Tag Archives: mazda

4k Mile Drive to The Pacific Northwest in a 2015 Mazda 6 – Part I

Fasten your seatbelts! It’s time to share another lengthy summer drive. This time, we are going to change things up a bit. My personal 2004 Mazda 6 got to take a break, and I was to drive with three other friends in a 2015 Mazda 6 owned by my roommate, James. I had been looking forward to thoroughly testing this new 6 out, and this trip was just the perfect fit.

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You may remember that I did a massive West Coast tour back in 2013. Packed with so much fun, James and I decided to conduct that same drive this year only this time bring along two of our good friends, Jennifer and Alec. Many great destinations awaited as we embarked on a West Coast tour of 2015. Total distance of the trip was around 4,000 miles or 60+ hours driving. Ouch!

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Lots to cover, so let’s get to it. Thursday night, July 16th the (new) 6 got a good bath before getting stuffed with luggage and random essentials.

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Also gave her a good dose of 86 octane to fill up the 16 gallon tank. With an EPA rating of 26 city and 38 highway, it sure will be much more gentle on my wallet compared to all the over vehicles I’ve feature here on DrivenforDrives. This 3rd generation Mazda6 has had sparkling reviews from big shot journalists such as Car and Driver, MotorTrend and Road & Track. Car and Driver voted the Mazda 6 one of their 10 best in 2015 and ranked it first in a recent family sedan comparo. Popular Mechanics named it the “Car of the Year” back in 2014. I won’t go into the details and specs here as there are plenty of sources for that if you want to take a gander.

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6am sharp Friday July 17th, and we set off for the West!

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With four people on board, we sure took advantage of the fairly good sized trunk the 6 offers.

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Down I-25 we go towards Moab, UT…the first stop for the night.

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Despite having a pretty decent infotainment system, we opted to navigate with our iPhones as it’s just that much quicker to enter a destination and manipulate routes. This was the same case for the TL when I completed the East Coast Tour.

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James took the wheel for the first leg of the journey while the rest of us sat back and enjoyed the views.

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Colorado state line! Our route took us through a small bit of the Southwest corner of Colorado.

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Outside of Cortez is a roadside attraction we just had to investigate called the Creations of Mufflers. Thanks to Roadsideamerica, we got to what looked like a plot of private land that was turned into a virtual park.

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No official parking here…just on the side of the road.

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The sign at the entrance welcomes you in and only asks you to “close the gate behind you to not let the goats out.” We unfortunately didn’t see any goats.

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Bizzare yet cool are how I would describe this land of muffler folk.

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Onwards!

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Arrived in Utah!

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The majestic clear sky blended nicely with the Blue Reflex Metallic paint on the 6.

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Along the way, we made a pit stop at Hole in the Rock.

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Crowds deterred us from exploring the historic 5,000SF home carved into the rock. I never have been inside, but I hear it’s well worth the $5 admission to explore. We did check out the adjacent petting zoo to stretch our legs a bit.

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$7 here gets you a full cup of feed for the animals behind the gates. Nipped fingers aren’t compensated for.

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I chose to be the photographer rather than participate in feeding. Here’s James getting acquainted with one of the two camels on site. They also had goats, zebras, deer, hippos and giraffes.  Overall, lots of fun and we enjoyed the different animal behaviors.

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Next pit stop, a quick hike up to the Wilson Arch near Montecillo, UT.

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An overview of the arch.

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And since I’m posting this on a Thursday, let’s fit in a few #throwbacks: Tyson Hugie’s ’94 Legend from DrivetoFive.

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My ’04 Accord from the 2013 Tour of the West.

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We continued on Hwy 191 toward Moab, UT where we spent the night.
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The following morning, we made a quick drive through Arches National Park. I’ve been here a total of 4 times now, but I still am impressed by the scale of these massive sandstone structures.

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From there it was a long drive so we hit the road hard. The route took us through Salt Lake City and up through Idaho to Ontario, OR where the next night stop was.

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I was thankful Utah and Idaho interstates allow for 80(ish)MPH cruising. The 6 felt solid on these interstates though I did detect some wandering that required constant corrections through the steering wheel. I originally assumed a slight head wind was in play or just the weight of extra passengers and luggage on the back lifting the front end slightly. In the end, the fix was simple and surprising. More on that in the next post.

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Some clouds rolled in and gave us a little sprinkle here and there. The 6’s automatic wipers were a nice feature for this sort of scenario. I never had to touch the wiper stalk.

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Several hours later…Ontario, OR!

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The following morning was filled with warm sunlight and calm breezes. We took I-84 north towards Washington where we’d check out Seattle.

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Crossing the mighty Columbia River into Washington!

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After zipping through Yakima and a few other small towns, Seattle was on the horizon.  With a population of over 668,000, this is the largest city in Washington and the entire Pacific Northwest. The metro area is closer to 3.6 million.

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Very pretty compared to many other cities I’ve seen.

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Once in downtown Seattle, the first car that caught my eye was this Impala sporting some vicious-looking spinners. Definitely wouldn’t want to get too close to this guy.

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We felt the urge to see some action at the Seattle Zoo (called Woodland Park Zoo) and then headed over to the Seattle Space Needle. This observation tower is a major landmark in the Pacific Northwest. It was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair and has been designated as a historical landmark. Up top, there is a fully rotating restaurant called SkyCity. This entire structure was once the tallest structure in the western United States at 605ft tall.

Being in the center of Seattle, parking isn’t that easy to come by. We settled for 2hr $10 public parking which we had to wait quite a while before a space opened up.

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From there, we could easily see the ‘Needle.

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My Space Needle pass! Quite pricey at $30, but was well worth it.

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An elevator ride up to the top took 41 seconds at 10MPH. On windy days, it slows to 5MPH. Once up top, the cityscape was incredible. Just about as spectacular as the views from New York’s Empire State Building.

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Bad photo here: Jennifer, Alec and James.

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Jennifer taking it all in.

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After the Space Needle, we headed to Pike’s Place Market that overlooks the Elliott Bay.

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Since we all are Starbucks junkies, we had to check out the very first Starbucks store located right here.

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I loved how the store had a local feel and didn’t show a lot of the corporate, shiny, hip decor. It was plain, rustic and felt original. Props to Starbucks for keeping the store this way. We all got “First Store” mugs as well as drinks.

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Well, that’s enough jabbering for one post. Stay tuned, Part 2 is coming up!

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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 II: Horseshoe Bend

Let’s soldier on with the fun in Northern Arizona. Continuing where we left off at the Utah state line, we headed to enjoy the sunset 4 miles southwest of Page to a place called, “Horseshoe Bend.”

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This geological masterpiece is a sharp 180-degree Colorado River meander. Access to this is an easy turn off Hwy 89 to an access road, then a 3/4 mile hike to the overlook. Even the views on the hike were grand.

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Arrived! That’s a good 1,000ft drop right there!

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Picture of Tyson, Alec, and Stephen.

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Picture of Alec who was very excited to venture off on his own and take in the sights.

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Selfie

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Photo of Peter on the ledge.

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Jouhl taking it all in.

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Back at the trailhead, it was time for some puddle pictures! Thanks to Peter for his mean photo skills here.

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Quite possibly the best photo I have to date of the Mazda. None of these have been edited…that’s how perfect the lighting was.

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Tyson’s ILX was especially ad-worthy.

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Next was dinner in Page at Strombolli’s Italian restaurant. It certainly hit the spot.

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Since we all were iPhone users, we decided to stack them on the table for kicks. Peter calculated that this stack came close to $5k retail!

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Thanks to a suggestion from Tyson, we played a game…a painful game. He suggested,  “Let’s challenge ourselves to leave these phones here for the entire meal and not touch them.” We did and it was harder than it sounds. However, we all had a good old fashioned dinner where we could do the unthinkable…talk to each other. Amazing!

That night we all were exhausted, but very satisfied from the day. We crashed out in the plush Comfort Inn beds. The next morning, Jouhl, Jennifer, Alec and I decided to depart early for hopes of not getting back to Las Cruces too late. It was going to be a long haul. After we grabbed breakfast, packaged, said our good-byes to Tyson, Stephen, Peter and Chris, we came out to this. That’s one frozen Mazda!

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Page was a nice crisp 30˚F.

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I made sure to pack throughly for this trip. I had tools, jumper cables, first aide kit, flashlights, rags, extra quart of oil, blankets, kitty litter in case we get stuck in snow. Ice scraper? Oops! Forgot that. So, I put my Bank of America card to work again.

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Back on the road, and you could see Flagstaff’s San Francisco peaks in the distance.

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Pitt stop

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Since our route home took us east on I-40, we zipped by the Petrified Forest National Park. Jennifer and Alec had never been.

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Hike down to the badlands!

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Quick stop for a cheesy pic at a tourist trap off I-40.

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We got back to Las Cruces around 11:00PM. Not too bad considering the overall drive was 9.5hrs of just driving. That concludes another grand adventure!

In other news, I’m still in contact with Justin, the new owner of the TL. He has made some personal touches to it which include color matching the front grille and rear trim pieces, adding some OEM aluminum pedals and debadging the rear. He also did a full paint correction and it shows! Keep up the great work, Justin!

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Those aluminum pedals look sharp! Something I should have done a long time ago.

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That’s all for now, thank you all for coming along!

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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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