Mini Takes The States is part road trip, part jam band festival and part summer camp. And it’s the most fun I have had with a group of strangers in a while. Why? Since I was behind the wheel of a 2014 MINI Cooper S Hardtop with a John Cooper Works accessory package, I was welcomed to this group of Miniacs as one of their own as I traveled with them from Chicago to Cleveland and on to Buffalo as a part of the 2014 Mini Takes The States tour.
Mini Takes The States is a biennial event that has been held five times over the past ten years. The concept is simple; a 14-day road trip from one end of the country to the other open to anyone who owns a Mini Cooper of any model and any vintage. Some owners join for a day or two as I did, with an average of 800 participants per leg. But 350 entrants signed up for the whole journey that began July 26 in San Francisco and ended August 10 in Boston. Along the way the parade of BMW’s British fuel-injected roller skates traveled through 18 states and 15 cities while covering 5,142 miles.
Whether you join the tour for one leg or go the whole route, the registration fee is just $45 per adult (kids under 12 and pets are free). That fee covers a breakfast gathering each morning and a dinner event each evening as well as all the other unique events at every destination. On my two days, participants were treated to a White Sox game in Chicago and a private party at the Rock, Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland and a meet up with the Canadian Mini Club at Niagara-on-the-Lake.
At every stop we met owners who were willing to share their love for Mini and their stories of how they came to that passion. One remarkable story was that of Josh Williams. In 2005 Josh was a medical student in New Orleans when Katrina hit. Like many others his life was turned upside down as he fled his hometown and put his future plans on hold. After relocating to Texas where he had no friends or family, he bought his first Mini and immediately found a new group of friends, other Mini owners. Because of that, Mini Takes The States has become a regular event in Dr. Williams’ life. He joined this year’s tour in Austin, Texas and was going all the way to Boston.
In addition to participants motoring in from every state in the country, there was also a team from Germany who joined Mini Takes The States as part of their drive around the world, having already motored through Austria, Poland, Belarus, Russia, and Japan before arriving in San Francisco. There are so many great stories, and fun, friendly people, it’s impossible to tell them all.
For the people who join the tour, it’s an opportunity to connect with others who share their passion for all things Mini — and that passion is on display in the way they customize their cars with special paint jobs and other accessories. As one participant put it, “We are a community of individuals.”
I talked to Dave (don’t call me David) Duncan VP MINI of the Americas and asked him what makes their cars so different from other brands, that only Mini could inspire this kind of event. His answer was simply, “Mini helps keep the child alive.”
After two days and 657 miles behind the wheel and sharing the road with over 1,000 other Mini owners who never seemed to stop smiling, I know exactly what he means.