Sunday 10 August 2014

Days 14 & 15: Bethlehem, PA to Boston, MA

Well that's it, we've rallied and can rally no more.

Bethlehem Steel stacks
After 5,142 miles, 18 states and 15 cities we arrived in Boston yesterday afternoon after a nervous drive from Bethlehem. Christine, still feeling under the weather proceeded to Boston with Amy and ended up skirting past New York City, while Ali hitched his final ride in a Hampton edition Clubman and proceeded straight up the interstate.

Tryon and I attempted to follow the route, but the road conditions were bumpy at best. A new rattling sound came from under the bonnet, so we retreated to the interstate and set up the GPS for the city centre dealership in Boston.

Arrived in Boston
An early arrival into Boston meant we had time to get into our apartment, and the news came through that Tryon's car was fine and would be good for the drive back to California.
So on to the wrap party which followed a similar format to the previous events. But there was a sense of relief & accomplishment amongst the coast to coasters, it had been a long slog but boy was it worth it!  We danced until the party closed down, and would return for the rise and shine the next morning.
Boston Wrap Party

Rise and shine on a sunny Boston morning was our final chance to say goodbye to new friends made. Oh, and there was a proposal too! And a lot of fun was had, but it is hard to let go. Its only sinking in now that I'm not driving anywhere today!

We got to meet some great people on this trip, everyone being friendly and wanting to chat. The MINI USA staff were great, always chatting with participants and I have no idea how the event staff set up everything after finishing late the night before! I come away from MTTS with a great appreciation of how welcoming this country is, and was great to spend so much time with the US MINI family.

Mike Marzo proposes to Steph at the Rise & Shine.

My final words are reserved for Amy & Tryon Lippincott, without them this would not have happened. Their company and spare seats got us across the country, and we are forever in their debt.  Tryon's car was a blast to drive, and hit the 110,000 mile mark on the ride into Boston. We had a lot of fun in that car.

And so, for the final time thanks for reading,
Ali gets signed by MINI vice president - David Duncan.

Saturday 9 August 2014

Day 13: Buffalo, NY to Bethlehem, PA

The penultimate leg!

The morning started at Towne Mini, where the best breakfast of the trip was provided! We had bacon sausage and egg, with the option of a biscuit (think scone) if needed. After having biscuits for the last few days I declined, I miss the breakfast burritos from the West Coast!

Christine and Amy went ahead in order to get Chris to bed, but reports back are that their route was very similar to the planned one.  Ali would be riding with Phil Casper who was doing this leg only in his blue R50 Cooper, with an awesome sound from the exhaust, I'm not sure what other mods have been done.
Our route today would take us through up state New York, where locals were lining the streets for the MINI Coopers! Our stop was at the Jell-o museum, which was an interesting detour. I even found my picture that I sent MINI USA as the centre piece of their welcome poster!

The drive to Bethlehem would continue through Pennsylvania, where a stop at a country fair was billed, but proved to be just a photo call alongside the worlds largest pancake skillet. Had we known that we wouldn't have bothered, Tryon and I were hoping to get some 'Carney' food!

However it did lead to a scenic drive through Watkins Glen where lunch was taken instead. Morris got homesick at the sight of the red phone box in town.

After Watkins Glen it was time to hit the Interstate for the 200 miles to Bethlehem, which we made in just enough time for the evening event. However the hotel shuttle dropped us to the main site, not where MINI were holding their reception. So we just stayed and soaked up the music festival, and saw performances on 3 stages before calling it a night. We found deep fried 'carney' food too! Ali made it to the right part of the festival though, and reports it was a lot of fun!

Day 14 sees the final leg to Boston, which promises to be another long one.

Bye for now.

Thursday 7 August 2014

Day 12: Cleveland, OH to Buffalo, NY

Well folks I don't have much to report today, as most of Team GB have been out of the MTTS banner for the day.

Unfortunately Christine started to come down with what we think is a bad migraine, so the priority was to get to the Buffalo stop ASAP. Thankfully the hotel got the room ready early and Chris was able to get her head down before noon.

The early arrival did mean we had time to head to Niagara Falls for lunch, and admire the falls for my fourth time. I also got to visit Canada, if only for a few hours.

On arrival back in Buffalo, Ali had arrived from the MTTS run, but I haven't had a chance to catch up as tonight I spent time with family who were able to come see me from their nearby town in Canada.

Normal service should be resumed tomorrow folks, as we set off on the penultimate leg of the tour.

Wednesday 6 August 2014

Day 11: Chicago, IL to Cleveland, OH

I'm afraid we don't have a lot to report today.

Christine hitched a ride in a JCW R57 after suffering some JCW withdrawal symptoms and Ali rode in an Ice Blue R55 Cooper Auto.

The drive was uneventful, despite getting lost and some serious pot hole issues in Chicago. We ended up taking the interstate all day again as time meant we would be late for the evening event if we didn't. Both Tryon and I took the opportunity get some sleep while on the road too.

We got to Cleveland with just enough time to get to the evening event, which was held at the Rock and Roll hall of fame, which was astonishing and full of amazing musical artifacts.
Sorry for the short one folks.

Tomorrow, Buffalo and hopefully Niagara falls.

Day 10, St Louis, MO to Chicago, IL

Spot the odd one out

Today saw a return to the Gateway Motorsports Park for rise and shine in awful raining conditions. This soon passed though and last night's raffle winners were given their hot laps in an F56.

Our 'medium' pizza
Tryon took advantage of the coding service being offered by one of the participants, and we now have one touch windows up, remote windows up from the lock button and auto fog lights with high beams which isn't illegal over here.

The route today took us along the banks of the Mississippi before returning to the Interstate to hunt down part of route 66, which is no longer a route in it's own right.

We however deviated for a Chicago style deep dish pizza, and you can tell by the expression on Morris' face how good it was!

We somehow made Chicago in good time, with no traffic to contend with and then it was off to my first Baseball game at US Cellular Field which MINI had secured an entire block of seats for us! I was completely taken aback by the stadium. The openness and space around the food outlets, choices and the views all makes Old Trafford, Anfield, Lords and the Kia Oval look well behind the times.

It was a great evening again, but not for the White Sox who lost to the Texas Rangers 16-0! As we got back to our hotel, we stopped by the adjacent fire station for a chat with the firefighters and got to look around the impressive fire trucks.

Next up, Cleveland!

Monday 4 August 2014

Day 9: Memphis, TN to St. Louis, MO

This morning we said farewell to the awesome city that was Memphis. 

The morning rise and shine was held outside the FedEx Forum in downtown Memphis, followed by a police escort out to the interstate. We were parked up next to the 2 guys from Germany, who are taking part in MTTS as part of their adventure around the world in an F56 having already covered Europe and Asia. Their F56 is also now proudly displaying a Surrey New MINI sticker on their A pillar to go with the Mersey Mini Club one on their back window. 

The driving today was mostly main roads, although we did get to see some back roads and included a stop at a drive in BBQ, which provided all MTTS participants with their homemade pink lemonade.

The evening event was held at the gateway Motorsport park, just across the Mississippi river and in Illinois, meaning we actually passed through 4 states in one day. Karting was available, which is pretty much where we spent all night. We managed to get 5 sessions in, with the guys running the karting allowing us to tag on to the last session as were heading off. Ali was pleased to get 39.1 secs, with me getting 40.7 and Tryon also in the mid 40s.

Tomorrow will see us head to Chicago, and take in my first Baseball game.


Sunday 3 August 2014

Day 8: Dallas, TX to Memphis, TN

So today was always going to be a non event. Or so I thought.

We had over 400 miles to cover, and Tryon needed to get to his sisters after we got to Memphis. S today consisted of collecting the route sheet at The Cotton Bowl Stadium and dashing off before the rise and shine event had concluded.

Christine and Amy would be going the long but scenic route through Louisiana and Mississippi before stopping at Tryons sisters one the way up. However we would be taking the Interstates for nearly 400 miles, stopping only to see Bill Clinton's birthplace and lunch at the 'Cracker Barrel'. I got quizzed ( as usual ) about my accent, and our waitress was very surprised to hear someone from London was in Arkansas (pronounced our-can-saw - it's illegal to pronounce it the way you think it is).

Arkansas saw the worst roads on the trip, with the deviation from the I-40 sending us on the US-70 where we spent the whole time avoiding crevices in the road that make the British pothole look like a dimple. At one point we feared we'd lose the sump & exhaust. Alter some observant & patient driving by Tryon, we were soon in Memphis.

What a city Memphis is. The mall is a beautiful street, but the MINI event would be held in the famous Beale street. A street full of bars where music is king. And the music was great. The MINI party had 3 live acts, both inside Silky O'Sullivans and outside, whilst some traditional BBQ Chicken & Pork was served up. I got to come out of my shell a bit more and talked to some people from Chicago, Texas, and Arizona to name a few. The beer wasn't too bad either.

Tomorrow we will venture to St. Louis, where an evening of go karting is apparently on the cards.

Until then, Phil

Day 7: Austin TX to Dallas TX

Hello y'all (my last Texas greeting I promise!)

Today saw us arrive at the rise and shine event which was being held outside the State Capitol building, with the street closed off for the MINIs. There were four lanes of minis each a quarter of a mile long making it a mile of MINIs, probably more as there were more parked in a side street and alongside the 4 lines too. We'd found out the night before that there are 500 coast to coasters doing the trip, so that's 500 every morning plus any additional cars joining each morning going part of the way.  Austin was due to be the biggest rise and shine so far.

After picking up the route sheet Ali went out to find his ride and met with Erin, who would deliver him to Dallas in her Cooper S Countryman 'Typhoon'. She was in the US Marines, and was stationed at the same base as Tryon, my ride for the whole trip.
After a police escort, we bad farewell to the awesome city of Austin. I hope to come back, maybe if I'm lucky to see some F1. 

Today's surprise and delight was to be Franklin Drive Thru Safari, but by the time we got there the queue was probably over an hour long, so we opted for an early arrival into Dallas and pressed on. Ali and Erin however were the 3rd car to arrive and went straight in. 

Pressing on to Dallas we skipped the planned route and arrived at our hotel by 1400, and discovered another surprise. Christine, always great and finding hotel deals had managed to book us into the Presidential Suite!

The evening event this time would be at Gilleys, a music hall which tonight would provide live country music and a bull riding contest. Food was beans, corn, potatoes and some peach cobbler, and reports were it was good! It was a great party, and I'm really enjoying these evening events, chances to catch up with fellow drivers which sometimes seems missing in the UK scene when we disperse to explore the events we are attending.

The next journey is a long one. Interstate all the way to Memphis and no 'Surprise & Delight' on the way.

Until then,

Friday 1 August 2014

Day 6: Lubbock, TX to Austin, TX

Greetings again y'all (yep we're still in Texas).

There's not a lot to talk about today, as the roads have been pretty flat and boring. But we are in the city of Austin which is amazing. The Texan hospitality has been great too.

Our route today, whilst not exciting did take us through some interesting towns. We stopped in Balinger to post a package and Brady for lunch, where you'll find the heart of Texas

But the highlight of the day was the evening party in Austin. All outdoors, food from various vendors (all free) and a bar with the Austin cityscape in the background.  Live music was also provided and a good opportunity to mingle with fellow drivers.  Also had a long chat with the Product Manager for MINI USA and had to agree that MINI takes the states kicks ass over what MINI UK do! Oh, there were also chances to meet Texas longhorns and armadillos!

Next up is Dallas, and a possible after party but well have to take a raincheck on that.

Until next time, Phil.