I woke to open roads of America waiting for my arrival as donned my JCW ADVENTURES tee shirt with my proud TEAM GB logo on the left side of my chest for queen and country. As I gather my stuff for the road trip ahead, I grabbed my first quick ride to the rise & shine aka breakfast meet point from a family of MINIacs who was glad to see me.
Thanks for the ride Montoya Family in MAX S Cooper!
I grabbed another breakfast burrito as I looked around at the MINIs thinking would be my next ride for the day (Don’t judge me as I loved them as we do not get it in the UK). While I was introducing myself, I decided to bring out the UK flag which I had brought along for everyone that I met to sign to take back as a memento. However, there is something special I have done with it, but I won’t tell you guys until part 5….
I spotted this understated black Cooper S, but my keen eye spotted the rumor JCW Pro exhaust at the time which I had seen online which was a leak of the accessory catalog which I had seen online before the trip. The only thing that was running through my mind is how can I get MINI USA to let me drive this car hmmmmm.
This next person is very important to the whole MTTS trip as she lights up our faces time and time again by waking us up and make us all a family for like. For those who have done, MTTS will know her name Desi is the hostess with mostess. Not only did she make fun of my accent and made me laugh but she was the key to getting this nomad from coast to coast by announcing that I would need a ride every day BOSTON OR BUST!!
Thank you from the top to very bottom of my heart.
She hooked up for my 1st MINI US owner ride with Richard who owns a very unique JCW Clubman which is one of the last few ever to be built. But this was no ordinary JCW by a long stretch as this barely run for this trip with just under 4,000 miles on the clock before the journey started with a lot of option extras. This is arguably the best from the factory spec’d clubmans I have ever seen with JCW & GP2 parts accessories added to make this one subtle, unstated classy modified R55 (Disclaimer – I have a soft spot for the clubman).
Again it was another pinch yourself moment seeing so many MINIs to what would be every morning of a minimum of 500 all meet up at one point for the next stop would be in another state/city. I would be eating, sleeping and driving MINIs for two weeks in a country that I saw in the movies.
Time to snap back to rally as I put my luggage into the back of clubby. This would truly begin my morning ritual of new MINI and new driver every day. I grabbed the route section aka the pace notes which makes you feel like a rally co-driver – Easy Left Over Crest 2 do not cut. So a different car and owner every day hmmmm like I have said before every car has history and every owner has a story. I had to ask Richard about his car history while giving an over why I would travel halfway around the world to this Pilgrimage of your journey with MINI USA owners.
Richard didn’t disappoint with his car history as he was a local around California so he a part of the MINI E project. The MINI E was an in the field electrical car worldwide program which started in January 2012 which formed the base of the development for the BMW i3. It did make me think that a MINI would be the perfect car to be electrified given its low weight and handling which fits the bill. It left me pondering as I am Track Marshall on the weekends at electric go karting track where the karts weigh around 200kg without driver and have a top speed of 35-40mph.
I asked why he brought a clubman and it seemed like he brought one for the same reasons why I would have one. The longer wheelbase, better ride, the barn doors, suicide door and that all important JCW badge. I compliment him on the subtle mods and getting one of the last few JCW clubmans in the world as the dawn of the F generations.
We did stop for short stop for fuel, and we did meet a few characters and MINIs which you will see and read about in due course.
Back to the route as we headed towards a MINI assigned photo opportunity at the Nevada Shoe Tree. The Shoe Trees may be the greatest embodiment of the American Spirit you can find on the highway (free of admission charge, anyway).
A shoe tree starts with one dreamer, tossing his or her footwear-of-old high into the sky, to catch on an out-of-reach branch. It usually ends there, unseen and neglected by others. But on rare occasions, that first pair of shoes triggers a shoe tossing cascade. Soon, teens are gathering up their old Adidas and Sauconys, families are driving out after church with Dad’s Reeboks and grandma’s Keds. Many inscribe messages on the sneakers in permanent marker — greetings, love poems, and life accomplishments.
The shoe tree blooms with polymer beauty. A work of art like this may last for generations, tracing our history by our sneakers . . . As long as the tree doesn’t die or get attacked by shoe tree murderers.
On Highway 50 near Middlegate, Nevada, a lone cottonwood stood, clotted with hundreds of shoes. One tipster told us the first pair was thrown during a wedding night argument by a young couple; later, their children’s shoes were added to it. Whatever its origins, the tree seemed to suck up all the discarded footwear in the county. Sadly, the tree was cut down by vandals on New Year’s Eve, 2010-2011 and another put in its place.
This photo opp allowed me to speak to Briana for a while she signed my UK flag which I brought along for everyone to sign as a memento of this trip of a lifetime as I watched sneakers fly into the air. Briana had brought along a mini MINI for MINI Adventure which was a direct clone of her MINI aka Nirvana.
What Richard did next did surprise me as he had the keys to his clubby and said you can drive…
I was like you sure given you have only just got it, and you only have 4,000 miles on the clock, and we were set to drive on the loneliest highway in the US to Wendover. I was apprehensive about his clubby given how new it was as I didn’t want to wreck his clutch or gearbox so early on with my poor gear shifting technique with my right hand (yes your steering wheel is on the wrong side damn it!!!!).
They were not lying about this being the loneliest highway as all I saw the asphalt on the horizon and nothing on besides the odd truck going the other way which was outshined by a pair of F-18 flying low into the danger zone MURRRICCAAAAA.
This wasn’t the last of the moments we would have as I did get to put my foot down in Richard’s ride as he told me to push on but also I spotted the soon be infamous ‘4 guys and 1 MINI’. These 4 lunatics wanted to ride coast to coast in one MINI but this wasn’t the best thing about them but who they were and smiles they would bring to everyone the trip.
WE SALUTE YOU
I believe this symbolised the community as a whole in the US who are a larger than LIFE set of characters who have been brought together for the love of this little car from the UK.
Along the way, I got see some sights that again have been donned to the movies such as freight trains which ran parallel to the road. I guess it is the opposite given the railways came first as it was these lines that allowed the US to be truly connected on the dawn of the industrial and steam revolution. Sadly there wasn’t any railway crossing for a Dodge Charger and Toyota Supra to race against.
It might be a small thing to US residents but seeing these freight trains in motion will be a memory that will stay with me. We did come across along with one on the move which resulted in us waiting over 2 minutes for this freight train with endless carriages.
We did drive through this small town along the way which to my knowledge was in the middle of nowhere but had a population sign of 100 if that. But when 500 hundred MINIs turned up we more than doubled the population. It bet it was a sight to see for the locals who were in shock. We were welcomed with open arms to this small town so much so the gas station in the town actually lowered the gas price so hundreds of MINIs could fill up. I did personally thank the lady owner for her generosity and gave an insight to MINI TAKES THE STATES.
Not far from this stop we arrived at our next state of Wendover, but this MINI madness will continue into the night for the first party get together. I thanked Richard for the ride and getting me going where I needed to be and putting some miles on one of the last R55 JCW clubmans in the world. But we were but back in the Danger Zone with this parked up Cooper S.
I freshened up and headed out with TEAM GB to the Historic Wendover Airfield which was active during WWII but most notable in these movies such as Con-Air and Independence Day. This gave me another chance to talk to US owners I had spoken to online via various forms.
I finally got to proper speak to Kyle Conner in person following talking to him on FB and appearing multiple times on MINIs on the mind.
But more importantly, I finally got to hear his highly modified Countryman in person. Let’s say it was worth the wait before I retired for the evening….
Carrying on the sense of speed Bonneville salt flats would be our next stop for the next leg of MTTS.
I walked across the road to the rise and shine event which opposite my hotel which gave me some time to buy some merchandise for MTTS. I brought an MTTS grille badge and few other for the keepsake of this transatlantic trip.
Another rise and shine hosted by the hostess with mostest which brought about my next ride with Andrea Jones who slightly reminded me of Emma from Lohen the UK MINI specialist.
Today’s ride would be an R56 MINI Cooper aka FELIX which has his own blog – http://felixgoesalltheway.blogspot.co.uk. The name might mean something to some people as Felix is a cartoon character from the silent film era. The anthropomorphic black cat with his black body, white eyes, and giant grin, coupled with the surrealism of the situations in which his cartoons place him, combine to make Felix one of the most recognised cartoon characters in film history. Felix was the first character from animation to attain a level of popularity sufficient to draw movie audiences.
I was slightly complexed when Andrea said it was a Justa??? I said what do you mean. I was let in on this term used in the US which means that it’s just a Cooper hence the slang term Justa. I was bewildered by this given my first car was MINI One which even more basic with a 1.4-litre engine with a monstrous 89 Bhp. I know a lot of people know I am obsessed with my JCW, but that’s only because I brought it to drive fast on road and track, but I don’t look down on people who drive lower powered MINI as you should only buy what you can afford. To this day, I still miss my MINI One as it taught me how to drive and started all this madness. Started from the bottom now we are here!
They do say everywhere you go take the weather with you…. Sadly stopped play for our salt flats fun as it rained through our trip there : / Undetermined we head on to the salts so we could say we were on the flats and drove on it.
It was a little surreal knowing that so many people on this leg of the trip had never driven in the rain?!?! How??? Bloody rains all the time in the UK anyway my other alter ego of RALLY ALI was on hand to help my driver for the day to adjust to driving in the wet *insert pace notes* – a big jump over crest do not lift. I said it’s exactly the same driving in the wet just lower your speed to adjust for lower grip levels and use your wipers accordingly as you need to see where you going. At this point, I was just easing her into the environment and making general chit chat to mellow the mood in the cabin and finding out what she knew about driving techniques.
We arrived at our wet destination which seemed to look like icing on a cake as the salt flats were saturated with the heavy rainfall. But nothing has ever stopped a BRIT from doing what they wanted to do so we drove on to the salts to say we were there and on it. With that ticketed off the list, we headed back on the blacktop as we pointed Felix to our next destination in search of sun and blue skies.
This gave me a chance to teach Andrea some driving tips such as double clutching. I had to do this all the time on my R56 MINI One, so it was time for me to give this Justa a fighting chance in real world driving in the states.
What is double clutching?
Double clutching is when the clutch pedal is depressed while shifting to neutral to match engine speed to the intended gear and vehicle speed, and again depressed for shifting into gear.
This is something you would if you were cruising in 5th and wanted to drop down to 3rd smoothly and pull away rapidly without upsetting the car with a harsh downshift which puts unnecessary strain on the clutch and gearbox. This skill allows all the engine power to be fully utilised on the downshift, so there is no pause in the power delivery which will give you those brief few seconds head start on anything in your or behind you.
We made a brief stop in Helper for a photo op with Alex Rose in her Cooper S who was going all the way as well.
Further, ahead we didn’t realise Alex’s MINI would hit some trouble as the engine management light came on. Like a good co-pilot, I brought my OBD reader for set occasions like this so I could help any MINI owner the best I could. I thought I a MINI broke down on engine fault maybe I could reset and keep it moving till the next safe point. I did work out what was wrong with Alex’s MINI as the thermostat broke which resulted in the engine management light to come on. This was later confirmed by a MINI technician who was one of the support vehicles for this trip.
On a lighter note, the sticker on Felix to this day still makes me giggle.
But later I was on an acid trip after looking at this Clubman.
After I regained conscience and enjoyed my free drink courtesy of MINI USA from Papa Joe’s stop & go we headed back on the road to get our free car wash as did drive on the salts which will eat way at the car.
This automated car wash was like no other I had seen before compared to the ones in the UK. So you can imagine I felt like a 5-year-old all over again going through a car wash for the first time.
From there I was dropped off at my hotel, and I thank Andrea for the smiles on the trip, and I would catch her later tonight for car lovers wet dream as we drooled over someone’s private car collection.
After I had freshened up at the hotel, I drove the Countryman All4 which gave me a chance to see what an Auto All4 S would be like. As everyone else wanted a drink or was tired and given I have never drunk in my life I would be designated, driver. Sooooo All aboard the SS Countryman with Captain lets get a move on. I got the knack of climbing into the wrong side of the car to take the wheel of this machine on the freeway at night which is secretly something I wanted to do for a long time as my childhood playing need for speed and midnight club fills your imagination with so many things.
As we hit the highway to the event destination of Allen Unique Autos, it started to rain and when I mean RAIN I said it as the wipers could not keep up the downpour that slaughtered us in the convoy we connected to. So much so the Countryman did briefly aquaplane as we came off the highway, but I caught it, but everyone thought I was drifting or messing around lol. On a side note to everyone that I do take my driving more seriously when I have passengers on board given I am responsible for their lives as well. I stick to every rule in the book and make everyone feel at ease as I drive smoothly to arrive at our stop on time, but upon request only I can show you a move or two ; )
We arrived safely at our stop that turned me into a five-year-old in a candy store. The sheer vast assortment of cars. I will let the pictures do the talking.
Each car had it’s own mark whether it was a stock to original spec or customised to the owners liking. Like I have said before every car has a story behind it….
MINI Beach Car – Only 15 ever built with one owned by the Queen
Fiat had a successful beach car named the Jolly, so there was clearly a market for a leisure vehicle. Austin commissioned a run of ‘Beach Cars’ between December 1961 and March 1962. 15 examples were made during this period, all Export models with left-hand drive, though there is at least one right-hand drive version known to exist in the UK. 13 of the left-hand drive examples were sent to the United States, where they severed as dealer and distributor promotional vehicles.
The design of the Mini Beach Car, also known as the ‘Riviera Buggy’, was similar to the Jolly, with no doors, no B-pillars, and interior seats made of wicker. The Beach Car were built by hand in-house at Longbridge’s Experimental Department. Four of the fourteen left-hand-drive Beach Cars were finished in Surf Blue with a Snowberry White roof.
One was sold in 2015 for $184,000 at auction.
All these cars were owned by a single person and more importantly by a woman. I salute you!! It’s a shame I never got to meet this person as they wanted to remain anonymous as I wanted to know the history about they were brought, the restoration and why they were modified in certain ways. Either way, thank you for sharing your car collection as I don’t think I will ever see these cars anywhere else.
This evening entertainment concluded and I drove everyone back to the hotel and pondered who would be a ride for tomorrow and what cars we would see along the way.
It was the same routine that we bundled all the bags in the countryman and I would squish into the back seats with a suitcase bigger than me on my lap. Why would you want to change that when it works so well??? (sarcasm). But honesty it was a laugh minus the weight on my thighs.
It was back to last night’s venue as today’s we would heading towards Albuquerque in New Mexico but first without any foods and morning raffles. Sadly our hostess with the mostest didn’t have any clean jokes, so I gave one of mine.
What happens when Batman sees Catwoman?
The dark knight rises
I did get the mic taken away from me lol I was auctioned again this morning, and this time my ride would be modified R56 MINI Cooper S owned Ross Kopp who was the plastic dip to look like Starsky and Hutch car.
Sadly there was no sliding across the hood today. But walking over to his ride was one of fascination as I saw the half roll cage with go pro and bucket seats which brought a cheeky grin to my face #BecauseRaceCar.
I loaded my suitcase into the back and noticed the MINI UNITED 2012 sun blind and I was like Huh?? You have been to MINI UNITED in France in this car??? Ross was like yeah I move around a lot of work! SMALL WORLD!!!! I guess I probably walked past your then without realising and he was not shy of the track action has he been around the Nurburgring : D
From then on it was talking car mods and what he hadn’t done to his MINI as I brought about the questions about suspension and mapping as I have been looking this for a while. Ross did say his S was running about off today given the altitude coupled with the poor fuel in the state didn’t help as high ethanol percentage isn’t well suited to the map he was running.
Me personally I have never bought into the notion that some guy with a laptop and dyno can approve over what a modern OEM manufacturer with a vast amount of money, time, driven countless miles and R&D has been done to make stable ECU map work anywhere in the world regardless of the climate or conditions. You can screw more power out the engine but what about the other components like the clutch, gearbox, cooling, brakes, etc. Everyone rarely even things about. Then people wonder why their car keeps on breaking when they take it beyond the tolerances there is a fine line between RACE Car and Road car as POWER isn’t everything and this is another key point why you buy a MINI for the Corners.
This why the conversation continued into what suspension are you running and how did you set it up?
Ross’s S was sitting on KW V3 with camber plates which were perfect as I loaded a shed load of questions as I wanted to ask about. I enquired about the chamber rates, compression and how long it is sitting to getting a better picture of how to setup mine. He had worn down his S to around 30mm with added negative chamber for better turn in. Straight away I could tell the ride was a lot better and how planted it felt as you could say the ride was firmer. The things it’s not intolerable in the sense you would tell it was smoothing out the ride a lot better than stock suspension as it wasn’t crashy or unstable.
I was sold on getting coilovers after I sat in Ross’s MINI but I knew I could only for the best in the marker KW as it didn’t want to compromise on quality but that would come with a price so the saving fund would begin for the KWs.
Back to the road trip at hand and we heading toward Russell Stover Candies for some free chocolate!!! So this would be our first stop but not really be being a sweet tooth chocolate fan but I did get interviewed by the MINI USA film crew, and they handed me a go pro and hand mount to film my adventures. I was more interested in getting back to checking out the winning ‘The New Originals’ competition car.
MINI USA held a contest called “Final Test Test Drives” and asked fans to design their very own MINI Cooper S. The winning design, “DeLux” by Alex Coyle, will head to New York to go on display and support the launch of the new MINI. Her design won the competition by getting the most votes online.
‘Lux’ is the root meaning of ‘light,’ explains Coyle. “After I went through all the options I had available to customise the car I went for all the bells and whistles and created what I call a ‘Deluxe’ model. The result was ‘DeLux’”.
So it was back to the road trip heading down 550 into the twisties and mountain passes to Albuquerque. The roads didn’t disappoint, and the weather was perfect for the occasional stop for pictures and appreciate of mother earth.
Again it was something out of the movies for me as we hit this small town amongst the mountains to what seem liked settlement for workers in years gone by.
While we were enjoying the twisties and smiling, we didn’t realise what was happening in front us as the road was shut down. We found through friends and calling each other that there had been a head-on collision with SUV and RV resulting in a fatality resulting the police closing down the road both ways.
I was a quiet moment of thought for me as the harsh reality set in that someone lost their life and open road has many dangers seen and unseen.
After we had waited a diversion was created off the road through a country club and golf course which pop us out further down the road. It was time to make some time up in the twisties but Ross’s MINI wasn’t playing ball as it began to run rough resulting in us back off and cruising the rest of the way.
Our destination was Sandia MINI and we arrived promptly to enjoy their hospitality as they were paying for dinner tonight and they did put on quite the spread & BBQ. But sadly there wasn’t a veg or fish option I opted to go across the road and dine with Phil to catch up his adventures.
We joked and laughed over dinner sharing each others stories and asking Did you see that or this? But it has left me in the sense of reflection after I opened my fortune cookie.
SET THE RIGHT EXAMPLE. IT WILL INSPIRE OTHERS
To this day I still think those are words are still actually sums up what I try to do on a daily basis. There is something inside me that likes making people smile, happy and teach them what they need to know and hear. I love finding out that I am the reason why someone did something, and it improved them. I guess it’s a sense of accomplishment and pride that money can’t buy. It makes me proud and smile every time I hear good news about my friends and family : )
On that note, we headed back to our hotel across the road and got our forty winks. The adventures will continue in Part 3….
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