Toyota Grand Slam Road Trip: Houston to Scottsdale

I had the best time in Scottsdale for Toyota Grand Slam! The best part about it? The drive! The 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is smooth, sleek and efficient!

I know you saw all of my desert pictures in Arizona, but before I fill you in on the details of Spring Training in Arizona, I have to tell you all about the fun 16-hour journey it took to get there. I was given the opportunity to join Toyota in Scottsdale for the Toyota Grand Slam event. This included a road trip from Houston to Scottsdale with a pit stop in El Paso. You’re probably thinking, “Dani, you drove all the way to El Paso? That’s rough.” First of all, the 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid I drove the whole way to Scottsdale was big and spacious and drove like a dream. I have to tell you, sports mode is awesome – talk about an ultra-smooth ride. It was like ice skating of fresh ice. I had my sidekick Hannah with me, who is always fun, but overall the 16 hours part of the drive was not nearly as bad as I had envisioned; the car was definitely the best part! Grab a snack and keep reading!

Dani sits in front of a 2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid car at Sloan Park in Mesa, AZ.

The driver’s side and front seat were so spacious and luxurious. I was even about to answer text messages without fumbling with my phone while driving with CarPlay. My texts were read to me, and I was able to respond out loud! Now that is something I can definitely get used to. While CarPlay may seem like a basic cool feature, Heads Up Driver is my most favorite feature on any luxury car. Seeing how fast you’re going and all of the navigation directions in the windshield not only make your drive safer, but also cool. I also feel like the Avalon was super smart. When I was on autopilot, it knew when traffic was slowing down, so it would slow down too, and not only that, the car knew when it was clear to pick back up to the original speed I had set. I know, right?! This had me tickled. The first time we noticed it, Hannah and I both looked at each other and were like, “ooooh, now that’s pretty smart, Alvie”. Yes, we named the car Alvie. Hey when you’re with something for that long, it deserves a name. The air vents in the seats were another favorite luxury quality. I did put these to good use as they were definitely needed on those hot Arizona days. After being out in the sun getting all hot and sweaty, the seat coolers made that drive from from the ball parks much cooler.

No road trip is equipped without a good playlist, and thanks to the Car Play feature most of the apps on your phone will appear in the display and everything will populate. So all of your Spotify, Tidal and iTunes apps will show your playlists as they appear on your phone. Pretty cool, right? Considering I have never driven further west than San Antonio by myself, the navigation feature was definitely useful once we got to El Paso and were heading off into New Mexico and Arizona. Some of my favorites artists that make a long drive fun are Paramore, Jay Z, old school Kanye West (not the new I’m talking The College Dropout), Eminem, a little Backstreet Boys, some Britney Spears, Rolling Stones and The Doobie Brothers (I know my dad would be proud with those last two). But once you get sick of your playlist you’ve always got those Sirius Satellite Radio stations to fall back on. I’m a huge fan of 90s on 9! 

Okay so I talked about all of the cool features, but let’s talk about one of the most important parts. Can we talk about fuel efficiency for a moment? For just under 1200 miles we only had to stop 4 times total to fill up with gas. Not to mention, this is before we ended up on E because no way was I going to be hunting for a gas station in the middle of nowhere while on empty. Of course we had to stop twice in Texas because the distance between my home in the Houston area and El Paso is 747 miles – yes, I know. Texas is that wide for those of you that are out of state. There’s nothing worse than have having to travel far and stopping every two hours for gas. We probably stopped every five hours or so. Remember, we didn’t get very close to empty at all!

Dani’s Must Stop Place on a Road Trip:

  • Buc-ee’s (Texas and Alabama only): I swear these are the gas stations of the future. Cleanest bathrooms (a ton of them I might add), ALL the snacks, soda machine, the famous Buc-ee’s ice (the soft, nugget kind). The food selection is top notch! It’s definitely possible to spend 20 minutes just trying to decide what to eat. I usually order the California wrap with fries or the chicken tenders basket. They also have fudge, kolaches, jalapeno cream cheese (pair with fritos scoops and you’ve got a winner in the snack department) BBQ sandwiches – you name it it’s probably served. Basically, if you pass one, you better turn around and go back. Just saying! Click here to find a Buc-ees along your road trip.

Must Have Road Trip Snacks:

  • Chips – Spicy Doritos is where it’s at, but I haven’t really met a chip I haven’t liked. Except for those weird flavored Lay’s that they keep releasing during the summer like chicken and waffles…no thanks.
  • Trail Mix – Nuts and chocolate, enough said. Really love the monster mix from target.
  • Sour Gummy Bears – Anyone that knows me knows I love sour gummy everything. My recent obsession is Haribo Sour Gummy Bears. They’re so good. So so good. I’m eating a bag right now.
  • Water – Lots of it! If you’re going to be sitting for a while it’s good to help your circulation. But drink sparingly to avoid random stops in the middle of nowhere. If you haven’t noticed, I’m paranoid about the middle of nowhere. Aside from it being a really good album by Hanson, I’ve seen the movie Wrong Turn, and I’m scared.

Hotels:

  • In El Paso we stayed at Hotel Indigo. This is a really pretty hotel in downtown El Paso and I really enjoyed this spot. The pool area has cabanas that you can lounge in and take in views of downtown. Definitely a good spot to rest when you’ve been driving for ten hours (more like 9.5) and still have another 6 to go.
    View from the roof top pool deck at Hotel Indigo in El Paso, TX.
  • Talking Stick Resort was where I laid my head in Scottsdale, and I highly recommend it if you are in town for Spring Training or for anything, really. I feel like everyone at the resort was there to see whatever team they were there for. It’s centrally located, has a casino, a beautiful pool area and of course a golf course. Oh yeah, and order the pancakes for breakfast. They are delicious! Oh and the omelet too! I also hear the avocado toast was really good too…:)

What we did:

The days were filled with ball games, but we did venture out a little bit.

  • Texas Rangers vs. Cubs at Sloan Park, Mesa, AZ
  • Milwaukee Brewers vs. Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium, Surprise, AZ
  • McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Trail: You must visit here. Very close to Talking Stick Resort (about 15 minutes) and have different hiking trails and huge cacti. The cacti are HUGE.
  • Top Golf – always a fun idea for after a day game, and it’s basically in the Talking Stick parking lot.
  • Bourbon and Bones – do yourself a favor and make sure you eat here. It’s a steakhouse, but don’t feel as if you have to get all fancy. I of course did cause that’s just me; Fancy. You can come as you are or make it a date night. Need a recommendation? Order the wagyu filet with truffle butter and horseradish sauce and fries. Yes, fries. I like fries with my steak. Or maybe I just like fries? I doesn’t matter, just do it.

**A few additional notes about this drive: we changed time zones twice, which was very confusing while driving. Thanks Arizona for not recognizing Daylight Savings Time. We left Houston around 5 am and arrived in El Paso around 3:30-ish. We did this on purpose to allow for a good night’s sleep. Then we set out for Scottsdale around 8:30 the next morning and arrived in Scottsdale around 3:30 or so.

Toyota Avalon Hybrid at McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, AZ.

Overall, I had the best time. Attending MLB Spring Training has been a bucket-list item for me. Road-tripping to Arizona watching the Rangers play really has me wanting to head Tampa next year to watch my Yankees do their thing. What say you? I’m definitely taking the Avalon; gotta see how Alvie does going East!

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