AutoMatters & More: San Diego Miata Club Road Trip to the Grand Canyon & Grand Canyon Railroad

San Diego Miata Club touring Route 66
(Jan Wagner)

One of the joys of belonging to a car club is going on club runs and road trips. These typically provide special opportunities to enjoy driving while you share your experiences with like-mined people. They provide companionship, suggestions for cool places to go, guidance on how to get there, and what to do along the way and when you arrive. Two-way radios can provide car-to-car communications to further enhance the shared group experience, and to provide the welcome reassurance that you are not alone if something goes wrong with your car.

After being away from Miatas for several years (I previously owned several in succession), this year I bought another one. I missed the camaraderie that I had enjoyed with the San Diego Miata Club. Upon my return to the fold I dived in full speed ahead.

Recently several of us drove our Miatas on a wonderful road trip to Arizona’s breathtaking Grand Canyon. We drove much of the way along historic Route 66.

Two of the three pieces of fitted Roadtrip Miata ND luggage
(Jan Wagner)

Our road trip’s organizer and leader was a long-time member of the club. I knew him from before and had complete confidence is his ability to plan and execute a great getaway for us.

I had forgotten what it was like to pack a Miata for a days-long trip. To make things even more challenging, my new Miata had an even smaller trunk (4.8 cu. ft.) than my previous models and I tend to overpack.

For help making the most use of that limited available space, I turned to Jerome of Roadtrip Luggage ( They provide luggage that is custom-fitted to the nooks and crannies of what are often space-challenged sports models of automobiles, including Mazda’s several generations of Miatas. He agreed to send me a three-piece set of their luggage for my fourth-generation (ND) 2019 MX-5 Miata, to review here.

Each of the three pieces are soft-sided, black and rectangular. They have a shoulder strap and a large zippered pocket on the outside. The luggage is well-made and the material is durable.

Wild burros roam the streets in Oatman
(Jan Wagner)

The ND Miata’s trunk includes a fairly large, recessed well. One of the three pieces is made to fit there, and I used that to good effect. Since I like to travel with a garment bag, I put that, my camera gear and a few odds and ends above the Roadtrip piece in the recessed well. Alternatively, the other two pieces of Roadtrip luggage look like they would be well-suited to containing packing cubes.

Our leader had planned several stops along Route 66. I got more than a little carried away with souvenirs.

Our trip included a visit to the small town of Oatman, Arizona – a place that I had previously visited on another SDMC road trip many years ago. Oatman is famous for its wild burros that freely wander around the streets and even walk into the shops! Just watch out. They kick each other – and you, if you happen to be in their way!

The highlight of our trip to the Grand Canyon was a two-way train trip from Williams, AZ to the Grand Canyon via the Grand Canyon Railroad. I made arrangements to review that, along with a motor coach guided tour of the Grand Canyon.

View from the outdoor rear platform on the Grand Canyon Railroad
View from the outdoor rear platform on the Grand Canyon Railroad
(Jan Wagner)

The ever-changing terrain varies from high desert to prairie, and prairie to pine. Friendly, very knowledgeable guides in the railroad cars describe what you are seeing and answer your questions.

There are six classes of service to choose from in restored vintage rail cars: double decker Observation and Luxury Dome cars with panoramic glass windows above; Pullman, Coach and First Class; and Luxury Parlor, with an outdoor rear platform that offers incredible views.

One of the unique features of the Grand Canyon Railroad is its highly interactive western theme. Before boarding the train, passengers are entertained with a Wild West show. On the train, guitar-playing musicians walk through the cars, play music and sing. On the return trip, six-shooter-toting bandits ride up to the train on horseback and walk through all of the cars, robbing the (willing) passengers.

Jan at the Grand Canyon
(Jan Wagner)

At the Grand Canyon you can explore on your own and take guided, informative bus tours. For more information and to make reservations for the train, accommodations and tours, go to

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Copyright © 2019 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #609