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Old 02-25-2008, 10:38 AM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Phoenix
Posts: 178
Sunday Drive: AZ 60, 77, and 177

Distance: 229.5 miles
Fuel: 9.39 gal (a tiny bit more than half a tank)
Fuel Economy: 24.4 mpg
Car: 2003 Boxster w/Tip

I've lived in AZ for 10 years, and for 15 years before that, in the SF Bay Area. The Bay Area has some really incredible driving roads (e.g. Hwy 35, route 1, Hwy 84, etc.), but since moving to AZ, I've hardly ever been on a decent drive. It's either straight surface roads or freeway. I took one decent drive a few years ago in my 914 with the PCA, but it's been a long time. Worse yet, though I've had my Boxster for a year, it's never been on a good drive.

So, yesterday, I took the Boxster on a drive around a triangle defined by AZ 60, 77, and 177, between the cities of Superior, Globe, and Winkeman. I live in south Phoenix, so a good portion of the drive is just getting there, mostly on the 202 and the 60. Conditions were cloudy and in the 60's, with a bit of rain spitting from time to time.

The drive to Superior was uneventful and fairly swift. As I approached Superior (2880 ft. elev), the road started to get more interesting, and right out of Superior, it started to tighten and gain elevation as I went through a tight canyon, gaining about 2000' as I went. Reasonable speeds were in the 60-70 mph range. It's amazing how the Boxster transforms on a road like this, once you're driving it above 4000 rpm. Handling and braking are superb.

I was playing with the Tip when passing, but quickly realized the best approach is to leave it in D and simply floor it, as it will downshift as much as possible and upshift at redline, then hold in gear while you back off to slot in, before upshifting. For a car with fairly modest power (228 HP), passing performance is very impressive. Traffic was light to moderate, so I had some good sections without any traffic to enjoy.

At Globe (3524'), I stopped for a quick lunch, then took 77 south to Winkeman. This section quickly rose, then was mostly downhill. The scenery of this area is very impressive, if you can ignore the gigantic dormant copper mines that have gouged away entire mountains. This section was a bit faster, with speeds of up to 80 mph, while being safe and courteous to other drivers. Passing on the downhills is spectacular with the Boxster. With a newer S it must be utterly amazing. A Carrera GT would be a religious experience.

At Winkleman (1968'), I turned back north on 177. The road regained elevation the whole way. 177 was tighter, and had some very fun sections. I popped over a rise to encounter a Highway Patrol car going the other direction. I quickly slowed, and once past me, I saw him flick his lights on and off, just to let me know, "hey buddy, I know what you're up to, keep it under control, please". I took it down a notch for the few miles back to Superior. The drive back home was again swift and uneventful, with normal Phoenix traffic.

I was very impressed with the car on this trip, the Boxster is a hell of a driving car, very confidence-inspiring. I did between 10 and 15 full-throttle passes, with several peaking out at slightly over 100 mph, and steady driving speeds of 80+ on the freeways and 60-80 mph on the mountain roads, with a total elevation change of around 5000 feet. Despite this workout, the Boxster got over 24 mpg! Looking forward to doing this again sometime soon.

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Old 02-25-2008, 10:51 AM   #2
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Good drive, I have been on those roads but last time it was in a mini-van driving parents around. South Phoenix... how often do you take the drive up South Mountain? If only there weren't so many bicyclists, that is a killer fun drive.
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Old 02-25-2008, 11:25 AM   #3
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I've been up South Mountain in my M3 once, though I've been up it about 100 times on my bicycle, probably getting in someone's way. Generally, I don't find bicycles too much trouble to get around, they're certainly easier to pass than someone lumbering up the road in a giant SUV. If you want to avoid the cyclists, best not to go up early on Saturday or Sunday, try going in the evening during the week.
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:37 AM   #4
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Although I've never lived in AZ, I've crossed the country between San Diego and Wash DC 4 times and passed through that general area on I-10 and I-8. I had to fire up Google Maps to check out your route both on maps and satetllite images. Sure seems like a nice cruise. I've always felt that the desert in winter months is really fun.

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