A Drive in a Million Mile Lexus in Arizona’s Chiricahua National Monument

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I have yet to experience owning a truly high-mile car (the current 174,000 miles on the Mazda doesn’t count to me). A worn out car with multiple hundreds of thousands of miles is far more impressive to me than a shiny flamboyant Italian hypercar that will fetch multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t get me wrong though, I’d love a chance to get up and personal with one. I’m constantly grazing the web finding new stories of high-mile cars and their owners’ stories. Many of you may have heard of: Irv Gordon’s 3 million mile Volvo,  “MillionMileJoe” LoCicero’s Honda Accord, and Hugh Pennington’s Chevy Silverado. Those are just to name a few. Fun stuff for me.

Earlier this year, I stumbled upon an interesting story of a 1996 Lexus LS400 that had a whopping 897,000 miles on it. It was newly purchased by Matt Farah of The Smoking Tire.  Matt bought this Florida-owned LS400 for two main reasons: those crazy miles and to relive a special time in his life when he owned a similar car. To be honest, I never heard of The Smoking Tire or Matt Farah, but thanks to this car, my interest grew. Since then, I’ve been following their stories and challenges posted online.

10 months have gone by and he has been passing the keys of the LS400 around to journalists all over the west coast in an attempt to get this baby up to the 1 million mile mark. Therefore, it’s called #millionmilelexus. So far, multiple journalists have piled on about 25,000 miles.

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I read the story and then that was it…read on to the next story. Not my buddy Tyson Hugie. He saw this as an opportunity to reach out to Matt directly and request to use the old girl for a few days in Arizona. Matt obliged, and I got a special invitation to join Tyson and a few other friends to drive to the Chiricahua National Monument where they’d be testing out the Lexus. It’s about 250 miles or 4.5hrs from Las Cruces…here we go!

2015-10-28 13_15_12-Las Cruces, NM to Chiricahua Mountains, Cochise County, AZ - Google Maps

Departure time was 9am on Saturday, and I brought my friend James Zamora along for the ride. We were to meet in Wilcox, AZ with Tyson, James Lee, Jack and Chandler for lunch. I got the 6 all cleaned up for the drive.

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This was our meeting point for lunch…”The Dining Car.” Half of the restaurant is actually a train car!

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My meal of choice was a massive bacon cheese burger with fries. Hit the spot nicely.

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After lunch, it was time to chat over the cars. We had four in total:

  • “MillionMileLexus” 1996 Lexus LS400 – 4-speed auto (921,000 miles)
  • 1994 Acura Legend Coupe LS – 6spd manual (538,000 miles)
  • 2004 Mazda 6 S V6 – 5spd manual (174,000 miles)
  • 2000 Toyota Tacoma SR5 – 5spd manual (230,000 miles)

That’s roughly 1,863,000 miles between all of us!

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I was able to get behind the wheel of the Lexus for the first leg of the trip to Chiricahua from Wilcox.

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Tyson continued in his Legend and James Lee took the keys to my 6. Jack and Chandler were in their Tacoma.

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Turning the key of the Lexus to awaken the well traveled, 4.0L (FAA approved) 260HP V8 emitted very little noise. It’s more of a refined hum. No ticking, knocking…not even a puff of smoke. That’s impressive. The idle was still as smooth as silk.

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It was a good 40 miles on Hwy 186 to Chiricahua National Monument. Looking past all the cosmetically worn interior bits, I found the A/C ice cold, every gadget worked, and the ride was comfortable…maybe too comfortable. The tired suspension didn’t take too kindly to dips and abrupt slope changes in some of the corners. Gusty winds didn’t help much either. This contributed to me tightening the grip on the steering wheel. But, what do you expect…it’s got 921,000 miles!

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As long as any corners didn’t sneak up on me, the driving experience was relaxed and effortless. The steering felt tight and I didn’t detect any wheel wobble or vibration whatsoever.

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James Lee followed in my 6.

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Arrived at the monument sign. James Lee and I both agreed that this Lexus could still work great as an interstate cruiser. An odd characteristic pointed out by James Lee is the driver’s seat gives and bounces in addition to the suspension. Therefore, you get the sensation of double suspension travel?

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Driving into the park and we were greeted with some impressive scenery. The Chiricahua National Monument consists of 18 square miles of vertical rock formations. These are believed to be the remains of a volcanic eruption millions of years ago. The monument is far less-traveled than many of Arizona’s other natural wonders. Location partly to blame? Perhaps. It’s also just one of those National Monuments that goes unmentioned. We swapped cars again at this point.

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Following Tyson’s Legend.

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Here we parked at the “Massai Point,” being the final roundabout of the park.22488854542_5dd0438c3d_o

The afternoon was full of grand scenery, hiking and photo opportunities. Here we are hiking to the “Grotto” on the Echo Canyon Trail. The grotto was probably my favorite point where you get to climb through the rhyolite rocks.

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James Zamora taking in the scenery.

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Our other James doing the same.

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Jack employing the useful “selfie stick” for some group shots.

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From left to right: Chandler, Tyson, Jack, James Zamora, Jason, James Lee

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Entering the Grottoes!

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A rather poor photo of “Balanced Rock”

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As the sun started to set, it was time to direct our attention back to the cars for some photos.

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I got to drive the Legend coupe a bit and observed that Tyson is nearing 540,000 miles! Keep on rollin’!

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Now in better lighting conditions, I was able to easily see that the Lexus hadn’t made it this far without a few bruises along the way. Consider them badges of honor…

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Everything the driver touches is worn…shift knob, steering wheel, and elbow rests. However, the interior is not half bad for the age.

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Jack and Chandler hiked a bit more on their own while the rest of us dug out the media equipment and drove the park for some photos and video.

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Photos by Tyson:

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Photo by James Lee:

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Tyson’s Legend coupe and the 6.

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A few shots with the Tacoma. (First image courtesy of James Lee)

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As darkness fell, it was time to head back to Wilcox for the night. The last worthy photo of the trip was a quick shot in front of an abandoned Chevrolet dealer before we all headed back to our respective cities. Tyson was to return the Lexus to Matt the following Monday. Thank you all for coming along for the ride. Join me in wishing the #millionmilelexus well, and that it reaches Matt’s goal of 1 million miles. Until next time…

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8 thoughts on “A Drive in a Million Mile Lexus in Arizona’s Chiricahua National Monument

  1. tysonhugie says:

    I love it all! Especially that you got a photo of Jack’s selfie stick, and that you called the LS400 motor FAA-approved. Some of those pics you got from behind the Legend heading up Chiricahua are really nice! Great post! And I’m glad you got to leave a logbook entry for Matt in his Lexus. You can now claim some of the miles when the car finally hits its 1,000,000 mile destination.

    • pawela says:

      Thanks for putting all of this together, Tyson! Certainly was a fun trip. Jack’s selfie stick deserved a little bit of attention. I’m glad I have a small dent in Matt’s logbook. Looking forward to the next adventure!

  2. James Lee says:

    Awesome stuff! Your pictures turned out really great. Yeah that driver seat was probably the most entertaining thing – weeeeeee. Can’t wait to see you guys again and do another adventure.

  3. Matt Farah says:

    Nice piece. Funny you commented on the “tired suspension,” since the complete suspension was replaced less than 500 miles before you drove the car! It had brand new OEM shocks, springs, steering rack, and bushings (courtesy of Lexus) and was 100% up to spec. That’s exactly how the car rode when new. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • pawela says:

      Thanks, Matt! Oops…maybe I should have done a bit more research. Perhaps I’m not used to the floaty character of the LS and just assumed it was fatigued. Either way, it was certainly a treat to experience and I thank you for letting us have a go in it. Hope you get ‘er up to that 1 million mark soon!

  4. […] Million Mile Lexus by Jason Pawela of Driven for Drives […]

  5. […] Million Mile Lexus Drive (Chiricahua) […]

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