Tag Archives: roadtrip

A New Year and Drive to Marfa, TX

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Happy New Year!

While we all get back in the swing of things after the holidays, I needed to sit down and reflect a little on 2017. It’s been a good year.

Here’s a quick little review:

  • Total Miles Covered: 32,490¬†or 23,300 (6 “S”), 9,190 (6 “i”)
  • Number of Journeys: Only Seven ūüė¶
  • Most Memorable Drive: Pikes Peak and Mt. Evans, CO
  • Best Observed Fuel Economy: 36mpg in the “i” from Las Cruces to Albuquerque
  • Worst Observed Fuel Economy: 23mpg in the “s” in hard driving to Utah with a headwind
  • Blog stats: I’m not posting any here as my lack of attention to the blog last year gave laughable stats. Let’s just leave that up to your imagination.

To finish off 2017, I wanted to get out on the road for day’s adventure. When looking at the map and general radius around Las Cruces, I didn’t see anything that appealed to me. Lots of, “been there, done that.” So, I looked a little further and my eye kept going to west Texas. There isn’t much to west Texas aside from El Paso and a few odd attractions such as Prada Marfa along Highway 90 (about 40 miles north of Marfa, TX). If I went there, that would be about a 500 mile journey all together just to take a few photos and the only car I had available to me was the grey “S” which has a broken clutch pedal assembly and misbehaving radiator fan (the “i” was currently getting some general maintenance items addressed). There would be long stretches of road where cell reception would be spotty at best. It would be stupid to go that far in a day. So, I went.

Prada Marfa:

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I’m generally not one to make a big deal out of art nor am I interested in fashion. I’m sure that’s evident from photos you’ve seen of me on here. I do like sculptures and any sort of installations that make you tilt your head in curiosity. Therefore, Prada Marfa fit the bill for me. It is considered a sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset and it’s been around since 2005. Designed to resemble a miniature Prada store, there are actual Prada merchandise displayed through the large glass windows. Prada allowed Elmgreen and Dragset to use the Prada¬†trademark¬†for this work.

There were a few struggles. I couldn’t find any information on land usage, but TxDOT first assumed this to be like a bill board and deemed it illegal as it didn’t fit permit regulations. After much coordination and bickering, it is now reclassified as a museum/exhibit and this exempts the structure from any signage laws.

Let’s get going! Here leaving from Las Cruces at exactly 9:42am.

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I set out for the 10 hour drive where I knew I was getting myself into some long, dull freeway driving on I-10. Here’s the Texas state line.

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To cope with the endless freeway, I streamed some Podcasts on my phone, turned on the seat heaters, set the cruise and settled in for the long haul.

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Texas 80mph speed limits did help speed things up a bit.

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5th Gear, 86 mph, and my little V6 was happily buzzing away at 3,600 rpm.

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Getting to Van Horn, TX. This is where you turn off on Highway 90 south to Marfa. I was surprised that even on a narrow two-lane road, the speed limit was 75mph. Thank you, Texas!

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I had no idea where Prada Marfa would be along this route. I just let the miles go by until I stumbled upon it. 36 steady miles later, I found it. It wasn’t hard to miss a big box sticking up in the middle of the flat, grassy plains.

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Voila!

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“Store front” looks pretty legit!

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Peering inside while fighting persistent reflections to see the displayed handbags and shoes.

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Around back, it looks like folks are starting a trend of adding padlocks to the fence. Much like the “love-locks” that are found on bridges in Europe.

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Prada Marfa isn’t the only oddity to pop up in this area. Further down the road is an installation called, Target Marathon just outside of Marathon, TX. As this was close to 100 miles south, I chose to save this for another time.

(Image Credit to http://texashighways.com)

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Another oddity, there used to be a 40-foot-tall neon playboy bunny at or near the Prada location. It had to be taken down due to TxDOT regulations and legal issues, but that would have been quite a treat to see back then!

(Images credit: http://austin.culturemap.com)

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Marfa, TX:

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Mission was accomplished with Prada, but since I was this close to Marfa, I had to go the extra 40 miles to see it. Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County and has a population of just 1,981 (2010 Census). It’s a fun and wacky town and is observed as a center of minimalist art. The biggest attractions are¬†Building 98, the¬†Chinati Foundation,¬†and every conspiracy theorist’s favorite, the¬†Marfa lights.

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The Presidio County Court House

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Stopping by the Chinati Foundation to view some contemporary art.

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To finish off my visit, I made one last stop for lunch at Mando’s Restaurant and Bar.

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I ordered the “Combo #3” which had a fried chile renello, beef taco and three enchiladas. This was the first plate I received, and I was too distracted on my phone to realize this wasn’t the entire meal.

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After I scarfed down this plate, I was about ready to leave when they presented the second portion. I didn’t realize they served in different plates. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

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Heading home, I stopped to take a few evening shots of the 6.

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While fueling at the end of the trip, I spotted something you don’t see very often in the States…A Peugeot! I had to look it up and this was called a “Partner Tepee”. One of the perks of living so close to the Mexican border is you see quite a few cool cars not sold here.

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I made it home safe and sound despite pushing my luck with the 6. I have an oem clutch pedal assembly and radiator fan module ordered, but I was told it would be several weeks to get as they are a special order. Ah, the joys of owning a lower production, well worn 14 year old car. Someday soon though, the “s” will be fixed up good as new. Stay safe out there, friends and enjoy 2018!

 

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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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Drive to the Switzterland of America — Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here we are.

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

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

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

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Jouhl decided to wait for us at the entrance.

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

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

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

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

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

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This sure felt like a different planet.

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

Then it was time to run!

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

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

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

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East Coast – Wrap Up – Beaches and Swamps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here was a massive statue of the mythological¬†Greek god, Triton‚ÄĒ the son of¬†Poseidon¬†and¬†Amphitrite,¬†messenger of the sea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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On we go!

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

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

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The boardwalk leading back further into the deep woods.

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

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

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

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Georgia.

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Alabama.

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Mississippi.

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

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Louisiana.

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

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Still marveling at the green landscape.

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Last stop before New Mexico…Texas!

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

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Here’s the entrance to the park.

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

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

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

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Jouhl was impressed too.

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

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

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

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

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East Coast – Day 7-9 Washington D.C. with 2theRedline & Chesapeake Bay

Ready for more? Numb from the excitement of New York City, it was hard to solider on…but, we did. With my interest in bridges, I marveled at some of the engineering that went¬†into some of these in the East. Here we crossed the Delaware Canal Bridge in Delaware. This is the first major concrete segmental cable-bridge built in the northeast. This holds the record for the longest concrete span of 750 feet.

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Into Maryland.

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And finally, Washington D.C. ¬†We dropped off the bags in our hotel and then headed for the National Mall where lies many of the country’s greatest memorials. Occupying about 146 acres, the National Mall is visited by about 24 million visitors a year. Here’s an aerial from wiki:

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The memorials are spread out, and we were pressed for time before the sun set. So, we opted to rent a few bikes. First stop, Washington Monument. This is the tallest stone structure in the world at 555 feet.

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Iwo Jima:

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Lincoln Memorial:

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National Wold War II Memorial: 

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And no visit to ‘D.C. is complete without a spy shot of the White House!

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Into the late evening we still rode around on the pristine pathways.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. was our last stop for the night. Chinese takeout, then back to the hotel.

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The next day, it was a great pleasure to meet editor-in-cheif, Sofyan Bey from the ‚Äú2theRedline‚ÄĚ team. 2theRedline is an¬†auto review channel¬†on YouTube which features videos of many¬†late-model vehicles complete with brief model history,¬†test drives and general powertrain specs.

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Sofyan is a proud owner of a 2013 Acura ILX 2.4L 6-speed. As you can imagine, we had to get the TL and ILX together for a few photo ops.

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Sofyan was generous enough to do a review on my TL. This is the first TL 6-speed Sofyan has driven and the first ever for the Channel.

Here’s Sofyan as he sets up his Go-Pro cameras.

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After the cameras were mounted on his ILX, we set off to have lunch. Sofyan led the way as Jouhl and I followed. In the meantime, the TL was being recorded in action.

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Lunch was at Cafe Rio. I highly recommend it

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After lunch, I handed the keys over to Sofyan, and he worked his magic for the final stage of the review. Here’s the end result complete with splattered flies and road grime:

Last stop, a photo op with Rob’s 2012 Honda Civic Si‚ÄďOne of Sofyan’s friends.

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Rob did a masterful job of putting on an Si coupe front end and giving the suspension a moderate lowering. Looks much more aggressive!

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From there, we ¬†parted ways. No time to waste on our end, back on the road again. Several miles down the road, we passed by, “Mechanicsville.” This has to be on the top of my list of most amusing town names.

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Or maybe, “Tysons Corner.” I know my friend, Tyson will get a kick out of that.

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Our stop for the night was Virginia Beach, VA. (That will be on my next post) On the way,¬†we were going to cross something special: The Chesapeak Bay Bridge Tunnel. This is something I’ve been wanting to see for a long time! This structure is 17 miles long from shore to shore and it’s a fixed link from the¬†Chesapeake Bay¬†to¬†Eastern Shore¬†of¬†Virginia. This is one of¬†the world’s largest bridge-tunnel complexes (one out of ten). There are¬†two 1-mile tunnels, two bridges, and nearly 2 miles of causeway (raised sections). Here are a few aerial shots from Google. The breaks in the road are the tunnels underwater.

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Those two tunnels allow for marine traffic to cross the bay uninterrupted. Let’s see how the bridge is!

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Here it is in the distance as we were approaching.

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As I picked up speed, the moderately worn Michelin tires started to make their subtle hum on the concrete surface.

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Before entering the tunnel, there’s a restaurant and gift shop pull off. Wasn’t the best location for a photo op, but it was better than nothing.

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At this point, you get to cross over the road and see the entrance to the first tunnel.

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View from the restaurant.

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Here we go underwater!

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The first exit.

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With speed limits at 55MPH, it only takes an easy 15 mins the cross the entire bridge. As I’m not accustomed to the narrow lanes in tunnels, 55MPH can be quite frightening when meeting on-coming traffic. Thankfully, we made it to the other shore¬†without mishap…then I turned around and drove it again!

That’s all for this post. Stay tuned for the next and final post coming up…

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Preview: Tour of the East

Hello all!¬†I’m on the road again and this is another big one!

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My friend Jouhl and I are starting another tour…this time to the East! Check out the tentative route of ~5,000 miles. I had to zoom out to give the sense of scale. Can we do this in only 12 days? Stay tuned!

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