2016 Alaska Drive Day 6: Fairbanks, AK

Day Miles: 701  |  Total Trip Miles: 4,055

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We made it! It’s been a long time coming and I’m still pinching myself to make sure this isn’t a dream…we are in Fairbanks, Alaska. Getting here was quite a drive full of (more) beautiful scenery, frost heaved lumpy roads and mud. So much to share, so let’s get to it:

We left Teslin, Yukon fully rested from the comfortable accommodations. It was already raining by the time we left, and it continued to do so for the majority of the morning. Tyson and I just flipped on the wipers, cranked up the tunes and cruised on. We both were determined to get to the Alaska border sooner than later so there was no time to waste. After a pit stop in Whitehorse, YT for gas, the scenery became awe-inspiring. The drive on Hwy 1 took us by the edge of Kluane Lake National Park, and this is where the good stuff started. Massive snow-capped mountains surrounded a gorgeous lake with roaring waves crashing on the shores.

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Further up the road, the sun came out to play, and this made for some good photos:

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It wasn’t much later that we made it to the Alaska state line. I thanked the 6 with a solid few whacks on the roof for being such a noble steed. The ILX got its praise too for the flawless service. praise with excitement, we soldiered on to Tok, AK where we had a scrumptious lunch at a place called Fast Eddy’s. That fueled us well enough to drive the additional 200 miles to Fairbanks where we are for the night. Our schedule from here on is very flexible, and some planning will be in play. Until then, look for more Alaska fun in the next few days…

6 is getting her good dose of grime.

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Quick roadside photo op.

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Dirt road section where we got to splash through mud puddles like crazy!

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My first grizzly bear sighting.

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Lots of road construction today.

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Let me in! U.S. Customs…got the passport ready!

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Lunch at Fast Eddy’s in Tok, AK

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Alaska Highway/Fairbanks sign

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Side profile pic while waiting for the pilot car to guide us through construction.

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The official end of the Alaska Highway in Delta Junction, AK.

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There was also a weathered wooden sign describing the history of the highway:

This highway was constructed during World War II as a military supply route for interior Alaska Military and Airfields in 1942.  7 Army regiments and 42 contractors and public roads administrators working from Delta Junction South and Dawson Creek North completed it when they met at Soldiers’ Summit at Kluane Lake, Yukon Territory in November 1942.  At the peak of construction, 77 contractors employed 15,000 men and 11,000 pieces of road-building equipment.  The total construction cost for 1,422 miles was $115,000,000.

A stop at North Pole (No, I’m not pulling your leg here!) to visit Santa’s house.

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Checking in our Super 8 Motel room. It’s about 8:30pm here and look how much light there still is! Sunset is supposed to happen at 11:30pm according to my weather app. Sometime in late June there will be a 24 hour period of full sun. How crazy is that?

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That about covers it all. Thanks again for riding along!

2016 Alaska Drive Day 5: Teslin, Yukon

Day Miles: 617 |  Total Trip Miles: 3,354

Hello from the Yukon Territory!

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Today was filled with adrenaline…but in a good way. Our route along the Alaska highway took us through some really technical twists and turns that brought big smiles to our faces. The scenery kept getting more and more impressive as our route took us through some of British Columbia’s gorgeous mountain ranges. Words and photos can’t begin to truly describe how beautiful the experience was. We stayed on the Alaska Highway for the entire day and only saw rain a few times here and there.

We left our digs in Pink Mountain early enough to catch the morning dew on our cars before the sun burned it off. After a while on the road, we got our first wildlife sighting…a black bear. After that, we spotted several buffalo and more bears grazing by the road. We also witnessed some forest fire remains which looked fairly fresh.

Tonight we are staying in a nice little cabin-like lodge in the little town of Teslin, Yukon. I am quite pooped, so I’m going to make this post brief. Tomorrow, we just might make Alaska, so don’t miss out!

Driving down Hwy 97

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Gas and windshield wash stop at Fort Nelson.

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A few road construction stretches never hurt anybody.

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Wildlife sighting!

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Photos of some of the Rockies we saw today (I’ll let the photos do the talking):

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Luncheon at the Northern Rockies Lodge

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6 hit 195,000 miles today.

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A stop in Watson Lake meant looking at the Sign Post Forest where visitors can add their own signs to the existing 100,000…that’s just what we did!

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I added a New Mexico “MAZDA” plate.

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And Tyson added an Acura of Tempe plate.

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On the road again tomorrow and we will be heading towards these…stay tuned!

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2016 Alaska Drive Day 4: Pink Mountain, British Columbia

Day Miles: 499 |  Total Trip Miles: 2,743

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Ahhh…feels good to kick off those shoes and settle in for the evening. We called it a day in Pink Mountain, British Columbia around 7pm. This is just off the official Alaska Highway! The days are getting longer as we ascend north, and the sun is still quite high up in the sky even at 7pm. Feels odd, and I bet it will be a challenge to fall asleep at a decent hour. Pink Mountain is a unincorporated area with about 100 people. The lodge and a gas station are about all you’ll find here.

Our day began leaving Edmonton, AB (Alberta) with a quick meet up with Chris Tobias from AcuraConnected.com. Nice guy, and the discussions between him and Tyson reminded me that I miss the enthusiast communities I used to be in…Acura, BMW, even Nissan. Mazda’s has yet to grow a bit, but it hasn’t been a disappointing owner’s experience at all.

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The rain was still going with a chilly breeze that felt like it blew right through our thin jackets. Tyson and I left Edmonton with every heated option turned on in our cars.

Happily, (rejoice!) the rain and drab skies cleared as we headed west on 43 towards British Columbia.

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The cleared weather really made for an enjoyable drive. I managed to find a packet of baby carrots in my snack bag that I had forgotten about. I was popping these like candy the whole day.

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We made a lunch stop in Grande Prairie, AB at a popular Canadian chain, Tim Horton’s. From there, we saw the first signs leading us in the direction of Alaska. What an exciting feeling it was. The rest of the photos show the rest of the day.

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Entering British Columbia!

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Many warnings are posted for moose crossings. This particular reflective yellow silhouette stood out to me.

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Just past the town of Dawson Creek is the official start of the Alaska Highway! This highway will lead us to Fairbanks, AK (our end destination).

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A few photos at Gundy Road pullout

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And the Buffalo Lodge for the night.

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So, how’s the 6 doing?

So far, the 6 has been an absolute peach on this trip. The best recorded mileage to date was 33 mpg which I believe involved a heavy tail wind. The ride and general comfort are surprisingly accommodating for these long jaunts. I am amazed that the stock steering and suspension components (nearly all original) is giving a wobble-free ride with clean, straight tracking.

Only two little issues: A persistent oil leak causes me to add about a quart of oil every 1,500 miles. Not a big deal, but it is something I have to keep tabs on (hence why I made sure to pack two 5qt jugs of oil). Last little issue was a burned out passenger light which ended up being a melted ground wire. I performed a little splicing and electrical tape patching which should do the job at least until I get back home. Tires all have even pressure and wear. So, we are all fixed up and read for action tomorrow!

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2016 Alaska Drive Day 3: Edmonton, Alberta

Day Miles: 658 miles  |  Total Trip Miles: 2,244

Greetings! I’m sending out just a quick recap of what’s been happening…

Day 3 and we are out of the States. It was a long drive filled with rain, rain and more rain. We started off early from Butte, MT and drove I-15 meandering through some really grand scenery. From there, the terrain flattened, and the remainder of the day was filled with lush green plains. Tyson and I stopped for gas one last time in Conrad, MT before crossing into Canada. Oh, yes…we are in Canada now! After asking me a few pertinent questions and analyzing my passport, the jaunt across the border was a breeze. Not much changes in the infrastructure except for getting familiar with that old metric system they told us about in middle school. A typical speed limit of 110k/m meant we did have to slow down a bit from the 80(ish)mph we’ve been used to the last few days.

Another one of Tyson’s friends generously hosted in Edmonton, Alberta where we spent the night. Now, the Alaska highway awaits! I’ll be back with details. Now, for the pictures:

Consulting the MilePost guide prior to hopping on the road.

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Throughout the day, this was about as warm as it got.

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Grey sky over green plains.

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Border crossing.

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Welcome to Alberta!

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Fueling up and trying to figure out those liters-gallons conversion.

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To pass the time, Tyson and I played a game…who has the loudest car? 80mph on gritty asphalt and strong head winds are sure to bump up the cabin noise. We downloaded this decibel app and measured. My 6 was a solid 94dB where Tyson’s ILX was a much more hushed 73dB! I blame my worn Continental tires and weaker door seals for the major difference.

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My #mazda6alaska decal

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Rain, rain and more rain!

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See you soon!

2016 Alaska Drive Day 1-2: Butte, MT

Total Trip Miles: 1,586

We are officially in day 2 of the journey to Alaska. I am ecstatic. The roads, weather, company all made for a great drive so far. From my home in Las Cruces, I have traveled a total distance of 1,504 miles. Yesterday was spent covering 600+ miles to St. George, Utah where I met up with my fellow comrade for the remainder of the trip, Tyson. Much of the way was business as usual: Traveling through northwestern New Mexico and deep into the Navajo reservation which continues into northeast Arizona. Check out that landscape!

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Despite extreme winds, the drive was enjoyable. Tyson and I both arrived fairly late in St.George where we spent the night at his Mom and Stepdad’s place which was very comfortable as usual. Today was another 700+ miles to add and we traveled through some very scenic areas of west Utah, Idaho and Montana. We also broke up the drove and visited some friends along the way: Jeremy in Salt Lake City, Ryan in Malad City, ID and Nate in Pocatello, ID. Tonight we are in Butte, MT ensconced in a pretty comfortable Motel 6. Catch some of the photos below for a hint of what we’ve been up to:

Here’s my secret little mount for the old school GPS that has kept me out of trouble when those cell services drop.

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Following Tyson in Salt Lake City on our way to visit Jeremy.

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Lunch at Jeremy’s house.

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Idaho state line!

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The views just kept getting better as we traveled north.

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Snack stop to visit with Ryan in the small town of Malad City, ID.

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Last visit for the day, Nate who is an avid blog follower. Thanks for the support, Nate!

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Montana state line. It was around 45 degrees (Fahrenheit) with a moderate wind…quite chilly!

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Quick photo at the “Calf-A” in Dell, MT.

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Tomorrow we will officially leave the U.S. and cross into Alberta, Canada. I’ll definitely make sure the camera is good and charged. Thanks for riding along. I’ll have more to come!

 

2016 Alaska Drive Starts…Now!

After months of planning and dreaming, the day finally is here where I start the drive to Alaska. Aside from a few forest fires in Alberta and one off the Alaska Highway, there shouldn’t be many issues along the way. I will be going solo in my 6 and Tyson will be as well in his 2013 Acura ILX. As usual, we both will be posting updates along the way via Instagram. Even though it’s just me, I managed to fill my trunk up practically to the rim…the term pack-rat definitely is valid here!

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Big item that HAD to come along was a full-sized spare wheel borrowed from Grandpa’s Mazda6. This will replace the sad little factory donut spare which was already flat.  Can’t be too prepared!

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Beginning mileage as I set off…

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And here’s a few shots of a quick detail before the trip.

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Take a good look here because it won’t be staying clean for long. A nice thick layer of grime awaits. First stop tonight will be St. George, UT. It’s a good 11hr drive for me. Other nightly stops are tentative and I will report back as wifi availability permits. See you around or maybe out there on the road!

2016 Alaska Drive Planning

Lots in store for a big drive my buddy Tyson and I have been planning for almost a year now. To recap, we will be making a drive this May to Fairbanks, Alaska and back again in a smidge over two weeks. Check out the proposed route…that’s about 138 hrs with my butt in the driver’s seat or nearly 8,200 miles of road time.

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I have had a lot of time to think about what sort of disasters I could prepare for and I bet I have not covered them all. However, here’s what I have done for the 6:

  • New hydraulics for the clutch
  • New Thermostat which already had a slight leak
  • New drive belt
  • New battery (I have no idea how old the current one is, and I’m definitely not going to find out on this drive)
  • A full-sized spare wheel
  • New oil pan gasket which led to a new oil pan
  • A few annoying rattles hunted down and fixed

This week, my odometer rolled over 190,000 miles and I predict I may be at 193,000 by the departure date.

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People quick on math will see that I just might hit 200,000 miles on this trip. That’s the highest mileage car ever within my immediate family.

Tires are good: The Continentals even with 40,000 miles on them seem to have sufficient tread and they are just over a year old. The A/C isn’t the greatest, but I think I’ll just go with it since most of the driving will be highway, and I doubt there will be many scorching heat waves in Alaska.

I’m not going to go crazy with social media on this as this trip is more like a 30th birthday present to myself. However, I will be documenting highlights of the journey on here and on Instagram under hashtag, #mazda6alaska. Keep an eye out for Tyson’s Acura ILX coverage with his #ILXalaska as well!

 

California Drive Part II: Salvation Mountain & Slab City

Let’s wrap up the drive (finally) from California. Picking up where we left off, Tyson, James and I departed Bombay Beach were we caught Hwy 111 to our next stop, Salvation Mountain. This came planned from Tyson, which I’m really glad he added to our itinerary. What’s this place? Hang on to your hats: A Mr. Leonard Knight created this mountain by (creatively) dumping buckets of paint onto a dirt hillside out in the middle of California’s Sonoran desert. It went further than that. He actually made this into his living quarters and a strong religious statement for anyone who came across it. As you can see in the following photos, Knight covered the area in Bible verses and Christian sayings in bright saturated colors.

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Here we are from the top looking down.

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Exploring the back of the mountain revealed Knight’s structural genius of incorporating haystacks, branches and old lumber to bring a neat sanctuary to escape the desert heat. How many gallons of paint do you think was involved here? Big thanks to a fellow tourist for getting a nice group shot of us.

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Tyson and me at one of the entrances. Thumbs up for quite an experience!

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By now, the temperatures were approaching the high 90s and it was getting quite toasty standing outside. We hopped back in our cars, cranked up the A/C, and headed down the road to the next stop…Slab City, CA. Some call it the “last free place in America.” If you want to literally live off the grid, this is your place. Slab City is mostly comprised of snowbirds and other free-spirited individuals living by way of Social Security or Disability or…nothing. The name comes from the concrete slabs that remained from the WWII Marine barracks of Camp Dunlap. The area is decommissioned and uncontrolled by the State of California for now. There is no charge for parking, so pull up your RVs and make it home! Here we are driving into the land. Did you catch the nice chap playing guitar on the welcome box?

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From what I could tell, there is no order here. Pick your spot, and call it home. There are no utilities provided. No running water, electricity or sewage system…hmm…I wonder about that last part. Many RVs and residents here rely on solar power and external sources of water.

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Tyson led the way down the dusty unpaved road.

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Tyson noticed a hand-painted sign promoting their local “24hr Library” and decided we needed to check that out. We continued to travel the washboard road which wasn’t that much of an issue in James’ cushy Malibu. My 6’s nearly original 12 year old suspension on the other hand, was letting me know of its displeasure. Soon enough, we arrived at the library’s parking lot.

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The interior reminded me of my grandpa’s old sheds full of books of many different genres…

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In here, we met a few locals who gave us some really good info on Slab City. Both happened to be named John (so, John?) and both gave us an equally warm welcoming. We found out that the library was operated by a one-legged woman. Her boyfriend, Caveman, would provide free cooking services for the community. They also told us that this is the place to be if you want the government to leave you alone. If we decided to camp out for the night, I’m sure John or John would make us feel right at home.

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Per John’s (older John) recommendation, we proceeded to check out a place called East Jesus. This is a land full of art from all directions. Folks basically took garbage and made it into something interesting. Most had messages poking at modern society.

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I overheard John tell Tyson to keep right at the fork in the road. I didn’t know he literally meant…a fork!

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Welcome to East Jesus. Endless art awaits! This old Civic was covered in old circuit boards and bullet shells.

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A few minutes are needed to take in all the messages from these old televisions sets.

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After wandering around a while in the heat, we decided we had enough fun and needed a drink and a burger. We left the friendly vibes of Slab and headed back to the nearest town, Niland, for lunch at the Buckshot Deli & Diner. It sure hit the spot!

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Our last stop for the day was the “Mud Pots.” These were only 6 miles off the main road and they sit in a cleared field out the middle of nowhere. What they are are pools of bubbling mud from a acidic hot spring…or mini volcanoes.

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We ran over to the gurgling mounds of mud like little kids. Tyson got a little too close to one ‘pot and ended up with a fully submerged shoe in mud!

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That about wrapped up our drive and it was time for us to head out and part ways. However, a little stupid goof on my part delayed that for about an hour. I was fumbling through some items in my trunk and was ready to set out. I shut the trunk lid and right when it latched, I had a few colorful words pass through my mind. I had left the keys in there! That was that. Trunk shut and the doors were locked as well with the windows fully closed. A slight panic stirred up in me and I was trying to think of some way, any way to rectify this. Nothing. So I had to share what I had done: “Uhh, guys.  We have a problem.” After a few moments of scratching our heads, we piled up in James’ Malibu and called for help on his handy OnStar system. $120 and 1hr later, rescue came and got us back on the road. I had never been so thankful for James, Tyson and Mazda Roadside Assistance. Otherwise, I’d be stuck with no water, no trees and desert temperatures reaching the low 100s in the sun.

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From there, it was time to head for home. James and Tyson headed back to Phoenix via Hwy 78 and I-10 where I hit I-8 towards New Mexico. Even with my key goof, the drive was an absolute blast. Thanks for coming along!

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California Drive Part I: Salton Sea and Bombay Beach

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Nope, I haven’t forgotten about you all. It has been that busy time of year for work and other life events just keep me away from sitting down and focusing on getting out a fresh post or even a blog-worthy drive. I’m long overdue an update and I’m pleased to say, things are going well as far as I can see for the 6.

From the last post’s worry over the low oil pressure, I’m wondering if we got a false reading from the mechanic. I’m currently sitting at 188,500 miles and haven’t had any signs of engine fatigue. The oil light will come and go, but I’m almost dead set on blaming the oil pressure sensor. I recently took it in for a 185k oil change and a general overall inspection. Other than a drive belt starting to show signs of wear, she came out with a clean bill of health.

So with that said, let’s get on another road trip! This time, it’s sunny Southern California, and actually the first time I’ve taken the 6 to The Golden State.

I was to join fellow road trippers from Phoenix, Tyson and James Lee. Destination? Salton Sea and a few other wacky, off-beat destinations.

Total drive time for me: 19.25hrs or 1,300 miles.

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I gave the 6 a much-needed wash after a few drives around some dusty construction projects for work.

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You may remember my last visit to Salton Sea back in December of 2014. Although not much as changed, it still is quite an unforgettable place. A real treat was getting to see Tyson’s and James’ reaction for it being their first time. I started off from Las Cruces on a Friday morning and made my way west on I-10 towards Arizona. I took my time and made the longish 600+mile drive to our overnight stop in Indio, CA slow and steady. Tyson caught a glimpse of my progress via the Find My Friends app and recommended I take the Phoenix bypass to avoid the rush hour. So glad I did.

I crossed the California state line right before sunset.

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As I drove into the gorgeous sunset, my mind would constantly wander and meditate. This is my happy place. Eagle-eyed readers may spot that my check engine light came back (or, “Chuck” as I’ve named it). This has proven to be a harmless code that goes away once I get off the highway.

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Tyson got a good head start and arrived in Indio, CA first. I came in about an hour later and then James a little after. Even though it was about 9:30ish, we hit up dinner at Mario’s Italian Cafe. Good food. Good company.

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After a pretty decent sleep in our shared room at the Indio Motel 6, we departed fairly early for the adventures of the day. Tyson caught a shot of me doing some pre-flight checks and topping off some oil. Fellow Mazda 6 V6 owners will relate.

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We grabbed breakfast at the local Denny’s and then headed south on Hwy 111. This highway hugged the east edge of the Salton Sea for much of the journey. First stop on the drive was the International Banana Museum.

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Sadly, it was closed at our time of arrival so, no banana content for us.

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The next stop was the Salton Sea’s North Shore Beach & Yacht club. Sounds snazzy, right? It wasn’t so much in person. The Yacht club was no more than a basic community center and gym for the locals. The North Shore Beach only had one good element…great backdrop for a photo op!

Here are the cars on this drive…

From left to right: My 2004 Mazda 6 V6 5spd, Tyson’s 2013 Acura 2.4L ILX 6-spd and James’ press vehicle of the week…a slick looking 2016 Chevy Malibu 2.0L turbo.

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Groupie shot a few miles down the road in front of the Rec Area sign.

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We continued on Hwy 111 to Bombay Beach which took an easy 25 or so miles. Our drive consisted of smooth asphalt with gentle dips which made for great fun. Good thing I had an empty stomach. Tyson commented over our walkie-talkies that it would be a blast if we were allowed to drive the stretch…”some” miles over the speed limit.

Here we arrived at America’s lowest elevation community…Bombay Beach, CA. With just over 290 residents (2010 census), there isn’t much infrastructure here. People had great aspirations for this place back in 1929 when the town was developed. Sadly, the ever changing eco system of the ‘Sea and a few good floods had driven many people away. The smell left us wrinkling our noses too.

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Several abandoned homes remain. Tyson backed his ILX up to this house to declare it his new retirement project.

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Looks cozy, Tyson!

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Here it was back in 2014. It hasn’t aged well.

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We drove up over a large dike surrounding the town and came to the salt-encrusted ruins that used to be the resort side of the town.

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This ended up being a great spot for some more photography. James captured some sweet shots of his press Malibu (sixspeedblog) and Tyson and I rummaged around a bit.

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New to the area since my last visit was a neat little wooden boat on some stands. Tyson quickly got comfortable on it.

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Glimpse from below.

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Here’s how the shores of the Salton Sea look today. Basically a wasteland of dead fish and birds that didn’t survive the changing waters. Most likely the source of the area’s musty smell. Nice place for some sunbathing, eh?

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Here are a few DLSR photos of the day…

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Before leaving the town, we stopped for a refreshing drink at the official Bombay Market.

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It’s a small place with maybe 5 aisles of fairly bare shelves carrying only the essentials. The smell of the market was definitely in need of a few Glade Plug-Ins. Even so, that drink was refreshing.

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I have quite a bit more coming. Stay tuned!

A Drive in a Million Mile Lexus in Arizona’s Chiricahua National Monument

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I have yet to experience owning a truly high-mile car (the current 174,000 miles on the Mazda doesn’t count to me). A worn out car with multiple hundreds of thousands of miles is far more impressive to me than a shiny flamboyant Italian hypercar that will fetch multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t get me wrong though, I’d love a chance to get up and personal with one. I’m constantly grazing the web finding new stories of high-mile cars and their owners’ stories. Many of you may have heard of: Irv Gordon’s 3 million mile Volvo,  “MillionMileJoe” LoCicero’s Honda Accord, and Hugh Pennington’s Chevy Silverado. Those are just to name a few. Fun stuff for me.

Earlier this year, I stumbled upon an interesting story of a 1996 Lexus LS400 that had a whopping 897,000 miles on it. It was newly purchased by Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire.  Matt bought this Florida-owned LS400 for two main reasons: those crazy miles and to relive a special time in his life when he owned a similar car. To be honest, I never heard of The Smoking Tire or Matt Farah, but thanks to this car, my interest grew. Since then, I’ve been following their stories and challenges posted online.

10 months have gone by and he has been passing the keys of the LS400 around to journalists all over the west coast in an attempt to get this baby up to the 1 million mile mark. Therefore, it’s called #millionmilelexus. So far, multiple journalists have piled on about 25,000 miles.

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I read the story and then that was it…read on to the next story. Not my buddy Tyson Hugie. He saw this as an opportunity to reach out to Matt directly and request to use the old girl for a few days in Arizona. Matt obliged, and I got a special invitation to join Tyson and a few other friends to drive to the Chiricahua National Monument where they’d be testing out the Lexus. It’s about 250 miles or 4.5hrs from Las Cruces…here we go!

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Departure time was 9am on Saturday, and I brought my friend James Zamora along for the ride. We were to meet in Wilcox, AZ with Tyson, James Lee, Jack and Chandler for lunch. I got the 6 all cleaned up for the drive.

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This was our meeting point for lunch…”The Dining Car.” Half of the restaurant is actually a train car!

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My meal of choice was a massive bacon cheese burger with fries. Hit the spot nicely.

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After lunch, it was time to chat over the cars. We had four in total:

  • “MillionMileLexus” 1996 Lexus LS400 – 4-speed auto (921,000 miles)
  • 1994 Acura Legend Coupe LS – 6spd manual (538,000 miles)
  • 2004 Mazda 6 S V6 – 5spd manual (174,000 miles)
  • 2000 Toyota Tacoma SR5 – 5spd manual (230,000 miles)

That’s roughly 1,863,000 miles between all of us!

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I was able to get behind the wheel of the Lexus for the first leg of the trip to Chiricahua from Wilcox.

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Tyson continued in his Legend and James Lee took the keys to my 6. Jack and Chandler were in their Tacoma.

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Turning the key of the Lexus to awaken the well traveled, 4.0L (FAA approved) 260HP V8 emitted very little noise. It’s more of a refined hum. No ticking, knocking…not even a puff of smoke. That’s impressive. The idle was still as smooth as silk.

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It was a good 40 miles on Hwy 186 to Chiricahua National Monument. Looking past all the cosmetically worn interior bits, I found the A/C ice cold, every gadget worked, and the ride was comfortable…maybe too comfortable. The tired suspension didn’t take too kindly to dips and abrupt slope changes in some of the corners. Gusty winds didn’t help much either. This contributed to me tightening the grip on the steering wheel. But, what do you expect…it’s got 921,000 miles!

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As long as any corners didn’t sneak up on me, the driving experience was relaxed and effortless. The steering felt tight and I didn’t detect any wheel wobble or vibration whatsoever.

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James Lee followed in my 6.

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Arrived at the monument sign. James Lee and I both agreed that this Lexus could still work great as an interstate cruiser. An odd characteristic pointed out by James Lee is the driver’s seat gives and bounces in addition to the suspension. Therefore, you get the sensation of double suspension travel?

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Driving into the park and we were greeted with some impressive scenery. The Chiricahua National Monument consists of 18 square miles of vertical rock formations. These are believed to be the remains of a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The monument is far less-traveled than many of Arizona’s other natural wonders. Location partly to blame? Perhaps. It’s also just one of those National Monuments that goes unmentioned. We swapped cars again at this point.

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Following Tyson’s Legend.

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Here we parked at the “Massai Point,” being the final roundabout of the park.22488854542_5dd0438c3d_o

The afternoon was full of grand scenery, hiking and photo opportunities. Here we are hiking to the “Grotto” on the Echo Canyon Trail. The grotto was probably my favorite point where you get to climb through the rhyolite rocks.

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James Zamora taking in the scenery.

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Our other James doing the same.

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Jack employing the useful “selfie stick” for some group shots.

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From left to right: Chandler, Tyson, Jack, James Zamora, Jason, James Lee

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Entering the Grottoes!

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A rather poor photo of “Balanced Rock”

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As the sun started to set, it was time to direct our attention back to the cars for some photos.

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I got to drive the Legend coupe a bit and observed that Tyson is nearing 540,000 miles! Keep on rollin’!

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Now in better lighting conditions, I was able to easily see that the Lexus hadn’t made it this far without a few bruises along the way. Consider them badges of honor…

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Everything the driver touches is worn…shift knob, steering wheel, and elbow rests. However, the interior is not half bad for the age.

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Jack and Chandler hiked a bit more on their own while the rest of us dug out the media equipment and drove the park for some photos and video.

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Photos by Tyson:

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Photo by James Lee:

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Tyson’s Legend coupe and the 6.

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A few shots with the Tacoma. (First image courtesy of James Lee)

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As darkness fell, it was time to head back to Wilcox for the night. The last worthy photo of the trip was a quick shot in front of an abandoned Chevrolet dealer before we all headed back to our respective cities. Tyson was to return the Lexus to Matt the following Monday. Thank you all for coming along for the ride. Join me in wishing the #millionmilelexus well, and that it reaches Matt’s goal of 1 million miles. Until next time…

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