I learned last year that the community of Mini owners is fun loving, diverse, and welcoming to all. So when the opportunity to join the Mini crew on another adventure here in Michigan arose, I couldn't say no.
On every even year, Mini's corporate brass organize a cross-country rally called Mini Takes the States; but on the odd years in between events, Mini's dealers are encouraged to bring together the Mini community and to have fun with owners. That initiative inspired the folks at Mini of Grand Rapids to organize the Mini on the Mack event. Why not try to break the world record for largest parade of Minis while cruising across one of the longest bridges in America: the mighty Mackinac Bridge?
For those who don't know, the Mackinac Bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac, connecting Mackinaw City on the Lower Peninsula with St. Ignace on the Upper Peninsula. At 23,372 feet in total length, the Mack is the longest suspension bridge with two towers between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere, and the third-longest suspension bridge in the world.
Sadly, we did not break the world record of 1450 cars, which was set in 2009. However, the gathering of 848 Minis did set the North American record for the largest gathering of Minis in one place. For some fun, Mini of Grand Rapids also orchestrated the largest car horn orchestra, attempting to get the group of Minis to play Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water." Despite sounding more like the cacophony of New York City rush-hour traffic, the "singing" did set another world record, after all 848 cars honked almost in rhythm for 60 seconds straight.
Lest you think that Mini on the Mack was just a regional event, Mini owners came from all corners of the country. The furthest owner traveled from San Francisco, California, and there were also Coopers from Nevada, Texas, Florida, the Carolinas, and Montana, plus many Minis from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Keep in mind that these were almost all driven by normal people who spent their own time and money to spend a weekend in Northern Michigan's Upper Peninsula and to cross the Mack with other enthusiastic "Miniacs." The enthusiasm showed by people driving 2000 miles to – in essence – parade across a bridge shows serious passion within this owner community. Not only were many of the cars customized with stickers, paint jobs, and decorations with the events, the owners themselves were decked out in Mini gear, ranging from t-shirts to the fashionable Mini earrings worn by one owner from Tennessee. The owners were as varied as their cars – we saw boy racers, cheery grandmothers, outgoing 30-somethings, and every other fathomable demographic in between.
As for me? While I may not have had as much Mini-badged swag as most others, I made the four-hour journey from the Automobile offices in a spice orange 2013 Mini Cooper S Roadster. The car drew attention no matter where it was parked, thanks to its extroverted color and the fact that the year-old Roadster (and Coupe) model is still fairly uncommon. My Roadster's turbo-four was good for 181 hp and, coupled with a six-speed automatic, turned 1000-plus miles of driving into a fun game of hunting for curves, squirting through traffic, and waving to other Mini owners.
It's that last part that makes driving a Mini the most fun: the Mini community is welcoming and as cheery as their cars are cute. On the way up to Mackinaw City, three friends and I had planned to drive together, creating our own convoy with my orange Roadster, a friend's grey Cooper S hardtop, another's blue first-gen Cooper hardtop, and a brand-new John Cooper Works Roadster in the same hue as my press car. Driving home from the UP, we encountered other Minis and would fall in line together, smiling and waving at one another. I have trouble thinking of another car company that can bring such a cross-section of its owners together with as many smiles for a fun summer weekend.
Do we really have to wait a whole year until Mini Takes the States 2014?