Border Crossing Like a Boss

I got a late start on my journey to Canada but I need the sleep! I found a local coffee shop and then set a course for the Costco gas station nearest to the Canadian border!

When I got to the border I chose the wrong line and had to wait over thirty minutes to talk to the Canadian border guy. Then I realized his line took the longest his line because he was so delightful! We had a lovely chat about my pending journey thru Canada to get to the rally. Turns out he was from Kitchener (where I planned to spend the night) but he was really sorry he couldn’t give me any recommendations since his family moved away from there when he was three.

From the border it was a long (dull) ride to Kitchener. I finally arrived at the Crowne Plaza and they upgraded me to a corner suite with a nice view of the downtown area.

Is Kitchener a German town? I should’ve researched more.

It had been a long day so I ordered in some poutine and called it a night.

The next morning was my longest drive. I rolled out fairly early and turned on my Canadian playlist (nothing but Men Without Hats, a national treasure! Then I pulled into Tim Horton to get a maple donut (because Canada!) and I was dismayed to discover they didn’t have ANY maple flavored donuts of any kind. Then the cashier and I tried to out-nice each other, which didn’t end well for me. You should never try to out-nice a Canadian! Instead of the four cheese bagel with cream cheese I wanted, I ended up with a plain bagel with butter! But we both enjoyed the experience so it was fine.

This abandoned building was my favorite part of Kitchener TBH.

Then I drove forever and ever on the freeway. I decided to stop and buy some souvenirs so I pulled into the Real Canadian Superstore. It turns out they don’t carry much in the was of Canadian souvenirs. If I hadn’t arrived the day after Canada Day they probably wouldn’t have had any!

All I wanted was a T-shirt with a maple leaf.

I decided I’d just pick up a few goodies at the duty free store at the border. I resumed my drive and things got much more interesting when I crossed into the Quebec province. Suddenly there were French road signs!

Bonjour! Oui! Merci!

I stopped to pay a fortune for gas and saw another Tim Horton. Since I’d skipped lunch I popped in for a maple donut. Everyone there spoke French but I was able to point to the only maple donut they had left and somehow communicate iced mocha!

So Canadian!

After that I turned off the freeway and the best part of the drive began.

What a cute sign! Thankfully the universal color and shape helped me understand the intent.

It was glorious! The road passed through a lot of little villages and twisted through very fun curves.

I had so much fun here!

Time flew by until suddenly I arrived at the border. The duty free store was closed and the whole place looked deserted.

I was a little worried the border was closed!

When I pulled into the inspection lane and shut off my car the border agent came out. I think he was thrilled to see me. He asked why I’d been in Canada and I pointed to the Rally sticker on my bonnet. Then we had a lovely talk about the rally and the rest of my travels. Honestly, those border guys were all just super nice!

And just like that I was in Vermont!

It took me a while to get to my AirBnB in Hardwick. I had hoped to pass a grocery store and a car wash but no such luck! Instead I unpacked the car and made myself dinner out of road trip snacks.

There’s a chicken coop out there!

Tomorrow I will find a car wash and a grocery store. Tonight I dine on jerky and Perrier!

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Getting Ready to Reunite and Rally

Is there anything more exciting than getting ready for a vacation? All of the excitement of planning and packing and planning some more and then repacking… It’s honestly one of my favorite things! Because we have been experiencing a global pandemic, the biennial MINI Takes The States has been repeatedly postponed, but no longer. In 2022 we are all ready to reunite and rally!

#MTTS2022 Reunite and Rally

Because I have a lot less vacation time than I used to, I planned my route so that I could travel to Vermont during the long holiday weekend and then work from there until the rally starts. I plotted a route that would allow me to drive through Canada (super scenic and universal health care) and then stay near Burlington. I booked hotel rooms near the morning rally sites for each day of the rest of the drive.

Used my hotel points to stay as close to the morning rally sites as possible

After I secured my lodging, I spent some time packing, then unpacking, then packing again…

There isn’t much room in the boot, so most of this will have to ride in the backseat.

Finally I finished up by doing some last minute stickering.

QR code for anyone who wants to follow the trip on the blog and a Spotify code for my ever evolving playlist!

The headlamp ring on my passenger side was damaged so I replaced it with a new one.

First step was removing the damaged ring. Then I popped on the new one. Piece of cake!

I roll out early on Saturday morning. I can’t wait to get started!

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Frederick to Roanoke

My favorite things about the MINI community are my car (obviously) and the people! I’ve made so many great, lifelong friends at MINI events that I can’t imagine not having in my life. The best part of the drive from Frederick to Roanoke was reconnecting with a lot of old friends from the DC Metro MINI Club!

The day started off at the Frederick Fairgrounds. As we entered they lined us up on what appeared to be a horse track. I rolled in a little late and one of my very best friends Melissa and her husband Dan were already there! Melissa was the first person who introduced me to MTTS and in 2016 she and I formed our own little caravan from Atlanta to Palm Springs.

Just like old times!

While Melissa and I were reminiscing about our adventures Corey arrived and not long after that we saw Ross as well!

This time he’s wearing a shirt and doesn’t have cupcakes but it was still great to see Corey again!

The bulk of the day was spent on Skyline Drive. I was with my regular crew but as soon as we entered the park I saw Dan and Melissa’s MINIs on the side of the road. I stopped to see if they needed help but they were only there while Melissa tuned into a work call. I decided to wait for them and spend the day driving together.

Dan is super handy with the camera and we took a few snaps while we waited for Melissa

When we got in the park we stopped at an overlook for photos.

This was one of my favorite stops
We took a lot of photos!
I miss these people when they aren’t around!

Eventually Dan and Melissa had to turn off and head for home so I booked it to Roanoke. I made great time and checked in to my hotel before heading out to have some Thai food with the boys. As I left the hotel I ran into Corey and Ross who said they were going to a pinball museum later.

The pinball museum was across the street from our restaurant so Marc and Brian and I went to check it out.

I scored over 2 million on this game #pinballwizard

We left a little before eight and Marc, recognizing my pinball wizardry, popped an important question in the museum parking lot!

I said yes! Now we are going to be pinball partners for life!

Another fantastic day, though I’m sad we are getting closer to the end!

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Burlington to Vernon

After a quick nights rest it was time to Rise and Rally! I met Brian, Marc, Frank and both Georges so we could ride in together. We parked and then headed into the arena to grab breakfast.

Breakfast was baby burritos, apples, juice and coffee. Afterwards we took advantage of the photo props.

When it was time to load up the cars, Brian told me the Georges needed a pit stop first so they were going to pull out of the line and stop by the hotel. I decided to exit the venue with everyone else but pull over and wait for them. Everything was going swell and I was taking some great video until one of the rally crew politely asked me to move along!

I drove up to the end of the street and pulled in behind another MINI. Turns out they were locals who didn’t know about the rally but lived in the area and came to check it out. We had a lovely chat and then Jennifer and Nat showed up and said they wanted to tag along!

Finally the boys arrived and we took off. almost as soon as we started going I got a low tire alert. I was running behind Marc and Brian but apparently they couldn’t see me frantically flashing my high beams and pointing at gas stations as we flew past them. I was monitoring the Row pressure and it didn’t appear to be changing which was lucky for me because we drove four miles before Marc had to take a pit stop and Brian pulled into a gas station!

Brian came to my rescue with his VERY handy portable air gun.

We drove thru a bunch of cute little towns and then decided to stop again. We pulled into a gas station and everyone got out to use the bathroom. As we prepared to load back up another driver walked by and told us there was free ice cream at the shop next door. Frank charged over and we all loped along behind him.

Peanut Butter swirled ice cream, my favorite!

It turned out the guys buying everyone’s ice cream were trying to get everyone to get a MINI credit card. They were so nice and the ice cream was so delicious, I signed up for one while they were there! They also told me I’d get quadruple points on gas and wouldn’t that be helpful on my cross country road trip?

The rest of the trip was more fun driving until we finally arrived in Poconos PA!

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And Away We Go!

The MINI Takes the States 2022 began on a bright summer morning in Farr’s Field, just south of Burlington. I couldn’t sleep so I was up and on the way well before seven!

By the time I arrived so had a lot of other cars! I ended up halfway back in the second row.

So many MINIs!

I walked over to get some breakfast and found a bunch of my old friends!

Cynthia and I were our own little caravan to MTTS 2018!

Everyone had a great time catching up and eating pancakes.

I caught the boys jumping for joy!

When we rolled out I was ahead of everyone I knew so I just tried to follow the MINIs ahead of me. Sadly, that meant I missed the first few photo spots on the App. I blew right by them but got to drive on some super fun twistys.

My only photo capture on day 1 and it was completely accidental!

I kept driving it I saw a group of MINIs turn off and thought they must have been going somewhere fun so I tailed them.

We drove around a prison and suddenly turned down a gravel lane. The road climbed a hill behind the prison and I began to worry we were there to bust someone out. They turned into a tiny path that appeared to be part of an old cemetery. I was still trying to play it cool like I was down with whatever (I’m a follower!) when they suddenly began backing out. That’s when I realized my friend Christine (@minitreking on the Instagram) was involved!

Turns out they thought they’d found a twisty road but it had been closed off and converted to private land. All in all it was a super fun adventure!

Entering the graveyard…

The final stop for the day was a gas station with a car wash (necessary after the graveyard caper!) I had a low key night to rest up for the next day.

MINIs Take the Hampton Inn
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Anticipation Was Killing Me So I Left Early

I was eager to hit the road, especially after I saw a bunch of friends from California were already on their way! So I tried to Tetris all of my bags in the car on my lunch break and headed out right after work.

Everything I need for the next three weeks!

The traffic was pretty light as I headed south on Lake Shore until I got downtown.

I will never get tired of this view!

I forgot my Waze was set to avoid tolls so I ended taking the scenic route to Indiana.

About to pass under Indiana?

I was thinking of spending the night in Kalamazoo because they have a Costco and I only had a half a tank, but the stop and go traffic actually drained my tank faster then I anticipated so I decided to stop in Indiana. Afterwards I pulled into the Michigan rest stop for a quick photo op and to try to book a hotel.

Pure Michigan at sunset 😍

I realized I was making great time so I looked for a hotel closer to Detroit. It only took a couple more hours and I was all tucked into the Holiday Inn in Jackson, ready to sleep a few hours before my visit to Canada!

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Spending a Day in South Dakota

In 2006 I spent a day driving through SD during MINI Takes the States. It was one of my favorite days ever. This trip didn’t disappoint. I drove through Deadwood on my way out of town and then took the Black Hills Parkway to Rapid City. From there it was a quick trip down the highway to Wall, SD.

You can’t drive through South Dakota without being enticed to visit Wall Drug, there are ads for it every hundred feet or so across the state!

This actually is one of the least interesting ads, but it was the only one I could get close to!

Wall Drug is famous for offering free ice water. That’s how they began to draw people in and it’s only grown from there! I hadn’t had breakfast so I got a maple donut and a large coffee and sat in the Art Gallery Dining Room.

This is supposed to be one of the largest collections of original Western Art in the country. I believe it!

After breakfast, I did a little shopping and spent a lot of time just wandering around ogling the sights.

I wasn’t the only one who was enthralled by the decor!

When I left Wall Drug, I drove to the Badlands. There was a little wait to get in and the Park Ranger was very enthusiastic about my car! I drove the Badlands Loop Road and stopped occasionally for photos.

The scenery in the Badlands is incredible!

The other thing I love about South Dakota is the 80 mph on their freeways! I saw one state trooper and he was busy and didn’t seem to notice when I blew past! It’s a good thing South Dakota doesn’t appear to care much about limiting speed because I had to drive across the state to get to my next stop. I stopped for a quick lunch and then set out for the Corn Palace.

The buffalo hot dog was really good!

It took hours to get to Mitchell, home of the Corn Palace. And it was pretty crowded so I had to park a block away and walk in. I read some corn facts and then did a little shopping.

Excited to wear my Corn Star shirt tomorrow!

That was my last stop so I hopped back on the freeway and motored down to Sioux Falls> Tomorrow is my final vacation day as I work my way back to Chicago. Sad that it’s going to end but planning to cram a couple more fun stops in before I get home.

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534 Miles of Fun

Another day where I rose before the sun, only this time I had a massive drive planned. I was taking the long way so I could drive through Yellowstone. I wasn’t going to be able to see the Grand Prismatic Spring or Old Faithful, but I could swing past the West Thumb Geyser Basin. The route I planned was 534 miles so I didn’t plan on making a lot of stops.

Didn’t even make it out of the Grant Tetons park and I got held up by some buffalo crossing the street!

The drive into Yellowstone was incredible, although there were large stretches that had been ravaged by forest fires which left ghostly tree skeletons.

Yellowstone is glorious. I want to come back when I have more time!

I found the West Thumb Geyser Basin, which smelled awful! While I was there one of the geysers was erupting but just barely and there was so much smoke you couldn’t see it in my pictures.

They are really good at the warning signs! I was a nervous wreck that my balance would fail and I’d tumble off the boardwalk and into a smelly, boiling hole!

After I stopped at the geysers, I tried to hustle out of the park. There were more buffalo crossing the street that held me up and I saw a sign for an overlook at a summit which lured me off track for a bit too.

I didn’t stay at the overlook long because I notice they’ve had a bear problem.

After I left the park I realized I needed gas and I wanted to pick up a sandwich for my picnic lunch. I was passing through Cody and got redirected because their holiday parade was about to march through town. I pulled into a gas station and as I was filling up I met Sandy! She was admiring my car and we struck up a conversation. Turns out she’s from NW Indiana so we are practically neighbors! Also, she works in Chicago frequently. She was traveling with her daughter Maghan and her granddaughter Avery. We took some pictures and exchanged contact information so we can meet up for cocktails next time they visit Chicago!

My new friends who have excellent taste in cars!

After I left Cody, I ended up on the Bighorn Scenic Byway. It was a beautiful, twisty drive up the mountains and through Granite Pass.

There were a ton of great turnouts with stunning views.

Coming off the mountain was thrilling, very twisty with steep grades!

I paused at the top of the mountain to take it all in. What a drive!

Tomorrow I am spending the entire day in South Dakota. I haven’t cemented all my plans but they will definitely involve free water at Wall Drug and a visit to the Corn Palace!

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The Grand Tetons Totally Live up to the Hype

When I arrived in Jackson I dumped my bags in my room and then got back in the car to drive the Wilson Moose Road. It’s a road that runs from Wilson to Moose and Moose is inside the national park. I didn’t realize that many Californians, several residents of Washington state, and half of Utah would be staying in Jackson too. Traffic was worse than the beltway at 4 o’clock on a Friday before a three day weekend!

As I was inching my way along a guy in a giant pickup with Texas plates pulled up next to me. “Is that supposed to be blessings? Like sprinkles of blessings?” I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant but I said “Sparkles, because my car sparkles” which must not have been what he was looking for because he pulled away without comment.

I found the Wilson Moose road and it was super fun except a large stretch was gravel. I’m hoping that some of my annual park pass fees will help them pave more!

I drove to the store at Moose Junction and bought some water and a sandwich and then drove over to Mormon Row for a parking lot picnic.

The birds in this park are very intimidating.

The sun was setting but it was really cloudy so I decided to call it a night.

The next morning my insomnia paid off when I woke up before sunrise. I dressed quickly and drove back to Mormon Row. I got a couple of shots and then drove to the Oxbow Landing. That was worth the early wake because the lighting was perfect.

Thinking about becoming a professional photographer if things don’t work out in my current potition.

While I was there a woman stopped me to tell me she loved my car. She had seen me on Mormon Row. We talked about how beautiful the park was. She was Hawaiian and had a friend from Chicago cat sitting for her! I offered to fill in if her other Chicago friend can’t make it next time! She had just been to Glacier National Park which has suddenly moved to the top of my list of places to visit. She showed me her pics and WOW. Eventually, I moved on and stopped by the overlook at a lake for another pic.


AT that point, I realized I was getting VERY low on gas. I motored to the gas station in the park but it wasn’t opened yet. I decided to head back to Jackson and fill up and have some breakfast. I picked up some detergent from the front desk, took advantage of their laundry facilities and had a little nap. Afterwards I went back to Moose Junction for a sandwich and then drove to the top of Signal Mountain.


On my way up the mountain, I spotted a large deer looking animal. Although it seemed a lot larger than any deer I’ve ever seen before so maybe it was some sort of elk without antlers?

Perfect spot for a picnic!

After lunch, I drove over to Jenny Lake. I took a wrong turn and ended up in a parking lot at the trail head. There was a park ranger there who stopped me because she wanted to ask about my car. She asked me if I could be in the 4th of July Parade in the park on Monday. I was crushed that I had to turn her down!

I headed back to the hotel to reorganize all my stuff before heading out tomorrow. Since I’d spent so much time sitting this week, I walked over to the town square for dinner and a little shopping. I stopped in the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for a beer while I reconned the dinner options.

They don’t have bar stools at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, they have saddles…

Tomorrow I drive to Deadwood by way of Yellowstone. After seeing the quality of the pics at sunrise, I’m going to try to hit the road right before the sun comes up!

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Peak to Peak

When I awoke, there was chill in the air, but it was over 40 so I put the top down and popped over to Starbucks for a flat white to keep me warm on the inside. My first stop was Pike’s Peak. They opened at 7:30 and I timed my arrival so I’d be there soon after it opened. I stopped for a couple of pics on my way in and then ended up about 10 cars back in the line when they opened.

I was in between two trucks from IL but they didn’t seem very friendly and drove up slow AF.
I think they were from down state.

When I got my ticket they told me the construction at the summit was delayed because of weather and everyone was required to park at the Devil’s Playground and ride a shuttle up. I took the altitude sickness warnings so I stopped frequently to get out and take pics on the way up.

On the drive to the summit

When I parked at the top, I was directed over to a parking area and then walked to the bus line. The busses were large school busses. The last time I rode in a school bus was when I was ziplining in Costa Rica and the bus ride was fun but riding an old, battered bus up the side of the mountain was as terrifying as the zip lines. Maybe I have an aversion to school busses?

He seemed to be looking around an awful lot. I almost screamed “eyes on the road, buddy!”

When we got to the top there was construction everywhere. And mud. Tons of mud. I walked along the viewing platform and got a great selfie with a tiny snowman. There was a huge line for the donuts so I decided to ride back down.

You can see the reflection of the crane in my glasses! Also look at that tiny snowman!

The bus ride down was even more terrifying than the ride up. I had to close my eyes because the chatty driver was just zipping past the sheer drop offs like no big deal! When I got back to my car, I pulled out ahead of everybody else which was good and bad. I didn’t have to worry about them holding me up, but they also weren’t going to set a super slow pace or potentially break my fall!

Stills grabbed from my fuzzy dashboard video. The sudden cloud cover prevented any of you from seeing the sheer drop offs at the edge of the road. Also hard to appreciate that it was a VERY steep grade.

When I finally made it down the mountain, I popped over to the Garden of the Gods. It wasn’t on my original itinerary, but Marc and Brian suggested that I stop by. They were right, it was glorious! Super crowded but glorious.

Everywhere you look in this park there are majestic rocks rising out of nowhere!

I decided to pick up some tacos at Jack in the Box before I started the drive to Steamboat Springs and then have a parking lot picnic somewhere on the way. I routed myself avoiding freeways which took me across the Ute Pass to the start of the Gold Belt Tour Scenic Byway.

Parking lot picnic with a side of history lessons

After lunch I motored to Breckenridge.

I drove across the Continental Divide

Breckinridge was super crowded. There were mobs of people everywhere just shuffling down the sidewalks. I didn’t linger.My route took me through Silverthorne and it started raining. I had to put up my top because the aerodynamics don’t work on switchbacks but as soon as I crested that mountain it stopped and I put it back down.

This is one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve ever seen.

I passed Keystone and then it was pretty much a straight shot (up and down mountains!) to Steamboat Springs. I dumped my bags went out for a sandwich and hustled back to my room to join the Tuesday night Twitch streams. Tomorrow is a long day of driving to Wyoming. Can’t wait to see the Tetons!

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