"Every Mini variant was represented, complete with enthusiastic drivers and passengers."
The community of Mini owners is unique. With products ranging from super-cute to bulldog-aggressive, owners are demographically mixed and ultra-passionate. We met up with other "Miniacs" on this year's Mini Takes The States rally for the final trip in our Four Seasons Mini Countryman.
Mini Takes The States (MTTS) is a biannual rally for Mini owners that crosses America. Started in 2006 and modeled after the Minis United event in the U.K., the route for MTTS changes with each rally. This year, the rally kicked off on the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C. and headed west to Los Angeles, California through Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Chicago, Illinois; Des Moines, Iowa; Lincoln, Nebraska; Boulder, Colorado; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Phoenix, Arizona.
We joined the gang from D.C. to Nashville, starting with their first official evening at Washington's Newseum for the July 4th fireworks. (MTTS has its official kickoff at Mini USA headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey and then rallied to the nation's capital via Philadelphia.) What a gang it was -- roughly 350 Minis showed up for the drive to D.C., and approximately 500 people attended the first evening's event. Those numbers held steady as the event went on; every morning around 300 Minis would head off to the next destination in smaller groups. Every Mini variant was represented, complete with enthusiastic drivers and passengers.
Despite the Countryman accounting for almost a third of Mini's sales since its launch, our Countryman sightings were rare. The field of Minis was mostly Cooper S hatchbacks, with plenty of Cooper hatchbacks, Clubman models, and a smattering of Convertibles, Coupes, and Roadsters. There were only about a dozen Countrymen present while we followed the rally, including a Cooper Countryman that matched our yellow-and-black livery down to the wheels. However, our yellow cars didn't stand out even with their bright hues -- there were just as many red, green, and blue cars as there were white, black, and silver. Our favorite cars were included a British racing green Cooper S hatchback with white hood stripes, lounge satellite grey leather interior, and a roof rack from Massachusetts; a black Cooper S Coupe with silver roof, contrasting stripes, and black wheels from Texas; a pepper-white Cooper S Convertible from Kansas with a big lipstick kiss marks on the hood and trunk; a pastel-pink Cooper with white stripes and the North Carolina plate "TICKLED;" and a bright-blue Floridian Cooper S Clubman with a psychedelic tie-dye roof as well as, A-, and C-pillar trim.
Some owners are more fanatic than others -- we befriended one owner who had the negative of his car tattooed on his arm -- but there was an overall feeling of camaraderie among all the drivers. Looking in the rearview mirror as we traversed the American southeast, we couldn't help but feel warm and fuzzy inside seeing a convoy of Minis behind us. The companionship extended beyond the drives, too: after arriving at our destinations, we began referring to each other by our cars or our license plates -- every owner's car being an extension of his or her personality.
After covering nearly 2000 miles over four days in the Countryman, we have come to appreciate it not necessarily for the sum of its parts, but for the instant sense of community that comes with owning a Mini. Look for our detailed Four Seasons Wrap Up of the 2011 Mini Cooper S Countryman All4 in a future issue of Automobile Magazine to get the full report on our cost of ownership, service requirements, and the all-important star rating from our editors.