MINI Takes The States (MTTS) all started 10 years ago with the last model year of the first generation MINI. To kick off this historical event MINIUSA decided to go on a road trip. Starting in California and ending in Connecticut. It has since become a tradition that biennially MINIUSA celebrates its owners with a trip. This year the theme was “Track to Track” Starting at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and ending in Thermal, California. This isn’t just for fun (although it was) MINI Takes The States has a purpose. When MINI Takes The States first started I don’t even recall if there was a charity. Since then this has really become a trip about helping out. Feeding America was the charity this time around and we had a goal to raise enough money to provide 800,000 meals.

It all began with much fanfare and three guys parachuting into the new MINI convertible. A parade lap around the track and off to our next destination Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Before we get into too much of this adventure you probably need to know what a typical day on the road is like. Each morning we Rise and Shine (literally, the event is called the “Rise & Shine”) Which brings us early in the morning to our starting point, usually some thing significant or at least large enough to park a whole lot of cars. Did I mention that over 400 MINIs did the entire route and there were well over 1,000 people taking part each day? So after you follow the green flags and park, there is an area that has: the bus, a number of tents from either MINIUSA or some of the sponsors, and breakfast. People are milling about either registering, picking up their button (each city has its own button, you wear it on your lanyard so people can see where you started), getting a route sheet, talking to people, getting tickets to enter in the daily drawings, buying swag, or donating to Feeding America (either cash or non perishable foodstuffs). Basically a sea of people who share one thing in common, the MINI.

As we get close to departure time, Desiree, our Mistress of Ceremonies, gets on stage to start things off. We have general announcements, meet the “Executive of the Day” from MINIUSA HQ, go over the route with a local MINI owner, hear from the the local food bank about how our little bit is making a difference in the area, Then the various door prize drawings, from MINI Value Service, MINI Accessories, Pirelli Tire, and the local food bank. The last drawing is for everyone, you don’t need a ticket, but if you don’t show up after your name has been called three times, your name goes into “the pocket of doom.” We close with awards for the person who has raised the most money the previous day, the person who had the best tweet about #defyhunger, the leaderboard for the top car club, the infamous “Bug of the Day”(what most likely wil be splattered on the windshield), oh, and the car of the day- who gets a MINI Takes The States door magnet. Then we are sent to our cars to  have a parade lap at the track or just head off to who knows where.

MTTS 2016 at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan

MTTS 2016 at the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan

Getting 400 MINIs out of town is difficult, most days there were a lot more that 400. Usually we had the help of local law enforcement to get us out safely & quickly. Once on the road we were on our own.  Many people would meet up with fellow MINIs and drive together. Having a radio was essential so you could communicate between cars.  Everyone was given a route, on paper or electronically through the MTTS App.  The route had been planned to take you past some beautiful country, and to see things you wouldn’t see if you just drove from city to city on the interstate.  Somewhere along the route was a “Surprise & Delight.”  Some location, usually in a small town.  One day it was stopping for lemonade another day cupcakes, each was unique I doubt I would have stopped at “Mr. Ed’s Elephant Museum” in Pennsylvania if it weren’t for the surprise and delight. When you arrived in town you could crash at your hotel, or you could attend the evening event.  This event brought everyone to some interesting locations in the host city, mostly to rehash the days drive and socialize, and a chance to try out some local delicacies.  In Charlotte we visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame Museum, Baltimore took us to the B&O Museum, Cheyanne we went to a rodeo.  Fortunately, MINIUSA had planned in a few nights off so people could explore on their own (and do laundry).  At the end of the night we head back to our hotel room and sleep until the morning, when we do it all again, for 15 days.

I’ve done part of each MINI Takes The States from one leg to the entire thing (twice).  What makes this a fantastic trip is not just the places you see, the roads you drive on, but mostly the people you meet.  I heard over and over again, “When you buy a MINI, it comes standard with friends” thanks to my adventures on MINI Takes The States I have friends from all over the world (who I’ve actually met, not just on Facebook).

For the record- round trip: 8,100 miles.  Meals provided through Feeding America: 1.3 million.

A picture tells a thousand words so here’s the link to the MINIUSA’s photographers’ MTTS Gallery