Saturday Drive: Thermal, California for “NSXPO” Recon

Posted in California, ILX, Road Trip on March 1, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,645

532645

Odometer (ILX):  114,580

114580

Trip Distance:  570 Miles

thermal

Panic attack.  It’s alarming to see flashing red & blue lights in your rearview mirror, especially when they seemingly come out of nowhere.  It was a normal Interstate 10 commute across the desert on Saturday evening until three or four black & white Ford Explorer highway patrol vehicles blasted up from behind and passed me like I was sitting still.  I’d guess they were doing at least a buck-twenty on the speedometer. I exhaled in relief that they weren’t coming for me, but I thought to myself, “I’m going to see them again.”  Sure enough, I’d just crossed over the California/Arizona line into my home state and traffic came to a halt.  There were enough red & blues in the distance up ahead to light up a Vegas nightclub, so I knew things didn’t look good.

traffax

For 45 minutes while I sat in the ILX at mile marker 2, I entertained myself with Instagram and some classic 1990’s CDs I’d brought along (who doesn’t love a little K-Ci & JoJo, Creed, or Everclear?).  A few vehicles started turning around in the median to head back to Blythe but I decided to try and wait it out — whatever “it” was.  I got out of the car and grabbed my sweatshirt out of the backseat, then wandered over to the driver’s side of a semi truck that was idling next to me.  Its driver was on his cell phone examining a spot on the fender of his truck.  Except, it wasn’t just a spot.  “Bullet hole,” he pointed and said when he saw me walking up.  What I thought was just an accident was in fact the result of a high-speed chase and shots fired!

bullet_hole

So that’s why every police cruiser in eastern California was blocking the road ahead.  The truck driver said he’d seen a black SUV fly past and he’d heard a noise but at the time didn’t realize a stray bullet had come his way.  I started chatting it up with a few of the drivers in the I-10 parking lot around me.  There’s something about being stranded together in a traffic jam that makes people band together – it’s like we all shared this common bond and we wanted to swap conversation about what we thought was going on up ahead.  I spoke for some time with a man and his sister who were en route from Oxnard, CA to Tucson, AZ with a Penske moving truck.

sunset

On the bright side, the traffic delay was a nice pause on my drive and a chance to see the desert sunset.  After another thirty minutes or so, we finally were allowed to creep past the carnage of a rolled “getaway vehicle” black Chevy Tahoe and continue on our way.  So, that was probably the peak of excitement from my 9 hours in the car on Saturday.

ca_state_line

Why the drive?  This was a “business” trip, in a sense.  Each year, the Acura NSX Club of America (NSXCA) Board of Directors votes on submitted bids for an annual NSX gathering called NSXPO.  It just so happens that the 2015 event will be held in Palm Springs, California.  Three colleagues and I are putting the puzzle pieces together to organize the itinerary for our event which will be held in October and is anticipated to draw over 200 vehicles.  Some of you may recall when I took my drive to Idyllwild last fall to scope it out as our proposed drive route for NSXPO.

This time, the recon mission was to check out our racetrack facility.  The Thermal Club, located in Thermal, CA is a members-only facility that has 4.5 miles of freshly-paved, beautiful track.  Administrators have graciously agreed to host our group during NSXPO so Chris, Les, JC, and I met up to get an exclusive tour.  From the Cottonwood Springs exit off Interstate 10, I drove through Box Canyon toward the town of Mecca about 20 miles away – this was all “new” road to me, and the scenery did not disappoint!

box_canyon_6

Thermal lies just a few miles north of Mecca and there’s really not a heck of a lot there – except this glorious track.

thermal_sign

Thermal Club is a high-class place for high-speed cars.  What was once just a remote piece of land next to the airport has been developed into an oasis for car nuts.  The first thing I noticed after the security guard granted me access from the gate on 62nd Avenue was that BMW had a Performance Center on-site.  At couple dozen “M” cars were parked and awaiting test drives as part of a training program.  I was surrounded by cars worth more money than I’ll make in my lifetime.  During our tour, we walked through a garage that had three Bugatti Veyrons in it.  That’s $3.9 million worth of cars!

veyrons

The highlight of our visit was getting to ride as passenger in an Ariel Atom while Thermal member Rahul drove each of us around on the track.  What a riot that car is!  Powered by a 2.0 liter Honda 4-cylinder motor, the Atom is so light and nimble that it seriously felt like a go-kart.  Well, a go-kart on steroids, caffeine, and with rockets attached to it.  I don’t think I’ve experienced that many G-forces in a very long time.  Thanks, Rahul, for the test ride!

ariel_atom

The last stop on my SoCal adventure for the day was to pick up a box full of goodies from my friends Scott & Sandy.  Acura brochures!  Scott worked for over a decade with Acura’s ad agency and managed to collect a bunch of materials (43 pieces, in fact) that he decided to share with me, knowing how much I geek out over auto literature.  Check out all these beauties.

brochures

Thanks for joining on the drive.  Here are the rest of my pictures.

Headed westbound on Interstate 10 and rocking out to my CDs

i10_westbound

Exit 168 would take me to Box Canyon

29_palms_sign

Road headed to Box Canyon

box_canyon_road

A few shots from within the canyon itself

box_canyon_5

box_canyon_4

box_canyon_3

You know it’s a light traffic day when you can be comfortable stopping in the middle of the road for a picture

box_canyon_2

Just before exiting the canyon

box_canyon

Arrival at Thermal and seeing a lineup of BMW performance cars

bmw_lineup

Thermal racetrack, looking toward the west

thermal_track

Interior of one of the Thermal Club buildings

thermal_inside

Thermal Club map showing the 4.5 miles of track, and the homesites surrounding it

thermal_map

Beautiful day in Palm Springs

psp_view

Visiting my friends Sandy & Scott in Palm Springs

sandy_tyson_scott

Stuck in traffic later that evening on I-10 eastbound

ilx_i10

Finally getting past the incident after a long wait

tahoe

Does anyone else agree that I must own this sweater from the a 1988 Acura magazine?

ac_sweater

Drive to Five Review: 2015 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD

Posted in Arizona, TLX, Vehicle Reviews on February 25, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,599

532599

Odometer (ILX):  113,669

113669

Odometer (TLX):  3,177

3177

Trip Distance:  334 Miles

drive_route

tlx_driving

“It’s that kind of thrill.”  It was a pretty bold move on behalf of Acura’s marketing department to center the TLX launch campaign around the world “thrill.”

The car is, after all, just another midsize family sedan in a crowded market segment.  The majority of the 20,000 or so TLX models that have sold since the car went on sale last August are probably dutifully shuttling executives to work, hauling mom or dad to the grocery store, or basking in the sun at the mall parking lot.  But when called upon, can the TLX provide the driving excitement that Acura promised?

I’d been itching for a chance to do a full evaluation on the all-new Acura TLX since I saw the Prototype version debut in its glistening “Athletic Red” paint job at the Detroit Auto Show over a year ago.

tyson_tlx

Since then, I’ve been behind the wheel twice – once for an initial test-drive from my local dealership, and once during last October’s Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year event.  Both of those cars – as well as the one that I’ve been tooling around in for the last few days – were V6 models.  The TLX is also offered in 4-cylinder configuration, powered by the same 2.4 liter that’s now standard on the smaller 2016+ ILX model.

Let’s talk tech later.  How is this thing to drive?  Well, I was working from home the day that it was delivered, and the first place I needed to go was to get lunch.  It took me a minute to tell myself silently, “No clutch.  Just a brake pedal and pushing buttons.”  I’ve been kicking at a clutch pedal since I was 17 so every time I get into an automatic, it’s culture shock.  In the 3 miles from my house to the nearest Panda Express, though, I was already sold.  Perhaps it’s because I’m used to a 113,000-mile ILX suspension, but I couldn’t get over how smoothly the TLX carried itself.

front

tlx_badge

Where To?

To really put this new TLX to the test, I decided I needed introduce it to one of my favorite Arizona scenic byways:  Highway 77 through the Salt River Canyon.  I’ve blogged about the route a few times, most recently on my Christmas Day trip, but the place is cool enough that it deserved another look.  Our 300+ mile route offered a combination of freeways, two-lane twisties, and some good inclines for power evaluation.  As with most of my drives, the participating vehicles were assorted.  In the mix this time, we had a 2015 Lexus RC-F, a 1998 BMW M3, and the 2015 Acura TLX V6 SH-AWD.  The Lexus was piloted by friend and colleague James who authors Six Speed Blog.

three_amigos

It became quickly apparent that the TLX was definitely the preferred “cruiser” of the pack.  It plays in a different realm than the two door sports coupes, pampering its driver and passengers in creature comforts and a smooth ride.  A few spirited acceleration runs up the highway to redline with the paddles, though, taught us that the 3.5 liter V6 has a nice audible growl when pushed, and its 290 horses did a respectable job of keeping up with the Lexus’ 467.

queen_creek_tunnel

One place we got to hear those horses gallop was through the 1/4-mile-long Queen Creek Tunnel just east of Superior on US Highway 60.  There’s something about being inside a tunnel that makes every car fanatic want to roll down the windows, hammer down on the throttle, and listen to the symphony of intake & exhaust echoing off the walls.

I remember seeing an old Acura TV commercial awhile back that criticized some luxury automakers for making their cars too isolated.  The basic message was, “If you separate the driver too much from the road, a driving experience isn’t an experience at all.”  I feel like that’s where the TLX strikes a nice balance — it’s a car that you can drive cross-country without getting exhausted, but it doesn’t feel like a vault and there’s still a fun-factor when you want there to be.

tlx_passengers

left_rear

headlight

Exterior

On the outside, the TLX exhibits a conservative shift from the polarizing, angular design of the 4th generation TL.  Perhaps it’s even too conservative, some of the people in our group said.  My test car’s “Black Copper Pearl” paint gave off a nice brown sparkle in direct sunlight and looked pretty much black in every other lighting condition.

tlx_at_valley_ho

I’m of course a fan of the “Jewel Eye” LED headlamps, now standard across the entire Acura lineup as of the 2016 model year.  My test car was equipped with the Advance package, which means I got LED foglights as well.  Those two lighting systems make this the best car I’ve ever driven with regard to nighttime illumination.  Speaking of lighting, the Advance package also gave me “puddle” lights underneath each sideview mirror that turned on when approaching the car at night.

tail

My demo TLX was outfitted with 18″ wheels, but the accessory 19’s really make the TLX pop:

blue_TLX

front_left

right_side

Interior

Inside the cabin, my test car’s “Espresso” leather interior got a lot of positive feedback.  Finishes have a premium feel to them, and a few people commented on the stainless steel looking dash trim.  Interior designers have obviously gone to great lengths to make the TLX interior a nice place to spend time in.  Heated & cooled seats keep things comfortable, but I wish they could be activated via button or dial rather than the touch-screen interface.  Throughout the course of the day, I test-drove (test-sat?) every seat including the back.  Head & leg room are great, and I liked the HVAC vents for the rear seats.

interior

The center console has a handy rubberized platform/tray for your iPhone or iPod, and the plug-in jack is easily accessed underneath.  The gauges, as in every Acura I’ve driven, are perfectly laid out for at-a-glance feedback.  Driver visibility is excellent all the way around – made possible in part by that “frameless” rearview mirror attached to the windshield.  I loved that the sideview mirrors on the TLX dim at night just like that center mirror does.  It really helps keep the glare down.

The instrument panel is outfitted with Acura’s signature dual-screen layout, to which I’ve already become accustomed in the RLX and MDX on my reviews previously.  The lower touch-screen controls the climate and audio functions, while the upper screen is for display-only.  I usually left it on map view.  It does take some time to become acquainted with the controls, but the menus are intuitive, screen resolution good, and response time immediate.

I do find it odd that a $46k car doesn’t have an electronic tilt/telescoping steering wheel.  It’s repositioned via old-fashioned lever underneath it.  Even my 1994 Legend coupe has power controls for the wheel.  That being said, the TLX interior was still praised many times throughout the day (and week) as an extremely comfortable place to be.

tlx_legend_fronts

dash

Tech

From a tech perspective, the pieces are all there.  I played around with the ELS stereo system and pushed the bass and subwoofer all the way to the max.  It rocks nicely.  I recommend playing Metallica’s “Unforgiven II” at full volume to experience it like I did.

There are plenty of creature comforts like push-button start and auto-unlocking doors when you walk up to the car with the key in your pocket – these are much-appreciated standard fare on even the base TLX.

I’m not thrilled with the fact that the volume & track adjustment button are the same on the steering wheel (spinny up/down wheel for the volume, left/right toggle for the track).  My fat thumb accidentally changed the track a couple times when I was going for the volume.  Additionally, we were bummed to learn that the car doesn’t allow Bluetooth phone pairing while the vehicle is in motion.  I understand the logic, but even as a passenger that functionality is locked out.

jack_peter_in_tlx

The TLX’s driver-assistance tech is extensive, starting with a standard back-up camera.  I liked the blind spot detection system which illuminates an indicator on the A-pillar when a vehicle is positioned in the blind spot.  The TLX also has sensors all the way around it – and they’re ultra sensitive too.  Even if someone is walking along next to the front of the TLX, it displays “approaching object” on the screen and gives an audible beep.

warning

Finally, the adaptive cruise control is a handy feature that tells the car to keep a pre-set distance between itself and the vehicle ahead.  If you inadvertently ever hit something with the TLX, you really aren’t paying attention.

peter_driving_tlx

Quote of the day goes to Ryan who excitedly ran up to me and said, “Acura hasn’t lost their soul!”  He’d just discovered that the TLX has a feature, just like his 2006 Acura TL does, that will roll up/down all the windows & moonroof by sticking the key in the door lock and holding it left or right.  That discovery pretty much made his day.

Driving Experience

The TLX’s direct-injected 3.5 liter V6 engine is the star of the show.  It delivers 290 horses’ worth of usable power throughout the rev range, but really starts to come alive after about 5,000 RPM.  I can only imagine how nice it would sound with a sport-tuned exhaust system of some sort – perhaps as an option on an A-Spec TLX if there ever were such a thing.  Acura, are you listening?

tlx_front_2

I’m still waiting for the 9-speed automatic transmission to woo me since I’m first and foremost a “stick shift” guy, but I certainly realize what a minority that makes me.  Understandably, that number of gear selections does make for some pretty extensive gear-hunting while in motion.  When prompted via throttle input, there’s a pause of questioning before the TLX gives you forward momentum.  Using the wheel-mounted paddle shifters helps the situation, and “Sport” mode forces the car hold each gear a little longer.  That gives you an experience that’s about as close as you can get to a manual transmission without having a clutch pedal.

ids_modes

There are obvious benefits to having so many gears from an MPG perspective:  From Payson to Scottsdale on Highway 87, we cruised at 80 mph in 9th gear while the engine barely breathed – sitting at fewer than 2,000 RPM.  That bodes well for fuel economy, with the TLX getting 21 city & 31 highway.  The auto start/stop feature helps with that too, when idling at a stoplight – though I wish the system wouldn’t always default to ON each time the car is started if I’ve manually deactivated it.

I described the handling feel to a friend as compared to having super glue on the tires.  Equipped with Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive (SH-AWD), the TLX is darn near impossible to break loose in any kind of cornering situation.  The car stays planted at speed.  Perhaps that “low center of gravity” was thanks in part to the fact that the car carried 4 occupants for most of our day, but it really did inspire a great deal of confidence on some of the technical parts of our drive.

fueling

Final Take

The TLX excels where its engineers wanted it to – it’s a competent cruiser that blends just the right amount of refinement with recreation.  Its few shortcomings are outweighed by its virtues, and it’s a car I would feel right at home putting 500,000 miles (or more) on.  It’s just too bad my fortune from Panda Express discouraged me from taking on another car payment.

fortune

Please enjoy the rest of the pics from our trip below!

21 year gap in automotive advancement:

tlx_legend

Getting ready to head out on our drive

pre_departure

Pit stop just east of the Queen Creek Tunnel on US 60

3_cars

Gotta love that “Dakar Yellow” E36!

tlx_m3

RC-F following TLX

rcf_following_tlx

Pit stop in the Salt River Canyon, with Jack and Peter

jack_peter_cars

Salt River as seen looking east from the base of the canyon

salt_river_canyon

James, Chris, Tyson, Ryan

james_chris_tyson_ryan

Taking a breather and enjoying the scenery

bridges

Back to the cars we go

rest_area_cars

Welcome to Show Low, Arizona

show_low_entrance

Lunch spot:  Licano’s Mexican food & steakhouse

licanos

Eight hungry roadtrippers

lunch_group

And a 9-story iPhone tower

iphone_tower

“Can you hear me now?”

tyson_on_9_iphones

Thanks for joining on the drive!

Throwback Thursday: 10 Years Ago in Utah

Posted in Legend, Throwback, Utah on February 19, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,592

532592

Odometer (ILX):  113,347

113347

Odometer (TLX):  2,736

2736

Ten years ago, I was 23 and the Legend was 11.  It had traveled a mere 159,000 miles.  Those were the days!  Today, we’re taking a drive back in time to the year 2005.  George W. Bush had recently been sworn in on his second term as president.  Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast.  Will Smith starred in the movie Hitch.  And Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” was the most-downloaded song of the year.  Can you believe it’s been a decade?

082311-celeb-will-smith-movies-hitch.jpg

In February of that year, I was a plowing through my undergraduate degree at Utah State University in a town called Logan. The highlight of my college career was meeting Bill Nye the Science Guy at an assembly.

tyson_bill_nye

I’d only owned my 1994 Acura Legend for a couple of years, but I was already documenting my travels with plenty of pictures.  Here are a few shots I dug up from the “Feb 05″ archives in a box and scanned.  Indeed, back in that day I used to have nearly all of my digital camera’s photos printed up as 3×5’s at Walmart.  I’m glad THAT tradition fell by the wayside.  I’d have filled a library by now with all the volumes of photo albums.

In the below photo, I was hanging out my sunroof whilst paying a visit to my friend Nate.  As you can tell, Nate was quite the Honda-fan, too.  Notice the Accord, the Odyssey, and three Legends (besides mine) at his family’s home in Sandy, just south of Salt Lake City.  There’s a black 1995 LS coupe peeking out behind the white sedan.

tyson_at_nates

I decided to send the picture to Nate and see if it looked at all familiar to him.

nate_text

Sounds like Nate’s family has upgraded to newer cars.  He said his dad’s now in a TL Type-S and his mom is in a newer Odyssey.  At least they’re still as Honda-loyal as ever.  Here are a few other pictures I dug up.

Snow Canyon State Park, St. George Utah

snow_canyon

Winter evening in Cache Valley, northern Utah

cache_valley

From that same photoshoot:  Train tracks.  Don’t try this at home, kids!

tracks

Highway 89 through Logan Canyon.  This scene brings back memories.  I’ll never forget the day I was off galavanting after a fresh snowstorm and decided to pull a U-turn in some snow on the side of the road.  The snow ended up being a lot deeper than it looked, and I got my car hopelessly stuck.  Cell service sucked but my little Samsung flip-phone eked out a call for help to a tow company operated by my dad’s friend, and a guy came to shovel/push me out.

canyon

Frosty morning before hiking to class (yes, uphill both ways, in the snow)

frost

Speaking of snow:  We did get our fair share that winter.

snow3

The aftermath was pretty entertaining.  I don’t even know if I owned an ice scraper.  I know that I don’t have one today.

snow1

Camouflage.  It fits right in with the background.

snow2

I bet it was a good ski season that year.

snow4

Mostly cleaned off.

snow

Antelope Island, an island in the Great Salt Lake.  The entire island is a state park.

antelope

So that was February 2005 in a dozen memorable pictures. Before we know it, we’ll be in the year 2025 and I’ll be reminiscing about 2015 just like this.  Meanwhile, over at my house, there’s new kid on the block this week.

acura_house

More to come!

Saturday Drive: Lynx & Watson Lakes in Central Arizona

Posted in Arizona, ILX, Road Trip on February 15, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,587

532587

Odometer (ILX):  113,171

113171

Trip Distance:  226 Miles

lakes

I recently saw one of those “You know you’re from such-and-such place when…” lists.  It talked about the joys of living in sunny Arizona — a place where the best parking spot is determined by shade, not by distance.  One of the items on the list was “You no longer associate bridges or rivers with water.”  That is pretty true!  We have dozens of bridges that cross over dry riverbeds.  Many times, the only times those rivers get wet is during our rainy “monsoon” season in late summer.

For some reason, it’s tough for people to believe that we do have our fair share of water here in the Grand Canyon state.  Central Arizona has a couple of beautiful reservoirs that I’d been wanting to check out for some time now, and I thank my friends Peter and Jack for cluing me in on them.

tyson_at_lynx_lake

The Prescott National Forest covers 1.25 million acres of land in north-central Arizona and is an easy getaway (< 2-hour drive) from the Phoenix area.  The key draw is the climate, since temperatures can be up to 20 degrees cooler in the summertime than they are in Phoenix. I took off on a Saturday morning and headed north on I-17 to do a little exploration of my own.  Traffic was on the heavy side until I broke away on Highway 69 toward the Prescott Valley area.

prescott_valley_sign

A few minutes from downtown Prescott, Lynx Lake is a hot spot for fishermen since it’s stocked regularly with rainbow trout by the Arizona Fish & Game Department.  It covers 55 acres and was formed in 1952 when a dam was built on Lynx Creek downstream.  I took a little one-lane road to a parking area along the south end of the lake.  I didn’t linger longer than a few minutes for pictures.  Oddly enough, when I sent a picture of my car to Peter, he responded within minutes by sending me a picture of his car parked in the exact same spot.  Great minds think alike.

peter_text

Just 7 miles away from Lynx lies an even larger body of water called Watson Lake that dates back to the early 1900s and covers 70 acres of area.  I paid my $2 day-use entry fee using the automated machine at the entrance to Watson Lake Park, then cruised around to see what this place was all about.  A group of 25 or more motorcyclists had overtaken one of the parking lots, so I continued driving around and found the entrance to a boat ramp.  I figured – what the heck – and drove down the ramp.  Unfortunately, parking was not allowed so I had to loop back to the visitor lot to leave the car there.  That was fine since it was a perfect 70-degree day and I wanted get out of the car and hike around anyway.

watson

tyson_on_rocks

Watson is surrounded by a variety of sandstone rock formations.  Water conditions were calm and I watched a few people launch kayaks from the ramp.  For being a Saturday, things were pretty calm and quiet, tourist-wise.  I plopped down on a rock and just soaked in the scenery (and sunshine) for about 20 minutes.  When the time came to exit the park, there was a lineup of a half-dozen cars waiting to pay at the gate and enter.  I rolled down my window down and held out my parking pass.  A woman in a black Honda Civic graciously took it from me when I offered it to her. Saved her $2!

I had just one more place to visit before my trip was complete.  I’d recently learned of Jack Ass Acres in New River off I-17 just north of Phoenix, so I pulled off the interstate long enough to get this picture.  Jack Ass was once a gas station, convenience store, and souvenir shop but it appears to have been abandoned for decades.  The building’s roof is crudely lined in barbed wire and the paint it peeling from every panel.  Still, it makes a fun pit stop!

jack_ass_acres_with_ilx

It was a fun day experiencing some of Arizona’s beautiful scenery and I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the pictures here.

Heading toward Prescott Valley on Highway 69

69

Quick stop in the historic town of Dewey-Humboldt

dewey_humboldt

Lynx Lake entrance

lynx_lake_sign

Approaching the parking area at Lynx Lake

lynx_fee_area

Access to Lynx is via this one-lane, pine tree-lined, loop

lynx_lake_road

Photo-op at Lynx

ilx_at_lynx_lake

The ILX parked momentarily on the boat ramp at Watson Lake

ilx_at_watson_dock

Driving back up the boat ramp at Watson to the parking lot

ilx_front_at_watson

Unfortunately, no swimming allowed!

no_wake_no_swim

A kayaker sets sail

kayak

Back to the parking lot

parking_lot

Another area of the lake with a dock

dock

Heading back home, northbound on Highway 89

89

That’s not confusing at all.  Two highways named “89A”?

89a

Jack Ass Acres as seen from New River Road

jack_ass_acres

Jack Ass sign

jack_ass_sign_2

Starting this Wednesday, I’ll be in a 2015 Acura TLX for a week to drive & review it.  Where will I go?  Wait & see!

Quick Eats: MacAlpine Restaurant in Phoenix

Posted in Arizona, ILX on February 11, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,536

532536

Odometer (ILX):  112,778

112778

map

Let’s shift gears today (literally and figuratively) but keep our road trip right here in town.  Sometimes we are so busy looking for out-of-town travel opportunities that we forget to look for those hidden gems in our own backyards.

1938_macalpine

Back in 1929, a small pharmacy opened up on 7th Street in Phoenix, Arizona.  Technically, though, in those days even 7th Street (which today is about as “Central Phoenix” as it gets) was outside city limits.  Some 86 years later, that same location lives in a sort of time warp as a soda fountain that pays tribute to the olden days.

My friend Kevin and I are always on the hunt for unique dining opportunities, so when we were planning a catch-up meal (or ketchup meal?) we decided to check out a place that I’d passed by dozens of times but never visited:  MacAlpine’s.  It took me about 35 minutes in rush hour traffic to get from my place in Scottsdale to the small brick building at the northeast corner of 7th & Oak Streets.  I found suitable ILX parking (read: door-ding-friendly) along the south side and had about 20 minutes to kill until Kevin arrived.

mac_south_side

That worked out perfectly, since MacAlpine is joined with an antique store and there is a lot of “stuff” to browse.  I played around with a vintage TV set and record player, then thumbed through a 1958 issue of Arizona Highways magazine.  There were at least a dozen sets of antique patio furniture sitting on the sidewalk outside, so I also spent a few minutes out front watching the sun go down and the cars whiz by at 50 miles per hour on the busy 5-lane road.  Surely if I had been on that same front porch in 1929, the scene would have been quite different.

mac_sign

Kevin arrived and we seated ourselves in a booth and got comfortable.  The stools and bar date back to 1938 when the original pharmacy was first turned into a soda fountain by Fred MacAlpine. Bonus points if you can find me in the reflection in this picture!

soda_fountain

A jukebox nearby sang songs from the 40’s and 50’s while we took a minute to make our menu selections.  The menu itself was a little daunting – hundreds of flavors to choose from in creating a “custom” soda.  I ordered a lime, lemon, raspberry concoction of some sort on ice.  It was straight sugar but totally delicious.  For the main course, the meatloaf called my name.  It didn’t take very long until it came out of the kitchen piping hot with a side of mashed potatoes and steamed carrots.  I give it an A+ rating – highly recommended.  Dinner is served starting at 5 p.m. and the restaurant closes at 7, so the window is short but the rewards are worth it.

legend_sundae

My favorite item on the menu – and one that I’m determined to go back and consume – is called “The Legend.”  It’s a 10-pound ice cream sundae that sells for about $100.  Can you imagine?  It should be free to anyone who can finish it in one sitting.  For anyone visiting the Phoenix area, take the time to swing by and try out the patio furniture and the sodas.  You won’t regret it. Here are a few pictures from our short trip back in time.

kevin_tyson

Arrival heading northbound on 7th Street

mac_arrival

Vintage sign remains

mac_sign_2

Building as seen from across 7th Street

macal

Some of the bric-a-brac for sale.  I love that word because it’s fun to say.

furniture

Ice cream flavors of the day.  Sadly – I did not have the appetite after that soda & meatloaf!

ice_cream_flavors

Dining area.  It looks like a lot of clutter, because it is.

tables

Candyyyyy.  I almost picked up a box of candy cigarettes for a friend of mine.

candy

Is this the Brady Bunch set?  Nope, just furniture for sale at the antique store next to MacAlpine’s.

couches

Classic AZ Highways!

arizona_highways

Check out that meatloaf!

meatloaf

MacAlpine Restaurant:

2303 North 7th Street

Phoenix, AZ 85006

(602) 262 – 5545

Last note:  For those who were following it, the newly-redesigned 2016 ILX went on sale yesterday.  Here’s a great write-up by my buddy Steve Siler from Road & Track.  Will I be upgrading mine?  Nah, unless the stick-shift transmission option comes back.  But still – looks like a sweet ride.

16ILX

“Weekend Roady” Blog & Minnesota’s Northwest Angle

Posted in Arizona, Blog on February 8, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend Coupe):  532,525

532525

Odometer (Legend Sedan):  146,224

146224

Odometer (NSX):  99,460

99460

Odometer (ILX):  112,556

112556

sedan_coupe

For about nine hours each weekday, I’m surrounded on 3 sides by turqouise fabric cubicle walls at an office.  Sometimes I forget what the weather is doing outside, or even if it’s daylight out yet.  Cubicle #1G010 can be a dreary place to reside for 33% of my waking life, but I found a way to make the view a little more appealing.  For about the last 7 or 8 years, I’ve had a huge 5-foot-wide US map hanging up on my wall.  Every once in awhile during the workday, I’ll spin around in my office chair to look at it, and I’ll zone out while contemplating the many uncharted destinations that are begging for a visit.

desk

Where to next?

desk_map

I was getting lunch with my coworker Brandon the other day in the cafeteria and learned that he’d recently moved to Arizona from Minnesota.  I remembered seeing something about Minnesota on the map at my desk.  “You know anything about that piece of the Minnesota,” I started, “That isn’t connected to the mainland?  Don’t you have to drive through Canada to get there?”  Brandon’s geography teachers must not have fulfilled their obligations because he didn’t know what I was talking about.  The area I was focusing on was this (circled):

mn

I went back to my desk after eating my chicken & broccoli, determined to find out the deal.  What I discovered was that this piece of Minnesota – referred to as the “Northwest Angle” – is inhabited by 152 hearty individuals and is indeed only accessible by one of two paths:

  1. Driving through Manitoba, Canada and passing through the “un-manned” border checkpoint.  There’s a telephone located there that you have to use to call and make your declarations.
  2. Crossing Lake of the Woods.  During summer, by boat, and during winter:  by ICE ROAD.  That’s right, my readers, when the time is right, you can drive your car across 20 miles of frozen solid ice to get to this remote area of Minnesota.

ice_road

Check out this article from just a couple of weeks ago where a semi truck broke through a crack in the ice.

Sounds like an adventure waiting to happen!  I don’t know when I’ll next make it to Minnesota – I’ve yet to set foot in that state at all – and I don’t know if it’ll be during the depths of winter when I do, but you can bet this is going on my bucket list.  During the course of my online research I stumbled across an insightful write-up by Philip Sites called “The Weekend Roady.”

roady

I was immediately drawn in because his posts are entertaining and educational.  This guy gets out almost every weekend to explore the open road. Sounds like my kind of fun!  Here’s Philip’s post about the Northwest Angle.

(photo credit Philip)

nw_angle

This weekend, I have company in town from LA.  My friend Brad has been visiting for a couple of days.  Yesterday morning, we stopped by the monthly Scottsdale “Cars & Coffee” meet-up.

tyson_brad

Later, we dropped off the NSX for an oil change.  It’s sitting at around 99,500 miles.

nsx

This rare Honda S2000 “CR” was also looking pretty nice.

cr

Brunch this morning at “The Good Egg” on Central Avenue.  Here, I’m demonstrating proper parking in an end space.

coupe_parking

Kelvin showed up in his immaculate 1993 NSX.

legend_nsx

This time of year is the best in Phoenix!

nsx_legend

Hope everyone is enjoying the weekend!

Northern Arizona Part 2: Horseshoe Bend, Colorado River

Posted in Arizona, Hikes, ILX, Road Trip on February 4, 2015 by tysonhugie

Odometer (Legend):  532,455

532455

Odometer (ILX):  112,326

112326

tyson_at_horseshoe

The story of our weekend’s canyon crusade left off when we had finished visiting the Utah/Arizona state line after our hike through Antelope Canyon.  But the fun wasn’t over quite yet.  Turns out, the timing was perfect to make a sunset-time visit to nearby “Horseshoe Bend.”  That name refers to a section of the Colorado River where it makes a 180-degree turn just south of Page, Arizona.  We were not prepared for the grandeur of this site!

Just a 3/4-mile hike from the trailhead, we stood at the edge of a 1,000-foot dropoff that rivals the nearby Grand Canyon.  We had to hike along the rim of the canyon with care, as the sand on the rocks made for a slippery surface.  None of us felt particularly like taking a freefall to the Colorado, though Peter stood on a pretty precarious looking ledge as if he entertained the idea:

peter_on_edge

Here I dangled my legs out a little.

chillin

Sunset lighting and some fresh rainwater puddles in the trailhead parking lot made for the perfect photo-op on our way back to Page.  Can you believe these pics we got of the ILX?!

jason_ilx_pic

Our night finished out with an enjoyable Italian meal at Strombolli’s.  Best of all?  We banned all electronic devices.  Here’s how that played out:  At one point, someone realized that all eight of us were iPhone users.  Naturally, we had to stack all the iPhones up in the center of the table for a picture.  This triggered an idea.  “Hey,” I said.  “Let’s challenge ourselves to leave these phones here for the entire meal and not touch them.”  I saw some fear struck into the eyes of a few, but we all agreed.  And what a great hour it was!  Talking — without feeling the need for constant text-messaging and Facebooking.  Just like in the olden days.  Stephen missed out on 24 text notifications but the rest of us only had a few.

group_at_dinner

iPhone Jenga

iphones

We all crashed out after an exhausting day and a dip in the Comfort Inn hot tub.  Sunday morning, I peeked out of our second-story hotel window and saw that the sky was completely clear and there was a thick layer of frost on every vehicle in the parking lot.  Sure enough, my weather app confirmed that was was a mere 30 degrees outside.

frosty2

We fueled up on hot breakfast in the lobby and headed out on our return to Phoenix by about 9:30 a.m.  In Flagstaff, we had a driver change and Peter took the wheel while I lounged in the back seat.  Peter commented that he felt that the ILX was faster than his Acura TSX which has a similar horsepower rating.  He had a great collection of tunes to entertain us with for the 2-hours remaining in our drive:  hits like Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time,” and Aerosmith’s “Dude Looks Like a Lady.”  Nice selections, P!

Phoenix was crawling with Super Bowl festivities so my friend Scott and I couldn’t resist the temptation to drive over to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale later that afternoon to see some of the chaos.  Sure enough, road closures, coned-off lanes, parking attendants, and plenty of police presence kept us from getting very close to the venue.  I did still manage to get a picture of the ILX in front of Super XLIX!  It was taken sometime during the second quarter of the game.

ilx_at_stadium

Please enjoy the rest of these pictures and a short video from Horseshoe!

horseshoe_1

A few photographers waiting for perfect sunset lighting

cliff

Pretty amazing all around

view

Silhouettes of our group

horseshoe

Back at the trailhead, some pics of the cars in the puddles

2

Talking on 8 iPhones at once at dinner

tyson_with_phones

Chilly Sunday morning

frosty

Highway 89 southbound with the San Francisco peaks in the distance, approaching Flagstaff

89

Peter at the wheel of the ILX, and Chris in shotgun

peter_driving_ilx

Driving past the Super Bowl while it was going on!

stadium

Super Bowl pic with my buddy Scott from Massachusetts (obvious Pats fan)

tyson_scott_stadium

Hey, did everyone see the side-by-side of the 2013-2015 ILX next to a 2016 model?  Thanks to Acura Connected for the image.  What are your thoughts on the changes?

ilx_old_new

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