“On the Nissan Altimate Rogue Trip we saw the spectacular in spades. And when the dozen journalist participants pulled up at the end of the road by the Santa Monica Pier, we shared a great sense of achievement…” (more…)

Route 66: Day 7

Group Photo END of the road

Santa Monica, California – It took us seven long days to drive 4,063 km – 56 hours, 30 minutes at the wheel – but we arrived safely at the end of Route 66 in Santa Monica late Saturday afternoon.

This group of Canadian Auto Journalists (yours truly in the middle of three at the back) left Chicago last Sunday morning and boy was it chilly. Today, we are enjoying sun and soaring temperatures in Marina del Ray before heading home to locations across Canada.

There is much to reflect upon and share and later this month I will offer a complete report online and in print about this Nissan Altimate Rogue Trip along the historic but now decommissioned route across the U.S. Later, I will also review the vehicles we used for the road trip – 2015 Nissan Altimate and 2015 Nissan Rogue.

01 james dean

The last day began in Kingman, Arizona, where we had spent the night at the 1930s’ era El Travatore Motel. All the rooms are themed and yours truly chose the James Dean suite, where large photos of that “Rebel without a cause” from yesteryear adorned the walls. Worth a stay . . . for one night.

01 oatman

We took the Oatman Highway section of the old route and enjoyed the very curvy road into the mountain desert. The one-horse town of Oatman, actually more accurately a three-donkey town, is a remarkable example of the old west. Donkeys roam the main street – three on Saturday – while a lone cowboy plays a guitar.

03 donkey

It was the search for gold that formerly attracted people to this odd place but now it’s pure nostalgia and the many tales of hauntings and strange ghostly goings on at the Oatman Hotel. The hotel bar is covered in dollar bills bearing messages from visitors. There are supposedly around $200,000 pasted up from floor to ceiling. (We added $1 between 14 of us!)

02 dollar

The run from there to the finish line was sadly, mainly modern freeway. The demand for a faster track to California has mean the original lines of Route 66 have become buried barring the odd stretch here and there among the final stages.

Watch out for a full account later this month.

keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Follow Keith on Twitter @ChangeGears

Learn more about his journey by searching #nissanroute66










Route 66, Day 6

03 GC

Kingman, Arizona – The Grand Canyon is not part of Route 66 but we strayed off the straight and occasionally curvy, narrow road today to take in this magnificent natural wonder.

The Nissan Altimate Rogue Trip participants pointed the vehicles in the direction of the gorge and canyons that carry the mighty Colorado River and its tributaries. We had barely two hours to explore but made the most of the public viewpoints; some of the photographic results appear – a larger gallery will appear later this month.

01 GC


Early afternoon, saw us roaming the streets of Williams, which is the last major Route 66 community to be bypassed by the I-40 freeway. Frankly, it’s more of a parade of gift shops than it is a glimpse into the past.

06 rusty

Seligman, an hour or so further west, is much more interesting and a parade of nostalgia. The Rusty Bolt captured our attentiona and some of our dollars. Angel Delgadillo is a driving force for Route 66 preservation and promotion in Arizona. His family-owned barber shop has grown into a must-visit centre for gift buying and hearing about yesteryear of the route that since the early 1920s has carried vehicles from Chicago to Santa Monica.

04 angel

Tomorrow, we complete our journey to Santa Monica. My final road blog will appear Saturday.

An expanded feature will appear in Black Press papers later this month and a full report and picture gallery online at the same time.

keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Follow Keith on Twitter @ChangeGears

Learn more about his journey by searching #nissanroute66










Route 66: Day 5

01 Petrified

Williams, Arizona – It looks like some alien landscape from a far off planet, but the Petrified Forest is very much of this ancient earth.

A visit to this remarkable U.S. National Park was a highlight of Day 5 of the Nissan Altimate Rogue Trip, which is retracing the old Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. It’s situated about 40 kilometres east of Holbrook in a semi-desert region and is named for the massive deposits of petrified wood that began forming around 225 million years ago. The rock formations are most unusual and very colourful.

02 Petrified

A rusting car marks a connection to one of the earlier lines of the decommissioned highway through the park, and the overheard power lines sit on the exact route.

03 old line

Entering Arizona, our 2015 Nissan Altima tugged us to the side of the highway into a large tee-pee-like structure where we shopped for examples of local art.

04 wigwam trade

Speaking of tee-pees, the inn bearing that name was the choice for an overnight stay by a Latvian couple, Guntars and Anda Vaishia. They too are exploring the route and couldn’t resist booking in for a night in a wood framed tee-pee!

05 Wigwam inn

06 Wigwam inn

Tomorrow, we head for the Grand Canyon and on to Kingman, Arizona. Check back for a further installment of this blog tomorrow and look out for an expanded feature in Black Press papers later this month and a full report and picture gallery online at the same time.

keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Follow Keith on Twitter @ChangeGears

Learn more about his journey by searching #nissanroute66

Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Everything they make in Texas is oversized, why they even grow Cadillacs.

First stop on day four of the Altimate Rogue Trip on Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica was the Cadillac ranch. There, ten classic examples of the prestige marque are planted in the red dirt. Three members of a local art group created the art installation in 1974. The cars represent the evolution of the car’s tailfins from 1949 until 1963 and their final ‘disappearance’ as a notable feature.

Interestingly, they are half-buried nose-first at an angle that corresponds to that of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Visitors spray paint graffiti on the cars and pose for photographs by their contribution to the art.

01 Cadillac01 Cadillac 2

You can’t escape the animated Cars movie on this trip because this installation is mimicked in the popular kids’ move where they appear as a mountain range!

Today’s 500-plus-kilometre trek took us through the midpoint marker for the 1966 line of the route at Adrian. That alignment made the route around 3,670 kms but our group of Candian auto journalists will drive the 2015 Nissan Altimas and Rogues about 4,000 kms as we are mixing up the stretches from different historical alignments.

02 midpoint

Drive partner Mark Richardson, from the Toronto Star, and I struck out on our own and took what was little more than a dirt track for almost 15k, which dated back to a route taken in the 1920s. It starts just after the New Mexico border and brought us out near to San Jon. The one-lane track opened up amazing vistas in this very Big Country.

03 1950s 04 1920 a

The freeway buried most of the route in the last 100 or so kilometres to our bed for the night in Albuquerque. Thursday we motor to the Grand Canyon, Arizona, for a night under the stars. What has been dubbed Team UK will be spotting locations used by the TV series Breaking Bad.

Check back for a further installment of this blog tomorrow and look out for an expanded feature in Black Press papers later this month and a full report and picture gallery online at the same time.

Contact: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Follow Keith on Twitter @ChangeGears

Learn more about his journey by searching #nissanroute66

Amarillo, Texas.

When asked what that strange cloud was forming to our right on Route 66, our guide calmly told us over his walkie-talkie that it was typical of what are often the early stages of a tornado.

“Usually when I see that kind of formation, when I’m leading a bike group I quickly head off in the opposite direction,” Gary Fleshman coolly advised from the pilot car.

Drive partner Mark Richardson and I glanced nervously at each other and my foot pressed a little harder on the accelerator of the 2015 Nissan Rogue.

In the last two days, we had seen much evidence of the devastation these twisters wreak on the lives of people living along the old highway that passes through Kansas and Oklahoma on its way from Chicago to Santa Monica. This was only our third day on the Nissan Altimate Rogue trip and we were planning to complete the 4,000-plus kilometres by late Saturday so we decided not to hang around to see if it matured into a fully-fledged tornado (though we later learned it did not).

01 tor

01 calu

This stretch of the decommissioned national highway is perhaps the least interesting so stepping on the gas wasn’t going to deny us any memorable experience.  The drive up and down the hills that make up the longest single surviving stretch of the old highway – 60 kilometres – through the Calumet area was a back jarring experience. The surface is bumpy and noisy to say the least, hence our guide’s pet name for it – the chiropractic highway. He claims to need more than one visit to his local practitioner after each bike trip.

The strange cloud formation had long disappeared in our rear view mirrors by the time the Canuck-driven convoy of Rogues and Altima sedans crossed the South Canadian River half an hour later.

02 kicks

Clinton, Oklahoma, welcomed us to a super Route 66 museum. If offered much to look at in terms of relics from bygone years when the route was the best road west. I liked the old hippy VW campervan, which was the transportation of choice for the long hairs seeking peace and free love on the west coast in the 1960s. My search continues for the tackiest tourist souvenir. Mostly good taste was on display at the museum.

03 VW campervan

Onward to Texas. In Shamrock, we stumbled across Ramone’s House of Body Art, the body paint shop featured in the animated Cars movie, cunningly disguised as a café and museum.

01 ramone

Wednesday, we press on for Albuquerque, New Mexico. So, it’s goodnight from Texas!

01 Texas Sunset

Contact: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Follow Keith on Twitter @ChangeGears

Learn more about his journey by searching #nissanroute66

Tulsa, Oklahoma.

We met three of the stars of the Cars animated movie today and a real-life human, who inspired one of the characters.

01 Cars

Towards the end of our second day on the Nissan Altimate Rogue trip along Route 66 we turned a corner into Galena, Kansas, and spotted Red the fire truck, Tow Mater and Tow Tater parked on the forecourt of a beautifully restored Kan-O-Tex service station. Flash bulbs flashed as a dozen of us exited our convoy of 2015 Nissan Altima sedans and Rogue crossover vehicles.


The excitement continued as we visited the Welcome Centre, a short distance away in Baxter Springs. The fictional Radiator Springs is where much of the movie action takes place. Dean ‘Crazy Legs’ Walker, a Kansas Route 66 advocate and one of the inspirations for the lovable tow truck character, greeted us warmly. The affable man demonstrated his now famous turning-his-feet-backwards trick and it was captured on video for viewing here when a full account of this epic journey runs later this month. This ability gave the scriptwriters the idea of having Mater teach hero race car character Lightning McQueen to drive backwards.

03 Dean 'Mater' Walker

Earlier in the day, we left our overnight stop in Cuba, Missouri, bright and early to begin our next 550-km drive to Tulsa. Just a few minutes later, we were at the roadside in Fanning admiring the world’s largest rocking chair and a wonderful highway mural at the US 66 Outpost.

04 Rocking chair

05 mural

For all the tourism dollars the fascination with Route 66 brings there are still many casualties of the decommissioning of this great highway clear to see. Boarded up motels, stores and gas stations abound on the edge of the major centres.

06 NoTellMotel

Tuesday we press on for Amarillo, Texas.

Contact: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Follow Keith on Twitter @ChangeGears

Learn more about his journey by searching #nissanroute66

Nissan Canada’s Altimate Rogue Trip along the historic US Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica rolled out of the very chilly Windy City early Sunday.

It’s a seven-day, 4,000-km plus driving adventure undertaken by more than a dozen Canadian journalists, all driving new 2015 Nissan Altima sedans and 2015 Nissan Rogue crossover vehicles.

In the coming days, check back for a pictorial account of each day’s journey. Later in November, a more detailed account will appear in the newspaper edition Driveway and a large gallery here online.

The first day saw us travel 550 kms to Cuba, Missouri, switching between the older roads that made up the route and the modern freeways that now cover some of the original stretches.

02 Old Route 66-2

Alongside some of the later routings of the road lie narrow parallel roads often overgrown. Technically, there is no longer a Route 66 but it’s a historic highway wound up in myth, legend, and magic. And its supporters in the states it traverses are determined to make it more of a living memory than one that fades with time.

01 Blues Brothers

Bizarre oversized roadside attractions and more subtle monuments are constant reminders of its glorious past the major link between Illinois and California. The strange examples, of course, the ones that stick in your mind.

06 Gemini Giant

The car from the Blues Brothers movie sits high above ground near Joliet, a town made famous by that Hollywood romp. The Gemini Giant in Wilmington is one of many outsized examples of vivid imaginations.

04 Odell

The citizens of Odell restored a Standard Oil Station that had virtually collapsed before they saved it. There are many similar examples of civic pride dotted along the route that winds between quiet towns.

07 Mississippi

Closing on our final destination of the day, we crossed of Chain of Rocks Bridge that spans the Mississippi River, near St Louis. A treat indeed as this high bridge no longer operates as a highway link and it was opened today purely for our benefit.

Contact: keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

Follow Keith on Twitter at @ChangeGears


The Nissan Altima can be a reliable, hard to beat used car purchase in the family sedan class…

Nissan substantially revamped the Altima, its popular family sedan, for the 2010 model year.

In addition to external front and rear styling changes, its roomy interior got a once-over in a refurbish that also included two important new standard active safety features, electronic stability and traction control systems.

The base engine in a 2010 Altima sedan or coupe is a robust 2.5-litre four cylinder and a 3.5-litre V6 was an option. A six-speed manual transmission was available with the four-cylinder and the continuously variable transmission option was standard with the V6 engine.

The fuel-frugal 2.5 litre four-cylinder (175 horsepower) can get 8.9 L/100km in the city and 6.1 L/100km on the highway and runs on regular gasoline. The 3.5 litre V6 can produce a whopping 270 horsepower, yet it still provides decent city/highway fuel consumption (rated at 10.6/7.7 L/100km). It does, however, have a craving for premium quality fuel.

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) is more efficient than a conventional automatic and is designed to always provide best fuel economy, however, some drivers dislike the way it holds engine speed at an optimal level. On the plus, it has a solid reputation for reliability and a nice feature of this CVT is a sequential manual mode that provides six speed settings.

There’s also a less popular hybrid version of Altima, which claims an outstanding city fuel consumption rating of 5.8 L/100km. This full-hybrid powertrain was jointly developed with Toyota and can run for short distances completely on battery power. Like most hybrid sedans the battery pack is stored in the trunk. As a result, the rear seats do not fold-down to expand the cargo area and there’s a reduced amount of cargo space in the trunk.

A push-button intelligent key system is standard on this generation Altima. It’s a convenient feature that allows you to start the engine without actually inserting a key in the switch barrel. The key fob must, of course, be inside the car and is best kept on your person.

Altima got the coveted “recommend buy” rating from Consumer Reports. Although higher than usual incidence of brake and electrical repair did show up on owner surveys, the overall rating for reliability was still better than average, with major mechanical issues showing up.

A rear-view camera was added to select packages on the sedan and coupe models in 2011 and three new exterior colours are available. Except for Bluetooth connectivity with the optional Luxury Package on the sedan, Altima was unchanged for 2012. The Altima Hybrid, however, was discontinued.

In crash tests performed by the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) this generation Altima performed well and got good ratings. However, it only got an “acceptable” rating in a roof crushability test, which simulates a roll-over. Another test of the front seats and head restraints, which simulates a rear-end impact, also resulted in an “acceptable” rating. The next generation 2013 Altima, performed better in both of these tests and earned an overall “Top Safety Pick” rating.

Good to look at, technically sophisticated and economical to drive, the Nissan Altima can be a reliable, hard to beat used car purchase in the family sedan class.

Price Check: 2010 to 2012 Nissan Altima (March 2014)

Year                    Edition                                                 Expect to Pay Today

2010                Sedan 2.5 S                                                   $11,000 to $14,000

2011                Sedan 2.5 S                                                   $13,000 to $16,000

2012                Sedan 2.5 S                                                   $15,000 to $18,000

Prices vary depending on a used vehicle’s condition, mileage, usage and history. A complete mechanical check should always be performed by a reliable auto technician prior to purchase.

Safety Recalls: 2010 to 2012 Nissan Altima:

2009/10: The metal upper strut insulators may fail and allow the strut rod to come out of its mounting position, which will adversely affect vehicle handling. Dealers will replace the front strut insulators.

2012: The side curtain airbag inflators may have been incorrectly manufactured and, as a result, one or both airbags may not deploy as intended. Dealers will inspect and, if necessary, replace one or both side curtain airbag assemblies.

Contact: bob [dot] mchugh [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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