California Drive Part I: Salton Sea and Bombay Beach


Nope, I haven’t forgotten about you all. It has been that busy time of year for work and other life events just keep me away from sitting down and focusing on getting out a fresh post or even a blog-worthy drive. I’m long overdue an update and I’m pleased to say, things are going well as far as I can see for the 6.

From the last post’s worry over the low oil pressure, I’m wondering if we got a false reading from the mechanic. I’m currently sitting at 188,500 miles and haven’t had any signs of engine fatigue. The oil light will come and go, but I’m almost dead set on blaming the oil pressure sensor. I recently took it in for a 185k oil change and a general overall inspection. Other than a drive belt starting to show signs of wear, she came out with a clean bill of health.

So with that said, let’s get on another road trip! This time, it’s sunny Southern California, and actually the first time I’ve taken the 6 to The Golden State.

I was to join fellow road trippers from Phoenix, Tyson and James Lee. Destination? Salton Sea and a few other wacky, off-beat destinations.

Total drive time for me: 19.25hrs or 1,300 miles.

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I gave the 6 a much-needed wash after a few drives around some dusty construction projects for work.



You may remember my last visit to Salton Sea back in December of 2014. Although not much as changed, it still is quite an unforgettable place. A real treat was getting to see Tyson’s and James’ reaction for it being their first time. I started off from Las Cruces on a Friday morning and made my way west on I-10 towards Arizona. I took my time and made the longish 600+mile drive to our overnight stop in Indio, CA slow and steady. Tyson caught a glimpse of my progress via the Find My Friends app and recommended I take the Phoenix bypass to avoid the rush hour. So glad I did.

I crossed the California state line right before sunset.


As I drove into the gorgeous sunset, my mind would constantly wander and meditate. This is my happy place. Eagle-eyed readers may spot that my check engine light came back (or, “Chuck” as I’ve named it). This has proven to be a harmless code that goes away once I get off the highway.


Tyson got a good head start and arrived in Indio, CA first. I came in about an hour later and then James a little after. Even though it was about 9:30ish, we hit up dinner at Mario’s Italian Cafe. Good food. Good company.


After a pretty decent sleep in our shared room at the Indio Motel 6, we departed fairly early for the adventures of the day. Tyson caught a shot of me doing some pre-flight checks and topping off some oil. Fellow Mazda 6 V6 owners will relate.


We grabbed breakfast at the local Denny’s and then headed south on Hwy 111. This highway hugged the east edge of the Salton Sea for much of the journey. First stop on the drive was the International Banana Museum.


Sadly, it was closed at our time of arrival so, no banana content for us.


The next stop was the Salton Sea’s North Shore Beach & Yacht club. Sounds snazzy, right? It wasn’t so much in person. The Yacht club was no more than a basic community center and gym for the locals. The North Shore Beach only had one good element…great backdrop for a photo op!

Here are the cars on this drive…

From left to right: My 2004 Mazda 6 V6 5spd, Tyson’s 2013 Acura 2.4L ILX 6-spd and James’ press vehicle of the week…a slick looking 2016 Chevy Malibu 2.0L turbo.



Groupie shot a few miles down the road in front of the Rec Area sign.


We continued on Hwy 111 to Bombay Beach which took an easy 25 or so miles. Our drive consisted of smooth asphalt with gentle dips which made for great fun. Good thing I had an empty stomach. Tyson commented over our walkie-talkies that it would be a blast if we were allowed to drive the stretch…”some” miles over the speed limit.

Here we arrived at America’s lowest elevation community…Bombay Beach, CA. With just over 290 residents (2010 census), there isn’t much infrastructure here. People had great aspirations for this place back in 1929 when the town was developed. Sadly, the ever changing eco system of the ‘Sea and a few good floods had driven many people away. The smell left us wrinkling our noses too.


Several abandoned homes remain. Tyson backed his ILX up to this house to declare it his new retirement project.


Looks cozy, Tyson!


Here it was back in 2014. It hasn’t aged well.


We drove up over a large dike surrounding the town and came to the salt-encrusted ruins that used to be the resort side of the town.


This ended up being a great spot for some more photography. James captured some sweet shots of his press Malibu (sixspeedblog) and Tyson and I rummaged around a bit.


New to the area since my last visit was a neat little wooden boat on some stands. Tyson quickly got comfortable on it.



Glimpse from below.


Here’s how the shores of the Salton Sea look today. Basically a wasteland of dead fish and birds that didn’t survive the changing waters. Most likely the source of the area’s musty smell. Nice place for some sunbathing, eh?


Here are a few DLSR photos of the day…






Before leaving the town, we stopped for a refreshing drink at the official Bombay Market.


It’s a small place with maybe 5 aisles of fairly bare shelves carrying only the essentials. The smell of the market was definitely in need of a few Glade Plug-Ins. Even so, that drink was refreshing.


I have quite a bit more coming. Stay tuned!

Salton Sea and Bombay Beach, California

Happy New Year to all! Many miles behind the wheel and busy activities have kept me away from the blogging scene of late, but I’m back! This past Christmas I was back in the San Joaquin valley of California to spend time with family and friends.


It was tons of fun and great to be surrounded by good company. This trip ended up being one of the most memorable for me and a great one to close out 2013. Here are many of my little cousins anxiously awaiting to see what lies beneath the wrapping paper on Christmas Eve.


Here’s a photo of me, cousin Lola, Grandma “B,” and Nathan. Nathan is a quite a talented guy who has had a hand in the visual effects in many popular movies/shows. Those include, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Smallville, Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, and Night at the Museum just to name a few. Check out the full list here.


The TL has been performing great and I’m still learning about new tricks it has to offer. I’m growing more and more comfortable with the navigation system. I only yelled at it twice this trip!


Indio, CA, has become one of my routine overnight stops to the ‘valley. It’s not what you’d call a halfway point, but I like the location and the surroundings. Here I was driving around downtown at night and just had to nestle in with some of the fancy boys to take a few pix. Behind the TL is a Porsche Boxster and a BMW M5.


Overall mileage for this past visit to California and back was 2,445. I spent well over 40 hours behind the wheel, but I have to admit, they were all very pleasant. The format of this post will seem a bit scattered, but it’s because I have so much to cover!

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The only hiccup for the TL was a wheel bearing which decided to start singing a melodious song while I cruised at highway speeds. I took the TL to Fresno Acura in Fresno, CA. There I was given the red-carpet service. They diagnosed the problem right away and got me out fast even though I was a “walk-in.”


Large glass doors leading to the service bay allowed me to view my car being dismantled.


While the wheel bearing surgery was taking place, I took a look around the lot and showroom.


In addition to a new 2014 MDX, a few TLs, they had this very tidy TSX Special Edition in Bellanova White Pearl. If the TSX offered a 6-speed manual with the V6, I would have seriously considered that as opposed to the TL. Sadly, the 6-seed is only  available with the 2.4L 4-cylinder.


After a few hours, she was all ready to go. Warranty fully covered the repair, so I just signed and drove away.IMG_1166

On the way back to the hotel, I hit 30,000 miles! That’s a good 5,554 miles I’ve put on since the purchase date in mid-November.


The return leg of the trip is the main focus of this post. I made a bold move this trip and did something I’ve been wanting to do for years…like the past 10 years. I made the decision to see my Mom in LA. I had lost contact with her when I was seven years old and haven’t made any attempt since then. That’s a good 20 years! In the end, the visit went very well and I’m glad I did it. Here I am about to exit to Pasadena where I was scheduled to meet her and my three half-brothers.


Here’s a group photo of all of us. Jerry, me, Mom, Jeffrey and Jonathan. I’m looking forward to keeping ties with them and future visits!


The next day, I made a slight detour southeast from LA to the Salton Sea and Bombay Beach before heading home. I was already getting a little worn out, but since these sights were just a few hundred miles out of the way, I just couldn’t pass up.


The Salton Sea is a fascinating geological site. It is regarded as a shallow endorheic rift lake and it’s located in the Imperial and Coachella valleys. It was created in 1905 by a massive flood caused by the Colorado River, and many attempts have been made to make this an exotic desert oasis. Sadly, those attempts have failed, and it shows. Even so, it’s still regarded as a Class I recreational area for fishing, swimming and boating. Believe me, after seeing what I did, I wouldn’t even get my feet wet in the water. It takes up roughly 525 sq miles of the land and like Death Valley, this “sea” is 225ft BELOW sea level!


With the squawking of the seagulls, pelicans, and the smell of the salty water, I felt like I was right at the Pacific coastline.




When I looked up the details on the lake, I was really surprised at what I had found: Large quantities of fish die in this oxygen-depleting combination of sun and salt environment. In 1999, nearly 8 million fish died in one day! There also was an article back in 2012 saying a lingering stench in LA air was tied to the rotting fish of the area here. To top that off, many species of birds have been dying of type-C botulism from the consumption of ill fish. What looks like sand on the shore here is actually layers and layers of bones and barnacles of the expired fish. Luckily, the time I was here I didn’t experience any of the odor.


Here is a photo I snatched from google showing the extent of the problem.


Despite the aforementioned, there were many birds active on the water. I took out my zoom lens to capture a few in action…





Most of the stops along the shore looked post-apocolyptic!


It looked like at one time, someone had big dreams of developing and turning this land into some prime real estate near the water’s edge. Check out those prices…$59K!


Many predefined lots are surrounded with expired palm trees and weeds.


Several miles down the road, I came to Bombay Beach. This is regarded as the lowest community in America at 223ft below sea level. (Does this mean I’ve just driven on the lowest paved road in America?) There are many small little communities along the Salton Sea’s coastline, but this one stood out the most. It has to be the most depressing and unwelcoming community I’ve been to. Evidently, Bombay Beach was somebody’s dream of paradise back when the town was established in 1929. However, the rotting smell of decaying fish and birds, constant flooding, and the unpredictable future of the lake made investors leave the scene without turning back. The population as of 2010 is 295 (2010 census).


Driving through this community gave me a real uneasy feeling. Graffiti, collapsed buildings and many unhappy glaring looks from the few residents who still live here. I felt very unwelcome.


An example of how many buildings stand today.


Prime “fixer-upper!”


The residents built a dike seen here in attempt to keep the overflowing lake from entering the community.


I found a spot where I could drive up over the dike and I got the shock of the day. This was a dried wasteland of salt-encrusted ruins. It is quite obvious why this part of town was abandoned years ago.


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I used the backup cam to carefully position the TL for this shot.


As I left the area, I started to drive through the remainder of the community.


Many instances where you’ll see a perfectly sound structure next to a pile of rubble.


If any of you have ever seen the movie, The Hills Have Eyes, you’ll know why I just wanted to book it when I saw that title written on a side of a house!


As much of an adventure as it would be to explore some of these abandoned homes inside and out, there was just too much of an unwelcoming feeling for me to be comfortable doing so. Many homes here had boarded up windows. With temperatures reaching 115˚F consistently during the summer, I wouldn’t be surprised if residents do that to keep the A/C in and heat out.


After Bombay Beach, I decided it was time to make a straight shot to home. So I hopped on I-8 east towards Arizona where I’d pick up I-10 near Tucson.


Of course, I had to grab an In-N-Out burger before I crossed the New Mexico border.


Hope you all enjoyed the trip and my first year of blogging! I’m looking forward to 2014 and all the miles that will come with it. See you then…

Thanksgiving Drive to California and the Musical Road

As our Thanksgiving holiday approached us this year, my Grandpa invited me to join him and some family and friends in California. His words, “Wanna break in your new car and come out to Cali?” As you can imagine, I jumped at the opportunity. This is the first trip I took with the TL. And it’s a fairly big one slammed into less than a week.

But before I got started, I wanted some insurance. Nothing from State Farm or Allstate, but in the form of a 3M clear-bra. With the front end being in such mint condition, I wanted to keep it that way by adding a pre-cut 3M bra to keep all the little stones and other debris from marring the paint. I also managed to get the headlights done as part of the deal. After I dropped off the car, I got a call from the shop owner who was wondering if I wanted to have the windows tinted as well. He knocked $50 off the price of what the tinting would otherwise cost. I told him, “Go for it!” So now the TL sits with a fresh 3M clear-bra and 35% window tint. I chose 35% since I felt 20 would be too dark on a black car. Here’s when I picked it up after the 3M additions.


My friend Jouhl took me to pick up my car and I was able to get a few pix of the Altima Coupe and my TL together.


Jouhl also got his windows tinted by this shop when he bought the Altima.


As you may have noticed in the above photos, our weather wasn’t very southern New Mexico-like. Overcast and quite chilly for mid-November. The next day, I woke up to a light layer of snow outside! A rarity for our area and especially this time of year. Check out my front tree…it hadn’t even lost its leaves yet. Since I was to leave on my trip in a few days, I decided to utilize the Pathfinder and not let the TL get dirty.


The destination for the trip was Coalinga, CA, where I’d meet the family for Thanksgiving. The rest was going to consist of a few side stops and overall, long enough to where this will have to be shared in a couple of different posts. The entire trip is as follows:

  • Las Cruces to Blythe, CA
  • Blythe, CA to Kettleman City/Coalinga, CA
  • Coalinga, CA to Kingman, AZ and then back to Las Cruces.

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Estimated Total distance/time: 2,032 miles/32 hours.
Here’s the TL before she took me on this long trip to the west. Her home turf. (Since it was originally from LA)


West bound I go toward Phoenix, AZ. As always, gotta stop and let Border Patrol make sure I’m legal.


The drive down I-10 was nice and steady with clear skies.



I throughly enjoyed many of the TL’s amenities along the way. Many amenities I’ve never been exposed to before in a car. Most of which, the bluetooth audio capacity where all I have to do is turn on my iPhone’s blutooth and let the system do the rest to play the music and take calls. I never have to take it out of my pocket. I’m still trying to master the Navigation system and other creature comforts the TL offers. Some things I feel Acura made a tad more complicated than should have been, though.


Several hours on the road and not much changes on the way.


As I rolled through Phoenix, I came upon some bumper-to-bumper traffic which gave me some time to give family a call on the TL’s Bluetooth system.


Several hours later around 10 p.m., I nestled down in the Clarion Inn in Blythe, CA.


As the TL “ticked” itself cool, I was inside to checking in.


Next morning, I hit the road fairly early. Part of the fun of coming to California is seeing many different cars that very rarely set foot in New Mexico. Prime example is this Ferrari 460 Spyder I followed in Indio, CA. The exhaust note was glorious to listen to!


I filled up in Santa Clarita and found that the TL isn’t half bad at gas consumption.


I calculated a 28 MPG of mostly freeway driving of 70-80(ish) MPH.


As I turned to go towards Lancaster, CA, I hit the 26,000 mark!


For some reason, I’ve always enjoyed the straight back roads of California.


I arrived in Lancaster, CA, fairly late in the day just before sunset. I purposely made this side stop to see and drive on the “Civic Musical Road.” This was on my list of things to see in 2013 and I was delighted to find it wasn’t too far off my beaten path. The Civic Musical Road was constructed back in 2008 for a Civic commercial. It was created by cutting grooves across a lane that were strategically placed to produce musical notes as the tires roll over at a steady speed of 55mph. The notes were to mimic the finale of the “William Tell Overture.” Sadly, the section of road was paved over shortly after the commercial was complete due to nearby residents complaining about the noise. The City of Lancaster recreated a section of the road on Avenue “G” where it resides now. Here’s the video of the project from Honda:

As you can imagine, I just HAD to check it out in person. I exited for Avenue “G” off Highway 14.


As I exited the highway, I made a left turn and arrived at the location.


The guys from Top Gear have also been on this road back in Series 19, Episode 2.

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I parked on the side and got out to take some close up photos.

Here you can see the special grooves that were cut.


And here’s the TL about ready to try it out for the first time.


Let’s see how she sounds!

After that nice little stop, I headed straight for Coalinga where my destination was. First night I met with my Grandpa and his friend, Delia. Then the next day we had surrounded ourselves with good company and great food!


Here we are visiting after a great dinner.



Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Part 2 is to come…

Tour of the West Finale — Chandelier Tree, Vegas, and Phoenix.

For the last post of our big trip, we will be heading down south back home in Las Cruces, NM. Lots to cover so here we go!

Day 7 we visited the mighty Redwoods National Park and then headed south to San Francisco. Total distance/time: 355miles/6.5hrs.

Continuing where we left off last time, we entered the Redwood State Park in northern California. The redwoods, also called Sequoia, are the largest and tallest tree spices in the world. Some we saw were literally thousands of years old and over 200ft tall! Sadly, photos don’t do these massive giants any justice.


The State Park is scattered along the northern coast California Hwy 101. The park occupies nearly 133,000 acres which falls withinDel Norte and Humboldt Counties. We visited the northern park, Jedehiah Smith. 


Soon the paved road ended and we ran deep into the woods on a smooth but muddy road.


Noramlly, I’m a person who likes to keep his car clean along the trip. At this point in the in the trip though, I didn’t care about the filth on the Accord. I considered it more of an achievement.


We hiked around to get up  close and personal with these giants.


Some trees came so close to the road, it appeared many motorists scraped their mirrors judging by the numerous wounds on the sides of the trees.



We felt microscopic!



Last picture I took on our way back to the highway.


In Crescent City, we visited a really cool place called Ocean World. It’s like an aquarium, but this privately owned place is just like their slogan, “Sea Life from a new Angle.”


This is one of the few places I’ve been to where you can have an up close and personal experience with marine life (without getting into the water, or course). This was my first time holding a star fish.



One of the highlights of this place? The opportunity to pet a live shark!


They were contained in this large tub for everyone to give a try.


South of Crecent City in a small town of Leggett, California, is a roadside attraction I’ve been looking forward to seeing the whole trip— The  Chandelier Tree Drive-thru Park! This 315 foot tall redwood tree has a massive 6 foot hole cut through the base to allow an average car to drive through. The name comes from the unique limbs that resemble a chandelier.


To get to the tree, we had to drive 1.5 miles down a rather dusty road. (Good thing the Accord was already dirty)


And we arrived!


Just to be on the safe side, I folded the mirrors in.


Fits like a glove!




After going through on my own while Jouhl took pictures, I snuck around again with Jouhl to go through again. Hey, you live once! Here’s the tree from a further distance.


We saw a piece of a redwood trunk laid out for people to crawl in for photos. We of course had to do the same.


Now on to San Francisco! I’ve only been through as a passenger on the freeway, but never driven in the city.



Didn’t take too long before we were able to pull off at the Golden Gate bridge scenic view. This 23,000ft long bridge dates back to 1936 and is one of the most recognized symbols of San Francisco.


With only being a mild 71˚F with gentle breezes, the weather was perfect.


…and here we go! The first time I’ve ever driven here.


Entering San Francisco was exciting and scary at the same time. I’m not used to the hustle and bustle of the city.


On our way to downtown, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit 2640 Steiner Street—the house filmed in one of my family’s favorite movies, “Mrs. Doubtfire.” The movie was filmed in San Francisco back in 1993 and this house hasn’t changed hardly at all!


Screenshot from the movie.


And here’s the mud-splattered Accord in front of the house, 20 years later!


After a few quick shots of ‘Doubtfire’s house, we went onwards to downtown and Chinatown. It was rush hour and let me just say, this was THE most scary driving experience of my life!


Took an hour to figure out parking for Chinatown, but finally we were able to enter on foot.


After it started getting dark, the city lit up like Christmas.


Day 8 we met up with one of our good friends from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, Fang-chu. She came here from China as an exchange student to New Mexico and now she’s happily residing in San Francisco. Then we went on to the San Joaquin valley city, Fresno, CA. Total distance/time: 188 miles/3hrs. However, with traffic and various stops, those 3hrs turned into a full day!


We hung out at Golden Gate Park for a few hours. Was so much fun! (photo curtesy of Google)


I had to stretch my legs a bit from all the driving.


Nice man from Russia offered to take our picture for us. Nice seeing you Fang-Chu!


We left San Francisco by noon and went on to San José to see Cupertino, Apple Computer headquarters.



Sadly, no tours of the factory were offered, but a visitor center and store were open to the public.


Jouhl and I are Apple geeks, so this was a must-see.



Overpriced merchandise? Yes, but I didn’t care knowing where it came from. Man, I’m a sucker!


Onwards to the San Joaquin valley. This is a valley in central California that holds many of the country’s produce crops. It spreads from the California capital of Sacramento down south to just outside of LA. It’s not very pretty nor are there many attractions, but I have a soft spot for this area because I was born here. Here’s a picture capturing the golden hills of California…where California get’s its slogan, “The Golden State.”


…and a shot of how the back roads look surrounded by acres and acres of crops. We got into Fresno around 9pm after a lovely dinner with my aunt and uncle in Turlock, CA.


Day 9 we went east to the Sequoia National Forest to pick up some sugar pine cones. These come from the Sugar Pine Tree which is the largest species of pine and they are found along certain patches of forest in California and Oregon. There aren’t too many places in the U.S. where you can find these massive cones. This happened to be along the way to where we’d be spending the night—Las Vegas, NV! Total distance/time: 420 miles/10 hours.


We pulled off on a secluded dirt road and it didn’t take long before we found some. As long as we weren’t in a national park, it was fine to pick up the cones.


Some Sugar Pine cones reach a length of 26 inches! We were only able to find them as long as 18 inches. These were to take back as gifts and just cool mementos.


Okay, maybe we got a little carried away. But I have to admit, I was pleased throughout the entire trip with the luggage capacity of the Accord.


On our way to Vegas, Jouhl captured the moon peeping up over the horizon.


The I-15 north. Same Interstate we took several days ago through Salt Lake City.


Vegas was just a little over an hour away. Good thing because we were getting tired.


Timing was perfect as we got to drive the strip at dark!



I’ve never been through Vegas at night so it was quite impressive to see “The City of Lights” in its ideal setting.


Day 10 we were to head south to Phoenix where we’d spend our last night and then on home from there. Total distance/time to home on the road: ~700 miles/10 hours.

After we departed Vegas, we saw a sign on the side of the road, “Helicopter Dam Ride — $39.” This would take us over the famous Hoover Dam. We couldn’t resist…




Never being in a helicopter before and the day was quite windy, I was nervous. But again, you live once. Here it is landing just before we got in…



Jouhl took the co-pilot seat. I was happy to hide in the back since I was uneasy about flying.


Up in the air we go! The views were breathtaking and certainly far superior to viewing the dam from the ground. I guess this makes up for being in the air.




Shaking from the adrenaline, I was happy to be back on solid ground. *sigh*


After we got back on the road, we hit the AZ border.


And finally Phoenix! Out of a few big cities I would elect to live in in the southwest, Phoenix is one of them. I like the layout and it seems clean and laid back. We took a hotel in downtown Tempe. It was suspicisouly quiet in downtown, but maybe we came at an off hour.




For our last dinner on the road, we went gourmet—In-n-Out!



Eager to get home, we left Phoenix early in the morning and only made one stop along the way, Saguaro National Park in Tucson, AZ. I came here a few months back, but didn’t have much time to really explore. This time we were able to drive through the entire park. It was just as rewarding to visit again. These massive cacti can reach nearly 70 feet tall and become several hundred years old. We learned that it takes just 75 years before one arm begins to grow.


Oops! When I backed up for a picture on the trail, I went a little too far and hit the sand bank and introduced some quite a bit of sand to the exhaust pipes. Oh well, it will blow out when we get on the freeway.


Outside of the park, I filled up for the last time before getting to Las Cruces. It was such a great trip, but we were ready to see home.


The Accord performed nobly on this trip. It’s times like this when a car proves itself to me, I can begin to grow quite fond of it. Thinking back, it’s been our best friend. Reliable, comfortable and fun to drive. My best recorded gas mileage was 34.5 MPG and the lowest was 27 MPG. The total miles driven were ~4,800 miles for the entire trip. Odometer read 123,500 when we started and was around 128,300 in the end. This Accord climbed the Utah mountains effortlessly, carved through the rainforest and coastal roads with confidence, danced on the beach, charged up the steep San Francisco hills while dodging pedestrians, crawled through central California traffic and paraded through the Las Vegas strip. It has been driven on dirt, asphalt, sand, gravel and grass. And it did all of this without using a drop of oil, and not one suspicious clunk, groan or creak. This car that was once in a dealer lot to be wholesaled in this condition…


has come to this…


Looking forward to sharing more adventures with you all. Have a great weekend and see you next time!