Category Archives: Travels

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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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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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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Enjoying 2017 and A 2nd Year Anniversary

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Happy Easter! After a nearly 8 month hiatus, I wanted to check in. Apologies my blog efforts have slowly died down the past year. Things have been good with life, though. Career in full swing, on track and home renovations still coming along. These have been consuming most of my time and therefore I have not put any priority to this blog. I’ve missed sharing many milestones and adventures with you. I certainly needed a holiday weekend like this to keep me away from work, traveling or hammering dry wall so I could sit down and shoot out a much needed post. I’ll get right to it:

Recently, (rather, November 7th, 2016) the 6’s second year anniversary passed by. That means, it’s now the car that I’ve owned for the longest since my 2002 RSX Type-S. Here’s how things have been holding up with the 6 since the last anniversary:

  • Total miles covered in 2016: 37,458 miles
  • Miles on the ODO on the anniversary date: 214,057
  • Total states driven in: 11
  • Provences visited: 3
  • 8 oil changes
  • 0 Breakdowns (in 2016)
  • Longest road trip: Las Cruces, NM to Arctic Circle, AK (~8,900 miles)
  • Maintenance cost: ~1,000

The 6 is running great, but there are a few issues I will be addressing in the coming months. The suspension is feeling a little tired, and the passenger lower control arm is occasionally making some obnoxious moaning noises when cold. Now that it’s getting warmer, I might be able to avoid any pricey repairs until this Fall. My DIY headliner fix didn’t hold that well, and the fabric is starting to sag again. That will need a professional job. During my home renovating escapades, I managed to break one of the back seat fold-down handles while loading stuff and a careless bump with a 2×4 broke a chunk off of my tail light. Also, a careless motorist lightly scuffed my driver’s door after the New Year, but that will be addressed soon with a good exterior detail…which is due this Spring. Currently, the 6 is sitting at 225,804 miles and continues to be my daily driver.

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I don’t plan to retire this car anytime soon. Despite being MIA for so long here, I’ve still been on the open road racking up the miles. Here are a few adventures to share:

Ouray, Colorado trip with Dad:

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Wilcox, AZ with Tyson and James. We had a blast sliding around the Wilcox Playa (Dry Lake Bed)!

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Yup, I’m the idiot who decided to tryout a “figure eight” with the window open. I’m still cleaning sand out!

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Another trip with Dad to California. We captured the “terrific twos” along the way!

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Serious Dad with the hands at “10 and 2”

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Kingston, CA

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Grand Canyon, AZ:

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Occasionally, I will have an urge to go explore around the Organ Mountains Monument here in Las Cruces after work. It’s a good place to clear the mind.

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I replaced the passenger headlight for the THIRD time. Bouncing around the roads to Alaska last summer did a number on the internal wiring harness. I hope this third time ends up being the charm.

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Sadly, in February this year, the 6 left me stranded for the first time due to a failed alternator. About a week in the shop for parts and $1,000 later, the OEM replacement got me back on the road. It didn’t take me long to learn Mazda OEM parts are quite expensive and take a while to get here in New Mexico. For this particular job, and the labor (which was the majority of the final bill) involved removing part of the front suspension to access the dang alternator.

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That pretty much catches you all up! I don’t have any solid plans for this summer yet, but don’t worry, I will be sharing the journey’s with you. Thanks for stopping by!

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2016 Alaska Drive Day 14-16: 200,000 Miles & Final Wrap-up

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Guess what? We have a milestone on our hands regarding the 6. She passed 200,000 miles just outside Barstow, California on June 3, 2016! It’s been just under two years of ownership, and I didn’t expect to reach this milestone this soon. Woo-hoo!

Well, we are here to wrap up the longest and one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever been on. I am home, and the Alaska drive is officially completed. I’m amazed that Tyson and I had been able to accomplish this in just over two weeks driving the entire time ourselves. We came pretty darn close to truck driver status there! I want to thank Tyson for helping make it such a smooth and easy trip. My drive time was a little longer than his due to my starting location, and my desire to travel home a different route.

The 6 was sweet the whole way and didn’t miss a beat. The biggest maintenance item was simply keeping a close eye on the oil level and adding as needed. I completed nearly 9,000 miles and I added a total of 4qts of oil. This is nothing new to me. I did have an issue with the air conditioner that’s explained below, but no other maladies to report. Overall, not too shabby. Tyson’s ILX did even better: it sailed through without having its hood opened once or even an oil change! Here’s some trip stats:

  • States Visited: 9
  • Territories Visited: 3
  • Total Miles covered: 8,936 miles
  • Total Hours in the driver’s seat: ~149 hours (!)
  • Total Gallons of Fuel: 299.7 (Includes Canadian conversion to gallons)
  • Total Fuel Cost: $856 (Includes Canadian conversion)
  • Breakdowns: 0
  • Unscheduled Maintenance Stops: 1 (A/C)
  • Flat tires: 0

The drive back since Eugene, OR was not exactly what you’d call leisurely. I had tunnel vision, and pushed a little further each day to get back. Mostly because I’m impatient, and because I’ve been over this route many times in the past.

I left Eugene, OR and traveled south on I-5 and switched over to Hwy 99 in Sacramento. From there, I stopped for the night in Turlock, CA. I originally was going to see my aunt, however she was out of town. As I approached California, the temperatures increased significantly from the crisp Canadian and Alaskan 50s and 60s. I had previously discovered in Seattle that my  A/C was pushing out hot air, but I didn’t want to bother with it then. I just figured I’d  tough it out until I got home. Many people endure the heat without A/C…how hard could it be? Maybe, I’m too spoiled, or maybe just a plain wimp…I couldn’t take it. Opening the windows on the freeway is not only extremely noisy, it just turbocharged hot air into my face which got tiring fast. Sticky black leather seats don’t help much either. So, I bit the bullet and pulled into Yreka, CA’s Auto Zone to pick up an A/C recharge kit. I didn’t know anything about the process, but I was determined to give it a try. Mercifully, it ended up taking 10 minutes or work, and voila! Cold air! I will never again take it for granted.

The next stop from Turlock, CA was my good old faithful town of Flagstaff, AZ. That day was 14 hours long, and I felt it. I did a visit with James Zamora in Socorro, NM, and I arrived at my house Sunday evening. I was very pleased to be back and to take out the luggage for the last time. Before we get to my photo feed below, let me share a video of my drive on Sunset Beach in Oregon from Day 13. This is something I forgot to include in my last post:

Thank you all for coming along on the epic drive. See you next time!

Drive through northern California on I-5.

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A lot of sightings of triple duty semis!

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Mt. Shasta, a potentially active volcano, viewpoint.

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Couldn’t resist capturing this “Woof Waste” station at a rest stop.

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Central California’s blooming oleanders in the medians. Sure spices up the scenery!

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The hottest observed temperature on the trip in Turlock, CA. The coldest was in British Columbia at 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

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A quick A/C recharge that actually worked! Good reviews on A/C Pro paid off.

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Slight bypass off the main road on Tehachapi Loop road.

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Views from the loop road.

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My 200,000 mile milestone!

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Capturing the moment with quick walk around.

Getting back into New Mexico.

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While in Socorro, NM, I spotted a 6 just like mine for sale. V6 5-spd too!

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Home at last! That little MGB in the garage will come out to play on this blog soon.

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In closing, Tyson created a montage of our top events. It’s well worth the look!

 

2016 Alaska Drive Day 12-13: Seattle & Pacific Northwest

Day (12 & 13) Miles:  878 |  Total Trip Miles: 7,186

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We are back in the U.S., and today I was able to relax a bit. Even though I’m still a few thousand miles from home, it feels like we are making great progress on getting back. I’m combining two days into one post again for avoiding the risk of boring you.

We left our comfortable Motel 6 accommodations in Cache Creek, BC and headed south for the border! By quickly glancing at the map, I assumed it would be a drive just like the last few days. But, no! To my surprise, there were endless mountain ranges, curvy smooth roads, roaring rivers, tunnels, and clear blue skies. Awww…it was almost orgasmic!

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After all this, we made a quick stop in Abbotsford, BC to visit with Pam (or “nsxpam” on Instagram). Yup, that means she has an Acura NSX from 1991, and also a sweet 2006 TSX. A true Honda fan and a great host.

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She even packed us some yummy salads for the road. Thanks, Pam!

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From Abbotsford, it was only 20 or so minutes to the border crossing into the U.S. CBP officer was very friendly and “gently” recommended that I clean off my plate as their cameras couldn’t read it..haha!

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Last night, we spent the night in Seattle where I visited with an aunt and uncle. Tyson met up with some of his family and friends also. My dinner date was in downtown Seattle at Elephant & Castle, and it sure was great to catch up. Stupid me forgot to get a group photo, so these family members will have to remain anonymous until next time.

Today, Tyson and I had a hardy breakfast at the local IHOP before setting off. Only this time, we would set off on different routes, so the remainder of this trip will be just me. (It’s been great, Tyson!!!) Tyson headed east on I-90 towards Idaho and Utah where I went a more Pacific Northwest route down through Oregon and California.

I made a rather odd route through Long Beach, WA; Astoria, OR; Lincoln City, OR; and finally tonight I am in Eugene, OR.  Since I was in this part of the country, I just HAD to give the Washington and Oregon coasts a quick drive-by before settling in on I-5 south. Tomorrow, that’s where I’ll be for at least half of the day and I’ll catch Hwy 99 south in Sacramento, CA. My plans are simple: I’ll stop when I get tired. Thanks for following along…here’s a chronological flow of photos for you all.

Following Tyson in some of those fun British Columbia tunnels!

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Last Canadian gas stop

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We spotted a rare Mazdaspeed 6…so that’s what my tail lights used to look like?

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Coming into Washington!

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Downtown Seattle on my way to dinner (and trying to find parking)

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Dinner spot

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Following day first stop at Long Beach, WA. According to their visitor center, this sign is false…it’s not the world’s longest beach. However, it is the longest DRIVABLE beach in the world…does that count?

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Views from the cockpit.

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6 playing in the Pacific waters…

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Driving into some heavy greenery!

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Lunch stop in Astoria, OR at a place called, Ship Inn. Simple salad and clam chowder is exactly what I was craving.

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Views of Astoria, OR. I love this little town so much!

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Oregon Coast views.

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Exposing the 6 to a little rain forest action.

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Drift Creek Covered Bridge from 1914 near Otis, OR.

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And a closing photo of a rather embarrassing front end. I can’t even…

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See you all later!