Archive for the Colorado Category

New Addition: 1994 Acura Vigor GS 5-Speed

Posted in Colorado, Vigor on July 5, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  533,911


Odometer (ILX):  133,031


Odometer (Vigor):  104,259


Trip Distance:  909 Miles


Ugh, I’m obsessed.  As if it wasn’t bad enough having 4 Acuras around, I’ve adopted yet another.


From a 1993 Acura Vigor sales brochure:

From the moment of its introduction, the sophisticated Acura Vigor luxury sports sedan has generated excitement, admiration, and respect from the most important critics of all its satisfied owners.

As the newest model in the Acura family, the Acura Vigor has an impressive reputation to uphold: a promise of luxurious comfort, inspiring performance, unquestionable quality and state-of-the-art safety engineering.  And judging by the early returns, the Acura Vigor is proving itself more than equal to the challenge.


As was clearly published in Steve Lynch’s April 2015 article on The Truth About Cars about “orphaned Hondas,” I’ve been on the lookout for an “Arcadia Green” Acura Vigor GS for some time now.  I’ve crossed paths with a few but they’ve been total junkers.  Bad paint, torn-up interiors, worn-out clutches, theft/recovery, and salvage title history.  It’s amazing what kind of wear & tear can be thrown at a car in two decades’ time.  But as I was en route in my Legend GS sedan to Acura of Tempe for its semi-annual oil change last Saturday, I was notified by my friend Kevin about a newly-listed Vigor on AutoTrader that he highly recommended I consider.


This car appeared to fit the bill nicely.  It was my #1 color choice, a stick-shift (requirement!), and a true certified one-owner with clockwork emissions checks every two years.  Best of all, it was an extremely low-miler with just a fraction of the miles compared to some of the Vigors I’d been considering.  This one had traveled on average fewer than 5,000 miles per year since new.


So, while the Legend sedan was in for its 146,914-mile service, I was on the phone with Ben from AutoNation Subaru in Centennial, Colorado trying to swing a deal on that Vigor.  In the end, we did come to an agreement on terms.  Included in Ben’s end of the bargain, he’d be picking me up from the Denver airport when it was time for me to retrieve the Vigor a week later.

What about this odd-looking, ancient, boxy Acura holds so much appeal?

  • The Vigor is extremely rare and only had a 3-model-year lifespan:  1992, 1993, & 1994
  • The car sold only 43,908 total units, and 1994 was the lowest year at 8,722 units
    • By comparison, the Legend flagship was sold for 10 years and totaled 477,831 units
  • This car was powered by Honda’s only longitudinally-mounted 5-cylinder engine giving it 50/50 weight distribution
    • The 2.5 liter puts out 176 horsepower and 170 pound-feet of torque
  • The Vigor came from an era when every Acura model was available with a stick shift transmission.  Today, zero are.
  • This car was the predecessor to today’s best-selling Acura TLX sport sedan, filling the gap between the Integra & the Legend where today, the TLX bridges the gap between ILX & RLX
  • The 1994 model year saw improvements over the prior 2 years, including increased rear seat room & a softened suspension
  • Production of the Vigor ended on May 13, 1994.  Since this car was built in April of that year, it was probably among the last few hundred cars off the line.
  • Every Vigor has notable and very distinguishable features:  Yellow integrated fog lamps and “frameless” door windows.
    • If you roll down the windows in this car and open the door, it’s like a convertible’s door
  • This Vigor is equipped in “GS” trim, making it top of the line.  The GS got a power moonroof, full leather upholstery, and an upgraded stereo which set it apart from “LS” models.
  • Has there ever been a cooler name for an interior color than “Cognac”?


My flight to Colorado would be Saturday morning the 4th of July.  On Friday, I slept as best as I could knowing that I had to be at the airport the next day at 5:00 in the morning.  But when you’re anxious about getting a new car and you know you have an 850+ mile drive the next day and aren’t even sure if the car will make it, it’s tough to catch any shuteye.


Ben from AutoNation Subaru picked me up in a Legacy wagon promptly at 9:30 after my short flight on Southwest and we made the 30-minute drive to Centennial.  We both kind of laughed a little at the thought of someone like me going to such great lengths to buy a 21-year-old Acura.  The Vigor was backed in at the covered entrance to the showroom in a delivery area when we arrived at the Arapahoe Road facility.


Ben said he’d had the car detailed the night before, and I could tell.  It was gleaming.  Right off the bat, I did notice some flaws:  both the front & rear bumpers were scuffed, the tint was purple and bubbling all over, and some of the wheels had a little clear coat failure.  But the body itself was absolutely miraculous in its condition.  For being a Colorado car and in an environment where winters are very harsh, it didn’t have an ounce of rust.  I couldn’t detect any paint work at all, and everything was factory original.  The driver’s seat showed a little wear on the side bolster but otherwise the interior looked like a brand new car.


While Ben rounded up paperwork with his finance guy, Mike, I had 10 minutes to chill, so I walked around the car and then started rummaging through the glove compartment.  The leather-bound owner’s manual was there, and I noted that the original owner’s name (Kathy) & her information were handwritten on the inside of the front cover.  Kathy bought the car from Riverside Acura in Little Rock, Arkansas on March 23, 1995 from salesman Jack Storey who left his business card there.


I got a little hopeful that I’d find an original build sheet / window sticker inside the portfolio.  I stuck my fingers down into the pocket and BINGO.  Found it.  Folded 6 times and ripping in multiple places, but clearly the piece of paper I’d been looking for.  The MSRP on the Vigor was $28,735 including destination and handling, kind of shocking since the Legend flagship at the time was a full $10k more expensive.  That paperwork discovery made my day as much as getting the car itself.


Unfortunately AutoNation wasn’t able to give me any other documentation on the car aside from an in-house work order showing that they replaced the sway bar bushings in the front suspension at 103,342 miles.  They also provided a Carfax print-out but it didn’t show much more than clockwork emissions tests every two years.

Finance Mike and I completed our business inside his office.  “Who’s the car for?” he asked.  “Just me,” I told him.  I mentioned that I already had a couple other Acuras and he said, “You should get an NSX.”  He was surprised to learn that I already had one.  It would be inappropriate to complete any car sale transaction without a proper key-handoff photo, so Ben and I posed for a couple of those before I drove off the lot.  That drive-away, by the way, was the first time I’d even driven the car.  I had declined a test drive upon first arrival because I already knew I wanted to buy the car.  Probably not the smartest move, but it worked out anyway.


How’s it drive?  The car’s 176 horses are elderly and I’m sure they hadn’t been pushed to a great extent in a very long time.  As a matter of fact, the Carfax showed that the Vigor had only been driven about 1,000 miles per year over the last 4-5 years.  I was about to embark on a nearly 1,ooo-mile trip taking place in a single day.  Crossing fingers, I got on the Interstate 25 southbound onramp and gave it a go.  The clutch felt good, the suspension tight, and the 5-cylinder engine gave off a unique growl upon acceleration.  At 75 miles per hour, I set the cruise and noted the RPMs at right around 3,100 RPM in 5th gear.  We were in business.  I spent roughly the next 13 hours getting to know my car.  Visibility was great, thanks to huge rear windows and a high seating position.  I got comfortable easily.


It became clearly evident, though, that cars have come a long way in technology and amenities in the last two decades.  I’d almost forgotten what it was like to set up climate control settings manually – as in, fan speed & temp – without just being able to dial in a thermostat.  The Vigor has no radio controls on its steering wheel, and of course no connectivity for an iPod of any sort.  There’s no keyless entry.  And, unlike my ILX which has 6, there are zero cupholders.  Upon sending a photo to friend and Acura conoisseur Scott, he replied with:


It wasn’t until about 100 miles into my drive that I even turned the radio on.  I was too busy enjoying the sights and sounds that surrounded me in that “Cognac” colored interior.  The motorized antenna mast went up on command, and I connected my tape deck adapter and iPod for a concert.  Album of choice?  Ace of Base “The Sign,” which was released in 1993.  I wanted the first song to be a period-correct selection, so this was the obvious way to go.


I noted that the brand new Michelin tires provided an ultra smooth ride.  I was also a little amazed that the frameless door windows did not have any wind noise, even at highway speed  When asked by a friend how the car rode & drove, I replied:  “Like a 21-year-old brand new car.”  I pulled off I-25 just briefly when I saw a sign for “Greenland,” since I felt it only appropriate in my Arcadia Green car to document such a thing.


Since Ben had sent me off with a full tank of gas, I didn’t need to stop for fuel for awhile.  While on the phone with my friend Chris from Maryland, I pulled into the Shell station just north of the New Mexico state line in Trinidad.  The Vigor took only 5.6 gallons of Premium fuel to go its first 186 miles – netting economy of over 33 miles per gallon!  Not bad considering the window sticker has an EPA rating of 27 mpg highway!   I grabbed some Wendy’s to go, which I ate VERY carefully inside the car.  No fries allowed under the seats here.


Raton Pass at 7,800 feet in elevation took me over the Santa Fe trail and on southward into New Mexico, where I grabbed a quick roadside photo and then continued on my way.  For being a holiday weekend, the interstate was miraculously “dead” and I was able to set the cruise control at 78 miles per hour and enjoy the green, rolling hills.  There were dark rain clouds on the horizon and I knew it was only a matter of time until my clean Vigor got dirty.  Luckily it had brand new Bosch wiper blades that swept the windshield clean with ease.



It wouldn’t be a proper road trip unless I did a little bit of sightseeing, so I scouted out a place to get a picture in Albuquerque.  Having seen the entire TV series “Breaking Bad,” I knew that the show’s location was in Albuquerque, and I’d been able to Google the location of the main home used in it.  It took me about a 15-minute detour to get there, but soon I arrived at 3828 Piermont Drive and it felt a little unreal to be driving in front of a house I’d seen on TV so many times.  I got out of the car long enough to take a “selfie” with the house in the background, and then a shot of the Vigor parked on the street in front of it.


Just moments before I was going to leave, another vehicle pulled up to do the same thing, and I saw the garage door of the home roll open.  A woman stood there with her hands on her hips giving us crusty looks.  I took that as an invitation to leave, so I happily headed back down Wyoming Street to Interstate 40 and on my way.


At this point, I was a little over halfway home and I was determined to press onward.  I declined the chance to stop at other roadside destinations like the historic Route 66 bridge in Rio Puerco, but instead pointed the nose of the Vigor westward and decided not to stop until I needed food or fuel.


Daylight diminished and I had spotty rain showers all the way into Holbrook, Arizona where I grabbed a bite to eat and checked the oil in the Vigor while topping off the fuel tank.  I watched 4th of July fireworks from the interstate in Winslow, Arizona (and yes, I’ve stood on a corner there!).  The last stretch of road was Interstate 17, dropping down sharply in elevation from Flagstaff into the Phoenix metro area.  Even at 11:00 at night, there was fairly heavy holiday traffic along this piece.  It was 11:50 when I finally rolled into my driveway, grateful for a safe trip and happy to have finally made it home.

I’m not yet sure what the future holds for my new Vigor but I fully enjoyed spending 909 miles with it.  Here are the rest of my trip photos and a video!

Early morning flight on Saturday at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport


Vigor on display in the delivery area


Ben filling out my temporary registration tag


Driving away!


That interior color is really bold!  I do like the woodgrain trim which goes from the dash to the door panels.


A few pictures at the Greenland exit off I-25


Few bumps and bruises but not bad shape for its age


Love those integrated fog lamps


The AutoNation advertisements will be ditched soon


Headed southbound toward New Mexico


Revs at 80 in 5th gear


This is how you improvise when you don’t have a cup holder


Not the Vegas you’re thinking of!  This one is a small town in northern New Mexico


Historic Rio Puerco bridge was once a part of Route 66


Arizona state line!  And, apparently I have a taillight bulb out.


104,000 milestone


Christmas in July.  Home the following morning with the NSX (and a piece of the Legend)


Going through paperwork


Here are a few more shots from that brochure for any who are interested!





There were 6 colors available in 1993.  Arcadia Green was offered only with Cognac interior.


Thanks for reading!

ILX Colorado Trip Day 3: Colorado Springs to Scottsdale

Posted in Colorado, ILX, Road Trip on July 25, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  522,645


Odometer (ILX):  47,274


Daily Distance:  788 Miles


Welcome back!

That Legend odometer seems stuck at 522,000 these days.  The car is resting up for its big trip to Asheville, North Carolina next month.  Meanwhile, I drove the wheels off my ILX (attempted to, anyway) in Colorado this weekend.

Rested up from a day of mountain-climbing, my third day of the Mount Evans trip this past weekend was entirely dedicated to my return trip to Arizona.  Many years ago, I rolled through Colorado Springs in my 1994 Legend coupe and I met up with my friend Adam who’s local to the area.  He owned a 1991 Legend coupe 5-speed at the time.


Now, Adam’s moved on to other automotive interests and he’s currently driving a 1995 BMW 540i.  Adam stopped by my hotel on Sunday morning for a reunion.


This car’s in amazing shape for having 210,000 miles on it.  Best of all, it’s a 6-speed manual.  Adam says it’s one of only 100 cars that were produced in its color / transmission configuration for the year.


I gave Adam the opportunity to take the ILX for a short cruise.


After that, I hit the highway and headed southbound toward home.  This was a sign along I-25 in northern New Mexico when I made my return trip:


It reads:

Report Drunk Drivers

Dial #DWI (#394)

I know I’ve been on Instagram too long because when I blew past the sign, I read it as “Hashtag DWI” instead of “Pound DWI.”  Why in the world would they want me to report a drunk driver by hashtagging?

I was on the road long enough (roughly 12 hours, with only short stops for fuel & bathroom breaks) to learn that XM radio stations DO repeat the same songs.  Frequently.  I spent most of the day on a country station, WSIX Channel 57.  I heard this song 4 times.  And I couldn’t bring myself to change the station each time.  It’s too dang catchy!


Storm clouds loomed in the distance as I neared Holbrook, Arizona.


Sure enough, the summer “monsoon” storms were in full force and I got very wet.  The ILX, even with 47,000 miles on the current Michelin Pilot tires, gets excellent grip and I was able to make it through the weather with confidence.


That concluded the 3-day Colorado adventure to the highest paved road in America.  I loved the drive and I’m glad you could all be a part of it!

Random Fun Mileage News:

The other day, I came across a “Trade In Quality Index” website that is a database of about 160,000 traded-in vehicles.  It illustrates the percentage of vehicles with over 180,000 miles on them on this chart.  Acura had 20%.  Geo was the highest at 27%.  I’m not sure how current this data is, but it’s fun to consider.  I have colleagues at work who get antsy to sell or trade their vehicles as soon as they close in on 100,000.  That’s barely past break-in.


Here’s a 1987 Chevy Celebrity with over 375,000 miles, found on  Impressive for an old tank!  The Celebrity model will also have a special place in my heart since it was my first car.


And here’s another Chevy with super LOW miles.  This is a 1950 model year with just 437 miles on it.  More on that here.


All original – of course!


Just look at that interior.


Lastly –

If you haven’t already watched it, check out this Acura “Advance” Commercial linked here.  Thanks Ryan for finding it!

Hope everyone has a great Friday tomorrow.

ILX Colorado Trip Day 2: Mount Evans

Posted in Colorado, ILX, Road Trip on July 23, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  522,641


Odometer (ILX):  47,189


Daily Distance:  ~250 Miles


Welcome to Part 2 of my Colorado weekend adventure wrap-up.  How could I resist the temptation to drive my Acura ILX to a place that’s described like this?

Mount Evans is the road into the sky. Drive from 8,700 feet at Idaho Spring where you turn off Interstate 70 to 14,240 feet to the summit, and you will pass through 3 life zones, passing ancient trees, lakes and forest to the land above timberline. It can be 90 degrees in Denver and 40 degrees at the top of Mount Evans.  Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep will greet you as you climb to the top of the world.

If you want to cut to the chase, here’s the video:

Jason, Jeremy, Johl and I set out on Saturday morning to see what Mount Evans was all about.  An LED sign above I-70 west of Denver soon crushed our plans:  The highway was to be closed until 2:00 p.m. for a bicycle race:


Determined to still climb the mountain that day, we delayed our plans and entertained ourselves in the meantime.  Jeremy and I went to see & drive this 1994 Acura Legend LS Coupe 6-Speed that’s currently for sale on Denver craigslist.  A friend asked me to give it a look since he’s a prospective buyer.



This car looks nice from a distance, but it’s a full repaint (and a poor one, at that) and it needs some mechanical help, too.  At 151,000 miles, it did drive fairly nice, but I didn’t feel the car was worth the $6,800 asking price.


Back up the mountain we go!


Jason and Jouhl followed us as we snaked our way on Squaw Pass Road toward the base of the Mount Evans.


We weren’t discouraged when we had to cruise through a dusty construction zone.  We were determined.


Even before we got to the official “Mount Evans Highway,” we were already beginning our ascent.  On a clear day, the views stretch a great distance.


Echo Lake, at 10,600 feet, lies in the background in the below picture and marks the start of the 14-mile road that leads to the summit of Mount Evans.  The Accord and the ILX had driven a combined 1,800 miles to get to this point.  Even without a car wash, our silver paint jobs hid the bugs and dirt well.


Jason, Jouhl, and myself at a wooden sign in front of the Echo Lake Lodge which doubles as a gift shop.


The ILX, rooftop GoPro video camera equipped, was ready to scamper up the mountain.


A tollbooth at the base of Mount Evans road collected $10 per vehicle, then we were on our way to climb our first “Fourteener.”  Denver people call a “fourteener” any of the area mountain peaks (which are several) which exceed 14,000 feet in elevation.


Quick pullout for a photo-op against a beautiful sky.


It’s impossible to convey the beauty of the panoramic views that surrounded us on 360 degrees.


Let’s roll!  Windows were down because it was a pleasant 60 degrees or so.


You can see here where the highway has been sliced into the mountainside.  In this particular area, notice that there are no trees.  That’s because the tree line in Colorado is 12,000 feet and we’d already gone above that.


Z Z Z.  The ILX 6-speed makes for an amazing machine to aggressively tackle switchbacks like this, but I was a little less inclined to push my limits on this road given its danger.  No guard rails here!


It seriously felt like we were endlessly climbing.  13,000 feet.  14,000 feet.


I don’t recall seeing a posted speed limit at all.  “Reasonable” is anywhere from 15-25 miles per hour on most of these blind corners and tight stretches.


As we got even higher in elevation, the road continued to get skinnier and it no longer had pavement markings.  It required care to make way for vehicles coming the opposite direction.


Finally, we rounded the last corner and arrived at the lookout/observatory on top of the mountain.  The parking lot was pretty full but we found a place to parallel park the ILX.


At one time there was a stone-built restaurant and gift shop located here, but after a propane explosion & fire in 1979, it was never rebuilt.  Instead, some of the original walls have been reinforced and the structure serves as an observation point.


Here’s an observatory visible from the visitor area.


Evans is home to around 100 mountain goats.  They were extremely approachable and didn’t appear to have any fear or apprehension toward the many people visiting their home turf.


Photo credit for these great pictures goes to Jeremy who was borrowing my Canon at the time.


By this time I had put on my hooded sweatshirt.  I never thought I’d need a hoodie in late July!  In front of me was one of several elevation markers mounted in the rocks.


This one said 14,258 feet.


In the distance we could see Summit Lake below us.


Jouhl, Jason, Tyson.  Enjoying that crisp 14,000 foot air!  I did get slightly light-headed.


This guy didn’t, though.  Jeremy was off exploring.


Preparing for departure, the silver Hondas line up for a beauty shot.


There’s a word of warning on the back of the tollway ticket instructing people to down-shift to avoid overheating their brakes on the way down the mountain.  This is where having a stick shift is truly an advantage.


Jason led the way.  He expertly handled the grades using his 6-speed transmission to his advantage, because he rarely had to hit the brakes.


More fun awaited us as we made our way to Idaho Springs, Colorado after reaching the base of Mount Evans Road.


Eastbound Interstate 70 has some steep down-grades as it heads into the Denver area.  Apparently this freeway has a history with being dangerous for truckers because there are signs like the below saying, “Don’t Be Fooled!”


We made it back to civilization and treated ourselves – and our cars – to some fuel.  Interestingly enough, There’s 85 octane available in Colorado Springs.  I think the lowest we see in Arizona is 87.


Jason took the wheel in the ILX when we went to dinner.  This photo is not one of my finer ones.


It was a great end to an adventurous day.  I was glad to spend time with friends doing something that I love!

Tune in tomorrow for the final stretch of the Colorado trip.

ILX Colorado Trip Day 1: Scottsdale to Denver

Posted in Colorado, ILX, Road Trip on July 22, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  47,142


Total Trip Distance:  1,941 Miles

Daily Distance:  903 Miles


Hold your breath.  I’m about to take you on a high-adventure ride to some elevations where oxygen is in short supply.  Last Friday, I took flight in my 2013 Acura ILX to head for the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado.  My goal was to push my car to extreme elevations and to experience the inspiring scenery of the Rockies.

I’ll share this trip write-up in a 3-part series.


Just 3 hours northeast of the Phoenix area lies a meteor crater that was formed an estimated 50,000 years ago.  If it weren’t for the multiple signs along Interstate 40 trying to lure drivers in, I probably wouldn’t have even known it existed.  I couldn’t resist the temptation to have a look at what the billboards stated was the “best preserved impact site on earth.”  A $16 entry fee later, I was standing at the rim of a 4,000-foot-wide hole in the ground.


And here’s what that looks like from overhead (thanks Wikipedia):


Mining engineer and businessman Daniel Barringer spent decades in the early 1900’s trying to find the meteor that created this gigantic impact site, to no avail.  It was originally thought that the meteorite would be buried directly beneath the center of the crater.  Drilling projects were unsuccessful.  It is currently believed that the meteor vaporized upon impact.  Only small fragments remain.  As the sign at the entrance to the site indicates, the meteor was traveling an estimated 26,000 miles per hour.


My next pit stop satisfied an intense craving for a Taco Bell crunch wrap supreme at 10:30 in the morning in Holbrook, Arizona (breakfast of champions!).  I had an interesting conversation with a guy named David in a blue Subaru WRX as I was fueling up.  “Is that the new Acura?” he asked.  I told him that yes, this was a new model.  “That looks really sharp!” he said.  After telling him a little more about my story with the car, “I’m sure glad you got the 6-speed.”  I am too.

While in Holbrook, I drove through town on what was formerly part of Route 66.  There are a number of establishments that carry on the Route 66 style.  I especially enjoyed “Empty Pockets” Saloon.


Sahara Inn.  I thought for sure this place was long-since closed, but a look on Trip Advisor reveals that it’s still in business.  It’s rated #15 out of 18 hotels in Holbrook, though.  Be advised!


Holbrook is only about 70 miles from the New Mexico state line, and that was my next destination.  The Zuni Indian Reservation straddles the border and there are tourist traps advertising $7.99 “authentic Indian” blankets and $10 phone cards all over the place.  Does anyone still use phone cards?  The scenery can’t be beat, though.


I’ve stopped here a number of times already, but it just seems appropriate to commemorate my entrance to the “Land of Enchantment” every time I pass this sign on Interstate 40.


Gallup, New Mexico shares that same Route 66 DNA with Holbrook, so again we see some run-down relics of what may have at one time been really nice motels.  Desert Skies has a rate of $25/night.  Bargain basement rates.


I didn’t linger long enough to learn what kind of things “Zuni Fetishes Direct” sells.


But just ahead, I pulled the ILX into the historic 1937 El Rancho Hotel.  El Rancho’s claim to fame is that over the years, it has hosted such famous guests as John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, and Katherine Hepburn.


Though the Interstate 40 bypass of Route 66 cost El Rancho some business, a renovation effort has again made it an attractive place to stay.  A vintage postcard shows the hotel in its original glory.


“The Charm of Yesterday; The Convenience of Tomorrow” is still the motto today.  Surprisingly little has changed from an appearance perspective in El Rancho’s 76 years of existence.


Eastward Ho to Albuquerque we go, then north on Interstate 25 toward Santa Fe.  ABQ marked the halfway point for this drive.  I took the opportunity to stretch my legs, fuel up the ILX with some premium fuel, and take a bathroom break at the Flying J service station.


The high desert pines of Santa Fe give way to some open grassland in northern New Mexico.  I breezed through Las Vegas without even deactivating my cruise control in 6th gear.  Unlike the Las Vegas in Nevada, this one doesn’t offer much to see.  Well, except for 27 “modern” gas stations and 34 restaurants, per the blue sign at the south entrance to town.  I’ve always been intrigued with how New Mexico provides these types of stats for each town.


  • Cotton Eye Joe – Rednex
  • Tubthumping – Chumbawamba

Anyone remember such classics?  I listened to volumes 1 through 4 of JOCK JAMS to get me through northern New Mexico.  I’ve had these CDs for 15 years, but they still get the blood pumping every time.


As I neared the NM / CO state line, storm clouds descended but I saw that Denver finally was a mere 250 miles away.


Thanks to the random travelers who took my picture with the Colorado entrance sign.


I was driving the wrong car for this particular picture, but I still felt it worth a stop.


Sunset on I-25 as I roll through Castle Rock, Colorado northbound.


And finally, reunited with my friend Jason as we’re about to embark on our 4th road trip together.  Jason and I have met up a number of times in the past, for trips to Bisbee, White Sands, and Sedona.  He made the trip from Las Cruces, New Mexico in his 2004 Honda Accord EX coupe 6-speed.


The next day was when we REALLY started having fun.  More on that soon!

By the way, did anyone else see the 401,000 mile 1988 Acura Legend sedan that ran on Ebay last week?  Not too shabby!


Million Dollar Highway Day 3: Chinle to Scottsdale

Posted in Colorado, ILX, Road Trip on May 29, 2013 by tysonhugie

Daily Distance:  287 Miles


Almost home!  Welcome to Part III of my trip write-up about my Memorial Day 2013 travels to southwestern Colorado in the Acura ILX, totaling nearly 1,300 miles over the 3-day weekend.

Monday morning, I took my time getting up and about at my hotel in Chinle, Arizona (pronounced chin-lee).  The name itself is derived from a Navajo term that means “flowing out,” since this location is where the water comes out of the adjacent canyon. One point of notable historical significance is that Chinle was the location of the 1864 peace conference between the Navajo people and Kit Carson that ended the war between the Navajo tribe and the United States.

These old phone booths are an indication of just how behind the times this community is.  It all appeared pretty run-down during my brief drive through.


Just a little bit out of town on Highway 191, I saw a small one-lane dirt road leading off to the east.  As I got closer, I noticed that the sign said this road would lead to the town’s cemetery.  Since it was Memorial Day, I saw it fitting that I should go.

Notice, the south side of the sign said “Cemetery.”


And the north side of the sign spelled it “Cemetary.”  This sign was clearly confused.


Here’s what the road looked like.  It seemed to lead off into the middle of nowhere.  I was careful not to take things too quickly in my ILX and road conditions were pretty good considering it was a dirt path.


Probably 2 miles down the road, I got to the location of the cemetery.  There is a dirt mound for each gravesite, but at this point I’m not clear on whether that means the bodies are buried above ground or below.


I took a few minutes to pay my respects.


I can see why the Navajo nation has selected this place for its graveyard.  It is very remote, secluded, and quiet.  There was a very peaceful feeling about it.


Back on my way I go.


Loved this picture which captures the lines of the ILX in front of a picturesque background.


The only other picture I took on the way home was at a (closed / abandoned) trading post called Bita Hochee.


In the 730 miles since I reset the car on Sunday morning, the ILX achieved 38.6 miles per gallon.


Here’s a 5-minute, 40-second video which captures the entire 25-mile drive from Silverton to Ouray, Colorado in a speed that’ll give you motion sickness if you watch the screen too closely.  Watch at your own risk!

ANDDD, after all of that, I’d say it was time for a car wash.


I decided an at-home wash job was not going to suffice, so I spent $2 at the local coin-op car high-pressure station.





Squeaky clean.


I took a few moments to wipe down the interior and all-weather floor mats, too.


It cleans up pretty nicely for having about 40,000 miles on it already.  This week I also made an upgrade to the license plate lighting.  At left is the new LED bulb; on the right is the stock bulb.  The car definitely now has a more upscale look to it at night.


Thought I’d share this messy page from my day planner.  This started out as my list of “to-see” driving destinations for 2013.  Notice how many of them I’ve already crossed off.  And the list continues to grow.


Thanks for coming along!

Million Dollar Highway Day 2: Durango to Chinle

Posted in Colorado, ILX, Road Trip on May 28, 2013 by tysonhugie

Daily Distance:  443 Miles


Welcome back!  This is Part 2 of 3 in my write-up about this past weekend’s Memorial Day trip to Colorado in the ILX.  Part 1 is here.

Sunday morning, I woke up to crisp temperatures in the mid 30’s Fahrenheit and bright blue skies in Durango, Colorado.  It was a perfect day to enjoy the great outdoors on some of the most famous “driving roads” in the country with my mom and my step-dad.


We left behind my mom’s 2003 Lexus GS430 in favor of my 2013 Acura ILX.


Fueled up and ready to rock & roll, we headed northbound on U.S. Highway 550.


I took the opportunity just a few miles up the road to attach my GoPro Hero3 video camera to the roof of the car.  You’ll see the video footage from this at a later date – I’m thrilled with how it turned out.


Our first stop was just about 20 miles up the road.  Silverton is a beautiful community at a striking 9,300 foot elevation.  I could really start to feel the effect of the thin air as I powered my way up the mountains to get there.  Winters are so harsh here that many of the business are only open for 6 months of the year:  from the first part of May until the end of October.


Total land area of the town itself is only .8 square miles.


A Jeep excursion company offers summertime recreation to visitors who come to this area.


We parked the ILX and took some time to walk around and enjoy the cool weather and unique shopping opportunities.


There are about 600 brave residents who call this place home year-round.


A trip to Silverton wouldn’t be complete without a little bit of shopping for silver.  We stepped into this store to have a look at the selection.  The sign on the black door of the safe behind the employee in this picture says:  “Yes, this was a bank from 1882 to 1939.  No, it was never robbed.”


Colorfully-painted buildings line the main road, called Greene Street.


The below “Railroad Art” store is for sale for $85,000 if any of my readers are entrepreneurs who’d like to invest!  Silverton is one of the hubs to the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad so the railroad industry is one of the most important sources of income for this small community.


Don’t get too comfortable on that park bench, mom; we’ve got places to go!


Your eyes don’t deceive you; that’s a 4×4, lifted red Checker taxi cab parked outside Ortega’s Old Town Indian Store.


Let’s get this show on the road, I say!


The Million Dollar Highway officially starts in Silverton and goes 25 miles north to Ouray.  It’s part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.  From Wiki:

Though the entire stretch has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the twelve miles (19 km) south of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name. This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains.

My eyes were open wide for the amazing scenery that we’d soon be experiencing.


The twisties were endless.  I’m afraid to think of what the road conditions would be like in any kind of inclement weather.  The sport-tuned suspension on the Acura ILX made light work of the hairpins.


And we all enjoyed the Colorado sunshine streaming through the moonroof.


The Million Dollar Highway as we see it today was completed in 1924, but it dates back to 1883 when it was constructed as a toll road.  The origin of the road’s name is not known for sure, though two one idea is that it cost $1 million per mile in the early 1920’s to build the road, and another idea is that the fill dirt that was used during construction contains $1 million in gold ore.

Hang on!


At one area on the road, a concrete “overpass” of sorts has been built to keep avalanches from wiping out the highway.  We drove underneath it and continued on our way.


Here’s where the road really started to show its character.


This is an honest-to-goodness white knuckler.  No guard rail, narrow lanes, and a steep drop-off on one side.


In one of the rare places where there was a shoulder wide enough to pull off the road, I shot a picture of the car.


Look for mom’s “peace sign” hand gesture out the moonroof.


The only tunnel along the MDH is this short one.


Another small mining town awaited us a few miles north.  Here we’re entering Ouray, Colorado:  Elevation 7,706 feet.


I love the architecture of these old towns.  It feels like taking a step back in time to pass through them.  Prospectors first arrived here in 1875.  The town was named after a chief of the Ute Indian tribe that was native to the area.


This type of scenery is unlike anything else in the country.  Ouray’s economy is based on tourism as the town is referred to as the “Switzerland of America.”  It’s boxed in on 3.5 sides by steep mountains.  I also learned that this place is the winter ice-climbing capital of the United States.


Candid shot by mom.  Get that camera out of my face!


Panoramic vistas surrounded us as we made our way westbound on Highway 62 in Ridgway, Colorado.


23 miles later, we hooked up with Highway 145 and headed toward our next stop:  Telluride.


Found it!


Telluride, like many of the other small towns in southwestern Colorado, got its start as a mining boom town.  Today it’s a recreation hub for skiers, hikers, and ATVers year-round.  It’s home to just over 2,500 people.  The first ski lift wasn’t installed until 1972.

Traffic was tough to come by along the main road (Colorado Avenue) but we snagged a space and walked around.


In the background of the below picture, a waterfall is clearly visible that cascades from the mountaintop to the valley below.


The layout here looks a lot like Silverton and Ouray, but Telluride boasts a festival of some sort almost every single weekend of the summer.  While we were there, the “Mountainfilm” festival was going on.


Check out those gnarly mountain bike tires!


Lunch was at a place called Maggie’s.  The mushroom & Swiss burger hit the spot!


A sign along Colorado Avenue tells us that the tunnels in the mountains surrounding Telluride would reach from San Francisco to Los Angeles.


One of the main reasons I’d wanted to see Telluride this trip was to check out a place called Bridal Veil Falls.  I learned that a trailhead started at the east end of town, so we headed there on Colorado Avenue. The pavement ended and we continued a bit further.  Soon, though, it became clear that this road would require a high-clearance vehicle, so I parked the car and we hiked.


Spy shot by mom.  Sneaky, sneaky.


Here’s a glimpse at the ILX parking space; the waterfall can also be seen the very far top left edge of the picture.


Quick photo-ops for Todd & Tia.


And one for Tyson.


Just a little ways up the road, a stream crosses the roadway.  I was tempted to dip my feet in but I held back!


Bridal Veil Falls are the tallest free-falling falls in Colorado.  They reach over 360 feet in height. A power plant and a private home sit at the top of the falls.  The power plant was built in 1907 to supply power to a local mine, but it only operated until 1953.  The view must be incredible from up there!


Even from our vantage point probably a mile away, we could still hear the gushing water as the sound echoed off the canyon walls.  We didn’t end up hiking the rest of the steep trail but continued back to the car.


The rest of our return trip to Durango on Highway 145 took us to summits of over 10,000 feet in elevation.


Back at the Durango Mountain Resort, I dropped off my mom and Todd.  I had a bit further to travel to my nightly destination.


Back down the canyon I went.


Back through Durango, Cortez, and descending to the desert, I once again abandoned the green forest and became familiar with the barren landscape of the desert.


At 331.8 miles driven since the start of the day, I noticed that somehow I’d achieved a miraculous 40 miles per gallon.  That’s even better than the ILX hybrid is supposed to get!  It helps that most of the day’s travels were at conservative 35-60 mph in 5th & 6th gear.  But still, I was very impressed!


At the intersection of Highway 160 and Highway 504, I stayed on Highway 160 and headed toward Kayenta.


And as dusk descended, I took Highway 191 south.


This time of day is my absolute favorite time to drive in the desert because of the way the sunset ignites the red sandstone colors.


I pulled over for just a few pictures before I ran out of daylight.



And about 60 miles later, I’d arrived at my hotel in Chinle, Arizona on the Navajo reservation.

Tune in next time for the last day of travels for this Memorial Day escapade!

Million Dollar Highway Day 1: Scottsdale to Durango

Posted in Colorado, ILX, Road Trip on May 27, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  39,696


Daily Distance:  465 Miles


A couple of hours ago, I opened the front door at home to a Dish Network salesman whose first question, pointing to the ILX in the driveway, was “What’s with the bug graveyard on the car?”  I told him I’d just gotten back from a 3-day trip to Colorado and he offered to clean the bugs off for $5.  I thanked him, but declined his offer.


Saddle up, pardners.  This weekend’s roughly 1,300-mile trip was so extensive, I’ll be breaking it up into 3 separate blog entries.  It would be a shame to let a holiday weekend go to waste, so I took advantage of the opportunity to get out of town and explore some new territory in a neighboring state.  Ever since I published my post on my Road Bucket List back in September 2012, I’ve been itching to make it to Colorado to check out the so-called Million Dollar Highway.

My drive started out on Saturday morning with an ascent from the Phoenix area to Flagstaff, Arizona via Interstate 17.


In Flag, I headed north on Highway 89 toward Page.


Flagstaff, established in 1882, prides itself for being the “World’s First International Dark Sky City.”  It was designated on October 24, 2001.  Here’s what I’ve learned about the meaning of this title:

The International Dark Sky City designation is given to identify towns and cities “with exceptional commitment to and success in implementing the ideals of dark sky preservation and/or restoration, and their promotion through quality outdoor lighting.

Based on this, my guess would be that Flagstaff is a great place to view constellations!


North of town, I crested a summit and began to drop to the desert valley floor below.


There’s an abandoned stretch of old Highway 89 just to the east of the existing, newer, road.  It’s about 4-5 miles long and it’s still serviceable, though being overgrown by weeds and with flaking paint stripes.


I always like to take this side road because of a small bridge at the north end of it.  It didn’t cost me any extra time since it parallels the other highway and reconnects at the other end.




Cameron, Arizona is a small community located where Highway 89 and Highway 64 intersect.  It’s the gateway to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Gas prices at the local service station were not clearly communicated.  $1.41 for unleaded?  I’ll take it!


I branched east on Highway 160 toward Tuba City, Arizona.  This tall wooden building on the north side of the highway caught my eye, so I pulled over for a closer look.


This appears to be a schoolhouse and it dates back to the late 1800’s.  The town of Tuba City was named after Tuuvi, a Hopi Indian leader. Tuba City was founded in 1872 my members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Tuuvi converted to the LDS religion and various members of the local Indian tribes migrated to the area because of its natural springs.  Inside the schoolhouse, there’s not much left except a place for birds to nest.


Playing around with color contrast makes this an eery place.  I probably wouldn’t go crawling around in there after dark.


I spent most of the remainder of the afternoon continuing through the Indian reservation.  Various roadside attractions dotted the highway, including this Anasazi Inn which backs right up to some magnificent red rocks.


I’d soon be crossing through all 3 of these next milestones.


I’ve said it before, but I absolutely love the color contrast between bright red sandstone rock formations and a blue sky.  Landscapes like these are a great opportunity for pictures.  I can only imagine how awesome this background would look at sunset.


The ILX’s Silver Moon Metallic paint job reflected the sunlight with a glare.  It’s a good thing I was wearing shades.  At 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it was an absolutely perfect day to be out on the road.



Next up:  Four Corners


Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., the Four Corners Monument is the only place in the United States were visitors may stand (kneel) simultaneously in 4 states at one time.  I was disappointed to learn that this was a cash-only operation ($3), and I didn’t have any on me.  However, I’d already seen this before on a prior trip in the Legend.


The attendant at the booth was nice enough to let me loop around in the ILX and grab a picture in the meantime.


I should’ve left those sunglasses on; that sun was BRIGHT!


Just up the road on Hwy 160, I entered “Colorful Colorado.”  Wouldn’t that sign make a great photo opportunity?


I thought so, too.  But you might’ve noticed that my Michelin tires look awfully messy there.  And that’s because….


…  I got stuck in the sand.  Hopelessly, unmistakably stuck.  What began as an attempt to simply loop around the sign ended in my front end digging itself endlessly into a hole.  By the time I realized what was happening, the quicksand had already done its job.  I pondered next steps.  The Four Corners monument was just 1/2 mile up the road, so I threw on a baseball cap and got ready to hike up the road and ask for help.  Miraculously at that very second, I saw this guy pull in:


A good samaritan saved the day!  This was “Joe,” who’d seen me trying to free the ILX from the sand.  He said he had chains and offered to pull me out.  Talk about timing.  As I helped him get the chain hooked up, I quickly snapped this picture with my phone.  The ILX has a conveniently located tow hook right underneath the rear bumper.


Just minutes later, he’d freed me from the sand and I gave him a hearty handshake and a thank you.  Joe, if you ever read this, I owe you one!  Grateful to be back on my way, I stopped just a moment at the Indian Trading Co just south of Cortez.  There were two classic / matching Ford Thunderbirds sitting on the south side of the building.


Cortez is home to only about 9,000 people.


And one humongous cow.  The now-closed “Purple Sage Rib Company & Saloon” was a great opportunity for a picture.  It reminded me a little of the Longhorn Grill I visited a couple of weeks ago in Amado, Arizona.


Just east of Cortez lies Mesa Verde National Park.  It comprises over 52,000 acres, making it the largest archaeological preserve in the United States.  It is best known for its cliff dwellings that date back to the years 600-1300.  I didn’t pit stop there; I’ll save it for a future trip.


I breezed past this Sinclair gas station on Hwy 160 and noticed a giant orange banner covering the entrance sign.  It read:  TOXIC SITE, and in smaller letters just above that, “Massive Petroleum Spill.”  Yikes.


Soon I arrived at The Hogan Trading Post in Mancos, Colorado — home to one of the coolest roadside attractions I’ve seen.


Massive arrows made out of telephone poles!  These poles have been outfitted with arrowheads and lodged in the ground at an angle.


I happened to stop by at the very moment when the teepee and the poles were being repainted.


I asked the guy, “How are you getting those lines so perfect?”  “Just eyeballing it,” he said.  Impressive!


Mancos is situated in a beautiful green valley. Pictured below on Business Loop 160 through the historic part of town is the Wes Potts Memorial Theatre.  It was originally the Mancos Opera House, dating back to 1910.


Beef:  It’s so satisfying.  Spotted on a building alongside Hwy 160.


I made it!  Entering Durango:  Elevation 6,512 feet.


Here’s where I first saw a sign denoting Hwy 550 – the famed “Million Dollar Highway.”


Main Avenue was bustling with bicyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and automobile traffic.  Durango’s history dates back to 1881 when it was established by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad.  Today, it’s home to fewer than 20,000 people.


One of my favorite buildings was this historic Strater Hotel.  It opened in 1887 and is an example of American Victorian architecture.  Author Louis L’Amour stayed here frequently in room 222 when he was working on his western novels.


Inside, the front desk probably looks a lot like it would have looked back then.  The owners have tried to preserve the historic integrity of the facility, and I say they succeeded brilliantly.  I met up with my mom and step-dad at this time, and we checked the place out.


Adjacent to the hotel lies the Mahogany Grille where we ended up getting dinner.


I went for the pan-seared Salmon, one of several delicious sounding entrees.


Todd, Tia, Tyson


Before sundown, I had a few minutes to wander around town.  At the south end of Main Avenue lies the station for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.  Originally put in place to haul ore, it’s now a passenger train line that runs 45 miles between Durango and Silverton.  Someday I’d like to go back and ride this.


As day 1 drew to a close, I headed north 26 miles from Durango to the Durango Mountain Resort.  Steep canyon roads offer plenty of passing lanes, thank goodness.  Cooler temperatures were a relief from the Arizona heat that I’ve been used to.


I entered the San Juan National Forest which covers over 2,900 square miles of western Colorado.


The following day, I’d be experiencing the real adventure.  For that, you’ll have to tune in next time.