hotel del Coronado.  (not my pic here)



Interestingly enough, the San Diego – Coronado Bridge is the third-deadliest “suicide bridge” in the United States.  Between 1972 and 2000, some 200 people jumped to their deaths.  There are signs along the road urging people to call a suicide hotline.  Yikes.


The Hotel del Coronado is home to what is believed to be the world’s oldest living Christmas tree.  First decorated in 1904, a huge pine tree on the grounds continues to be decorated every December.  Unfortunately I didn’t snag a picture of it, but it was far too big to fit in the viewfinder when I walked underneath it anyway!

Interstate 8 brought us back to the desert on Sunday afternoon, where reality soon set in and it was time to do laundry and get ready for the work week.  But the memories will live on we’re glad we got to enjoy the birthday festivities in such an awesome place as San Diego.  Thanks for joining for the trip!

Shell station in Gila Bend, Arizona


Sunset and windmills on westbound I-8 Friday night


Pacific Beach on Saturday with Rob and James


This is a “Baked Bear” ice cream sandwich.  Cookie on one end, brownie on the other end, and cookie dough ice cream in the middle.  TDF (to die for).  Especially since the cookie & brownie were warmed up.


Kyle borrowed the ILX and we drove behind for a block or two in James’ Lexus RX450h.


Entering El Cajon Boulevard


Crossing the San Diego – Coronado Bridge


Arriving at the Hotel del Coronado


Group photo overlooking at the beach at the hotel:  Rob, Kyle, James, Tyson, Chandler, Jack, Michael, Chris


ILX after fueling up in Tavern Rd in Alpine


Have a great week!

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Phoenix Ignition Car Show, & Mom’s New Infiniti G35

Posted in California, ILX, Legend, NSX, Road Trip on March 28, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  542,910


Odometer (ILX):  158,951


Trip Distance:  558 Miles


I attended a 60th birthday gathering for my friend Chuck last Wednesday.  As I was just getting ready to head out for another commitment (my second of 3 appointments that evening), he made the comment, “One of these days I’m going to put Velcro on your chair so you’re forced to stick around longer than an hour.”  Ha – sounds about right!


It was a double-duty mileage weekend out here in the American Southwest.  My Legend coupe and my ILX both saw some highway use on a trip out to Southern California for sunshine and relaxation.  Since the early 1900s, the desert city of Palm Springs has blossomed and grown as a destination for its hot springs, architecture, and tourism in the surrounding landscape.  I’ve visited many times over the last few years and it’s an easy 4-hour drive door-to-door from my place in Scottsdale, Arizona.


Ever the king of multi-tasking, I had to stop twice at gas stations and respond to some work emails.  I was in my 1994 Legend LS since my friend, Justin, would be heading out later on in the evening in my 2013 ILX.  The drive into the sunset was enjoyable and I made really good time.  Even at over 540,000 miles, the Legend is still a great highway cruiser than revs at fewer than 2,500 RPM at 80 miles per hour.


One of the attractions I’d been wanting to see in Palm Springs for a very long time is the “Aerial Tramway,” a 2.5 mile, 10-minute ride that climbs in a cable car from 2,600 feet to 8,500 feet in elevation.  It opened in 1963 and climbs in elevation through a rugged canyon to the top of San Jacinto Peak.  Justin and I headed to the tramway station on Friday morning and the wait time was about an hour until the next available departure at 12:40 p.m.


The ascent wasn’t without some drama.  I have both a moderate fear of heights and a slight degree of motion sickness, so after lift-off when the interior of the 80-passenger car started spinning around, it took me a minute before I could even feel comfortable opening my eyes to look outside.  I remember being very grateful that there were a few windows open to let a breeze through so I could get some fresh mountain air.


For the $25/adult price of admission I felt like I got my money’s worth!  The view from the Mountain Station at the top was spectacular (and weather quite a bit cooler than where we’d started).  There are quite a few amenities including a restaurant and snack bar.  We indulged in a $5 tray of nachos and some potato wedges before getting ready to hop on the next available car and make our descent.


I got back from Palm Springs just in time for a car swap at home, then headed to the 2nd annual “Ignition” car show at the Arizona Fairgrounds in central Phoenix.  There were probably 50 vehicles in attendance, spanning a wide range of types.  The centerpiece was a 1960 Bentley, but at the other end of the spectrum was a $600 Chrysler LeBaron convertible (think “Planes, Trains, & Automobiles” movie car).  I represented with the only Acura, displaying my 1992 NSX.  Midway through the day, I was asked to say a few words about the car over the loudspeaker and the master of ceremonies commented on the signature on my glove compartment, which belongs to RealTime Racing driver Peter Cunningham.



Another highlight of the weekend was taking delivery of a new car for my mom.  At the same birthday party referenced in my opening paragraph, I happened to be seated next to someone named John who I was meeting for the first time.  John and I got engaged in “car talk” and I came to find out that he had just listed for sale his 2004 Infiniti G35 online.  What blew me away was the odometer reading:  20,192 miles.  On a 12-year-old car!


So my interest was piqued and I relayed the information to my mother who happened to be looking for a (larger, car-seat-friendly) replacement for her 2010 Volkswagen Eos convertible.  Over the next 24 hours, she struck a deal with John and on Sunday, I showed up to take delivery of the vehicle on her behalf.


It was every bit as immaculate as described.  It’s painted a brilliant Garnet Fire Metallic with Willow leather interior.  Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 260 horsepower and the transmission is a 5-speed automatic.  Beyond the standard equipment, the car has the following:

  • Premium Package (Bose Audio, Glass Sunroof, Dual Zone Temp, and more):  $3,200
  • Aero Package (Rear Spoiler, Diffusers):  $550
  • Sport-Tuned Suspension Package (17″ Alloy Wheels, Sport-Tuned Springs):  $425
  • Body-Color Splash Guards:  $120
  • Price as Equipped:  $35,045

When John drove the car off the lot with 36 miles on the odometer on March 20, 2004, it right away became his special occasion car.  Neighbors would say, “You must have a date,” each time it would leave the garage.  (His daily driver was a white Chevy S-10 pickup).



Over the last 12 years, he paid close attention to detail and maintenance, changing the oil and fluids himself.  He has kept detailed notes on everything done to the car, and during our transaction he walked me through all the paperwork.  Most used cars don’t even come with an original window sticker.  This one not only came with that, but also with full books & records, a 4-page handwritten maintenance log, even a printed page from from when John “built” his car online before taking delivery.

The car has found a good home and now resides in my garage for 2 weeks until mom flies down to get it.

Here are the rest of the pics from this action-packed last few days!

The Legend coupe in Desert Center, California


Morning view in Palm Springs


My friend Scott taking a spin in the ILX


Road ascending “Tram Way” to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway


Staging area for the tramway with a man-made waterfall


View toward San Jacinto Peak


With Justin at the summit


Headed back down toward civilization


Hanging with other friends that afternoon, Chris & Vince


Out and about on the town later in the evening


Scott’s 1965 Mustang interior


Photos from the Ignition Car Show:  Tyson and a Titan


Grassy lawn on the west side of the Coliseum


Old Pontiac Bonneville with only 14,000 original miles


And a few more photos from the day I got the G35 for mom


From the driver’s seat


Back at the house with the ILX


Interior still smells new


Tucked away with the NSX until mom’s arrival


Window sticker at $35,045


Other records and paperwork




Salton Sea, California Road Trip Part 2: Slab City, East Jesus, & Niland Mud Pots

Posted in Blog, California, ILX, Road Trip on March 21, 2016 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  542,248


Odometer (ILX):  158,038


Trip Distance:  266 Miles


“Uhh, guys.  We have a problem,” said Jason with a look of despair as we were just getting ready to hop in the cars and continue our Southern California tour last Saturday.  I couldn’t think of what could possibly be the problem.  My eyes immediately went to the tires of his car thinking he might have a flat.  “I locked my keys in the trunk,” he told us.  My mind started rushing with the complexity of the situation.  Here we were, 4 miles down a dirt road in a teeny town with only 1,000 people, standing in a field next to some geothermal mud pots.


If it had been 30 years ago, we might have had to go into town and summon help the old fashioned way.  But the solution was pretty clear and pretty flawless:  James hit the OnStar button on the overhead console of his 2016 Chevy Malibu and summoned help.  The representative was able to patch us through to an available locksmith about 30 miles away in Brawley.  Meanwhile, we had about an hour to kill, so I sat in the backseat of the Malibu and took advantage of its WiFi hotspot and air conditioning vents since it was 90 degrees outside.  Technology has really made even an emergency situation feel pretty dang convenient.  Help came to the rescue:


We pick up today’s story after our visit to Salvation Mountain near Niland and take it even deeper into the “weird category.”  Imagine a place where you can take a vehicle, tent, trailer, or even corrugated tin and pop up a dwelling and just stay there as long as you want.  It’s the “last free place in America,” say some.


Slab City, USA.  If you want to live in the middle of the desert, the land is yours for the taking.  Jason, James, and I headed eastward on a dirt road from Salvation Mountain and entered a wide expanse of land that was littered – literally – with peoples’ belongings and makeshift residences.  A man playing guitar atop an entrance sign looked like he might have been a permanent resident.


I’d seen a hand-painted sign promoting a library of some sort, so I decided to head that direction and see what we could find.  The washboard road was dusty and I lost sight of James in my rearview mirror as I left his white Malibu in a cloud.  But soon I saw a big painted arrow which pointed me in the direction of the library’s parking lot.  “24 hour Library,” it said.


Here we met some locals.  While browsing the books in this open-air shack, I saw a couch and a couple of chairs set up around a chess set.  An old man in a cowboy hat came up and greeted us, cigarette in hand.  “John,” his name we later learned, proceeded to give us a warm welcome to Slab City and provide the run-down on everything we possibly wanted to know.  “You guys skateboard?” he asked.  “You guys want to float the canal?”  His stories were endless.  The library, as it turns out was operated by a one-legged woman and her boyfriend named Caveman, who weren’t there that day.  (“But don’t ask about her leg,” he said.  “She lost it train-track hopping and that’s about all she wants to say.”)


For being set up in a shack, this library was remarkably well organized by topic or theme.  A “Google Tree” contained the encyclopedia / reference section.  John, and another guy who surfaced who was also named John, extended an invitation to the upcoming Prom Night in Slab City where they’ll have live music and other entertainment along with a “formal” (tongue in cheek) dance.  There was a table spray painted “Free” with all sorts of garbage up for grabs.  I asked John & John if it ever rained in Slab City (wondering how all the books are so well-preserved).  They said it only happens a couple of times a year.  They both heartily recommended we take the time to visit a place called East Jesus, down the road, so we headed that direction after getting our fill of the library.


“EJ” the sign led us, so I stirred up another clout of dust in my ILX and my fellow road-trippers and I entered the next quirky phase of our day’s journey.  There was a literal fork in the road.  I hit the brakes so quickly out of excitement that I activated the ABS system and skidded to a stop on the dirt road.


In East Jesus, it’s art for days.  People have taken garbage and made things out of it.  An old Honda Civic sedan at the entrance was covered in circuit boards and bullet shells.  There was a wall of television sets with messages painted on them.


This was perhaps the most oddball collection of “stuff” I think I’ve ever seen.  I’ll let the pictures and video tell the story here.


Jason, James, and I had lunch back in Niland at the Buckshot Deli & Diner.  The hamburger meat is homemade and delicious, and I chugged two huge glasses of their lemonade. A sign on the wall read:  Food choices:  1)  Take it.  2)  Leave it.


The last place on my “to-see” list was something I’d read about online called the mud pots.  Just 6 miles from where we had lunch, but about 4 of those miles were on a dirt road.  That had never stopped us before, so we decided to check them out.  Mud bubbles up from the ground and sometimes shoots into the air.  Over time, it has formed little mounds of dirt. It reminded me a lot of the geothermal activity at Yellowstone National Park.



I got a little too close to a fresh mud stream and ended up ankle-deep in it.  My shoe was so heavy afterward.  The other guys had a good laugh about it.  The good news was that I had a pair of flip-flops in my trunk ready for just such an emergency.


Mud pot video:

It was around this time when we were just getting ready to part ways and Jason had his keys-in-the-trunk incident.  A nice man in a pickup truck gave us bottled waters while we waited.  I was surprised it took the roadside assistance guy no more than 5 minutes to get access to Jason’s car and get us back on our way after he’d arrived.  James and I headed east on Highway 78 while Jason made his way to Interstate 8 and we split up the threesome.  Our route took us through the Imperial Sand Dunes – also called Algodones Dunes – which span 45 miles in length by 6 miles in width.


There were lots of people out in off-road vehicles enjoying them.  The highway itself was a bit of a roller-coaster with lots of dips posted 55 miles per hour but a lot of fun when taken at about 10 mph over that.


We dined in Blythe, California – reunited with Interstate 10 and our favorite diner, the Courtesy Coffee Shop.  The grilled cheese was just what I needed to fuel me sufficiently for the final 2 hours of the drive back into Arizona and home to Scottsdale.

Here are the rest of my pics from our adventurous day!

Inside the library at Slab City


Lounge area inside the libary


“Google Tree”


Bathroom break in the middle of nowhere along the dirt road


Not even sure what this thing is


More from East Jesus


Nice dashboard on this 1980s Toyota Tercel.  Clutch felt good!


This is called the “Car-B-Que” at East Jesus.  They light bonfires inside an old Mercedes sedan.


Menu at Buckshot Restaurant in Niland, Calif


Looking down into a mud pot


Sand dunes along Highway 78 between Brawley and Blythe, California


Oh, and HAPPY 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!  It was 5 years ago today (March 21, 2011) that I made my first post on Drive to Five.  Since then, the blog has been viewed 418,313 times.  My biggest day ever, with 1,800 views, was the day after I posted about getting my new 2013 ILX back in June 2012.

Thanks for being a part of the adventure, and here’s to many more good times.