Motoring on the Charlotte Motor Speedway

When I woke up it was still early and very, very dark. I grabbed my stuff and stumbled out to the car and discovered I’d lost a wink smiley cover and the light it was covering! The other light was  intact,  but it was also impossible to take out without tools.

IMG_9894

Man down!

I threw my stuff in the car and made my way to the track since I knew somebody there would have the tools I needed. I was fourth to arrive began by cleaning my wheels and windshield while I waited for someone with tools to arrive.

IMG_9897

Sunrise at the track.

Catalina arrived not long after me and her copilot figured out I’d need a screwdriver to remove the bulb that was intact. Thankfully Dallas had one. After I removed the light and finished making My Precious pristine, I wandered over to the breakfast area. Charlotte knows how to work a theme, the napkins and utensils were served in shop drawers!

IMG_9902

Looks good. Tastes good too!

I wandered around the vendor tents and picked up a free t-shirt and some other goodies. They had positioned the bus perfectly so I stopped to record my current distance.

IMG_9913

320 miles of fun!

After all the raffle prizes were called, we all headed back to our cars.


Since Catalina and I had arrived so much earlier, we were going to finish our laps and then pull over and wait until everyone else was finished and hop in front of them. They were MUCH farther back so it was like sitting on the sidewalk and watching a parade roll by. Everyone waved and lots of people honked as they rode by. When the rest of DCMM pulled up, we reorganized and tried to hop back in line but the cops were trying to stop traffic and held us in place for a while. Even sitting in the sun on a hot summer day was fun, because MINI!

Ali and Mark took the lead and I wasn’t too far behind them. The cops provided rolling street closings for the first 20 miles and then lined up to wave to us as we rolled out of town.

IMG_9952

Photo break somewhere along the way in North Carolina.

We drove a bunch of twisties and had a blast and then eventually Mark found a place we could stop for lunch. Another Countryman had joined our caravan and they pulled in to eat as well. We invited them to join us and scored some sharpies and a few NorCal MINI buttons!

IMG_9964

Christine and Mike and their grandson provided Sharpies and great conversation. Most of the fun of this rally has been seeing old friends and making new ones!

Lunch for nine takes a while and while we had a fantastic time chatting, we had fallen way behind schedule!

IMG_9975

Virginia again!

We ditched the suggested route and got on the freeway to try to make up some time. Sadly we arrived at the Surprise and Delight too late for whatever they were giving away, though we still found a way to have a bit of fun.

IMG_9987

The DCMM gang takes a big seat!

I drove from there to my sister’s house to spend the night at her condo. She was in town to hang out with me so we went out to dinner at Supper and Lunch.

IMG_9988

Supper and Lunch knows their way around a big salad!

We found a car wash and gassed up to be ready to rally. Next stop Baltimore!

Posted in Getting Around, Life Story, MINI | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Driving on Racetracks is Cool

I got up very early. I think I was too excited to sleep! There were other MINIs in the parking loading up but since I’d already loaded most of my gear, I was the first one out of the lot. When I arrived to enter the track there were about 25 cars ahead of me and I ended up fifth on the second row.

IMG_9786

Early arrival totally pays off!

I headed to the tents to do a little shopping and score some breakfast.

IMG_9794

Pastries and sausage, egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day.

I met a lovely couple from North Carolina who let me share their table/trashcan.

IMG_9795

Making new friends one of the best parts of #mtts2016

Around the time I found my DCMM friends they started herding everyone to the stands for the big show.

IMG_9830

I’m about to drive on the Atlanta Motor Speedway!

I sat between Rey and my new friend Devon, who is also going all the way (mostly solo) and is picking up her dad to ride along for the second half.

The show began with a stirring rendition of the National Anthem and the announcement of the #defylabels grand prize winner. There were several MINIs parked in front of the stands and our announcer Desiree climbed to the top of a tower in front of the stands and narrated the rest of the show. The top accuracy sky divers in the world jumped out of a plane above us and then landed in a MINI on the track. It was incredible! I wish the footage MINI USA had shot was on their website so I could share them with you. Wow!

When the show ended, we returned to our cars and fired up the engines! The cars began pulling out and the Pit Crews were there with checkered flags to wave us on.

Once our lap was completed they ushered us off the track and there was a police escort waiting to help us get out of town fast. I was about 20 cars from the front and since I hadn’t ever figured out how to synchronize the Google map to our route without constant reroutes every time I got off course I just followed the car ahead of me. They were doing a great job and I trusted them cause I could see there were two of them in there and anyone with a navigator is already doing better than me! We drove through a few charming towns and I got slightly distracted and totally missed it when those lovely New Jersey folks turned right. I kept going and so did the cars behind me!I realized I had made an error when I noticed Jim Carman hang a quick U-turn behind me. Eventually all of the cars behind me turned around so I thought maybe I should too. But as soon as I did six other MINIs came flying past me. Feeling profoundly vindicated, I whipped back around and followed them.

After a few miles they pulled into a country store. My first thought was “awesome, bathroom break!” The guy from the lead car started working his way back to the other cars in the line to give us an update. I struck up a convo with Ethan, a nice young guy from Nebraska in the car next to me. When the lead driver got to us he said they’d found a new route since the car they were following had made that bad turn (that would be me!) and they were going to get us back to the official route. He jumped back in his car and took off. Since I had no idea where we were I decided to skip the bathroom and follow along.

We drove forever! Well, a long time. I didn’t think my bladder was going to make it but they suddenly stopped at a small gas station so everyone could take a break. While we were there, the lead guy told me they were using channel 7/21 (the official channel) on the radios in case I needed them to stop in the future. Great guy! I chatted with Ethan and a couple of other drivers and then we all got back in our cars and took off again.

Our first destination was a tiny little southern town with a charming tea shop. Inside the tea shop, they were giving away some fancy MINI cups and free tea. I got mine and then walked down the street to a little BBQ joint. I had a sandwich and met some lovely folks from NJ, PA, and CA. We all talked about our MINIs (what else!) and then I headed back to my car. I noticed another MINI pulling out so I got behind them. We caravaned for a few miles before they turned off. The signs were still pointing me to Charlotte so I continued on and made good time to my hotel.

After I checked in, I decided to find a car wash and some emergency repair supplies. My Aux jack has issues and anytime the cord moves, I lose sound in one speaker. I was able to repair that with the creative use of tape and finally got a tool to scrape off my old VA inspection sticker.

IMG_9877

It’s not pretty but now I can hear the radio as I’m singing along.

I hit up the car wash and then drove downtown to the first event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. They had a cash bar and lots of delicious food. I enjoyed the mac and cheese and some BBQ sliders.

IMG_9881

Look at the beautiful MINIs! I must be in the right place!

Then they called out the prizes. I won a complete car care kit! No idea what is in it but My Precious is going to be very well cared for! I had to scream, very loudly, so Desiree would know I was there and didn’t slip my name into the Pocket of Doom before I could run across the main floor and then up the ramp in time to claim my prize!

IMG_9884

I’m a winner!

Along the way, because MINI people are who they are, everyone congratulated me and stepped aside so I could make my way to the stage. They took my name and address to ship me my car care package, which is fantastic because nobody has room for anything extra!

As the event wound down, I said goodbye to all my new and old friends and headed back to the hotel to get ready to rally to Charlotte.

Posted in DCMM, Getting Around, Life Story | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

And So It Begins…

After breakfast with Jane and working from Greensboro, I finally made my way to Atlanta. It was a long hot drive!

IMG_9750

Lost my super cool shades somewhere in South Carolina.

I made excellent time. Mostly because it was so damn hot and the only way to stay cool was to drive really fast. While the wind felt a lot like a blow dryer, at least it was moving.

IMG_9743

When I stopped at the rest area they asked if I was going to that MINI thing. I guess a few MINIs had gone before me…

I found my way to Buckhead for the early check in but then found out that all my DCMM friends had gone to the midtown check in at the Ponce Market so I headed over there.

IMG_9751

Are you kidding? Georgia has been on mind since they announced the route!

I found a parking spot in the garage with a magnificent view.

FullSizeRender

Everyone following rule number one.

I went to the Market and found all my DCMM friends enjoying a cold one after their long hot drive!

IMG_9758

This lovely lady gave us all an arrow to remind us of her car!

We wandered outside to the site of the evening event. They were setting up balloons but as soon as they anchored them a strong gust of wind would blow them over and they would pop.

IMG_9766

This crew really had their work cut out for them!

There was a car raising funds for #defyhunger and for a small donation I scored a t-shirt, a sticker, and I got to sign it.

IMG_9767

#epicfun

I googled my hotel, which I thought was close to the track for the morning event. It was close-ish. Melissa had booked a room that was half the distance of mine and she had Rey, Colin, Mark and Ali staying with her. I knew I was going to get up much earlier than they were and since the balloon event wasn’t even going to start until after dark, I decided to skip out and head back to my hotel room so I could gas up and reorganize my packing.

IMG_9774

Still not dark and it was getting late. Luckily there was a fantastic car to park next to!

I was officially ready to rally!

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

It’s Good to Have Friends

Mike and Jane Glynn have been friends of mine since high school and the best part of taking an East Coast route was finally getting to visit them again! I spent the morning working from the beach house in Sandbridge and then loaded up My Precious to make my way further south.

IMG_9712

I’m going to miss breakfast with the Webb family.

Angel made another excellent breakfast and then I gave everyone a ride to the beach.

IMG_9720

N8 still had watermelon hair.

When I finished work, I took off and drove down the road to Greensboro.

IMG_9729

Mike could tell there was rain coming and set up a tent because nothing interrupts Grillmaster Glynn.

While we waited for dinner, I met Jane’s new granddaughter who entertained us with some lively tunes.

IMG_9727

Mixmaster Evie

We enjoyed a delicious meal.

IMG_9732

Grilled corn wins. Forever.

And some tasty brews.

IMG_9735

Gaelic Ale was Mike’s favorite.

IMG_9734

The Poet was my favorite.

We listened to Mike’s new favorite music which turned out to be Bluegrass. I haven’t been forced to enjoy that since Tyler played with the band. Afterwards, we talked about politics and each vowed “never trump” and to have a “trexit” and somehow when Gogo came home we ended up singing Cabinet Battle #2. It was all very American.

It was late and I’d been drinking so we decided to call it a night. The next day I was making the final leg of my #mtts2016 pregame and so clearly I needed some rest!

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

#sunsetsatsandbridge

Thankfully, the weather in Sandbridge was so hot it wasn’t even not fun staying inside and working while almost everyone else was enjoying the beach. I was productive in spite of the amazing view.

IMG_9657

My office today.

I took a break right before lunch and went to town with Angel.

IMG_9630

Angel took advantage of our time in his air-conditioned car and schooled me on black music and snubbery. Good times!

When we returned, we had a quick lunch before everyone went to the beach.

IMG_9641

Sandwiches, green beans, and corn salad. God bless America!

I finished up my work and then went out to join them.

IMG_9645.JPG

Military maneuvers today. The gunshots were slightly off-putting but we all enjoyed the Star Wars type gun ships.

We made a plan to grill hamburgers and I went back to the house to finish up some work. Bob worked on creating N8s watermelon hair and when he finished I took him for a ride in My Precious. He loves my car nearly as much as I do.

IMG_9666

Sweet hair. Sweet ride.

The family began arriving for dinner and I assisted with the potato salad.

Processed with MOLDIV

In addition to peeling potatoes I also documented the process. Everyone has a role to play.

Bob grilled some delicious burgers and we all enjoyed a fine feast while we watched the #sunsetsatsandbridge.

IMG_9709

Damn thunderstorms obliterated our sunset!

When we realized that the family had never seen Heathers (and since Heathers, the Musical is currently running in town) we decided to stay in and have a movie night. Bob rigged up Chromecast and then streamed the movie from his phone. Sadly, the wifi situation is not ideal and we had a few forced intermissions while Heathers buffered.

IMG_9711

Heathers buffering.

The movie was fantastic but when it ended the family left and we called it a night. Tomorrow I move even closer to the#MTTS2016 starting point and shelter with my dear friends Mike and Jane Hege.

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

Work Life Balance

As I move closer and closer to Atlanta for the start of #MTTS2016, I am forced to maintain a proper work life balance. And by that I mean I still have work to do. That being the case, I got up early to take my car to my former MINI dealer to get prepared for the big drive.

IMG_9585

Drooling….

I worked from a local coffee shop for a while and then met one of my newest work colleagues for lunch. Luckily, she picked Busboys and Poets which was not only delicious but also across the street from the local library.

I spent the afternoon working at the library, taking calls and drafting emails like a boss. As the end of the day approached, Passport MINI called to say My Precious was ready to go so I zipped back to the dealer to pick her up and headed south. Just in time for rush hour!

I figured it was worth it to avoid the traffic and make it to the beach for sunset so I skipped over to the Express Lane and flew by all those poor fools who didn’t want to pay the hundreds and hundreds of dollars Virginia charges to bypass traffic (just kidding, It’s probably less than a hundred. I think. It’s a variable rate so there’s really no telling).

IMG_9586

Making good time until I got to the tunnel and traffic came to a screeching halt.

Still, I managed to make it to Sandbridge before sunset. Bob’s family were all there and already getting in position for their sunset shots.

IMG_9605

Getting ready for the big show.

I moved my stuff into the palatial beach house they’d rented and greeted everyone. N8 and Kat were already in bed so I went down to say hi before joining everyone else on the deck.

IMG_9612

Everyone enjoys posting a nice sunset!

The sunset really was glorious!

IMG_9615

#sunsetsatsandbridge

Bob discovered there was a Touch Tunes bar nearby so we decided to do a little recon and went to check it out. Sandbridge Island was packed with locals and tourists and the bartender assured us the Touch Tunes was there and operational. We queued up a couple of songs. The crowd there was clearly familiar with Touch Tunes because even when I paid extra to advance to the head of the line, Safety Dance was still seven songs out. I enjoyed a Heavy Melon while I waited for the crappy songs to finish up and Bob began texting the family to come join us. That’s when the music suddenly stopped and DJ Cracker fired up his microphone. We’d accidentally stumbled across Karaoke night!

DJ Cracker turned things over to his hot young sidekick and he began calling the performers to the stage.

Somehow we convinced the family to join us. The crowd was wildly enthusiastic so Angel signed up to perform his signature number Milkshake and Bob and I decided to perform I Want You to Want Me. Sadly, that’s when DJ Cracker came back and decided to have a three song dance break. His song selection soured Angel’s mood so he left and then Bob and I were up.

The crowd loved it! We stuck a round for a few more numbers before we decided to call it a night, though many were screaming “Bob, Bob, Bob” as we left.

IMG_7898

Driving down Chub Lane

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

Let the Fun Begin!

This year my summer vacation will start in Atlanta when I meet up with over 1,500 of my favorite people and their awesome cars! Mini Takes the States starts on July 9, but I’m already on my way. It’s a long drive from Chicago to Atlanta, so I decided to get an early start by maximizing my holiday weekend and visiting friends and family along the way.

My first drive was a doozie, from my house in Chicago to my sister’s house in Crystal City. I got up early, put the top down, and set out. It was a glorious day in the upper sixties with lots of sunshine.

The first stop I made was a random rest area in Indiana. They had a lot of options, but it wasn’t very pretty.

IMG_9506

Making good time on my way through Indiana

I got back on the road. I was enjoying A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore and the beautiful sunshiney day when I happened to notice that the rubber molding Passport MINI replaced a couple of months ago was flapping wildly in the wind. I stopped in Ohio to try to find some duct tape for emergency repairs.

IMG_9502

Lovely shops in Ohio that sadly don’t carry duct tape.

When I couldn’t find any I moved on to Pennsylvania. They didn’t have any either so I unpacked my boot and dug around in my decal collection and found some clear contact paper and scissors.

IMG_9505

Just like MacGyver! Thank God I keep emergency vinyl decals in the boot. Totally paying off now!

I got back on the road and continued on to Maryland which had the prettiest rest area of the day.

IMG_9512

I wish I’d had time to walk on this lovely path!

I arrived at my sister’s house just in time for dinner! Sadly she wasn’t home so I had to fend for myself.

IMG_9513

Not a lot of options, but you can never go wrong with chips and salsa.

 

Six states and the District of Columbia in less than 12 hours. Great practice for my pending cross-country trip, no? Tuesday after work I’ll set out on my next leg, a quick jaunt down the coast to Sandbridge, VA!

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 3.58.00 PM

The rest of my #MTTS2016 Pre Game Plan

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