Tag Archives: travel

Drive to The Switzerland of America — Ouray, Colorado Part I

Nothing beats a nice weekend getaway. Especially when you’re growing bored of the sunny, dry climate of southern New Mexico and want to see some cool fall colors. So, friends Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec all climbed into the TL and joined me in one of my bucket-list destinations: Ouray, Colorado. Let the miles pile on!

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Nestled in the San Juan mountains north of Durango, Ouray was once a silver and gold mining town. Population isn’t much…just about 1,000 according to the 2010 census. It was named after Chief Ouray of the Utes, a Native American tribe and it’s best known for the extensive scenery that’s gorgeous in all seasons.

Total miles: ~1,200

Our round trip was as follows:

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Got the TL all washed up and ready to roll.

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From left to right: Jouhl, Jennifer and Alec. Jennifer and Alec had never been to Colorado so this was going to be quite a treat for them.

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Gas stop in Los Lunas before going through Albuquerque.

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First official stop was in Aztec, NM where we’d check out the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Contrary to the name, these were built and inhabited by the Pueblo Indians. The dwellings date back to 11th century and most are in their original, unrestored state.

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Always have to prep the cameras!

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One of the coolest parts is we actually get to explore within the ruins. Here’s Jouhl crouching down to enter the small doorway.

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Here’s an overview of the ruins. Looks like a video game.

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No time to waste. Back on the road towards Colorado. Clouds formed and threw a few rain drops our way. Just enough to get the TL nice and spotty.

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Stateline!

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Almost immediately, we started to see the fall colors. Man, I miss seeing this!

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The long, winding US 550 took us past the small mining town of Silverton, CO. And when I say small, I mean it as there are a total of 530 residents here. (2010 census) It was raining pretty good by now, so we opted to just take a short drive through instead of getting out and walking around. (Well, I did have to sneak out for a quick photo of the TL.

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Now, one of the best parts of the trip is about to begin. We now were on the “Million Dollar Highway.” Many refer to this as one of America’s greatest driving roads for its scenery and smooth twisty nature. In fact, it was so twisty that I didn’t have many opportunities to pull off for photos.

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This is one of the money shots of the trip. The temperature was dropping pretty quickly to the low 40s, so jackets were in order. The rain kept coming down, but in moderation. It was such a grand experience.

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As we ascended in elevation, we could see the rain was turning into snow at the surrounding peaks. Here’s a cool “selfie” Jouhl took of us.

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Darkness was approaching and this was the last photo of the drive today.

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We got into Ouray fairly late around 8pm and we wasted no time to grab some dinner. Our place of choice, The Outlaws.

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Folks were friendly, restaurant very hospitable, and atmosphere inviting. Food however, was disappointing. Regardless, we had fun.

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The next day was going to be full of outdoor fun. Here’s a shot of the hotel where we stayed. We caught the end of the tourism season, and the hotel was actually going to shut down for winter the following day. Yup, we were a few of the last guests of 2014.

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View from the front door.

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After a quick breakfast in the lobby, I wanted to drive around and see what we couldn’t the night before. Here’s downtown Ouray.

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Most of my “short-drive-around-town” moments end up taking half the day and in some of the most remote and interesting places. Today was no exception and luckily the gang loved it.

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I found this cool looking road leading into the forest.

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I just kept going and going. The fall colors were so beautiful.

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The road came to an end (well at least for us in the low slung TL). A higher vehicle could easily cross the creek and keep on going.

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We got out and just randomly walked around exploring the area. No joke here: this is where I was meant to be.

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Yup, that’s one happy Jason.

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We found a hiking trail, and ran with that for a while. The moss covered rocks caught my attention.

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After a few hours, it was time to head back to town. “BACK TO THA CHOPPA!”

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This is another of my favorite shots.

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Wait, did I make a wrong turn? How did I drive to Switzerland?

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The road back down the mountain had an awesome view of the town.

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Next on my list was Box Canyon Falls.

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The canyon was formed by the vicious rushing waters of Canyon Creek. Over time, they formed a deep and narrow box canyon.

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Here we are walking to the falls.

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The falls were actually somewhat hidden, but they sure made a lot of noise and mist.

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Next we checked out the Perimeter Trail which leads to some more breathtaking views of the town. This is scariest and most dangerous part that has taken lives. You hike along a narrow trail carved into the side of the cliff with only a cable to hang on to.

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The views…

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Now on to browsing the shops!

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Ouray locals claim they are the Jeep capital of the world. Not sure how accurate that is, but there were indeed a lot of Jeeps around. Many locals will even rent out their Jeeps. Never seen that before.

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Then we settled down in the Irish Pub for dinner. Our bodies were sore, tired and hungry. The food really hit the spot. My burger had bacon mixed in the patty and to make an already great burger better, Jennifer order some Guinness based BBQ sauce. Oh man, meat lovers rejoice!

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More to come! Stay tuned for Part II…

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Acura Drive to the Valley of Death

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit for the title of this post, but I was excited to share such a grand trip with you all. That grand trip was an 1800-mile drive to Death Valley National Park with my friends, Tyson Hugie from DrivetoFive, Sofyan Bey from 2theRedline and Tyson’s friend Peter Kulikowski. Death Valley is a desert valley in the eastern portion of California’s Mojave Desert. This is the lowest, driest and hottest area in North America. We had this trip planned for some time now and wanted give our Acuras a good run for their money. Mine especially considering it’s the middle of July, and I’m rocking Crystal Black Pearl over black leather. Good combo for an area known to have temperatures soaring well over 100˙F in the summer months. The record high in July 1913 was a scorching 134˙F! Within the park, we visited Badwater Basin (this is the lowest point in North America at 282ft BELOW sea level), Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells. Get ready, this is going to be a hot one!

However, before we get started with this grand adventure, let’s back up a few weeks to a few little updates on the TL:

I officially hit 50,000 miles on July 1st. Only half way now to the big 100K!

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After coming home from my East Coast trip, I found my custom plate in the mail which I had been waiting for about 3 months!

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In New Mexico, our plates are rather bright. I had two choices: the Centennial bright green or this traditional New Mexico yellow. I obviously went the traditional route.

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Now, let’s get a move on with the trip. Before setting out Friday afternoon from work, one of my favorite co-workers left me a farewell “sticky” which made my day.

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I had the TL all washed up and packed.

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My general prep for the trip was making sure I had sufficient water. Side note: the sunroof is the ONLY surface I will set anything on. Otherwise, I don’t want to face the scratches on the paint that would arise.

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As the miles piled on, the day was ending. I had the privilege of being able to drive into the colorful, Arizona sunset. This is my favorite time of day to drive.

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I drove to Kingman, AZ and got a good night’s rest for the adventures that awaited the next day. The modest Travelodge allowed for parking right in front.

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Next day, I made my first stop in Las Vegas, NV where I’d meet up with Tyson, Sofyan and Peter.

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Nevada Stateline…

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Another great pull out to view the mighty Lake Mead.

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After a few hours rolling down Hwy 93, I approached ‘Vegas!

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I met the boys in the Excalibur Hotel

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Here I am next to Peter, Tyson and Sofyan.

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We wasted no time and hopped in our Acuras and Tyson led the way to Death Valley. It was an easy 125 miles from Las Vegas. As usual, he was in his 2013 ILX 6-speed.

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We made a quick stop in an abandoned Nevada town for a few pix.

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Next on the list, Furnace Creek in Death Valley.

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We’ve arrived!

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The heat was certainly a surprise. At this time, the TL had a reading of 110˙F.

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This sign says it all.

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Here’s the sign notifiying us that we achieved sea level. Next stop in the Park, Furnace Creek.

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I got the shock of my life when Tyson showed us the norm gas prices in Furnace Creek. If I had the need to fill up, that would be a nice round $100 for premium. Ouch!

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Lunch was at a simple yet tasty cafe called the Corkscrew. Luckily, they had good air conditioning to relieve us of the heat.

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We stopped in the National Park’s Visitor Center. Here I am in front of their large thermometer reading 116!

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First sign you see when you walk in the doors.

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After that stop, we swapped cars and I took the reins of the ILX for while Tyson led the way in my TL to Badwater Basin. Always a cool feeling when I see my own car driving in front of me.

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Here we are.

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So, what is Badwater Basin? It’s the lowest elevation point in North America. That’s a good 282 feet below sea level. The gound was crusty and hard from the dried salt deposits.

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Another danger sign of the extreme heat. It said that walking after 10:00am was not recommended.

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So, here we go! It’s only 2-3pm in the afternoon.

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After we felt like we got a good dose of heat, we all swapped the keys again. This time, Sofyan took the wheel of the TL while Peter was in the ILX.

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Now off to a scenic dirt road recommended by Tyson. We were determined to bring some Death Valley dirt back home on our cars. This is “20 Mule Team Canyon” trail. This was just 2.7 miles of heaven!

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It was so much fun, we drove this route twice! Peter and Sofyan got to try the TL on both runs.

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Thanks to Tyson for capturing this great angle of the TL.

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As you can see by my face, this road was one of the highlights of the Park.

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Now, back on the road to the next stop…

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Last stop before leaving the park was Stovepipe Wells. As we parked and exited our Acuras, there was a soft purr of a diesel nearby. Not a diesel I’ve ever heard before. As I look to the side to investigate, I see these mysterious-looking GM trucks parked off to the side. I’ve never seen them before. What are they? Let’s have a look…

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Upon further examination, we all concluded these were the 2016 GMC Canyon trucks in pre-production testing in the heat of the valley. So, there’s a teaser for you. We might have a diesel offering of the next Canyon.

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Peter took the wheel of the TL as we headed out of the park to the hotel for the evening.

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Night’s stay was on the California/Nevada border in the village of Amargosa Valley.

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The next day, we grabbed a photo at the giant cow that was by the hotel.

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After we parted ways in Kingman, I took I-40 back to New Mexico where I’d stop by my grandpa’s house for the next night. Here’s on the way to Flagstaff, AZ. 70˙F was sure a welcome compared to the heat of Death Valley.

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Normal stop at my old stomping grounds to see what the area looks like. It’s been 8 years now since I’ve resided here!

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Pit stop for a few sunset photos.

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Smoke in the sky from a nearby forest fire gave the sun a nice red glow.

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I got to New Mexico around 9pm.

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My grandpa is on vacation for about 3 months in Canada so it was a goal of mine to check up on his house and mail. Remember my grandpa’s stable? The next day, I took a few of his cars out for a quick drive to run some oil through and clean away any cobwebs. Here’s the old ’87 F-250 Diesel prowling the back roads of northern New Mexico. I love this thing.

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This is called “6 mile canyon road.” Looks smooth here, but it’s not very car friendly as you get further into the “bush.”

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Also, got the ’74 MGB out to run around a little. This hadn’t been started in about 6 months.

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I always like to challenge myself and the TL. How about borrowing a gas lawn mower and weed wacker? Snug, but it fit!

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And that concludes the Death Valley trip. Here’s my ending mileage. Thanks all for coming along!

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East Coast – Wrap Up – Beaches and Swamps

Let’s get our East Coast trip wrapped up. First though, I wanted to recap a bit on the TL. She has been a noble companion throughout the entire trip. This has been by far the most comfortable vehicle I’ve traveled in and the climate control system easily kept the high humidity and scorching temps at bay. The 6-speed manual and clutch were very easy to operate even in the midst of New York City traffic, and the ebony black leather seats offered the necessary support for long stretches. However, all cars have their faults. The gas mileage is nothing to shout about. I averaged about 24-26MPG on the trip on 91/93 octane. That’s about 4MPG less than the V6 Accord I had and 11MPG less than my old RSX. The trunk isn’t quite as capacious as the Accord either, and the TL mysteriously needed 2 quarts of oil during the span of the trip. Road noise is definitely on the louder side too. However, I am overall very pleased with the TL and would definitely recommend one. I will plan to do a full “unofficial” review of it later on.

The miles keep piling on. From the start of the trip, here’s where it stood.

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And this was the ending mileage (and the nice toasty temps of Las Cruces):

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Now, on with the last bit of the East Coast trip: I find it amazing how diverse our country is in climate and landscape. On the west coast, we have instances of beaches with rain forests. On the east coast, we have beaches and swamps. Sometimes those are within a few short miles of each other. Let’s see what that’s like.

From Washington D.C., we stopped in Virginia Beach. The biggest attraction there were the multi-story hotels towering over the beach. With a population of over 437,000, this is the most populous city in Virginia and the 39th most populous in the county. The city sits on the edge of the longest “pleasure beach” in the world. Here’s an aerial from Google.

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The vicious weaves of the Atlantic crashing against the shores was a real treat to experience. The Atlantic seems to be a little more aggressive than the Pacific.

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A storm was trying to roll in at this time, so many tourists were scrambling to get to the comfort of their hotel rooms. Therefore the beach was quite empty.

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Here was a massive statue of the mythological Greek god, Triton— the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, messenger of the sea.

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I found this amusing: as we walked the streets into the night, there were many signs like this. Is this a strict “no-cussing” policy?

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The next day was a real treat. On the way to South Carolina, I wanted to stop and see my first ever swamp. That would be the Great Dismal Swamps near Norfolk. This marshy land takes about 1,000,000 acres stretching from Norfolk, VA to Edenton, NC. The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is the largest of its kind and was created in 1973 when the Union Camp Corporation of Franklin, Virginia, donated 49,100 acres of land after centuries of logging and other human activities devastated the swamp’s ecosystems. The name comes from the days when people often referred to swamps or morass as “dismal.” “Dismal” because of the inhospitable snake-infested, mosquito-swarming place it was (and still is).

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The long, skinny, dirt road took us deeper and deeper into a heavily wooded area.

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It was desolate and a little spooky at this time. So many creaks, groans, chirps and buzzes were coming from all the wildlife that were observing our encroachment on their land.

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This area looks like where water logging had once taken place years ago.

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At the end of the road, we reached the lake.

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I dare you to take a swim in this nice black, marshy water!

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On we go!

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The TL got a generous helping of dust to accompany the thousands of miles of tarmac grime. This photo looked quite fitting to showcase the SH-AWD

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One of the hiking trails had this amusing sign posted. “Those Darn Mosquitoes!”

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The boardwalk leading back further into the deep woods.

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We saw this bench off to the side with what looked like chew marks. Was this a victim of a bear or deer?

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Throughout this entire drive, only one other car was seen. Otherwise, the swamp lands was all ours!

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From there, our trail towards New Mexico was basically hitting the road hard on I-85 and I-20. Here’s some state lines…South Carolina.

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Georgia.

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Alabama.

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Mississippi.

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Another amusing town name to go on my list: welcome to the town of, “Chunky!”

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Louisiana.

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Throughout our entire trip, the weather was very cooperative. Louisiana was the only state where we actually got some rain!

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Still marveling at the green landscape.

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Last stop before New Mexico…Texas!

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Our last way point for the trip was Caddo Lake in eastern Texas. This lake/wetland covers about 25,400 acres and is located on the border between Marion County in Texas and western Caddo Parish in Louisiana.  The lake is named after the Southeastern culture of Native Americans called Caddoans or Caddo.  This wetland features the largest Cypress forest in the world! Let’s see what it’s like. 

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Here’s the entrance to the park.

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Even though it was about 5:00 in the afternoon, the heavy vegetation blocked out most of the sunlight. Time to flick on the lights.

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Road leading up to the lake was smooth and still wet from a recent rain shower.

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And here’s what we got to feast our eyes on. Wow! Now when you talk about swamps, this looks like the real deal.

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Jouhl was impressed too.

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A very friendly park ranger I spoke with told me there were many resident alligators here. Unfortunately, none were spotted as they were very shy and were masters of hiding.

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How’d you like to take a swim in this?

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This was the only good spot in the park to show proof that the TL had driven through swamp lands.

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Guess what folks? That concludes my East Coast trip. I hope you enjoyed coming along. I look forward to sharing my next big grand adventure with you all. Until then, have fun fellow #roadtrippers!

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East Coast – Day 7-9 Washington D.C. with 2theRedline & Chesapeake Bay

Ready for more? Numb from the excitement of New York City, it was hard to solider on…but, we did. With my interest in bridges, I marveled at some of the engineering that went into some of these in the East. Here we crossed the Delaware Canal Bridge in Delaware. This is the first major concrete segmental cable-bridge built in the northeast. This holds the record for the longest concrete span of 750 feet.

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Into Maryland.

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And finally, Washington D.C.  We dropped off the bags in our hotel and then headed for the National Mall where lies many of the country’s greatest memorials. Occupying about 146 acres, the National Mall is visited by about 24 million visitors a year. Here’s an aerial from wiki:

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The memorials are spread out, and we were pressed for time before the sun set. So, we opted to rent a few bikes. First stop, Washington Monument. This is the tallest stone structure in the world at 555 feet.

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Iwo Jima:

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Lincoln Memorial:

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National Wold War II Memorial: 

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And no visit to ‘D.C. is complete without a spy shot of the White House!

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Into the late evening we still rode around on the pristine pathways.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. was our last stop for the night. Chinese takeout, then back to the hotel.

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The next day, it was a great pleasure to meet editor-in-cheif, Sofyan Bey from the “2theRedline” team. 2theRedline is an auto review channel on YouTube which features videos of many late-model vehicles complete with brief model history, test drives and general powertrain specs.

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Sofyan is a proud owner of a 2013 Acura ILX 2.4L 6-speed. As you can imagine, we had to get the TL and ILX together for a few photo ops.

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Sofyan was generous enough to do a review on my TL. This is the first TL 6-speed Sofyan has driven and the first ever for the Channel.

Here’s Sofyan as he sets up his Go-Pro cameras.

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After the cameras were mounted on his ILX, we set off to have lunch. Sofyan led the way as Jouhl and I followed. In the meantime, the TL was being recorded in action.

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Lunch was at Cafe Rio. I highly recommend it

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After lunch, I handed the keys over to Sofyan, and he worked his magic for the final stage of the review. Here’s the end result complete with splattered flies and road grime:

Last stop, a photo op with Rob’s 2012 Honda Civic Si–One of Sofyan’s friends.

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Rob did a masterful job of putting on an Si coupe front end and giving the suspension a moderate lowering. Looks much more aggressive!

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From there, we  parted ways. No time to waste on our end, back on the road again. Several miles down the road, we passed by, “Mechanicsville.” This has to be on the top of my list of most amusing town names.

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Or maybe, “Tysons Corner.” I know my friend, Tyson will get a kick out of that.

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Our stop for the night was Virginia Beach, VA. (That will be on my next post) On the way, we were going to cross something special: The Chesapeak Bay Bridge Tunnel. This is something I’ve been wanting to see for a long time! This structure is 17 miles long from shore to shore and it’s a fixed link from the Chesapeake Bay to Eastern Shore of Virginia. This is one of the world’s largest bridge-tunnel complexes (one out of ten). There are two 1-mile tunnels, two bridges, and nearly 2 miles of causeway (raised sections). Here are a few aerial shots from Google. The breaks in the road are the tunnels underwater.

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Those two tunnels allow for marine traffic to cross the bay uninterrupted. Let’s see how the bridge is!

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Here it is in the distance as we were approaching.

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As I picked up speed, the moderately worn Michelin tires started to make their subtle hum on the concrete surface.

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Before entering the tunnel, there’s a restaurant and gift shop pull off. Wasn’t the best location for a photo op, but it was better than nothing.

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At this point, you get to cross over the road and see the entrance to the first tunnel.

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View from the restaurant.

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Here we go underwater!

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The first exit.

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With speed limits at 55MPH, it only takes an easy 15 mins the cross the entire bridge. As I’m not accustomed to the narrow lanes in tunnels, 55MPH can be quite frightening when meeting on-coming traffic. Thankfully, we made it to the other shore without mishap…then I turned around and drove it again!

That’s all for this post. Stay tuned for the next and final post coming up…

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East Coast – Day 3-4 St. Louis & Louisville

Let’s continue from Oklahoma! Jouhl and I drove on through. Just about every town we passed by, presented their mightiest flag. Perhaps this was because it was close to Memorial Day?

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As we piled on the miles, the landscape started to turn more and more green.

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The Missouri state line.

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First stop in Missouri: Grand Falls outside of Joplin.

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This was an unadvertised attraction and getting there requires taking a few back roads.

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The Missouri Grand Falls is one of many waterfalls on the Missouri River. This one is rather hidden from the public.

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The stop was worth it though!

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Going back to the Interstate…

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Next stop, St. Louis and The Gateway Arch. This 630-foot-high monument is the tallest man-made monument in the United States. It’s also Missouri’s tallest accessible building and world’s tallest arch—yes, you can go to the top! This was built as a monument to the westward expansion of the United States. It is the centerpiece of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and is an internationally famous symbol of St. Louis.

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Here’s a shot of downtown St. Louis.

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And here’s a shot with the TL.

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More state lines…

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Welcome to Kentucky!

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We made a quick stop in Louisville.

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We entered downtown to see the Wold’s Largest Bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum. This bat stands 120ft tall and weights about 34 tons.

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Here’s the bat. This photo doesn’t give you the sense of scale. You have to go and see for yourself!

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Next on the list was a drive by of one of the most haunted place in America. That is the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. This sanatorium opened in 1910 as a hospital to accommodate several tuberculosis patients. In the early 1900s, a massive outbreak of tuberculosis (the “White Plague”) prompted the construction of a new hospital. The hospital closed in 1962. The property is privately-owned with very strict security. Even stopping outside the gate can yield being yelled at from the security intercom. We still made a quick drive by..

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Best we could do.

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A quick google search shows what the building looks like.

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After Kentucky, we blew by Cincinnati, Ohio.

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And then West Virginia!

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And then Pennsylvania…

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There is so much more to share! I’ll be back…stay tuned!

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East Coast – Day 1-2 – Cadillac Ranch

Another grand adventure is currently in the works! Jouhl and I hit the road late afternoon on May 21st for the East Coast. No time to waste…let’s get started!

Here’s the first state line, Texas!

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We stopped at the Palo Duro Canyon State Park to check out the scenery. This is the second largest canyon in the United States and spans roughly 60 miles long with a maximum width of 20 miles. This is regarded as “The Grand Canyon of Texas.”

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Here’s Jouhl taking it all in.

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The canyon’s dramatic geological features, which included the multicolored layers of rock and steep mesa walls, was definitely worth the stop. 

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They recently had a rain storm. Just enough to get the creeks flowing again.

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…and bring some mud to the roadway.

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Next stop along the way was an unusual roadside attraction in Combine City, TX—Just outside of Amarillo. These are old retired combine tractors buried at an angle in a remote farm field. Is this a spoof of Amarillo’s Cadillac Ranch? There was no indication of who owns the land. Not even a sign was posted to attract tourists. 

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Had to get the TL positioned just so. I may have to buff out a few twig scuffs.

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Then, it was time to see the real deal…Cadillac Ranch!

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Sadly, you can’t drive up to the half buried Cadillac skeletons. We’d have to pass through the roadside fence to get up close and personal.

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Here they are up close! Several spray-paint cans were lying all over and free for anyone to pick up and tag the cars as they pleased.

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I chose to take this one for a test drive.

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As seen here, these old Cadillacs were covered from top to bottom with paint. Several layers at that.

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Check out how thick this stuff is laid on…

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On wards to Oklahoma…

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This state we pretty much blew right through. More to come so stay tuned!

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Preview: Tour of the East

Hello all! I’m on the road again and this is another big one!

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My friend Jouhl and I are starting another tour…this time to the East! Check out the tentative route of ~5,000 miles. I had to zoom out to give the sense of scale. Can we do this in only 12 days? Stay tuned!

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