|The 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring .|
Regular readers will remember three years ago, when, for a shorter eight-day camping trip to Utah, the 2015 Kia Sorento SXL proved to be a terrific traveling companion. This time, Mazda and their prep and delivery partners at Drive Shop partnered to provide a 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring for three weeks, allowing time for packing and cleanup.
|Leg One: Folsom to Grand Teton National Park (source: Google Maps).|
And the plan was to camp the entire vacation. Which meant a tent, sleeping bags, food and other supplies...for two weeks.
|Camping supplies in the back of the 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring.|
|The second-row pantry in the 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring.|
Because of a series of unforseen events, packing didn't happen until the morning of departure. And we slept in. Everything you see is about 90 minutes worth of work. Efficiency (another of Mrs. TireKicker's strengths) rocks.
That did, however, get us a late start. Our plan originally was to do the 842 estimated miles (not counting side trips and detours) to Grand Teton in one day, figuring a 6:00 a.m. start, a 13-hour drive and the time zone change would have us at our destination at 8:00 p.m., which in July in Wyoming leaves another 60 to 90 minutes of daylight.
But departure was more like 11:30 a.m., traffic was hit and miss, we stopped for supplies in Reno, Nevada and for dinner in Winnemucca.
|Winnemucca, Nevada. Where the "Welcome" sign is on the town cemetery grounds.|
With darkness rapidly falling, we put in for the night at Angel Creek Campground outside Wells, Nevada. It wasn't until we woke up the next morning that we realized what a great place we'd picked.
|2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring and our tent at Angel Creek Campground near Wells, Nevada|
|Angel Lake, Nevada.|
|Angel Creek Campground to Grand Teton National Park (source: Google Maps).|
Mis-reading GasBuddy.com's very useful app led me to think that there was gasoline in Oasis, Nevada, the point at which we'd leave I-80. There wasn't. What it was showing me was that the nearest gas station to Oasis was the Pilot truck stop where I'd washed the windshield (but not bought gas) 45 minutes earlier. My fault. Our choices were to turn back to Wells (a 90-mile roundtrip) or to press on, despite GasBuddy saying our next chance at gas was in McCammon, Idaho.
|Status check on the CX-9 in Oasis, NV.|
Plus...there really couldn't be NO place to buy gas for the few thousand people that live in those 217 miles, could there?
|The 2017 Mazda CX-9 meets the 1967 gas pumps in Montello, Nevada.|
|Montello Gas & Grocery, Montello, Nevada.|
Montello is a combination of two small bars, and a combination motel/general store/gas station with the oldest gas pumps I have seen still in service in literally decades. Memory and a best guess says they're 50 years old. While they're not outfitted to read a credit card, they have somehow retrofitted them to tell the clerk in the general store how much gas you've pumped. And despite their remote location and status as the only gas around, the price per gallon was a fairly reasonable 30 cents more than what I would have paid in Wells (which is still 90 cents a gallon less than what they're asking at Lake Tahoe these days).
Fully fueled, it was on to McCammon with zero stress. A top-off there and we were in Grand Teton National Park by dinnertime. And even though I didn't ease off the throttle in the pursuit of fuel economy, we saw an improvement regardless, boosting our average mpg for the trip so far from 24.1 to 25.2.
|Status check on arrival at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.|
A personal note here: I have lived about one-third of my life in or very near the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I thought I knew mountains.
|2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring at Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.|
|2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring at Jenny Lake Campground, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.|
|View from Jackson Lake Lodge.|
And then...up the road to Yellowstone National Park.
|2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring at Yellowstone National Park.|
|Old Faithful's Eruption Clock.|
Old Faithful is just a few dozen steps from the Old Faithful Inn, a magnificent and unique place everyone should see at least once. Absolutely take the guided tour:
|The lobby of the Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park.|
|Yellowstone National Park motor coach.|
In our four days in Yellowstone, we saw moose, bear and buffalo. Lots of buffalo:
I had never seen a buffalo before going to Yellowstone. I've now seen at least a thousand. All in four days:
They're by the side of the road.
Often, they're in the road. And not alone.
They're even inside fenced-off geysers along the trail. In short, they're wherever the heck they want to be. Our job is to accomodate them without getting your car or yourself gored.
|Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming to Folsom, California...the long way. (Source: Google Maps)|
|2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring at the Log Cabin Cafe in Silver Gate, Montana.|
|The Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.|
|Star Plunge Hot Mineral Pools, Thermopolis, Wyoming.|
|Dinosaur National Monument, near Vernal, Utah.|
|Petroglyphs near Vernal, Utah.|
|The All Aboard Cafe and Inn in Ely, Nevada.|
|The final tally.|
|2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring near Vernal, Utah.|
Particulars: Our tester was the front-wheel drive version of the CX-9 Grand Touring. Base price $40,470. A 2.5-liter, 227-horsepower turbo four with a six-speed sport-mode automatic transmission standard. EPA fuel economy estimate 22 city/28 highway, 24 combined. Again, we saw 26.7.
Standard equipment: 20-inch alloy wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, electronic power-assisted steering, front and rear stabilizer bars, independent front and rear suspension, rain-sensing windshield wipers, an intermittent rear-wiper (which came in handy for all the dust we put on the tailgate), heated power mirrors with turn lamps, rear privacy glass, a power moonroof, aluminum roof rails, automatic LED headlamps, adaptive front lighting, automatic high beam control, LED fog and daytime running lights, LED combination taillights, a rear roof spoiler, a power liftgate, three-row seating for seven, tilt/telescoping leather steering wheel, power locks and windows, leather-trimmed upholstery, power heated front seats (memory for the driver), aluminum interior trim, second-row sunshades, radar cruise control, electronic parking brake, keyless entry, pushbutton start, three-zone climate control, a Bose audio system, an eight-inch color display with rear camera, navigation, tire pressure monitoring, dynamic stability control, traction control, roll stability control, trailer stability assist, a full complement of airbags, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear backup sensors, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, smart brake support and smart city brake support.
Again, that's all included at $40,470. The only extra-cost options on our tester were the Soul Red Metallic paint ($300) and a cargo mat ($100). With $940 delivery, processing and handling fee, the bottom line was $41,810. Tremendous value.
I was blessed with two perfect traveling companions for the best vacation of my life (so far): Mrs. TireKicker and the Mazda CX-9. I married one. The other shoots to the top of the TireKicker's Best Cars list on the right hand side of this page.
(NOTE: Apart from Mazda's loan of the vehicle for three weeks, with one tank of gas and insurance, none of the places, businesses or companies mentioned in this review provided any consideration. We don't know them, they don't know us and had no idea we'd write about them. They're included, along with links where available because we enjoyed them and thought you might too. ---Ed)