Saturday, August 26
Amarillo to Dallas
383 miles today, 1769 miles since Monterey
Fun on the Road Today and A Surprise Wedding Tonight
Today it's a straight shot across Texas for nearly 400 miles and one of the longest driving days on the route, but a few stops in the small Texas towns along the way should break the monotony.
Mornings are the only time the whole group is together. Everyone's out in the parking lot by the designated time, but then there's a reluctance to leave the camaraderie. This is also the time when those of us who have been on the road can meet the new Motorists who are joining us for the day's drive or for several days with the Tour. Last night a whole group of Motorists from Texas and Oklahoma joined us for the drive to Dallas and tonight's party.
One family we met this morning – Robert and Jenny Truax and their children Zane and Daisy – drove down to Amarillo from Enid, Oklahoma last night and will be driving to Dallas with us today. They've owned their MINI for a year, and Robert says he "must have tried a gazillion combinations on the Online Configurator" before settling on the white-striped red convertible Cooper S. Jenny has had fun finding MINI attire for the whole family. Jenny and Robert would be ready to drive the whole trip, but Robert is a major in the Air Force training training pilots at the air base in Enid, so duty calls.
Once we were out on Highway 287, which connects Amarillo with Dallas-Fort Worth to the southeast, there wasn't a lot to do along the way, so since there was almost no traffic on this old pre-interstate highway, we improvised a game of "Let's go play in traffic." Basically, it consists of changing positions in the stream of cars every few minutes so you can find out who you're motoring with, and enjoy a varying scene of MINI colors.
Today was considerably less monotonous than the past few days have been while we were eating up miles between scenic backroad portions and events. Unlike the new interstates, 287 actually goes directly through the center of a number of little Texas towns, so rather than thinking in terms of which offramp and which fast food restaurant to stop at, we could actually see little restaurants with a big "EAT" sign in neon on the front and chat with friendly local folks in the gas stations.
By early afternoon the heat had begun to rise, piercing 105 degrees according to the trip computer temperature gauge, and this isn't the dry heat of Arizona. So when we saw the first "MINI Stop Ahead" sign, we couldn't help but hope that something special might await. Thankfully, this was no illusion, though a Mister Cool Ice Cream Truck in a dustry rest stop in the middle of nowhere could easily be mistaken for a mirage. But it wasn't, and we were just trying to eat our ice cream cones before the heat destroyed them, when an echelon of MINIs behind us descended on the parking area like a formation of fighter planes diving into a target.
But there was still more driving ahead, so hurriedly finishing our cones and ordering lemon slushes for the road, we were back on the highway and reading through the detailed maps and instructions prepared for us by the Metroplex MINI club, which had driven up from Dallas last night to meet us and accompany us in. Following their instructions, we were able to navigate through the urban area without trouble and soon had the downtown Dallas skyline on the horizon.
The Metroplex MINIs had even arranged for a car wash site for our cars, but Barry and I decided after working our way through three traffic jams caused by accidents on three different stretches of urban interstate (I think it's the heat that gets to these drivers.) we were running late as was another group that had told us over ice cream cones about the great chicken-fried steak they had enjoyed in Wichita Falls, so we headed directly to the hotel.
We figured we could just squeeze in a shower and a nap before going out tonight to party. By eight o'clock, we were at the Gypsy Tea Room, a trendy dance and comedy club in spite of its deceptive name. But we couldn't go in right away, and found ourselves admiring a 1977 Mini Clubman and a 2006 MCS with pretty trick wheels sitting in the parking lot (picture left). Little did we realize at the time the significance of these two cars.
It's worth noting that, in spite of the number of MINIs on the road together in the last few days, and the propensity of some drivers to indulge in a little over-enthusiastic Motoring in the spirit of the moment, we had only heard of one speeding ticket in six days.
But the fates have a way of always balancing good and bad, so one of the Texas Motorists who joined us yesterday actually got ticketed in front of the Club for doing an illegal U-Turn as he was motioned by the doorman into the valet parking space. The city policeman who wrote out the ticket had a little trouble however, since he had to do it in front of about 150 of us standing on the sidewalk, with the yellow culprit parked in the valet drop-off zone. The cop couldn't understand why every few minutes a new valet parker would come up and try to help the poor unfortunate driver out of the MINI. One of the spectators was Jim McDowell, head of MINI USA, who got a big round of applause later in the evening when he gave the poor fellow a $200 gift certificate for MINI Gear to help ease the pain of the totally unjustified traffic ticket.
Once into the club, we were entertained with the award of the Gear as a consolation prize, remarks by Jim, and the routines of two comedians, but no one was prepared for the surprise to come.
In the middle of the remarks, Bart Hamlin of Arlington came on stage and asked if he could have his girlfriend, Katy, escorted to the stage. Then he got down on one knee and proposed marriage and a life of Motoring to her. She responded by saying she didn't like traffic jams or long engagements, so she would only accept if they could be married immediately.
From the back of the room came a volunteer, offering to marry them and coming forward with their marriage license in hand. By this time we suspected this might have been less than a total surprise, but the entire room was witness to their formal and official vows under the sight of God, the laws of the state of Texas, and the fellowship of Mini owners everywhere. They each promised to become co-drivers forever in sunshine and in rain, with their vows sworn on a Bible and a copy of the MINI Workshop Manual. Oh, those two attractive Minis in the parking lot? The yellow Clubman belongs to Bart, and the royal grey with pink wheels is the pride and joy of the new Katy Hamlin.