Made it to the Moon

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Okay, I admit it. That was click-bait. I’m not on the moon today, but at just under 240,000 miles, the 6 “S” has covered an equivalent distance from Earth to the Moon. If we’re getting technical here, I’m actually about 800 miles over that. Once I hit 240,000 miles, which should happen this weekend, that will equate to 9.6 times around the earth. Not bad. However, not as impressive as other high milers around, so I have some driving to do in the coming years. 300k is the next target.

December is already here and I like it. I like the rush of the holiday season in both personal experiences and at work. I won’t have much time for traveling this month, but I do have some nice plans shortly after the New Year. Hint: “Aloha!”

Various improvements for the 6’s are planned, but since it’s a little chilly this time of year, I probably won’t get around to them anytime soon. Before the cold weather hit this week, I made sure to give both 6’s thorough washes. Here are a few Fall photos from Thanksgiving…

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The “i” got a little personal touch by my grandpa when I visited a few weeks ago. I had him sign the dashboard with a silver Sharpie to add a little character. It takes a special signature for me to allow conspicuous permanent ink on any of my cars. Only seemed fitting to have grandpa’s on here.

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Also did a full leather conditioning

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Speaking of silver Sharpies, my inner trunk lid on the “S” is starting to populate nicely with listings of memorable drives and signatures of significant people who have driven or ridden in the 6. It’s starting to look a little hippie, and I love it!

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That captures the important highlights of late. See you next time…

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Weekend Drive: Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument

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Happy Thanksgiving! Let’s go back in history 700 years and visit some ruins of the Mogollon people of Southern New Mexico. This was a fascinating tribe who lived off the land, and I was able to see a small piece of their preserved history — The Gila Cliff Dwellings.

These dwellings are believed to date back to 1275 and contain 46 rooms in five caves on Cliff Dweller Canyon. Archaeologists believe that 10-15 families occupied these caves and it is not known why this area was abandoned. These dwellings are located in southern Catron County, just 37 miles north of Silver City, NM on NM 15. And let me tell you, those were 37 joyous miles!

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I was joined by my buddies, Tyson (drivetofive), James Lee (sixspeedblog) and James Zamora. We met up in Silver City on Friday night and started the journey early Saturday morning. The rides for the day were James Lee’s 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio press car, my 2004 Mazda 6 i, and Tyson’s 1992 Acura Integra GS-R 5spd.

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Total miles / hours: 155 / 3.25. Let’s get started…

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James Z. and I heading out Friday afternoon for Silver City. To us, our portion of the drive was almost comically short since we were to cover just 155 miles. Tyson and James L. had a much further jaunt of 312 miles. We all arrived and spent the night in prep for the following day.

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Saturday morning and it was a calm 45°F as we gathered and checked out each others rides. This was my first close up encounter with Alfa Romero since their return to the US this year. Tyson’s Integra just had a fresh detail and a lot of maintenance performed to bring it to a highly desirable, clean, original condition. That striking Aztec Green paint is original! My Pebble Ash 6 got a little attention as well since this was its first time participating in a group drive.

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Checking out the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio.

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We set out on Highway 15 toward the Dwellings. The scenery was just plain gorgeous as we climbed into the Gila National Forest on one of the best mountain roads I’ve seen in southern New Mexico.

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Quick stop for a photo.

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This road offered many switchbacks and oodles of fun. It gave me a chance to see how the “new” 6 would handle.

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James L. tossed me the keys to the Alfa to give it a go.

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This Stelvio’s 2.0L turbocharged 4cyl was an absolute peach. The 280hp motor was smooth, quick to rev, and responsive. The transmission was very well mated to the engine, and was always ready to spring out of each corner with authority. Aside from a few cost-cutting interior bits, this was one nice package.

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Another photo op. Prior to this photo, I was able to give Tyson’s Integra a go as well. Even with 242,000 original miles, it felt tight and nimble. I loved the total “90s” of it with the motorized seat belts, velour upholstery, and the whole driving experience that was just simple and pure.

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I loved this road. Part of it was narrow with no stripping, many blind corners, and it made me feel like we were hundreds of miles away from civilization. It was challenging if you chose to push your car and almost every corner was nicely banked. Just don’t go overboard on those corners since there is no cell service on the entire stretch.

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Arriving at the welcome sign.

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Checking out the visitor center.

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We encountered nothing but very helpful and pleasant park rangers.

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To access the dwellings, we hiked a one mile loop which climbs 200+ft. On the way up, we crossed many small footbridges with a gentle stream running beneath.

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Views of the dwellings halfway up.

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Once at the top, you can actually walk through the ruins as long as you don’t touch the walls. This was stressed by the park rangers to ensure decay isn’t accelerated from the oils of our fingers.

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Group shot in (I believe) in the fourth cave.

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Climbing down the ladder from the largest room.

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There’s a lot of unanswered questions on the Mogollon people’s lives. The last part of our tour consisted of a short Q&A with ranger, Connie. Connie pointed out several details we would have otherwise missed such as pictographs (pictured here), architectural features and explaining possible uses for some of the rooms. One room still had some of the original corn husks used by the Mogollon.

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The tour took roughly an hour and afterwards, we headed back down Highway 15. I let James and Tyson take the lead as I felt like taking it more easy.

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Lunch was in Silver City at Nancy’s Silver Cafe. Food of choice was green chicken enchiladas with an egg on top.

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Usually with New Mexico-Mexican food, the messier the plate, the better the flavor!

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After lunch, we parted ways and concluded the drive. Thanks for coming along!

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New Acquisition: 2004 Mazda 6 i 5spd

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Sometime in late 2002, I was a Junior in high school and I got my December, 2002 issue of Car in Driver in the mail. I saw this article of a replacement for the Mazda 626…the Mazda 6. My eyes popped, and I remember thinking, “That’s a Mazda?!”

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I never really paid much attention to Mazda prior to this article. My dad at that time had a trusty 1986 B2000 pickup 5spd with 184,000 miles, and that was about all I knew and cared about regarding Mazda. The original NA Miata wasn’t even on my radar at the time. The styling of this new 6 just took my breath away, and I shared this with my grandpa joking that this should be our next car. I never would have thought that 15 years later, I’d have two of these in my garage. Yes, I am now an owner of two 2004 Mazda 6’s.

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This Mazda 6 “i” (“i” being the 2.3L 4cyl model) used to belong to my grandfather and it’s a car that I nagged him to get ever since that Car and Driver article. It’s been a pretty special car to us, and I am so thankful to take the keys, and keep it in the family.

Here’s a little history:

Before this 6 was purchased new in 2004, my grandparents drove a 2000 Ford Taurus which was not quite as satisfying a daily driver as they’d originally hoped. It was problematic, handled like a boat, and the interior felt like it was held together with Elmer’s glue and hope. One free weekend came, and I suggested to my grandpa that we should “just go look” at one of those new Mazda 6’s and there happened to be a nice one with a manual in Farmington, NM, only 120 miles away from home. Finding one with a manual was tough at this time, so this was a rarity…especially in New Mexico. Grandma and grandpa agreed surprisingly, and we made a day trip of it. I remember walking into the dealership with grandpa and being approached by a friendly sales guy, Dean, and he directed us to this Pebble Ash Metallic 6 i 5spd on the showroom floor. It was loaded to the gills with the Sport package which means 17-inch wheels, electroluminescent gauges, titanium colored switch panels, fog lights, sport cladding, and oval exhaust tips. It also had the Comfort package, which included heated seats and exterior mirrors, leather upholstery, a power sunroof, a Bose audio package, homelink, and side and curtain airbags.

We instantly fell in love with this car at first sight. Despite not being a car person, even grandma did. She especially liked it for the sunroof. The whole “running the numbers” feeler process took place and soon we made an agreement on a price–yeah, we came to just look. Before signing the papers, grandpa and I happened to glance over to the back lot and saw a Blazing Copper Metallic Mazda 6 V6 being unloaded off of a shipping truck. Grandma could sense we showed interest and immediately gave us that look, “Don’t even think about it.” Metallic orange wasn’t her first choice in color, so Pebble Ash it was. We drove the 6 home with just 668 miles on the clock, somewhat high miles for a new car, but we were having too much fun to care. Today, it has 186,600 miles and 95% of those were all grandpa.

This has been a special car to all of us. It’s been one of my grandpa’s all time favorite cars he’s owned. It’s the car that rescued me when I crashed my Nissan Sentra. It’s the car that dropped me off for college, the car that took my grandma to hospice where I last saw her. It’s the car that grandpa and I took on a 9,000+ mile drive to the east coast and Quebec when I graduated college. It was a therapeutic drive for both of us after grandma passed away. It’s been coast to coast, border to border several times. And do you know how many times grandpa had to open the hood? Zero. Unscheduled repairs? Zero. The only finicky issue was a thermostat misbehaving intermittently at about 150,000 miles. Everything else has been absolutely bullet proof. Even the clutch and brake pads are original.

Grandpa has now handed the keys to me, and I plan to keep the legacy going. Grandma is still with us in spirit, and I know she’s still enjoying the trips from the passenger seat.

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Here’s a little chronological photo stream of the history of the Pebble Ash 6:

The day we picked her up from Performance Mazda in Farmngton, NM. Unfortunately, there no longer is a Mazda dealer in Farmington.

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Pulled it out of the garage for some photos the next day. First order of business was taking off that front plate bracket.

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Only 789 miles after arriving home.

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First road trip was a 300 mile drive to El Morro National Monument and the Large Array near Socorro, NM.

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Back when I tried rockin’ over sized sneakers, baggy clothes and “anti-glare computer” glasses. *cringe*

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Soon we displayed grandpa’s POW plate and his 91st Bomb Group frame.

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Tucked away in the garage next to my stock RSX at that time.

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Grandma and the 6 at Williams, AZ.

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Outside Modesto, CA

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Oatman Pass, AZ

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Arches National Park, UT

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Getting chilled in Colorado

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Rescuing me after crashing my Nissan Sentra.

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Testing out the traction control during one of those heavy snows. So much snow slid off the roof, we couldn’t get into the garage.

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Northern Rockies in British Columbia

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Gettysburg, VA

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Oregon

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Montreal in Québec

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Louisiana

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Texas

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South Dakota

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Washington State

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Newlyweds: Grandpa and Delia outside of Colinga, CA. We were very pleased Grandpa met Delia. They keep each other young, giggling all the way. Note grandpa is wearing the same hat as in the day we bought the 6 new!

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There was rarely a time when the front end wasn’t covered in a few layers of bugs. Grandpa is quite the traveler.

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Mileage when I first took ownership.

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First time bringing her home to Las Cruces and meeting the grey 6 stable-mate.

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Remember those OEM chrome alloys I had on the grey 6? I felt they were more fitting for this color.

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Custom “5SPD” plate.

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Interior is still minty fresh!

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Aside from a few OEM accessory add-ons (sunroof visor, those chrome alloys, rear chrome trunk trim), I plan to keep this car stock and as original as possible. It’s never had any body or paint work done, and the rubber and plastics are still like new from living in the garage. The grey 6 will still accumulate most of the daily miles, but I’m excited to bring aboard another steed to join us on future adventures. Stay tuned as I have the first drive with this car coming up!

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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.

2017-11-08 17_02_57-2004 Mazda MAZDA6 s Sedan 4D Trade In Values - Kelley Blue Book

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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