Last month I was lucky (thanks MINI) to be invited to attend MINI TAKES THE STATES 2016 as a journalist. I wasn’t able to do the entire tour but managed to join the drive for eight days from Atlanta to Minneapolis. Along the way I learned a few things about MINI drivers, their cars, and the places we motored through.
1) MINI drivers are the best! They are definitely the friendliest, most interesting, and most diverse car enthusiasts I’ve ever met. From folks traveling alone to entire families, from students to retirees, I mingled with a broad range of truly amazing people, and discovered that many MINI owners have enjoyed more than one MINI over the years. They just love motoring. Oh, and did I mention all the wonderful dogs that joined in the fun?
2) MINI owners are hard core! Every day I saw thousands of MINIs -- from the original to the Countryman, to the discontinued Coupe and Roadster, to the newest Clubman All4 -- and no two cars looked alike. This is not only a testament to the creativity and originality of MINI drivers everywhere, but to how easy it is for buyers to customize their MINI. For example, there was a blue Countryman you were invited to sign with a silver marker, a Roadster towing a matching teardrop trailer, a JCW GP hardtop with hand controls, a bright matte pink convertible, and a Countryman All4 on large off-road tires ready to tackle the wilderness.
3) MINIs turn heads everywhere! From the small town of Ridgeway, SC that we invaded for tea time to Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum & Candy Emporium in PA, to delicious cupcakes in Midland, MI, to Kathy’s Drive Inn in WI, everyone along the way waved and honked and gave us thumbs up. MINI TAKES THE STATES 2016 brought smiles to all, young and old, and fostered acquaintances and friendships among participants and spectators alike. Who knew cars could help build community?
4) The Cooper S convertible with a stick is a lot more fun than the JCW convertible automatic despite being “slower” on paper. This will be obvious to any of the MINI drivers I met who (like me) swear by their manual transmissions, but it’s proof that rowing your own gears is still a more engaging experience -- there’s just no contest. Besides, it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow, right? Thankfully, all MINIs are still available with a stick, even if the new Clubman lacks a manual parking brake -- boo!
5) If you’re ever in northern Michigan, do yourself a favor, and visit the Top of the Lake Snowmobile Museum! Gearhead or not, this is a truly magical place full of weird machines from our crazy past that’s totally worth checking out. There you will discover many interesting facts. For example, did you know that many snowmobiles in the 70’s were clad in glittery fiberglass?