Archive for the Nevada Category

Drive to Five Review: Nevada Ghost Towning in the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

Posted in Ghost Town, MDX, Nevada, Utah, Vehicle Reviews on February 13, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Integra):  246,192

Odometer (MDX):  5,756

Trip Distance:  1,056 Miles

I needed a workhorse to travel back to an 1800s mining town this past weekend and Acura gave me just the right vehicle for the job.  After now completing over 1,000 miles in the latest iteration of its 3-row SUV, I can say with a certainty that the latest MDX is a capable, fun-to-drive machine that offers up first class comfort for a trip of that distance.  Do I have to give it back?

This now marks the fourth time I’ve put a third-generation MDX through its paces.  Here are some prior reviews from here on the blog:

Coming up in April, Las Vegas, Nevada will once again play home to a regional Acura NSX club meet-up called WestFest.  Last year, the event brought out over 50 cars and 80 people.  As part of the planning committee, my role is to establish and plan out the logistics of a scenic group drive to be held on Saturday, April 28th.  It’s not easy to come up with drives for a caravan of that size.


  • Where haven’t we been yet?
  • What will traffic & weather patterns be like on the day & time of our trip?
  • What are the road conditions – are they appropriate for a group of sportscars?
  • Are there any tolls or park fees to consider?
  • How can we keep everyone together, or does it make more sense to split the group?
  • Are there places for fuel and snack stops along the way?

As one can imagine, it takes a great deal of effort to coordinate such an activity.  I partnered up with my friends Dane and Brandon, both Las Vegas locals, to take the MDX out on Saturday morning and scout the terrain.  It was the perfect vehicle for our expedition to the desert:  Second-row accommodations are posh, with captains’ chairs and plenty of space all around.  There are of course independent climate controls for passengers in those areas.  Meanwhile, I pampered myself up front with a heated seat heater, heated steering wheel, and convenient cup holder for my iced caramel macchiato.  You’d think we were going to the local shopping mall and not to the middle of nowhere.

Our drive route for the day was about 160 miles and took us 4 hours from start to finish, including our sightseeing and lunch stops.

Nelson, Nevada is one of many ghost towns in the vast expanses of land around the southwest.  It’s nestled in El Dorado Canyon, about 12 miles off Highway 95 to the east.  If you blink, you might miss the turnoff, so it’s a good thing Dane was coaching me from the passenger seat on where to make my exit at Highway 165.  We passed only one other vehicle on the way into Nelson from there.

The two-laner got a little more narrow, a little more rough, and more curvy as we dipped down in elevation toward the Colorado River.  Soon the buildings of the old mining town came into view, along with dozens of old cars left out to the elements with windows down (or broken out) and interiors rotting away.  I parked the MDX in a dirt lot and we got outside to wander around a little, noting how silent it was outside aside from the scuffling sound made from our shoes on the gravel.

We must have been the first tourists in town that day, because an old man came out of what appeared to be the main general store and put away the ‘closed’ sign while inviting us inside.  The wooden building doubles as his home, but he sells all sorts of remnants of the Wild West in there.  My favorite display was an exhibit of some the various films that the town of Nelson has appeared in, including the Kurt Russell classic “Breakdown.”

Luckily for us (and unlike Kurt Russell’s red Jeep Grand Cherokee in that movie), the MDX was didn’t give us any check-engine lights or troubles of any nature.  We snapped a few photos in Nelson before continuing eastward another few miles to where we could nearly drive right to the banks of the mighty Colorado River on a dirt road.  There was a nice paved turnaround spot that I think will make for a perfect photo-op for the group of NSXs at the April event.

Our next destination on the drive loop was Searchlight, Nevada – a teeny spot on the map that (like most small towns in that area) – got its start as a mining community in the late 1800s but mostly dried up by the mid 1950s.  The name came from one of its original prospectors who said, “It would take a searchlight to find gold out here.”

Dane, Brandon, and I rolled onward toward Highway 164 westbound and then over to Interstate 15 northbound.  I hit the gas on the onramp.  For a full size SUV that’s loaded down with technology and comfort niceties, the MDX still scoots down the road with more than ample power.  I observed an overall combined MPG of about 26 despite going heavy on the throttle a few times.  Range on a full tank is in the high 400s.

The Country Club Buffet at Primm Valley Casino, right along the California-Nevada state line, satisfied our hunger before we made our last stop of the day.  Stacked along the east side of I-15 are 7 columns of vividly painted boulders, referred to as “Seven Magic Mountains.”  The massive rocks were cut from a nearby quarry and painted fluorescent colors by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.  The art installation was opened in 2016 and will be removed sometime this year, so I was glad to get a chance to see it.

The MDX stickers at $58,000 as-tested, including Tech & Advance packages with a full suite of AcuraWatch driver-assistance aids.  I found the LKAS (Lane Keeping Assist System) to be helpful but could do without the ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control).  I much prefer to set a cruise speed and have it be maintained – with the Adaptive engaged, the vehicle starts slowing down well in advance of approaching a vehicle ahead, so you have to change lanes very early which isn’t always possible or convenient.  It’s something I could learn to live with, but just an observation.  The only other gripe I had was with the aesthetics of the black wheels.

There’s a lot to love about the MDX.  Those captivating jewel eye headlights with LED turn signals are just as much “function” as they are “form.”  The ELS Studio Premium audio system will knock your socks off.  I set the bass and the subwoofer to maximum levels for optimal punch, and it retained crisp clarity all the way up to max volume level 40.  Sirius XM channel “90s on 9” never sounded so good.  And if it’s solitude you want, a quiet cabin is easy to achieve too.  I sailed along at 75 mph with minimal wind, road, and engine noise.  The MDX’s 7-speed dual-clutch transmission keeps the revs low at those speeds.

It was tough to give the keys back after being pampered for 7 days, but I was glad for the opportunity to sample the high life!  Below is a 7-minute video and a collection of other photos from my week with the Modern Steel Metallic MDX.  Thanks, Acura, for the loaner!

Back seat comfort

Fueling up at Circle K in Phoenix

And we’re off!

Rolling into Las Vegas at sunset

5,000 mile milestone!

Arrival in Nelson

The ‘general store’ in Nelson

Loved this 1950 Buick!

Next stop:  Interstate 15

Red carpet treatment!  Brandon & Dane getting the door at Primm Valley

Seven Magic Mountains in the Nevada desert

Brandon’s 1993 Legend L 6-speed coupe

MDX parked in front of Siegfried and Roy’s house in Las Vegas!  See the “SR” on the gate?

Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Acura NSX “WestFest” 2017 – Las Vegas, Nevada – May 4-7

Posted in Nevada, NSX on May 7, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  552,434

Odometer (NSX):  107,620

I have to give my friend Tony Ciervo some credit.  The Malibu, California native is the original owner of a 1991 Acura NSX in Berlina Black that’s about to roll 70,000 miles.  Now, that’s not a huge mileage achievement by any stretch, but can you imagine buying a car new and keeping it for over 26 years?  That’s commitment.  “What do you do for a living?” I asked him, noting that I pegged him as a bit of a brainiac/nerd from the get-go.  (Maybe it was the socks w/ sandles he was wearing).  “I’m a mathematician,” he said.  “Go figure,” was my response.  He started laughing.  It took me a minute to recognize the pun that I’d just created.  Gotta love someone with a sense of humor.

The NSX Club of America (NSXCA) has a strong regional chapter in the southwestern United States.  And what better way to round up a few crazy car-people than setting up a meet in the city that never stops partying – a city that receives 41 million visitors each and every year.  Cinco de Mayo weekend saw about 60 NSXs overtaking the streets of Las Vegas, Nevada in a 3-day event called “WestFest,” put on by region leader Les Rowe with the help of a handful of other volunteers.

In attendance at the event were people and cars from an assortment of demographics.  There were members who flew in from around the country and even one guy from Japan.  The cars ranged in model year from 1991 through 2005 when the first generation ended, and we even had a few new, second-gen 2017 NSXs in the mix.  One of them was driven up by none other than Acura’s own Kelly Lynch from the Torrance, California-based Public Relations team at headquarters.  We were glad to have her and her sister Jody joining in for the fun and games.

Our host hotel was a long-time Las Vegas landmark since 1986, the Gold Coast casino with its 87,000 square feet of gaming space.  Conveniently located within the lobby is a TGI Friday’s restaurant and a Java Vegas coffee shop, both of which saw plenty of my business over the course of our event.

For me, one definite highlight was reconnecting with my buddy Fred (above), who I’ve known for upwards of 13 years but who I hadn’t seen for about 10.  At that time, we were both driving Acura Legends and crossed paths at various meets.  Oddly enough, we think the last time we saw each other was at NALM 2007 in Las Vegas.  Here, in fact, is a photo of us together at the dinner table during that event (I’m second from left, and he’s at the far back of the table on the right).  Time flies.

So it seems fitting that exactly 10 years later, we’re back doing the same thing but with NSXs instead.  Fred has a “Midnight Purple” 1995 NSX with over 180,000 miles on it that’s wearing Hawaii plates.  It’s been all over the country, and unlike a lot of NSX owners, Fred isn’t afraid to “daily drive” his.  My kind of guy.

My trusty 1992 Formula Red NSX performed flawlessly on the 300-mile trip to Las Vegas, delivering ice cold air conditioning and as much comfort as can be expected from a 25-year-old, two-seater sportscar.  I did take the opportunity to rock out to the Top Gun soundtrack on audiocassette – specifically, “Danger Zone.”  The car rolled over its 107,000th mile somewhere along the way.

On Friday, our group was hosted by a dealership called Findlay Acura about 20 minutes away in the suburb of Henderson.  General Manager Kevin Hicks rolled out lots of red carpet for us, including a taco truck, audio entertainment, and these lovely ladies.  We enjoyed spending a few hours at his facility and we were even able to send a couple of club members to the roof so they could capture an aerial photograph of the parking lot.

There was a go-karting event in the afternoon at Gene Woods Racing Experience but with temperatures pushing triple-digits, I opted out.  I spent the evening hunkered down in air-conditioned environments including a bar called Charlie’s where I met a drag queen named Farrah Moan.  I hadn’t heard of her, but apparently she’s kind of a big deal on the TV show “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”  Things went smoothly until my friend Tony got his bare foot (he was wearing flip flops) stepped on by her high heel.  That’s what you get, Tony!  Haha.

Despite the fact that most people who visit Vegas don’t stray too far from the Strip, there’s actually plenty to do outside city limits from a recreational perspective.  Club member Chase Heath developed a 200-mile scenic drive route for Saturday’s activity including waypoints at Mount Charleston and Valley of Fire State Park.

I elected to join for just the second half of the drive, so I met up with the group at Aliante Casino for lunch and hopped in with the caravan for the afternoon portion.  But before that, I made a special visit to my friend Jeff’s place.  Jeff has been in my “car family” for well over a decade now.  He went from a 1993 Legend coupe to a 2003 CL and now to a 2008 TL.  It just so happened that my visit fell on his 41st birthday.  He took the NSX for a spin and enjoyed it.

Our caravan of 43 NSXs rolled out for an afternoon in the red rocks of the Valley of Fire.  The scenery feels a bit surreal – curvy roads that cut through vivid sandstone rock formations.  You feel like you’re in a car commercial out there.  We sure enjoyed ourselves and we got plenty of attention in the process.  I just happened to fall in line with 5 other Formula Red NSXs when we got back on Interstate 15 for the trip back to the hotel.

Things concluded in the ballroom at Gold Coast, with our banquet dinner, awards presentation, and closing remarks.  It was truly a memorable event and gets me excited for NSXPO which will be held in September in Wisconsin

I knew I’d found the right spot when I saw a fellow NSXer on the 2nd floor of the parking garage

Not bad accommodations

All checked in and credentialed

Separated by 16 years

May Lee from the NSXCA leadership, me, Les Rowe (SW Chapter leader), Kelly from Acura

Arrival at Findlay Acura on Friday morning

Group shot!

NSXs for days

Back of T-shirt design.  It’s supposed to be a poker chip.

Nouvelle Blue Pearl really pops in the sunlight.

More from dealer day.

With Fred from San Diego.

Group shot

In the NSX with Jeff

Group drive to Valley of Fire


Caravan of red NSXers on I-15 south

Banquet dinner venue at Gold Coast casino

Hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride!

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!

2015 SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada: Ludacris Legend, Galpin ILX, & World Record Volvo

Posted in ILX, Legend, Milestones, Nevada, Road Trip, SEMA on November 5, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  540,089


Odometer (Ludacris’ Legend):  246,080


Odometer (ILX):


Trip Distance:  616 Miles


Viva Las Vegas!  Or was it “Lo$t Wages”?

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) has been around since 1963 and is a huge trade group centered around the automotive aftermarket industry.  It’s grown to a colossal size with over 6,300 member companies.  Its largest trade show, held every year at the Las Vegas Convention Center, occupies more than a half-million square feet of space.

SEMA week puts every “car geek” into a candy store.  Its full week of activities bring every participant the sights, sounds, and yes – even smells, of the automotive industry.  I’m talking about these scented Little Trees, and they’ve been around since 1952 when this first version on display was created.  What’s your favorite scent?


This wasn’t my first SEMA rodeo.  Here are write-ups from years prior:

This year’s show included some special components which I was excited to see:  The Acura display booth contained the now-fully-restored 1993 Acura Legend sedan that belongs to 20-million-fan music artist Ludacris, as well as a highly modified 2016 Acura ILX in vivid Sunburst Yellow with a host of performance and cosmetic upgrades.  Legends and ILXs?  It’s like they structured show content around exactly the type of content that would interest me!


My friend Chris described the SEMA experience as “It’s like being at the mall on Black Friday.”  It’s overwhelming to be among the crowds, with all the suppliers clamoring for your business with “Look at me!” signage and fanfare.  Another friend, Nina, calculated that if you walked the entire floorplan of the 4 gigantic convention rooms plus the outside areas and the adjoining hallways, it would be the equivalent of completing a marathon.  I’ll have to throw on a GPS watch someday and validate that claim.  My legs believe it.


I arrived in Las Vegas on Monday night after an uneventful 4.5 hour drive from the Phoenix area in my Legend.  I met up with long-time friend Tommy who’d made a similar distance from LA that same afternoon.  Later in the the evening, famed HondaPro Jason (pictured with me above) made his arrival into the McCarran Airport from a Chicago flight.  Jason has made a name for himself as “THE” Honda guy over the past few years since his YouTube channel launched in 2012.  Today, he has 32,000 subscribers and 27,000 followers on his Facebook page.  Jason’s flight arrived around midnight, so I played Shuttle Driver for him as well as for Jeff of Temple of VTEC.


Tuesday’s two key events for me were two Honda press conferences:  The first was at 9:30 a.m. to showcase Honda’s latest news in off-road / Baja racing with an all-new Honda Ridgeline pickup truck, scheduled for its first race in less than two weeks.  The second was a 20-minute presentation at 1:00 p.m. by Acura Senior Vice President Jon Ikeda as well as Creative Director Dave Marek.  Jon and Dave introduced two exciting vehicles to the crowd of media and industry personnel who were assembled there.


The first car was Ludacris‘ 1993 Legend, newly reborn since a June 2015 accident left it damaged on the right rear quarter panel.  I had some Q&A time with Dave after the conference and received some insights into the specifics of the build.  His intent was to bring the car back to its former glory as well as add a few touches to make it even better.  He succeeded in every aspect.



Among improvements to the Legend are the following:

  • H&R Springs
  • Eibach Camber Kit
  • 18 Inch Rays Wheels on Bridgestone Potenza Tires
  • Wilwood 6-Piston Front / 4-Caliper Rear Brakes
  • Fresh Paint and Leather
  • Pioneer AVIC 8 / ONEX Head Unit with Apple CarPlay
  • Alpine Subwoofer

The second car was a vivid orange 2016 ILX, outfitted with a body kit, an aggressively modified suspension and custom wheels – as one would expect at SEMA.  The details extended to the interior where the stitching on the seats and steering wheel was matched in the same orange color.  The ILX, which was customized by Galpin Auto Sports,  will be given away as part of a charity event for the Ludacris Foundation which since 2001 has provided tens of thousands of hours into service projects and youth development activities.


I had to stop and catch my breath for about 20 minutes while I charged my phone and scarfed down a $13 piece of pepperoni pizza in the food court.  Then it was back to battle where I wandered around to see a few more sights and meet up with friends.  By 4:30, Jason and I departed from the hustle and bustle to prepare for an exclusive evening activity with the Honda and Acura executives.  We were able to participate at an intimate dinner at MGM Grand’s “Hakkasan” Nightclub with a dozen or more of the company’s highest-ranking leaders.  They were incredibly approachable and I enjoyed the dialogue and the food!  Honda threw a big “soiree” later that evening out on the dance floor, and hundreds of people came out to party.



On Day 2, I woke up to rare rain in Las Vegas and made my way to the AAPEX Show, similar to SEMA and containing a lot of the same content, but located at the Sands Convention Center several blocks away.  The main reason I needed to drop in was that I’d learned Irv Gordon was in attendance.  Irv achieved fame by logging over 3,000,000 miles on his red 1966 Volvo P1800.  That feat was enough to put him in the Guinness Book of World Records.  In fact, he’s been the world record holder since 1998 when his car had only 1.69 million miles on it.  I wish I’d met Irv, but sadly the Castrol booth only featured his car.


My last stop before skipping out of town was next door to Castrol at the Car-Freshner display where I got a whiff of the new 2016 scents.  The product specialist on duty invited me into a phone booth of sorts, where I pressed a button and the smells activated.  My favorite was definitely “Copper Canyon.”  Now, if only they invited “scratch & sniff” computer monitors so you could all be smelling it with me!


My Legend rolled 540,000 miles on the way home to Phoenix.  Fitting, since it was also November 4th of exactly 4 years ago when the car rolled 500,000 at Acura’s red-carpet party.  Thanks for joining for this year’s SEMA trip.  Enjoy my photos and a short video below!

Here’s a pit stop on Highway 93 where I stopped between Kingman, AZ and Hoover Dam.  Irv’s picture on top, mine on bottom!


With Acura Public Relations Manager, Jessica Fini


Having a seat in Ludacris’ Legend!


Creative Director Dave Marek, myself, and Public Relations’ Allie Mayer


Dave explains the ins & outs of the Legend build with some Legend fans


I presented this note to the Acura team and asked them to leave it inside the car somewhere for Ludacris.


Close-up on those beefy front brakes


Galpin ILX rear 3/4 view.  I dig that spoiler!


The 2017 NSX in “Nouvelle Blue Pearl.”  Stunning!


Other sights from SEMA:  This “Car Capsule.”  Who else desperately wants one of these as much as I do?


Very clean Toyota Supra


Monster truck outside


Meeting up with my buddy Joey from the Atlanta area


Acura VP Jon Ikeda


RealTime Racing’s Peter Cunningham, and my friend (fellow Legend owner) Tommy


This was my first time seeing the newly-launched 10th-generation Honda Civic sedan.  Nice!


Pretty wild custom Honda HRV


Cruising down the Vegas Strip.  4.1 miles long, with 62,000 hotel rooms!


Walking over to the nighttime event at MGM Grand


Romeo and Lou, fellow Legend fans


Rainy morning at my motel on Wednesday in Las Vegas


Getting up close & personal with Irv Gordon’s 3-million-mile Volvo


And lastly, that awesome Car-Freshner booth!


2014 SEMA Show in Las Vegas: Quick Visit

Posted in Car Show, ILX, Nevada, Road Trip on November 10, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  531,768


Odometer (ILX):  103,446


Trip Distance:  1,133 Miles


Vegas + Cars = Fun.  Las Vegas, Nevada is one of the entertainment capitals of the world, but add on top of that the fact that the city plays host once a year to one of the biggest car conventions on the planet, and the fun factor skyrockets off the charts.  The SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show is a place for vendors to display their wares – and anything that’s automotive-related is fair game.  Some 60,000 domestic and international buyers are expected to visit the 4-day show each November at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Over the next few blog entries, I’ll share with you the highlights of a 4-day, 1,133-mile trip through Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California.  This first one will include just the SEMA piece.

My friend Justin and I hit the road on Friday morning in the ILX to make our way to Sin City for this year’s show.  Drive time was only about 4.5 hours – not too painful at all.  We found our way to the convention center on Paradise Road and parked the ILX, shuffled our way indoors along with hundreds of other people who were also arriving for the last day of the show.  Right off the bat, I ran into my friend Nyko from Local Motors who had a booth outside next to a huge Meguiar’s display.  My main focuses for the SEMA show during our short visit were to meet up with my friend Jason and to document the Honda / Acura booth so that I could share it with you all.


The eye-catcher this year was the “Andaro Blue” customized 2015 Acura TLX, built by Galpin Auto Sports. It featured:

  • Aero body kit with new front and rear bumpers, side skirts and deck-lid spoiler
  • ADV5.0 M.V2 SL custom wheels with gunmetal inner and liquid smoke outer – 19×9+38 Front/19×9+35 Rear
  • Pirelli 245/40/19 P Zero Tires
  • RSR Sport SI Series suspension kit with fully adjustable coilovers featuring 36-way damping adjustment
  • Wilwood Superlite 6 Piston Caliper with 14″ Vented Rotor Front Brakes
  • Wilwood Superlite 4 Piston Caliper with 14″ Vented Rotor Rear Brakes

Have a look at this beauty.  A camera simply cannot do justice to how eye-popping that custom color was in person.






Indeed I did find “Honda Pro” Jason there at the show – standing among several highly modified Honda Fits in the Honda booth.  I’ve introduced you to Jason before here and he’s a fellow high-mile connoisseur, having logged over 200,000 miles on his now-sold 1997 Honda Civic EX coupe.


The rest our short visit was spent wandering around wide-eyed and trying to soak in as much as possible.  I managed to find my brother and his wife in the show, as well as connect with a few friends who were also there for the occasion.  Below are a few of my other pics from the day!




Highway 93 northbound, approaching Hoover Dam from the Nevada side.


With Nyko from Local Motors.  He and his company were part of the ALV program last month.


Feasting my eyes on the Galpin-modified 2015 TLX.


Overview of the Acura booth.


A few PHX-based friends who we ran into at the show.


Heading up an escalator to eyeball some other vendors.


My sister-in-law and brother, with a wildly-modified, 6-door stretched Dodge Ram pickup.  No, it’s not street legal.


Lexus booth with a couple of RC coupes.


Toyota concept car.


Next up:  An action-packed hike in southern Utah’s Zion National Park.  See you soon.

Acura ILX + TL Drive to Death Valley National Park, California

Posted in California, ILX, National Parks, Nevada, Road Trip on July 20, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (ILX):  89,689


Odometer (Legend):  530,150


Trip Distance:  901 Miles


“This could be scary,” Sofyan mumbled as we rolled our suitcases up the front walkway to Longstreet Inn & Casino in Amargosa Valley, Nevada. The hotel, visible for miles on Highway 373 in the barren desert, had loomed like an oasis on the horizon while we approached it (photo below). The sound of country music and horribly off-key karaoke filled the air while I and my 3 traveling colleagues checked into our rooms for the night’s stay. We were weary from a full day of adventure in Death Valley National Park, one of the country’s most oft-overlooked and yet most scenic landscapes. And the evening’s agenda was just what we needed to unwind: A dip in the pool, a home-cooked meal topped off by apple pie, and the clearest nighttime sky I’ve seen in a long time – with stars so visible it was as if we’d pulled them closer to earth.


“Death Valley” sounds like such an enticing place to visit in the middle of the summer, doesn’t it?

On July 10, 1913, a record 134 °F (56.7 °C) was measured at the Weather Bureau’s observation station at Greenland Ranch (now the site for the Furnace Creek Inn), the highest temperature ever recorded in the world.  Daily summer temperatures of 120 °F (49 °C) or greater are common, as well as below freezing nightly temperatures in the winter. July is the hottest month, with an average high of 115 °F (46 °C) and an average low of 88 °F (31C (reference).

The area was named a national monument in 1933 and became a national park in 1994.  It receives nearly a million visitors annually.  Death Valley got its name from prospectors who passed through the area in 1849 when the California gold rush took place, though reportedly only one death took place.  My first and only experience with the area was in August 2011 in the Legend coupe when I paid a visit to a close friend and automotive spy photographer Brenda Priddy who spends her summers there.


Joining me for this trip were a few friends.  Sofyan, host of the 2theRedline YouTube auto review channel, had flown in from Washington, D.C. for the occasion, and my local friend Peter also came along.

Our day started out in Las Vegas, a city that never sleeps. Glassy-eyed and a bit tired from a night out on the town, we made our way to Johnny Rockets for delicious Belgian waffles with strawberries & whipped cream. That sugar rush was enough to bring me to my senses. Jason Pawela from Driven for Drives arrived and we set out with his 2010 Acura TL and my 2013 Acura ILX in search of some adventures. Highway 160 – “Blue Diamond” took us westward toward Pahrump, Nevada. A slow-moving 65 mph limit felt like it should have been 85 mph: The arrow-straight highway made its way through the desert and Sofyan, who’s visiting from Washington, D.C., commented on the landscape. “So what IS a tumbleweed?” he asked. Oh, you city folks!


A little beyond Pahrump, we took a left on Highway 190 toward Death Valley National Park. A few brave travelers – most from other countries, it seemed – joined us at the entrance sign for pictures. Our first stop was at Furnace Creek. It’s a place with $5.56 premium Chevron gas and a breeze that feels like a blow dryer in your face. We were able to find a saloon/restaurant – “49er” — serving up lunch so we were grateful for the opportunity to refill our bellies. All four of us ordered the exact same meal: Turkey club w/o red onion. It hit the spot. A stop at the national park visitor center was in order, so we could pay our $20/car entry fee and legalize our visit. A sign inside the gift shop announced: Heat-Related Deaths Since April 2014: 2. That’s a sobering thought.


Peter, Sofyan, Tyson, Jason

Jason and I swapped car keys and headed out toward Badwater Basin, some 17 miles away. Badwater is the lowest elevation point in North America, at 282 feet below sea level. I enjoyed seat-time in the 305-horsepower TL with its 3.7 liter V6. Torque for days! The sound system and level of refinement were clearly superior to the ILX, but I did briefly miss the more nimble feel of my smaller sedan. Regading Badwater: Legend has it that a traveler once got to this point and was severely dehydrated. He could not even get his horse to drink from the shallow pool because the water was so salty. Thus the place was named “bad water” and it stuck. Receiving fewer than 2 inches of rain per year, Badwater is one of the driest places in the world. We hiked out a little and Jason filled a Ziploc bag with sand, then we gratefully sought refuge from the oven inside our nicely air conditioned Acura sedans.


Just 85 miles from Badwater stands the tallest mountain in the contiguous 48 U.S. states, called Mount Whitney (14,505 feet).  You may recall a trip from last summer when Jason and I drove the highest elevation paved road in North America:  Mount Evans in Colorado, at 14,265 feet.   I would have loved to visit Mount Whitney if time permitted.

We wanted to make sure and take home some Death Valley dust on our cars, and I knew just the place to find it. “20 Mule Team Road,” just a few miles from Furnace Creek, is an amazing one-lane, one-way dirt track that winds for 2.7 miles along some terrain that looks like another planet. Jason and I weren’t afraid of doing a little off-roading. In fact, after our first lap of Mule Team, we switched drivers. Sofyan drove the ILX and Peter drove the TL – and we did it all over again. Kicking up dust in style.


The last place I wanted to check out was Stovepipe Wells, a small settlement about 23 miles north of Furnace Creek. It’s nestled in between expansive sand dunes. As we approached, it was evident that the wind activity was high because of the wisps of sand sweeping across the roadway. Because of Death Valley’s notoriety as one of the hottest climates in the world, it is an optimal place for automakers to test out the durability of prototype / pre-production vehicles. Sure enough, as Sofyan pulled my ILX into the parking lot at Stovepipe Wells, we spotted 3 white 2016 model year GMC Canyon Diesels out for evaluation. I picked up 2 Gatorades for $3 – best purchase of the day by far. I was parched.

We made our way out of the park on Highway 127 just as the sun dipped down in the western sky. We got a few photos at the California/Nevada state line and then made our entrance into the Longstreet for the night. A great day with great friends.


Enjoy this video and the rest of these pictures from our trip!

Peter at the wheel of the ILX; Sofyan in the backseat


Backseat vantage point:  something I’m not used to seeing!


Sunset over the Hoover Dam bypass bridge at the AZ/NV state line


View from our hotel in Las Vegas:  Excalibur


Catching the water show at Bellagio


Saturday morning:  A destination in mind


Ruins in an abandoned Nevada town


Next stop:  Furnace Creek


Thanks to Jason for some awesome “rolling shots” of the ILX


We made it




Elevation:  Sea level as we made our way toward Furnace Creek


How’s $5.59/gallon for Premium sound?


Lunch spot


A brisk 115 degrees Fahrenheit at the National Park Visitor Center


Although, the ILX only showed 113 degrees at the time


Shot of the ILX in the TL sideview mirror


Warning at Badwater Basin.  “Walking after 10 a.m. not recommended.”


Checking out the sights, 282 feet below sea level.



Pit stop along the “20 Mule Team Canyon” trail.


Hitchhiking due to broken down Acuras.  Not.


Stovepipe Wells


GMC Canyon Diesel prototype that was out for hot-weather testing near Stovepipe


Crossing back into Nevada from California for the night


Sunday morning’s return drive to Phoenix:  Gigantic cow


And the world’s largest firecracker!


Thanks for coming along!

Throwback Thursday: Nevada’s Extraterrestrial Highway & Area 51

Posted in Legend, Nevada, Road Trip, Throwback on February 20, 2014 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  528,689


Odometer (ILX):  67,694




Today, I’m digging way back into the road trip archives to bring you a vintage write-up from October 21, 2005.  My Legend had “just” 194,392 miles on it at the time.  I set out in the (very) early morning hours to experience a famous highway.   Following is a post that I shared with the Legend forums nearly 10 years ago, and I still remember that road trip like it was yesterday.

“Four o’clock in the morning.  Miles of road continue to unwind in the vast wasteland of southern Nevada.  My headlights pierce through the pitch-black night and illuminate the painted road lines like neon against the asphalt. The road is Highway 375 – the famed Extraterrestrial Highway, so named for its proximity to Area 51.  Destination: Rachel, Nevada.  Rachel is the closest civilization to Area 51 and boasts a population of nearly 100.  I’m getting closer but can’t help but be a little bit on edge because I am traveling unfamiliar highways in the middle of the night, and I haven’t seen another vehicle for the past sixty miles at least…”

This morning I traveled to Rachel, Nevada. The town is the closest you can legally get to Area 51. The round-trip was 400 miles.


From an online article about Rachel:

Rachel, Nevada takes us to a small town 110 miles from Las Vegas, site of a formerly secret US Air Force installation known as Area 51.  The base develops new planes such as the stealth bomber.  The secrecy shrouding Area 51 has given rise to suspicions over the years, earning the town of Rachel (primarily a collection of trailer homes) the title “UFO Capital of the World,” and Nevada State Highway 375 “Alien Highway”. The film focuses on the everyday people of Rachel, once left alone to service the military, now the center of tourism and a publicity boom.  There are enough stories and photos to persuade even the most die-hard skeptics that something extraterrestrial may be going on.

There’s not much to take pictures of. There is the ever-famous “Little AL-E-INN” that I had to get pics of.  And then there are the Extraterrestrial Highway signs which are pretty cool.  I forgot to get a picture at the gas station, but it only had one pump and only 89 octane.


On to the pics I did take. I used the same backgrounds a lot because I didn’t have much else to work with.


No gas for 110 miles!


Rachel, Nevada


Population: Humans – 98, Aliens – ?


I wonder how much a room at the A’Le’Inn costs.


Prepared to take flight



LOTS of open space without any people, buildings, or anything!


The spaceship has landed!


And of course, I did park there!


When the movie Independence Day was filmed in 1996, they put a time capsule in front of the A-LE-INN.  Here’s the placard and monument.



The next picture is (according to my map) one of the dirt roads that leads to Area 51.  Had I gone any further, I would have been approached by armed security guards in Jeep Cherokees, and probably fined $600.


Current mileage as of today


That’s it!


On a related note, is anyone out there looking for a “500k-miler-in-training”?  I’ve got a couple of nice options for you.  First up is this absolutely pristine one-owner 1995 Legend LS coupe automatic in rare Cayman White Pearl with only 107,000 miles.  My friend Josh from TSX Travels gave this one a look-see for us and took the below 3 pictures, as well as many others which I posted here on the Legend forums.




The other option is this “twin” car to mine.  It’s a 1994 Legend LS coupe 6-speed in Desert Mist Metallic.  It’s got a clean title and is only halfway broken in at 226,000 miles the odometer.  Ebay shows the current bid at just $2,000.



Somebody buy it!

Check out this awesome 6-minute time-lapse video of a cross-country drive from Hollywood to DC.  Thanks to my friend Ian for sharing it.