Archive for the New Mexico Category

Road Trip to Dallas Part 1: Ten Roadside Attractions

Posted in ILX, New Mexico, Road Trip on March 31, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,825

532825

Odometer (ILX):  119,076

119076

Trip Distance:  2,205 Miles

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Howdy.  First of all, let’s cut to the chase and get acquainted with the native language of Texas before we go there.  “Y’all” is used when addressing 2-3 people.  “ALL y’all” is in reference to a larger group.  The tricky part is when y’all becomes possessive.  Example:  “Is that y’all’s car?”  See, I don’t even know if I’m comfortable using that many apostrophes in one phrase.

For a couple of months now, some friends and I had been planning on a Texas trip.  From the beginning, I had always told them, “I’m driving.  I’ll see you guys there.”  I resisted multiple pushes to book a flight.  It’s not that I have any problem with getting on a plane, but for me, the journey is as much of a vacation as a destination.  Thirty hours in a car sounds like a pretty good time to me.  And you’re reading this because you probably agree.

The last time I was in Dallas was September 2013 for some diesel truck races with my dad & brothers.  However, I cheated that time and took a flight to/from on Southwest Airlines.  Aside from that, I’ve been through the DFW area a number of times on my cross-country adventures, and it’s a fun place to make a stop.

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(that picture pulled from my State Lines post)

I departed last Wednesday after work and headed as far as Las Cruces, New Mexico.  Jason of Driven for Drives welcomed me and my ILX with red-carpet treatment for our overnight stay at his place off Interstate 25.  The next morning, it was off to the races.  I had places to go and people to see.  Motivation for the drive was provided by a limited-edition Starbucks “Birthday Cake” frappaccino (thanks to my friend Jim for the travel tip!) which I picked up at the location on George Dieter Road in El Paso.

Over the next 10 or so hours, I watched West Texas fly by in all its grandeur.  My life became a country song:  I was surrounded by boots, spurs, pickup trucks, and blue jeans.  When I rolled into the Pecos, Texas “Stripes” gas station on Interstate 20 (only part of which had actual concrete pavement) around mid-morning, I took a look around me and felt a little out of my element.  Everyone in line at the Subway inside had on flannel except for a woman with 1980’s hair and polka dot leggings.  Culture shock.

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I zoomed back onto the interstate via the “feeder” (frontage road) and re-set the cruise control at 83 miles per hour.  Most of that area has an 80 mph limit which helps the miles go a little more quickly.  The problem with maintaining that speed in an Acura ILX is that the engine is whirring at nearly 4,000 RPM even in 6th gear.  Luckily I had 15,605 amazing songs on my iPod to drown out the motor noise.

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By dusk I had entered into the western end of the 7-million-resident Dallas – Fort Worth “Metroplex” and its maze of under-construction freeways.  My friends welcomed me with a collective roll of the eyes.  Was it really worth all that time in the car?  They asked me.  To keep things easy and share some of my trip highlights, I’ll itemize my list here and you can judge for yourself whether you blame me for driving.

After 2,205 miles, I can confidently say it’s a trip I’d make again and again.  Hope you enjoy taking a passenger seat to some of these neat attractions, and thanks as always for coming along.

1)  Odessa:  World’s Largest Jackrabbit

In 1932, the teeny Texas town of Odessa became home to the world’s first jackrabbit roping competition.  During the town’s annual rodeo, Grace Hendricks roped a rabbit from horseback in 5 seconds and won.  The jackrabbit roping competition was met by outcries from animal lovers and was discontinued until 1977 when a second competition was held.  After that, the Humane Society put a stop to things with a court order.  Today, an 8-foot-tall rabbit stands at the Chamber of Commerce on 8th Street.

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2)  Odessa:  Replica Stonehenge

Just a few miles away from the rabbit statue, I entered the campus to the University of Texas, Permian Basin.  We’re all probably familiar with the “original” landmark Stonehenge in the United Kingdom, but this one was erected only 11 years ago.  Most of the slabs on display here are 19 feet tall and weigh up to 20 tons each.  The layout of the stones is accurate to the real Stonehenge, but the sizes are a little bit smaller.  Pictured in the far background is a Home Depot.  This is definitely not England.

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3)  Colorado City:  Radio Station Microphone Sign

There’s a radio station called KVMC that’s been broadcasting since the 1940s.  A couple of decades later, someone took a picket fence and made a piece of artwork out of it, creating a giant replica of the original microphone.  It still stands today in front of the radio station along the frontage road to Interstate 20.

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4)  Abilene:  World’s Largest Paper Airplane

On 1st Street in Abilene at the Sparhawk Art Gallery / Bed & Breakfast, there’s a 30-foot-long version of a paper F15 aircraft.  This one, however, actually appears to be made of wood.  When I pulled into the narrow Sparhawk parking lot, I immediately spotted the aircraft toward the back and rolled there for a few photographs.

When my work there was through, I started to drive away and a woman came running out of the small building with something in her hand – a “regular sized” paper airplane.  I rolled down my passenger window, thinking perhaps I was getting in trouble for taking pictures on private property.  “Here!” she said.  “You have to take this with you!” and she handed me the paper airplane.  Soon, a man named Donovan came out too.  I got out of the car to talk to both of them, and Donovan handed me a second airplane.  He had folded both of them.  “They don’t fly well, but I only used one sheet of paper each, and a tiny drop of glue.”

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5)  Abilene:  Dino Bob & the Slug Bug

This work of art dates back to the late 1980s when artist Bob Wade perched a Volkswagen Beetle on top of a garage, with a dinosaur nibbling on it.  The dinosaur and VW were moved in 2007 to their current location where they oversee a facility for children’s literature.

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6)  Abilene:  World’s Largest Buffalo Skull

Here’s another fun landmark not far from Dino Bob.  Sculpted in 2012 by artist Joe Barrington, this buffalo skull measures 26 feet across and weighs 2 tons.  The eye sockets are big enough to crawl through.  I resisted the temptation to try that out.  This is located at a visitor center called “Frontier Texas.”

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7)  Fort Worth:  U.S. Bureau of Engraving & Printing

This is one of only two places in the country where paper money gets printed (the other is in Washington, DC).  Photos here are scarce – in fact, I got yelled at by someone in the lobby of the Security building for even taking this picture of the sign from the road.   Before we were allowed inside, all cell phones had to be left inside our car.  But the inner workings of this building are fascinating!  We took a 45-minute self-guided tour on an elevated catwalk that actually overlooks the factory floor, its machines, and the production staff.  I paid $22.50 for an uncut sheet of four $2 bills at the gift shop.  How about a few fun facts?

  • The estimated life span of a $1 bill is 5.9 years
  • The estimated life span of a $100 bill is 15 years
  • There have been no bills printed in denominations greater than $100 since 1969
  • Each production day, the facility I visited prints $17 million in currency per hour
  • “Paper” money is actually mostly cotton and part linen

Now you know!

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8)  Fort Worth:  Fort Worth Stock Yards

Here, a 206-acre area that used to house a huge livestock market is now a historic district that retains its Wild West heritage with saloons, rodeo grounds, and souvenir shops.  Originally inhabited in the 1860s, Fort Worth Stock Yards officially opened up in 1890 and became a historic district in 1976.  My friends and I enjoyed wandering around and exploring the pedestrian-friendly blocks.  We had delicious lunch including bottled IBC Root Beer at a restaurant called Star Cafe.

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9)  Fort Worth:  Water Gardens

The Water Gardens are located right in downtown and have been there since 1974.  Within the 4-acre park, there are several different water features including an “aerating” pool and a “meditation” pool.  My favorite feature was the Active Pool which is a terraced waterfall that steps down 38 feet below ground level.  Visitors can step down into the base of the waterfall next to a pool at the bottom.  The roaring sound from within the center is amazing.  I took a short video to show the experience.  I panned around from inside the waterfall, then recorded going up the steps to exit, then did a pan of the overall facility.  This particular pool was redesigned from 2005-2007 after 4 people died there.  It is now 7 feet more shallow than it used to be.

10)  Irving:  Dr. Pepper Bottling Plant

This is the home of the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group in Irving.  Perfectly visible from Highway 482, we pulled off the road quickly here to get a picture of these massive tanks designed to resemble soda cans.

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Texas and its people were most welcoming, and I can’t wait to go back again.  The drive would be worth it even if just for the food:  Tillman’s Roadhouse in the Bishop Arts District on 7th Street gets high ranks from me.  First of all, the mac & cheese with bacon is amazing, and secondly:  YOU CAN COOK S’MORES AT YOUR TABLE!  They bring miniature stoves out along with a variety of marshmallows, some chocolate squares, and poker sticks.  What a way to do dessert!

Please enjoy the rest of the pics if you’d like.

I-10 eastbound, passing Picacho Peak in Arizona

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Overnight stay with Jason and a look at our recent March-April 2015 feature in Arizona Driver

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Drive Friendly – The Texas Way

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Interstate 10 through El Paso, Texas

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“Happy Birthday” Frappaccino at Starbucks in El Paso (yes, it has pink whipped cream)

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Old school maps.  That’s how I roll.

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Those mountains are in Mexico.

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This is how close I was to the international border (blue dot).

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I-10 / I-20 split.  From here, I headed toward Dallas.

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Stonehenge in Odessa

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Lots of water towers!  This one, in Big Spring.

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Crumbling building in Colorado City, Texas – and a dually pickup truck that is a perfect representation of the “typical” west Texas automobile of choice.

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Paper airplane from Donovan at the Sparhawk Art Gallery in Abilene.

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Getting closer!

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Hotel for the first two nights:  Omni.

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View of central Dallas from the 22nd floor of the Omni hotel.

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Brunch with friends in Oakcliff area.

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$22.50 worth of money!  I think the Bureau of Engraving & Printing ripped me off.

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Roadside scene in Fort Worth, Texas near the Stock Yards.

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Check out those bar stools!  Scott, Tyson, Kyle, showing some skin & booty.

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Lunch spot.

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Entering the Active Pool at the Fort Worth Water Gardens.

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Hanging out near the pool.

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“Only in Texas” will you see a banner like this at the entrance to your hotel.

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Dinner at Tillman’s Roadhouse

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Hotel for night 3:  Aloft in Las Colinas area of Irving, Texas

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93 octane!  Didn’t feel too bad paying $2.64 for the rich stuff.

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Definition of an easy drive:  Next turn in 633 miles!

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Sunrise in my rearview mirror departing the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex on Sunday morning.

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Homeward trek to the I-10 / I-20 split again.

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Fuel & stretch stop in Van Horn, Texas.  Home of the Sands Motel.  My favorite part of the sign was the spray-painted “American Owned” comment along the bottom.

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Entering the Land of Enchantment:  New Mexico.

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New Mexico: White Sands National Monument in the ILX

Posted in ILX, National Parks, New Mexico, Road Trip on March 9, 2013 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  520,154

520154

Odometer (ILX):  31,237

31237

Trip Distance:  906 Miles

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Road trip time!

Ever since my friend Jason and I met up in Bisbee a couple of months ago, we’ve been wanting to coordinate another drive together.  This time, I put the planning responsibility on Jason and traveled to his hometown in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  I grabbed my friend Chris and we hit the road around 3:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon to head eastbound on Interstate 10 from the Phoenix, Arizona area.

This rainbow sighting happened just north of Tucson.

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For dinner, we pit stopped at one of my favorite restaurants:  Texas Roadhouse.  I love this place so much that I downloaded their app to my iPhone.  For any who are seeking recommendations, I like the 6 ounce sirloin (medium), with sides of steamed veggies and mashed potatoes.  Best $9.99 I’ve ever spent for a steak dinner!

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I had to capture the above picture inside the restaurant since the “Be Legendary” sign was calling my name.

Our drive that night was 394 miles of all-interstate driving until we got to my Jason’s house right off I-25 in Las Cruces.  The ILX achieved 32.4 miles per gallon even though for a good part of the drive I had the cruise control set at 80 miles per hour.  The rest of the time, speeds varied since we went through pockets of heavy rain.

Jason and I didn’t waste any time before pulling out my huge atlas and laying the ground work for our travels the following day.  He’s done quite a few travels in his Honda Accord coupe which are being captured on his blog, Driven for Drives.

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I got the chance to learn quite a bit about Jason.  He and I actually met “electronically” via this blog, but in-person this was only the second time we’d met.

Jason and his friend Jouhl are entrepreneurs.  They operate a business called Wisebliss which specializes in bonsai trees.  But these aren’t just any bonsai trees, these are hand-crafted “biobonsai” miniature trees made from a plant material that needs absolutely no care.  Finally a plant that even I could keep alive.

Check out Jason and Jouhl’s website here.  They’ve got some really neat stuff.

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I also browsed through Jason’s extensive collection of car magazines.  The first one that I grabbed was a 1993 Motor Trend “New Car Issue” that had a write-up on the Legend.

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Saturday morning was a sunny day in Las Cruces, with an expected high temperature in the 60’s.

Jason, Tyson, Chris

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First order of business was a photo-op at none other than the World’s Largest Chile!  I’ve been known to seek out lots of “largest” things, including the largest firecracker, which is located in Nevada.

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From there we headed eastward on US-70 toward Organ Mountain.  A sign on the roadside told us we were fewer than 40 miles away from our destination.

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Along the way, we took a twisty one-lane side-road toward Aguirre Spring.

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Following Jason

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This warning sign means business!

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After we made our way back to US-70, weather ahead looked good but there were clouds looming in the distance.  Or were they not clouds after all?

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Jason in hot pursuit this time (well, not really, since we were both going only 70 mph) as I took the lead for a little while.

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It was around this time that Chris spotted a Silver Moon Acura ILX going the opposite direction as we were.  Looked great going down the road.  I think that was the first Silver Moon I’ve seen in “real life” outside those sitting on a dealership’s lot.  Finally, we made it to White Sands and pulled off toward the visitor center at our left.

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White Sands is a field of white sand dunes in the southwestern part of New Mexico.  It covers over 143,000 acres and was designated a national monument by President Herbert Hoover in 1933.  The “sand” actually consists of gypsum crystals, and this site is the largest gypsum dune field in the world.

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Entry was $3 per person, but Jason picked up the tab for all 3 of us.  Thanks, Jason!  I owe you.

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The two-lane highway headed north into the monument area.  Heavy winds had pushed sand across the roadways.  Chris told me that they actually use sand plows to move it out of the way as necessary.  It looks a lot like snow!

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Some parts of the road were quickly getting drifted as the sand got kicked up by the wind.  What I’d thought were clouds earlier in the afternoon were in fact caused by sand in the air.  *cough, cough*

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We made it to a parking area and took a break to soak in the surroundings.

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Much like the scenic Monument Valley drive that I did a few weeks ago, White Sands also offers an un-paved loop for people who want to get a little more up close and personal with these sand dunes.

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It truly felt like we were in another world!

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The area is extremely remote.  There is a missile testing facility just north of the monument called the Trinity site.  This is where the first atom bomb was detonated in 1945.

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Here you can start to appreciate how windy it was.  Even with sunglasses on and my hoodie pulled over my head, I got sand all over the place.  In my hair, eyes, mouth, and nose.  All part of the experience!

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And it wouldn’t feel right to have a world of sand at my disposal without kicking off my tennis shoes and digging in my bare feet.

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It was around this time that I gave Jason the opportunity to take the ILX for a spin.  He commented on how “solid” the drivetrain felt.  Clutch effort, he noted, was significantly lower than in his Accord.  He liked the width and diameter of the steering wheel and he commented that he exhaust note made the car sound aggressive.

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Back on Hwy 70, we were cautioned about the traffic coming toward us from either direction at 70-80 miles per hour.

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It was only about 45 minutes until we arrived back in Las Cruces and veered north on Interstate 25.

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Exit 241 was for Hatch, New Mexico.  A sign indicated that “Truth or Consequences” was north of us.  I’ve always thought that was a funny name for a town.  The town was originally called Hot Springs, but it was changed in March 1950 to be named after a game show on TV!  More about that here.

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The exit for Hatch was about 30 miles north of the Hwy 70 interchange on I-25.  Shortly off the freeway, we drove past “Hot Damm Chile” and the opportunity for a picture was too much to resist.

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Hatch, New Mexico is the Chile Capital of the World. There is even a Chile Festival held each Labor Day which can attract up to 30,000 people to the small town of fewer than 2,000 residents.  We had to give the famous “Sparky’s” Restaurant a whirl, so we followed Jason there.

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I opted for the Green Chile Cheeseburger pictured here, coupled with steak fries and followed by a root beer float.  They’re serious about this burger being “world famous.”  In fact, each time a customer ordered this burger, the clerk would exclaim, “World Famous!” as she rang up the total.  The burger & fries only came to $5.99.

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Odd decor was the name of the game around here.

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We all ordered the same delicious thing.

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This was the juiciest burger I’ve ever eaten.  Absolutely melted in my mouth.  So good!

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The last picture I got as we started our 377-mile return trip to the Phoenix area was this shot of an Adopt-A-Highway sign on Hwy 26 just south of Hatch.

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The misplaced apostrophe drove me nuts.  When I shared this with a friend of mine via text, he said, “Lol, maybe they should try cleaning their stores before committing to a highway.”  I got a good laugh out of that.

Day 5 – Gallup, New Mexico

Posted in ILX, NALM, New Mexico, Road Trip on July 28, 2012 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  8,944

Trip Mileage:  3,484

I’m getting my kicks on Route 66!  Tonight’s motel is located on the historic highway which was completed in 1926 that linked Chicago with Los Angeles.  In fact, I’ve spent much of today retracing the original path of that road.

First thing I did before rolling out of Springfield, Missouri was re-create the picture that I took of my Legend from last year when I stayed at the same motel.  This was taken on July 21, 2011 on my way to the National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) in Morristown, New Jersey.

And this was taken this morning, on my return trip from Milwaukee.

The “Sooner State” welcomed me bright and early this morning.

It wasn’t long until after entering Oklahoma that I was driving on Will Rogers Turnpike.  But wait, nothing posted on the speed limit sign!

Some far-out destinations being reached on this trip.  Cuba (Missouri) yesterday, Miami (Oklahoma) today!

Ever seen a McDonald’s restaurant that spans the entire width of the freeway?

Fuel in Tulsa, Oklahoma at QT.  A little plug for my favorite gas station & convenience store here.  The bathrooms are always clean and large, the grocery selection is great, and the cashiers work fast!  I grabbed some veggies to-go.

Today’s tolls on Interstate 44, the Turner Turnpike, cost me a total of $8.00.  I’m going to save the receipts in the ILX’s glove box for souvenirs.

Once I landed in Oklahoma City, I hopped on I-40 westbound.

You know you’re in for a boring drive when the GPS indicates your next turn is in 535 miles!

At this point I still wasn’t sure how far I wanted to go today, but I set my sights on Amarillo for starters.

Elk City, Oklahoma is home to the National Route 66 Museum.   This was the first of many pit stops today that related to the “Mother Road” as you’ll soon see.

And here we go with yet another state – and this will be the last “new” state for this adventure.

That means that since the day I got the ILX on June 12th, it’s been to the following:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin

Not a bad list for a car that barely rolled off the assembly line in Indiana two months ago!

Next pit stop was the town of Shamrock, Texas.  Shamrock is home to the “U Drop Inn,” a Route 66 relic that’s been around since 1936.  The classic art deco architecture has been preserved and the building is now home to the Chamber of Commerce and a Visitor’s Center.

Wouldn’t it be nice if fuel was 34 cents a gallon?  I love that the “This Sale” digits can’t go above $9.99.  Who could ever dream of spending more than $10 on a fill-up?  Little did we know!

Not sure why this picture ended up looking squished but it makes me look skinnier than I really am!

Next up:  Amarillo, Texas.  I felt out of place without my cowboy boots.  There’s one tradition that I have every time I pass through this town, and it has nothing to do with western food.  Fazoli’s!  I love the unlimited breadsticks.  Wish this place would open back up in Arizona…

Cadillac Ranch is visible alongside Interstate 40.  This “work of art” consists of 10 Cadillacs buried in the ground, nose first, at an angle.  They were put there in 1974.  Graffiti is actually encouraged here.  The cars have been painted various styles over the years.

I got some 90 octane in Tucumcari, New Mexico.  That means on this trip, I’ve fueled up with 90, 91, 92, AND 93 octane.

Last Route 66 destination today was the Rio Puerco Bridge.  It’s located about 20 miles west of Albuquerque and parallel to what is now Interstate 40.  Back in the day (1933, to be exact) this was part of Route 66.  The timing was just right for a few sunset pictures when visited the bridge, so here are the shots I got of the ILX.

Thought this was a pretty fun sequence.

It’s great to know that I’m getting close to home and I’m still getting to know my new car better with each mile.  The car is a blast to drive and keeps me entertained for the long miles with its extensive technology and features.  I’ve had a few people on the interstate give me long looks as I’m sure some have never seen a 2013 ILX on the road before.  The finish line for this trip awaits tomorrow!

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Posted in Legend, NALM, New Mexico, Road Trip on July 19, 2011 by tysonhugie

Odometer:  481,989 miles

Trip mileage:  925 miles

This room at Motel 6 in lovely ABQ sure smells like a smoker’s room even though I asked for non.  Oh well!  It’s a (hopefully clean!) bed after a long night on the road.  My friend Kevin (aka “staff photographer”) is joining me for the ride to Oklahoma City and then he’ll fly back to Phoenix.  I’m enjoying the company.  We departed PHX around 4 p.m. and made great time getting out here.  The elevation gain between PHX and Flagstaff got us into some typical July monsoon thunderstorms and I had to crank up the windshield wipers for the first time in several weeks.

Departing PHX.  Kevin holds up this year’s Nat’l Lampoons Christmas Vacation ornament which he just picked up – complete with Clark Griswold’s Taurus and a tree mounted up top.

Getting onto I-40 from I-17 northbound in Flagstaff.  Albuquerque here we come!

A pit stop in FLG and we were eastbound on Interstate 40.  Surprisingly the freeway was nearly completely devoid of 18 wheelers tonight so the open road allowed us to cruise right along.  First order of business was a mandatory check-in at a site equally as thrilling as the world’s largest ball of twine:  Meteor Crater.  This hole in the ground is 4,000 feet in diameter and dates back 50,000 years.  Enough reason for us to pull off the interstate for a photo-op.

From there our next roadside attraction must-see was Jackrabbit Trading Post just west of Winslow, Arizona.  This relic of old Route 66 is still in business (though it was closed for the day when we rolled past).  The noteworthy “Here It Is” sign is a symbol of history and was featured, for example, in the original Cars movie set in Radiator Springs.  A definite highlight of tonight’s trip was when the theme song for an old cartoon, Tiny Toon Adventures, came on my iPod.  Kevin and I both belted the words without missing a beat at full volume.  That definitely dated us both.  Left me laughing for a few minutes.

Dinner in Holbrook, Arizona was at what HAS to be the world’s oldest Dairy Queen.  This place has a neon flashing sign and a drive thru that only accommodates two cars, where you both order and pick-up at the same window.  The cherry dipped ice cream cone was a welcome indulgence while Kevin and I sat roadside and enjoyed the perfect evening temps.

Great rearview sunset and a partial rainbow above the mirror.

From there it was about 80 miles until we crossed into New Mexico.

All is well in Legend Land.  The old clunker is happy to be enjoying the open road, as am I.  Signing out from ABQ!