By on June 26, 2014

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You may have noticed that Ford has been advertising its EcoBoost line of engines everywhere lately. Where I live ads for their EcoBoost Challenge event seemed to be on TV every commercial break. You’d know if you have seen one of these ads if you have heard any of the following lines:
“The Escape blew my mind. Yee Haw!”
“I love love love love it.”
“I don’t know when Ford went out and just like got awesome.”
“I felt like I was driving my mom’s car when I was in the Camry.”
“The Rav4 feels outdated. Feels like, hmm, maybe 20 years ago this could have been great.”
“Does this car also un-park itself?”
“If I had to choose between the Fusion and the Lamborghini Aventador, I’d take the Fusion.”

Sadly, I only made up one of those quotes, the rest actually aired on real Ford commercials. The fact is, Ford is putting EcoBoost engines into everything these days and want the general public to know. The public is invited to experience them at an event they call the EcoBoost Challenge. They have done this for the last few years now, and I decided to check it out and report back so  the readers of TTAC know if they should attend in the future.

The EcoBoost challenge is presented at 13 cities (there are still 2 remaining if you are near San Francisco or Indianapolis). They tend to move it around to different locations each year.

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First off, you will want to pre-register. I signed up for the first time slot available, 9am, arrived at 8:45, and they were already letting people in. The main feature is the three distinct driving areas. These range from a leisurely electric vehicle economy challenge, to a direct comparison test drive, and lastly to a quick-lap time competition. The areas were designed to collectively convey the range of capabilities Ford wants you to think of with their latest series of EcoBoost engines.

THE COURSES

The EcoBoost Challenge Course gives you the opportunity to compare the Ford Fusion to the Toyota Camry, the Escape to the CR-V, and the F-150 to the Silverado. We were told to drive at least one Ford vehicle and its competition, but were allowed to do all three if interested. Before you drive there is a 10-minute informational session you have to listen to.

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The instructor was very knowledgeable and able to answer some technical questions. Specs on the cars we would drive were on the board. Noticeably absent were fuel economy numers. In fact during the entire time I was there no one once mentioned fuel mileage. This did not seem to be on accident after the recent news about over-estimated mileage.

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At times during his talk I felt like he was either oversimplifying things, or just plain lying. He would point at the Fusion stats and say emphatically, “EcoBoost is NEW technology!” Then point the Camry numbers and say, “V-6’s are old technology!” Followed by repeatedly saying “New… Old… New… Old” while pointing back and forth. I wanted to be that guy that points out turbo charged engines were used in Renaults by the French in World War I (and probably lots of older applications), so not really all that “new”. I really wanted to be that guy who points out that Ford has even already had a turbo powered 4 cylinder engine in the Mustang… over 30 years ago. But I’m smarter than that and decided against it. Even though I wasn’t there with the media, I figured they would somehow find out I was with The Truth About Cars and remember our review of the Lincoln MKZ and ban me from driving their cars.

Another bold statement was when he spoke about how the rpms an engine runs at determines the wear and tear on a motor. “Lots of wear and tear at 4100 rpms in the Chevy, but very little wear and tear in the Ford at 2500 rpms. Which would you choose?” I began to raise my hand to ask why my friend’s 2013 Escape had been recalled 9 times, 5 of which involve the engine, but stopped myself. The course itself has a straight line acceleration section where they encourage you to floor it, followed by a 180 degree turn and a couple “S” curves through some cones.

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Before I go any further, I must say I respect Ford a lot for doing this. I remember a few years ago Saturn offering test-drives in their top competitor’s car at the Saturn dealership. I went to take advantage of this program and was very disappointed to find them trying to have me compare a fully loaded V6 Aura with a base level four cylinder Camry and Accord. That was not the case with the EcoBoost Challenge. I drove a similarly trimmed Fusion Titanium and Camry XLE. Other Ford vehicles also had competitive vehicles that were similarly matched in terms of options. Well-played Ford. Compare your top trim with their top trim and let the best car win. They even left the all-wheel drive Fusion at home since there wasn’t a similar Toyota or Honda to compare it to.

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As cool as it was to drive cars back-to-back, you’re still only driving the car for at most 30 seconds. I won’t bore you with a review of each vehicle because I don’t believe you can review a car in that short of time. You will absolutely need to more time behind the wheel than these test-drives if you are considering a purchase. You can however form an initial impression in that time. For whatever it’s worth, here’s my 30-second impression formed after driving each vehicle:

Fusion: Better styling inside and out than the Toyota, has a very soft comfortable ride, and nice lateral seat support.
Camry: Has a sportier feel, with tighter handling than the Fusion.

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F-150: A modern interior layout, very soft suspension, and it took full steering lock to make one of the turns.
Silverado: Although a newer model, interior layout feels old; good tight feel to steering, easier to get around turns.

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CR-V: Comfortable, predictable, good visibility, with everything right where you’d expect it.
Escape: Quicker in a straight line, edgier design, felt lower to the ground.

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The point of the Hypermile Challenge Course was to complete a variable speed course with the highest overall gas mileage reading possible. Here people were comparing the C-Max Hybrid and Prius V. Unfortunately the line was too long for me to experience these so I skipped right on over to the ST Performance Academy Course. Besides, does it seem too gimmicky to anyone else to see how high mileage you can get a ¼ mile course? What’s the point?

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The ST Performance Academy gives visitors the chance to drive the Ford Fiesta ST on an autocross style course as hard as they can. No instructors in the car, just you against the clock. This makes the whole event worthwhile.

You begin by pretending you are listening to the instructor’s warnings and tips for 10 minutes. In reality, everyone has their eyes on the scoring board to see what kind of times others in the previous group are getting. Correct that, all the guys were watching the board, a couple of the women were commenting on which color Fiesta they hoped to get to drive. The rules are to get into 2nd gear within a few feet of taking off, leave it there the whole course, and don’t turn traction control off. Hit a cone and 2 seconds are added to your time. Hit 2 cones and you have to go home. There was one Focus ST there as well, which was used by a “professional” driver for ride-a-longs.

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I reviewed the Fiesta ST last year for TTAC and I still find the Recaro seats appropriately snug, the rest of the car too small, but the driving experience a total blast. Three laps were all you got. The track record from that morning as well as the previous day was 24.859. Other than driving a NASCAR once I have a total of zero experience racing anything outside of Gran Turismo. My goal was to get within 3 seconds of the record. I’m no Jack Baruth, but I figured I had some sort of reputation of TTAC to uphold.

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The track layout suited the Fiesta well. I was disappointed to learn we had to leave it in 2nd gear, but to be honest; it was perfect for the car. The turbo felt strong throughout most of the track and the traction control never cut in. Lap one was a 26.1 for me. I was shocked. I came in at a 25.2 on my second lap. Perhaps I should have followed my dream of being the next Ayrton Senna?

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Lap three… and I get distracted and blow it. Just kidding. I set a new track record with a time of 24.5 and backpedaled away from the car like a freakin boss. In my mind I’m pretty sure I’m some sort of driving phenom. I was told to come back in an hour and there would be a race against the driver with 2nd best time for prizes. “No one’s getting close to that time,” I was told.

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That was the proudest moment of my life, which is to say if there was a video I’d put it on YouTube and make my kids watch it over and over 20 years from now. With an hour to kill, I took a ride along in the Focus ST with a “professional” driver (who had been driving the track all day and did a 23.9). Although it was fun, the Fiesta actually felt quicker off the line to me.

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Watching other competitor’s times I was feeling pretty confident. Ok, cocky. I should have put I was feeling cocky. No one was within a second of me, until the very last driver went and did a 24.9. The one lap race was set. The announcer called people over to watch and introduced us.

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Since I had the quicker time I got to go last. This meant my competition was able to get right back into the Fiesta and do another lap while everything was fresh in his mind (read: excuse #1). 24.6. Crap. Suddenly it became very apparent to me that I hadn’t seen the track in an hour and couldn’t remember the route. With everyone watching I start out great and feel even faster than before. Then, unfortunately, I remember a turn along the backstretch that wasn’t actually there. I hit the brakes hard before I realized I could have kept it floored. The rest of the lap I put the Fiesta up on 2 wheels (not really) and did what I could to recover. As I cross the finish line I turn back to see the clock flash 24.8. Although I still had the track record, I didn’t win. The winner was presented with a Go-Pro and diecast of a Focus ST to which he said, “Cool. I have a Focus ST as my daily driver,” (read: excuse #2). I walked away with a $300 pair of Sony headphones.

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If you are OK with hiring a 2nd place finisher, I am available for hire to race. I specialize in very short autocross courses where shifting isn’t necessary. Since I didn’t get a trophy, I’ll probably just put the headphones up on display in my house.

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As always, since this is The Truth About Cars, I need to point out a complaint as well. The TV ads for the event show people ride along as a Fusion parallel parks itself using park assist, be amazed at the foot activated lift gate, experience blind spot demonstrations, and learn all the cool features of Sync. That all sounds great, except that none of that actually happen at the EcoBoost Challenge (at least the one I was at).

As I look back, it is neat to see all Ford can do with slight variations of almost the same EcoBoost engine. Driving the Fiesta makes me feel a little better about what seems to be the trend in the auto industry of getting rid of big engines. Last year over 28,000 people participated in these EcoBoost Challenge events and I can see why. The event was more fun than I anticipated. Sony also had a display where guests were invited to sit in an Explorer and give opinions on different audio settings they are experimenting with. Sony rewards the feedback with a nice set of earbuds. Goodyear had a display; other Ford models were being shown, plus the usual free t-shirts and trinkets and trash were given out. Driving away I had a more positive view of Ford and their current models… and I guess that is probably the point. Thanks Ford, for getting regular people behind the wheel of some of your cars.

http://www.ecoboostdrive.com/

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57 Comments on “Event Review: Ford EcoBoost Challenge...”


  • avatar
    Ooshley

    You know they’re all in on the One Ford strategy when they start steering you yanks this hard in the direction of the rest of the world.

    In 10 years Ford will either be lauded as visionaries who won the down-sized turbocharged war for hearts and minds or derided for the hubris of attempting to subvert the American right to V8s and cubic inches.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    I’ve enjoyed these types of events that I’ve been to at seveal different automakers, even if they can get a little hokey at some points. If I don’t come away with at least a warning, I figure I wasn’t doing something right.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Haha! They didn’t seem too thrilled with me taking a picture from the driver’s seat right before I went onto the autocross course. Especially after everyone agreed to not look at our phones while on the course… good things I was using my camera.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I couldn’t attend one of these, because I would feel the whole time like I was in that Infiniti Q45 comparison promo video from the early 90s.

  • avatar
    maxxcool7421

    And yet every month or so Ford gets to also “downsize” their mpg number and mail checks to the owners.

    I like the idea of a all turbo lineup.. but Fords execution needs tuning.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      America really isn’t a place for downsized turbocharged engines. They look great on paper and might work someplace where speeds are relatively low and the engine never operates on boost but for much of the US that isn’t the case.

  • avatar
    deanst

    Now I feel bad about not attending a GTI event last weekend………….

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Funny how Ford doesn’t mention the fact that egoboost drinks fuel at an equal or greater rate than the competition.

    Yet further proof that the only thing Egoboost does well is heard the sheep into believing they are getting something special when in reality, it does nothing well.

    Another Alan Mulally failure.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      But it has “Eco” right in the name!

      • 0 avatar
        Z71_Silvy

        Exactly. Egoboost is nothing more than a marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter that the engines do not deliver on any of the promises advertised.

        So in a marketing sense, Egoboost was mute successful than most because all Ford had to invest in was marketing.

        But again, it comes back to profits above anything else. Including honesty.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Hyperbole much?

      You are smart enough to realize insults are more effective when people think what you are saying *might* be true, don’t you?

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        He says his words are the truth (repeatedly,) which makes it so. Doesn’t need to be true in the traditional sense, or factual, or anything but his weirdly aggressive opinion.

        “Truth” means something different for him than others: It’s a universal thing for us, while for him, if it comes from his head, it’s true by definition. He thought of it, so obviously it’s true. No matter if everyone else’s reality doesn’t align.

        I get the feeling that there might be alcohol involved if no one’s paying him to post on every article which mentions Ford, but far be it from me to make solid accusations.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          Hey, he’s got “truthiness.” That’s enough for most people.

        • 0 avatar
          Z71_Silvy

          Yet you can’t dispute anything I say.

          Weird how that works.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            That’s because they’re opinions and don’t have a true/false dichotomy. They’re not meaningful enough to dispute.

            “Another Alan Mullaly failure” and a cliche about sheep is not a statement that has substance which can be disputed. It doesn’t actually mean anything at all.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            Yeah, I don’t think someone with a name like “Z71_Silvy” is going to be an unbiased authority on Ford. I mean, I’m not unbiased either (see profile pic). But at least I have no reservations that I am.

          • 0 avatar
            Z71_Silvy

            Gotta love the level of ignorance people display when they assume things based on a screen name.

            Too funny.

            It should also be noted that the truth is unbiased by nature.

          • 0 avatar
            mcs

            @Z1_Silvy ” assume things based on a screen name.”

            So Matt, these days you’re driving a red Ram 1500 – at least at home. At work you’ve got that Ford logo staring back at you from the steering wheel.

          • 0 avatar
            Ralph ShpoilShport

            I knew I’d find you here.

    • 0 avatar

      Well, I’m pretty damn sure when I bought an EcoBoost engine I was buying a motor with a turbo and direct injection with superior torque to what I was shopping against, and I’m getting the mpg FoMoCo promised. 22-27city, 29-35 highway. OH SHIT! I’M GETTING ECONOMY. HOLY FUCKBALLS.

      OH SNAP I HAVE 200+ LB/FT OF TORQUE AT THE WHEELS
      OH FUCKBALLS

      yeah. Remind me again how I am not getting both Power and Economy?

      Pretty sure that hot thing under my hood that makes whistly noises under the hood’s a turbo, so I’m pretty sure that “BOOST” part is as advertised…

      Please, tell me all about how the Spark or Sonic Turbo are so much more efficient and competitive than the EcoBoost motors they are up against.

      You must be from the camp that kept the Mustang and Camaro live axle all those years.

  • avatar

    “Lots of wear and tear at 4100 rpms in the Chevy, but very little wear and tear in the Ford at 2500 rpms. Which would you choose?”

    Someone should tell the Ford guy that Revolutions Per Minute, like Miles Per Gallon and Runs Batted In, is already a plural.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      If Ford didn’t market to the ignorant, who would they market to? I actually know someone that bought a 2014 Ford Edge Sport. He thought it was an Ecoboost until I corrected him. Actually, he didn’t believe me, so maybe he still thinks he has an Ecoboost engine when he doesn’t. He was surprised when a pothole took out one of his 22″ wheel and tire combinations, stranding him until the parts arrived and costing him in the teens of hundreds of dollars. The Fiesta ST has 205/40R17 tires. Anyone that buys one and then complains about bent wheels should be fixed.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        No one should ever buy an Edge Sport, unless there is a way to buy it without those wheels. If someone insists on buying such a vehicle, they should be required to purchase the Ford TireCare insurance. At $500, it is less than half the cost of one of the OEM wheels.

        The car my wife drives had 255/45R20 tires. I cannot imagine running those in the winter. The 235/60R18 winter tires/wheels we have are so much better.

      • 0 avatar
        brenschluss

        Guess what: most automakers target the ignorant as buyers, because most car buyers are ignorant of the product.

        Someone who buys a CUV with factory 50″ rims and doesn’t expect problems is just a fool who bought the wrong car. Some people love that stuff though, saves them from the rent-to-own bills on the stupid wheels they’d otherwise buy separately. For them it’s perfect. Not sure what the problem is with 17″/40 profile tires on a pseudo-performance car though, I would think your SI you’ve mentioned would take something similar.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          The current Civic SI has 225/40R18

          No much different than the Fiesta ST and almost exactly the same as the Focus ST.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          50-inch rims? Yes please! My tractor needs new rubber, too, and that makes the price of car tires look like a pittance.

          • 0 avatar
            brenschluss

            You got it buddy:

            http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-V5Jm-i5i3e4/TnNfpj2a8_I/AAAAAAAAAsA/iTV5IgrFEHI/s1600/logo2%25287%2529.JPG

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          The shortest sidewall on any of the cars I drive is 96.75 mm on the Civic Si(215/45R17). The Fiesta ST’s sidewalls are 82 mm. The Civic has 18% more sidewall height than the Fiesta. That’s not even close, but I seriously considered going to a 205/55R16 tire for the Civic when I got it. That would have given me a sidewall of 112.75, which is pretty much the point where you can stop straining your eyes looking for pavement irregularities in a light car.

      • 0 avatar

        …Nobody on the Fiesta ST forums has bent a wheel yet due to a pothole.

        #actualowner #nothyperbole

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      Apparently didn’t mention that a suitable large displacement NA engine could loaf along at low RPM without involving a 40,000 RPM turbocharger.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Good thing Ford’s V8s don’t have a torque peak over 4100rpm…

  • avatar
    brkriete

    Surprised they have no events in the Northeast. Would be fun to attend.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    I attended one of these for the Focus when it came out (“ST Experience.”) I’ve already talked about it elsewhere, but they did a good job highlighting the car’s strengths, to the point where I bought a set of the OEM ST tires for my little Honda. What I attended wasn’t nearly as extensive as this, with one car and only the autocross, but that part was exactly the same.

    More MFRs should put these on for their enthusiast models, I think. For a cost what I imagine is close to or less than big TV spots and a multitude wishy-washy Gen-Whatever-targeted subversive viral marketing campaigns, you could tell people who are looking at your cars in every area to come beat the fast ones around some cones. Plenty of people will show, and some of them will want your car when it’s over, which is more than can be said for those desperately trying to fast-forward through your edgy and well-produced 30 seconds of TV exposure.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    “Escape: …felt lower to the ground.”

    So would you say it’s…Grounded To The Ground(TM)?

    I do agree with what you said for the CR-V. My mother has one and it’s a great mom-car. I can also drive it in a comfortable position, still see all the guages, AND rest my arm, which was something I couldn’t do in the Kia Sportage.

  • avatar
    SELECTIVE_KNOWLEDGE_MAN

    Comparing the C-max hybrid to the Prius V is extremely balsy given how their real world fuel economy seems to switch compared to advertised.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Since its a short course, the C-Max and its larger battery should be able to stay in EV mode longer.

      • 0 avatar
        SELECTIVE_KNOWLEDGE_MAN

        That is pretty clever – then reset the fuel economy gauges once the engines are done recharging the batteries after each ride ride.

        “How do these cars compare when driving at steady highway speed?”

        And the question of many B&Bs:

        “How do these cars compare to diesels at steady highway speed?”

        (A excellent salesman would point out that the emissions are much better when looking at particle matters)

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Did Ford soften up the Fusion to try to sell some to retail customers? Interesting that the Camry was so much better to drive. Have previous reviewers just been better compensated? Was the Escape a 2.0T? It seems like the CR-V has been quicker than the 1.6 EB in all comparison tests.

  • avatar
    sgtyukon

    It sounds like the event has changed a little from the one I did two years ago. I enjoyed it and if I were invited to another, I’d probably go. One thing that surprised me at the time was all the Fiestas had manual transmissions. Is that still the case? I hadn’t driven a stick in years, but I only stalled it the first time I tried to start.

  • avatar

    Matt,

    Great piece on the EcoBoost Challenge/ST Performance Academy.

    I actually did the EcoBoost Challenge in 2013 and that sold me on buying a Fiesta ST – so I bought one, and went to the complementary-with-purchase ST Octane Academy at Ford Racing School out at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, then followed that up with the Los Angeles ST Performance Academy event.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FTTo1hVGcQ

    Here’s the post I did about the ST Octane Academy Racing School – Part III is the most relevant- thanks for sharing. Great work, Matt.

    blog.modbargains.com/nick-modbargains-goes-to-ford-st-octane-academy-day-3/

  • avatar

    Also did you hang out more with Guy Fieri dude who gave you the headphones?? lol. that guy.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      His commentary while we were on the track was great!

    • 0 avatar
      jenola

      Actually the “Guy Fieri dude” is Lance. This is his event that Ford pays him to promote around the US. He is an ex CanAm racer who has piloted most of them including the 917. Great guy to talk with and good stories from back in the day.

      • 0 avatar

        All the people running the event seemed cool they just need better promotion to make more people aware of the event prior to it happening. You sort of had to be in-the-know to be aware of it.

        • 0 avatar
          jenola

          Yep I was expected at least twice the crowd so it made it real easy to do everything. I spotted it in Autoweek and got 4 of the guys I weekly kart with to take it in. Would recommend the event to everyone. No sticker prices on any cars and no salesman looking to push a deal on you. Just an info event.

          • 0 avatar
            Matt Fink

            Good point about no salesmen there. That was nice. In Columbus they advertised the event like crazy beforehand on local TV.

  • avatar
    jenola

    Hey Matt you didn’t say what city you were in. I did the Seattle one and it was as you described, a great afternoon. I won my time slot in a tight shootout and got the headphones. If you check on Newegg they actually list for $199 but they were selling them for $99. All the workers were driving instructors or drifters and had lots of knowledge if you talked to them. First time I raced a front wheel drive car and the darn thing worked pretty darn good for out of the box, I was impressed.

    • 0 avatar
      Matt Fink

      Left me impressed too. This was the Columbus, Ohio event.

      • 0 avatar
        jenola

        Here’s an interesting fact that you probably don’t know about that might motivate you a little harder next time. My auto-x friend that beat me by .07sec for top time of the Seattle event got a call from Goodyear that night and told him he won a set of tires!! If that “grand prize” was advertised a lot more auto-xers would probably show up to vie for them.

        • 0 avatar
          Matt Fink

          WHAT!! Are you kidding me? I need tires real bad for my Fit. Are you listening Goodyear? I have some bald Hancock tires on it right now… sure would be nice to have set of Goodyears. I considered just doing a bunch of ride-a-longs in the Focus while I waited to keep the course fresh in my mind, but I honestly that would be like cheating so I didn’t.

  • avatar
    raph

    I attended last year’s DC Event at FedEx Field. Started the day at Katie’s Cars & Coffee, hit the Ecoboost Challenge and ended the day at the Udvar-Hazy Air & Space Museum in Chantilly.

    What a great Saturday even if it was a bit long since travel time from the Tidewater area to Katie’s takes about 2.5-3.0 hours so I had to be on the road by 3:00 am.

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