Tag Archives: mazda6

Zoom-to-200: 15 Years and 200,000 Miles

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Let’s take a little trip back in time: It’s 2004 – Shrek 2 is making 919.8 million in the box office, Usher’s, “Yeah!” is the top song; and George W. Bush is re-elected president. I’m in my second year of college and grandma and grandpa want to buy a new car. A full detailed story of that is here. We purchased a new Mazda 6 “i” 5-speed in Pebble Ash Metallic on August 3, 2004. This was in Farmington, NM at Performance Mazda/Mitsubishi/Suzuki. Fast forward 15 years to this day (8/3/04 – 8/3/19), and I take this car back to the same dealer where I also roll 200,000 miles.

I realize cars achieve 200,000 miles everyday, and it doesn’t necessarily warrant a big fuss. But wait, this might catch your attention: Our Mazda 6 has achieved this milestone with the original motor, transmission, clutch and even the original brakes. Yes, those brake pads are the same ones that left the factory in 2004. There have been no unscheduled repairs and all the body panels are original…even the headlight lenses. Good proof here that anyone who doubts high mileage cars can do this with regular maintenance and care. Don’t be afraid. We are in a new era where planned obsolescence hasn’t fully reached cars yet. At least mainstream cars.

Let’s get on with the milestone. This event took careful planning. Trying to get to 200,000 miles on a specific day is harder than you’d think. Regardless, I was up for the challenge. I marketed this little event, #zoomto200.

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I was able to have a few friends accompany me on this milestone, Tyson and James. With a little coordinating, we agreed to meet in Farmington, NM the weekend of August 3rd.

My route took an easy 6 hours. Tyson and James had a little more ground to cover coming from Phoenix, AZ.

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Prior to my departure from Las Cruces, NM, I applied this product called, Track Armour which is essentially a temporary clear bra to protect the front end from bugs, stones and other debris. Since I had a good 400+ miles to cover and didn’t want to worry about washing, I thought this would be a good solution to ensure the 6 arrived somewhat clean.

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On the road again!

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Mileage at 199,519.

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Knowing that I’d have a surplus of miles, I chose to go the long way via Highway 371. Stop of fuel, snacks, then proceeded onward.

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Highway 371 is about as lonely as you can get in New Mexico.

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I arrived later that evening in Farmington right at 199,900 miles. Oof! That isn’t going to cut it since the milestone was the next morning.

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Doubt anyone with even a modicum of common sense would do this, but I turned around and headed in the opposite direction to burn miles. It was nearing 10 pm by this time. The blurry quality of this photo reflects my determination to get those miles close to what I needed.

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Finally, I got to where I needed and came back to the hotel for the night where Tyson and James arrived shortly after.

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I removed the Track Armour and was very pleased with the protection it provided even with a few rain showers.

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The next morning after hitting the continental breakfast buffet, we headed straight to the dealership for the big event. The dealer stopped carrying Mazda and was renamed in 2010 to Hi Country Mitsubishi/Kia, but the building and lot remains the same as it was in 2004.

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To keep the nostalgia going, I installed the temp tag from 2004.

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And here we go…200,000 miles!

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Next on the agenda was to recreate the ramp photo. Compare 2004 to 2019…

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Very minor changes such as removal of the front plate bracket, OEM spoiler added as well as the chrome accessory wheels. Everything else remains the same on this car.

Here’s a vlog post of Tyson’s that sums up the experience.

Next, we headed back south on 371 to explore the “Bisti / De-Na-Zin” Wilderness, just 30 miles from Farmington. This rolling landscape of badlands features some desolate, very unusual scenery. Perfect for a little nature adventure.

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In interest in preserving my 6, I parked it at the entrance and hitched a ride with James in his press Toyota Highlander as we attacked the rutted dirt roads leading into the badlands.

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Tyson’s ILX in its other natural habitat.

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Better plan to bring snacks and water, because there aren’t any facilities out here.

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Group shot of James, me and Tyson.

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Another successful road trip in the books. My garage floor update is coming up next!

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Bringing the Contour’s Paint Back to Life

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Time to strap on the latex gloves and bring out the detailing gear on the Contour! As I pointed out in the last post, much of the car is in decent condition, and only needs a little superficial TLC to make it pop. That’s where I spent my energy these past few weeks. It’s been a long process, and I’m no where near finished. A few hours here and there after work is all I’ve been able to devote to this project. However, I’m seeing some good results.

First off, let’s talk about that flag you’ll be seeing in the background. Since there’s a Ford in the garage now, I found it fitting to get something for it.

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Personalized plate arrived too!

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Okay, now on to the paint. I first tackled the rear bumper. Aside from the roof, which I’ll get to in March or April, this is the biggest eye sore. I used my Porter Cable buffer with a yellow cutting pad and Meguiar’s Ultimate Cutting Compound followed by a black pad and polish. The paint here looked to be original with very heavy oxidation and bad clear coat failure at the very top. My plan of attack:

  • Compound the entire bumper to take as much oxidation off as possible
  • Level/sand down the blistered clear coat areas
  • Spray paint the bad areas using a two-step process of base and top coats
  • Compound again to blend and level it all out
  • Finalize with Wolfgang polish and carnauba wax

The original plan was for a body shop take care of this while also doing the roof. However, the bumper is a little warped in some areas and there’s a small corner broken off that bugs me. I’m unsure if I’ll keep it or seek a replacement. So for now, I’m just doing a cheap fix. The above steps should hold me over for a year or so.

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Even at the highest RPM on my buffer, this took some time to see decent results. Here’s a 50/50 shot.

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I also attacked some of the quarter panels. These weren’t quite as intense. Still plenty of scratches to be removed.

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Check out that shine and metallic flake! This is why I love Ford’s Toreador Red Metallic.

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I also went down the driver’s side.

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Though I plan to replace the current exhaust setup, I couldn’t let it go without a good cleaning too.

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Examining the bumper in sunlight. You can see a tremendous improvement, though the failed clear coat is still apparent. Time to address that…

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This is my first time doing a cheap rattle-can paint job, so the whole thing has been a learning experience. I first dry sanded the rough areas to ensure a smooth finish and good adhesion.

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I then removed the bumper to see if I could improve the alignment and tighten the panel gaps. Doing this prior to painting would prevent the new paint from blistering from all the flexing and bending.

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Back on the car with minimal improvements to the fitment. I emptied an entire 8oz can of Dupli-Color BFM0344 base coat and topped with another 8oz of Dupli-Color EBCL01257 clear. This is cheap stuff, but went on effortlessly.

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The results as of this posting. There’s plenty of orange peel, but the color match is pretty spot on. I’m waiting for the appropriate cure time before hitting the whole thing with compound again. I’ll report back with the results.

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You may notice that I extended the paint down pretty low to cover up the compounding job I just finished. That was to help with blending.

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On another topic, I’ve been revamping my car record binders. Adding the Contour made me realize that a fresh, consistent look was needed. The gray 6’s binder was getting so full that I had to create a Volume II. With over 264,000 miles, those records really add up.

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Here’s the Contour’s documentation and promotional material, some of which I’ve added. Not pictured here (from being hidden somewhere in storage) I have a VHS tape of the SVT Contour debut. That will be fun to find again though I won’t be able to play it. Anyone still have an old VHS player to loan?

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I was able to find that video on Youtube (Warning: hardcore 90s content here). At 0:58, you can hear how aggressive it sounded even in stock form.

The first owner must have been an enthusiast as there were plenty of SVT news printouts. I’m also lucky enough to have the original sales contract.

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Given my new branding of, “Pawela’s Garage”, it was time to give the old garage a little love too.

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New artwork and displays on the east wall. Next on the list will be performing lighting upgrades.

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And included with those displays, I added window stickers for each car. Both the Mazda’s needed to be recreated which I painstakingly did in Adobe Illustrator.

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Though the attention as been mostly on the Contour, the Mazda’s aren’t forgotten.

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Sunset shot of the daily…

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And the “i” got a bath to clear away the dust. I’ve only driven this 200 miles within the past 3 months.

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That does it for now. Until next time!

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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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Douglas, AZ; Mogollon, NM; and a Quarter Million Mile Milestone

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Happy Friday! Hope you all are enjoying the warmer weather. Here in Las Cruces, NM, we have been consistently in the triple digits with no sign of relief in the near future. Nothing else to do but embrace it, I guess. Since I’ve been MIA for a while, I have a few adventures to catch up on:

Douglas, Arizona:

Back in late May, I made a day trip to meet up for lunch with my friend, Tyson. Despite living nearly 400 miles apart, we traditionally have met at a midpoint for day trips. This time, it was the small border town of Douglas, AZ.

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At just over 16,000 residents, this town sits along the border of Mexico and is one of the more popular international crossings in this area. Incorporated in 1905, the town got its name from James Douglas, a mining pioneer. The most significant landmark the town offers is the Gadsden Hotel. Built in 1907, then destroyed by a fire, it was rebuilt in 1929 and most of what you see today has been preserved from then.

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This was the perfect meeting point for lunch. I met Tyson here in the 6 while he was driving his tried and true ’92 Integra GS-R. Both of our cars are well over 200,000 miles, but neither of us questioned bringing them to a small town hundreds of miles from any major service facilities.

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Stepping inside the hotel, we were greeted with an elaborate interior. Detailed woodwork, massive stained glass murals, marble for days, and a grand staircase sitting at the base of a towering foyer make you feel like you’re in something very special.

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Lunch was at the hotel restaurant, Casa Segovia. We dang near had the place to ourselves and was given the red-carpet treatment from the staff. Chicken Enchiladas Verde hit the spot.

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After lunch, we did our usual exploring with a few car photos.

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Thanks, Tyson for meeting up!

250,000 Miles and Mogollon, NM

Since the Douglas meet with Tyson, we had entertained the idea of doing another drive where both our cars would turnover 250,000 miles at the same time. His Integra was only a few thousand miles behind the 6 in reaching that milestone. However, both of our busy schedules didn’t allow for that, so maybe at another milestone later.

I took advantage of a work related assignment in Silver City and drove north from there into the Gila wilderness to get the 6 to 250,000. The historic ghost town of Mogollon was exactly the distance I needed (~240 miles). This makes my second visit to Mogollon as I first visited the town back in 2015.

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Misty rain, cloud cover and virtually no traffic was just what the doctor ordered! A major relief from several consecutive days of 100+°F.

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The winding road leading up to Mogollon turns into a single lane. Watch out around those blind corners!

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My dog Charlie accompanied me on this drive, and we would make occasional pit stops to stretch his legs.

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Switchbacks galore.

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Lots of deer and elk spotted along the way.

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Arrived!

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Lots of infrastructure improvements have been made since my last visit. To prevent flooding from future storm events, NMDOT improved the roadway significantly with a large channel and other drainage facilities.

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Check out the difference from 2015…

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Most of the town was closed so I didn’t stay long. Back to my mission and on the way back down the mountain, it happened…

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Quarter million miles, baby! Complete with matching trip odo reading.

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Thanks for coming along for the ride. Until next time!

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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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California Drive Part I: Salton Sea and Bombay Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I crossed the California state line right before sunset.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the cars on this drive…

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

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

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

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

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

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Looks cozy, Tyson!

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

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

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

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

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Glimpse from below.

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

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Here are a few DLSR photos of the day…

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

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

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I have quite a bit more coming. Stay tuned!

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Dissecting a 2007 Mazdaspeed 6

Happy Friday! The Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone and now we have Christmas lined up. My, how time flies. I haven’t been on the road as much in the past month due to workload and some general duties I had to take care of at home. Broken water heater, sudden cold front with freezing water lines and other fun home ownership stuff.

However, I did manage to get away a few times to my favorite junkyard, U-Pull-and-Pay in Albuquerque, NM (about 250 miles from Las Cruces). This actually was my Black Friday shopping stop. U-Pull-and-Pay is a self-service junkyard wonderland with a few locations scattered across the U.S. The rules are simple: Pay $2 to get you through the gates, bring your own tools and go to town! Most of the time, I will simply browse the endless aisles of retired cars, but what brought me here the last few times was a tip I received of a wrecked 2007 Mazdaspeed 6 that just arrived. I’ve been looking for one of these for a long time to snatch parts from. I had no idea what condition it was in or what parts were still good, but I took a chance to go find out as these are very hard to come by.

First though, a little background on the ‘Speed6 just so you can gather how excited I was to stumble upon one:

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The original Mazda 6 was introduced to the States in 2003-2005 as a successor to the rather bland 626. In 2006, Mazda gave the 6 a mild refresh and introduced a hot-rod version, the Mazdaspeed 6. “Mazdaspeed” is your equivalent SVT, AMG or S-line variant. What set this apart from the bread-and-butter 6 was the addition of all-wheel-drive, a short-throw 6-speed manual transmission (no automatics were offered), and several upscale features and interior upgrades to fathom the nearly $35,000 price tag for a top line, Grand Touring. Mazdaspeed also provided a pretty special motor: a turbocharged, direct injection 274HP version of the 2.3L 4-cylinder. Rumors have spread that this is very closely related to the 2.3 Ecoboost motor in the 2015 Mustang. More details on the ‘Speed6 can be had here.

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2006 MAZDASPEED6

Despite the love-it-or-hate-it styling, I had entertained the idea of getting a ‘Speed6 for myself. There are two factors which keep me from getting one.

  • They are incredibly hard to come by (only made for two years!) and those few that you find are heavily modded or already trashed. It’s like trying to find a mint, stock first generation WRX. Not too many left out there.
  • The ‘Speed6 required a bit more care and maintenance from all the beefed up hardware underneath. A well cared for example probably would treat you well, but there are a few issues that arise such as complicated suspension overhauls at 100,000 miles and finicky clutches.

Even though the ‘Speed6 differs from the regular 6 in many respects, a lot of cosmetic parts are interchangeable. That’s where this post comes in. Let’s check out the findings!

Here’s the ‘Speed6 donor car at U-Pull. It’s a white water pearl 2007 Grand Touring model…meaning FULLY LOADED!

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The front end and motor were already pretty much raided, but the interior was fully intact! I snatched the front seats, console and a few other bits that would fit in my car.  I took a photo of the VIN number to run its history on CarFax.

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Poor car had been through quite a bit. 5 previous owners and it was badly wrecked while the 4th owner had it.

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The last reported mileage was only 82,800!

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When I was all finished, the car was pretty much cleared out.

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Waiting in line to pay…

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Seat installation. The left side is the ‘Speed6 seat compared to the old one on the right. There is significantly more shoulder and lateral support in these!

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Driver’s installed. The differences are visually very minor.

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Seats installed and ready to go! Unfortunately, this wasn’t a plug-in-play deal. The 2006+ seats have different resistors in the seat belt buckles and side airbags that would very easily make my safety system freak out (ie. airbag lights). To avoid this, all I had to do was simply swap the harnesses and buckles from the old seats to these. No issues reported so far.

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Other goodies were console trim, armrest, vents and tail lights. All are purely for cosmetic purposes aside from the armrest which has more padding than my generation of 6.

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Console installed. Can you spot the changes? The center stack is still in the works.

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Stock tails…

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‘Speed6 tails.

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And a few photos from random weekend adventures…

Roswell, NM

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Carrizozo, NM

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And some frozen face fun in Ruidoso, NM!

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Thanks for stopping by. Until next time…

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

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

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

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

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

2015-10-28 13_15_12-Las Cruces, NM to Chiricahua Mountains, Cochise County, AZ - Google Maps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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James Lee followed in my 6.

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

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

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Following Tyson’s Legend.

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

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

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James Zamora taking in the scenery.

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Our other James doing the same.

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

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

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Entering the Grottoes!

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A rather poor photo of “Balanced Rock”

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

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

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

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

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

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Photos by Tyson:

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Photo by James Lee:

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Tyson’s Legend coupe and the 6.

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

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

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Peter’s 200,000 Mile Celebratory Drive to Bryce Canyon, UT

There are those car guys who try to keep their mileage as low as possible. I’ve seen it turn into a competition before…”who can drive their car the least!” And then, there are those who get satisfaction from watching those digits pile on. I’m one, many in my family are, and so are a lot of my friends. Tyson Hugie from drivetofive takes the cake for achieving multiple odometer rollovers, but many of his friends do enjoy getting up there in miles also. This feature goes to our friend, Peter (you may remember Peter from Antelope Canyon and Death Valley) and his Satin Silver Metallic 2004 Acura TSX. Peter timed it just right to make a group-drive out of his little TSX turning over 200,000 miles.

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The destination would be Bryce Canyon, UT.

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This massive 36,000 acre park gets close to 1.4 million visitors annually to visit the magnificent giant natural amphitheaters. Further research on this reveal this is actually not a canyon despite the name. It was not formed from erosion of a central stream. Rather, it was formed by “headward” erosion which has to do with an origin moving away from direction of stream flow. The rim at Bryce sits rather high (higher than Zion National Park) at 8-9000 ft.

Attendees for the drive were, Peter, Tyson (drivetofive) and James Lee of Six Speed Blog. They all would be coming from Phoenix. Long drive for me, an afternoon jaunt for Phoenicians. Let’s get started!

The drive was as follows for me:

  • Las Cruces, NM to Grants, NM for the first night
  • Grants, NM to St. George, UT where I’d meet Tyson, Peter and James
  • St. George, UT to Flagstaff, AZ
  • Flagstaff, AZ back to Las Cruces, NM

Total distance was about 2,000 miles.

2015-08-28 09_13_18-Grants, NM to Las Cruces, NM - Google Maps

Before we set off, let me walk you through a little project I did the week prior. I finally decided I had enough of the yellowing, pitted OEM headlights which also had a few electrical issues due to the wire insulation breaking down from age. Instead of springing for a new set of OEM headlights which would be in the neighborhood of $600+, I chose the aftermarket route and went with DEPO for $200. I can’t say installation was a breeze, but I’ve certainly been through worse installs:

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A comparison here doesn’t show that big of a difference, but when the sun shines, there is!

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Little test drive sans front bumper.

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All seemed well, so I put her back together and gave her a nice wash for the trip.

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The next day, (of course!) it rained on me on the first leg of the trip. So much for an extensive wash.

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Nothing I could do about it but sit back, relax and enjoy the tunes on the Bose 6-disc CD.

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Just 20 miles outside of Las Cruces and we got a mini-milestone! IMG_5735

I arrived in Grants, NM for the first night around 10:30pm. The next day called for some fuel before getting deep into the drive.

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350 miles into the weekend and already collecting quite a few bugs!

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On I-40 towards Gallup, NM and Windowrock, AZ.

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The famous Window Rock sitting at the heart of the Navajo Nation Government.

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Next stop, Canyon de Chelly just outside of Chinle, AZ.

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Then Utah!

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Love Southern Utah’s desolate roads with a generous helping of southwest landscape.

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Arrived at the second night stay just after dusk.

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Tyson and Peter drove up from Phoenix and we happened to arrive spot on at the same time.

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Dinner with the gang. Big thanks to Tyson and his Mom (Or MamaTia as she had us call her) for hosting us for the night. James would be joining us later on in a press Hyundai Sonata Hybrid.

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Next morning, Tyson shared his view of the front yard.

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After a little breakfast, we prepped for a little photo op and then set off for Bryce Canyon.

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We didn’t even get any stares from the neighbors. From left to right: Tyson’s 2013 ILX 6-speed, My 2004 Mazda 6 5-speed, MamaTia’s 2010 VW Eos 6-speed, James’ Hyundai Sonata Hybrid CVT, Peter’s 2004 TSX 6-speed.

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Speaking of all these ‘speeds, check out Peter’s support here…

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Short stop just outside of Cedar City, UT before we entered Hwy 14 East towards Duck Creek Canyon. The elevation was a bit higher than St. George, and we were able to open the windows and allow the cool breezes come in and accompany us for the drive.

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This is the spot where the TSX rolled over to 200k!

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Perfect spot with great scenery.

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Soon we took the Scenic Byway 12 to Bryce.

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After entering the park, our first goal was to hike around Sunset Point.

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The “Wow!” factor here…

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We hiked down to the bottom which took us to a canyon with towering walls. This felt very much like Antelope Canyon.

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Happy hikers!

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Climbing back up wasn’t quite as thrilling as the decent, but what’s the harm in ridding a few calories?

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After making it to the top and catching our breath.

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Exhausted, dehydrated and hungry, we all set out for the historic Bryce Canyon Lodge for some lunch. The Lodge dates back to 1924 and was one of 4 built in the Union Pacific Tour. Lunch was spot on what we needed. Next, we drove on toward Rainbow Point, the highest point in Bryce at 9,105ft.

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Here it is! Thunder, light rain and eventually some hail made this stop rather quick and we rushed back to our cars for shelter.

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We swapped cars back and fourth on the way out of Bryce. I was able to sample the ILX again as well as Peter’s TSX. Both were equally fun to drive and having cool crisp temperatures blow in the open windows was icing on the cake! Here we spotted what looks like the next Hyundai Elantra dressed up in camo. Any time there’s an automotive test mule, we have to stop and investigate!

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Taking the ILX on Hwy 89 while Peter and James took my 6 and Tyson in Peter’s TSX.

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Since Peter’s TSX is lowered on coilovers, it sure handled like it was on rails! Was definitely a fun car to take a quick spin in. Despite the miles, the TSX felt solid, swift and mechanically sound. Here is our last stop before parting ways. I headed South on 89 towards Flagstaff and the rest headed back on Hwy 14 to St. George for another night at MamaTia’s.

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Making my way back to the Arizona border.

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Vermillion Cliffs outside of Page, AZ.

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Taking 89A. This is definitely one of the most scenic and fun roads I’ve been on. Smooth and virtually free of traffic, I was able to let the 6 stretch its legs.

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Fueling at an old-school pump outside of Marble Canyon, AZ.

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Stopped for a quick photo at the Navajo Bridge off of 89a where the mighty Colorado River passes through.

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Fastforwarding a few hours and I arrived in Flagstaff, AZ for the night. I was beat and slept like a log. The next morning, I awoke early to hit the road for home. The temperature was a crisp 57 degrees.

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I grabbed a burrito at the nearby gas station and set off for Sedona, AZ. My route would be going through the Oak Creek Canyon on 89A.

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View from a scenic point where one can see the fun curves that await!

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Down in the canyon.

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Very thankful to be on the road early and no tourists to get in the way.

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The town of Sedona was just as beautiful as always.

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Quick stop at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. This Catholic church is built right into the buttes of Sedona. It’s free to visit…I highly recommend a stop.

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From Sedona, I headed towards I-10 in Pheonix which would continue my journey back to Las Cruces. Only mishap on the entire trip was a pesky check engine light that popped up. This has been intermittent for the past few months and I can’t quite catch the root cause. All is performing nobly in the 6 and the light has always vanished by the next ignition cycle. Mechanic can’t find the cause either. Strange!

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Regardless, I arrived back in New Mexico in good time (before dark!)

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Ending mileage for the trip was 168,461. 170K is right around the corner…where will I be then?

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As always, thank you for coming along and a special congrats goes to Peter and his TSX for the 200k achievement!

 

 

 

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