Archive for the Road Trip Category

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!

Bay Area Road Trip! “NSXPO” 2018 in San Francisco, California

Posted in California, NSX, NSXPO, Road Trip on October 2, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (NSX):  113,388

Trip Distance:  1,600 Miles

(Photo Credit:  Eric Iwasaki)

Someone told me the other day in a text message, “You must really like cars if you’re traveling to see them.”  Well, yeah!  You just can’t attempt to explain an automotive obsession to someone who doesn’t understand it.  And that’s okay.

I was a participant a few days ago at this year’s largest gathering of Acura NSX owners in the country, deemed NSXPO and started in the late 1990s.  NSXPO is like NALM (the National Acura Legend Meet) but on a much larger (and more expensive) scale.  While NALM registration for this year’s Colorado Springs event was $90, NSXPO cost $400 – and neither of those, of course, included other expenses associated with the trip:  Fuel, lodging, most meals, and other incidentals.  This is a spendy hobby, but I can think of no more rewarding way to invest in a good time.

NSXPO reached capacity and sold out in just a matter of days after registration went live this past May – a full 4 months in advance of the event itself.  This marked my fourth NSXPO attendance, though admittedly I “cheated” and flew in for two of them:

Here are links to my prior NSXPO Write-Ups:

  • NSXPO 2015:  Palm Springs, California
  • NSXPO 2016:  Orlando, Florida
  • NSXPO 2017:  Milwaukee, Wisconsin

The four core planning committee members definitely had their work cut out for them with a group of this size.  Establishing logistics for an event of any size in the urban San Francisco Bay Area is a feat, let alone with over 230 people and 130 vehicles in attendance.  Pictured here are the core team members (May Lee in purple, Roger Estrella and James Ubarro in orange at right, and Les Rowe – not pictured, along with NSXCA President Peter Cunningham, and special guests).

My drive took me through Los Angeles, then upward on Interstate 5 — a road I’ve come to know and love in 2018 thanks to multiple trips:  Radwood, my Integra purchase, and then my Integra drive home.  Beyond that, I was also just in the Bay Area for Car Week.

Unfortunately, I missed out on the first two days of this year’s event – the track days at Thunderhill Raceway.  Then again, I’ve never been much of a performance driver and I have a lot to learn about pushing my car to its limits before I make a fool of myself!

For my own NSX, the trip to California was like going back home.  In December 2011, I purchased the car in San Jose.  It almost seemed like it was already familiar with the roads out there.  After a roughly 12 hour total travel time, I arrived at our host hotel, the Hyatt Regency SF Airport, on Thursday afternoon and arranged for a few local friends to come over and hang out.  We went out in downtown Burlingame that evening in my friend Ken’s 1987 Legend sedan.

On Friday morning, we braved commute traffic northbound to the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was worth it.  The Golden Gate is perhaps the best-known in the SF Bay Area.  When completed in 1937, it was both the longest and the tallest suspension bridge in the world, at 1.7 miles.  Today it has a $30 million “zipper” movable barrier system that allows lane usage & direction to alternate.

From Horseshoe Bay, we were able to take panoramic photos of all the cars lined up together.  Lunch was served up at the Presidio, with special guest speaker Graham Rahal, who has scored himself some impressive race wins during his career.  Graham was the youngest person to win an American open-wheel race, at age 19, which was ten years ago.

The evening took us out across the harbor from the Embarcadero pier area – a 45 minute bus ride from our Hyatt.  As dusk settled in, we were surrounded by stunning views of the illuminated city skyline from out in the water.  Dinner was served and we had a short program, all while boating along on a massive ship that took us out to the Bay Bridge, around Alcatraz Island, down to the A&T Ballpark where the SF Giants were playing baseball, and then back.  The round-trip adventure took about 3 hours, and the highlight was seeing our friend Randy Chua propose to his fiance.  (She said yes, which was received with a round of applause).

On Saturday, the caravan of NSXs rolled out toward the high elevation community of Woodside, tucked into the mountains about 30 miles south of SF.  Mountain Terrace served up a brunch menu there on the grass.  Unfortunately, I had to work that morning and arrived a little too late to join in on that – so I grabbed lunch on my own across the street at a historic spot called Alice’s.  It was originally constructed as a general store, but converted into a restaurant in the 1950s.  Today it serves a variety of car clubs and motorcyclists year-round, which explains why two of the sandwiches on the menu are the “Yamaha” and the “Honda.”  You can guess which one I ordered.

For the next hour, I pointed my NSX southbound on Skyline Drive and enjoyed the twisty roads and the scenery.  One particularly fun stretch had curves that narrowed to just a single lane of traffic with speed limits at 15 miles per hour.  I went a little bit faster than that.  The NSX excels in such a driving environment.

By the time I arrived at our next stop, Canepa Car Museum in Scotts Valley, most of the group had already beat me there.  The museum itself also doubles as a dealership, showcasing some of the finest sportscars I’ve laid eyes on.

My friend Dom made an appearance back at the Hyatt.  He and I have crossed paths in social media circles for some time now, but this was our first time hanging out in person.  He was in his blue 2013 ILX.  I threw him the keys to the NSX and let him take it for a whirl.  We finished our test drives just in time for me to quickly change into more formal clothes and get to the pavilion next to the pool.  Seating was already underway for our closing dinner and awards ceremony.

We were honored to hear from Motoharu Kurosawa, otherwise known by the name Gan-San, who had an extensive professional racing career.  Representatives from HART (Honda of America Racing Team) also addressed the congregation, while dinner was served.  Awards were given out for the best original and best modified NSXs, and the long-awaited announcement was made regarding dates & location for next year’s event.  NSXPO 2019 will be held in Washington, DC on October 9-13.

All too soon, NSXPO drew to a close and we bid farewell to some of our friends who we only get to interact with once or twice a year.  I caught a few hours of shuteye and hit the road early (but not yet bright) on Sunday morning, hauling the entire 11-hour, 800-mile stint with only a few short stops.  My NSX performed flawlessly and I had plenty of time to jam out to music and enjoy the drive.

Until next time!

Top level of the Hyatt in SF, full of NSXs

Pre-departure on the group drive to the Golden Gate Bridge

Rolling out

With friend and fellow automotive journalist Jason Cammisa who stopped by

Group parked at Presidio

Looks like this guy’s been to a few meets over the years!

Lunch time

My friend Ben’s 2005 Silverstone NSX-T….

…. with only 8,300 original miles!

My car with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

A visit from Dom and his Fathom Blue ILX 6MT

Bay Bridge

Gas station at Alice’s in Woodside

Group on the dinner cruise

View of the AT&T baseball field from our cruise

Perfect name for a road!

Curves all to myself

Having some fun near Skyline Drive

Very amazingly preserved 1991 Berlina Black NSX with Ivory interio

Jhae and his famous NSX

Lots of colorful cars out there at Canepa in Scotts Valley

A visit from David who has a Legend he showed at Radwood

Check out that yellow interior!

Driving home through some severe dust storms on the horizon

Retro Rides: 2018 Japanese Classic Car Show (JCCS) in Long Beach, California

Posted in California, Car Show, Road Trip, Vigor on September 17, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Vigor):  112,562

Trip Distance:  760 Miles

“How do you keep it smelling like that?” asked an attendee at last Saturday’s Japanese Classic Car Show in Long Beach, California, after poking his head into my 1994 Acura Vigor.  “What do you mean?” I asked.  “It smells just like an old Honda.  It reminds me of one I used to have,” he said.

As it turns out, the “old Honda” smell conversation came up more than once – enough to make the wheels in my mind start spinning.  Does the Car Freshner scent tree company need to develop a new scent, called Old Car?  I call dibs on royalties for anyone who takes the idea and runs with it.

This weekend, I joined 423 other participants at the largest show dedicated specifically to Japanese classics, in the southwest region and perhaps in the country.  Now in its 14th year, the show – dubbed ‘JCCS’ by long-time attendees or supporters, is now enhanced with expanded eligibility criteria.  Historically, showing a 1990s car required special consideration & approval because the cutoff for allowed model years ended at 1985.  Now, just about anything Japanese that’s up to & including model year 1995 is eligible.  The change comes at a time when so many venues – including Radwood shows, and the recent Japanese Automotive Invitational, are starting to devote special recognition to the “Neo Classic” 80s & 90s era.  Totally awesome.

JCCS took a thorough and organized approach to its execution – starting and ending on time, and even orchestrating roll-in and staging in an orderly fashion.  Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, as the Japanese (thus the reason why I drive Japan-built automobiles) are masters of precision.  Volunteers guided incoming vehicles to their respective assigned areas, but the traffic jam at the gate (and on the grounds) was definitely more than the Marina Green park is probably used to seeing on a Saturday morning at 7:00.

Model Citizen‘s Patrick Strong acted as the Master of Ceremonies throughout the day, spotlighting key exhibitors, rattling off raffle ticket numbers for prize winnings, and conducting the awards presentation at the conclusion.  Meanwhile, the lawn filled up with hundreds of Japan’s best creations:  in all, about 150 Nissan / Datsun vehicles, 87 Toyotas, about the same number of Hondas, some Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and a lonely Isuzu in the mix.  Some were stock, while others were highly modified.

As the day pressed on, I enjoyed bumping into some of the many people who make the automotive hobby such a rewarding pastime – friends from the Honda community poured in and it became a bit of a reunion for me.  I partnered with my friend Mike, who drives a 1989 Prelude Si, on content for our YouTube channels and caught up with colleagues from the Legend, NSX, and Integra clubs.  When the time came to grab lunch, I opted for the food truck on “vendor row” with the shortest line, which ended up being a crepe vendor.  It’s the first time I can say I’ve ever eaten a crepe with bacon and avocado in it – those were two key ingredients from the “California Sunrise.”

I was, of course, wearing my “Alive With Five” T-shirt commemorating my Vigor’s 5-cylinder motor.

Car shows aren’t always about coming home with “hardware,” but it’s rewarding when the judges recognize the vehicles that stand out in exceptional ways.  Winning honors in the Neo Honda & Acura category were my friend Rob Pia with his 1994 Legend LS sedan and Leon Palassanian with his 2001 Integra Type-R.  While Leon’s Integra technically falls beyond the 1995 model year cutoff, because the car’s generation started in 1994, it was eligible.  And at only 30,000 original miles on the odometer, it was a show-stopper and a crowd-pleaser.  It was one of two Type-R models on the show field – the other was a white Canadian-spec model.

I wrapped up my trip by chauffeuring a friend to Palm Springs and having a bite to eat there, before pressing on to Phoenix.  The late night drive was made better with Paula Abdul on the stereo – via cassette tape adapter, of course – with “Straight Up.”  It only seems fitting that a 1988 song accompany me home from what was an incredible day embracing an iconic era for automobiles.

Here is a 7-minute video capturing some of my trip as well as the show itself.  As always, pardon the amateur camera and editing quality!

And while you’re here, stop by ImportArchive.com.  My friend Darren (same who prepared the digital drawings of the cars in my garage) has spent 15 years collecting and scanning brochures of Japanese automakers.  I’ve contributed a few materials to his archive and I’m excited to see it grow.  Downloads are made available once he gets the items digitized (over 50,000 scans are completed to date).

Spectating attendees Steve & Zac making the rounds

This is the display I made up for the Vigor – including a quote from the original sales brochure

Friends stopping by to visit.

Nice 1987 Legend on show at the Honda (sponsor) booth

David drove down from the Bay Area in his 1994 Legend LS coupe 6-speed

These folks must have been smelling that Vigor interior!

This is the 1993 Legend LS currently up for auction on Bring a Trailer website.  It is stunning, and can be yours if the Price is Right!

Let’s throw some non-Hondas into the mix – I can’t only show my fave brand!

Armando’s beautiful 1974 Mazda RX-4.

Lexus SC rear ends.

Look at that Land Cruiser!

Right-hand-drive was the name of the game.

Gorgeous Honda S roadster.

My friend Chris’ 1979 Accord

My friend Hyram’s 1990 Legend

Second-generation Integra lineup

Stopping in Palm Springs on the way home to see a Legendary friend, David.

 

Spy shot of me thanks to James of Six Speed Blog a couple of weeks ago.

I had this little newspaper clipping from 2008 framed to hang in the house.

Junkyard sightings from last weekend:  Vigor, Legend, Prelude 4WS.

Anyone catch the updates to the ILX for model year 2019?  Fancy front & rear!

And finally, I was thumbing through a 30-year-old Acura brand magazine.  There was an area where they highlight interesting news or reader submissions.  Check out this paragraph about / by none other than Estelle Getty who played “Sophia” on Golden Girls.

Now you know!  Have a great week!

Travel News Bits: St. George, Prescott, Canyon Lake, & Upcoming Monterey

Posted in Accord, Integra, Legend, Milestones, Misc Travel, Road Trip, Vigor on August 20, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  563,514

Odometer (Vigor):  111,707

Hours (Boat):  4,000

Trip Distance:  225 Miles

Let’s get up to speed on some of the last few weeks’ activities as summer winds down here in Arizona.  In late July, some friends and I traveled to southern Utah for a few days at my brother’s newly-remodeled home. The pool was pretty inviting!

Headed northbound in Kyle’s 2008 Pontiac G8 GXP 6-speed.

James drove up in his tester of the week, the 2018 Accord.

We also took a quick jaunt to the mountains of Payson, Arizona a couple of weeks ago with 8 attendees and 6 cars, including 3 Acuras, a Mazda, a Pontiac, and an Infiniti.  Leading the pack in power and presence was Vlad’s 2017 NSX, recently customized with performance exhaust downpipes from Science of Speed.  I was happy to bring up the tail – my 1994 Vigor is a fun and nimble machine, but its tired suspension, old Michelins, and 176-horsepower motor were no match for the others in this group.

Lunch at Prescott Brewing Company.

Fueling up at the Mobil in Wickenburg.

After 3 years of ownership, I finally had the Vigor’s upholstery worked on.  The driver seat “Cognac” leather was torn along the side bolster, so I had Naro from TrimFit in Phoenix clean it up for $250 last week.  He succeeded masterfully.

I also got around to having a lot of small dings removed from the 1992 Integra GS.  Jorden of Anytime Dent had the car for about 4 days and cleaned up every panel.  It came out looking perfectly.  I snagged a pic while at Starbucks parked next to a 1989 Legend.

This past Saturday, we took Kyle’s new (well, 1993 model year) boat out to Canyon Lake which is about an hour away from my place.  Contrary to popular belief, Arizona does have its fair share of lakes and waterways.  This one is a reservoir formed by the Salt River which is Phoenix’s primary water supply.  The spot is noted by the red marker at top right here.

I tried my hand at riding the tube.  Two days later, I realize I must have been clutching to it pretty aggressively because my arms are realllllly sore.

And yesterday, I took the Legend GS to church and it rolled 160,000 miles.

My Integra GS-R is getting ready for a trip to the California Coast.  It will be featured as one of about 40 cars in Pebble Beach at the inaugural “Japanese Automotive Invitational” show this Saturday 8/25 and Sunday 8/26.  The space belongs to Infiniti, who has partnered with Motor Trend to bring everything together.  Participating vehicles are being brought in from across the nation, including an exceptionally clean 1990 Legend LS coupe from Florida with only 54,000 miles on it.  Pick up is anticipated for sometime this week!

I’ll be attending part of the ‘car week’ activities as well, as I’m scheduled to attend an Acura private reception this Thursday at the Carmel Valley Lodge.  I’ll be flying in and out of San Jose.  I’ll bring you a full report next week.

That’s a wrap on recent news for now!

Check out this plexiglass magazine display that I picked up!  Soon to be fastened to a wall inside my house or in the garage.

Looks like a car-party at my house.

Beautiful Payson, AZ summer afternoon.

Evening meet-up with Michael (ILX) and a few other folks at Tempe Town Lake Marina.

NALM 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Part 3: Dealer Day, Banquet/Awards, & Return Trip

Posted in Colorado, Legend, NALM, Road Trip on July 25, 2018 by tysonhugie

As Cher said in 1989, “If I could turn back time….”

If you could turn back time, to what year would you set your destination?  For me, it might be sometime in the early-to-mid 1990s.  I was a fresh teenager at the Woodward Sixth Grade Center, reading Dirt Wheels Magazine and studying up on ATVs, putting miles on my Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike (pictured below in 1996), and playing games like Myst on our Packard Bell home computer.  Life was good.

It was around that time, some of Acura’s best sellers were gracing its showroom floors.  For just one day, Pikes Peak Acura in Colorado Springs chose to re-create such an occasion.  On Saturday, July 21, Manager Joel Archuleta swung open his facility’s doors for six Acura Legends to take over the spots previously occupied by ILX, TLX, RDX, and MDX models.  And the commotion drew quite a bit of attention from both staff members and customers alike.  Adding to the already-nostalgic feeling within the showroom, I requested that the satellite radio channel be changed to 1990s music, and it was.  Perfect.

On display in front, we had the two “twin” Legend GS sedans, my VIN 21413 and Chris’ 21268, configured in identical equipment, and within a few miles of each other in odometer readings.  More on that car in a future article.  Here’s our photo with Joel.

Behind the receptionist desk, we had two generation 2 LS coupes:  Mirel’s black-on-black 1994 LS 6-speed and Ben’s white-on-black 1992 LS automatic.  Capping off the ends of the showroom were Leon’s 1995 LS coupe and James’ 1988 base model sedan.  James’ car drew a great deal of attention as it was the most highly modified vehicle in the spotlight, with eye-catching custom paint, suspension, and other upgrades.  It was also the only first-generation car in attendance.

One of the highlights of having our “dealer day” was seeing a few random local owners come out of the woodwork, including Jesus in a black G2 coupe and Seth in a Desert Mist 1994 Vigor GS.  We welcomed both of them like family and invited them to join us upstairs for our catered lunch.  Dealership personnel cast votes on their favorite car, and the award was granted to Chris for his Legend GS.  Our time in the limelight was short-lived, and by noon we were rolling back out the doors and returning to home base in Woodland Park.

That afternoon, we took the cars to Woodland Park High School and held an informal car show and voting.  There were a few fun categories, like “Least Visor Sag,” and “Cleanest Floor Mats,” but my favorite was one called “Least Idle Smoke.”  In my 14 years attending this car meet, this was the first time I’ve participated in a “smoke-off.”  The concept is straightforward:

  • Park the cars in a lineup
  • Fire up the motors
  • Let the cars idle for about 10 minutes
  • Proceed down the row and have someone rev each car to similar RPM
  • Evaluate which car emits the least blue smoke

It was kind of funny, really.  I mean, these cars are 23 or more years old.  Even the lowest-mileage car in attendance, Leon’s 1995 coupe LS with 145,000 miles on it, let out a puff of smoke.  Oil burning is a common thing.  You’ll see what I mean in the video.

That evening, our NALM concluded with a BBQ banquet, raffle, and awards ceremony at the Country Lodge.  Every attendee received an item, and some received multiple.  Best of Show went to Chris for his Legend build, Longest Distance Traveled went to Alex from Florida, Best Interior went to Leon, and other awards were given.  It was the perfect capstone to an adventure-filled few days in Colorado.

Meanwhile, James L and I prepared for a long return journey ahead to Arizona the following morning.  We hit the road at our anticipated 7:00 departure time and made only a few stops along the way, including a prime photo op along I-25 southbound near the “Highway of Legends.”  Thanks to some walkie-talkie communication, we were able to stay in touch for the entire 850-mile stretch.  Sean, my skydiving friend who I mentioned in Part 2, bought us lunch in Albuquerque at a restaurant called “The Range” off Interstate 40.

Tired but fulfilled, we got back to Phoenix around 8:00 p.m. local time.  Until the next NALM!

It’s 1995 all over again

Me with my GS

Group shot

Looking spiffy

Chris’ car.  Notice how we even swapped out our plates for Pikes Peak ones!

Mirel’s car

Matt and Jesus’ cars

Dinner at Woodland Country Lodge

Home, sweet home, in Arizona on Sunday night

Until next time!

NALM 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Part 2: Pikes Peak Ascent to 14,115 Feet!

Posted in Colorado, Legend, NALM, Road Trip on July 24, 2018 by tysonhugie

Day Distance:  56 Miles

Some people love heights.  Take my friend Sean, for example.  He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico and is an optometrist by day but an avid skydiver on the side.  I had the opportunity to meet up with him for lunch on Sunday while passing through his area.  “So how many dives have you done?” I asked him, expecting to have him say maybe a hundred.  “Over five hundred,” he told me.  Holy smokes.

My interest was piqued, and I continued to interview Sean about what that must be like.  He told me that typical free-fall velocity is around 120 miles per hour, but he’s been known to get up to about 190 before (“The wind noise was deafening,” he said).

Sean is a thrill-seeker, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his cars.  He drives a 2017 Honda Accord and a base model white 1991 Acura Legend that he’s had since he was 16, which was over 19 years ago.  That’s some loyalty and dedication.  I’ve known Sean since the first National Acura Legend Meet in Dallas, Texas in 2005.

Speaking of heights, there have been only a couple of times in my life when I’ve conquered a “14’er.”  That’s Colorado-speak for a mountain with a summit of over 14,000 feet in elevation.  One of them was when I drove Mount Evans back in 2013.

For that trip, my anxiety was pretty mild:  I was driving a 1-year-old car (my 2013 ILX) with fewer than 50,000 miles on it.

This latest feat was a little bit of a different story:  I was about to attempt climbing a vertical mile straight up into the air over a 19-mile stretch of road. But this time, I was in a car with 562,000 miles on it, that burns oil, leaks power steering fluid, and has an original engine, transmission, and clutch.  Heaven help me.  If there was ever a time I put faith in my old trusty Legend to get me there safely, it was on Friday morning at the base of the road.  We arrived at 7:00 a.m., a full 30 minutes before the gates opened, and had some time to prepare for what was to come.

Ten of the 11 Legends that started the ascent made it to the top.  Combined, they had 2.4 million miles on them.  The only one that didn’t make it was Alex’s 1994 LS coupe (pictured above) which experienced a transmission problem with its recently installed 6-speed.  Luckily, it happened before we got to the areas with little or no room for pulling over.  The road gets pretty gnarly.

In Alex’s absence, I took the lead and set the pace for the group, alternating mostly between 2nd and 3rd gear but sometimes dropping to first on the hairpins.  A/C was off (it wasn’t needed anyway) and my eyes were glued to the temperature gauge.  With each passing mile, a sign marker on the side of the road told us our progress.

By 10,000 feet, we could start to see ourselves approaching the tree line.  The curves continued, and the road narrowed.  Eleven, 12, and 13,000 feet came and went.  By the time we passed 14,000, I gripping the wheel and wishing I’d left my sweatshirt on (windows were down).  The temperature dipped to the mid-40’s – roughly 1/3 of the temperature back home in Phoenix this time of year.  I wasn’t prepared for this!

My eyes were so laser-focused on the road ahead that I paid little attention to the drop-offs alongside me.  Alan, who was right behind me in his 1993 coupe, got on the walkie-talkie, “Hey, get a little closer to that edge!” he said.  “No thanks!” I responded.  Finally we arrived at the summit house which offered a respite from the chilly temps and winds, though being primitive in appearance.  The summit house, in fact, has been largely left in its current state since construction in the early 1960s, and it shows.

Inside, we found ourselves surrounded by typical gift shop garb:  T-shirts, coffee mugs, magnets with names on them.  You know, it’s really rare to find a magnet with the name Tyson on it.  Just saying.  I picked up a hot cocoa for $1.25 and a couple of fresh, hot donuts.  Apparently those donuts are a Pikes Peak famous tradition.  And they did hit the spot.  Our group had about an hour to kill by wandering around the summit.  In the back of the building, the views were spectacular:  Near 360-degree perspective showing the landscape below (albeit, through smoke and haze since the wildfires are really prevalent this year).

Also present is the track for a cog railway, which is currently out of service but slated to reopen around the same time as a new, modern summit house.  Here I am with Ken (New Jersey), Alex (Florida), and Waseem (Michigan).  Oh, and Alex’s dog KA8 (pronounced Kate).

A few people had elevation issues:  I watched as some stumbled or struggled with balance.  The elevation gave me a little sinus pain and you could definitely tell the air was thin because it was easy to get winded or fatigued from even just a little hiking around.  But the cars, thank goodness, all started and ran just as well at 14k feet as they had when we started up the hill at around 7k.  And speaking of the cars, someone from the staff got on an intercom while we were wandering around, “Remember to use your lowest gear when going down the mountain.”  They then went on to give instructions on how to find a “plus/minus” setting on most modern automatic vehicles.  Chris found himself some great underwear to take home as a souvenir.

And then it was time to crawl back down.  I stuck to 2nd gear most of the way, easing off the brakes as much as possible.  We were slowed down considerably a couple of times due to groups of bicyclists taking over the roadway.  At one point, we even pulled over when it was safe to do so and let them get a good head start on us so we could enjoy the road at a more comfortable pace.

At about the halfway point, there was a mandatory brake check (shown above).  A ranger stopped each vehicle and used a temperature gun to find out brake temps.  Any vehicle in excess of 300 degrees Fahrenheit is asked to let them cool down before proceeding.  The record low temp in our group was Waseem in his rented BMW 5-series with 140 degrees.  Second place?  Me, at 154 degrees.  That’s how it’s done!

There was a reservoir just prior to mile 7 that offered a nice backdrop of the Rockies for our photo op, and then it was back to base camp at the Woodland Country Lodge until the next NALM activity!

Oh, and as for Alex with the broken-down coupe, there is a happy ending:  Miraculously, he was able to source a used 5-speed transmission at a junkyard in Denver and swap it in a few days later.  As of this posting, he is back on the road and well on his way home!

Here is a video capturing some of the action!

Reading material distributed at the entrance station.  Our group had a $10/car discounted entry fee.

First pull-out to regroup at Crowe Gulch, with Leon in the background.

Vintage postcard showing Pikes back in the day

Our group at the summit

Taking a break during the descent

Photo ops near mile 7

Stay tuned for more – in the next episode, I’ll take you inside Pikes Peak Acura where the clock was turned back to the 1990s all over again!  Also, check out this video that Skydiver Sean put together from our meet-up in Albuquerque!

 

NALM 2018 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Part 1: Kicking Things Off

Posted in Colorado, Legend, NALM, Road Trip on July 23, 2018 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend coupe):  563,437

Odometer (Legend sedan):  159,945

Trip Distance:  1,804 Miles

Please meet my friend Kiley from Kansas.

In all my years of being such a fanatic about Acura, she’s the first person I’ve met who took it to the ultimate level.  Acura emblem earrings.  Lipstick that matches her car.  Her Legend grille tattooed on her arm.  Acura from head to toe, with accessories to back it up — her purse is a leather portfolio that was originally intended to hold an owner’s manual.  Kiley is one of the reasons why I just love this community.  I love people who are passionate.  It’s no wonder she won “Most Enthusiastic” at this year’s meet.

For 14 years, the National Acura Legend Meet (NALM) has been a summer tradition of mine.  In fact, I was curious how far I’ve driven just for the sake of attending this annual car club meeting.  It comes out to nearly 35,000 miles, and the summary is below by year.

This year, for the first time, the state of Colorado played host to our group.  It was the perfect getaway spot to find comfy temps, brilliant scenery, tasty food, and a bunch of really awesome people like Kiley.  You all know I don’t just do this for the cars, right?

This year, there were about 30 members, 18 cars, and 11 states registered – and not a single one of them a Colorado local.  In fact, if my math skills hold true, our group’s one-way mileage just to get here adds up to over 20,000.  That’s some serious dedication.  What is it about this car club that compels people to sacrifice lost wages, lost sleep, and risky travels to enjoy the camaraderie for a few days?  It’s that ‘Legend mystique’ and some will never understand it.  And that’s okay.

  • Take Alex, for example, who as of about a week ago undertook a complete transmission swap on this car and still pulled it off in time to drive it 2,100 miles across the country from Florida.
  • Or Chris, who drove a similar distance with his twin 12-year-old daughters, making it a family vacation including a stop at the Titanic Museum.
  • Corey, who spent 3 nights sleeping in his car on the way here from Seattle (and lost his wallet in Spokane along the way).
  • Ben, who lives primarily in Shanghai but comes back each year for this event at great time and expense.  And who locked his keys in his car twice.
  • Jay, who drove from Alabama in his 300,000+ mile Legend coupe and is now on his way to Anchorage, Alaska.
  • Mirel, who got his car out of the paint booth just days ago and was literally still installing emblems and trim pieces just moments before he began his 3-state roadtrip.
  • Waseem, Ken, and Evan, who don’t even have their Legends with them this trip but who still came to be a part of the family.

I guess I feel right at home here once a year with people who have my same level of craziness.

My 850-mile drive from Phoenix was done in a single stretch with 3 fuel / stretch stops along the way.  By the time I was making my way up Highway 24 westbound to the host hotel, the sun was just dipping below the horizon of the peaks ahead of me.  I arrived just in time to catch up with the group at Ute Pass Brewing Company on Wednesday night and then enjoy the cool breeze of the back deck at the Country Lodge after sundown.

Thursday was comprised of a road rally to Breckenridge, but I had to sit on the sidelines and stare at my laptop back at the hotel since I didn’t have the day off work.  No matter – there were still a few days of fun & festivities left.  We dined on some of Colorado’s finest Mexican food before calling it a night back at the hotel.  In the next couple of blog posts, I’ll share a little about our “main event” – a drive up one of America’s highest-elevation paved roads, to Pikes Peak summit at over 14,000 feet.  I’ll also discuss a special event at the local dealership where they allowed 6 of our members’ cars to be place into the showroom like it was the 1990s all over again.  Teaser:

I’ll also have 2 or 3 videos for you to enjoy.  While you’re waiting, check out this article by Kurt Klingensmith about the Radwood event I attended back in March, with some great photos of my Vigor!

I-40 & I-25 interchange in Albuquerque, New Mexico:  A little over halfway there!

Arrival at Country Lodge – that’s Chris’ Legend GS

Working from the hotel on Thursday, this was about as much as I got to experience the great outdoors

Headed to dinner with Chris, Callie, Sienna, and others.

Leon, Waseem, James, Kiley, Evan, October, Nancy, Alan

Ben, Smiley, Ken, Corey

Alex, Matt, Callie, Sienna, Chris, and Jay

Prep for Pikes Peak.  More to come!