Road Diaries: Mini Takes the States
The excitement was palpable as MINIs lined up in anticipation for the launch of 2010 MINI Takes the States at BMW’s North American Headquarters in Wood Cliff, New Jersey on Friday morning. A lot of that energy had to do with the local cheerleading squad who led the way for the rallying drivers to the parade of cars, pom-poms and all.
To get into the heads of these MINI owners, I’m masquerading as one of them all week long on the road to Denver. I first met my MINI accomplice this morning. It lingered near the end of the pack of the kick off parade – a red six-speed manual hardtop. Seats down, I added my two small suitcases and laptop bag to the cooler, suitcase and bag of odds and ends already packed. All suited up I was ready for one week of MINI rallying.
Jim O’Donnell, BMW President of BMW North America, lingered in the crowd to listen to the opening remarks from his MINI colleagues. He won’t be driving with us, but he said it sounded like fun. I asked him what he thought owners take away from the rally. “The event emphasizes the sense of community among MINI owners,” he said. “They are a truly diverse group.”
Looking at the crowd of what appeared to be about 100 drivers, I could see his point. What makes a MINI person? So I took it upon myself to investigate what these MINI owners share in common – one day into my journey I’d go with the answer a group of owner gave me over lunch of cheese steak fare at the Simeone Auto Museum in Philadelphia. “We are creative.”
After the first leg or our route, some drivers bid their goodbyes, while new additions fold into the group. Conversations consisted of people’s route plans, buzz about that Countryman and the cool newest MINI custom features. I noticed that MINI owners refer to their cars by gender. The day ended in a balmy Baltimore night for an informal MINI dinner. One block away, the Orioles would go on to edge out the Chicago White Sox breaking a 10th inning tie. I had to skip the game in order to contemplate my drive and to ponder whether or not my pretend-MINI is a boy or a girl.