MINI Takes the States 2010
Denver and back again: A MINI Journey
11 days, 10 states, 9 hotels, 3351 miles
MINI Takes the States is a National MINI Cooper event that occurs every two years. 100s MINIs from all across the country participate. The nature of the event differs each time and this year MINIs from all over converged on Denver as their eventual final destination place. Part of the adventure/event was traveling there along with many other MINIs
Our MTTS route took us from Okemos, MI, to Grand Rapids, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kansas City, Dodge City, to the main event in Denver.
Our return trip took us north through Wyoming and South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments as well as the Badlands, Wall Drugs and the Corn Palace.
It was a wonderful adventure, if not a tad bit exhausting
I’d do it again in a heartbeat and look forward to many more MINI adventures now.
I had three cameras for this trip (as well as a GoPro HD video camera):
- The 8 mp camera on my HTC Droid Incredible mobile phone
- Our 8 mp Sealife “point and shoot” (it’s very much like a Nikon Coolpix except you can also use it under water)
- My 6 mp DSLR Nikon D50
Below are some photos and a brief summation of our trip. All along the way we kept meeting new people and making new friends. The MINI USA Staff were wonderful and we befriended quite a few of them as we kept meeting up at each leg of the trip. We also as made new lifelong freinds with other drivers.
For the first leg of our trip we we met up with other Michigan MINIacs at the Dealership of MINI of Grand Rapids, on Sunday to head out at 7am for Chicago.
Lined up at MOGR (HTC Incredible)
There were 43 MINIs in the convoy to Chi-town. MOGR really put on a welcome spread with coffee, doughnuts and muffins before the drive commenced. They presented each car a swag bag with shirts and stuff, and even included $5 to cover the tolls on the way to Chicago! Talk about going the extra nine yards. It was a blast driving in line with 43 MINIs led by a van with a life sized MINI painted on the side all the way to Chicago.
When we all got to Chicago, MOGR fed us grilled burgers & hotdogs with all the fixins with sides as well delicious custom cookies. They even had MOGR water bottles. They really pulled out all the stops and did an amazing job kicking off the MTTS event for us Michigan MINI folk. Sadly it rained while the food was being prepared and eaten, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits, and when the sun came back out we hung with the MOGR staff and watched the MINIcross (autocross with MINI).
COOKIES! They were delicious (HTC Incredible)
Paul, the travel agent of the family, scored an amazing room in for us Chi-town. It was in the heart of the area we wanted to be. This was the view out our window and we could walk less than 15 minutes to the big MINI event that evening.
Our view in Chi-town (HTC Incredible)
The room had a set of corner windows , living & dining areas, a kitchen, TWO bathrooms and a huge bedroom, and yes, Paul somehow managed to get this suite for $139 a night! It was a great way to start the long trip and actually we ended up with pretty nice hotels the entire time, though I don’t think I will ever stay in a hotel suite quite as nice as this again. I don’t often take photos of our hotel rooms, but I not only took photos, but even filmed a video tour so we could share how cool the room really was
Our hotel room in Chicago (HTC Incredible)
MINI of Chicago put on a wonderful Countryman release party (introducing the new four door MINI) with a multitude of miniature food as well as free beer and wine. The description of the event said there would be “light food” so we ate dinner before hand. I wish we hadn’t because I was too stuffed to eat any of the wonderful looking tid-bits at the party. We could easy have made the appetizers at the party our dinner. Oh well, live and learn. We did consume quite a few free beers though
The next day we drove to Indy to meet up with hundreds of MINI lining up to drive on the track.
Lining up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Sealife)
We met up with some MI MINI peeps as well as few more of our MINI friends from other parts of the country and hung out in the sweltering heat until we got to get out on the track.
MINIs on the race track at Indy (Nikon D50)
MINIs on the race track at Indy (Nikon D50)
Paul on the Brickyard: “The Greatest Race in the World” (Nikon D50)
Here is a video of the MINIs driving on the track at Indy.
YOUTUBE: SQUIRLZ at Indy
After driving on the track the Indianapolis MINI dealer threw a big spread with BBQ pulled pork and chicken sandwiches with sides. The baked beans we’re honestly the best we have ever had. They even had a DJ spinning tunes from the roof of the dealership building.
The next day we headed to St. Louis, and again had a wonderful view from our room. Paul is quite the good travel agent. Believe it or not I took the photo below with my Droid Incredible phone. The picture quality on my new Droid is amazing, but it still doesn’t have the speed in snapping a photo like the Nikon DSLR does .
The view from our room in St. Louis (HTC Incredible)
We found that when participating in a MTTS event it not necessary at all to stay in the “host” hotel. You don’t miss anything if you stay elsewhere that might be more convenient or cheaper. In St. Louis we did stay at the host hotel because it worked out to be a good deal for us.
The St. Louis MINI event was the only event actually held at the host hotel. I have to admit is was a bit disappointing compared to all the other MINI events we attended during MTTS. Their “Taste of St. Louis” consisted of local root-beer, pretzels and cookies. They were supposed to have local ice cream as well, but didn’t. Paul was disappointed because he loves ice cream and was looking forward to it. They didn’t really do any decorating of the room and ran out of everything. Thought they may have, it really felt to me like they didn’t really care and/or try. Even though, we still had a good time hanging our in the bar with some or our new friends and then going out to dinner.
The day and next stop was Kansas City. The dealer there threw a very nice party at their Dealership and did a great job. We were a bit worried when the description on the sheet said “gourmet snow cones” and that was all, because we envisioned the St. Louis letdown. Well, not to worry. They had tons of all sorts of really good and different types of food, drink, sweets and fellowship. They had decorated the place up with balloons and it was a great party. Why they felt they needed to order all those pizzas on top of everything else I will never know. LOL We all made our way back to our hotels happy and stuffed.
The next day we headed for Dodge City in the sweltering heat.
I snapped the photo below, but it did actually get up to 104.
Three days of our trip the temperature got up into the 100s (HTC Incredible)
We somehow got off the official recommended driving route and received a driving award just outside of Wichita, even though we weren’t really going that much over the recommended speed. Later we met at least 6 other people who got awards it the exact same area. It seemed like every MINI that took that off course route received a memento of Wichita.
Dodge City was fun It was quite touristy, but being tourists, we kinda enjoyed it. The spread MINI threw at Boot Hill included a corny shoot-out with real guns (shooting blanks) and BBQed brisket that totally knocked the socks of of the “best BBQ in KS City” we had at a highly recommended restaurant the previous night in KS City.
Boot Hill (HTC Incredible)
After dinner, and after most people left Boot Hill, a bunch of us ambushed Jim McDowell, VP of MINI USA (the man in charge of MINI in the US), with squirt guns. I had a tiny little gat but it had excellent aim and I nailed Jim repeatedly in the noggin. LOL We were all laughing so hard and he got totally drenched. Paul caught it all on video and I will posted a link here as soon as I get it up on YouTube (I asked Jim if it was OK to post and he said yes)
After dinner we headed to the host hotel bar and hung with the hard working MINI USA staffers we had befriended on this trip as well as the previous MTTS. The bar was very cowboyie with lots of wood and brands and it even had a swinging door. After the worn out MINI USA peeps headed to bed we hung with some old friends we’d made from past MOTDs (MINIS on the Dragon is huge MINI event held annually NC/TN)
We were excited to get to Denver because that meant two nights in the same hotel. That evening MINI threw a swell soiree’ with food and drink and dancing and a wedding… you know, your standard party fare.
There next day there was a big drive into the mountains to Red Rock but we really needed a day off from driving so just enjoyed hanging out the MINI area with all our new and old friends as well as meeting even more people.
Xiek and Paul (HTC Incredible)
There was a great autocross setup on the roads around the big area where the main MINI event was held. It was really cool watching people put the MINIs through their paces. Paul run the autocross in an electric MINI mostly because he was curios to see how the electric MINI felt like. He said the weirdest thing about it was the lack of engine sound. He said the only sound he could hear as he drove the autocross was the squealing of tires
Paul drove the electric MINI (Sealife)
That evening there was a concert with Blues Traveler. You have to admit MINI really throws a great party.
Blues Traveler concert in Denver (Sealife)
Over the course of MTTS I really hit it off with Barbara McDowell she invited me and Paul to watch the concert from their lawn blanket. Of course the blanket was MINI black. LOL. It was a great place to see the concert from and we really had a great time with great people!
Paul, Me, Barbara and Jim McDowell (Sealife)
I love Jim’s shirt in this photo. It reads: MINI > PORSCHE
All in all, MTTS really could not have been any more fun. We met so many wonderful people, both MINI drivers and MINI USA staffers. MINI USA did an amazing job putting it all together. Of course not everything worked totally smoothly or perfectly, but in the scope of such a huge, long distance event, it was a pretty darn wonderful time. What really made it great is the journey that we all went through to get to the final destination. By the time you got to Denver you really felt like everyone was family.
Sunday morning we met one last time as part of MTTS to say a teary farewell to all our new freinds. We then headed north for more adventures. I have never been out West so really enjoyed seeing such different landscape. That afternoon we saw the Crazy Horse monument and Mt. Rushmore.
Crazy horse is HUGE! Can you spot the bulldozer?
Crazy Horse (Nikon D50)Crazy Horse (Nikon D50)
Paul and I at Mt. Rushmore
The next morning we explored a tourist “must”: Wall Drug.
Paul’s new ride (HTC incredible)
After Wall Drug we headed over to the Badlands. Wow, the Badlands are awesome! (Use of word in proper context) I have never seen anything like them before and I totally dug it! If you ever get a chance to go there, DO IT. The landscape is amazing and we saw a huge prairie dog town as well as antelope. We didn’t see any live jackalopes but did did buy a stuffed one at Wall Drug.
The Badlands (Nikon D50)
Prairie Dog (Nikon D50)
Tuesday we visited the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota then and drove, drove,and drove.
Paul at the Corn Palace (Nikon d50)
We got home Wednesday evening after 11 days on the road. Wow, what a trip!
I hope you enjoyed this write-up and I helped you experience some of what was MTTS
Sparky/Alfie hybrid in the Badlands (Nikon D50)
You can view more photos of our trip, and full sized copies on the photos shown in this article, here:
If you enjoyed this little article please know that positive feedback motivates me to write and shoot.
I’ll do this kind of article more often if I think people enjoy it.