Tag Archives: road trip

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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Taking the 6 to New Heights: 14,000 ft+ in Colorado Part II

Welcome to Part II of the Colorado Drive. Let’s begin:

The next day we made our way to Pikes Peak, just 30 miles west of Colorado Springs. First stop along the way was Garden of the Gods. This public park just west of Colorado Springs offers nice views with hiking and Segway tour accommodations. Since we wanted to be mindful of the time, we chose to just drive through.

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Wait. Did we stumble upon another planet? More amazing views.

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Cheesy photo by “balanced rock” in the park.

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Pikes Peak:

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Now let’s get to the good stuff. Making our way to Pikes Peak highway was an easy drive. Upon arrival at the tollgate, a rather lengthy line of cars were awaiting their turn to pay the entry fee to continue onward. It wasn’t the cheapest at $30 ($15 per person), but trust me…all was worth it. Pikes Peak is regarded as the most visited mountain in North America, and only second in the world next to Japan’s Mt. Fuji. At 14,115 ft above sea level, this is the 31st highest peak out of the 54 in Colorado. The Pikes Peak Highway from the base to the summit climbs 7,400 ft over just over 12 miles!

Four major events take place on this mountain each year, Pikes Peak Ascent and Marathon, Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Pikes Peak Challenge and the AdAmAn Club New Year’s Fireworks display. Best part for me is simply enjoying the views and crossing off another bucket list item.

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Making our way up to the summit. We are now beginning the 7,400 ft climb. THIS GETS STEEP!

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…and steeper (at timberline here)

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…and steeper! (now at alpine level) It’s certainly an odd feeling being nearly eye-level with the clouds.

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Nah, you don’t need no stinkin’ guardrails here. Some areas you would fall to certain death if you got a little careless with driving.

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Some views midway.

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The views were quite intoxicating, and most curves were perfectly banked for some decent fun.

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Mostly though, we just took our time at a steady pace. After a little under an hour which included many photo stops, we made it!

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We checked out The Summit House which was the only facility at the summit. Stuffed full of endless souvenirs and a small cafe, you could get lost in there for quite some time. A small burger and milk shake sure hit the spot and I did manage to buy a few items.

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Outside the Summit House, you’re free to walk around with no barriers, fencing or other obstructions and take in the scenery.

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When it was time to start the descend, I was surprised that 1 – 2nd gear and 4,000 rpms were all I could use to comfortably control the speed. Rain started to come down which made me even more cautious.

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Midway down the mountain, there was a mandatory brake check where a nice lady actually checked each vehicle’s rotors and pads with a temperature gauge. If your brakes were too toasty, you have to pull aside to let them cool before proceeding. This was serious stuff here. Luckily, we sailed on by with no issue.

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That covers it! Apologies I couldn’t offer up some more excitement in the mix. Saying “Two dudes drive an old Mazda up two mountains without incident” doesn’t exactly make for an exciting read. However, if you stuck around long enough to read this, I thank you for joining the ride. Until next time…

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Taking the 6 to New Heights: 14,000 ft+ in Colorado Part I

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Sometimes past drives are so memorable that I just need to get back for another go. I’ve had this goal for many places I’ve visited, but one that tops the list was Mt. Evans in Colorado…the highest paved road in North America.

I actually didn’t plan this much in advance. It was more of a last minute trip idea, and not going to be a blog post until I decided to throw in one more stop, Pikes Peak! This trip happened in early August of this year, so the weather was just right…cool temps with light spots of rain. My buddy, James Zamora, and I decided that a four-day weekend was in order to escape the humid heat of the desert in search of those cooler temps.

You may remember my first drive to Mt. Evans in 2013 with James and Tyson from drivetofive. I drove my 2004 Honda Accord Coupe V6 6spd then and never forgot the experience. We planned to visit Pikes Peak as well, but it was closed for a bike event. Mercifully, it was open this time so I couldn’t pass it up. Now, let’s give my Mazda 6 that same Mt. Evans experience and see how the 230,000 mile motor handles 14,000+ ft above sea level…twice! While Mt. Evans soars to 14,211 ft, Pikes Peak isn’t that far behind at 14,112 ft. More importantly, how would I handle those heights since I’ve not been in the best shape lately. Let’s find out!

Total drive time: 22hrs
Total miles: 1,451

Starting day: Picked up James Z. from Socorro, NM and we headed out on I-25. With multiple clouds multiplying in the sky, it was sure to be a beautiful day. We planned it by spending the night in Denver, attack Mt. Evans Saturday and Pikes Peak the following day near Colorado Springs. Let’s get going…

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Getting into Colorado with a gentle mist in the air. Note this was the time I was trying out those chrome alloys!

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Oh, what’s this? A national park along the way? It’s the Great Sand Dunes National Park, and we both had never been. Time to rectify that.

 

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Checkout those menacing clouds!

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A rather underrated National Park, the Grand Sand Dunes lives in southern Colorado and is known for being the tallest sand dunes in North America. Being at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range, it offers some of the most majestic scenery around Southern Colorado. I highly recommend a stop to just let your feet sink into the sand.

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We continued onward to Denver for the night. Hotel of choice was the Hyatt Business center which had the best rates on the south end of town.

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The following day gave us bright and sunny weather for the drive to Mt. Evans. I was thrilled to be once again driving this highest paved road in North America. Lots of switchbacks with no shoulders or no guardrails await!

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Didn’t take long to get up into alpine country.

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Stop at Summit Lake, just 5.5 miles from the top of Mt. Evans.

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Thanks to James for helping out with the photography. This selfie mirror shot is starting to become a tradition.

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Made it to the top! Parking was a little tricky since there were quite a few tourists at this time of year. The little 6 charged up the mountain without incident.

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Summit sign.

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Views for days!

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And it wouldn’t be a 14,000 ft+ experience without spotting the occasional big horned sheep and mountain goat!

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Heading back down. Luckily, we didn’t suffer any ill effects of the altitude aside from a very slight headache I felt coming on. This could also have been my lack of water intake that day, though.

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We wrapped up the day with an easy drive to Colorado Springs for the night. Stay tuned for Part II of Pikes Peak!

 

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Three Year Anniversary and 100,000 Miles

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Hey All,

Several months have past since my last update…for shame! Well, today I actually had a few free minutes at work to get out a short little post here. Yesterday (November 7, 2017) marked the third year of owning the 6, and I couldn’t let that go too far without a post to celebrate the occasion! Who would have thought that I’d keep this a freakin’ three years?!! I did say in my one year post that I have enjoyed every mile. To date, I still feel the same.  She’s still not the prettiest, fastest, and not exactly dripping with the latest tech, but this rickety little 6 just keeps on purring regardless of what gets thrown at it.

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Well, somewhat. This past year hasn’t exactly been the cheapest, nor the most trouble free if I’m honest. Here’s a list some rather costly maintenance items and repairs which far exceed the value of the car:

  • Early January, 2017: Fuel system cleaning, OEM O2 sensor, spark plugs, valve cover gasket, coolant and manual transmission fluid flush | $1,200
  • Late January, 2017: OEM Alternator replacement | $975
  • June, 2017: OEM Fuel pump replacement | ~$500 w/ a DIY install
  • July, 2017: Front passenger OEM control arm | $950
  • August, 2017: Alignment | $80
  • September, 2017: OEM coil replacement | $75 w/ DIY install
  • October, 2017: New front rotors and pad | $725

That’s a total of around $4,505! That alternator was the most painful as it was my first official breakdown. Thankfully, AAA was there very quickly to save my butt.

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Just for fun, I ran a Kelly Blue Book value check for a dealer trade-in (don’t worry, I’m not even entertaining that idea). I was quite shocked! The Private Party value wasn’t much better. The mileage really makes a dent in the value.

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With that said, I plan to make that high mileage even higher. As of today, I  achieved a pretty significant milestone: 238,954 miles. Why does that matter? That’s exactly 100,000 miles since the day I drove this car home from Phoenix back in 2014!

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Think I should go for another 100,000? We shall see. I haven’t done as much traveling this year as I wanted to (partly from home renovations and just a heavy load at work), but I do get out once in a while. Here are a few photos outlining the past year:

Hauling whatever would fit for those home remodeling jobs.

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Actually have been using the 6 quite a bit in job related functions.

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Road trip with Dad to California

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Finally got to see by buddy, Tyson, and his new digs in Phoenix.

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Gila Wilderness

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Lots of random exploring around Doña Ana County where I live.

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I performed a major interior detail and refresh for the first time since the Alaska trip last year. New headliner is finally completed as well.

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Two big road trips did happen, however I won’t spill the beans just yet. They will have to be their own post.

Cosmetic Updates:

The 6 had a bit of an identity crisis of late thanks to me. I recently grabbed a set of OEM chrome accessory wheels off of eBay for a decent price and decided to try them out.

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I ended up not liking them, so back went the faded stock ones. I also decided to try out the OEM sport grille again to give the front end a little refresh.

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…and finally, I performed a complete badge removal. That included the little “V6” emblems as well as the “Mazda6” in the back. So far, I’m pretty happy with the results. What do you all think? This could be the updated look for the next few years…or more?

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Oh, and one more thing…I added a new custom vanity New Mexico plate!

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That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by!

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Phoenix, AZ and Training in Las Vegas, NV

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Greetings! Summer is here in Las Cruces, NM and the heat is definitely on. 100s all week and into the next. I don’t mind at all as it’s just part of the summer experience.

Speaking of heat, I recently was asked to attend a training in Las Vegas, NV for work. Road trip while getting paid? You bet! Flying was offered as an option, but I chose the longer, driving route. While it was quite warm in Las Cruces, it was dang HOT on this trip. First stop was in Phoenix, AZ (about half way) where I had 5-star accommodations at my buddy’s (Tyson’s) place. From Phoenix, it was an easy 4.5hr drive to Las Vegas. Phoenix was around 110 degrees where ‘Vegas was ONLY 109!

Total drive: 1,400 miles and ~22hrs of windshield time. Here’s the montage of the journey. Enjoy!

Gas stop in Lordsburg, NM

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Arrival at Tyson’s place in Phoenix. Even though he was away in Utah at that particular time, he generously allowed me to stay at his new place (purchased last June).

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A few photos while exploring the area. (This one is for you, Tyson!)

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Inverted pyramid building in central Phoenix.

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I snuck into Tyson’s newly renovated garage to grab a few photos. This garage accommodates a whopping five cars, and is a showroom for his complete (sans an SLX) 90s Acura collection. So clean, you can eat off the floor!

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Next day I hit the road for ‘Vegas.

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Quick stop at Nothing, AZ. My second time here.

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Crossing the mighty Colorado River into Nevada!

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Arriving in ‘Vegas.

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My conference and two night stay was in Caesar’s Palace on the strip.

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Checking in…accommodations weren’t bad at all.

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A little exploring since I had the evening to myself. No gambling for me, though.

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The fountains at Bellagio..

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It didn’t take long before I was pooped. Since the conference started early the following morning, I hit the hay while the rest of the Strip hustled and bustled throughout the night.

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The following two days of training was here at Caesar’s conference tower.

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My last night at Caesar’s, I discovered a TV in the bathroom mirror?

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Return trip back home, and one more stop at Tyson’s. I gave his gorgeous 2007 Kinetic Blue 6-spd TL Type-s a quick drive. At 97,000 miles, it felt as though it just left the showroom. Someday, I might just have to grab one of these in black.

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Before heading out for Las Cruces, I started a new tradition by having significant folks who have ridden or driven the 6 in the past sign the trunk lid with a silver sharpie. Tyson and James Lee of sixspeedblog.com happily started us off.

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Interstate 10 all the way home, and I hit some nice cool rain along the way.

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About 30 miles from the New Mexico border, AZ Highway Patrol pulled me over for my window tint being too dark. Luckily I just got a warning, but I’m still puzzled by the stop considering I don’t reside in Arizona!

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Back in Las Cruces and thanks to the rain, I was able to turn off the A/C for the first time in months.

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That concludes the drive. Thanks for stopping by!

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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 – Day 3-4 St. Louis & Louisville

Let’s continue from Oklahoma! Jouhl and I drove on through. Just about every town we passed by, presented their mightiest flag. Perhaps this was because it was close to Memorial Day?

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As we piled on the miles, the landscape started to turn more and more green.

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The Missouri state line.

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First stop in Missouri: Grand Falls outside of Joplin.

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This was an unadvertised attraction and getting there requires taking a few back roads.

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The Missouri Grand Falls is one of many waterfalls on the Missouri River. This one is rather hidden from the public.

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The stop was worth it though!

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Going back to the Interstate…

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Next stop, St. Louis and The Gateway Arch. This 630-foot-high monument is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. It’s also Missouri’s tallest accessible building and world’s tallest arch—yes, you can go to the top! This was built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States. It is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and is an internationally famous symbol of St. Louis.

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Here’s a shot of downtown St. Louis.

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And here’s a shot with the TL.

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More state lines…

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Welcome to Kentucky!

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We made a quick stop in Louisville.

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We entered downtown to see the Wold’s Largest Bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum. This bat stands 120ft tall and weights about 34 tons.

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Here’s the bat. This photo doesn’t give you the sense of scale. You have to go and see for yourself!

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Next on the list was a drive by of one of the most haunted place in America. That is the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. This sanatorium opened in 1910 as a hospital to accommodate several tuberculosis patients. In the early 1900s, a massive outbreak of tuberculosis (the “White Plague”) prompted the construction of a new hospital. The hospital closed in 1962. The property is privately-owned with very strict security. Even stopping outside the gate can yield being yelled at from the security intercom. We still made a quick drive by..

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Best we could do.

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A quick google search shows what the building looks like.

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After Kentucky, we blew by Cincinnati, Ohio.

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And then West Virginia!

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And then Pennsylvania…

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There is so much more to share! I’ll be back…stay tuned!

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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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Grandpa and Dad’s Birthday Bash – Laughlin, NV

Late February and early March a special times in our family as that’s the time when my Dad and Grandpa both celebrate their birthdays. This year was pretty significant as my Grandpa was turning 90! We managed to get a good chunk of the family together for these occasions in Laughlin, NV. Why Laughlin? It’s always been a favorite of my Dad and Grandpa for being alongside the Colorado River and the many attractions that come with it. This was a weekend affair and even though it was going to be a good 1,200+ miles round-trip for me, I surely wasn’t going to miss it.

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Laughlin is 90 miles south of Las Vegas on the southernmost tip of Nevada. You cross the Colorado river where it is sprawled out, and you’ll find yourself in Arizona. It is best known for the casino scene, but there are many water recreation activities, fine dining, museums, hiking, fishing and a relatively large outlet mall. There was something for everyone. Laughlin is the third most visited casino destination in Nevada and one of the top five RV destinations.

Here’s what my drive looked like. I took a bit of a detour on the way back through Gallup. Total miles: 1,300+

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I set out Friday morning to make the 10hr drive from Las Cruces to Laughlin. Sun was shining and winds were down…great way to start the drive! I wasn’t on vacation yet though. Before officially setting out, I had to drop off some proposals for work in Deming, NM.

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Here’s the municipal building where they were to be delivered.

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On the way!

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I checked the weather for Laughlin that day and it looked like I was going to something I’ve missed for months…rain!

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As I drove further north, the clouds started to form. Here are some neat little stops I made along the way:

Burro Canyon:

Here I took a short pit stop at the Burro Creek Canyon Recreational area near Bagdad. Yes, there is a “Bagdad” in Arizona! That will be worthy of a future blog post.

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Nothing, AZ

Next stop along the way was, “Nothing.” Once an unincorporated settlement (founded in 1977) with just four inhabitants, it used to be a gas station, then a pizza place and then a mini-mart. Now, it’s literally just an abandoned wide place in the road.

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Here’s when it was a “happening” place.

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And here’s how it looks today. This is the only building that remains.

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My trip computer estimated that I had “523” miles to empty. Must have been a tail wind since I normally get 430.

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Many more miles and rain showers later, I was getting close to the destination.

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And I finally arrived in Laughlin!

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The venue for the ‘bash was at the Golden Nugget Casino.

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That evening, I met up with my Dad and Nena. It was great to catch up and relax after a long day on the road. My Dad being a Laughlin regular (he comes about once a year) showed me around. Most of the rest of the crawl would be rolling in later or early in the morning.

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The river walk…

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Next morning, breakfast was first on the agenda.

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The mighty Colorado River was peaceful in the morning.

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The big party was going to be in the late afternoon so I met up with my Grandpa and his friend Kelly to kill a few hours looking around. Here we went to a classic car show in the Riverside Resort.

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Here’s Grandpa next to a ’29 Model sports coupe which rolled off the assembly line the same year as his first car, a ’29 2-door sedan.

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1970 Dodge “Super Bee”

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The classic 1955 Ford T-Bird

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This mint 1940 Graham had an amusing license plate. Wonder if I could get a custom one for the TL!

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Gorgeous 1954 Corvette

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1966 Mustang Convertible

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The most impressive for me was this display of Emilio Scotto’s 1980 Honda Gold Wing GL1100. Scotto holds the Guinness record for the world’s longest motorcycle ride. That was a ride that took him around the world. 10 years, 279 countries with a total distance of 457,000 miles, this guy is my hero!

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Check out these stats of his adventures:

  • 12 batteries
  • 9 seats
  • 86 tires
  • 250 gallons of oil
  • 13,000 gallons of gas
  • Learned 5 languages
  • 15 tickets (13 of those were in California)
  • 90,000 photographs

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I must say, this motivates me to do something grand with the TL!

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Here was a really nice pearl blue 1963 Stingray

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In addition to the old cars, a lot of antique machines were on display.

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More and more family were rolling in for the party later in the day. One of my cousins from San Diego showed up in his recently purchased RLX! This car is impressive in person.

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Acura seems to run in our family:

  • 1 TL (me)
  • 2 MDXs
  • 1 RLX
  • 1 CL

I need to get everyone together soon for an Acura photo-shoot!

Dad and me relaxing by the pool

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Party time at Saltgrass Steak House!

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Between family and friends, a total of 34 people showed up for the big birthday dinner for my Dad and Grandpa. It was an amazing turnout.

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I highly recommend the Saltgrass Steakhouse. Mighty tasty!

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Here’s my Grandpa with Aunt LaVonne, Dad and Uncle John.

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Grandpa with all the great grand kids. It certainly was one terrific night!

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Next morning before everyone departed, we had to get a group photo.

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This trip goes in my book as one of most memorable. Thank you all for coming along. Until next time…

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Weekend Drive to AZ: Kitt Peak and Madera Canyon

Happy Monday! Hope the weekend was great. I have been quite busy with work lately, and haven’t had the time or energy to sit down and compose a decent post here. Well, here I am! I’ve been meaning to share a recent trip to Arizona. I was back in Arizona with my buddies, Tyson and Paul to visit two places that were completely foreign to me: Kitt Peak National Observatory and Madera Canyon. Both were recommended by Tyson and they weren’t a disappointment! This is the first drive with Tyson and Paul since I’ve owned the TL.

The first stop of those two, was Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO). This observatory is part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). It was founded in 1958 and it contains the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth. Not impressed yet? Well, this also contains the world’s largest solar telescope, McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. It also acts as the largest sun dial! The telescope stands 100 feet in the air and 200 feet into the ground. Even though the telescope is over 50 years old, the technology within is still perfectly useable. Kitt Peak is located 56 miles southwest of Tucson, AZ, in the Tohono O’odham Nation and has a Visitor Center open daily to the public. Let’s get started on an “Acura-iffic” adventure!

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I took off Friday evening after work and headed to Tucson, AZ. I was on the road for the majority of the time in the dark. Not at all an issue, though. Driving is therapeutic for me and is my way of relaxing. Especially at night.

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A little after 9:00 P.M., I arrived at the hotel where Tyson and Paul were. This is what the weekend drive will consist of:

  • Tyson’s Silver 2013 Acura ILX 6MT
  • Paul’s White 2013 Acura TL SH-AWD AT
  • My Black 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT

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It was fun to catch up and chat about cars and life in general.

Saturday morning with breakfast in our stomachs and bags packed, we hopped in our Acuras for the adventures that awaited. I got a better idea of what the hotel looked like in the morning light.

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Of course, we had to get some photos before departure:

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Paul was quick to enter the Kitt Peak address into his 2012 TL GPS, and he lead the way while Tyson and I followed.

I’ve never ventured south of Tucson and honestly, didn’t know how much there was. I assumed nothing but flat desert to Nogales. Boy was I wrong! My Navi showed that we were driving in “unverified territory” and that I should drive carefully.

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Here’s the sign at the entrance to Kitt Peak.

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From here, it was only 12 miles to the summit where the observatory was.

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As we ascended the mountain, we were greeted with great panoramic views. Icing on the cake was a road that became playful with many curves and dips.

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Tyson took the lead on the way up.

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The air was crisp, sunshine out, and the roads virtually free of traffic. Were we in heaven?

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As we came closer to the summit, we could begin the see some of Kitt Peak’s telescopes.

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Here’s a photo showcasing Tyson’s Silver Moon Metallic paint complimenting the sleek body style of the ILX.

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Side note: I’ve decided that I’m going to leave the enormous Acura “beak” grille alone. Originally, I wanted to paint it black or replace it with the updated 2012 version. However, I’m now thinking of it as that beneficial flaw…like Eva Mendes’s mole.

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Last pullout before arriving at the summit.

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Here we are!

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The visitor center and gift shop is staffed by members of the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation. There were many informative displays and demos to keep everyone entertained.

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We were scheduled for a 10:00 tour. Here’s Paul and Tyson patiently waiting to be taken to…

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The largest telescope in the world!

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The skin of the telescope is made of copper and painted white to reflect light and keep the inside temperatures at a consistent range.

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The inner workings of the telescope were quite complex (at least to us tourists) and massive!

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I’d like to describe what these photos are showcasing, but I’d be just making up gibberish to compensate for ignorance.

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This is looking upward towards the sky.

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Here’s Paul and Tyson with another telescope in the background.

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Our tour guide, Larry was very knowledgeable and through. Thanks, Larry!

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After the tour, we hopped in the Acuras and headed for lunch in Green Valley, AZ.

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To get to Green Valley, we had to return to Tuscon and then take Interstate 19 south. Interesting thing about this route is you get to see the use of metric units of measurement on the signs. I felt like I was in Canada! Story behind this is the Arizona Deparrment of Transportation (ADOT) created these signs in an attempt to push toward the metric system in the United States. Obviously, we haven’t made the move, but the signs remain. Speed limits are still posted in MPH thankfully.

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Lunch was at Olive’s Bistro. Very tasty and I’m confident you wouldn’t be disappointed. Try them out if you’re ever in the area!

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After lunch, we all set out on Route 83 toward Madera Canyon…our last leg of the trip.

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Madera Canyon lives in the northwest region of the Santa Rita Mountain. It’s not far from Tuscon as it’s only 40 kilometers…I mean, 25 miles. It’s grounds for the outdoor enthusiast with hiking, picnic areas, bird watching and camping. If bird watching is your forte, then you can enjoy as many as 250 different speices here. Tyson, Paul and I wanted to check it out. As we drove nearer the canyon, I was astounded by the amount of greenery that greeted us!

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The road wasn’t quite as windy as the route up to Kitt Peak, but it wasn’t any enjoyable. It was great: opening the windows allowed the joyous fresh air to blow in and even though I was in the back of the pack, I had some of the best views…

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Motion shot with a focus on Paul’s TL.

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The Acuras lined up once again when we reached the recreation area.

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Paul, Tyson and I agreed that we should try out the Josephine Saddle trail worth only 2.2 miles.

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So we set off

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It was quite a steep climb. Tyson took this photo of Paul and I taking a breather.

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Due to time (and honestly fatigue) we opted not to complete the entire loop. So, we backtracked. On our drive back through the canyon, we stopped several times for photos and general exploring. I caught this photo of Paul’s TL gracefully coming down the hill near the gift shop.

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The gift shop was full of little wooden souvenirs.

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There was a dry riverbed next to it which made for some interesting photos.

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Tyson came across this in an abandoned lot. Dare I say this is the official first Chevy HHR?

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Here’s a group photo: Paul, Me, and Tyson.

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Tyson caught a great photo of the TL reflecting the clouds. His GoPro can be seen mounted on my trunk.

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Speaking of the GoPro, here’s Tyson’s little montage of our trip:

That concludes yet another great trip!

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