MINIs Great Lakes Crossing
By Molly Bunton and Mark Scheuern
Images by Molly Bunton
This is full & unedited, as well as slightly revised, version of the article I originally wrote for MC2 magazine, plus many more photos.
The last time most American MINIs were on a boat was when they first sailed to the US
from Southampton, England. But on Sept. 28- Oct.1, 2006, in a one-of-a-kind event,
MINIs once again set sail en masse… this time for charity.
The Michigan MINI Motoring Club raised over $10,000 for the Make A Wish
Foundation as MINI enthusiasts from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Canada, and
as far away as Tennessee and Afghanistan came together for “MINIs Great Lakes Crossing”.
The tour started on Thursday September 28th, departing from Motor City MINI in Shelby
Township (a suburb of Metropolitan Detroit) and motored across the width of Michigan
to Muskegon, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Here, more MINI owners joined the
group and, together, 32 MINIs boarded the Lake Express Ferry, which then carried
them on a two hour ride across the waters of Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, WI. After
departing the boat, the first stop was a reception at International MINI for a lunch
provided by the Milwaukee dealership. The MINIs then traveled north to Green Bay.
The next day they continued up across Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, crossing the
Mackinac Bridge at sunset, and then on the final day, completing their extraordinary
motoring journey length-wise through the heart of Michigan.
The conception for this singular event began as the idea of members of the Michigan
MINI Motoring Club as a club outing around Lake Michigan and up to the UP to view the
Fall colors. As the notion for the tour progressed, one of the event organizers, Dan
Champney, contacted Lake Express, a high speed ferry. The ferry owners were willing
to lease the passage on a Friday morning exclusively to the club, and so plans excitedly
proceeded. Club member Chad Miller (of Detroit Tuned) suggested teaming up with
Motor City MINI and turning the event into a fundraiser. Make A Wish was chosen
because it so happened that MMMClub member Scott Dunsmore’s son, Bailey, was a
MAW candidate. Having the MAW charity potentially touching one of their own helped
energize the club in their efforts to raise as much as possible for this very worthy
In addition to the Michigan MINI message board, whose membership extends beyond
state boundaries, the planning committee posted messages regarding the upcoming
event on North American Motoring and on regional club boards. One Canadian
Michigan MINI member, Jason Hurdle, who resides in Midland, Ontario, Canada, drove
463 miles to meet up with the MINI motoring crew in Muskegon. “I don’t think I am any
crazier then any other Cannuck out there, eh”, Jason said, “They all just aren’t as crazy
about their MINIs as I am. Just as the back of my cars says, “‘Sit down, Buckle Up, Shut
up and Let’s Motor!’ Words to live by.”
But, for this event, traveling some distances just to participate was not out of the
ordinary. Two Classic Mini Coopers drove from Chicago to join in on the crossing, and
one MINI enthusiast drove 700 miles up from Eastern Tennessee to participate in this
possibly once in a life time event. Molly Bunton, of Mooresburg, TN, was told of the
MINIs Great Lakes.
Crossing by a MMMClub member whom she met while participating in the MINI Takes
the States Event. “MTTS was my first MINI driving event and the first time I ever drove
in the company of other MINIs, it was fantastic and I just had to join in on another
driving adventure. It seemed a bit crazy to drive all the way from TN, but the MMMClub
are such great people, and it was for a good cause, so there never was a doubt in my
mind about doing it. It was an absolute blast and I would do it again in a Detroit minute.”
But the greatest distance traveled by a participant was considerably more than that.
Mark LaRocco came all the way from Kandahar, Afghanistan. A resident of Indiana,
Mark is the Assistant Fire Chief of Kandahar and, after learning of the Great Lakes
Crossing, decided to spend his vacation on the tour with his wife Ginger, three children,
and their two MINIs.
One MINI owner used the event as an opportunity to break in his brand-new car. John
Sadowski took delivery of his car in late August. “One of the biggest reasons I decided
to purchase a MINI over other brands I considered was the vitality of the Michigan MINI
Owners group. In fact, I accelerated my purchase plan to take advantage of the Great
Lakes Crossing tour. I thought it was the most imaginative and exciting group event I’ve
ever heard of.”
The MINI caravan varied in participants along the planned 1400 mile route, with some of
the drivers doing the entire event and some along for just portions of the trip. The Tour
also picked up new, unexpected members along the way. Erik Bruner of Green Bay,
WI, heard about the event and headed down to Milwaukee to meet up with the group
that came across on the ferry. “I hadn’t had any communication with the group other
then an email or two. After two hours with the Michigan MINI crew, I wondered how I
could ever truly enjoy a Sunday afternoon motoring without these people.”, Erik said,
“I’m not sure I’ve ever had that much fun burning gas and tires on a Sunday afternoon.
The icing on the cake is that it was all going to a good cause. I’ll definitely be there for
next year’s event.”
The group even picked up another MINI after a short break at a rest area in WI. This
lone yellow MINI, containing a mother and her two children, were traveling down the
Interstate and as the motoring MINIs merged back on the road, this single MINI was
surrounded on all sides by a new MINI posse. Flabbergasted by the sudden
appearance of so many other welcoming MINIs, this newcomer MINI happily joined in
on the motoring adventure for many miles and generously donated $100 to Make A
Wish as well. It will be a story this family will recount for some time to come.
Great fun was had in the collective joy of driving together with so many other MINIs, and
in the camaraderie of being amongst other MINI enthusiasts. As if that weren’t enough,
thanks to the hard work of many club members, especially Tori Lucier, and donations
from sponsors, all participants in the event received a wonderful goodie bag full of MINI
swag and a beautiful one-of-a-kind event T-Shirt.
The original goal of the club was to raise $100 per car, so $3,000 or so was the
expected total for the Make a Wish Foundation. But thanks to the overwhelming
response by club members gathering pledges for miles driven and generous donations
of items from sponsors that were then raffled off to participants throughout the trip, an
incredible $10,680.60 was raised and presented to Make A Wish.
The event was a true success thanks to the hard work and planning by members of the
club. And plans are already being bantered about for another Crossing next year.
Should you go? Mark LaRacco summed up the experience: “It is great to be able to get
together with a group of people you’ve never met and immediately feel like they are old
friends. I mean really…What other car brings such a diverse group of people together?”
He adds “I am always struck by the way it makes people smile and wave seeing a group
of MINIs together. I love our MINIs and I love what happens when a group of us get
together. Taking a road trip as part of a MINI event should be mandatory after buying a
MINI. We had a great time and enjoyed the camaraderie.”
The organizers of MINIs Great Lakes Crossing wish to thank the generous sponsors,
who were: Detroit Tuned, Motor City MINI, International MINI, Out Motoring, Whalen
Machine, MC2 Magazine, M7, Cooper Flags, and MINI USA. Also, special thanks to all
the participants and contributors for helping make this event such a success.