It’s been little over a year since we went on a 2 week adventure with hundreds of MINI owners, and I just can’t wait for 2016’s MINI Takes the States to finally get here. Here’s why…
In 2014 I had an incredible opportunity to cover the bi-annual event, MINI Takes the States, for roadtrippers.com. Late last summer, I landed in San Francisco, picked up a new 2-door lava-orange MINI Cooper S and took off on what proved to be a 2 week adventure like nothing I’d ever experienced. To put it simply, I drove thousands of miles from SF to Boston, seeing so many places and meeting so many people, it all seems like a blur now.
I wanted to take a minute and recount what made the 2014 MTTS trip one of our favorite trips of all time. In the end, it’s pretty easy to pinpoint the 3 things that made this trip so memorable: the people, the places, and the MINIs.
If you’re expecting to participate in any leg of the 2016 MTTS and not make a bunch of new friends, you’re insane. This is a social road tour, to say the least. Each morning and evening, the folks at MINI made sure owners and press grunts like us were rubbing elbows with one another… From pet fashion shows in Utah to live bands and free drinks on Beale Street in Memphis, each day is designed to create new friendships. Of course, I walked away with a few I have to mention…
For starters, there’s the poor souls forced to ride in our car. During the first few days of the trip, Mark ‘Stretch’ Batchelor was our co-pilot, and an excellent one he was. From not having a meltdown when we were pulled over on day 2 to providing plenty of homemade snacks, Stretch was one of those guys you just never forget. He was also kind enough to snap this picture of me at one of my favorite places, the Bonneville Salt Flats:
After riding solo for a few days, I got another co-pilot, Craig Cole from AutoGuide.com. Not only was Craig a fellow classic car enthusiast, he didn’t complain once about me sleeping while he was basically forced to drive across the entire states of Indiana and Ohio. (I only woke up for tours of the Studebaker Museum and the RV Hall of Fame)
Then there’s the owners I met along the way, several which now fill my Facebook feed with pictures of their adventures in their MINIs. I think back to meeting Pat and Roger Miller on the sidewalks of Reno, NV in their custom bowling shirts made for the night’s bowling event. For the next several days, Pat and Roger were those friendly faces when I needed someone I knew to talk to at the morning or evening events.
MINI Takes the States also provides you with friends and connections that grow after the trip as well. A perfect example is Jim Carman and his wife Jennifer. I met them briefly when they were having a bit of car trouble on the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. Being able to assist them zero, I went on my way, but somehow Jim tracked me down and sent me a button from the Salt Flats. (Each stop featured a special button to wear, but a rainstorm meant several missed getting their Salt Flats button) Come to find out, Jim and I share a connection to my hometown. Small world, and another set of new friends thanks to MTTS.
And, of course, I can’t say enough good things about the folks at MINI and other contractors who worked to put on such an incredible trip. First of all, I can’t imagine how to organize hosting several hundred cars in big cities like Chicago and Dallas, but they did it- and with a smile. Once again, I walked away from the trip with several new friends like Tim Ryan, who even treated me to a classic Route 66 dinner on another trip just weeks later through his hometown.
Like I mentioned, MINI and co. worked their tails off to provide incredible activities each day like partying on Beale Street or hanging out at the historic Wendover Airfield (You know it from the movie ConAir), but each day also provided an opportunity to find the coolest places I could using roadtrippers.com and the Roadtrippers app. If it was weird, interesting, or funky and anywhere near our route for the day, I tried to make a stop. Highlights included Billy the Kid’s Grave, the ghost town of Cisco, UT, and even the town from Friday the 13th.
Finally, the last thing that made 2014 MTTS great: the MINIs. First of all, I had the opportunity to drive both an automatic and manual transmission MINI on the trip, and fell in love with them both. I always assumed, since I’m a bit on the husky side, I wouldn’t like a “smaller” car, but now all I can think about is getting in a MINI again. Like a go-kart on steroids with a slew of cool tech features, this was the trip I finally understood why these owners loved their cars so much.
It was also fun to see the MINIs on each day of the trip… The automaker already works hard to provide an unimaginable amount of customization options, but some owners even take it a step or two further. There were just no two cars alike.
Back to reality…
Since the trip, it’s been a process to adjust back to non-MTTS life. It took a couple weeks of me waving at every MINI on the road to realize I wasn’t in the “club” anymore. It also took one sharp turn to remind me I wasn’t in my nimble little loaner MINI anymore. These were both sad realizations. When this August rolled around, I found myself day dreaming about my 2 week adventure with this crazy bunch of car owners. Here’s to 2016 MINI Takes the States getting here as soon as possible.
If you’re up for an adventure and have a MINI, start planning now for 2016 MINI Takes the States. Not a MINI owner? Well, the trip isn’t until July so you still have time to grab one and join the club of fun and friendly MINI owners.
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