I happen to be going through some of my MINI memorabilia, you know stuff from various adventures over the years and thought that maybe, just maybe I should get my thoughts on the web since (remember kids) the Internet never forgets. With MINI Takes the States happening this year, and people panicked over this and that maybe this could help, Because each MINI Takes The States (MTTS) has been different. Before I try out Cecil’s Wayback Machine let me just define MINI Takes The States for you- MTTS is a biannual event put on by MINIUSA. It’s kinda like the big event your car company puts on for you every two years… What do you mean? Wait, wait, wait, your car company doesn’t do that? Oh, I’m sorry. It started in 2006. I bought my MINI in 2005- timing is everything.
MTTS 2006- This was a coast to coast rally starting in California and ending in Connecticut. A lot of miles in between with something going on is each city that they stopped in. For this one, I could only do one leg. I had to work. So after “Back to School Night” we hopped into Penfold (our DS/W R53) and deadheaded it to St. Louis. Once we arrived we crashed until the wee hours of the morning. Think kid on Christmas Day waiting to storm the tree. When we checked out the front desk told us to just pay the hourly fee for parking, what they were going to charge us for the night was a lot more- tells you what time we got in. SO we heading to the St. Louis Arch for a group photo. I had no idea what to expect, but being a teacher, tardiness is not acceptable. We were not the first ones there, but after parking we did have enough time to go up the arch and snap a few photos. The plane flew by, we all waved and then we got into our MINIs and headed to Indianapolis. It wasn’t a nice long line (that’s what I had envisioned) we were in little clumps. I was radioless, or clueless as to what channel to be on. I just had fun, passing this MINI and that. I don’t think we’re in any footage because we passed the film crew early on. The arrival at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway fine, I pulled in to help my local club, MINICCI, with their portion of the event. We were taking donations for “Racing fir Kids.” As part of the group helping out we were the last ones on the track for our “parade lap.” Look We were just trying to catch up with everyone else- we weren’t speeding officer. After the lap most people gathered in the parking lot across from the Motor Speedway to talk. MINIUSA had requested that this be an evening off so people could catch up on sleep. A lot of people weren’t expecting that, I guess. That day was cool for a lot of reasons, driving at the Brickyard was only one part. You see there was an accident that day outside the track. A MINI convertible had been hit, everyone was fine, but their door was toast. So what did we all do? We gathered around and signed the door. That couple and “Gromit” their MINI are still friends. The next day while everyone was driving off to their next destination I was back in my classroom taking attendance.
SWAG: Lots of stuff for sale (shirts, CD of music, black t-shirt, grill badge) but what showed that you were part of the group was a red rubber wrist band.
MTTS 2008- In 2008 MINIUSA decided to try something different. All those days on the road were nice, but maybe what they do in Europe might work out better. In Europe they had MINI United. It was a massive party held at a racecourse. The entire weekend everyone in one place, with bands, and all sorts of merriments. So they picked: Miami, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. They had a rally from Miami to Boston along the east coast, I think, I wasn’t there. I was able to go to the Chicago event, This was when became one of THOSE OWNERS, the kind that think they know better, I’ve learned since then. The event was great, had a chance to try out various MINIs on an autocross. We did a lap at Road America (did I mention Illinois had annexed part of Wisconsin for the weekend? (see, one of THOSE OWNERS) At both events we tended to hang around people we knew. We’d done a number of event so we were alone, but I’m sure a number of my close friends were probably there, and at Indy in 2006, I just didn’t know them yet, that was about to change. I used “visiting my parents” as an excuse to go to MTTS in Los Angeles. It was held at the Rose Bowl and was very similar to Chicago except L.A. was a parking lot, and Road America, was grass. I tried to take my dad on a ride on the autocross, but asked not to be too rough since the transmissions were almost shot – They used the same cars at all of the events so to “that guy” who boasted about learning how to drive stick in a JCW on the autocross in Chicago- yes, I’m talking to you. Enough.
SWAG: Beisdes the black t-shirt, and grill badge, the coolest thing for sale were limited edition Ridemakerz R/C MINIs. These had the graphic and were numbered. I picked mine up in Los Angeles and was amazed that I could get #37 (out of 50). 37 being a mystical number in the MINI community. Each location had their own color of rubber wristbands.
MTTS 2010- This was also different, it seemed that MINIUSA was trying out different formats to see which worked best. So in 2010 they had a central location (Denver, CO) like MINI United, but had four different routes to get there. The eastern side of the Mississippi met in Indianapolis (Crossroads of America”) and then headed to Denver. Each route had something special- the Brickyard for the East, and the Bonneville Salt Flats for the West. By this time (sixth year of MINI Ownership) we started to put together a group. We also learned that most people were sick and tired of eating barbecue. This group followed us for pizza at our local haunt. We called ahead an reserved the back room, and had a great time catching up. Most of these folks I hadn’t seen since MINI United in 2009, so it was great to get the band back together. The next morning we were late… ugh. We caught up to everyone and the group had
gotten a little bigger (this will be a reoccurring theme), we had FRS radios so we could communicate, and every day was an adventure, and we learned that there are going to be bumps in the road. Some of those are from the host dealership thinking that only 5 people were doing MTTS, other cause your hood scoop to fly off. We all made it to Denver in one piece with tales to tell about squirt guns in Dodge City. Dodge City was a stop that some people skipped, for me it was one of the most memorable in any MTTS.
SWAG: Black t-shirt and Grill badges for sale. This was the first MTTS to hand out buttons at each stop and some special buttons for the charities involved and the VIPs who were there. The coolest thing though were the bags that your stuff was given to you in. They were made from old MINI billboards.
This was the MTTS that I drew a daily comic for, it was fun, and I don’t recommend it if you want to really enjoy yourself. I would drive all day, go to the event (always looking for something to comment on), get back to my hotel room and draw, scan, color, and post, before going to bed. It was an honor to be a part of MTTS 2010, but I wasn’t too beaten up about not doing it again.
MTTS 2012- So, if you noticed, I have yet to do an entire MTTS (2008 doesn’t really count) that changed in 2012. The MINIUSA Gods were smiling at me and picked a time that was actually during my Summer Break. I was ready to go Coast to Coast in my 2005 R53. This would be Penfold’s last big trip, I was thinking about the new GP. Neither of these happened. A few days before I was planning on leaving (my wife would jump in when we were close to Indy) Something drastic happened to Penfold. Basically a bunch of different things went “Sproing!” and I had to decide what to do. So, the Friday before MTTS I picked up my 2012 Roadster and did the entire MTTS on temporary plates. Thanks to Social Media, our group had been planning and scheming since before the announcement had been made. We gathered in New Jersey and were set to go. Did we all stay at the same hotel? No. Did we all end up driving every minute together? No. Sometimes someone would get lost, or in our case (Sue ended up doing the entire thing after all) we took a quick detour home to drop off some stuff, and pick up other things. We still made to to Autobahn with time to spare. “Going All the Way” was fantastic. We had gotten to know many of the crew for MTTS over the years, and they have become good friends (that we see every two years). Because of The comic in 2010 our group had taken on the label, MINIons. You see one of the characters in the comic was Cecil, a monkey bent on world domination, who has a infinite number of minions (who are not yellow, and do not wear goggles). I created a badge for our small group. I then tried to get more halfway through the trip (epic fail – thank you USPS), since the group continued to grow. In some cases it was just talking at the event, sometimes it was bumping into someone on the road.
SWAG: Black shirt, grill badge for sale, buttons at every stop. If you went “All the way” you received a shirt at the beginning (I’m going all the way) and another at the end (I went all the way).
MTTS 2014- After 2012 “Going all the way” had become a badge of honor. Yes, everyone had a great time no matter how much or how little of MTTS they could participate in, but the orange lanyards. they stood out. Someone was asked why they didn’t put the buttons on their lanyard- the reply was something like “I have an orange lanyard, people know already where I’ve been.” This time I went “All the way- to Lubbock” So I missed a lot of really cool events. 2014 also demonstrated how flexible we all need to be. There was an app, but it was having troubles, so they went back to printing out route sheets. The group kept getting bigger so some venues had to be changed to accommodate. St. Louis and Chicago are the two I recall (and I wasn’t even there). We discovered (although we already knew) how wonderful the MINIUSA & TPG folks are. My thermostat went out in Nevada, I figured I would call the nearest dealership and get it taken care of. Nope. When the crew heard, they called Salt Lake City, and got everything arranged. We were a little late getting into Wendover, but It was taken care of. My MINI was still under warranty, so my cost was nothing but my time. There are other stories, cracked windshields and calls ahead to the next dealership, everything was handled. So I left at Lubbock. Lubbock was a down day. Some people had arranged a few events for that night, but nothing official. A bunch of us went to the Drive-In. After that I wished everyone safe
travels and let them drive off to the next stop. I hung around to say my goodbyes to everyone else. I was amazed at how quickly everything was packed up and they were off. So if you’re thinking you can drop by a little late- no one will be there.
After years of going back and forth on graphics I finally stopped off on the way to California and got stripes put on Alfie. I still get the “cool car” reaction not only because it is a cool car, but I think the strips do add something. This was the first year we made special badges for the group we drive with (it keeps getting bigger & I don’t know everyone) Each one was drawn by me, so no two are alike. This led me to drawing a monkey a day for an entire year. The bus was MINIon 1701… I’m not sure they knew that or not.
SWAG: Grill badges, black t-shirts. I was depressed enough about having to head home, that I’ve kinda blotted out the rest. I tried to keep my mind on school, and my students, but it was pretty hard (thank you social media).
MTTS 2016- Aren’t the newbies cute? All those things we worried about when it was our first MTTS are now their worries. Things we tried and failed at are now new wonderful ideas! So here’s my suggestion for those who this is their first time- in the words of Douglas Adams- “Don’t Panic.” If you are figuring out what to pack- bring only half of it. If you need something, this is America, they have stores here. If you want to make shirts- go ahead, but MINIUSA has the official one, the that’s the one that matters the most on the collectors market, same for grill badges. Hotels? For some of the smaller towns (St. Ignace for example) you might want to book, but the larger cities wait until the dust settles. If you wanted to stay in a host hotel, you’re probably too late anyway. If you have to get up early to make it to breakfast… oh well, you have to get up early to make it to breakfast. Make this adventure a learning experience, plan to attend everything, so you can better decide the next time (if there is a next time) what you really want to do. For your first time- experience everything “official” that you can. Trust the MINIUSA and TPG people, they don’t want this to be horrible. If you are on social media- don’t be negative, sorry, but you don’t know everything… even the people who think they know everything, don’t (including me). Can you do this alone? You aren’t alone. Can you bring your pets? Sure! but don’t expect everything to be open to them. Can you bring your kids? Sure, it’s a great way for them to see the country, but understand that some places may not be right for them (not saying any aren’t, but be prepared).
This is just like a family vacation except you aren’t in charge of the itinerary, sit back and enjoy the ride. Know that breakfast will be provided, if you don’t like what’s for breakfast pick something up on the road. Evening events usually involve food- but it might not be vegan, gluten free, soy free, or whatever your dietary restrictions are- plan for it. Those free nights? Relax, it’s a time to explore or just sit in your hotel room and sleep. While you get used to having every minute planned, you are an adult (I’m assuming) so act like one (says the guy who carries around a stuffed monkey) a little spontaneity never hurt anyone. If you have any complaints about what is happening, where we are going, or when information is being made public, remember this: MINI doesn’t have to do this… So don’t ruin it for everyone with whining.
Hope to see you on the road- You should be able to spot me I’ll be the one driving the MINI.