Tag Archives: travel

Hawaii Part II

Welcome to Part II:

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Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make time to visit the famous Pearl Harbor Monument which was situated right here in Honolulu. Apparently, it’s one of the most visited National Monuments in the US and ticket sales are limited each day. Tickets were sold out on the only afternoon I could have seen it. No worries though, there was plenty to still explore. We decided we had enough of the big city and wanted to see the inland and north shores of Oahu. So, I rented a 2016 CR-V for the day, and we set out.

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After several Uber uses, it sure was nice to be behind the wheel again and having more control over the destination and stopping points.

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The first stop was to the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park located on the windward side Oahu. Here we would visit a 1968 replica of the 11th-century Phoenix Hall of the Byodo-In Buddhist temple. James and I both share an interest in Japanese culture, so this was a must.

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The Byodo-In Buddhist temple was quite impressive in person. It was established in 1968, to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. It’s currently a non-practicing Buddhist temple and welcomes people of all faiths to worship, meditate or simply appreciate its beauty.

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Back on the road driving along the north shore. It was a nice change to see some local life rather than the tourist-packed areas of Honolulu.

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Getting some beach time near Turtle Bay.

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Some more Hawaiian grub at Haleiwa Bowls. I had a Acai Smoothie and James got the Hapa Bowl.

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One thing that blew my mind is how we circled the majority of the island in such a short amount of time. Before long, we were back in the outskirts of Honolulu. Of course, we got back right at the peak of rush hour traffic.

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Some views of the skyscrapers.

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The last day on the island was more relaxed filled with good food, beach time and general relaxing. I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling of sadness though knowing this was the last day. This is a rare thing for me. Normally I’m itching to get back home. Lunch was one of my favorite meals of the trip at Marukame Udon.

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I opted for the curry flavored udon with an egg and tempura shrimp.

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Moving on to check out the small Waikiki Aquarium…

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As evening set in, we wandered around a bit to soak up the last of the night life.

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Dinner was at a local chain called, Zippy’s. I had another try at Loco Moco… I loved it that much!

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Dessert was some shaved ice from a local stand.

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James and I stumbled upon a hula show!

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That covers the last of the trip. As I write this, I’m actually sad to bring this to an end as I absolutely loved my time in Hawaii. The people, the culture, food and scenery made for a spectacular experience and I will be back in due time. Mahalo, Hawaii, it was fun!

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Hawaii Part I

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Aloha! It’s been a while since I’ve taken a legitimate multi-day trip to get a break from reality. Fortunately, I got quite a sweet deal offered to me: My buddy James Zamora had to travel to a Honolulu conference for work that would last for about a week. He could bring a guest where a good chunk of the expenses would be taken care of. The main cost out of pocket would be the airfare and any miscellaneous entertainment. When this offer was put on the table, I took it in a heartbeat!

To be honest, Hawaii was never at the top of my list of must-see places. Mainly for the cost and the lengthy flight required to get there. There was also the sad realization that I would not be able to drive my own car unless I was prepared to spend the hefty $1,000+ cost (one-way!) of shipping it over. However, I did need to get out there sooner than later since Hawaii is one of three states I had yet to see (other two being Florida and Maine). Let’s get to it!

Flight arrangements worked out quite well. Our first leg was from Albuquerque, NM to Phoenix, AZ, then Phoenix to Honolulu. Total flight time was around 11hrs including a few short delays. It was the longest I’ve been on a plane, but I managed.

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Boarding the American Airline flight to the island of Oahu, HI.

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Mercifully, all seats had their own entertainment units with free movies, live TV and some games.

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Being the odd guy I am, I chose to leave it on the GPS so I could monitor the flight stats. I resorted to Netflix on my phone for shows, music and movies.

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After what seemed like eternity, we finally arrived at Honolulu, Oahu. Oahu is the third largest island of Hawaii and houses about two-thirds of the state’s population. Most of this population in concentrated in Honolulu, the state capitol, which has a metro area population of well over 950,000. It’s the most remote city of its size in the world. We were to stay at Waikiki Beach, an iconic beachfront neighborhood of Honolulu, at the Marriott Hotel at Waikiki Beach.

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Views from the hotel room.

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Some evening exploring on the beach. Weather was perfect at a steady 60-70°F the entire time we were there.

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Dinner for the first night was at Rainbow Drive-In. I opted for the Loco Moco which was a delicious mixture of gravy, over beef pattys and rice. Top that with eggs and a side of Hawaiian macaroni salad and you have one satisfying meal.

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The next day while James was attending his conferences, I took the opportunity to see what trouble I could get into. I’m normally not a big breakfast person, but I needed to try a Hawaii exclusive McDonald’s spam, rice and eggs meal. With the soy sauce packet, it wasn’t too bad!

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Looking around the beaches and downtown areas.

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Checkout this banyan tree. Some of these are historical and one in particular at the Moana Hotel reaches over 75ft and is 114 years old.

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First challenge: I wanted to get some good hiking in while in Hawaii. Though I was on the most urbanized and developed island, there still was a wealth of hiking opportunities. First stop was the Koko Head Crater trail. Koko Head is a dormant volcano which last erupted 35,000 years ago. The trail is made up of stairs…lots and lots of stairs. Old railroad ties mount to the side of the hillside which lead to an old military lookout pillbox bunker used in WWII. The railway (now the ‘stairs’) was used to haul cargo and supplies to the top. All the reviews I could find online said this was one challenging hike. Accepted! I took an Uber (12 miles from Waikiki) over to the trail head and was pleasantly surprised how steep it looked from the bottom.

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Photos don’t do this justice. This is about 1,048 steps and an elevation climb of 1,200ft.

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A good portion of the trail was open like this just waiting to break a few ankles or legs.

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This had to be by far the toughest hike I’ve attempted, but I made it to the top. With high humidity and relatively warm temperatures, I stopped to rest on several occasions. However, the views from the top were well worth it!

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View of the old bunker.

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View of Waikiki in the distance.

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Headed back down wasn’t easy either. Trying to maintain balance on tired legs, and the constant pounding on my knees took a lot out of me.

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Once I rested after the hike, I went back to Waikiki to take in the waves. My legs were sore and trembling from the strain, but the day was not over. I’m not much of a water guy, so I left the surfing to other other tourists. Oddly enough, I ran into some nice folks who where from Los Lunas, NM…that’s only about 200 miles from my home! Small world.

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Second challenge: James was able to sneak away early from his conference and we went to Hanauma Bay there we’d get our first experience of snorkeling! Hanauma is located along the southeast coast Oahu in the Hawaii Kai, not too far from Koko Crater.

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Renting the gear was a reasonable $25 and we dove in. I hadn’t been in the water since my teenage years, and I discovered my swimming skills were a bit rusty at best.

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So with that limitation discovered, I didn’t venture too far from the beach. The clean water offered some cool fish encounters.

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Later in the evening, I got my steps in on my Fitbit (19,000 total for the day) as we wandered around various farmers markets and shops in Waikiki. Of course, we had to sample some of the local food and beverages around.

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I was tempted to buy this as a gag gift!

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Speaking of coconuts…

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Some fresh paella.

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Creamy Japanese Ramen.

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Fresh fruit cup.

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This is mighty condensed, but hope you get a flavor of the fun. That covers Part I of this trip. Stay tuned for Part II in a few days!

 

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A New Year and Drive to Marfa, TX

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Happy New Year!

While we all get back in the swing of things after the holidays, I needed to sit down and reflect a little on 2017. It’s been a good year.

Here’s a quick little review:

  • Total Miles Covered: 32,490 or 23,300 (6 “S”), 9,190 (6 “i”)
  • Number of Journeys: Only Seven 😦
  • Most Memorable Drive: Pikes Peak and Mt. Evans, CO
  • Best Observed Fuel Economy: 36mpg in the “i” from Las Cruces to Albuquerque
  • Worst Observed Fuel Economy: 23mpg in the “s” in hard driving to Utah with a headwind
  • Blog stats: I’m not posting any here as my lack of attention to the blog last year gave laughable stats. Let’s just leave that up to your imagination.

To finish off 2017, I wanted to get out on the road for day’s adventure. When looking at the map and general radius around Las Cruces, I didn’t see anything that appealed to me. Lots of, “been there, done that.” So, I looked a little further and my eye kept going to west Texas. There isn’t much to west Texas aside from El Paso and a few odd attractions such as Prada Marfa along Highway 90 (about 40 miles north of Marfa, TX). If I went there, that would be about a 500 mile journey all together just to take a few photos and the only car I had available to me was the grey “S” which has a broken clutch pedal assembly and misbehaving radiator fan (the “i” was currently getting some general maintenance items addressed). There would be long stretches of road where cell reception would be spotty at best. It would be stupid to go that far in a day. So, I went.

Prada Marfa:

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I’m generally not one to make a big deal out of art nor am I interested in fashion. I’m sure that’s evident from photos you’ve seen of me on here. I do like sculptures and any sort of installations that make you tilt your head in curiosity. Therefore, Prada Marfa fit the bill for me. It is considered a sculpture by artists Elmgreen and Dragset and it’s been around since 2005. Designed to resemble a miniature Prada store, there are actual Prada merchandise displayed through the large glass windows. Prada allowed Elmgreen and Dragset to use the Prada trademark for this work.

There were a few struggles. I couldn’t find any information on land usage, but TxDOT first assumed this to be like a bill board and deemed it illegal as it didn’t fit permit regulations. After much coordination and bickering, it is now reclassified as a museum/exhibit and this exempts the structure from any signage laws.

Let’s get going! Here leaving from Las Cruces at exactly 9:42am.

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I set out for the 10 hour drive where I knew I was getting myself into some long, dull freeway driving on I-10. Here’s the Texas state line.

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To cope with the endless freeway, I streamed some Podcasts on my phone, turned on the seat heaters, set the cruise and settled in for the long haul.

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Texas 80mph speed limits did help speed things up a bit.

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5th Gear, 86 mph, and my little V6 was happily buzzing away at 3,600 rpm.

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Getting to Van Horn, TX. This is where you turn off on Highway 90 south to Marfa. I was surprised that even on a narrow two-lane road, the speed limit was 75mph. Thank you, Texas!

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I had no idea where Prada Marfa would be along this route. I just let the miles go by until I stumbled upon it. 36 steady miles later, I found it. It wasn’t hard to miss a big box sticking up in the middle of the flat, grassy plains.

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Voila!

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“Store front” looks pretty legit!

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Peering inside while fighting persistent reflections to see the displayed handbags and shoes.

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Around back, it looks like folks are starting a trend of adding padlocks to the fence. Much like the “love-locks” that are found on bridges in Europe.

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Prada Marfa isn’t the only oddity to pop up in this area. Further down the road is an installation called, Target Marathon just outside of Marathon, TX. As this was close to 100 miles south, I chose to save this for another time.

(Image Credit to http://texashighways.com)

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Another oddity, there used to be a 40-foot-tall neon playboy bunny at or near the Prada location. It had to be taken down due to TxDOT regulations and legal issues, but that would have been quite a treat to see back then!

(Images credit: http://austin.culturemap.com)

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Marfa, TX:

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Mission was accomplished with Prada, but since I was this close to Marfa, I had to go the extra 40 miles to see it. Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County and has a population of just 1,981 (2010 Census). It’s a fun and wacky town and is observed as a center of minimalist art. The biggest attractions are Building 98, the Chinati Foundation, and every conspiracy theorist’s favorite, the Marfa lights.

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The Presidio County Court House

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Stopping by the Chinati Foundation to view some contemporary art.

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To finish off my visit, I made one last stop for lunch at Mando’s Restaurant and Bar.

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I ordered the “Combo #3” which had a fried chile renello, beef taco and three enchiladas. This was the first plate I received, and I was too distracted on my phone to realize this wasn’t the entire meal.

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After I scarfed down this plate, I was about ready to leave when they presented the second portion. I didn’t realize they served in different plates. Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

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Heading home, I stopped to take a few evening shots of the 6.

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While fueling at the end of the trip, I spotted something you don’t see very often in the States…A Peugeot! I had to look it up and this was called a “Partner Tepee”. One of the perks of living so close to the Mexican border is you see quite a few cool cars not sold here.

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I made it home safe and sound despite pushing my luck with the 6. I have an oem clutch pedal assembly and radiator fan module ordered, but I was told it would be several weeks to get as they are a special order. Ah, the joys of owning a lower production, well worn 14 year old car. Someday soon though, the “s” will be fixed up good as new. Stay safe out there, friends and enjoy 2018!

 

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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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Drive to the Switzterland of America — Part II

Let’s begin our travels back home! We did things a little different and took photos of the welcome sign as we departed. Couldn’t when we first entered Ouray as it was too dark.

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Then back down the Million Dollar Highway. This sign just reminds motorists of the dangers (and fun) that they are about in counter.

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Here’s one of my favorite shots of the highway Jouhl managed to capture out the windshield.

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That tunnel there is slanted like to keep avalanches from taking out the road. According to my Dad who does a heck of a lot more research into things than I do, the Million Dollar Highway is one of America’s most expensive roads to maintain.

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The prior night, I was googling a bit and found the ghost town of Ironton to be only a short distance from Ouray. It was a stop we just had to take and much to my surprise, this was a true ghost town where there was no supervision nor was it commercialized in any way. Just some old buildings hidden off the beaten path. This town has an interesting history per Wiki:

“Ironton (aka Copper Glen) was built on flatter ground than surrounding towns. Settled in 1883, within three weeks three hundred buildings were being built. It was a staging area for supplies coming from Ouray. Ironton was a major transportation junction between Red Mountain Town and Ouray in addition to having some of its own mines. Ironton had a peak population of over 1000 and had two trains arriving daily from Silverton. There were many chain stores from the nearby cities of Ouray and Silverton. The town lived into the first part of the 20th century but slowly faded as mining operations declined. The final resident of the town, Milton Larson, died in the mid-1960s. The town site is still occasionally visited by tourists.

Access to Ironton was simple. A narrow road covered in leaves off Hwy 550 takes you to the site. The weather was cold and misty…just the perfect atmosphere for some exploring.

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Here we are.

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Believe it or not, I’ve seen worse bathrooms.

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Most of us split and explored our own buildings. Here’s Jennifer coming down from one of the second floors.

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Alec and I braved the darkness of the second story of this rickety old house.

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Jouhl decided to wait for us at the entrance.

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Nearly all the buildings were structurally sound enough to walk through. Some were quite creepy!

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As usual, wandering around randomly ended up following the Red Mountain Creek for short distance.

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After our toes and fingers couldn’t take the cold any more, we hopped back in the TL and started for home. Last stop before hitting the Interstate, we stopped by Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness just south of Farmington, NM.  This 45,000-acre area is a desolate area of steeply eroded bad lands managed by BLM. “Bisti” comes from the word “Bistahí, which means “among the adobe formations.”

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A 10 mile road layered with corse gravel and bumpy turns made for a rather exhausting ride. I felt for the TL’s shocks. Rumor has it that the Navajo Tribe has gone to great lengths to keep the Bisti and nearby Chaco Canyon remote and not terribly easy to access. This is to minimize the amount of people entering and disturbing the land.

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I didn’t exactly take a defined path to this view point. The AWD system handled the sand just fine though.

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This sure felt like a different planet.

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Despite the wind gusts of 50mph, we set out for some photos and exploring. IMG_6966

Then it was time to run!

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Alec was going crazy taking pictures in every angle he could.

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The Bisti was once a riverine delta that was west of the shore of an ancient sea. This sea covered much of New Mexico 70 million years ago. The waters of this sea washed a lot of sediment upon the shore and then swamps and the occasional pond bordering the stream left behind these large buildups of organic material and odd formations. Amazing!

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There’s only so much wind you can take. We soon hustled back to the TL and began our journey home. That’s a wrap for this trip…thank you all for joining us for this grand adventure. More in store for you very soon!

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