Tag Archives: acura

4yr Anniversary and Other News

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Greetings! With all the Christmas rush going on, I haven’t been able to crank out a decent post. Playing catch-up, here’s what’s been going on for the past few months:

2004 6 S Anniversary:

November 7th, 2018 marks the fourth year with the 6 S. As I’ve mentioned in the three year post, this hasn’t been a cheap car to keep on the road. Luckily, the past year hasn’t been as bad. The only unscheduled repair was replacing a few broken wheel studs from being over tightened. The rest were regular maintenance and visual mods.

  • Full left side PDR – $325
  • Powdercoat Factory Wheels – $540
  • Alignment – $160
  • Replace Window Trim Vinyl – $212.29
  • Wiper Blade Inserts – $20.45
  • Oil Changes (5) – $190
  • Replace broken wheel studs – $180

Total cost from November, 2017 to November, 2018 (minus fuel) was $1,627.74. This past fall, I’ve gotten my act together and started entering all my service receipts into a spreadsheet to track costs. To put things into perspective, here are a few stats from day one:

  • Miles driven since purchase – 121,547
  • Total cost of ownership (not including fuel and purchase price, but including tires, maintenance, modifications and repair) – $16,100.76
  • Accidents – 1
  • Breakdowns – 1
  • Sets of tires – 2
  • Recalls -2 (Passenger and Driver Tekla airbags)
  • States Visited – 11
  • Countries Visited – 2
  • Longest distance traveled in one day: 920 miles (Las Cruces, NM to Organ Pipe National Monument)
  • Longest trip: 8,936 miles (Las Cruces, NM to Arctic Circle, AK)

My plans for the car are undetermined at this point. When I discovered how expensive this had become per mile, I decided to pull the S from daily duties. However, I’ve slowly gotten back into old habits and the miles are still climbing. As of today, I’m sitting at 260,500 miles. She’s running suspiciously good, so I think I’ll continue on.

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November drive: Why, AZ and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

I took a much needed adventure with my buddy Tyson (drivetofive) and James Lee (sixspeedblog) to southwest Arizona. It was a bit of a drive as I planned to do it in one day. A total of 920 miles!

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One of the more interesting parts of this trip was meeting up in a small unincorporated community called, Why, AZ.

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It got its name from State Routes 85 and 86 originally intersecting in a “Y” intersection. Now, for safety reasons, that intersection was realigned to more of a “T”. So, “Why” did we travel to this desolate part of the state? To see the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument!

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Nestled in the Yuma Desert along the Mexico border, the monument is 517 square miles of blissful preserved desert land with natural growing organ pipe cacti along with many other species. The park included an unpaved, rugged 21 mile loop trail called the Ajo Mountain Trail which we obviously had to take. The trail greeted us with some gorgeous panoramic views of the park in addition to enough dust to clog anyone’s air filters. Completely worth it though!

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There were short sections of smooth paved road that mercifully gave our shocks and butts a little rest.

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Group photo

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The old 6 held its own compared to Tyson’s much newer 2013 ILX 6spd and James’ 2019 Corolla XSE 6spd hatch press car.

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Breaking Bad Locations

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Any Breaking Bad fans here? The AMC crime drama show, which filmed here in New Mexico (mostly Albuquerque), is one of my all time favorites. Rumor has it, they are currently filming a movie which is supposed to be a Breaking Bad successor story. I took the time one weekend scouting out some of the popular locations and seeing how they look today.

Walter White’s House

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Hank and Marie’s house

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Gus’ Los Pollos Hermanos location

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I’ll try to be back with more locations in a future post. Cheers!

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Weekend Drive: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

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Happy Thanksgiving! Let’s go back in history 700 years and visit some ruins of the Mogollon people of Southern New Mexico. This was a fascinating tribe who lived off the land, and I was able to see a small piece of their preserved history — The Gila Cliff Dwellings.

These dwellings are believed to date back to 1275 and contain 46 rooms in five caves on Cliff Dweller Canyon. Archaeologists believe that 10-15 families occupied these caves and it is not known why this area was abandoned. These dwellings are located in southern Catron County, just 37 miles north of Silver City, NM on NM 15. And let me tell you, those were 37 joyous miles!

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I was joined by my buddies, Tyson (drivetofive), James Lee (sixspeedblog) and James Zamora. We met up in Silver City on Friday night and started the journey early Saturday morning. The rides for the day were James Lee’s 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio press car, my 2004 Mazda 6 i, and Tyson’s 1992 Acura Integra GS-R 5spd.

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Total miles / hours: 155 / 3.25. Let’s get started…

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James Z. and I heading out Friday afternoon for Silver City. To us, our portion of the drive was almost comically short since we were to cover just 155 miles. Tyson and James L. had a much further jaunt of 312 miles. We all arrived and spent the night in prep for the following day.

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Saturday morning and it was a calm 45°F as we gathered and checked out each others rides. This was my first close up encounter with Alfa Romero since their return to the US this year. Tyson’s Integra just had a fresh detail and a lot of maintenance performed to bring it to a highly desirable, clean, original condition. That striking Aztec Green paint is original! My Pebble Ash 6 got a little attention as well since this was its first time participating in a group drive.

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Checking out the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

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We set out on Highway 15 toward the Dwellings. The scenery was just plain gorgeous as we climbed into the Gila National Forest on one of the best mountain roads I’ve seen in southern New Mexico.

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Quick stop for a photo.

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This road offered many switchbacks and oodles of fun. It gave me a chance to see how the “new” 6 would handle.

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James L. tossed me the keys to the Alfa to give it a go.

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This Stelvio’s 2.0L turbocharged 4cyl was an absolute peach. The 280hp motor was smooth, quick to rev, and responsive. The transmission was very well mated to the engine, and was always ready to spring out of each corner with authority. Aside from a few cost-cutting interior bits, this was one nice package.

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Another photo op. Prior to this photo, I was able to give Tyson’s Integra a go as well. Even with 242,000 original miles, it felt tight and nimble. I loved the total “90s” of it with the motorized seat belts, velour upholstery, and the whole driving experience that was just simple and pure.

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I loved this road. Part of it was narrow with no stripping, many blind corners, and it made me feel like we were hundreds of miles away from civilization. It was challenging if you chose to push your car and almost every corner was nicely banked. Just don’t go overboard on those corners since there is no cell service on the entire stretch.

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Arriving at the welcome sign.

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Checking out the visitor center.

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We encountered nothing but very helpful and pleasant park rangers.

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To access the dwellings, we hiked a one mile loop which climbs 200+ft. On the way up, we crossed many small footbridges with a gentle stream running beneath.

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Views of the dwellings halfway up.

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Once at the top, you can actually walk through the ruins as long as you don’t touch the walls. This was stressed by the park rangers to ensure decay isn’t accelerated from the oils of our fingers.

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Group shot in (I believe) in the fourth cave.

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Climbing down the ladder from the largest room.

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There’s a lot of unanswered questions on the Mogollon people’s lives. The last part of our tour consisted of a short Q&A with ranger, Connie. Connie pointed out several details we would have otherwise missed such as pictographs (pictured here), architectural features and explaining possible uses for some of the rooms. One room still had some of the original corn husks used by the Mogollon.

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The tour took roughly an hour and afterwards, we headed back down Highway 15. I let James and Tyson take the lead as I felt like taking it more easy.

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Lunch was in Silver City at Nancy’s Silver Cafe. Food of choice was green chicken enchiladas with an egg on top.

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Usually with New Mexico-Mexican food, the messier the plate, the better the flavor!

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After lunch, we parted ways and concluded the drive. Thanks for coming along!

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Arizona Drive in some Performance Hondas.

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As much as I love to experience different makes of cars, I always somehow find myself back in a Honda (don’t worry, I didn’t buy another car). I’ve owned 3 in my life so far:

  • 2002 Acura RSX Type-S 6-speed
  • 2004 Honda Accord V6 6-speed
  • 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6-speed

All of them have been memorable to me. Even though my focus generally is now on Mazda, I welcome any opportunity to get a Honda experience. That’s exactly what I got thanks to Tyson (drivetofive) and his good friend and journalists, Mr. Steve Lynch.

I was invited to be a driver in a convoy of Hondas for an article Steve was putting together.  Despite working for 17 years in finance for Mercedes-Benz, Mr. Lynch has a passion for Honda and has even worked for them prior to MB. His 1997 book Arrogance and Accords covers some of his experiences and thoughts on Honda when he was employed there.  He is semi retired now and currently writes for an automotive blog called The Truth About Cars. This is the cover of his book.

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Photo of Steve and his beautiful 2008 Rio Yellow Honda S2000.

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The drive for this event took place on the Catalina Highway which climbs to the summit of Mt. Lemmon, just north of Tucson. Our group consisted of me, Steve, Tyson, Peter Kulikowski, James Lee from 6speedblog, Beau MacDonnell (photographer), and Kelvin Chang.

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This road to the summit of Mt. Lemmon is full of fun twisties and elevation changes perfectly fitting for the cars to be tested. Here are the contenders:

  • 1992 Acura NSX 5-speed owned by Tyson
  • 1993 Acura NSX 5-speed owned by Kelvin
  • 1994 Acura Legend LS Coupe 6-speed owned by Tyson
  • 1994 Acura Legend GS Sedan 6-speed owned by Tyson
  • 2008 Honda S2000 6-speed owned by Steve

Let’s get started! Total travel distance for me was around 1,700 miles. I departed Las Cruces after work to arrive in Phoenix. After the Mt. Lemmon drive, I would head north to Gallup for a family visit and then back home.

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Mazda all washed up and ready to rock ‘n’ roll!

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My drive into the sunset towards the Arizona border. I arrived in Phoenix around 10:30pm.

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The next morning, I took some singles of Tyson’s Acuras (with their corresponding custom plates) we’d be driving. I was in the Legend sedan, Tyson in the Legend coupe and Peter got the NSX.

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Getting the cars out and ready.

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Also in our crowd was a Lexus RC350 press car driven by James. This was our photo/chase car. His full review of the Lexus can be found here.

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Meet and greet before the drive.

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Onwards!

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Pit stop in Picacho, AZ. Is this what Acura lots looked like in the 90s?

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You may have noticed that we picked up an extra NSX along the way. That belongs to Tyson’s friend, Kelvin. He is an avid NSX enthusiast and certainly didn’t want to miss this drive. Though his NSX is one year newer than Tyson’s (’93) it still looks identical.

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Rolling shot of Tyson’s Legend coupe

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Meeting up in Tucson with Steve.

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Our group of Hondas (and the Lexus).

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This is when I could get close and personal with Steve’s S2000. This is my first encounter with the S2000.

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That cozy cockpit is just as I imagined…very driver focused.

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Throughout the day, we all swapped cars and were able to compare and contrast.

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It was hard to pick a favorite in my books, but the NSX came dang close! I must say, this car was intimidating to me at first but in typical Honda tradition, the car instantly felt familiar and easy to drive. Everything feels raw and mechanical. This is a sensation you just can’t find anymore. The black leather seats with monstrous bolsters hold you securely; all controls are simple and easily at reach—this is a driver’s car. The transmission and steering were an absolute joy. The 3.2L V6’s 290 horsepower rating seems rather ho-hum by today’s standards; however, this car is still dang quick and sends a tumultuous rush through the exhaust pipes. Tingling with excitement, I kept finding myself looking for excuses to downshift just to hear that motor howl. The sensations and noises were so orgasmic, you don’t even care about the powertrain figures. Visibility was excellent, ride was decent, you can shift with one finger…this really is the supercar for everyday.

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Amazingly, the NSX feels and is quite a bit lower than the S2000. They both handle like a dream though.

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Nearly everyone agreed that this was the biggest surprise of the group. I had the privilege of accumulating the most miles (around 300miles) on the Sedan. Before first taking the keys, I was expecting a focused boulevard cruiser with cushy-squishy suspension backed by average handing and obnoxious understeer when pushed into the corners. Pleasantly, I was wrong. First off, cruising down the highway was effortless and smooth. The cockpit was roomy and inviting with pillowy soft, yet supportive seats clad in rich feeling leather. The big greenhouse and low dash made for an excellent view out. When it came time to toss this big boy around some corners, I was amazed how composed and level the body remained. The handling was definitely not sports car precise, but it didn’t leave me fearing for my life. The 230 horsepower Type-IIV6 was an absolute gem and hustled the Legend out of corners effortlessly despite packing nearly 147,000 original miles. Brakes were another bonus. Pedalfeel was firm, inspired confidence and gave little nose dive. The clutch was light and each gear change was smooth with very short throws. I was impressed. Here’s Steven taking the Legend sedan around some corners.

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Love this road!

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Lunch stop at the summit.

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Their juicy green chile bacon cheeseburger sure hit the spot!

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Back to the cars! This time I was able to test out the S2000.

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Yup…I want one!

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With 240 horsepower on tap and a raging VTEC waiting to be awakened by a stab at the throttle, this little roadster won me over and has made it to the top of my charts of “must-have” cars to own. As I snuggled in the cockpit for the first time, the whole environment was just as I expected…everything right at your fingertips and driver-focused. Fit and finish was excellent, and knobs and switches moved with a precise, “snick-snick” action. On our mountain road coarse, this roadster kept me grinning. The tight and rather heavy steering always pointed the nose in the right direction with the confidence and assurance you’d expect from a light rear-drive chassis. Speaking of the chassis, Honda really did themselves well here as the all-control-arm suspension kept the 17” Bridgestones sticking like glue in the corners. Brakes were perhaps my favorite of the group. “Go-kart” comes to mind when trying to describe the personality. Here’s a photo of me and Peter coming around a bend.

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Another stop to swap cars again.

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The gang: Tyson, James, Steve, Beau, me, and Peter. The final article of Steve’s can be found here.

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Back to Phoenix! Here’s a photo of Tyson in the NSX. It rolled over 100,000 just on the outskirts of town. His celebratory post is here.

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The next day, I headed northeast towards Gallup. The sun shining and temperatures in the mid 80’s, it was a nice drive. Though I had driven some pretty special cars the day prior, it was nice to get behind the wheel of the Mazda again. Even though this is completely different in personality, it’s still very good fun to drive.

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Thank you all for stopping by and checking out the Hondas. ‘Til next time!

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Drive to Northern Arizona Part I: Antelope Canyon

Sometimes at work I’ll give my eyes a rest from the computer, stare at the U.S. map on my wall and daydream about all the trips I NEED to take.

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Last year, I kept staring at the Arizona/Utah region craving a drive to Monument Valley and a place called Antelope Canyon. I wanted to make at least one of those happen for 2015, and that’s where I was last weekend…to Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ. On Friday, I rounded up the gang from the Ouray, CO drive (Alec, Jennifer and Jouhl) and headed for beautiful Arizona. We met up with Tyson Hugie from drivetofive, a few of his friends in Flagstaff and we set off for another epic group drive to Antelope Canyon…the first group drive for the Mazda.

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Total mileage/time: ~1,300miles and 19.75hrs of driving. This is one of the longer weekend jaunts I’ve done, but trust me, it was worth it.

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A little background here: Many must have seen Antelope Canyon before. It occupys the pages of many travel books and is a featured wallpaper/background for many landscape scenes on computers and portable devices. It is a canyon located near Page, AZ in the Navajo reservation and it’s one of many sacred places for the People. The canyon was formed from years from rainwater erosion. This created these picturesque channels and smooth walls that have a flowing look. The name, Antelope Canyon, is the English name from the herds of pronghorn antelope that used to roam freely here. After experiencing this canyon, it is quite clear why the older Navajo considered this place a “spiritual experience.”

Okay, enough with the history lesson. Let’s get to it!

The 6 was fueled the night before and we all were to depart Las Cruces around 7:00am the next morning. The 6 also had recently turned over to 150,000 miles, so it was ready to kill off that even number.

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The morning of our departure, I woke up to the sound of rain outside. So much for getting the 6 all washed up prior to the trip.

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We crammed all our luggage in the trunk.

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First stop, Arizona state line for a group pic. Thanks to the nice couple for taking the photo for us.

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Jennifer returned the favor.

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Back on the road. Jennifer and Alec had a companion in the back.

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Unusual for both New Mexico and Arizona, it rained on us nonstop the whole way. I was very relieved that I had recently installed a fresh set of Continental SportContact tires and OEM wiper blades on the 6.

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Next stop, Phoenix for IKEA and lunch. Phoenix is the nearest city with an IKEA so we decided to take advantage of that.

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Lunch was at Aloha Cafe per Jennifer’s recommendation. Hit the spot perfectly!

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With a little more fooling around while meandering our way to Flagstaff, we got to the hotel before too late. The next day, Tyson and his gang met us at the hotel and we headed off to Page, AZ. (Pictured here: Peter, Tyson, Jennifer, Jouhl, Stephen, Chris, Alec) Two of Tyson’s friends here you might remember: Peter from Death Valley and Chris from White Sands and Sedona.

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Tyson led the way to Page, AZ.

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Quick stop for a few pics.

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This suspension bridge in Cameron, Arizona from 1911 is no longer in service. Get this: in 1937, an overload of sheep damaged it, and it was officially taken out of commission in 1959.

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We arrived in Page, AZ not too longer after and had some time to grab lunch before we went to Antelope Canyon. We chose Fiesta Mexicana which worked perfectly to fill the stomaches before canyon exploring.

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After lunch. it was time to check in for the Antelope Canyon Tours! To gain access to the canyon, tour guides are required.

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Waiting to climb aboard the tour truck.

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Ready! (Pictured: Tyson, Peter, Stephen and Chris)

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I sat near the end and was able to capture a few shots out the back.

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Only a few miles of paved road and then some off-roading!

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Arrived at the mouth of the canyon. Here’s what our tour truck looked like. A nicely lifted Ford F-250 Super Duty with the Triton V-8.

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The mouth of the canyon.

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Once inside, it was hard to find words to describe how enchanting the canyon was. Here’s Jouhl demonstrating how grand it was.

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I will confess, I do edit some of the images I post here on DrivenforDrives. However, none of these have been edited and I’m not what you’d call a pro-photographer. All these photos were taken with my DSLR on auto w/o flash. Goes to show how naturally beaufutl the lighting and shadows accompany the canyon walls.

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Close up of the “flowing” look left by erosion.

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This is the “eye.” It’s a section of the canyon where you look up at an angle to see the natural light peer in through this massive “eye” opening. Pretty neat!

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Photo of Tyson, Jouhl, Me, Jennifer and Alec.

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Just for scale purposes.

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Out tour guide (pictured on the left) was terrific. She gave everyone tips on getting great photos along with a brief history of the canyon and the Navajo people.

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Money shot!

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Complete group shot. (Stephen, Me, Jennifer, Tyson, Jouhl, Alec, Peter and Chris)

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I could happily camp out here for a while.

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Back on the truck to get back to town.

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Utah was only about 10mins from Page. Why not grab a state line pic with Tyson?

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Hungry for more? Stay tuned for Part II of our adventure!

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The End of Chapter 2 – 2010 Acura TL

First note, consider my 2004 Satin Silver Accord Coupe 6spd as “Chapter 1.”

Well, looks like my blog here is going to change gears again. If you’ve enjoyed any of my ramblings that put a spotlight on the TL, I’m sad to say it’s come to end. As of October 22, 2014, I have listed the TL available for a new owner. Why, you ask? What it boils down to is money. With a recent home purchase and other responsibilities, I just wasn’t comfortable swinging another 4-5 years of car payments. My joys behind the wheel wearing the big “A” were outmatched by the financial burden.

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Fast forward exactly one month, and I find a buyer from Dallas, TX — Justin. An avid Honda fan, Justin was in the same boat as me last year with a search for a 4th generation TL 6-speed. He flew 600+ miles out to El Paso, TX (nearest international airport to me) and spent a good part of the day closely inspecting the TL to see if it suited his needs. In the end, we officially shook hands in agreement to the sale, and he is now the new owner. He is having it shipped out next week.

It’s been a good run with the TL, and as I write this (while wiping a few tears away), I can’t help but remember what a great traveling companion it has been:

The key hand-off and beginning mileage – Los Angeles, California

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Musical Road – Lancaster, California

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Salton Sea – California

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Canyon De Chelly – Chinle, Arizona

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White Sands National Monument – New Mexico

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Gila National Forest – New Mexico

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Cadillac Ranch – Near Amarillo, Texas

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New York City – New York

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Redline Productions Test Drive the TL – Washington D.C.

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Chesapeake Bay – Virginia

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Caddo Lake (Swamplands) – Texas

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Death Valley – California

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Ouray – Colorado

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Very Large Array – New Mexico

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Large(st?) Rattle Snake – Albuquerque, New Mexico

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Odd trails covered: (no pavement here) 

Cibola National Forest – New Mexico

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Doña Ana County – New Mexico

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Somewhere north of Ouray, Colorado

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“20 Mule Team” road in Death Valley – California

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Driving on bedrock at the Malpais – Near Grants, New Mexico

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Driving on a Mesa in the Bisti Wilderness – New Mexico

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Most Challenging Cargo: 

12′ siding for the house. This utilized the trunk “pass through” and extended practically the entire length of the car!

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Lawn mower and weed wacker:

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10′ Ladder with painter’s tape to keep the trunk tied down:

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Accord front lip:

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Ending mileage at the date of sale (November 22, 2014). That’s 35,462 miles covered!

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Amazing only one year has passed, and the TL has taken me to all these fantastic destinations and then some. I do hope it’s able to give Justin the same amount of joy it has given me. Farewell, my friend. Farewell.

Now, the show isn’t over here on Driven for Drives. I’m still going to be on the open road and sharing the big highlights as I go along. For the next chapter here, the car in the spotlight is surprisingly something non-Honda. Can you guess what it is?

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Stay tuned for “When it all Started – Part III”

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Drive to the Switzterland of America — Part II

Let’s begin our travels back home! We did things a little different and took photos of the welcome sign as we departed. Couldn’t when we first entered Ouray as it was too dark.

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Then back down the Million Dollar Highway. This sign just reminds motorists of the dangers (and fun) that they are about in counter.

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Here’s one of my favorite shots of the highway Jouhl managed to capture out the windshield.

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That tunnel there is slanted like to keep avalanches from taking out the road. According to my Dad who does a heck of a lot more research into things than I do, the Million Dollar Highway is one of America’s most expensive roads to maintain.

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The prior night, I was googling a bit and found the ghost town of Ironton to be only a short distance from Ouray. It was a stop we just had to take and much to my surprise, this was a true ghost town where there was no supervision nor was it commercialized in any way. Just some old buildings hidden off the beaten path. This town has an interesting history per Wiki:

“Ironton (aka Copper Glen) was built on flatter ground than surrounding towns. Settled in 1883, within three weeks three hundred buildings were being built. It was a staging area for supplies coming from Ouray. Ironton was a major transportation junction between Red Mountain Town and Ouray in addition to having some of its own mines. Ironton had a peak population of over 1000 and had two trains arriving daily from Silverton. There were many chain stores from the nearby cities of Ouray and Silverton. The town lived into the first part of the 20th century but slowly faded as mining operations declined. The final resident of the town, Milton Larson, died in the mid-1960s. The town site is still occasionally visited by tourists.

Access to Ironton was simple. A narrow road covered in leaves off Hwy 550 takes you to the site. The weather was cold and misty…just the perfect atmosphere for some exploring.

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Here we are.

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Believe it or not, I’ve seen worse bathrooms.

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Most of us split and explored our own buildings. Here’s Jennifer coming down from one of the second floors.

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Alec and I braved the darkness of the second story of this rickety old house.

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Jouhl decided to wait for us at the entrance.

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Nearly all the buildings were structurally sound enough to walk through. Some were quite creepy!

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As usual, wandering around randomly ended up following the Red Mountain Creek for short distance.

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After our toes and fingers couldn’t take the cold any more, we hopped back in the TL and started for home. Last stop before hitting the Interstate, we stopped by Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness just south of Farmington, NM.  This 45,000-acre area is a desolate area of steeply eroded bad lands managed by BLM. “Bisti” comes from the word “Bistahí, which means “among the adobe formations.”

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A 10 mile road layered with corse gravel and bumpy turns made for a rather exhausting ride. I felt for the TL’s shocks. Rumor has it that the Navajo Tribe has gone to great lengths to keep the Bisti and nearby Chaco Canyon remote and not terribly easy to access. This is to minimize the amount of people entering and disturbing the land.

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I didn’t exactly take a defined path to this view point. The AWD system handled the sand just fine though.

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This sure felt like a different planet.

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Despite the wind gusts of 50mph, we set out for some photos and exploring. IMG_6966

Then it was time to run!

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Alec was going crazy taking pictures in every angle he could.

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The Bisti was once a riverine delta that was west of the shore of an ancient sea. This sea covered much of New Mexico 70 million years ago. The waters of this sea washed a lot of sediment upon the shore and then swamps and the occasional pond bordering the stream left behind these large buildups of organic material and odd formations. Amazing!

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There’s only so much wind you can take. We soon hustled back to the TL and began our journey home. That’s a wrap for this trip…thank you all for joining us for this grand adventure. More in store for you very soon!

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Drive to The Switzerland of America — Ouray, Colorado Part I

Nothing beats a nice weekend getaway. Especially when you’re growing bored of the sunny, dry climate of southern New Mexico and want to see some cool fall colors. So, friends Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec all climbed into the TL and joined me in one of my bucket-list destinations: Ouray, Colorado. Let the miles pile on!

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Nestled in the San Juan mountains north of Durango, Ouray was once a silver and gold mining town. Population isn’t much…just about 1,000 according to the 2010 census. It was named after Chief Ouray of the Utes, a Native American tribe and it’s best known for the extensive scenery that’s gorgeous in all seasons.

Total miles: ~1,200

Our round trip was as follows:

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Got the TL all washed up and ready to roll.

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From left to right: Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec. Jennifer and Alec had never been to Colorado so this was going to be quite a treat for them.

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Gas stop in Los Lunas before going through Albuquerque.

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First official stop was in Aztec, NM where we’d check out the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Contrary to the name, these were built and inhabited by the Pueblo Indians. The dwellings date back to 11th century and most are in their original, unrestored state.

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Always have to prep the cameras!

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One of the coolest parts is we actually get to explore within the ruins. Here’s Jouhl crouching down to enter the small doorway.

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Here’s an overview of the ruins. Looks like a video game.

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No time to waste. Back on the road towards Colorado. Clouds formed and threw a few rain drops our way. Just enough to get the TL nice and spotty.

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Stateline!

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Almost immediately, we started to see the fall colors. Man, I miss seeing this!

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The long, winding US 550 took us past the small mining town of Silverton, CO. And when I say small, I mean it as there are a total of 530 residents here. (2010 census) It was raining pretty good by now, so we opted to just take a short drive through instead of getting out and walking around. (Well, I did have to sneak out for a quick photo of the TL.

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Now, one of the best parts of the trip is about to begin. We now were on the “Million Dollar Highway.” Many refer to this as one of America’s greatest driving roads for its scenery and smooth twisty nature. In fact, it was so twisty that I didn’t have many opportunities to pull off for photos.

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This is one of the money shots of the trip. The temperature was dropping pretty quickly to the low 40s, so jackets were in order. The rain kept coming down, but in moderation. It was such a grand experience.

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As we ascended in elevation, we could see the rain was turning into snow at the surrounding peaks. Here’s a cool “selfie” Jouhl took of us.

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Darkness was approaching and this was the last photo of the drive today.

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We got into Ouray fairly late around 8pm and we wasted no time to grab some dinner. Our place of choice, The Outlaws.

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Folks were friendly, restaurant very hospitable, and atmosphere inviting. Food however, was disappointing. Regardless, we had fun.

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The next day was going to be full of outdoor fun. Here’s a shot of the hotel where we stayed. We caught the end of the tourism season, and the hotel was actually going to shut down for winter the following day. Yup, we were a few of the last guests of 2014.

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View from the front door.

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After a quick breakfast in the lobby, I wanted to drive around and see what we couldn’t the night before. Here’s downtown Ouray.

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Most of my “short-drive-around-town” moments end up taking half the day and in some of the most remote and interesting places. Today was no exception and luckily the gang loved it.

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I found this cool looking road leading into the forest.

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I just kept going and going. The fall colors were so beautiful.

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The road came to an end (well at least for us in the low slung TL). A higher vehicle could easily cross the creek and keep on going.

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We got out and just randomly walked around exploring the area. No joke here: this is where I was meant to be.

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Yup, that’s one happy Jason.

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We found a hiking trail, and ran with that for a while. The moss covered rocks caught my attention.

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After a few hours, it was time to head back to town. “BACK TO THA CHOPPA!”

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This is another of my favorite shots.

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Wait, did I make a wrong turn? How did I drive to Switzerland?

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The road back down the mountain had an awesome view of the town.

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Next on my list was Box Canyon Falls.

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The canyon was formed by the vicious rushing waters of Canyon Creek. Over time, they formed a deep and narrow box canyon.

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Here we are walking to the falls.

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The falls were actually somewhat hidden, but they sure made a lot of noise and mist.

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Next we checked out the Perimeter Trail which leads to some more breathtaking views of the town. This is scariest and most dangerous part that has taken lives. You hike along a narrow trail carved into the side of the cliff with only a cable to hang on to.

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The views…

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Now on to browsing the shops!

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Ouray locals claim they are the Jeep capital of the world. Not sure how accurate that is, but there were indeed a lot of Jeeps around. Many locals will even rent out their Jeeps. Never seen that before.

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Then we settled down in the Irish Pub for dinner. Our bodies were sore, tired and hungry. The food really hit the spot. My burger had bacon mixed in the patty and to make an already great burger better, Jennifer order some Guinness based BBQ sauce. Oh man, meat lovers rejoice!

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More to come! Stay tuned for Part II…

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Acura Drive to the Valley of Death

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit for the title of this post, but I was excited to share such a grand trip with you all. That grand trip was an 1800-mile drive to Death Valley National Park with my friends, Tyson Hugie from DrivetoFive, Sofyan Bey from 2theRedline and Tyson’s friend Peter Kulikowski. Death Valley is a desert valley in the eastern portion of California’s Mojave Desert. This is the lowest, driest and hottest area in North America. We had this trip planned for some time now and wanted give our Acuras a good run for their money. Mine especially considering it’s the middle of July, and I’m rocking Crystal Black Pearl over black leather. Good combo for an area known to have temperatures soaring well over 100˙F in the summer months. The record high in July 1913 was a scorching 134˙F! Within the park, we visited Badwater Basin (this is the lowest point in North America at 282ft BELOW sea level), Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. Get ready, this is going to be a hot one!

However, before we get started with this grand adventure, let’s back up a few weeks to a few little updates on the TL:

I officially hit 50,000 miles on July 1st. Only half way now to the big 100K!

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After coming home from my East Coast trip, I found my custom plate in the mail which I had been waiting for about 3 months!

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In New Mexico, our plates are rather bright. I had two choices: the Centennial bright green or this traditional New Mexico yellow. I obviously went the traditional route.

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Now, let’s get a move on with the trip. Before setting out Friday afternoon from work, one of my favorite co-workers left me a farewell “sticky” which made my day.

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I had the TL all washed up and packed.

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My general prep for the trip was making sure I had sufficient water. Side note: the sunroof is the ONLY surface I will set anything on. Otherwise, I don’t want to face the scratches on the paint that would arise.

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As the miles piled on, the day was ending. I had the privilege of being able to drive into the colorful, Arizona sunset. This is my favorite time of day to drive.

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I drove to Kingman, AZ and got a good night’s rest for the adventures that awaited the next day. The modest Travelodge allowed for parking right in front.

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Next day, I made my first stop in Las Vegas, NV where I’d meet up with Tyson, Sofyan and Peter.

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Nevada Stateline…

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Another great pull out to view the mighty Lake Mead.

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After a few hours rolling down Hwy 93, I approached ‘Vegas!

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I met the boys in the Excalibur Hotel

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Here I am next to Peter, Tyson and Sofyan.

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We wasted no time and hopped in our Acuras and Tyson led the way to Death Valley. It was an easy 125 miles from Las Vegas. As usual, he was in his 2013 ILX 6-speed.

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We made a quick stop in an abandoned Nevada town for a few pix.

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Next on the list, Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

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We’ve arrived!

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The heat was certainly a surprise. At this time, the TL had a reading of 110˙F.

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This sign says it all.

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Here’s the sign notifiying us that we achieved sea level. Next stop in the Park, Furnace Creek.

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I got the shock of my life when Tyson showed us the norm gas prices in Furnace Creek. If I had the need to fill up, that would be a nice round $100 for premium. Ouch!

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Lunch was at a simple yet tasty cafe called the Corkscrew. Luckily, they had good air conditioning to relieve us of the heat.

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We stopped in the National Park’s Visitor Center. Here I am in front of their large thermometer reading 116!

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First sign you see when you walk in the doors.

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After that stop, we swapped cars and I took the reins of the ILX for while Tyson led the way in my TL to Badwater Basin. Always a cool feeling when I see my own car driving in front of me.

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Here we are.

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So, what is Badwater Basin? It’s the lowest elevation point in North America. That’s a good 282 feet below sea level. The gound was crusty and hard from the dried salt deposits.

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Another danger sign of the extreme heat. It said that walking after 10:00am was not recommended.

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So, here we go! It’s only 2-3pm in the afternoon.

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After we felt like we got a good dose of heat, we all swapped the keys again. This time, Sofyan took the wheel of the TL while Peter was in the ILX.

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Now off to a scenic dirt road recommended by Tyson. We were determined to bring some Death Valley dirt back home on our cars. This is “20 Mule Team Canyon” trail. This was just 2.7 miles of heaven!

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It was so much fun, we drove this route twice! Peter and Sofyan got to try the TL on both runs.

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Thanks to Tyson for capturing this great angle of the TL.

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As you can see by my face, this road was one of the highlights of the Park.

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Now, back on the road to the next stop…

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Last stop before leaving the park was Stovepipe Wells. As we parked and exited our Acuras, there was a soft purr of a diesel nearby. Not a diesel I’ve ever heard before. As I look to the side to investigate, I see these mysterious-looking GM trucks parked off to the side. I’ve never seen them before. What are they? Let’s have a look…

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Upon further examination, we all concluded these were the 2016 GMC Canyon trucks in pre-production testing in the heat of the valley. So, there’s a teaser for you. We might have a diesel offering of the next Canyon.

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Peter took the wheel of the TL as we headed out of the park to the hotel for the evening.

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Night’s stay was on the California/Nevada border in the village of Amargosa Valley.

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The next day, we grabbed a photo at the giant cow that was by the hotel.

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After we parted ways in Kingman, I took I-40 back to New Mexico where I’d stop by my grandpa’s house for the next night. Here’s on the way to Flagstaff, AZ. 70˙F was sure a welcome compared to the heat of Death Valley.

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Normal stop at my old stomping grounds to see what the area looks like. It’s been 8 years now since I’ve resided here!

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Pit stop for a few sunset photos.

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Smoke in the sky from a nearby forest fire gave the sun a nice red glow.

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I got to New Mexico around 9pm.

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My grandpa is on vacation for about 3 months in Canada so it was a goal of mine to check up on his house and mail. Remember my grandpa’s stable? The next day, I took a few of his cars out for a quick drive to run some oil through and clean away any cobwebs. Here’s the old ’87 F-250 Diesel prowling the back roads of northern New Mexico. I love this thing.

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This is called “6 mile canyon road.” Looks smooth here, but it’s not very car friendly as you get further into the “bush.”

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Also, got the ’74 MGB out to run around a little. This hadn’t been started in about 6 months.

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I always like to challenge myself and the TL. How about borrowing a gas lawn mower and weed wacker? Snug, but it fit!

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And that concludes the Death Valley trip. Here’s my ending mileage. Thanks all for coming along!

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East Coast – Wrap Up – Beaches and Swamps

Let’s get our East Coast trip wrapped up. First though, I wanted to recap a bit on the TL. She has been a noble companion throughout the entire trip. This has been by far the most comfortable vehicle I’ve traveled in and the climate control system easily kept the high humidity and scorching temps at bay. The 6-speed manual and clutch were very easy to operate even in the midst of New York City traffic, and the ebony black leather seats offered the necessary support for long stretches. However, all cars have their faults. The gas mileage is nothing to shout about. I averaged about 24-26MPG on the trip on 91/93 octane. That’s about 4MPG less than the V6 Accord I had and 11MPG less than my old RSX. The trunk isn’t quite as capacious as the Accord either, and the TL mysteriously needed 2 quarts of oil during the span of the trip. Road noise is definitely on the louder side too. However, I am overall very pleased with the TL and would definitely recommend one. I will plan to do a full “unofficial” review of it later on.

The miles keep piling on. From the start of the trip, here’s where it stood.

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And this was the ending mileage (and the nice toasty temps of Las Cruces):

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Now, on with the last bit of the East Coast trip: I find it amazing how diverse our country is in climate and landscape. On the west coast, we have instances of beaches with rain forests. On the east coast, we have beaches and swamps. Sometimes those are within a few short miles of each other. Let’s see what that’s like.

From Washington D.C., we stopped in Virginia Beach. The biggest attraction there were the multi-story hotels towering over the beach. With a population of over 437,000, this is the most populous city in Virginia and the 39th most populous in the county. The city sits on the edge of the longest “pleasure beach” in the world. Here’s an aerial from Google.

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The vicious weaves of the Atlantic crashing against the shores was a real treat to experience. The Atlantic seems to be a little more aggressive than the Pacific.

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A storm was trying to roll in at this time, so many tourists were scrambling to get to the comfort of their hotel rooms. Therefore the beach was quite empty.

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Here was a massive statue of the mythological Greek god, Triton— the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, messenger of the sea.

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I found this amusing: as we walked the streets into the night, there were many signs like this. Is this a strict “no-cussing” policy?

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The next day was a real treat. On the way to South Carolina, I wanted to stop and see my first ever swamp. That would be the Great Dismal Swamps near Norfolk. This marshy land takes about 1,000,000 acres stretching from Norfolk, VA to Edenton, NC. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is the largest of its kind and was created in 1973 when the Union Camp Corporation of Franklin, Virginia, donated 49,100 acres of land after centuries of logging and other human activities devastated the swamp’s ecosystems. The name comes from the days when people often referred to swamps or morass as “dismal.” “Dismal” because of the inhospitable snake-infested, mosquito-swarming place it was (and still is).

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The long, skinny, dirt road took us deeper and deeper into a heavily wooded area.

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It was desolate and a little spooky at this time. So many creaks, groans, chirps and buzzes were coming from all the wildlife that were observing our encroachment on their land.

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This area looks like where water logging had once taken place years ago.

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At the end of the road, we reached the lake.

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I dare you to take a swim in this nice black, marshy water!

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On we go!

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The TL got a generous helping of dust to accompany the thousands of miles of tarmac grime. This photo looked quite fitting to showcase the SH-AWD

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One of the hiking trails had this amusing sign posted. “Those Darn Mosquitoes!”

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The boardwalk leading back further into the deep woods.

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We saw this bench off to the side with what looked like chew marks. Was this a victim of a bear or deer?

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Throughout this entire drive, only one other car was seen. Otherwise, the swamp lands was all ours!

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From there, our trail towards New Mexico was basically hitting the road hard on I-85 and I-20. Here’s some state lines…South Carolina.

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Georgia.

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Alabama.

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Mississippi.

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Another amusing town name to go on my list: welcome to the town of, “Chunky!”

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Louisiana.

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Throughout our entire trip, the weather was very cooperative. Louisiana was the only state where we actually got some rain!

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Still marveling at the green landscape.

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Last stop before New Mexico…Texas!

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Our last way point for the trip was Caddo Lake in eastern Texas. This lake/wetland covers about 25,400 acres and is located on the border between Marion County in Texas and western Caddo Parish in Louisiana.  The lake is named after the Southeastern culture of Native Americans called Caddoans or Caddo.  This wetland features the largest Cypress forest in the world! Let’s see what it’s like. 

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Here’s the entrance to the park.

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Even though it was about 5:00 in the afternoon, the heavy vegetation blocked out most of the sunlight. Time to flick on the lights.

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Road leading up to the lake was smooth and still wet from a recent rain shower.

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And here’s what we got to feast our eyes on. Wow! Now when you talk about swamps, this looks like the real deal.

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Jouhl was impressed too.

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A very friendly park ranger I spoke with told me there were many resident alligators here. Unfortunately, none were spotted as they were very shy and were masters of hiding.

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How’d you like to take a swim in this?

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This was the only good spot in the park to show proof that the TL had driven through swamp lands.

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Guess what folks? That concludes my East Coast trip. I hope you enjoyed coming along. I look forward to sharing my next big grand adventure with you all. Until then, have fun fellow #roadtrippers!

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East Coast – Day 1-2 – Cadillac Ranch

Another grand adventure is currently in the works! Jouhl and I hit the road late afternoon on May 21st for the East Coast. No time to waste…let’s get started!

Here’s the first state line, Texas!

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We stopped at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park to check out the scenery. This is the second largest canyon in the United States and spans roughly 60 miles long with a maximum width of 20 miles. This is regarded as “The Grand Canyon of Texas.”

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Here’s Jouhl taking it all in.

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The canyon’s dramatic geological features, which included the multicolored layers of rock and steep mesa walls, was definitely worth the stop. 

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They recently had a rain storm. Just enough to get the creeks flowing again.

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…and bring some mud to the roadway.

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Next stop along the way was an unusual roadside attraction in Combine City, TX—Just outside of Amarillo. These are old retired combine tractors buried at an angle in a remote farm field. Is this a spoof of Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch? There was no indication of who owns the land. Not even a sign was posted to attract tourists. 

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Had to get the TL positioned just so. I may have to buff out a few twig scuffs.

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Then, it was time to see the real deal…Cadillac Ranch!

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Sadly, you can’t drive up to the half buried Cadillac skeletons. We’d have to pass through the roadside fence to get up close and personal.

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Here they are up close! Several spray-paint cans were lying all over and free for anyone to pick up and tag the cars as they pleased.

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I chose to take this one for a test drive.

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As seen here, these old Cadillacs were covered from top to bottom with paint. Several layers at that.

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Check out how thick this stuff is laid on…

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On wards to Oklahoma…

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This state we pretty much blew right through. More to come so stay tuned!

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