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Seven Days, Seven Thousand Kilometers in the American West

Every overlander can remember the first trip that started it all. Such journeys are oft undertaken in basic vehicles, not usually an exotic sports car like an Acura NSX. For Expedition Portal member Mark Cupido, that just happened to be the vehicle he had in the garage. Below is the story of his big tour of the western U.S., the trip that started his interest in overlanding and eventual purchase of a Jeep JK. 

 

Late last summer while sitting by a campfire in Jasper AB, thoughts of a ridiculous road trip began to brew. What started out as, “I wonder how far I can drive in 2 days?”, soon had me thinking about driving down for a beer in Mexico (which was plausible). What sounded like a great idea to me didn’t sound like so much fun for the girlfriend, so at the time she kindly opted out. As an aside, we don’t really have luck on our side when it comes to road trips. The last one we went on, a tree fell across the road in front of us and I super-manned a car over it going highway speeds… which she is still recovering from. So her hesitation was understandable. Well more ideas were thrown around and shortly thereafter, I had tacked on an additional 3 days around my turnaround and the preparation began. Routes, cities, sights, all started to fall into place. $4,238.10 of preventative maintenance, $919.57 in new tires and an alignment… and the car was ready. Not really money I wanted to spend at the time, but certainly peace of mind when you’re ripping through some back country roads in a foreign country.

Researching the requirements and paperwork necessary to drive across the Mexican border, coupled with the fear of scabby/corrupt Mexican border guards/police quickly kyboshed the idea of taking the NSX into Mexico. So the main points of interest became Zion National Park, Grand Canyon, Vegas, Hollywood, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Napa Valley, Redwood Forrest, the PCH and the Oregon Coast. 7 Days, ~7,500 kms. Many doubted us; many more said it was a terrible idea. But that’s how the best stories are made! With the departure date fast approaching, weather was becoming and increasing concern. 5 cm of snow fell in Calgary two nights before we were planning on leaving… le fcuk. Thankfully that cleared up and by the morning of October 4th, albeit cold as balls, the trip was still a go. Suffering through an ACSA course all day with the thoughts of California sunshine in my head was painstaking. But by 3:52pm, the course was done and I was racing to the girlfriends to pack the remaining items (her closet/washroom).

This, friends, is how you pack an NSX for 7 days of camping/road tripping:

– 2x Pillows
– 2x Sleeping Bags
– 2x Air Mattresses
– 2x Duffle Bags
– 3x Jackets
– 1x Tent
– 1x Cooler
– 1x Tripod
– 1x Bottle of quick detail
– 1x DSLR Camera bag (Which spent the entire trip on the floorboard in front of my seat)

 

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The first leg of the race was straight and boring, which is why we decided to tackle it that evening. With a quick pit-stop in Leduc to snag a DSLR lens off a buddy, by 5pm we were heading south. Gas, food, gas and more gas had us resting our heads by 1:30am in Helena for the night.

At 8:00am the next morning the weather in Helena wasn’t much nicer… with frost covering my windshield, I was eager to get the hell out of the cold! A quick stop at the gas station with all those passing by questioning my sanity wearing a t-shirt and driving my car in sub zero temperatures, we were back to booting it down the I-15. Driving through Montana’s mountains was one of my two biggest concerns weather wise on our trip. With some light snow falling before getting into Butte, I feared the worst coming over the pass. But the roads stayed dry and clear… a little nipply, but clear. Today was a big driving day, but the interstates are a good time saver! Soon enough we found ourselves in Salt Lake City, and it was time to give the car a bath. While Heather was slaying zombies on her iPhone, I sprayed off the 1,700kms of bugs I’ve murdered to date. This is also when I realized this 7,500km road trip will result in some serious clay bar time, as my cat-less exhaust system was making a good mess of my rear bumper. But that’s a future Mark problem, present Mark needed to get his *** to Zion! Hopping back into the driver’s seat we were on the road again, ish. Salt Lake City is one drawn out city… and with scattered construction through the entire city, the I-15 was like a parking lot. What seemed like hours was more like 75minutes… but minutes not accounted for on this leg of the trip! Getting out of that urban zoo, we were finally able to re-set cruise control and continue motoring on.

As we pulled into Springdale at 7:30pm (the City just south west of the Zion Park entrance), we almost felt at home. With a Banff-esque feel, we were excited to set up our campsite and head into the town for dinner. ERRRR… wrong! Apparently this is a place you need to book 3+ months in advance. With every hotel sign showing no vacancy, we were **** out of luck. Backtracking to the little **** town west of Springdale, Virgin, we soon realized that place was booked solid too. Toquerville, Hurricane… same deal. With frustration levels rising, and my patience wearing thin, we drove another one hour to St. George. Where, out of luck, we caught one of the last hotel rooms in the city. Quite literally, while I walked into the hotel lobby and asked for the last remaining room, someone was on the phone trying to snipe it themselves. With a place to rest our heads we now needed a place to fill our bellies! Upon recommendations from a local NSX guy off NSXPrime, we went to the The Pizza Factory, a local go-to for, “Utah’s Best Pizza”. The pizza, though good, was nothing extraordinary… but their cheesy/garlic twisty bread things were amazing! Unfortunately they don’t serve beer, so we were forced to pick up a 6-pack on the way back to the hotel. Tired as balls and eager to see Zion and Grand Canyon tomorrow we only managed to pound a single beer each before passing out.

 

 

With the alarm clock blaring in my ear at 7:00am it was time to go again! A shower and a quick game of Tetris repacking the car, we went to grab the sad excuse of a continental breakfast and were back on the road. I don’t know how they can get away with calling prepackaged two bite danishes and a juice machine continental breakfast… but maybe that’s the American way. Sneaking into the National Park at around 9am was perfect. The only people on the roads were the bikers/runners and old folk! This park is probably the highlight of our trip. The scenery and geography is something you’ll never see anywhere else. With many hikes and sights, this is DEFINITELY a place you need to spend more than a day in. Pulling over at most every pullout, we walked around taking in the sights, catching a few pictures, and continued onwards through the valley of vivid red rock. Then I saw a sign that got me giddy! A 1.75km long two lane tunnel up ahead! Being the asshat I am, in the obnoxious car I own, I proceeded through that tunnel in first and second gear. With ears ringing, we pulled over after the tunnel for a little 1hr hike that overlooks the canyon we just finished driving through. What an incredible sight. We sat there for a good half hour, enjoying a beer and the spectacle that was before us. And with the morning chill gone, I was allowed to take the targa top off (women… forever cold!!). With the top off, and fresh air rushing in the car, off we were to enjoy the amazing sights in the park… as well as the twisties!! Getting out of the park it was time to make tracks… with the Grand Canyon next on the hit-list, on went the cruise control (and radar detector) and off we went.

 

 

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Anyone who appreciates a good view on long drives knows the ‘should I stop, or should I keep going to keep schedule’ feeling you get when passing something unbelievably beautiful. That wishy-washy-ness resulted in a 120km/h – 0km/h anti-lock brake induced drift/halt into this little pull out. This resulted in one of, if not THE favorite NSX picture of the entire trip!

 

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The Grand Canyon, though absolutely incredible, was virtually the same from every angle and viewpoint you go to. Don’t get me wrong… it’s a sight EVERYONE must see at some point in their life, one of those sights that truly make you feel insignificant, but that sight doesn’t change much throughout the 35kms of roadways and lookouts on the south rim. After a couple hours in the park, it was onto the home stretch for the night… VEGAS! By 7:30pm we were rolling down Las Vegas Boulevard. I’ve been to Vegas once in my life, but I was too young to enjoy it. So ripping down the strip in the NSX was nothing short of awesome. After navigating the NSX into a parkade, shedding some weight in the form of the sacrificial black paint on my front lip due to their MASHER speed bumps, we tossed our gear into the hotel room and were off to walk the strip. The people on the strip were nothing short of entertaining… drunks, mascots, impersonators, hookers, club promoters, and those irritating little ****ers handing out stripper trading cards. Hungry as hell, we walked into the mall and made a quick stop at a caricature booth (these guys are goofballs haha) and a heavy meal at Pampas and continued on down the strip. Hopping on the Roller Coaster at New York New York proved difficult and it did a good job of tweaking my neck. But fun none the less. Picking up some drinks we walked the strip in Vegas fashion back to the hotel.

 

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RING RING! 8:30am and its time to get going!!! You can’t drive through America and not hit up outlet malls so we spent the morning spending more money haha. Thinking we’d buy us some time, we forfeited the idea of Death Valley in hopes that the I-15 will be quicker getting to LA. WRONG! But it proved entertaining when the douche in a 335i convertible that was tailgating us, cutting people off, and all around driving like an asshat got nailed by the po-po’s! With Garmin leading us on a wild goose chase through LA/Hollywood, we finally took over the reins and DIY’d our way to the Hollywood sign. Cheesy and touristy or not, I wanted to make it there to mimic a picture I had from a weekend road trip to Hollywood 4 years back. With the touristy **** taken care of, it was time to see the ocean. A scenic drive down Hollywood Boulevard followed by hotshotting it down the 405, we found ourselves at Santa Monica Pier. A perfect place for the sunset and some eats. Dead tired, I was dreading the jaunt to El Capitan State Beach Park. Rolling in at 11:30pm, trying my best not to wake the entire campground, we set up camp and called it a night.

 

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7:30am comes mighty fast after long days of driving, but it was time to pack up camp, clean ourselves up a bit, and continue onward! Barreling up the 101, we rolled into San Francisco around 2:30pm. Navigating through downtown San Fran was quite fun and for novelty sake, we carted the NSX down Lombard street. I wish we could have spent more time in the city down at Fisherman’s Warf, Treasure Island, and took a tour of Alcatraz… but those adventures were not in the cards for this trip. Picking up a quick bite to eat, we rolled across the Golden Gate and up the hills to the northwest to have lunch and take in the view. The clear blue skies are far from common, so seeing an unobstructed view of the bridge and city was treat! After ‘enjoying’ our prepackaged sandwiches and a cold refreshing beverage, we were en-route to Napa Valley. Having recently become a wino, a pit stop at some vineyards was a must. With no real game plan, or destination, we wandered down a road, which led us to Cliff Lede vinyards. Fun fact, Cliff Lede actually grew up in Leduc and his father was the founder of Ledcor (a local to me city and construction company). A good 1-hour and a few samples later, we were walking out the door with 3 bottles of wine and no place to put them! Good thing I don’t have a spare tire, cause in the frunk they go! We stopped past another vineyard on the way out of town and picked up another 3 bottles cause if you have the space, you might as well use it right?! Continuing north, we stopped in a little town called Geyserville for a bite to eat. This little hole in the wall is just off the 101, and if you blink, you’ll more than likely pass it. But I highly recommend you stop in at Diavola Pizza for, bar none, the best pizza I’ve had in my life. As darkness was falling, it was time again to find a place to rest our heads. Google maps failing us once again, we strolled into the US Army Corps of Engineers Lake Sonoma Campground. With not a soul to be found, or sound to be heard, we got the hell out of there. What the hell campground requires directional traffic spike speed bumps?! The place was just eerie. Just up the road we were relieved to see the KOA campground sign, so not to waste valuable minutes of sleep, out went the lights.

 

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The next morning I was gently awoken by the sound of acorns falling off the trees above onto the tent. Unfortunately there is no snooze button on nature, so I stirred about until sleepyhead woke up! We had some friendly visitors as we were packing up the tent. Ok, she was packing, I was taking pictures of those pint-sized deer they have out there. A full grown ‘buck’ no more than 5’ tall to the tips of it’s antlers! With packing the car fast becoming routine, before we knew it we were settling into the cockpit for a good coastal driving day. Stopping in at the Chandelier drive thru tree for some more pictures, and ripping through the redwood forest, we were back at the ocean! The Oregon Coast is a road you all must travel. The scenery, fresh air, long banking roads, and quirky little coastal towns are very neat. Definitely a stretch of country I’d like to spend more time in. Strolling into Newport at around 7:00pm, we picked up a quick Quizno’s meal, and stopped off at the local Walmart to pick up a hatchet. The handful of times as I’ve been to local Walmarts, I’ve never seen any ‘people of Walmart’. So this stop was pretty special. Between rednecks arguing in the 20 items or less line, to mullets, to fat girls in skinny girl clothing… this store was filled with one-off’s. Strolling into the campground at 9:30pm, Heather started setting up camp in the dark as I ventured off to register and pick up firewood. Much to our disappointment, the firewood sales center was closed so there was no fire for us tonight as I wasn’t about to fire up the car and rumble through the campground for a third time. Instead, we bundled up, turned on my cellphone flashlight, and enjoyed a bottle of wine in the dark haha.

 

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The home stretch. 7:00am and up and at em’! Packing up the tent for the last time on this trip, we stopped in at Starbucks for some grub and were heading east. Another phenomenal stretch of road is HWY 20. Lots of twists and turns, trees completely encompassing the road… it was certainly one of my favorites. Hopping onto the I5 it was time to make tracks again. With Canada in our sights, we had to make a quick stop in Seattle for some original Starbucks coffee. For being such an ugly city with the dull grey concrete EVERYWHERE, Pike Place Market was a nice little urban anthill with people scurrying about everywhere. Popping in at a local Safeway for a couple bottles of Rangpur Tangueray, a couple cases of Cherry Coke, and a case of Vanilla Coke, we were back to playing a game of Tetris in the already overflowing NSX. With my duffle bag and 3 cases of coke now placed in the frunk, and the two bottles of gin and everything else in the trunk… we were now at maximum capacity. Having previously made dinner plans with friends in Langley BC, we decided to cross at the Aldergrove crossing. I don’t know if it’s just me, but getting back into Canada has always proven more difficult than leaving. But surprisingly, after mentioning my haul of liquor and passing him our passports, he simply bid us adieu and off we went! Being back in Canada and catching up with friends over sushi was nice, but we still had 300kms ahead of us, and the second most concerning stretch of road weather wise. Surprisingly the Coquihalla was snow and gravel free, and we landed ourselves in a Kamloops Super8 by 11:00pm. One last early morning roll call, Tim Hortons in hand, and we were Edmonton bound! The snow in the Edson/Hinton area proved no match for the NSX as we pulled into Edmonton by 5:30pm and began the unloading.

This, folks, is how you pack an NSX for 7 days of camping/road tripping:

– 2x Pillows
– 2x Sleeping Bags
– 2x Air Mattresses
– 2x Duffle Bags
– 3x Jackets
– 1x Tent
– 1x Cooler
– 1x Hatchet
– 1x Tripod
– 1x Bottle of quick detail
– 5x Bottles of Wine
– 2x Bottles of Gin
– 3x Cases of Coke

 

 

 

 

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You can read the whole thread on Expedition Portal [HERE].

 

 

If you didn’t catch Mark’s other amazing trip, it’s worth checking out. Click on the image below:

 

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