Event Report: TT West 2023 – Spanish Trails of Arizona and New Mexico

by: Larry Brickner

Editor’s Note: This article originally ran in the Q4_2023 issue of quattro Magazine. 

TT West – where the most fun between two points on the map is never a straight line. TT West is the longest running TT event in the USA. It started in 2001 when a group of SoCal owners wanted to stretch the legs of their recently acquired Audi sports cars with a long weekend trip to Lake Tahoe. The following year, I joined the ad hoc Committee to organize the second event in my home town of Las Vegas. I’ve been involved ever since, taking over the leadership reigns several years ago.

Since its origin, TT West has evolved into a five to six day, West Coast, cross country excursion of around 1,000 miles. This year’s event covered 1,300 miles in six days following the explorations of the Spanish Conquistadors in the Southwest during the 16th century. The drive included some of the most scenic and challenging roads in Arizona and New Mexico.

TT West started on Sunday, May 7th on historic Route 66 in Winslow, Arizona. There was an optional afternoon 170-mile drive that wound through the Navajo Nation with a stop at Little Painted Desert on our way to the Hopi Pueblo of Walpi which was likely one of the Spanish fable Seven Cities of Gold. Historians theorize that the Spanish explorers mistook the sun’s reflection from the pueblo’s stucco dwellings for gold. Established circa 900 AD, Walpi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the USA.

Our host hotel in Winslow, La Posada, was another historic attraction. Built in 1930, the hotel was the crown jewel of a series of Harvey Houses that served the Santa Fe Railroad. The hotel has hosted presidents and dozens of movie stars as it was a favorite vacation spot for celebrities and Hollywood stars during the 1930s and 1940s.

On Monday, we navigated a central Arizona 210-mile circle route that featured a stop at ancient Native American dwellings in Montezuma’s Castle. A planned lunch in Sedona was canceled when road construction essentially closed the road with no alternative routes into the town. After waiting an hour to go 1 mile, we made a U-turn and diverted to Flagstaff for lunch instead.

Tuesday began a series of daily drives along scenic byways in Arizona and New Mexico. These included New Mexico Route 82 through the Lincoln Forest and Route 337 through the New Mexico Monzano Mountains.

However, the best of the bunch is the road we traveled on Tuesday, the Route 191 (formerly known as the Devil’s Highway Route 666) Coronado Trail Scenic Byway which was named after the Spanish explorer, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, who explored the area in 1540. Skirting along the mountains on the eastern edge of Arizona, it is one of the highest elevation roads in Arizona, topping out at 9300’.  It features 460 curves over its 120 miles and traffic is scarce as it is the least traveled federal highway in the USA. Perfect for fun! We only passed one car during our entire trip on the Byway.

TT West ended with a 215 mile drive featuring stops at two of the ruins of the original Spanish missions that make up the Salinas National Monument in New Mexico, followed by the Monzano Mountain drive on our way to our final destination of Albuquerque.

The demographics of this year’s event continued a recent TT West trend of fewer Mk 1 TTs participating.  After all, the newest Mk 1 is now 17 years old. The oldest TT was a 2002 Moro Blue coupe from Long Beach, CA. The newest was a 2019 20th anniversary Arrow Gray Mk 3 roadster from Keller, TX. Several TTS and TT RS rounded out the group.

Next year’s drive will hug the Pacific coast along California and Oregon in early September 2024. You can join the TT West mailing list so you won’t miss out at www.TT-West.org and view lots of photos and videos of TT West 2023 on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GoToTTWest.