This is my BIGGEST adventure yet in a country I have never visited and only ever seen on the TV screens. I travelled half the way across the world to take part in the biggest mini event in the world which will see me fly to the US to my drive through 18 states, 15 cities in 14 days and cover 5,142 miles all in a MINI. So take a seat in the passenger seat and let me show how one car can change your life as you know it.
This adventure starts on social media but exactly on Instagram where I spend some of my free time talking and posting to my following base. To be honest most are more like friends who happen to live in every corner of the world drive the same type of car and make me smile.
Introducing Lilcoopr aka Christina my female counter part who is cut from the same cloth but has a very different PINK take on all things MINI (Pantone 219 C to be exact). Christina has been in the MINI scene alot longer than me from the early days of the R53 Cooper S right to up to her recent purchase of her new MINI Countryman. She is MINIac through and through with her global trotting for MINI events and for MINI as she actually worked for BMW/MINI Canada. She has actually been to every MINI UNITED except 2005 in Misano, Italy meaning I have walked past her a few times back in 2009 & 2012!!! Its truly a MINI World.
I began speaking to Christina and it was apparent the MINI Passion ran deep as swapped stories on how it all began and our current MINIs. As we Skyped away and sent each other dumb witty messages on every social media platform possible, it was strange to feel such as a connection with someone I had never meant before.
This lead to the discussion of me having the urge to go on a MINI Adventure and wanting to go to the US given 50% of my followers are from the US. I thought there would be no other better way to meet them than on a road trip in a MINI.
Christina told me all about MINI TAKES THE STATES from the destinations and MINI Mates she has made along the way. I was SOLD and the planning began for the trip in 2014 with registration, flights, hotels etc. So we began planning the trip together but with some sadness as MINI UNITED 2014 wasn’t going to happen but it was exciting as I was finally going to meet people I have spoken to over 2 years online.
This is gonna be another trip of a lifetime being surround by MINIs & MINIacs!!! In all honesty who wants to sit on the beach, relax and get a tan. Right?
Can this top MINI UNITED 2012??? I drove on the greatest roads within Europe with arguable the greatest MINIacs ever??
I wouldn’t be alone as Christine and Phil of the Fast Five will be joining me to fly the flag for the UK on this trip. These are the two of six people I cherish the most in my life as they changed my life when did MINI UNITED 2012 as strangers but now are FAMILY. They have been the rock in my hard times and celebrated my triumphs with me so it was right to get some Tees made for this occasion…
Even thought I planned this trip with Christina our aims changed and she would driving from Canada for a bigger cause. She would driving to support the children’s wish foundation – http://www.drivingfordreams.ca
Even thought our goals changed one thing will never change. I will always hold Christina in a special place in my heart as she was there during a difficult time in my life in late 2014 and going into 2015. I will never forget what she did for me and how she shaped my outlook in life and work for the better. I am in indebted to as she doesn’t know how much it meant for her to be by side even though she was thousands of miles away she always put things aside to be there.
I truly believe we meet certain people in our lives who guide and form who we are as individuals. I am glad Christina is one of those significant people.
However this left a BIG issue of me not having a MINI hmmm
I did look into shipping over my JCW but it beyond my reach at £3,000 plus I wouldn’t have my JCW for over a month along with other costs of insurance and hassle of customs. So it was a no go so I would doing the old fashioned american way by hitchhiking all the way from San Francisco to Boston but it wasn’t all pot luck as I know alot of US MINI owners through my website and facebook. I spoke to a few before I left who were more than happy to have me as a passenger and Christine & Phil both had rides sorted with a mother and son combo in blue MINIs.
Before I left the states I given a some free swag by MINI UK team to make the trip easier and I was entrusted with an infamous mascot to take with me….
This little croc is the official mascot of Merseyside MINI Club who is another MINI club I have done a few MINI runs with countless stories to smile and laugh about. I was told to look after this trouble maker and take a lifetime worth of photos for this little critter causing mischief and enjoying the open roads of the US.
Flights and hotels all booked courtesy of the organising super wiz Christine (one of many reason why she is wifey no.1) and I began packing my bags for the journey ahead whilst sorting out the essentials like money, bills, international license permit etc. My phone was non stop buzz of messaging from my MINIacs that I would be coming to the US to meet them.
Before I left for the US I spoke with another MINIac but this one lived in California. Briana is a friend of Christina’s who I skpyed me whilst driving her drop top MINI Cooper S. She was another bag of laughs and smiles and I don’t think I have met anyone who has such a love for animals and has such a cute doggie woggie. OH MY GOD!!!! her and Alice are a perfect match and have shared the limits sky’s of the California sunshine p.s she has an infectious smile : )
This would be Briana’s first MINI event and MTTS which reminded me alot of my 1st MINI event which was MINI UNITED 2009 so I was keen to make her smile and to make sure she made the most of it. I made sure I brought along some stuff to give to the girls as a present as there is no point coming so far and not giving someone something to cherish.
There was one specific person I wanted to meet who I talk to all the time is Philip Casper aka ‘The Blue Ghost’ but there will be more on him later and why he has that nickname. He is another friend I made on Instagram who is all round awesome dude and I can see a great future ahead for him. When we do talk its been very surreal in the sense we talk like old school friends who grew up together. I wish we did as we would have got up to alot mischief but I guess we are cut from the same cloth with his having a bit more MURCIA sewn in.
The night before I left to go to the US I took my JCW out for one last blast before I put her on trickle charge for the basically a month. It was a bitter sweet moment as I knew I may not be to drive in the US even though I got my international license permit. I would never let anyone drive my JCW because its the equivalent of someone giving me their wife for the night.
The night before I couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t believe it was happening that I would be apart of the BIGGEST OFFICIAL MINI ROAD TRIP in the US. This wasn’t helped with the fact I had a early morning flight to the US but meh. My alarm went off and up I got with my bags and hugged my family goodbye my dad drove me to the airport but before I left I kissed my hand touched the bonnet MINI emblem and muttered with my head down ‘This will be the only adventure I cant take you with me’. I arrived at the airport & checked in my bags and wondered around until the second boarding call still thinking about my two friends will boarding their flights soon with us touching down within 1 hour of one another.
The call came and boarded my flight with Aer Lingus. I buckled myself in and flicked through the selection of films and what I saw brought a smerk to my face as the whole Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy and LEGO: The Movie was available!!!! But this was only a short trip to Dublin then on to San Francisco as I would heading through US customs in Dublin and walk straight out in San Fran.
I touched down in Dublin collected by bag and waited in line for immigration & customs which was an hour of my life I wouldn’t get back. I was pointed to the desk of hard nosed american official who told me to stand just behind the line and look directly into the camera and hand over my fingerprints. I didn’t like the fact I had to give my finger prints as it felt like a violation of my civil rights but its their country so their rules but I can understand for security reasons.
I was questioned about who I was, what is my job and what was my business to my visit to which replied whilst popping my iBat on the desk (my iPhone case looks like batman’s face). This resulted in a look up at me with a raised brow with quick question ‘Is that an sharp object?’ Nope is silicone as stabbed my hand batman’s cowl in my palm. As I finished my actions I was handed my passport and told to head forth as soon as I stepped across the line I got ‘Hey Cool case’ with an smerk. I thought from then on its gonna be an awesome trip…
After an hour wait I was back on the plane for lunch which was awesome to be fair as I was served steamed salmon with mashed potato and peas. I think that was the best food I have ever had on a plane even though I have flown first class on Emirates to Dubai a while back. As much as I love food, it was time of me to enjoy the Dark Knight Trilogy for sixteen millionth time! Thank you Mr Nolan for taking Batman movies away from the campiness they were into what the comics did so well at showing Mr Wayne’s alter ego for justice and bring down pain on those who pray on the weak.
After watching Batman Begins it was time for a short nap to catch some Zzzz as I would landing after 6 hours to sunny California. I woke up before we landed to take out my UK sim card to switch to my US sim card so I could use my phone and post things on my social media feeds. Don’t worry I didn’t bring down the plane as my iPhone was in air plane mode so there was the small thing of setting her up once we landed. I touched down in California and the shades came out for the sun and i felt like a boss given I didn’t have to go through customs and headed straight out to arrivals but received a text off Phil saying his flight was delayed for an hour so I gave me time to call the blue ghost to tell him I landed in the US and to round up the boys for the Buffalo leg of the MTTS.
I did the most american thing I could do was order some fries and get some coke to drink while I waited for my iphone to charge as I checked my emails, Facebook etc. It was still a surreal moment that I was in the US to do a MINI event without an actual MINI as I am so used to hoping into my JCW to do events which made it a bitter sweet moment.
Phil arrived so it was time to catch a cab to down town San Francisco to our hotel. I hadn’t seen Phil in a while so it was more of a reunion when met in the back of this crazy taxi Prius as we took in the sights and sounds of San Fran to learn Christine flight had been delayed as well and we wouldn’t see her to late that evening.
Me and Phil checked into the hotel and freshened up and hit the streets for some food and look around the city as we would leaving it the next day to start MTTS. The warm summer weather and cool breeze from the sea was perfect as we walked to the pier as I car spotted various cars along the way but again another surreal moment seeing the trams and the verticality of the hills didnt want me to walk up them on the way back. I was surprised Steve McQueen didn’t snapped the chassis on the Bullitt Mustang or the villian’s Charger didn’t bottom out the shocks as they tear through the streets but whilst this was going on Phil just wanted a ride on the tram to tick of his bucket list. I was in the world of my own thinking about the scene from The Rock ‘Hey man, you just F**KED up your Ferrari.’ ‘It’s not mine.’ ahh great film.
San Francisco at night was one of diversity as we saw street vendors selling food to tickets, roller blading crews etc and knowing the city is know for its liberal views and openness to anything with the rainbow flag originating from this city. Yet this city has seen its harsh moment with scale devastation with earthquakes which I learnt at school but as much as the city has taken it has given back with the bay. It was truly a moment of reflection looking at the bay and where this small car has taken to various places I had dreamed of.
As we walked back the hotel Christine aka Wifey No.1 rang to say she had arrived and would be at the hotel soon which we greeted once we got their then retired to our rooms as we would exploring San Francisco in the morning to do a few tourist things before we depart on our BIG MINI Adventure…
The sun rose over the bay and it was time to taste that Cali life as we all got ready to see all the sites but first thing we wanted to is going see the start point of MTTS which was MINI of San Francisco which would host the opening event and where we sign on to collect our goodies for motoring miles ahead. Luckily our hotel was only 15 minute walk away from the dealership so we walked together on this small milestone as I hadn’t seen Christine in a long while which so it was fitting to walk and talk.
One thing I couldn’t get over was how wide the lanes were and how they were allowed to turn right on red lights!!!! I don’t worry I remembered not to J walk even thought its fine in the UK but I did have a little New Yorker inside of me wanting to shout HEY I AM WALKING HERE! A few blocks and there it was that infamous winged logo with my favourite word written in Coolvetica font representing where many start the MINI adventures. The dealer was closed but I could see them prepping for tonight’s launch party but I could see some cool things and a lift?? Oh there are two floors!!!
Now we had see the dealership it was time to head back to the hotel to meet our MINI ambassadors Amy & Tryon Lippincoott who would taking Phil & Christine on this MINI adventure along with staying with us in hotels. Yet again the MINI community still seizes to amaze me how people who would have never met, meet because of this four wheel wonder and travel together on 5,000 plus mile journey. Amy & Tryon offered their MINIs for co-pilot duties for the trip to take them coast to coast even thought they had never met before.
Amy & Tyron rocked up in the cosmic blue and white Countryman All 4 S Auto outside our hotel where formally introduced ourselves after all the chats on Facebook. We headed down to the bay to go visit the iconic Alcatraz prison which I first learnt about in the film The Rock a great Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery movie. Whilst waiting for the ferry to arrive I got acquainted with Tyron who was clearly a car guy was we rattled off stories of our MINI adventures across France for MINI UNITED and the mods we had done to our cars. The pursuit of speed is a fun one as I learned more about Autocross which doesn’t happen in the UK to what I am aware of which is shame as its easy and cheap way of having fun instead doing a full blown track day.
I did take note on Tyron’s advice on upgrading pads to Hawkeye and running braided lines as he said under hard continued braking the autocross the brakes dont tend to overheat. However we did laugh about my Honda Civic YO days as I drove my mum’s 07 1.6 litre Civic which when I was finished with only panel that wasn’t dented was the roof. for a while before I got my 1st car being my 07 MINI One with the lesser know 1.4 litre with 89 Bhp. God how I miss my MINI One.
Tyron gave insight into life as a medic with the US Military as I always thought you had to be a different breed of person to devote your working life to your country and saving people’s lives. We salute you my friend and keep up the good work.
The ferry arrived and we head on board talking away whilst taking on the sight of the bay and the famous Golden gate bridge which we would be driving over on the next day. We disembarked from the ferry into our self guided tour with ear piece into the world of convicts and 5 by 9 feet cells. The islands has taken many forms with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison (1868), and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. Beginning in November 1969, the island was occupied for more than 19 months by a group of aboriginal people from San Francisco who were part of a wave of Native activism across the nation with public protests through the 1970s. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
The United States Disciplinary Barracks on Alcatraz was acquired by the United States Department of Justice on October 12, 1933, and the island became a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison in August 1934. Alcatraz was designed to hold prisoners who continuously caused trouble at other federal prisons. At 9:40 am in the morning of August 11, 1934, the first batch of 137 prisoners arrived at Alcatraz, arriving by railroad from the United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas at Santa Venetia, California, before being escorted to Alcatraz, handcuffed in high security coaches and guarded by some 60 special FBI agents, U.S. Marshals and railway security officials. Most of the prisoners were notorious bank robbers and murderers. The prison initially had a staff of 155, including the first warden James A. Johnston and associate warden J. E. Shuttleworth, both considered to be “iron men”.
During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held some of the most notorious criminals in American history, such as Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz), George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Bumpy Johnson, Rafael Cancel Miranda (a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party who attacked the United States Capitol building in 1954), Mickey Cohen, Arthur R. “Doc” Barker, James “Whitey” Bulger, and Alvin “Creepy” Karpis (who served more time at Alcatraz than any other inmate). It also provided housing for the Bureau of Prisons staff and their families.
During its 29 years of operation, the penitentiary claimed that no prisoner successfully escaped. A total of 36 prisoners made 14 escape attempts, two men trying twice; 23 were caught alive, six were shot and killed during their escape, two drowned, and five are listed as “missing and presumed drowned”. The most violent occurred on May 2, 1946, when a failed escape attempt by six prisoners led to the Battle of Alcatraz. On June 11, 1962, Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin carried out one of the most intricate escapes ever devised.
The prison was shut down on March 21, 1963 due to costs as it costed nearly $10 per prisoner per day, as opposed to $3 per prisoner per day at Atlanta.
It was a little surreal walking around the prison since it hasn’t been touch since it shut down as per minor things to make it tourist friendly with signs etc. Just to think there was nothing in the cell but a bed and toilet and you could easy touch both ends if you lied down and stretched out your arms and legs. It was warm but windy summers day and to think that prisons lived in those cells with no air con, tv and barely saw the light of day expect for 1 hour in the yard or just to move to dining hall.
Cell 181 in Alcatraz is where Al Capone was imprisoned
The view from outside the walls was amazing as you looked upon San Fran with a clear view of the golden gate bridge.
We head back to grab some lunch which turned into something impossible as every place on the pier had waiting time of 45 minutes so we head to a dinner near our hotel as I wanted to see that old school I had seen in films.
We got told that the famous Lombard Street had been shut down due to repairs before I left for the states which was a major bummer however we learned that it might be open for a while. Me, Tyron, Christine and Phil jumped back into the Countryman to try our luck…
Behold I our luck!!!
I still cant get over how steep those hills are as you physical pushed back into your seat but back to Lombard street which was over in a minute. It ended up being a minute of slow drive down traffic in first gear given the level of steepness which resulted in me saying it would cool to drive down it in a go kart with some Initial D references. Another thing ticked off the bucket list
Tyron dropped us back off at the hotel so he could go pick up his mum who went to meet a friend. We would be catching them later at the launch party of MTTS at MINI San Francisco. The evening came so a quick freshen up we headed out with our mascots the 3 amigos here to the party to sign up MTTS and meet the people I had spoken online.
I knew MTTS was in full swing as I saw countless MINIs driving by which put a smerk on my face seeing MINI scene in the US. I was truly at home with all these MINIs around me as we entered into the dealership to sign in and collect our MTTS goodie bag which was a welcome treat as there was a LEGO Mini Mini, MTTS ID & Coast to Coast lanyard, some marketing material, these strange things called Peeps and laundry bag.
I went around to spot faces in the crowd whilst I looked around the dealership to how much bigger it was than a UK dealership. I walked upstairs to see the White Roof Radio crew and introduced myself to the wider group who were WFC road team. I was a fan of the show so it was kind of surreal speaking to them as I often listen to the podcast when I am driving to MINI events or to work. I was waiting upon Todd to mention the GP and wondered when project Roxy will ended and the DBs new car would arrive. I also met the couple to be Sami & Brian and gave my blessing for the day of where two become one as have spoke & met through Kyle with his MINIs on the mind show.
Half the time meeting people I didnt know where to turn as people were saying my name and I didn’t know who they were but they knew me. It was a very strange feeling meeting people who knew about what you get up to in even though they are half way across the world. Then I bumped into Christina and then Briana in quick concessions which was a mini shock as hand been bumping into people left, right and centre. It took me a while to orientate myself for a while as I looked to find Christine who was looking around the MINI Lifestyle selection of the dealership.
The announcements what would be happening with the heads of MINI USA marking the journey ahead of what MTTS is all about with the DJ then spinning his set on a MINI Countryman LIKE A BOSS!!!
I was then dragged to the photo op board by TEAM GB.
I got to mingle with everyone enjoying the free food and drink as spoke with everyone introducing TEAM GB and why we came over to do MTTS. Tony Hawks decided to come down and say Hi to the MTTS but he would be back something for something special to cut the ribbon at the starting line in his own half pipe way of life.
The night came to a close and it was an early start tomorrow so TEAM GB assembled and headed back to our hotel to what would be the drive of our lives but not before I made my LEGO mini MINI.
The sun creep over the hills of San Fran with the rumble of MINIs converging to underpass under the golden gate bridge. TEAM GBs US MINI Ambassadors arrived to pick us up to head to the starting line with being some what compressed into the back with all our luggage. Thank god MINI made the Countryman as I don’t think I would have gotten anywhere the stuff we had in both MINIs even thought Tyron had removed his rear seats as well.
It was like sea of MINIs all getting ushered into this some what of a parking lot with cars and faces I recognised. I had the smerk on my face as I knew this would be my home away from home seeing all these MINIs every stop of the way from coast to coast.
It was straight to getting out my suitcase to find today’s first ride and heading directly to the signing on desk to grab todays badges and freebies. Every stop we would do we would receive a new pin badge to add to make each destination which is awesome small touch. I was then surprised to hear that breakfast would be provided everyday of the trip which made life easier given the early starts every morning, Breakfast BURRRRITTOOOOS for everyone!!!!
The coast to coasters were rounded up (these were the people who would be done the whole leg of the trip) as they want to a photo op as well as getting us to sing the MINI Cooper song.
A big crane took up the MINI USA team who held up boards to the lyrics of the song so we got an idea what we would be shouting at the tops of our voices. Riding around in my MINI COOPER WOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!
Remember that guy Tony Hawk well he would kick flipping over MINIs to official launch MTTS 2014 but little did I know my first hitch hiking ride would be the first car across the line. I would be any car but an F56 MINI Cooper S Auto driven by MINI USA’s Product Manager Pat McKenna which isn’t too shabby if I do say so.
The chequered flag was waved by the MTTS crew which was met with police escorts locking down cross junctions with bikes and cars with no lookers wondering where so many MINIs came from. I had always had this image of US highways being populated by 18 wheelers, SUVs, pick ups, muscle cars, and the lower rider, ricers & donks.
It had been a while since I had seen so many M&Ms (this is what I call a lot of MINIs) especially one with the steering wheel on the wrong which made it even weirder as I sat what would be my driving seat. It was an interesting drive as I had never mingled with MINI head office and ask a question I thought I wouldn’t be able to ask to gain an insight into MINI prospect as a brand, business and global reach.
From what I gather from Patrick that he was a family man and understood the customer base of US MINI owners by what they wanted and expected from the brand. Even though MINI is a small percentage of car sold in the US around 1% it makes a significant part of MINI sales worldwide only taking 2nd place to the UK with the brand being introduced in 2002 with the Cooper & Cooper S models initially.
This led on to a talk about how US owners have brought into the brand how some loved the marketing, fondness of the British icon and the MINI community. The MINI USA team is much smaller than the UK team but I can see there is a lot more heart there about the brand as they have to try that bit more harder but you could see the MINI USA is very much entwined with the MINI community. Yes there is a marketing angle to MTTS but they are thankful for US population for buying a MINI and making it part of their families just like a pet.
Patrick gave me a real insight into the US owners as MINI has the highest percentage of owners opting for a manual transmission (I shed a tear of joy when I heard this) along with why the standard equipment and options list differed from the UK.
Federalisation of vehicles, import tax and exchange rates plays the first part in bringing a car over to the US as strangely as imports face tougher safety laws which is why the US F56 MINI is heavier than the EURO version thus the higher pricing. MINI USA has to outweigh what options to offer US owners for customer uptake and profit as they have to buy from MINI directly like any other dealership. Therefore options like heated windscreen and having value saving bundles like media package will be a given as that what a customer wants from their purchase. This brings in what to make standard to give value for money but makes it harder in a business case as MINI is a business and it needs to make profit from all the things you tick on the configurator. This leads to why the options are not offered or remove later down the lines as uptake is poor and bottom line doesn’t reflect it like the infamous R56 JCW Recaros which everyone wants but doesn’t due small fortune they cost.
It was a relatively short journey as it was to a new opened Niello MINI dealership in Sacramento which was a quick pit stop.
Me and Patrick grabbed our lunch which was a deli sandwich, crisps and drink.
That on the move lunch hit the spot which was perfect as it gave me time to freshen up and mingle with others and get a closer at their MINI half. I couldn’t get over how MOOOOHHHSSSIVEEE the MINI dealership was, as it was easily three times the height and twice the width.
I caught with TEAM GB and spoke with a few more owners as I walked around looking at sheer amount of passion gone into these MINIs to make them individual and personifier the owner’s personality on four wheels.
This first stop stopped me in my tracks as this long time reader and JCW owner Steve Takahashi made me grin ear to ear. I couldn’t believe what he said to me – The conversation went a little like this
Steve: Hi Ali I signed up to MTTS just to come and meet you
Me: What do you mean? (I had a dumb look on my face at this point)
Steve: I wasn’t sure about buying a MINI and type into Google MINI JCW and your blog popped up and read a few of your posts. I was sold and I ordered my JCW
Me: (there was a pause followed by a moment of disbelief with a handshake) Wow I don’t know what to say but thank you as I didn’t think I affected people that much. I am honoured and humbled that you have come out to see me. Hey MINI where is my commission??
This was all was followed by more disbelief and smiling with looking around saying I cant belief this. I had to see his JCW and see what options he specd and take a few piccies.
British racing green R56 JCW hatch with black roof and ohhh so much WANT of my mine the black xenons. If memory serves me correct this was an 13 model year JCW so it was face lifted model with N18 engine. It looked goooooddd under the Cali. For. Nia sunlight as it reacts the same way my eclipse grey metallic paint under sunlight and really pops out.
After seeing Steve’s JCW I did say to him I hope you enjoying the power and PLEASSSSSSSEEEEEEEEEE Take it to a track! It’s exactly how you describe Ali with the power and sheer amount of fun you can have with the added soundtrack of pops and bangs. It is moments like this that put a smile on face and make the countless hours I have spent on the blog all worth it. Another happy MINI owner and JCW Manic (sorry not sorry for passing the MINI Bug on to you : P).
I spent the rest of my time looking around the MINIs that were on the run there were a few that stood out by a long mile and so did their owners.
I met the larger than life Keli Creighton and Blaze who had seen online quite often
The next MINI I saw made me all patriotic which may well be the best wrap I have ever seen given it looked like paint and it was perfectly aligned was this Cooper S Clubman with the union jack.
Next up was the internet famous gold wrapped JCW Coupe.
There was another photo op with another aerial view for all you see what you were missing lol.
It was time to head back on the road and this time Patrick asked me to drive. I repeatedly asked him are you sure you want me to drive? Its a brand new car and I am still abit weird about all your road rules being wrong as all on they are opposite to what I am used to. I was handed the keys to the F56 S auto which was the perfect way to see how the auto felt as I had driven the F56 S manual in the UK before departing for my biggest MINI Adventure yet.
It was abit of surreal amount as steering wheel is on the wrong side and I am not really a fan of auto boxes so this was going to be interesting. I kept saying to myself don’t kill anyone or break the car but Patrick did ease me into driving in the USA.
I started off smoothly away from the dealership with me constantly asking I am in the right lane?, I am allowed to be in this lane and in my mind repeating stay right. My biggest problem was keeping the car in the lane as I would naturally stay to the left in the UK as the fast lane is the far right lane where as in the US its the fast left lane. Yes I know it sounds stupid that I couldn’t keep the MINI in between to white lines but natural reflex was urging me to move across to which the words I am sorry was mentioned a few times as I went over the rumble strips.
After about 15 minutes of driving on the hang of it and started to relax enjoy to what would be a mile marker of the behemoth journey that was upon us. This where having Patrick as a co pilot helped as I had no clue where we were as he point out a lake we driving parallel to was Lake Tahoe which is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada of the United States. At a surface elevation of 6,225 ft (1,897 m), it is located along the border between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. Its depth is 1,645 ft (501 m), making it the second deepest in the United States after Crater Lake (1,945 ft (593 m)). Additionally, Lake Tahoe is the sixth largest lake by volume in the United States at 122,160,280 acre·ft (150,682,490 dam3), behind the five Great Lakes.
From what I saw from the car there was plenty of SUVs packed with tourists, adrenaline junkies and families waiting to make the most of the area.
I finally got to used to driving on the wrong side and began enjoying myself and relaxing. I was actually thankful I was driving an automatic for once as I didn’t know the roads and Waze app was my route guidance. The MINI is truly tiny compared to cars on the road in the US which made it even more fun when you hit the twisties on the roads to Reno aka “The Biggest Little City in the World”.
We arrived in Reno in good time with a quick switch a roo as Patrick dropped me off at Resort Harrah’s Reno which was actually more of a casino than hotel (before you ask I don’t gamble). I headed up and packed a few things and put everything else on charge in double room and I couldn’t get over how big the bed as it could easily sleep 5 people without a question.
Headed down straight afterwards after refreshing myself for tonight’s entertainment which was courtesy of MINI USA. MINI USA had hired out a local bowling alley which is probably a bit of loose term because it MASSIVE like everything else in the US. This bowling alley was called the National Bowling Stadium was actually Bowling megaplex with a 4-story lobby, 78 tournament-quality lanes & Stadium Club with full bar. It took a while to soak in given the sheer size of this place but this where I would pick up more freebies as such the free pin button, food and drink voucher. I used this night to socialise with everyone and too work out how to get a ride for the next day as it was familiar and unfamiliar at the same time talking to people I have spoke to online and now face to face on their side of the world.
It was a great night of laughs and a lot talking as told everyone I was from the UK with my two friends who were more like family. Obviously I show everyone pictures of my JCW and told them about my website and how I came about travelling across the world just to do a MINI event.
But this BIG MINI Adventure had only just begun….
The BIG MINI Adventure: MINI TAKES THE STATES 2014 Part 2
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