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!