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Home | Tag Archives: The Motoring Life

Tag Archives: The Motoring Life

The Motoring Life: Let’s go for a drive!

Let me help you to Find Your Road
Let me help you to Find Your Road

Being an event coordinator, and self-appointed rallymaster, it isn’t often that I give any trade secrets away, or any secrets for that matter. But after over ten years of organizing drives and rallies out of El Paso, we have traversed nearly every road within our region, and have since moved on to organizing rallies all over our great nation.

Members of our club and events from East Texas envy El Paso’s location, stating that we have some of the greatest driving roads within a day’s drive — and they’re absolutely right.

Slowly but surely, I’m going to tell you where they are, and how to get to them, as the months go by. We’ve formulated many perfect day’s drives and will reveal them for you and your friends to do, by following my easy guide.

People are very surprised when they hear that there is so much to do in El Paso — people from El Paso, that is. But they are even more surprised to hear that we are in the center of so many amazing and world-class driving roads. I’ll start with a simple one that many are not aware of. So get your friends together and see if they want to have an adventure, just for a day, in an amazing and scenic area that is only a couple hours away.

Let me help you to Find Your Road:

Things that you need:

  1. A dependable vehicle that has good brakes and decent handling. (A Porsche 911 is obviously the best choice, and I’m not biased at all.) Make sure your tires are in good condition as well as your serpentine belt(s). No reason to turn this into more of an adventure than it needs to be.
  2. A few bottles of water, a cooler isn’t necessary as you will be near services every 75 miles or so. It is very important to stay hydrated!
  3. A camera.
  4. About $100 cash per person (depending the consumption rate of you and your vehicle)

7:30am: Meet your friends at a local fueling station, preferably off of US-54 — chances are they will show up with anything other than a full tank. This gives them a chance to fill up and grab some water. Be sure everyone is ready to go and depart together, heading North onto US-54 — maintain a decent pace — the more stops you make, the longer it will take you to complete the course.

Your route will look something like this.
Your route will look something like this. (Courtesy Google Maps)

The first section of this drive is (in my opinion) boring. it is long and straight, although Oro Grande provides a little intrigue, along with the only four turns in the entire stretch. The locals aren’t 100% friendly if you aren’t buying anything, so don’t expect to be able to use any restrooms, unless you are a customer. There is an old mining operation that used to go on here long ago, and to my knowledge were still hosting tours of it, but I have personally never taken it.

After Oro Grande’s “please don’t miss my town” speed limits, you will cruise a little further down the way to a border patrol check station. These are standard throughout the area, especially leaving El Paso. if any of your friends are visiting from another country, they will need proper documentation to get through the checkpoint.

Upon arrival to Alamogordo, there are two options to stay on course — either drive through town or take the relief route. Depending on the size of your group, driving through town has multiple stoplights and will separate you quickly.

If you intend to stay together — take the relief route but beware of the heavy police presence — as they are there to catch tourists that are merely “passing though” and wanting to get around quickly.

Once getting around the town, you will cross over a bridge and continue forward through the traffic lights onto Highway 82. As the road continues, you will notice that the climate will become less face-melting and more like windows-down weather. You will also notice that after passing through a tunnel, the surrounding vegetation almost magically transitions from desert to forest. The winding road will eventually lead you into the small mountain town of Cloudcroft, NM.

For the drivers, take that first right when you get into town, onto Cox Canyon Highway 130. and follow it all the way till it loops back onto Highway 82, then hang a left to get back to Cloudcroft. For the less-inclined to drive, stop into Cloudcroft’s old town and kill some time while the hard-core drivers make their lap of the mountain back-roads. Be sure to meet up with them in the sizable lot at the Highway 82 and Highway 244 Junction, just east of Cloudcroft, around the sweeping bend.

Highway 244 is really what I have been working to get you to. This is a little-known highway (that has become more popular with select driving groups) that is a ton of fun to drive. It is full of winding roads, blind corners, elevations changes and amazing scenery. Unfortunately it is also an open range, meaning that there is a multitude of cattle that can be standing in the middle of the road at any time — or at least the remnant droppings of one.

I’ve also personally spotted many deer, and several bear cubs crossing the road. It is important to be on high alert on this road due to the dangers that it can bring.

Once emerging from the end of it, you will find yourself at highway 70. By now, mostly everyone in your group is hungry and if you have driven this route in any kind of decent time, it is also right after lunchtime. The options for food are mostly within Ruidoso, unless you make a pit stop at the local casino for food and beverage — perhaps some gambling.

Our group usually pulls into town and finds plenty of parking and (depending on group size) have reservations at the Cattle Baron on Sudderth Dr. Their menu offers a wide array of options for any appetite, which works well for groups. A lunch stop gives plenty of time for everyone to talk about the drive, share photos and even update their Facebook pages to reflect the great journey they’ve had, in only a few hours from home.

While the drive back is relatively easy (Highway 70 South back to Highway 54 into El Paso), it is important to remember drives are like life — life isn’t about the destination, but rather the journey you take to get there. And I’m here to help you Find Your Road.

Motor on my friends, and someday hopefully we can get lost together.

Friend me on Facebook, and share pictures from your adventures in the comments section below!

The Motoring Life: The problem with the Lamborghini Gallardo, Part II

After spending a quiet night in the garage of our rented duplex, (which is worth less than the sum of the vehicles in the garage) I cracked open the door to make sure the orange monster was still in there. Upon opening it, I got a strong smell of the finest Italian leather that money could buy.

Apparently, I left the windows down on the Lamborghini, and the rich aromatic odor of the leather interior managed to change the way the entire garage smelled. Unfortunately, it didn’t last much longer after I closed the windows. Either way, it was a pleasant way to start the day. A passing thought entered my head: “I could get used to this…”

Italian cows are specially bred for leather interiors of Ferrari and Lamborghini
Italian cows are specially bred for leather interiors of Ferrari and Lamborghini, which is not true.

With the car show only a day away, and check-in being at 7am, I made time after work to take the car for a fresh hand-wash. Obviously (to most) among many other makes, this isn’t the type of car that would survive an automated wash with much success.

I’m excited to get home, wait for traffic to die down and safely get the car to the local self-wash. Even at 8pm, the entire journey was full of thumbs ups, and remarks like “wanna trade,” “are you like rich, bro?”and “how much was it?

I begin to to understand more comprehensively, as to why exotic car owners never drive these types of cars around El Paso. I felt as if the car was enough motivation to turn a regular person into a full-blown carjacker. The fear was real, so I quickly washed the car and returned home.

 

 

Upon pulling into my driveway, an unknown truck pulls in right behind me, blocking me from leaving (if I wanted to). I get out of the vehicle and the Texas in me kicks in, as I begin to think about “gettin’ my gun.”

You can take the car, but you're not gonna fit, "bro."
You can take the car, but you’re not gonna fit, “bro.”

The truck door opens, and out steps one of the largest, most muscular dudes I’ve ever seen outside of a gym or nightclub.

Distress enters my mind until he puts his hands up and says “nah bro, I just want to take a few pictures.” I could have thought of a better way for him to approach, but at this time I am just happy that I’m not breathing through a tube.

He asked every question that I mentioned in both parts of this article, and several more before a crowd begins to gather and I insist on hiding the car.

The car show came, and our security detail guarded the cars all day. He was scoffed at by everyone that wanted to pose with the cars, especially photographers that had a personal model entourage. The cars were sectioned off with barriers, and for good reason.

Afterward, we took the cars out of the civic center and headed home — yet another annoying task with cars pacing us dangerously on the interstate, just to snap a few photos.

 

People slowing down when they saw the car at a stoplight, missing their green lights, even a child and her grandmother stopped playing hopscotch to point in amazement. Perhaps in another setting, this car would be more enjoyable, but in the world we call El Paso, the citizens just aren’t ready for exotic cars.

Ultimately, the owner sold the car because it did not perform as it was advertised to him. At one of our club’s private track days, he brought it out to run among other high-line exotics and really push the performance factors of the car on the track.

While the car was fast, the massive brakes would heat up too quickly, and the oil temperatures began to rise until finally it completely depressurized, dumping all of its contents onto the surface during a hot lap.

The car had to be towed off the track, and sent to Scottsdale — to replace a hose. An entire track day ruined by a failed hose, in a six-figure supercar. This was the deciding factor for the owner to do what most Gallardo owners do after they unload their car — buy a Murcielago (the bigger, faster, far more expensive Lamborghini).

Because I can, that's why.
Because I can, that’s why. Photo courtesy: Lamborghini

In short, the problem with the Gallardo (or possibly any Lamborghini) is that it seems to be built more for the automotive enthusiast that is interested in attention, more than performance, reliability or drive-ability.

On several occasions, other Gallardos in our group will always get the most attention out of a gas stop on a group drive (but always break).

 

 

Spectators never see the 911 Turbo, GT3, or McLaren — they get tunnel vision on the Lamborghini, which ironically is exactly how the owners see from the inside of one, out.

To read Part One, Click -> HERE

The Motoring Life: The problem with the Lamborghini Gallardo, Part I

Nothing quite blows the minds of nearly everyone (even non-car nuts) like the sight of a Lamborghini. In our driving club, several members own such vehicles and, for good reason, do their best to not drive them on the streets of El Paso.

Oh they exist in plenty of numbers locally, but if the locals had to decide to cause an accident over seeing a bonafide alien UFO invasion vs taking pictures of a Lamborghini (while driving), the exotic car wins every time.

Look mom, a spaceship!
Look mom, a spaceship!

Ok, to be fair, the latest Lamborghinis (starting from MY2004) do in fact, look a lot like a UFO rolling down the street with the odd angles, massive vents and bright colors — not to mention a factory exhaust that could wake the dead.

Regarding the loud colors: most people assume that the bright colored exotic cars are just an attention grabber for the owners to show off what they have – and to be fair, it is indeed – but on purpose, because these cars so small and hard to see otherwise.

The colors are a way for the owners to say “LOOK AT ME, DON’T HIT ME OR PARK CLOSE TO ME,” without sounding like a pompous fool, despite the stereotypes that already exist.

Smaller than a Ford Fiesta!
Smaller than a Ford Fiesta!

The small size is only half of the problem, having been personally loaned a Gallardo, I very quickly discovered that there is no such thing as a blind spot, but rather a blind curtain — as in entire sections of absolutely zero visibility from the driver’s seat.

Changing lanes on any roadway is like playing Russian roulette, two-fold, because A. you can’t see, and B. chances are, somebody is pacing you trying to take pictures, of course in your blind curtain.

So keep in mind, the next time you get cut-off by a Lamborghini, it’s really because the driver cannot see you. It is a lot like driving with a race-horse’s blinders on.

Perhaps the auto designer’s secret motto is “nothing behind you matters.” But, it may not matter that you cannot see anything around you, because it is highly likely that everyone is staring at your car anyway.

Back to my personal experience: A sponsor of one of our events asked us as a favor to bring several not-so-common cars to display at the entrance of his car show. After assuring the owners that the cars would be blocked off and guarded from: selfies, buttoned-jeans, greasy half-naked car models and everything/one else that uses car shows as a background to promote themselves, we secured a few cars to get down to the location.

No really, get off of the car.
No really, get off of the car.

One of the owners said he couldn’t make it, so he asked politely for me to “come pick up my Lambo and take it.” As exciting as it sounds, driving an exotic car across El Paso can be daunting, if you haven’t done it before. So I met him at a local sushi spot on the eastside, late night, to avoid traffic.

The Arancio Borealis Pearl (Orange) Gallardo was illegally parked under a light, which didn’t matter because of the constant flashes from cameras upon it (this was one of the first Gallardos in El Paso).

It was as if a celebrity was standing in the parking lot, posing for pictures, except structured and more mysterious.

The attention it was getting was a good indication as to why some people own these cars, but this wasn’t his reason (which will be discussed later). My wife dropped me off, and my daughter stared in amazement, “Dad, you get to drive that?!? Can we keep it?!?” I quickly went inside, took sake shots during a short conversation about life with the owner, before heading outside to the car.

Driving a Gallardo (at the time) wasn’t like any other automobile — especially since this one was fitted with the E-Gear transmission — if you don’t know how to engage the gears correctly, you can easily combust the entire vehicle with the clutch alone.

Gear selectors are for peasants. Look at my mighty buttons!

After explaining the intricate details of the space-craft’s operation, I was ready for lift-off. I put the car in gear and drove away carefully, with several paparazzi pacers in tow, taking blinding pictures.

I quickly lose them in a few neighborhood streets before finally landing the car back home, in which my wife’s Scion xB was temporarily evicted from our garage, to make space for the smaller Gallardo.

It was a proud sight, to have both garage doors open with a Porsche 911 on one side, and a Lamborghini Gallardo on the other.

Neighbors that never spoke to me before started peeking out and making their way over. I hastily closed both doors and retired inside to avoid job/income inquisitions and requests for “rides around the block.”

End of Part I. To Read Part Two, Click ->HERE

The Motoring Life: Renting Sportscars – Dodge Challenger R/T Part II

…and the adventure begins…

The steady hum of the V8 was soothing for the soul, definitely sounded and felt very American. Although after climbing into the cockpit of this car, I noticed that the visibility was much worse than anticipated, so I immediately started adjusting mirrors to make up for number of blind spots. The seats were very large and couch-like, obviously not meant for holding one in place, in case of deep cornering on a spirited mountain road drive.

After getting everything adjusted to my personal preference, I slowly exit the rental car lot and proceed home, to show the kids what we rented for the weekend.

Of course, after getting onto the street, I simply must see what kind of power this thing really has. I switch to manual mode and mash on the accelerator, after a millisecond it definitely wakes up and tears down the road before I have a chance to click the next gear up on the paddle shifter.

A thought enters my head “maybe I better do this stuff later on, when nobody is around,” I switch back to automatic mode and cruise the rest of the way home.

The kids (6 and 11) were extremely excited to see what we rented, and we took them for a spin, since they won’t have the opportunity to join us for the weekend. Their impression was that it looked cool from the outside, but couldn’t see anything from the backseat, which made them constantly lean towards the front to see what was going on.

After the quick trip to lunch with the kids, we pack our bags, drop the kids off at the sitter for the weekend and hit the road to a friend’s home near Deming for a weekend of automotive touring.

As we begin to lay rubber down on I-10, passing a few cars is virtually effortless with the large motor this particular vehicle has. The gear kicks down and the car growls up and into a perfect passing speed and tames down when it is asked to. As we get closer, we see that the area has been pounded with heavy rainfall, and made several areas impassable by smaller cars.

We decide to risk it and the Challenger makes short work of the slightly deep water and the rough roads that followed. “What an excellent all-around multi-terrain vehicle this really is,” I mumbled to myself. It had no problems forging anything we put it through for the rest of the evening, as we gathered for dinner with the rest of the automotive touring group at the Adobe Deli Steakhouse.

All terrain? Almost!
All terrain? Almost!

The following morning, we drive a couple of tour-goers down to their vehicles (since they could not pass some of the flooded roads and rocky terrain) which were stored at a nearby neighbor’s home. After getting situated, we browsed the route and hit the road, first on a long stretch of straight desolate highway in which we led the pack to the starting point of the fun roads.

On the straight highway, the Challenger was king, easily passing other vehicles and accelerating to passing speeds with ease. Once we got to the fun roads, the Challenger became more of a namesake for myself and my wife as we struggled to stay firmly planted in our seats. The lack of efficient bolsters not only began to tire our backs, but on winding roads, it was like sitting in a roller coaster with 10 foot wide leather seats and no seat belts.

To make matters worse, the car couldn’t corner much better than a Toyota Camry. When we did push it into the corners, the rear tires would break loose, if not all four at the same time. We eventually gave way to the other tour-goers as our spirited drive was over with the challenges we faced just trying to maintain the posted speed limits.

tire
Somebody has had fun with this before.

Upon closer inspection, we begin to notice that the rear tires were quite bald on the inside shoulders and was possibly the cause of much of the sliding. Although sliding rear tires at 25mph seemed a bit ridiculous, even for a car with limited traction.

Between the extreme weight of the car and the tires, it was a fair call that this vehicle was made for long open straights only, and had no business on a mountain pass with hundreds of sharp turns. We changed our plan to only persevere and be late to each checkpoint rather than try to keep up with the extremely high performance vehicles that our friends were driving.

In the end, the Challenger was quite the car until asked to perform as it appears to be marketed. But a quick dive into the history of the newer generation Challengers explains perfectly why this vehicle handles so poorly in track conditions without the right modifications.

Evidently the Charger/Challenger platform was originally designed to be a family sedan, but in the process of trying to keep up with all the retro styled sportscars that other automakers were putting out, Dodge decided to simply change the bumpers and re-badge these cars with old-school names and attempt to pass them off as such. Hopefully the evolution of Hellcat has made this a better car, but otherwise it is ridiculous to consider it a sportscar unless it has the right modifications to meet the minimum criteria.

The rental agency was not interested in any of my complaints regarding the car, took zero responsibility all while making the statement that it was “way overdue, and needs to be taken out of service.” Even after sending a complaint to the management about them releasing a vehicle with bald tires, I was only offered a “better deal” than this one — and still charged me the upgrade fee.

Despite this mixed experience, it didn’t stop us from renting another, different sportscar for another event — that despite having a good rental experience — the vehicle was also a semi-unpleasant trip. But that’s another story…

Until next time, keep on motoring!

To read Part one, click HERE

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