I’ll See You In Hell or How I Spent a Day in York

I’d heard for years how much fun people have in York and finally I had one day to find out! When Jenni and I left the Oxford MINI Plant, we drove north. It was supposed to be a little over 3 hours to get there, but we spent at least an hour sitting still on the M1.


While that gave us plenty of time to reminisce about our time in the MINI Plant and brainstorming strategies for me to acquire my next job driving MINIs off the assembly line, we ended up missing out on the Bloody York Ghost Walk.

By the time we arrived, I was worn out and the 5 hour drive hadn’t revived me. We went to the bar and I ordered a Guinness but about three-quarters of the way in my eyes began to shut and I called it a day. Jenni and I arranged to meet the next morning for breakfast.


We’d purchased a York Pass to visit the key attractions so our first stop was at the Tourist Information Office to pick them up. The lady there gave us a map and a few tips on what to visit first. The York Minister was a short block away so that seemed like a great place to start.


York Minister was stunning with amazing stained glass art and amazing sculptures throughout.

Our next stop was the Monk Bar and the Richard III Experience. It was a short walk from York Minister down some adorable streets with cute little shops. I had a hard time convincing Jenni not to stop but lured her with the promise of a day of shopping on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.


Exploring York, my new favorite city!

The Monk Bar is one of the gates to the walls of the city. I’m sure I read somewhere why they call them bars instead of gates but it escapes me now. Anyhoo, we flashed our York Pass and then climbed the creepy steps to the top.


I told her to look scared for the picture so she flashed some Blue Steel.

There were several flights…


An actual human skeleton. Creepy!

Inside we saw a replica of a prison cell.


Only short prisoners could enter this cell.

When we left we walked along the city walls to the other side of the York Minister.


York Minister from the city walls. Coincidently, I’ve been trying to find a way to live in one of these houses although the commute to my new job driving MINIs in Oxford would be harsh.

Our next stop was Barley Hall. They had set up a medieval christmas market inside so that’s really all we saw. While I didn’t capture any pictures, I did find a few medieval baubles.


I love British signs! Not sure where this guy lived but he was swell and it could have been somewhere nearby!

We decided to walk through the Shambles on our way to the next stop. To get there we had to pass through some Christmas markets!


The Shambles, a bit like Daigon Alley, but no wands or owls.

We passed through the Christmas market where I lost Jenni for a while.


So handy that Jenni wears bright colors so when she wanders off you are able to pick her out of a crowd!

We were making our way back to the car, but along the way we found the York Dungeon. It was on my list of things to do, though I couldn’t remember why. The exterior of the building was pretty nondescript with just a simple sign. As we walked in, there was a dimly lit, narrow staircase that turned and then there was a rope across the door. The girl working the rope line let me in and asked if I was alone. Jenni was still outside taking pictures. She asked me which one of us was guilty of a crime so I told her Jenni was (obviously). As soon as Jenni came up and rounded the corner, she handed her a sign, pushed us against the wall and snapped a photo.



We flashed our York Pass and bought a cold drink before heading through the door into the dungeon. When we entered the room, it was pitch dark. There was an illuminated head that appeared in a corner of the room that said the tour would soon be starting and that no photos or videos were allowed.

As we grew accustomed to the dark, we realized there were other people sitting on benches along the wall. A few minutes later a door opened and a woman walked through. She spoke with a charming cockney accent and was cute and vivacious… No wait, that was me in the Portsmouth Little Theater’s production of The Admirable Crighton in 1983 (according to the Virginia Pilot).

Anyhow she did have a cockney accent and she pulled one of the other people from our group over to one of the stained glass windows. As she was yelling at her to push on it quickly (because apparently we were being raided by Henry VIII) the bottom half of the window fell out. She ushered us out of the room and into the next where we met a “doctor’s assistant” from the time of the plague.

We sat on benches throughout the room. He pulled one guy up onto the stage and explained how he was going to “cure” him. When he mentioned the leaches, he yelled “Oh no, they escaped!” and suddenly the bench I was sitting on began to wiggle.

There was a tavern with a tavern wench who told us a ghost story and screamed over and over “I’ll see thee in Hell!” the lights went out and when they came back on she was directly behind us screeching “I’ll see thee in Hell” and cackling wildly.

We progressed from room to room. My favorite was the judge who found one guy guilty of being from Belfast and the executioner who gleefully explained how he was going to use all of his tools. At the last room, we were met by a man who pulled me aside, handed me a scroll, and told me to sit on the stage and read it. The scroll said I was going to be part of a great trick that would only involve me standing very still and to nod my head if I agreed. I looked up and nodded my head.

He pulled me up onto the stage in front of a bunch of wooden stakes and then told everyone I was a witch and he was going to burn me. There were logs piled in front of me and they began to glow, smoke started rising and suddenly the lights flashed and the funeral pyre I was standing on rotated. When they stopped, the crowd saw the burned corpse and I saw a sign on the wall that said stay very still and we will come and get you. They did and led me out to the gift shop to meet the rest of the group.


The girls in the gift shop only had one comment, “nice eye work, ladies.”

We left there and went to the Castle Tea Shop for lunch.


A lovely little tea shop in York!

There were lots of ladies in there and Jenni and I shared a delicious pot of tea and had some lunch.


Tea for two!


We loaded up the car and left. Our next destination was Dunblane which is north west of Edinburgh. I tried to play the new Janet Evanovitch book on tape, but about 45 minutes in it stopped unexpectedly and said I needed to download once again. I fired up my alternative playlist and we rocked out all the way to Scotland.


Those aren’t pink dredlocks. I bought a new hair tie from the medieval market and apparently they used to wear pink boiled wool hair spikes.

The journey continued and we skirted Edinburgh and finally arrived at the Doubletree Dunblane Hydro. I was upgraded to a family room. Jenni was upgraded to a palatial penthouse suite. Lucky for me, she doesn’t drink so she let me have dinner in her dining room and gave me her bottle of wine!

12290457_10206744987076752_934978580_o (1).jpg


Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Day I Realized I’d Chosen the Wrong Career Path

When I arrived in London, Jenni was already waiting for me, freshly rested from her luxurious, first class, flat bed seat. We picked up some sparkling water and snacks and then boarded the shuttle to the Sixt lot to pick up our car. I’d gotten super excited when I realized they had MINIs for rent, even if they were Countrymen (no offense Countrymen drivers).

Sadly, when we arrived she told us that they’d just purchased a whole fleet of MINI Countrymen but they were all of the lot and if we wanted to come back the next day after 4 we might be able to get one. Given our quick timetable, that wasn’t an option so we settled for the Vauxhall Mokka or as I’ve decided to call it, the behemoth. I didn’t realize just how large it was until we started to pull out of the lot and at that point it was too late to turn around and beg for a Fiat instead (#hindsight).

I pulled out on the road and headed toward Oxford. Driving on the left is no big deal for me now and I made pretty good time without side swiping anyone, in spite of the massive size of the beast I was driving.

We found Oxford but then discovered that the GPS had routed us to some random place in the center of town. In the center of the town with incredibly narrow and windy streets! We pulled over and I broke out my phone and fired up the Google Maps (thanks T Mobile!)

We had originally planned to try to find some Harry Potter venues to kill some time before we went to the plant, but driving that massive monster through the tiny city streets dissuaded me and we went to the plant a little early instead.



Since we had time to kill when we arrived, we headed into the MINI shop right away. I’d hoped to pick up a few cool souvenirs. Sadly, the only items I found were things they sell at my dealer for the same price but without the foreign conversion rate. I didn’t buy anything but Jenni picked up some super cute orange wheel caps (her first mod!)


Shopping in the MINI Plant is fun!

Then we entered the museum. It was fantastic. My favorite was the pink MINI with tons of flowers and other decorative designs.


There was a girl side (pink) and a boy side (blue). Super cute!

I also loved the one Michael Caine donated, which apparently his wife Natasha Caine designed as a tribute to the Italian Job.


The paint job on this was stunning. The black appeared to ripple like a curtain and the gold bars actually glistened. Nicely done Natasha Caine!

When the tour began, we had to put on color-coded vests and pick up a headset and a pair of safety goggles. We also had to lock our phones and bags into a special room.


We were in the purple group, which coordinated nicely with our outfits #winning

Our tour guide, Louise, was fantastic. Her husband works in the plant and she told us she gets a new MINI every nine months. She wants a silver JCW with a red roof more than anything else in the world, but when the list of cars comes out they get to select one based on seniority and those are usually the first to go! She said her husband has a BMW because they are only allowed 1 MINI per family. She won’t let him drive hers…

I wish I had some pictures from the plant to show you. It was absolutely amazing! The first part we saw was a giant space filled with massive robots. They looked almost human as they picked up seemingly random pieces of metal and then held them while another robot welded bolts on to it. We walked around the floor and it was incredible to see the cars begin to take shape! By the time we got through that section, the cars were fully recognizable and headed to the paint shop.

We didn’t get to see any of the paint shop and moved on to the assembly area. That’s where they began putting the pieces in the car. As we walked in we had to dodge robot carts that carried center consoles from one side to another. The workers stood on conveyor belts and performed their tasks as the cars floated by. It was magical! Louise explained that each car was built as it was ordered. They don’t mass produce any cars. The plant in Oxford makes three different models (cabrios are made in Holland) and they were floating by in order of when they were ordered. Also, the combination of options or trim varies so much that most of the cars are unique. That means that as they assemble them, the parts they need for each car have to arrive in the same order as the actual car. They make cars that go all over the world, so some have right side drivers and some have left side drivers. There are a billion different options: seats, lights, paint, other options… They make up to 1,800 cars a day and each part for every car is synchronized to arrive at the perfect moment. It was like magic!

As we neared the end of the tour, we saw the cars coming off the line. They had guys who wait for the car to come off the line and then drive them away. That’s when I realized I had chosen the wrong career path. These guys drive the cars to different lanes depending on which port they are headed to and sometimes they drive the car around for a test run! Brand new MINIs, fresh off the assembly line! And they get paid to drive them!

As we boarded the van back to the gift shop I quietly asked about the necessary job skills to be the person who drives the MINIs. Louise said you have to be able to drive on both left and right side. Hallelujuh! My prayers were answered! Now all I need is for them to have a post a vacancy…


We went back to the beast I had rented and climbed in. Next stop York!


I think I could beat this record…




Posted in Getting Around, Life Story, MINI | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Jenni and I met in New York with plenty of time to enjoy the Virgin Clubhouse. If any of you read my blog last year or the years before, you’ll know how much I was looking forward to spending some quality time here!

It was our boss’s birthday so when we settled into a corner of the clubhouse and the server offered us some champagne, we decided to take her up on it, you know for Ron. I didn’t want them to judge Jenni for not drinking so I quickly drank hers as well (I’m thoughtful like that). The server came back as soon as I set Jenni’s glass down and filled them both up again. I care so much for Jenni, I continued to drink hers every time it got refilled.


Happy birthday, boss! This one is for you!

I took a quick break to head over to the spa for a facial, which was very relaxing and left me with a glowing complexion and no makeup. When I rejoined Jenni, who was had at work responding to emails and making calls, I ordered some fried olives.


The hardest worker I know!

Our server asked Jenni if she wanted any and she said no. The server convinced me to try the lamb sliders as well. I was less excited about the sliders but she was trying so hard to help us I agreed. I think she thought Jenni needed something after all the champagne because she brought her an order of fried olives and lamb sliders as well.


Fried olives. Jenni doesn’t eat fried foods so I had to eat hers as well…

I didn’t care much for the lamb but the olives were amazing. I didn’t want her to think Jenni was getting hammered and didn’t have any nourishment so I ate hers as well.


Jenni just kept working…

For some reason I decided to have a gin cocktail because clearly the champagne had impaired my judgement (you have no idea what gin does to me!)


Take my advice, friends. Avoid this delicious cocktail. It’s amazing but it’s full of gin and that’s just dangerous. 

Jenni’s flight to London was on Delta and she’d used her global upgrade to get a flat bed and she had to walk to a different section of the terminal. I was flying on Virgin and my flight was right next to the clubhouse and left a half hour later.

Most of the rest of our evening passed in a bit of a blur. I do remember there was an elderly couple who mentioned they were on my flight and promised Jenni they would make sure I made it on the plane. Jenni and I agreed to meet up at baggage claim once I arrived and she headed out.


Preflight cocktail? Why not?

I did make it to my flight on time and on my own (I think). The row I was in was configured in two-three-two seating. I had an aisle seat in the center block and there was a young mum and her three-year-old daughter. I babbled on and on about how cute she was (because gin) until after we took off. They served dinner and I was still awake and decided to have the Guinness Stew. It was not great. I choked down a few bites, waited for them to take my tray away, popped a couple of melatonin chewies and tried to sack out.

I dozed on and off for a while until suddenly all the lights came back on and I shot upright in my seat thinking we were about to land. We weren’t, they just wanted to serve another round of that Guinness Stew. I put on a sleep mask and tried again. Then I dozed off and on until they started to announce our arrival. Although, we weren’t actually arriving for another hour, I guess they wanted us to be aware and stop sleeping. Sadly, this also disturbed the three-year-old who began screaming uncontrollably. I knew how she felt. She settled down after a while and I was able to sleep another 15 minutes and then I felt the landing. So did the three-year-old and the screaming started all over again.

I got off the plane as quickly as I could and discovered a few messages from Jenni who had been ushered through Fast Track passport control and was sitting with her feet up near baggage claim three.

I was not ushered through Fast Track and entered the Disneyland line for passport control. As I made my way around and around I passed the couple from the Virgin Lounge who said they were relieved to see I’d made it! Once I made it through I headed out to Baggage to meet up with Jenni and begin our adventure!


Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DCMM Annual Costume Contest

It was a small but determined crowd who turned out for the Passport MINI Annual Costume Contest. DCMM President Ali Drew was the first to arrive and was busy turning Tigger into a “Bad S” when my friend Dave and I arrived.


Attaching Tigger’s spiked collar. Totally badass.

We parked next to her and watched as she plastidipped her design and handily secured the SuckUp Award.


Nobody can compete with Ali for the Suck Up Award. She’s perfected her technique.

Laura arrived and set up an entire tableau around her MINI.


Laura constructed a complex tableau that involved Barbie driving Ken’s car!

German pulled in and we all watched in wonder as he began attaching a series of black and yellow Solo cups to his car.


It took us a few seconds to figure out where German was going with all of his solo cups. He’d actually attached magnets in each one to keep them on the car!

Finally Yana arrived with the cutest contestants of the day! They pulled in with MINI Mouse ears and skirt already attached, which was very impressive! Then they further dazzled the crowd when an entire troupe of Mouseketeers.


Absolutely the cutest competitors in the competition, we all agreed!

The judges wandered through and My Precious was immediately disqualified because of her costume.


Not my fault Austin Power’s time machine was a Volkswagon, I was staying true to the concept but got disqualified from the competition!

The Mouseketeers won a participation prize (and as the cutest competitors, it was highly deserved!)


Well deserved participation prize for the Mouseketeers!

Dave won an honorable mention prize for his smashing Austin Powers costume.


Smashing, baby!

Ali won the coveted SuckUp award everyone else is too intimidated to compete for!


Ali’s model Melissa’s Ouija Board socks were also totally badass and clearly all signs pointed to Ali once again winning the coveted Suck Up Award.

Laura’s Barbie tribute also won an honorable mention. The grand prize however, was awarded to German for his amazing Lego MINI.


Lego MINI. Brilliant! Well deserved grand prize recipient German holds up his shiny new MINI bag!

Posted in DC Metro MINIs, DCMM | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Day in Montreal

Jenni and I didn’t have a lot of time in Montreal, but that wasn’t actually a problem for us since the weather was pretty miserable. We met for a quick breakfast so I could check Montreal bagels off my to do list.


Montreal is famous for their bagels. Apparently they cook them in a wood fired oven. I’m not sure of the difference between that and a New York bagel, but they were WAY better than the bagels in a bag you get in your typical grocery store.

It was a little chilly and very wet when we left the hotel so we decided to start our tour in the underground city. I’m not sure if that’s where we ended up when we told the concierge where we wanted to go, but we did make it underground and found a tremendous number of shops!


60 boutiques sounds impressive. There were actually 60 boutiques in just that wing! There were dozens of wings and two or three different floors, (that we found).

The first shop we stopped in was the Dollarama. They had umbrellas and we thought those would be a good investment. I also found some adorable red heart earmuffs.


Score! Super cute and only $3 Canadian which is probably like fifty cents in the US! Also, I think the red makes my new blue hair pop.

We stocked up on a few other essentials like candy and gum and then ventured out into the rest of the mall. There were a lot of shops and we wandered through them for a while but then we decided to utilize our new umbrellas and see more of the city.


Chinatown in Montreal

We wandered up and down a few streets and even stumbled across Chinatown and the red light district (which was much easier to find than Amsterdam, but a lot smaller and seedier!) We walked to the Notre Dame Basilica from there.


My selfie of Jenni’s selfie in front of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Basilica was just as beautiful on the inside as it was on the outside and only cost $5 for a tour.


Hard to take a shot without tourists, we were everywhere!

It was getting late and we were hungry so we walked to a small cafe down the street.


Very french cafe with rickety little chairs, pots of red flowers on every table and escargot (which were delicious!)

After lunch we felt refreshed and decided to shop for a few souvenirs.


Saint Paul Street was full of cute little souvenir shops.

As the day wore on, we decided to head back to the hotel to dry out and take advantage of the dozens of free drink tickets we’d acquired when we checked in.


The old city in Montreal is charming but we were cold and wet!

We went to our rooms to dry out and then met in the bar for happy hour.


Table service was slow so I quickly realized it would be necessary to order two drinks at a time!

The bartenders were swamped so we sat at a table and waited for the waiter to come over. It took so long we decided to order our drinks two at a time. Thankfully, Jenni doesn’t drink so I could order one for me and one for “her”. I started with a Bloody Mary because it’s a healthy choice. Sadly, their version involved a TON of tomato juice and a few tablespoons of tabasco. I choked one down but the next time we caught the waiters eye I switched to red wine instead. It wasn’t much better, but the more I drank the better it got!

We’d booked a ghost tour for that evening and had to walk to the ticket office to meet our guide. By the time we left the Doubletree, it was really raining hard and the temperature had dropped even more.


Look at how perky our umbrellas were! Mine even said Canada which seemed like it would make a great souvenir to take home!

We’d been told to meet our guide at the Place Royal, which was the first town square of Montreal. There were at least 50 other tourists huddled under their own umbrellas waiting as well. They’d divided us into three groups. When our guide arrived, our group followed her down an alley to another street.


Our tour guide was entertaining and looked creepy enough.

There were some rude American girls who were giggling and heckling the tour guide as she began telling her stories. The first story was about a hanging or something. I’m not sure because the rude American girls were all crowding around the tour guide and had positioned their umbrellas so that nobody could see past them or hear what was going on. Suddenly, we took off walking again and trudged through huge puddles hidden by cobblestones in dark alleys. When she stopped to tell another story we began to realize that her stories were random and had nothing to do with were we were standing. Then we started to wonder why we were walking in circles in the pouring rain.


Heavy winds were causing our umbrellas to fail!

We walked around a bit more but to be honest, Jenni and I weren’t having a ton of fun. We just kept getting wetter and colder and wetter and colder and finally I suggested we sneak away and head back to our hotel so I could try to drown myself in my jacuzzi tub!


It was a long, cold walk but my unfailing sense of direction led us right to the Embassy Suites! The first thing we did when we walked in the door was cram those poor broken umbrellas in the trash can!

Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

And This is Why I Work so Hard to Maintain My Status

I had back to back business trips and didn’t see the point in going all the way home in between so I invited Jenni to join me for a weekend in Montreal. I didn’t have time to fly all the way to Paris, but it’s a French speaking town so it seemed like the next best thing!

When our training was over on Thursday, everyone else left town but there weren’t any flights to Montreal that late so I spent the night at the Des Moines Doubletree. It’s an interesting hotel with an Italian steakhouse and really beautiful Asian art throughout the lobby. I’d chipped a nail so the woman checking me offered to have the shuttle driver run me over to Walgreens for some polish. Super helpful! I decided to make it a spa night and got a hair mask as well. When I got back and went up to my room I discovered they’d upgraded me to the corner suite. It had a separate area with a giant couch and TV.


TV area of my spacious Doubletree suite.

I’ve ordered plenty of room service, so I was understandably nervous when I ordered and she pronounced everything “eye-talian” but the pasta dish with olives, tomatoes, and feta was actually one of the most delicious eye-talian dishes I’ve ever had! My entire stay was fabulous and I am currently thinking of more projects I can do in Iowa just so I can return to that Doubletree!


Not a lot to do at the Des Moines International Airport, but at least it’s easy to find your gate!

I had an afternoon flight from DSM to MSP and from there to Montreal. I was upgraded to first class and spent the short time working on emails and knocking back spicy Bloody Marys. It didn’t take long to reach Canada, but then time flies when you are having a really good time, no?


I’m all work, work, work!

Making my way through customs was problematic. First, I apparently arrived during rush hour. There were literally hundreds of people ahead of me in line. I waited my turn until I got to the front and discovered they had about 50 kiosks. That is when I realized the flight attendants hadn’t passed out any declaration cards and I was unprepared. There weren’t a lot of people working so I wandered around through the crowd looking for the cards. I found them and then found a pen and quickly filled one out. I went to another kiosk to try again. That didn’t work. I tried over and over but it refused to accept my card. I walked around looking for someone who was working there and when I finally found one he said, “pink ink is unacceptable” and walked away. I went back to the declaration card table and dug around in my bag for another pen. The only other one I had was purple but I decided to give it a shot. I returned to the kiosk and this time it worked. Then I took my receipt and got back in line to exit. The line moved pretty slowly and when I got to the front they took my receipt and said “thanks” and that was it! No one even looked at my passport, let alone stamped it. I’m puzzled by the whole process!

FullSizeRender (2)

Totally worth the two-hour process to get out of the airport when I got to my hotel!

Since it had taken over an hour to make it through the customs process, I found my bag waiting for me when I emerged. I picked it up and hit up the ATM before getting to the taxi stand. That involved another 15 minute wait but eventually I got a cab and made it to the hotel.

The front desk staff were super friendly. They told me they were really happy to see me and had upgraded my room to the Presidential Suite. They said I’d missed happy hour but that they were going to give me all the drink tickets so I could make up for it tomorrow night. I asked if they had a map of the old city and almost before I finished saying it, the concierge was behind me with a map in his hand.


I like cocktails and I love happy hour, but even I couldn’t drink this much.

I lugged my bags up to my suite. When they called it the Presidential Suite, they weren’t kidding! The hallway opens up to the bathroom with a separate shower and a jacuzzi tub. The bedroom had a separate seating area with a fireplace and large TV. The living room has a full kitchen, a bar, and a dining table that seats six. There’s also a sectional couch with chaise lounge, another fireplace, and a desk in the living room.


Really, it’s as big as my condo and it has twice as many fireplaces!

It was late and I hadn’t had any dinner so I ordered some Canadian food.


Smoked meat sandwich. Two thumbs up! Already I like Canadian food and I haven’t even gotten to any of the maple syrup treats.

After a soak in the jacuzzi I wrapped up in the plush robe they left me and curled up in front of the fireplace to wait for Jenni (though I apparently slept through her arrival, texts, and phone calls!)


The view from one of my bedroom windows. Bonjour Montreal!

Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

36 Hours in Canada

Because it didn’t make any sense to go all the way home when I had to be in Iowa on Friday and New York City on Sunday…

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 4.56.12 PM


Posted in Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment