Archive for the ILX Category

Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Bridge in Yuma; San Diego & LA Quick Trip

Posted in Arizona, California, ILX, Road Trip on November 23, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  220,586

Trip Distance:  866 Miles

Sometimes it’s when you least expect it that interesting roadside attractions pop up and call your name.  I was about halfway from Phoenix to San Diego on Wednesday afternoon when I spotted a neat looking bridge off to the right side of Interstate 8 in Yuma, crossing the Colorado River.  I’d been making good time on my 6-hour trip and had a few minutes of daylight left, so I figured I’d take the next exit and give it another look.  As it turns out, the detour was totally worth the effort because I got to learn about a 104-year-old historic landmark.

This was also the second time I’ve found a noteworthy bridge in Yuma.  The other one was the abandoned Bridge to Nowhere that I blogged about five years ago.  Who would have thought that you could find such cool water crossings in a city that’s smack dab in the middle of the middle of the desert?

This bridge ended up being the “Ocean to Ocean” bridge, constructed in 1915, which crosses the Colorado River at the Arizona-California state line.  It’s a narrow roadway that over time became both structurally at risk and also functionally obsolete, since it was bypassed in 1956 by a newer roadway nearby on 4th Avenue, and then again by Interstate 8 in the 1970s.  Today it serves as a one-laner and carries a road called Penitentiary, named after the historic Territorial Prison State Park nearby.  A railroad trestle bridge runs parallel to it.

From 1988 through 2001, the Ocean to Ocean Bridge was closed to automobile traffic because of structural deficiencies, but a $3 million restoration project allowed it to be made safe once again for automobiles.  And even though my visit was short, it was fun to get to experience it.

The rest of my CA trip was action-packed with a night in San Diego and then a night in Hollywood.  The LA Auto Show’s press/media days concluded Thursday and I made it to the area in time to participate in an after-party at a place called Doheny Room on Santa Monica Boulevard.  The gathering was an annual reunion of about 40 auto-journalist friends of mine.  It was great to see old friends and make a few new ones.

That’s a picture of me with Sofyan Bey of Redline Reviews and Aaron Bragman of Cars.com.

I stayed at the InterContinental Hotel that evening in downtown Los Angeles which, at 73 stories, is the tallest building west of the Mississippi and has 889 guest rooms.  My friend Brian and I were on the 58th floor and the view was stunning.  My ears popped a few times from the pressure change when going up and down the elevator.  Cleverly, the lobby is actually not even on the floor/ground level.  It’s on floor 70.  So as a guest, you have to first go all the way upstairs to appreciate the view before you can proceed to your hotel room.  I thought it was pretty cool.

In typical LA fashion, traffic on Friday was hectic and it took me 45 minutes to Uber the 8 miles to retrieve my ILX in West Hollywood.  Parking the car at InterContinental would have been valet-only, and it would have cost me $46.  So I opted to ditch it in a residential area for the night.  Once I finally got behind the wheel again, it was a pretty straight shot to find Interstate 10 and take that all the way home to Phoenix.  My only pit stop was for a brief lunch stint in Palm Springs at a terrific taco place on Palm Canyon Drive.

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Oh, and here are the fuel stats for the trip.  The ILX rolled 220,000 miles and achieved about 31 mpg overall.

San Diego night stay with my friend Ryan who has a 6-speed Accord 2.0

Working my way home on Friday afternoon

Beating the Heat: Mogollon Rim Campout + SLX & RL Updates

Posted in Arizona, ILX, RL, Road Trip, SLX on September 2, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  218,415

Trip Distance:  250 Miles

I’ve left town every weekend for the last 6 weeks.  Exhausted doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.  But when it comes to making the most out of my summer, I live by a motto my mom emphasizes:  Carpe diem!  For this past weekend’s excursion, I ventured to the Sitgreaves National Forest in the mountain ranges about 2.5 hours northeast of Phoenix.  It’s a spot where temperatures typically range about 20 or more degrees cooler than the Phoenix valley.

Four friends and I found a great campsite just off Young Road, a couple of miles down a narrow dirt road that overlooked the Mogollon Rim and offered fantastic views to the south.  We set up camp and stoked the fire, then cooked burgers & brats over the flames.  Nobody had any particularly good ghost stories to tell as dusk fell, but we spent a good chunk of time proposing potential names for my friend Adam’s soon-to-be new dog.  More to come on what he ended up deciding.

We managed to avoid any run-ins with local wildlife, and the overnight low dipped to a pleasant 60 degrees.  Woody whipped up some delicious breakfast burritos with ham, bacon, and green salsa for breakfast the following morning.  All too soon, it was time to pack up the site and head back down to civilization.  The ILX fared well on the dirt road, though high grass in the median occasionally tickled the undercarriage due to ground clearance issues.

Thanks for coming along!

Camp all set up

Evening sunset looking south across the Mogollon Rim

Breakfast is served!

A relaxed Saturday morning

Soaking in the view

Headed out toward Payson, then Phoenix

Turning 218,000 miles

The vehicle I probably should have taken on this trip is the 1996 SLX.  I’m still getting comfortable with it – trying to gain a little more confidence in its roadworthiness.  I actually took a 350-mile road trip with it on Saturday, including a stop in a little mining town called Superior about 70 miles east of Phoenix.  It did great!

I like this old dealership.  Maybe a good investment as a place to store / display cars for someone?

I rolled 140,000 miles on the way home.

I also spent some time this weekend working on the RL.  Here’s an update video I filmed today, illustrating current condition and recent maintenance.  The engine bay got a detailing!

Hope the holiday weekend treated you well!

Platinum White Pearlescence: 2019 Acura ILX A-Spec Review

Posted in Del Sol, ILX, Integra, Vehicle Reviews on June 26, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (2013 ILX Premium):  215,114

Odometer (2019 ILX Premium A-Spec):  5,329

It’s about time I got to try out the latest ILX!

Since its mid-2012 debut as a 2013 first-year model, the gateway model to the Acura brand has undergone two separate ‘refresh’ exercises – the first in 2016, and now again in 2019.  Quality has improved, tech has advanced, styling has evolved, and yet the pricetag has stayed constant and even gone down throughout the way.  At $32,545 as-tested for the A-Spec variant that I put a few hundred miles on over the past week, I consider it a very strong bang for the buck.

It’s no mystery that the elimination of the manual transmission option that took place in 2016 was a dagger to my heart and soul, but the new 8-speed dual-clutch transmission is not that bad.  In fact, I sort of enjoyed more of a kick-back driving style over the last few days.  It must be old age settling in because I’ll be turning 38 later this year.  Yikes.

The ILX I tested has essentially the same motor as my 2013:  a 2.4-liter, 201-horsepower, straight-four with iVTEC.  So it goes without saying that long-term maintenance should be a breeze (I’m well into the 200k+ range with mine).  Where the new ILX sets itself apart from mine is in terms of the technology.  Navi with voice recognition, touch-screen display, ELS Studio premium 10-speaker audio, and a host of safety features are all things that are “new” to me.

Beyond that, the aesthetic treatment is handsome, with the A-Spec package bringing in 18″ wheels, sport red leather seats with suede inserts, a contrasting decklid spoiler, and exclusive badging.  I have to admit I considered for a moment whether Acura would notice if I swapped the interior of the 2019 into my 2013, but it’s probably best that I not find out.

It was fitting that along with the new ILX came a 2018 Kelley Blue Book “5-Year Cost to Own” trophy that Acura representatives gave me for my display case.  I can’t think of any other individual who can attest with 100% certainty of that.  The car has cost me $7,600 to maintain over the course of 215,000 miles.  That includes 29 oil changes, 8 air filters, 2 sets of rear brake pads, 2 transmission fluid changes, and 4 sets of tires.

I found the newest ILX to deliver all that I’ve come to know and enjoy from my 2013 – sans the clutch pedal – and even a bit more.  I think the 2019 would make a great, efficient, reliable daily driver for someone that gives exclusivity and value at the same time.  Consider the fact that Acura sold only 1,351 ILX models nationwide in the month of May 2019.  To put that in perspective, that same month the company sold 5,415 RDX models and Honda sold 32,800 Civics.  Personally I love driving something that not everyone else drives.

Dig It:

  • Large back-up cam screen
  • Audio system +++
  • Blind spot monitoring tech
  • Appearance – exterior, especially rear
  • Nimble, fun-to-drive dynamics
  • Improvements to details like the key fob quality
  • Subtle features like a “Start” button that changes color
  • Bang for the buck – so much content for the price

Meh:

  • Aux + cig lighter hook-ups are in the center console under a lid
  • Rear cross-traffic alert overly sensitive – beeps when cars are passing by even far away
  • Front turn signals are LED, rear are halogen – should be uniform
  • Multiple people commented on the obnoxiously large “A” emblem up front
  • I don’t know if I’ll ever be a fan of black wheels
  • Some LED license plate lighting would be an inexpensive way to class up the rear

Here’s a video I put together, and below are some pics from my week with this sweet little ride.

KBB awards on display!

The subtle yet effective aesthetics are evident here

From this perspective the cars are 100% similar

The LED taillights are perhaps my favorite feature of all

Head to head

The bottom line

Keys – old, new.  The new is more durable and feels heavier / higher quality.

Check out the comparison of “A” badges

Short vid and pics from over the weekend, including a jaunt to “Horny Toad” in Cave Creek for lunch, and a meet-up with friends in east Mesa.

The Captiva Blue 1993 del Sol Si belongs to fellow YouTuber Chris Sadowski.

Mirel came out in his Legend

Mirel, Chris, Tyson, Corey, Nick, Jonathan, Greg, John, Ken

Two of the cars in attendance were extremely rare Turbo Grand Prixs, produced in partnership with McLaren for the 1989 and 1990 model years.

Northern AZ Road Trip – Grand Falls, Snowbowl, & Bedrock City

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on May 12, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  214,556

Trip Distance:  475 Miles

Nerd Alert:  I have an Excel spreadsheet on my personal laptop entitled “Tyson’s Destinations.”  It has 198 locations on it, including the the state, a description, and the name of the person who recommended it.  As I visit the locations, I shade the lines in gray.  This past weekend, I shaded 3 more lines out, meaning I’ve now hit 52 which leaves a total of 146 left to see.

Completing the list could take me a while, considering the fact that I’m adding locations at almost the same rate that I’m crossing them off.  And some of them are not exactly around the corner.  For example, Key West, Florida has been nagging at me for some time.  Have a place you think I should check out?  Drop me a line; I’m always up for a new adventure.

On Saturday, I visited an Arizona waterfall larger than Niagara, named “Grand Falls” and known for its brown color.  But there’s a catch:  I missed the snow runoff season, and Grand Falls wasn’t so grand, after all.  It was down to just a trickle.  You see, Grand Falls only exists during a short window of time in the spring or after very heavy rains.  I took a gamble on the chance I might get to see something dramatic but was disappointed after about 10 miles of dirt road that it was pretty quiet out there.  At least the scenery was nice.

Here’s a picture my friend took of what Grand Falls “can” look like:

And here’s what I really saw.

The falls are 185 feet tall, whereas Niagara is 167 feet.  So you can bet I’ll be trekking back out to see the falls when the viewing is optimal.

Determined to not have the entire day be a “bust,” I proceeded to my next destination which was the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort.  It comes as a surprise to many, but Arizona actually does have a few ski resorts at higher elevations in the norther part of the state.  This one opened in 1938 and is a short drive up a fun, windy road from Flagstaff that reaches the lodge at 9,200 feet in elevation.  I encountered raindrops as I made my way up the mountainside and I watched the temperature dip from mid-50s to 41 in the matter of a few miles.

Amenities at the lodge were limited but I didn’t take a lot of time to explore.  There was still a fair amount of snow on the ground at that elevation, but it didn’t look like lifts were in operation at the time.  However, I checked the website and it said they were expected to be open at least one more weekend, through the 19th of May.  In fact, the site says that extended weekend makes this year’s season the longest in the resort’s 81-year history.  Too bad I didn’t have time to pick up a quick lift pass!

The last place on my checklist for the day was a step back in time to “Bedrock City,” home of Fred & Wilma Flintstone.  Over six years from 1960 through 1966, William Joseph and Hanna Barbera of Hanna-Barbera produced 166 episodes of the cartoon “The Flintstones.”  It became one of the most iconic TV shows in recent memory, and as a result it inspired lots of roadside Americana to go along with it.  In 1966, in Custer City, South Dakota, a Flintstones-themed 62-acre theme park was opened.  The same owner built a similar operation in Arizona in 1972, pictured here.

Both locations were sold and closed in 2019, but the buildings and some of the relics remain.

When I stopped by the Arizona version of Bedrock City on Saturday afternoon, I was greeted by a massive Fred and “Yabba-Dabba-Doo” sign.  A campground, gift shop, and restaurant were all painted in bright colors and architecturally designed to resemble the cartoon.  Luckily, despite being abandoned, it appears that vandals for the most part have left things alone in the 4 months it’s been closed.

A recent Arizona Central news article stated that the property will become “Raptor Ranch,” a showcase of birds of prey.  So perhaps there is another chapter to the location’s history as a tourist destination (or tourist trap, whichever way you see it).

I bid farewell to the dinosaur skeleton in the parking lot and headed home after a fulfilling day exploring the Arizona high country.  Thanks for coming along!

Here are a few more pics and a short video from my day on the road.

Headed out on backroads while finding my way toward Grand Falls

Puddles of Mud (isn’t that the name of a music group?) as a result of recent rains

Grand Falls, not so grand, but still a nice view

My 4×4

Better than rush hour traffic

Beginning the ascent to Snowbowl

A Yabba welcome at Bedrock City

Other updates for the last couple of weeks are below in random order.

My local Honda dealer congratulated me via email on being a member of the 100,000 mile club.  They’re only about 16 years and 460,000 miles late.

My friend Joseph picked up a sweet Acura Vigor

Which prompted me to take mine out for a spin

Jason clued me in to the fact that a street named “Acura Court” exists in LA.  I’ll be going.

I did a little junkyarding.  These Troopers didn’t have anything I needed.

A friend shared a quote from the reveal of the 1996 Legend (but named 3.5 RL in the states).

Integra outing to Tempe.

I got ahold of a rare OEM rubber cargo mat for the SLX.

Also found out that one local dealership still has Isuzu signage, despite the fact that Isuzu stopped selling passenger vehicles in the states 10 years ago.

I built a little bookshelf for my service manuals.

My friend Jack copied my pic from Baker at the World’s Tallest Thermometer.

I found some 1950s car ads.  Zoom and read some of these gems.

I sorted through my collection of “Style” magazine, which is now out of print.

I found out I still have a copy to the ignition key to my original 1989 Prelude Si.

And last weekend, i visited my friend Vlad’s garage, complete with RLX, Integra Type-R, and NSX.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

February News: NALM 2019 Announcement, ILX M/T Stats, & More Guests

Posted in ILX, Legend, Maintenance, NALM, NSXPO, SLX on February 18, 2019 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  565,101

A friend sent me a snapshot of an article with a “then and now” comparison.  It talked about how the average cost of a car in 1982 was $5,967.  His comment was, “You still pay that price.”  He’s not wrong!  Haha.  I love my garage full of $5k oldies.

I recently got my hands on some pretty sweet data recently regarding the breakout of ILX automatics to manuals.  My fellow Acura geeks won’t need this history lesson, but for the benefit of everyone else:  The ILX entry level Acura sedan launched in mid-2012 as a 2013 model, slotted below the TSX in the hierarchy.  There were three available drivetrains:  a 2-liter automatic, a 1.5-liter hybrid with a continuously-variable transmission (CVT), and a 2.4 liter with a 6-speed manual transmission.  I ordered my ILX as a manual and took delivery on June 12, 2012 with 16 miles on the odometer.  It was #00082 on the production line.  The rest is history.

In the years following the ILX launch, “take rate” on the 6-speed manuals was never very good.  Some surmised that it might be as low as 3-5% of overall sales.  To nobody’s surprise (but much to my own disappointment), the manual option was dropped when the car was first refreshed for the 2016 model year.  Newly-released information from Acura indicates that over the 2013 + 2014 + 2015 model years, only 2,786 cars were sold with a manual transmission.  That works out to about 4% of the overall volume, which was right in line with predictions.

What does it all mean?  Nothing, really, other than the fact that I can feel sort of exclusive in driving a “rare” model.  The vast majority of car buyers today don’t want to be troubled with a third pedal.  Chew on that data for a little while.

I had a couple of action-packed recent weeks, with my dad being here in Phoenix for a trade show, travels to southern Utah for a birthday party, and some out-of-town guests.  Keeping you up to speed on current & upcoming events:

Registration is now open for the 3rd annual “NSX WestFest” event in Las Vegas, Nevada.  It will be held April 11-14 and promises to be one of the best NSX events of the year aside from the annual NSXPO.  This year’s NSXPO is slated for October in Washington D.C.  More to come on whether I’ll be able to make that cross-country drive / flight / teleportation.

It’s also been announced that this year’s 15th annual National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) will be held in October as well and headquartered in beautiful Daytona Beach, Florida.  Here’s the official posting from the AcuraLegend.org forums with the latest information.  Lodging and registration details will be posted on March 1.  I’m looking forward to the journey – I haven’t missed a NALM since the event started in 2005.  This will be one of the longest trips in the history of my 1994 LS coupe, at roughly 4,500 miles round trip.  I’m even thinking of starting the drive from San Diego, California so I can make it a true “Pacific to Atlantic” adventure.

It would be the car’s longest trip since Alaska in 2006.

Daytona looks beautiful!

Here are some assorted pics from over the last few weeks.  This is my friend Mitch from Indiana.  He is a long-time fellow Honda & Acura enthusiast who was recently featured last month in an article by Hagerty about his restoration process of a rare Zanardi NSX.

I had dad’s MDX in town for a couple of weeks.  Tech has come a long way since the 1997 SLX!

Sedan out to dinner.

And a couple other random beauty shots on my way to work.

Legend sighting at the parking structure of the Phoenix Convention Center.  Name that color!

I finally sourced some “bumper plugs” for my 1992 Integra sedan.  Here in Arizona, we don’t have front license plates, so I needed something to cover up the unsightly holes where the bracket would attach in other states.

Helping dad set up his booth at the convention center – before.

And after.

Went and saw the latest LEGO movie, courtesy of Chevrolet, with James and Abigail.  Go check it out!

Legend coupe in for an oil change.

And a fairly clean bill of health – just leaks noted for the power steering & oil.  I already knew about those.

Check out my “safari sunroof.”

Got Branson’s Legend out for a little spin.

Road trip back to Utah in dad’s MDX.

Visiting niece Ava Mae.  Beckam had blue hair that day.

And celebrating grandpa’s 88th birthday.

Late night meet-up with my friend James who has a Moroccan Red 2007 TL-S 6-speed.

Little bit of EGR carbon clean-out in the Legend, courtesy of my friend Shaun who paid me a visit from SLC.

Shaun at the wheel of the GS.

And doing a little junkyarding.  We pulled the center console vent trim out of this 1991 LS.

Donald stopped by to join the party in his Vortex Blue 2009 TSX.

My 1990 Honda Accord EX, recently sold on Bring a Trailer, (finally) goes away tonight and is headed to Dallas, Texas tomorrow!

More to come on that soon!

December Updates: Cabin Weekend, Christmas, & Coming Attractions

Posted in Blog, Brochures, Car Show, ILX, Legend, NSX, Road Trip, Utah on December 27, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  212,097

Odometer (Something New):  178,351

Trip Distance:  210 Miles

Time once again to play catch-up on current events.  I’m turning 37 years old in 3.5 hours, so if I don’t wake up tomorrow morning due to old age, I at least want the Drive to Five community to know how I spent my final weeks, right?  Oh and the odometer teaser above – more to come on that.  I might have bought myself a 4,615-pound birthday gift.

First of all, I ended up being featured on Hello Road‘s YouTube channel with a quick feature from the Radwood show a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles.  Check out this video at about 6:42 on the clock.  Huge thanks to Ethan Tufts for the feature!

A couple weekends ago, I joined 6 friends and headed for the hills northeast of Phoenix.

Our destination was a cabin in Pine, Arizona.  Pine is only a little over 100 miles from the hustle and bustle of the city, but it has a woodsy culture, far cooler temperatures, and lots of wildlife.  I took the ILX for this trip which made light work of the grades rising out of town on Highway 87.  The climb goes from about 1,000 feet above elevation to a little over 5,000, making it a popular way to climb out of the boiling hot valley in summertime.

2012 road tripping:

2018 road tripping:

Among our destinations were the Early Bird Cafe above – which I’d visited six years prior – for a hearty and delicious breakfast.  Unfortunately, employee Katie (pictured in the 2012 pic in orange) no longer works there.  After that, we checked out Tonto Natural Bridge, the “world’s largest natural travertine arch.”  Most of the trails within the park were closed for construction this time, but we were able to hike down toward the riverbed and see some of the mossy waterfalls.

Sam, Adam C, Kenny, Adam S (back), and Tyson, Riley, Chandler (front)

I was delighted to have my friend Brandon from Las Vegas visiting for several days, and then today had another visitor – this time it was my buddy Alaeldeen from all the way in Edmonton, Alberta.  Fun fact:  He owned the Clarion Legend coupe for about two years.

Here’s Brandon:

The gang at brunch:

Here’s Alaeldeen:

I’m also playing caretaker for my friend Branson’s Legend coupe which will spend a few months at my house whilst his home in the Salt Lake City area is getting some garage upgrades.  It’s a sweet ride.  My backyard looks like a bit of a parking lot (or junkyard?) as I’m awaiting the cure of an epoxy sealant on the garage floor.  That story will get its own blog post in the coming weeks.

This past weekend, the ILX ‘front-wheel-drive sleigh’ took me to Christmas festivities in southern Utah, where I got to meet my youngest niece who is named Ava Mae.  She’s a real cutie.  I also reconnected with a few friends including my friend Shaun who recently picked up a 1997 Acura 3.0 CL that drives like a real peach for having 206,000 miles on it.

Cute baby up above, cute babies right here too:

Following I’ll share a hodge-podge of the rest of the pictures from these recent adventures.

NSX roller shot by my friend Michael

And the coupe at the same time

Checking out my buddy Travis’ new-to-him 1995 LS automatic – it needs work, but it’s a start!

Michael’s new 1993 Integra LS at right.

Out at the Pavilions car show and an RSX-S joined me.

Couple more shots of Branson’s coupe:

Literature swag update:  Special thanks to my buddy “on the inside” at American Honda (you know who you are!) who hooked me up with these amazing items.  This first one is an actual binder dated 2001 which shows approved paint & interior finishes for dealerships.  Like actual dealership showroom carpet samples!

Couple pics of the ever-evolving showcase:

New 2008 TL spiral booklet added, too.

Finally – My brother has just as many toys as I have, and here’s his latest.  This 1954 Ford truck is powered by a supercharged GM “LT4” V8 engine with around 650 horsepower.  I know, a Chevy engine in a Ford.  He’s going to tune it for another 75-100 ponies.  Watch out.

Have a great weekend and New Year celebration if I don’t post here before!

Day Trip: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Southern Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX, National Parks, Road Trip on November 11, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  209,416

Trip Distance:  260 Miles

“Where should we meet up on Saturday?”

“Why?”

“Just so I can do a little mapping on times and distances.”

“So Why?”

That’s how a planning conversation about this trip could have gone.  Because, of all the places our group could have picked to rendezvous before venturing into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, we picked the town of Why, Arizona.  And the term “town” is used very loosely, since it’s home to only about 100 people.  And, as we discovered, its only restaurant (Granny Mac’s Kitchen) is closed on Saturday – the one day of the week that we’d be visiting.  Guess we’ll have to sample Granny’s culinary creations on a future trip.

I’ve visited Why before – about 5 years ago, actually, and discussed a little about how its name came to be.  The intersection of State Routes 85 and 86 originally created a Y shape, but for safety reasons were later transformed to meet at a T.  It was here in Why, at the Why Not Travel Store where James Lee of Six Speed Blog and I awaited arrival of Jason from Driven for Drives.  In addition to snacks and drinks (though I was disappointed the nacho cheese machine was out of cheese), the Why Not store also sells Mexican automobile insurance policies for travelers who are on their way south of the border.  A liability-only policy runs $35 per day and “full coverage” rates vary.

We didn’t stick around long, because we had turf to cover a little south of Why.  Tucked into the far southern reaches of Arizona – literally, touching the international border with Mexico, is a special place that is remote in geography and picturesque in landscape.  Even now, when Arizona’s weather is at its prime and tourism should be at its peak, we had the park largely to ourselves.  Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was established 81 years ago in 1937 and sees just over 1/4 million visitors per year.  By comparison, another of Arizona’s parks, the Grand Canyon, sees about 7 million visitors per year.  I much prefer visiting the lesser-traveled park units.

Now with 3 cars in tandem – my ILX, James’ tester Corolla hatchback, and Jason’s Mazda 6, we visited the Kris Eggle Visitor Center.  It was named for a 29-year-old border patrol agent who was killed in the line of duty in 2002 by a Mexican drug smuggler.  The dangers of being so close to the border are very real, and even today, visitors are encouraged to travel in groups and only visit during the day.

A 15-minute overview film taught a little about the terrain and its history.  I noticed that a pair of hikers inquired with the park ranger about getting a token for completing one of the hikes, and later learned that any visitor who hikes 5 or more miles in the monument is eligible.  We also saw a 7 or 8-year-old take a “ranger oath” with his right arm extended.  Traditions like that make visits to the parks memorable.

The Ajo Mountain Trail was the main attraction for us, and despite the fact that it was rugged and unpaved for most of the 21-mile loop, we knew we had to check it out.  Per-car admission was $20 but to me it was worth it to be able to say I’ve “been there, done that.”  I led the way and kicked up a pretty good cloud of dust for my followers while we stayed in touch by walkie-talkies.  The trail extends eastward to the foothills and curves up to a panoramic lookout over the terrain.  The Sonoran Desert, we had learned earlier in the film at the visitor center, is notoriously one of the most “green” types of deserts, and even in summer displays a wide variety of plant life.  One of those plants, the Organ Pipe Cactus for which the monument was named, is native to the area and highly prevalent.

Since amenities immediately near the visitor center were few, we decided to back-track to the town of Ajo for a bite to eat at Agave Grill before splitting ways for the evening.  James gave his hamburger a little more pizzazz by adding avocado, bacon, and a fried egg.  Jason and I couldn’t help but play copy-cat and order the same thing.  The owner of the restaurant later came out to let us know how much the kitchen staff had enjoyed putting together our custom-ordered burger creations.

But the next time I visit, it’ll be on a non-Saturday so I can see if Granny Mac’s food compares.

Signage indicating proximity to Mexico.  Here’s where we headed south from Gila Bend on Highway 85.

Cab of an old pickup truck made into a fountain – with music playing from inside it!

Coyotes on the loose!

Your one-stop shop:

Jason received this text on his phone as we neared the border (though we didn’t cross it!)

Need a place to store your car?  Or your gun?  While in Mexico…

From the Why Not Travel Store:  “If you need a penny, take one.  If you need two, get a job!”

Interior of the OPCNM Visitor Center

Jason making some purchases

Headed out on the Ajo Mountain Road

Not a great place to have low clearance and low-pro tires!

Quick break near a summit on the trail.

Check the size of that saguaro cactus.

“Double arch”

Dinner spot at Agave Grill in Ajo, Arizona

The burger that wasn’t even on the menu.  We’ll call it, “James’ Juicy Creation.”

Hope you enjoyed coming along!