Thursday, 31 July 2014

Day 5, Albuquerque, NM to Lubbock, TX

Greetings y'all!

We've made it in to the Lone Star State that is Texas. It's been another long drive that saw us cross another time zone. Before setting off, we'd already covered over 1500 miles, and today would see us edging ever closer to the 2,000 mike mark.

Breakfast was again held at the Sandia MINI dealership in Albuquerque, where yet again a fine spread was load on with no less than 6 different types of Breakfast burrito to choose from.

Today's drive would be more of a marathon, as we would head to Roswell for lunch but the twisty roads of Colorado were well behind us. The stop in Roswell would see us visit the museum, and see many shops proclaiming Aliens Welcome, they sure know where their bread is buttered! MINI also provided us with foil head shades to protect us from abduction, but Morris didn't get it and chose to use it as a paraglider!

The drive to Lubbock was long, with one stretch of 130 miles being almost dead straight! As such there isn't much to report. However there was a MINI welcoming committee on the state line waving everyone into Texas, no mean feat as we all run at our own pace!

With no event in Lubbock, it was up to us to do our own thing so we went out for steak. I opted for a Porterhouse which was juicy and tender, a perfect end to the day!

Two more days await us in Texas, next stop Austin!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Day 4: Grand Junction, CO to Albuquerque, NM

After the last two rain affected days, a sunny morning greeted us for the rise and shine event back at Allen's Unique Autos.

Tryon and I had received a recommendation on somewhere to stop near Santa Fe, so had hoped our route today would pass near by. It didn't, and on investigation we worked  out we had to leave straight away in order to get there. So that we did. Chris and Amy followed the MTTS route which included a summit of 11,000 feet and Ali got a ride in a plasti dipped R56 S in a starsky and hutch style. It was stripped out with a roll cage and recaros, with 225hp at the crank.

So off we went, and soon fantastic views of the Colorado Rockies were soon found. After whisking through some small towns, it was time to whisk through the mountains on some amazing twisty roads which we felt rewarded us for the detour. The only issue was dodging the number of chipmunks and rabbits that kept jumping out on us!     

News soon came through that the MTTS route had closed due to a serious accident, with traffic being diverted via a golf course. For most participants there were fears they wouldn't make the evening event in time.
However we continued about 100 miles further east, with clear open roads ahead and were soon driving across the prairie. A quick bite for lunch and then on towards New Mexico,which saw temperatures rise as high as 36 degrees. However they also dropped as low as 15 as we drove through a brief storm, I can't get used to these temperature changes!

We arrived at Lemy to find the saloon we had deviated to visit closed. Doh! However the diversion meant we did avoid the delays on the MTTS route. And soon we were in Albuquerque and headed to the party with a live band, bull riding lassoing and a decent food spread, although not great for vegetarians.

Tomorrow sees us set off for our first of 3 stops in Texas, Lubbock.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Day 3, Wendover, UT to Grand Junction, CO

So day 3 started with the news of more rain, which meant that Bonneville was closed and only available for photos. However it was irrelevant as we missed the junction and with the next one over 20 miles away, turning back wasn't an option.

So Tryon and I opted to stop at the Great Salt Lake near Salt Lake City instead, which was surprisingly warm! Today proved to be a battle dodging rain, by a few surprises lay ahead! As we carved our way through the mountains, we stopped in the small own of Helper, which was hostintg a car event itself. In attendance was some very exotic machinery, including a Lexus LFA and a Ferrari Enzo. 

We hit our stop after some frustration driving on US Rte 6, where a trail of over 20 cars were being held up by someone at 20mph below the posted limit and no way of passing. But the stop was worth it, as all participants were given a free drink which Morris enjoyed in the diner.

Arrival into Colorado and Grand Junction was uneventful, with Car and Driver magazine sponsoring a car wash to clear off bugs and salt. The evening event was held at an Automobile collection, with some spectacular cars. And more great food and drink provided. We got  approached by MINI who wanted to get our details so they can get our story, and Christine found some guys from MINI UK too.  However sad times as we had to say farewell to new friends from San Francisco as this was their last leg.

Tomorrow sees us head to Albuquerque, where we will visit a proper Western Saloon on the way.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Day 2: Reno, NV to Wendover, UT

And day 2 is over, and I got to drive a fair whack today too.
Rise and shine saw us gather at the foot of the Atlantis Casino and plentiful amounts of sausage or veggie burritos were ready for us all.

What we learned was that today's route was on the loneliest road in the world, as featured in Top Gear. I didn't believe it, but after passing through Fallon it became clear. There is NOTHING on US 50 for miles around, and the road is straight for miles, and I mean 10s of miles without your corner! That said you are never lonely in a MINI and there was always one in sight.

However it was probably around 200 miles of driving through mountains and desert with nothing else, a very eerie experience. The other oddity was the temperature changes. One minute it's 35 degrees out, next its down to 15! Then after that we've been driving through heights of up to 7400 feet too!

The evening event here in Wendover took place at the historic airfield, as seen in films such as Con Air. It was another opportunity to talk to others on the run, get some food and tonight was a dog pageant to raise money for the MTTS charity partner.

 Tomorrow sees us pass the Bonneville Salt Flats then on to Colorado.

Until then,

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Day 1 San Francisco, CA to Reno, NV

And the first days driving is done, with reaching Harrahs hotel and casino.

And what a lot of fun it was! Getting to the morning meeting, called Rise and Shine, where we got to meet loads of people. Asking all about us, why we're mad enough to venture out and take part. But the friendliness of those same people is the reason we didn't hesitate to make the decision to come.
And on to the driving. Well the roads sure were impressive, with California providing an amazing backdrop. However a couple of wrong turns meant we had to back track a couple of times and we ended up at the Sacramento dealer just as they were closing up, and got the last 4 food boxes. Meanwhile Ali was riding up front in an F56 with a manager from MINI USA.  However on the first part we were joined by one of the MINI PR cars, who filmed us as we led a trail of MINIs through Napa.

Despite dashing down the I-80 instead of the scenic route past Lake Tahoe, in order to get to Reno in time for the wedding, time was not on our time. Although not the scenic route, we still climbed to over 7000 feet through the Rockies, and there was still some spectacular views through the Donner Pass.

With jet lag still taking a toll (waking up at 2am each morning so far) we decided to miss the evening event in order to take it easy. Ali still went though, and met many more folks with stories to tell.
So tomorrow takes us to Wendover, Utah which will see me driving for the first time of the trip.
Until then, Phil.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

It starts

And so its begun. Team GB has started the Mini Takes the States adventure with a preview event at MINI of San Francisco.

And what an event they put on. A bar, DJ, Tony Hawk, canapés doing the rounds and of course hundreds of miniacs! Thanks to my ride for the trip Tryon, I got to meet some very cool people, including the US distributor for Duell AG and the president of Duell AG himself.

Morris and his Mersey Mini Club compatriot Crocker got spotted too, with some people easily recognising us thanks to their adventures on Facebook.  

Of course before all that we had a day in San Francisco to contend with. Morris dragged Christine, Ali and Tryon off to Alcatraz while I saw some sights, including the F56 of the guys from MINI goes all around, who are in the middle of their round the world adventure from Germany and back to Germany.

 Tomorrow sees the road trip begin, and it's off to Reno. Where there will be a MINI wedding to attend too. Its all go!

Until next time,

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Pre MTTS trip to Amsterdam

So I'm in Amsterdam for the day. Why you ask, well it was substantially cheaper to start my US trip from here than in London, despite the fact I will travel to San Francisco via London.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city, I'm not sure how many people appreciate it past the reputation for sex and drugs. The architecture is amazing and there's a real happy feeling amongst the locals. I've spent my afternoon exploring the 'Brown cafe's' , which is so similar to visiting a street corner local pub back home.

The main reason for this post is to test the blogging app and uploading photos. The pictures were all taken on my Nikon compact which has a WiFi mode to share to the tablet, which is how I plan to update for MTTS.

Until tomorrow!



Thursday, 17 July 2014

It's almost here.

Chris R56 JCW
My R58 JCW

Ali's R56 JCW

So, with just over a week to go, it's finally sinking in what's happening. Little did I know when I went out test driving cars with my friend Dan this time 5 years ago I'd be about to embark on a life long ambition - coast to coast across the USA. Especially as that day 5 years ago I was looking for a Vauxhall Astra Sport Hatch turbo diesel. 

How would that lead to such a MINI adventure? End up that way it did, and a few months later I was driving a MINI Cooper Diesel, which set me on the path to this trip. It led me to Surrey New Mini, which took me to MINI United with Christine, Phil, Janet, Garry & Ali and it's Christine that has been the driving force for MINI Takes the States. Without her tireless efforts sorting accommodation, finding Amy & Tryon who Chris and I will be riding with and organising Ali & myself to make sure we get to San Francisco on the right date none of it would be possible! The only things missing will be our cars, as my 2013 JCW Coupé, and Chris and Ali's 2011 JCW Hatch's will have to sit this one out, by virtue of the Atlantic ocean sitting in the way.

So next Friday Phil, Chris & Ali of Surrey New Mini will fly out to San Francisco to make new friends, and begin a MINI adventure of a lifetime. Fourteen nights, 18 states, 4,500 miles of what promises to be a memory making trip. I'll try and keep this blog updated as we go, including the adventures of Morris, the trips mascot kindly donated by Roger & Trish!

Morris, our mascot.

Don't forget to check Ali's blog, as I'm sure he'll have his insights on the trip too.