2019 PNW Contour Group Annual Meet


I’m at it again…tossing my suitcase in the trunk and hitting the open road across the country in an old hooptie — with a AAA card handy.

This time though, things are a little different. I’m going to a car meet. I’ve been a member of many car clubs over the years (Bimmer Forums, ZHP Mafia, Club RSX, Drive Accord, Acurazine, Mazda6 Forums, NPORA-Nissan Pathfinder off-road Association…to name a few), but I’ve never attended any of their annual meets. Proximity, time and frankly, interest have gotten in the way of me making the jump.

Ever since the PNW Contour Group reached out to me earlier this year, I’ve been hooked and never met a nicer group of folks. This is one meet I’ll try out. It was going to be hosted in Portland, Oregon, and that was just the ticket I needed to get away from the summer heat.


So, I hopped in the creaky old Ford and set out on a 3,500 mile drive to the Pacific Northwest. Aside from taking delivery in Colorado earlier this year, I haven’t had the Contour on the road for such a long journey. This would be a good test of the 21 year old cooling system in addition to all the other parts I’m unaware of their originality. Some call it crazy, some adventurous. I’d leave it as living on the edge. My route was as follows:

2019-07-31 11_26_06-Portland, OR to Las Cruces, NM - Google Maps

Maintenance and repairs for the Contour have luckily been minimal thanks to the care it’s received in the past. I’ve only had to change out the transmission fluid, recharge the A/C system, alignment, tires, and resurface the brake rotors. All my other costs have been largely cosmetic. In anticipation of this annual meet, I made sure every inch of this car was as clean as it could get and what’s left of the original paint polished and sealed.


The rear bumper needed a little buffing as the clearcoat on my DIY job hadn’t retained the luster it had. I might have to have this professionally resprayed at some point. This should hold me over for now.


The interior, though a little warped and brittle from 21 years of sun exposure, cleaned up pretty nice.


And I managed to stow everything in the trunk leaving the backseat clean and clear. This stash even included two buckets full of detailing supplies and some random car parts I planned to give away at the meet.


I hit the road on a Wednesday afternoon and planned to return the following week around the same time. This meant a fairly tight schedule of only two days driving to Portland and two days back. That was an average of 800 miles/12hrs a day. You never realize how big our country is until attempting stuff like this. My stops along the way were minimal as I’ve been on this route many times in the past.

Colorado state line


Utah state line


Things started greening up near Price Canyon, UT.


Welcome to Idaho!


I’ve seen this road many times in the past, but never tire of the lovely grassy hills of southern Idaho.


First night’s stop in Twin Falls, ID. All my work on detailing the exterior went out the door due to rain showers outside of Price, UT. No biggie, that’s where those detailing supplies will eventually be handy.


Next day, a short stop to view the Snake River Canyon.


This is the I.B. Perrine Bridge which hangs over the Snake River. At 486 feet above the canyon floor, it’s a popular location or adrenaline junkies to jump off with parachutes.


View of the Snake River from under the bridge.


Several hours later, I finally arrived in Oregon!


I was impressed by the determination of this little Contour. Not one issue so far. I was getting a solid 27 MPG on premium fuel even with steady 80 MPH speeds and the A/C constantly blowing.


Driving along the Columbia River with Mt. Hood in the distance.


Arrived in Portland. The meet was going to take place here at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport.


As I arrived a day early, first order of business was cleaning off the grime I accumulated over the last two days. The plan was to complete some photo ops prior to attending the actual meet on Sunday. A quick Google search for a credit card friendly, self-serve car wash led me to one about seven miles over the river to Vancouver, WA. Check out that insect homicide scene!


This is where bringing my own detail supplies came into play. I only utilized the high pressure water.


Dinner at Shari’s where I gorged in breakfast for dinner…a chicken fried steak with eggs.


The following day was going to be mine to explore. The boys had an autocross event 90 miles away, but since I have neither the reaction time or any desire to put that kind of stress on the Contour, I chose to head west and enjoy the PNW in all its glory. Here’s a photo one of the members sent me. I have to admit, I did feel like I was missing out!


However, I did have the beach and rain forests calling my name, so I proceeded with the plan.


I caught highway 26 leading out of Portland to Seaside.


Entering rain forest territory. This is what makes this desert boy happy.


Short hike on the Four County Point Trail.



Then, I drove until I ran out of land. This is Sunset beach outside of Seaside, OR where I’ve taken my Accord and Mazda6 for similar photo shoots. Now, it was the Contour’s turn.

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Of course, who could resist a few little innocent donuts in the sand?


Lunch was in Seaside at Ruby’s Roadside Grill. I tried their albacore tuna fillet melt which was out of this world!


After my day of clowning around the beach and trails, I headed back to Portland where the gang was starting to trickle in for the night. We had a roped off parking area behind the hotel. This was my first time meeting everyone in person, and I couldn’t have asked for a more warm welcoming.


A look from my hotel window as I was winding down for the evening.


The morning of the official meet. Many of us were out at the crack of dawn vacuuming, polishing, dusting, and staging our cars. I live for this kind of stuff.


Some minty seats I bought off a fellow member to eventually replace a few of mine that are pretty well weathered.


This silver beauty next to me belongs to JD out of Phoenix, AZ. What are the chances we share the same vanity plates?!


Alex (in blue) had his car featured in The Smoking Tire SVT Contour review


All polished up and ready. See that gent in the cowboy hat? That’s Greg from California. He’s a proud owner of 11 Contours! Much respect.



Some of the interiors were pretty wild. This SVT had the dash and console swapped from a Mercury Mystique to add a touch of luxury.


Fully decked out here with red pipping, carbon fiber, and Momo steering wheel just to name a few…


Next item on the itinerary, we headed indoors to our reserved conference room.


A lot of action in here. This is where t-shirts were distributed, member story presentations given, raffles, awards, behind-the-scenes of the club and a game of Jeopardy!





Chicken fajita buffet for lunch.


Back outside for voting.


Hoods up if you want consideration for best engine bay award. I left mine down.


Rearranging the cars for a group photo.


Photo credit here: Alexander Davis


Totally unexpected, but I managed to bring home two awards, Best Exterior and Farthest Traveled.


Going Home:

The meet was over around 3:30 pm which provided ample time to gain some ground for that night’s scheduled stop in Baker City, OR. I then continued on the same route where I’d spend the last night in Green River, UT.


Quick stop for lunch with my buddy Josh in Bosie, ID.


Views near Moab, UT


I tried something different for my last night on the road in Green River. I swapped the comfy hotel accommodations for a more primitive, yet charming KOA cabin.


Good thing I brought my own blankets and pillow! Luckily, KOAs and most other camp grounds have wifi these days. My sanity was preserved.


Back in New Mexico!


Continental Divide at 7,275 feet above sea level.


Last leg of the journey.


Home safe and sound! Aside from having to add a little oil, the Contour was very well behaved on the trip. It didn’t skip a beat even with some 100+ degree heat, heavy cross winds, rain, bumper-to-bumper traffic in Salt Lake City, or steep inclines I encountered. Thank you for coming along for the ride. Notice a little garage preview here of what’s to come in the next post. Stay tuned!



4k Mile Drive to The Pacific Northwest in a 2015 Mazda 6 – Part I

Fasten your seatbelts! It’s time to share another lengthy summer drive. This time, we are going to change things up a bit. My personal 2004 Mazda 6 got to take a break, and I was to drive with three other friends in a 2015 Mazda 6 owned by my roommate, James. I had been looking forward to thoroughly testing this new 6 out, and this trip was just the perfect fit.


You may remember that I did a massive West Coast tour back in 2013. Packed with so much fun, James and I decided to conduct that same drive this year only this time bring along two of our good friends, Jennifer and Alec. Many great destinations awaited as we embarked on a West Coast tour of 2015. Total distance of the trip was around 4,000 miles or 60+ hours driving. Ouch!

2015-08-03 12_57_05-Las Cruces, NM to Las Cruces, NM - Google Maps

Lots to cover, so let’s get to it. Thursday night, July 16th the (new) 6 got a good bath before getting stuffed with luggage and random essentials.


Also gave her a good dose of 86 octane to fill up the 16 gallon tank. With an EPA rating of 26 city and 38 highway, it sure will be much more gentle on my wallet compared to all the over vehicles I’ve feature here on DrivenforDrives. This 3rd generation Mazda6 has had sparkling reviews from big shot journalists such as Car and Driver, MotorTrend and Road & Track. Car and Driver voted the Mazda 6 one of their 10 best in 2015 and ranked it first in a recent family sedan comparo. Popular Mechanics named it the “Car of the Year” back in 2014. I won’t go into the details and specs here as there are plenty of sources for that if you want to take a gander.


6am sharp Friday July 17th, and we set off for the West!


With four people on board, we sure took advantage of the fairly good sized trunk the 6 offers.


Down I-25 we go towards Moab, UT…the first stop for the night.


Despite having a pretty decent infotainment system, we opted to navigate with our iPhones as it’s just that much quicker to enter a destination and manipulate routes. This was the same case for the TL when I completed the East Coast Tour.


James took the wheel for the first leg of the journey while the rest of us sat back and enjoyed the views.


Colorado state line! Our route took us through a small bit of the Southwest corner of Colorado.


Outside of Cortez is a roadside attraction we just had to investigate called the Creations of Mufflers. Thanks to Roadsideamerica, we got to what looked like a plot of private land that was turned into a virtual park.


No official parking here…just on the side of the road.


The sign at the entrance welcomes you in and only asks you to “close the gate behind you to not let the goats out.” We unfortunately didn’t see any goats.


Bizzare yet cool are how I would describe this land of muffler folk.






Arrived in Utah!


The majestic clear sky blended nicely with the Blue Reflex Metallic paint on the 6.


Along the way, we made a pit stop at Hole in the Rock.


Crowds deterred us from exploring the historic 5,000SF home carved into the rock. I never have been inside, but I hear it’s well worth the $5 admission to explore. We did check out the adjacent petting zoo to stretch our legs a bit.


$7 here gets you a full cup of feed for the animals behind the gates. Nipped fingers aren’t compensated for.


I chose to be the photographer rather than participate in feeding. Here’s James getting acquainted with one of the two camels on site. They also had goats, zebras, deer, hippos and giraffes.  Overall, lots of fun and we enjoyed the different animal behaviors.


Next pit stop, a quick hike up to the Wilson Arch near Montecillo, UT.


An overview of the arch.


And since I’m posting this on a Thursday, let’s fit in a few #throwbacks: Tyson Hugie’s ’94 Legend from DrivetoFive.


My ’04 Accord from the 2013 Tour of the West.


We continued on Hwy 191 toward Moab, UT where we spent the night.


The following morning, we made a quick drive through Arches National Park. I’ve been here a total of 4 times now, but I still am impressed by the scale of these massive sandstone structures.



From there it was a long drive so we hit the road hard. The route took us through Salt Lake City and up through Idaho to Ontario, OR where the next night stop was.


I was thankful Utah and Idaho interstates allow for 80(ish)MPH cruising. The 6 felt solid on these interstates though I did detect some wandering that required constant corrections through the steering wheel. I originally assumed a slight head wind was in play or just the weight of extra passengers and luggage on the back lifting the front end slightly. In the end, the fix was simple and surprising. More on that in the next post.


Some clouds rolled in and gave us a little sprinkle here and there. The 6’s automatic wipers were a nice feature for this sort of scenario. I never had to touch the wiper stalk.



Several hours later…Ontario, OR!


The following morning was filled with warm sunlight and calm breezes. We took I-84 north towards Washington where we’d check out Seattle.


Crossing the mighty Columbia River into Washington!


After zipping through Yakima and a few other small towns, Seattle was on the horizon.  With a population of over 668,000, this is the largest city in Washington and the entire Pacific Northwest. The metro area is closer to 3.6 million.


Very pretty compared to many other cities I’ve seen.



Once in downtown Seattle, the first car that caught my eye was this Impala sporting some vicious-looking spinners. Definitely wouldn’t want to get too close to this guy.


We felt the urge to see some action at the Seattle Zoo (called Woodland Park Zoo) and then headed over to the Seattle Space Needle. This observation tower is a major landmark in the Pacific Northwest. It was originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair and has been designated as a historical landmark. Up top, there is a fully rotating restaurant called SkyCity. This entire structure was once the tallest structure in the western United States at 605ft tall.

Being in the center of Seattle, parking isn’t that easy to come by. We settled for 2hr $10 public parking which we had to wait quite a while before a space opened up.


From there, we could easily see the ‘Needle.



My Space Needle pass! Quite pricey at $30, but was well worth it.


An elevator ride up to the top took 41 seconds at 10MPH. On windy days, it slows to 5MPH. Once up top, the cityscape was incredible. Just about as spectacular as the views from New York’s Empire State Building.


Bad photo here: Jennifer, Alec and James.




Jennifer taking it all in.




After the Space Needle, we headed to Pike’s Place Market that overlooks the Elliott Bay.




Since we all are Starbucks junkies, we had to check out the very first Starbucks store located right here.


I loved how the store had a local feel and didn’t show a lot of the corporate, shiny, hip decor. It was plain, rustic and felt original. Props to Starbucks for keeping the store this way. We all got “First Store” mugs as well as drinks.


Well, that’s enough jabbering for one post. Stay tuned, Part 2 is coming up!