Monterey, California: ARX-05 Racecar & 2018 Acura RLX Debuts at The Quail Motorsports Gathering

Posted in California, Car Show, RLX on August 20, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  554,418

Odometer (Sonata Rental):  12,000

“Car Week” in Monterey, California is kind of a big deal.  A lot of automotive enthusiasts have heard of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.  Don’t you dare call it just a “car show,” because its organizers are that confident it’s much, much more than that.  The event, which started in 1950, draws some 15,000 spectators annually who come to see some of the finest collector vehicles in the world.  When you consider that ticket prices are $375 a pop, it comes out to a $5.6 million event.  “Big smoke,” in the words of my grandpa.  This ain’t your everyday cars & coffee. And it’s for a good cause, too.  The proceeds from the event benefit United Way and other charitable organizations.

What many don’t know is that there are dozens of other automotive events in the Monterey Bay area of the Central California coastline the same week as Pebble.  My friend Rob and I flew out to attend two very special activities.  One of those was “The Quail” Motorsports Gathering, held at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club with its lush green lawns and clubhouse facilities.  Acura is a major sponsor at The Quail and I first attended this event in 2016, wide-eyed and awestruck at the quality and class that it exudes.

Once again I was given the opportunity to attend The Quail, but this time with an added extra bonus.  True to Acura’s “Precision Crafted Performance” slogan, the company has become increasingly active in racing and motorsports.  On Thursday morning bright and early, my friend Rob and I flew from Phoenix to San Jose, then hit up the beach in Santa Cruz since we had a little bit of time to kill.

We checked into our ‘tiny house’ AirBNB rental in nearby Soquel up a scenic, windy canyon road.  The house was far out of reach from any cell phone signal, which was actually kind of nice!  After a wardrobe change, we made our way to the Carmel Valley Lodge in Carmel for an exclusive debut.

Announced in early July, in partnership with Penske, a new “Daytona Prototype International” (DPi) racecar will make its first race at the Rolex 24 in Daytona, Florida in January.  Named the ARX-05, the racecar is powered by a 3.5 liter, twin-turbo V6 engine (fundamentally similar to that which powers other Acura models today).  Acura pulled the sheets off the car to a group of enthusiasts (including me) on Thursday night.

In attendance were stakeholders from both Acura and Penske, as well as a few celebrities sprinkled in:  While everyone else was in sport coats and neckties, Jay Leno came down the entryway stairs in his typical head-to-toe denim fashion.  Comedian Adam Carolla, actor Jesse Metcalfe, and Motor Trend’s Johnny Lieberman were also making their rounds through the crowd.  I enjoyed the chance to reconnect with friends who were there from the NSX Club of America and other Acura enthusiast communities.  And the ARX-05?  Absolutely stunning!

Acura’s head of PR, Matt Sloustcher, at right here in the blue.

On Friday, we made our way to The Quail.  The 50-mile drive down Highway 1 from our tiny house in Soquel to Quail Lodge took us over two hours, thanks to traffic from Friday commuters + car show people like us.  At least the instructions were clearly laid out:  We needed to stash our Hyundai Sonata rental car in “sponsor city” car lot, check in for our credentials, and then ride a shuttle bus to the entrance.

We made it to the Acura booth just in the nick of time for the press conference at 11:20 a.m.  First on the stage was Matt of Acura Public Relations, pictured above.  Then Art St Cyr, President of Honda Performance Development, introduced the ARX-05 to the crowd and turned the time over to Roger Penske for a few closing remarks.

Rob, Ira, and I made the rounds to experience some of the cuisine and beverages at the 5 food pavilions.  Each one was regionally themed (Beverly Hills, Carmel Valley, China, Italy, and France).  My favorite was the fried rice at the China booth.  We got ice cream for dessert at Infiniti’s display.  There was no shortage of buffet-style dining at this event!  That’s probably one of the reasons why each of the 3,000 tickets go for $600 a piece.  Champagne and caviar?  Right this way, please!  Notice, too, the restrooms are called “water closets.”

There was a ride-and-drive station set up on the outskirts of the grounds where people would sign up in advance to drive the NSX and other Acura models.  Acura’s RLX, debuting for the 2014 model year, was the successor to the RL, which was the successor to the Legend, so naturally it holds a special place in my heart.  Sales success has not been great historically, but with some enhancements for the 2018 mid-cycle refresh, it might just gain some relevance in the marketplace.  The RLX puts a total of 377 horses to the ground via all-wheel drive in the upgraded trim level.  From a design perspective, it now more closely resembles its smaller TLX sibling.  My favorite view is the rear.

In the evening, Rob and I met up with my friends Scott & Sandy for dining at a Mexican place in Carmel:  A fun, walkable town along the coastline.  Saturday’s flight back to Phoenix came around midday and I was delighted that our travels toward the San Jose airport took us through some very scenic and curvy backroads.  Now, if only I’d had a car better than a Sonata rental to experience them in!  Many thanks to Acura for the invitation to participate in this weekend’s activities!   More photos and a short video follow.

Airport bound in the 1994 Vigor GS!

Beachfront view while we ate lunch at Picnic Basket in Santa Cruz

Headed up the canyon road to our place in Soquel

Kicking back!

Evening arrival at Carmel Valley Lodge

By this time we had met up with my Oregonian friend, Ira (at right)

Sharing some remarks on the newly-redesigned 2018 RLX

Friends from the NSX Club of America – with a great photo bomb by Acura President, Jon Ikeda

Chris, Ira, May, Tyson – NSXCA Members

Jhae Pfenning and Peter Cunningham – a couple heroes of mine!

And the one and only Jesse Metcalfe, as seen in Desperate Housewives

Rob and I looked like a couple of church missionaries in our dress attire and bland midsize sedan

The Quail entrance.  That grass is real!  Totally immaculate.

Having ice cream from Infiniti

One of the only Hondas I saw there:  An S800 roadster

NSXCA group again

Come right on in!

More scenery

Dinner friends Scott & Sandy in Carmel

Saying goodbye to the tiny house in Soquel before flying back to Arizona

Logan, Utah Weekend Trip: Family History, Tasty Food, & Great Roads

Posted in Road Trip, TL, Utah on August 16, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  554,414

Odometer (TL):  99,872

Trip Distance:  1,700 Miles

Merrill Vernon Hansen was my great-grandfather.  Born September 18, 1902, he would have been turning 115 years old next month, but he passed away before I was even 4 years old.  About the only thing I remember of him was when he’d stick his big finger in my face and say, “Are you grandma’s boy?”

Merrill was a man who I wish I had gotten to know better – along with so many of my other ancestors.  But one of the highlights of the past weekend in my home state of Utah was thumbing through a few of his books where he’d written messages inside the covers.  One such example was this page from his Holy Bible.  He was 21 years old and getting ready to depart for the “Eastern States Mission” for his church when he wrote this down on Friday, February 29th, 1924.  Not a bad penman!

Grandpa Hansen had a lot of preparations to do at that time.  A week and a half later on Wednesday, March 12th, he would be departing for New York City and spending the next two years of his live giving voluntary service, with very limited contact with family and friends back home in Utah.  So on March 7th, he bought shaving cream for 35 cents.  On March 8th, he got a haircut for a quarter.  And that same day, he bought flowers for his mother as well as for his girlfriend Della – who later became my great-grandmother.  Guess they did the trick.  Here was his expense ledger.

It was later in his life when Merrill opened up what we believe to be Cache Valley’s first automotive service station.  I talked about that here a few years ago.  He lived a long and prosperous life until his passing in 1985.

I was glad to learn a little more about Grandpa Hansen thanks to a weekend road trip up north.  In the 4 months I’ve had my 2007 TL, the poor thing has been stashed away in the garage for a good chunk of that time.  I decided to change all that – in a big way – by taking a 4-state, 1,700 mile journey to visit friends & family.

I had a special guest along for a good chunk of this ride:  My 87-year-old grandmother (and Merrill’s daughter), affectionately known to our family as “Lamb,” took the passenger seat for a time.  With a bad left hip and a frail build, she’s used to being transported in vehicles with higher step-in height, like her PT Cruiser or dad’s MDX.  So when she sunk into the cockpit of my car, she said, “In these sedans, you just disappear.”

I’d only driven a mile or two northbound on Highway 89 in Logan Utah with her and had to pull over one more time – grandma hadn’t fastened her seat belt so the car was warning me with its repetitive beep.  We got that taken care of.  We completed our shopping trip to Kohl’s for some bath towels and a lunch date at Cache Valley’s best pizza joint, called Fredrico’s.  Grandma is the most savvy shopper I’ve met:  We got $36 worth of merchandise for $2.71 thanks to her gift card mailer and some clever couponing.  Score!

Rewinding to the start of the trip, I experienced one of Arizona’s famous “monsoon” thunderstorms on Highway 93 between Wikieup and Kingman – drenching me enough that visibility was next to nothing and I became grateful for fresh wiper blades and grippy Michelin Pilot tires.  By sunset, I rolled through Las Vegas and then had only two hours left until my nightly stop at mom’s place in southwestern Utah.

After a workday in St. George, I motored 4 more hours north.  The TL makes a long-haul drive pretty effortless, thanks to its torquey V6 and low revs in 6th gear.  The sound system – I’ve said this before but it deserves another mention – is absolutely rocking.  You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Celine Dion “Us” blasting through an ELS Surround Sound System.  Most of Interstate 15 is set at 80 miles per hour speed limits so the farmland passes by with ease and quickness.

My friend Branson and I did dinner that evening in Salt Lake at one of my absolute favorite (though very “chain”) restaurants:  Texas Roadhouse.  I’ve known Branson for 14 years now.  We initially connected – this won’t surprise any of my readers – through the car community since at the time we were both driving Acura Legends.  His current Legend coupe, in fact, inspired my selection for the TL’s license plate, so it seemed appropriate that we lined the two cars up side by side for pictures.

Finally, on Saturday morning I hit northern Utah and southern Idaho.  My friend Ryan (guess what – met him through his old Legend, too!) introduced me to his current collection of Audis.  He has 6 cars and in that sense he “speaks my language” as a car hoarder myself.

I also had the opportunity that afternoon to visit the campus of Utah State University – born in 1888, and later, the institution that granted me a Bachelor’s degree in 2005.  The Business facilities have vastly improved since my time on campus but it was fun to roam around some of the same pathways and corridors I hadn’t seen in 12 years.

Dad took me and my niece Vivienne for an ATV ride a few miles up Providence Canyon near his home and we got to check out a couple of waterfalls.  He whipped up homemade tacos and we dined al fresco on his back deck in Providence overlooking the valley below.  The sunset across the Wellsville Mountains always seems a bit like a postcard.

The reason for the trip overall came on Sunday morning, when I transported grandma to Kaysville near Salt Lake City for a church service.  My 21-year-old cousin, Cache, just returned last week from his two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church.  His mission assignment geographically centered around Anaheim, California.  A congregation of about 200 people, including friends, family (like me), and other “ward” members gathered in the chapel to hear Cache address the crowd.  He recounted some interesting stories and words of wisdom.

Cache’s experience was a lot like mine:  I spent the years 2001-2003 in southern California on a similar mission.  Here my assigned “companion” and I were riding a tandem bike in September 2001.

These were some of the children in a family we taught in the community of Ramona.

Cache’s mom, my aunt Shelly, hosted an open house with enough food to feed everyone (times two) and then I hit the open road to continue my long southward trek home.

It was convenient for me to spend another night in St. George and visit a few more family members on my way.  I opted to take the more scenic way home via Fredonia and Flagstaff, Arizona as opposed to going through Las Vegas again.  It was a good choice:  Open roads, stunning scenery, and a to-go lunch of a chicken salad sandwich from grandma.

Hope you enjoyed being a part of this journey!

Branson doesn’t like the camera!  Here he was taking the TL for a spin.

Those rolls at Texas Roadhouse, though!

Odometer on Branson’s coupe.  He’s had it since around 120,000.

Garlic bread, dripping in butter, from Fredrico’s in Logan.

The home in Logan where I lived until I was about 13.

With grandma, and my brother Payton, at a family member’s gravesite.

Someone likes Buicks!

Figured I might as well cross off a state for the TL since I was only a few miles away.

It was around that time that it rolled 99,000 with Ryan at the wheel.

Ryan knew about a scale that we could drive onto at a nearby manufacturing plant.  We hopped out of the car.

The TL weighs 3,540 pounds without us in it.

Saturday night vibes – having gelato from Zeppe’s Italian Ice.

Scooter race!

Another page from Grandpa Hansen’s Bible.

How many choices do you need?  Maverik in Washington, Utah.  First time I’ve ever seen 88 octane “Clear Gas Ethanol-Free.”  I just went with Premium 91.

Jacob Lake, Arizona

Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona

My favorite piece of road.  This straddles the UT-AZ state line.

August Already: Group Drive to Gurley Street in Prescott, Arizona

Posted in Road Trip, Arizona, Integra on August 6, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (TL): 98,000

Odometer (ILX):  201,000

Odometer (Integra):  239,826

Trip Distance:  226 Miles

Just when I thought the Aztec Green on my Integra was an obnoxious color, my friend James had to get ahold of a 2017 Honda Civic Si in Energy Green and totally upstage me.  Talk about eye-popping.

This weekend, a few friends and I took a trip to the high country.  In all we had 12 participants and 6 cars out for the Saturday drive, including mostly Japanese cars but with a Domestic and a German for good measure.

  • 1992 Acura Integra GS-R 5-speed – Tyson and Brian
  • 2006 Acura RSX 6-speed – Jack and Jarett
  • 2017 BMW 430i M-Sport – Beau and Cole
  • 2017 Honda Civic Si 6-speed – James and Rob
  • 2017 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport – Matt and Alan
  • 2005 Pontiac GTO 6-speed – Kyle and Sally

I had the oldest vehicle by 13 years so I suppose it’s okay that I brought up the tail end of the pack for most of the drive.  Truth is, I gave that little 1.7-liter 4-banger all she had.  The relatively steep grade from Wickenburg (2,057 feet) to Prescott (5,368 feet) took us through one of Highway 89’s most curvy and technical sections in the state of Arizona.  But it also left me feeling like I was a little out of my league in terms of power and handling.

That didn’t matter; I was enjoying the scenery — not to mention the fact that the weather outside was 20 degrees cooler than we had back home in Phoenix.  I opened my moonroof for the first time since about April!

Knowing beforehand that one specific stretch of 89 is a notorious speed trap, we joked that James should take the lead in that unmistakable neon Civic and perhaps distract any highway patrol officers along the way so the rest of us could slide by at a good clip without the risk of getting pulled over.  I’m happy to report that nobody from our group had any run-ins with the law, which is admirable considering that Matt and Kyle, each with 400 horsepower at their command in the Q50 and GTO respectively, were in vehicles highly capable of breaking the speed limits.

Prescott, the Yavapai County seat and once the capital of the Arizona Territory in 1864, is a popular summertime destination for many Phoenicians like us looking to beat the heat.  Its 40,000 residents probably get used to seeing groups of sports cars and motorcyclists rolling through town almost every Saturday and Sunday during the warmer months.  Luckily for us, we had no issue finding ample parking near the walkable downtown district in a relatively new, 4-level garage.

The tougher challenge was finding a restaurant able to accommodate a dozen people without any reservations.  Gurley Street Grill, just a block away from us, saved the day and set us up in a comfortable spot on the back patio.  To the foodies of the blog audience, you’ll be pleased to know that I took a picture of my turkey croissant and side of cottage cheese.

See?  Even a pickle spear.

We enjoyed the mountain air and each others’ company before packing up and heading back to the Valley of the Sun.  There was some switching of passenger assignments and Rob accompanied me for the drive back, willing to put up with my loud little Integra’s 4,500 RPM whirr at 80 miles per hour as we made the descent down Interstate 17.  He also reminded me to fasten my lap belt.  The automatic shoulder belts in that car always make me forget that there’s another step in the process.  Thanks for coming along for the drive!  Some more news & info follow below.

Other Prescott trips for your reading pleasure:

Short video clip:

Heading into the town of Wickenburg.  We call it Wickentrash, but don’t tell anyone who lives there that.

Fuel and snack stop at Mobil along Highway 93.

Following Matt’s Q50 into the foothills of the national forest

On up the mountain, following Jack’s RSX

Arrival in Prescott on Highway 89

Town view as seen from our parking garage

Enjoying this visitor for a few days.  Brian, from Orlando, was here from Tuesday until Sunday.

Lunch on the Gurley Street Grill patio

Group shot.  Rob, Tyson, Matt, Alan, Cole, Jack, Brian, James, Sally, Kyle, Jarett, Beau

Here are some other news updates and reading links:

A/C Blog from Highline Car Care

Years ago I became acquainted with my friend Wes because he helped me take care of some preventive maintenance on a 3rd generation Honda Prelude I owned at the time.  Later, he did some work on a 1988 Legend coupe I was restoring.

Today, Wes has grown his auto repair business into one the Phoenix area’s premier facilities.  I thought it was interesting to read this informative write-up on how automotive A/C systems work and the importance of maintaining them.  At this point in the summer, we are all grateful for properly functioning air!

Roadkill 78 Lincoln Story

There’s something so cool about the concept of taking a 40-year-old car, hitting the open road, and seeing how many destinations you can hit in a 35-day road trip.  And that’s exactly what a couple of students did in this recent write-up on Roadkill.com.  I think you’ll enjoy the words and photos as much as I did.

Sunset time in the TL the other day.

Another fine AZ sunset, this time in the Legend sedan

Brian from Florida took my NSX on a trip to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon Friday.  It was about a 600 mile trip or so, I think.  He was thoughtful enough to snag this picture at one of the viewpoints.

On a related note, a friend sent me this a few days ago:  Someone posted on the NSX Owners Group on Facebook that his car had over 427,000 miles on it.  Not bad!  Guess mine may have some life left.

Some of Honda’s finest from the 1990s.  That Accord SE belongs to friend and loyal reader Hy.

And since the Vigor really is just a ‘grown up’ Accord, here’s one more pic for today.  It’s a Desert Mist Metallic 1994 Vigor at an auto show when it was brand new.  Thanks to reader Dillon for the awesome find!

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Drive to Five Review: 2017 Mazda MX-5 Retractable Fastback

Posted in Vehicle Reviews on July 24, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  554,341

Odometer (MX-5):  5,261

Going topless in Phoenix in July is risky business – you’re likely to get burned.  This weekend, I didn’t care – I’ve never owned a convertible and I wanted to enjoy the wind in my hair a time or two while I still have any hair at all.

Mazda has aced the formula of what it takes to build a fun-to-drive, budget-friendly sportscar.  The MX-5 that showed up at my house last Wednesday was the 4th generation of a car that launched in 1989 as simple two-seater with a modest 116 horsepower engine and a light chassis.

Today’s version has grown in size and stature, but it holds true to the original objective.  This generation debuted in the fall of 2014 for the 2016 model year.  And just last fall, a special version of this latest MX-5 — the RF, or Retractable Fastback — came to light.  And isn’t it a looker?  “Soul Red Metallic:”  It’s a paint color that’ll cost you $300 additional, but it’s worth it.

These days, it doesn’t seem like 155 horsepower gets you very far (that’s only about 20 more than a Toyota Corolla).  But when you’re in a car that only weighs 2,300 pounds and has dimensions as tight as this one, it’s more than ample.  Besides, this car is all about handling and that’s where its abilities really shine through.  The overall driving feel reminds me a lot of my Integra GS-R, and it made even my little urban 3-mile work commute seem like a theme park ride.

I’d like to simplify this car review into lists.  I’m a list person and I’ve gotten in the habit at work of summarizing things with just bullet points for my senior leaders who are very busy.  So let’s look at a few paragraphs for Love It, Hate It, and Would I Buy It (at $33,885 as-tested).

Love it:

  • Fun Factor.  The MX-5 is like the go-kart I rode at Fiesta Family Fun Center in St. George, Utah when I was growing up.  It’s just so easy to toss around.  The short wheelbase lends itself to an ultra-tight turning radius – maybe even as good as the Prelude 4-Wheel-Steering I had back in the day.  Shift action is crisp and the clutch is easy to get the hang of.  And the convertible top is seriously a one-touch operation.  Cake.
  • Style.  I appreciate that this car sets itself apart from the sea of midsize sedans clogging up the roadways.  It’s something different, something sporty, and something fun to look at.
  • Compact Stature.  Mazda’s “Zoom Zoom” tagline came to mind as I was busting down the 51 freeway, easily able to zip in and out of traffic with a blip of the throttle, a few revs of the Skyactiv 2.0 liter motor, and a turn of the wheel.  And parking at Scottsdale Fashion Square was done lickety-split.  Having a car like this makes you appreciate being the little guy.
  • Audio Experience.  In a cabin as small as the Miata’s, it doesn’t take much audio power to blast your ears.  And the Bose 9-speaker system truly does rock.  Aside from the music, the sounds from the exhaust are equally pleasant – just enough growl at low RPM to give it a sports car feel, but low enough intrusion at highway speed to not give you a headache.  The retractable hardtop seals out most of the road and wind noise with ease.
  • Community.  In this case, the incentive for buying a car has nothing to do with the actual car itself.  People who own these cars love them.  Consider my friend Jeff, who’s owned 6 of them, including the red 2008 in the lead photo of this blog entry.  Or Sofyan, who even though he’s reviewed hundreds of cars on his YouTube channel, chose to buy an MX-5 for his own vehicle. Look at the Sahuaro Miata Club here in Arizona – over 100 active members and regularly-scheduled meet-ups.

On Saturday night, I was driving northbound on Central Avenue in Phoenix and was passed by another Miata.  We exchanged “Nice car!” and head nods.  It’s awesome to think that something as simple as a car could enable someone to meet friends and engage socially, but in this case it’s true.  I love that about the Miata and its tight knit family of enthusiasts around the globe.

Hate it:

  • Ergonomic challenges might make this a tiresome driving experience on a daily basis.  Ingress and egress even for someone of my average height are a challenge, especially if you have a backpack to toss in or other cargo.  The driver’s door swings wide and you have to really reach for it.  And certain placement of the controls made for awkward body contortions.  The volume knob is located down on the console instead of the instrument cluster.  To get to the knob, I kept hitting my elbow because it’s located so far back.
  • Storage limitations.  Along those same lines, I found a tough time even carrying a laptop bag in the car when I had a friend riding with me.  The passenger side footwell is extremely narrow and the small storage compartment in the center console armrest is barely large enough for my work badge and a pair of sunglasses.  Though I guess it would teach people to simplify and not collect car clutter?
  • Visibility.  Those pillars in the driver’s blind spots – though nice to look at from outside – are not easy to overcome when it comes to seeing what’s going on around you.  Even backing out of my own driveway – knowing how many dog-walkers and bicyclists we have in the neighborhood – was a little scary.  I suspect the ‘traditional’ convertible would have better all-around visibility than the RF.

Would I buy it?

Averaging upwards of 45,000 miles per year, my driving patterns for my primary daily car consist of more long-haul than short-haul.  A Miata doesn’t make sense for me because it lacks the cargo capacity, low-RPM cruising, and comfortable touring ride that I need when I’m driving coast to coast (or to Alaska).

However, if I had the money and space for a weekend cruiser – a car to take up the Catalina Highway on occasion or to blast around town on a Saturday night date, during our 8 or 9 months of prime (AKA not scorching hot) weather, I would absolutely consider an MX-5 as the right fit for the bill.  I’d like to call it “the cure for the common commuter.”  A Miata drive every few days is just what the doctor ordered for injecting a little bit of fun in the driving experience.

Many thanks to Mazda for tossing me the keys to this little dose of sunshine.  I appreciate it.

7-minute video here with some observations, driving scenes, and demo of the top operation:

2013 – with my friend Mark’s “NA” Miata

2016 – when James was sampling the ND for the first time (and next to my NSX)

Cabin perspective

Tight quarters in the center armrest console

Cruising around with Hy – though, this shot was in the 2008 model and not the 2017.

Red shirts to match red cars.

2008 and 2017 MX-5s, side by side

Which do you prefer?

“Driving Matters” on the license plate frame – truly a Mazda Mantra.

2.0 liter Skyactiv 4-cylinder with 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque

Evening cruise with my friend Rob

Quick pic near my office on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix

Headlight cutoff as seen at night

Red rockets!

San Diego, California Trip & A Petrolicious Article

Posted in California, Road Trip, Vigor on July 18, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Vigor):  107,599

Trip Distance:  710 Miles

The Center of the World, as it turns out, can be anywhere you want it to be.

The (three) residents of the small town of Felicity, California think they’re the lucky ones who can claim such a title.  Passers-by on Interstate 8 between Yuma, Arizona, and San Diego California may look to the north of the highway and see a spiral staircase seemingly leading to nowhere.  It’s a 25-foot-tall set of stairs that were brought over from the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Also among the oddities on this site are a pyramid (it’s the desert, after all) and a small church set atop a man-made hill.  When my friends and I travel to southern California, Felicity is one of my favorite pit stops, and it was just one of the highlights a short & sweet trip to San Diego and back this past weekend.

For a change of pace, I pulled the 1994 Vigor out of the garage and put it to work.  After all, it had only been driven about 2,400 miles in two years and it hadn’t left the state since July of 2015 since I first brought it to Phoenix from Denver.  Luckily, the old Arcadia Green 5-cylinder was up to the task and made the trip flawlessly and in the comfort of nice cold air conditioning.  In all, there were 7 of us making the westward trek to escape the summer’s heat so a couple of friends drove separately.

San Diego’s weather forecast is among the country’s most predictable and comfortable.  The highest monthly average high temperature (in August) is 76 degrees and the lowest (in December) is 48 degrees.  To those of us who’ve been hitting triple-digit temperatures since the first week of May, it’s a perfect escape at only 5.5 hours away.  Plus, Yuma, at the halfway point, has a Panda Express.  Sign me up for that roadside destination.

James secured us a sweet 1910 era home on Myrtle Avenue via AirBNB which suited our needs perfectly and was located within a few blocks from the social activities which we wanted to attend.  It was located in the Hillcrest part of town, just north of Balboa Park and conveniently located not far from the I-8 freeway that we had come into town on.  I was able to stash the Vigor streetside for a couple of days and not have to worry too much about parking.  On Saturday I enjoyed the opportunity to throw a beach towel on the front yard under a shade tree and enjoy the cool breeze.  That afternoon, a few of us attended a pool party.

Here’s one heck of a chair.  Or a scene from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Our evening took us deeper into downtown San Diego, to the “Little Italy” part of town.  It was originally an Italian fishing neighborhood and today is home to some of the best Italian dining in southern California.  From our table at a restaurant on India Street called Civico 1845, I could see the harbor just a few blocks away and the open air dining was a nice refreshing break.  Not to mention – the food was phenomenal (albeit $22 for my entree).  At the end of the meal, our wait staff delivered a plate of tiramisu so James in recognition for his 31st birthday the day prior.  He graciously shared with the rest of us, and we burned off a few calories by walking down to the waterfront afterward.

For our return trip to Phoenix on Sunday morning, Rob took the passenger seat of the Vigor and we sampled its audio system while relaxing to Enya’s “Caribbean Blue” on CD.  The car’s motor whirred at 3,100 RPM.  One of my favorite stretches of interstate in the country is the piece of I-8 between In-Ko-Pah Road and Ocotillo, California, which descends sharply from 4,000 feet to seat level.  You can see old segments of US Highway 80 in certain areas, long since bypassed when the interstate took its place in the 1960s.

Thanks for coming along for the trip!

Fuel stop in Alpine, CA as we began our descent into San Diego

Brunch spot for Saturday morning

Rob, Tyson, James, Kyle, Jack

This wasn’t brunch; it was lunch.  But it was amazing!  From Luna Grill on University.

Departure time and loading up the car.

Saying farewell to our temporary home.

Stopping at the Center of the World in Felicity, California.

The Vigor, James‘ tester Genesis G80, and Jack’s RSX.

Here is some reading material for those of you who might not yet have seen it.  Petrolicious editor Alex Sobran asked me to put together a guest editorial for the site.  I was honored at the opportunity.  Petrolicious is one of my favorite automotive websites.  One day I’d like to collaborate on a video production with them.  Here is the article I put together.

Finally, a friend showed me a cool old TV commercial for the 1994 Legend coupe.  I thought it was great how the car is shown in a setting of such opulence and class.  I think you might have to have Facebook to view it, and can’t figure out how to embed the video here so see if the link works for you.

Have a great week!

Reader’s Ride: Vlad’s 2015 Honda Legend

Posted in Integra, Legend, Reader's Ride on July 5, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Integra):  239,459

The one and only Honda Pro Jason (“HPJ”) has a network of Honda and Acura enthusiasts that puts mine to shame.  (85,000 YouTube subscribers, 128,000 Facebook followers, and 82,000 Instagram followers).  He’s kind of a big deal in the community but he’s still humble about it!

Jason put me in touch with one of his followers who’s taken an Acura RLX (successor to the Legend & RL, which debuted for the 2014 model year) and completed a badging conversion to Honda Legend.  Overseas, the RLX continues to be called the Legend.  Here are a few words from my new friend Vlad from Seattle, Washington:

I had about 16 Hondas in my life and currently have 5.  I bought my Acura RLX back in 2015.  It is the Advance model.  I went on my first trip with my wife in August 2015 to Scottsdale; I really love that place.  Right now, I only have 13,900 miles on it, and I just completed my Honda Legend conversion.  I found a guy on eBay who shipped me all Honda parts to me.

However, I still want to find and somehow get the airbag from Honda Legend with the “H” emblem on it and floor mats with”LEGEND” on them.  I can only get those from the Philippines since they have left-hand-drive Honda Legends there and those floor mats will fit.  I have only had this conversion for one week and already have many compliments.  So many people stop by and look at it and are surprised that this car originally is Honda Legend.

Below are some photos that Vlad shared with me.  Hope you enjoy!  Such a clean ride.

I escaped the heat over the long holiday weekend to head 45 minutes up the hill from Phoenix where it was 20 degrees cooler.

Car of choice for the day was the 1992 Integra.

Since everyone got such a kick out of the 1982 Chevy Citation in the last post, how about another fine piece of 1980s General Motors metal?  This is my friend Spencer’s 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix SE.  It’s seriously one of the cleanest I’ve seen in decades and it only has 82,000 miles on the clock.

It’s a lot like my mom’s of the same year when I was a kid.  Except, mom’s was a 5-speed manual!

I sought out a spacecraft yesterday.  Back in February, an artist thought of a clever way to repurpose a concrete truck tank.  He painted it up like a space capsule that had parachuted out of the atmosphere.

Unfortunately, the shiny speck in the distance here was about as close as I could get, thanks to it being right along the busy I-10 freeway and set back from the road behind a fence and a good distance away.

Fireworks last night from my friend Greg’s 16th-floor condo balcony!  Not a shabby way to close out of the holiday.

Hope everybody had a great one!

Saturday Lunch Drive to Cave Creek, Arizona

Posted in ILX, Road Trip, Utah on July 2, 2017 by tysonhugie

Odometer (TL):  97,505

Trip Distance:  70 Miles

Last weekend’s pre-Independence Day lunch outing involved the 3 most patriotic cars we could get our hands on:  A red NSX, a silver CL, and a blue TL.  Eighteen cylinders, 17 gears, and 816 total horsepower gave us the motivation we needed to get to one my favorite restaurants in the area:  The Horny Toad in Cave Creek, Arizona.  And the pulled pork sandwich was well worth the time and distance to get there.

Visiting for the weekend was my friend Jake from Virginia (check out his blog!) who though admittedly a die-hard BMW guy, didn’t mind spending a few days putting miles on some glorified Hondas.  The CL is owned by my friend Matt and for being an east coast car with nearly 250,000 miles, still felt tight and nimble.  Walkie talkies in hand, we chatted it up on the way to our lunch spot while playing “musical cars” and giving each driver a taste of the three participating vehicles.  Jake complimented the CL’s gearbox, to which Matt said, “That’s the car my daughter will learn to drive on.  If she can’t drive a stick, she can’t drive.”  I like his thinking!

The clear handling winner of the trio was the NSX, with its low slung stance and the lightest chassis of the bunch.  It’s a car that makes no apologies for delivering raw and un-computer-assisted performance.  However, in a straight line, the TL with its 16 horsepower advantage gave the NSX a run for its money.  In fact, the cars were neck & neck in a playful drag race along Scottsdale Road on the way back to Phoenix.  For sheer cruising enjoyment, the TL reigns supreme and we enjoyed blasting its DVD-Audio sound system to Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing.”  The car transforms in a rolling concert hall with the right media.

And that CL – we kept coming back to it – was a great performer for having double the miles of the other two.  It’s a shame Acura only offered the 6-speed manual transmission for one model year in the second-generation CL.  When that car was phased out after the 2003 model year, the brand forever parted ways from a manual transmission V6 coupe.  And that’s a huge loss for someone like me who would love to see a successor to my Legend.

A couple of weeks ago, I delivered the ILX to my brother Payton in Utah where it will stay for the time being.  The fun part of the drive up to St. George was that my friend Jeff rode with me.  Jeff found himself a real cream puff of a car:  This 1995 Honda Del Sol Si 5-speed from the original owners with only 40,000 miles on it.  He was nervous about taking a 22-year-old car on a 400-mile drive without knowing much about its maintenance history, but he made it home safe and sound.

I had a nice weekend with family members including mom and grandma.  Payton and I spent a couple of hours at Snow Canyon State Park on Saturday morning capturing footage the video you’ve already seen.

Look at that setup!  Payton ahead of me in the bed of a Ram pickup, filming backwards.

Quick visit to grandma for a grilled cheese.

Fun news blurb on Acura’s Facebook page when they announced my 200k milestone:

And here’s an article that Jalopnik author Andrew Collins put together on the car.  It’s received over 50,000 views and 220 comments.  My favorite was, “And the crowd goes mild.”

At the other end of the mileage spectrum, does anyone remember the Chevy Citation?  This 1982 V6 model only had 30,000 miles on it.  Jake and I went to test-drive it for a couple of friends.  It’s just as underwhelming of an experience as you think it is.

The car, though, reminds me so much of my 1986 Celebrity that I have to like it.

What a great era for car commercials.

Edit:  Here’s a short video of some clips I took.  (Including Jake struggling to find the hood release, haha).

Saying farewell to Jake until his next visit!

Here’s a sneak peek of a photoshoot I put together last night.  I wrote a guest editorial for a major automotive website that you’ll soon be reading about.  Have a great rest of your holiday weekend, everyone!