Weekend Trip to AZ: Coronado Trail

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I figured with about 7,000 highway miles on my nearly new Pirelli tires, it was time to put them to the ultimate test. Race track? Nope. Burnouts. Forget it. A scenic mountain road with more than 400 curves stretching over 100 miles in the midst of Fall? That hits the spot! That would be the Coronado Trail located in eastern Arizona and it was recommended to me by my buddy Tyson. It’s also known as the mighty Hwy 191 and even was called the “Devil’s Highway” back when it was US 666.  It’s been a cherished route for motorcycle rallies, sports car events and those who want a fun drive for the weekend…as we did. Tyson, a few of his buddies, and I met up last weekend to see what the Trail has to offer. Total distance: 600+ miles.

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I set out Friday afternoon to meet Tyson and his friend Paul in Springerville, AZ where we’d spend the night and be ready for the trail early Saturday morning. Traffic was sparse on I-25 north and I constantly had to fight the urge to speed.

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About 140 miles up the road to Socorro and I was to turn off on Hwy 60 east towards Arizona.

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The rather narrow two lane road had little traffic too and was eerily smooth. The sunset before me was just icing on the cake. It was a relaxing drive. Here you can see one of the large satellites from the Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA). This huge field of 27 independent antennae (each are about 82ft in diameter!) is a radio astronomy observatory located on the Plains of San Agustin. Since daylight was quickly vanishing, I decided to not stop to see it. That will have to wait for another trip. (hint)

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At about 8:40pm, I arrived in Springerville at our hotel. Tyson and his friend Paul arrived about an hour later. Good to see the ILX with the Accord again!

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The next morning we woke up to freezing temperatures which left our cars covered in a thin layer of frost.

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This is only the third time the Accord has ever been subjected to frost since I’ve owned it. Tyson’s ILX’s windshield was clear since it was parked facing the hotel. I made the mistake of backing in the night before. No biggie—I grabbed an old microfiber towel from the trunk to clean off the frost. Us desert folk aren’t used to this kind of thing. I’m not even sure if I could still find my ice scrapper I bought a while back when I resided in Flagstaff, AZ.

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After a quick bite at the hotel’s continental breakfast, we filled up before setting off. The Coronado Trail doesn’t have any facilities along the way so we decided to play it safe. Just so happened we pulled into this Conoco while a Satin Silver Metallic second generation TL was gassing up. Looked cool with three silver Hondas filling up together.

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Two more of Tyson’s friends were staying at another hotel down the road. We met up with them so they could join us for the drive. Matt and Mike were the owner’s of this beautiful grey 2012 VW GTI.

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And we’re off! Tyson lead the way and I followed. Crisp morning breeze, clear skies and a smooth road—it was a great way to start the day.

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Sadly, most of the way I was focused on driving and wasn’t able to take pictures of the beautiful scenery. This is as close to showing how beautiful the drive was.

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First stop for an official photoshoot was about 20 miles down the road at the Hannagman Meadow Lodge.

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We parked our three cars facing the morning sun.

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I kneeled down to capture the awesome looking alloys the GTI wears.

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The cabins at the lodge date back as far as the 1920s. We were lucky enough to get a quick tour.

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Call me freaky, the thing I could get excited about in a place like this is the fresh woodsy smell.

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As we soldered on, the road had some really nice switchbacks. Many had abrupt elevation changes in mid corner. Was lots of fun! There are few pullouts along the way, but when you happen to chance upon one, the views are very rewarding.

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A really nice couple on their way to Tucson took a group photo for us. From left to right: Me, Tyson, Paul, Matt and Mike.

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The Accord was performing pretty well, but the touring-tuned suspension was no match against Tyson’s ILX and the GTI. To compensate, I did have enough low-end grunt from the J30 V6 to pull out of the corners with haste. That saved me from slowing down the others. By this point, we were about half way through the Trail. However, this sign showed us that the fun wasn’t over.

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After attacking more curves, we stopped again to let our brakes cool and take in more views.

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From here, I let Tyson take the wheel of the Accord. He mentioned the power delivery varied greatly through the RPM ranges than in the ILX. Even though he wasn’t familiar with the car, he instantly mastered the clutch and transmission.

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I rode shotgun in the Accord as we followed everyone else. This was the second time I’ve ever ridden as a passenger in the Accord! I’m sure if I had spent the majority of the drive as a passenger, I’d be carsick.

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At our last pitstop of the Trail, we were able to see a nice overview of the road we were traveling. However, the photo here doesn’t convey just how challenging some of the turns were. This sure would have been a great road for rear-wheel drive.

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We then entered the Morenci copper mine. This is the largest copper mining operation in North America and is rumored to be the second largest in the world.

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This was to be our last photoshoot together before we headed into Clifton to grab some lunch.

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From a young age, I’ve always loved big dump/haul trucks. Thank Tonka for that! I noticed that there were several of these monsters driving around the mine. I had to swap to my zoom lens to capture some close up shots of them. These appeared to be Catapillar Haul trucks which can carry anywhere from 40-100 tons!

This is a photo of one of my last Tonka trucks from my childhood.

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And here’s the real thing…

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Check out the scale here. That’s a full-sized Dodge Ram and Ford Econoline to the right.

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As we entered Clifton, it soon became apparent that most of the town feels deserted. Here we are exploring the main st. Most of the architecture is original.

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By then, we all had developed quite an appetite. We pulled up to PJ’s Restaurant which serves both American and Mexican food. I enjoyed my “PJ’s Yummy Burger” which is a glorified philly cheese steak sandwich. A few others elected to try their Mexican. I think we all were satisfied in the end.

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After lunch we set off in different directions to home. Tyson and the boys headed back to their home turf, Phoenix. I headed East back to Las Cruces. I stopped at the New Mexico border for a few last shots for the day.

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Then late in the evening, I could see the city limits of Las Cruces. It was a relief to know my bed as just minutes away. I was beat.

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However, by the time I got home and examined the bugs on the front end, I knew I just had to dig up what little energy I had left and wash them off. Thanks for coming along for the ride…hope you enjoyed it.

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One more thing. You know how sometimes a movie or really good book ends with a cliffhanger? Well here’s mine: This will be the LAST trip I will take with the Accord. I’ve actually decided to abandon all my goals and put it on the market. Will share more of that later!

2 thoughts on “Weekend Trip to AZ: Coronado Trail

  1. tysonhugie says:

    My favorite part about this post was the comparison between the Tonka truck and the real deal. That whole mine project is amazing in size & scope! I would love to go back sometime for a tour if they offer such a thing. Can’t wait to see what new car awaits you for your future travels!

    • pawela says:

      Thanks, Tyson! Yeah that would be super awesome to get a tour or just permission for a simple drive through the mine. Great photo-ops await there! I’m already getting a list ready for places to go with whatever new ride I end up with. All it know is there WILL be a third pedal and six speeds.

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