Sunday, August 27
Dallas, TX to Memphis, TN
468 miles today, 2609 miles since Monterey
Today was a transit day, as they say in road rallies, as we moved from the end of the brown Western phase of the MINI Takes the States Cross-country Tour in Dallas this morning to the beginning of the green Midwestern phase in Memphis this afternon, with a long jump of 468 miles. For lunch in Arkansas, one group visited President Clinton’s home in Little Rock, while another group went off the beaten path up into the eastern Ozark hills surrounding the historic resort town of Hot Springs.
With a lot of miles to cover, departure time was scheduled for between seven and eight o'clock. At that time, normally busy downtown Dallas is quiet and peaceful, so the burble of many MINI exhausts was the only sound heard on the empty streets.
By 7:30, the parking lot had filled up, but no one was eager to hit the road. Once again, it was pleasant to just exchange information, talk MINIs, and consider possible stopping places for lunch.
Even though groups took off at separate times, with no definite departure or effort to group up, there were so many MINIs on the road, perhaps as many as 200, that any obvious stopping point, such as the Rest Area and Arkansas Welcome Center just across the border from Texas, would have a number of MINIs parked, and even then, we would see convoys of other Motorists stream by, with exchanges of waves and exuberant honks. Whether it was the long stretch of highway between the two points, or as some said, the relatively strict Texas highway patrol, there were more reports of speeding tickets on this one stretch than on almost all of the rest of the trip combined.
Mid-day was the one point of separation of the group, with one group tired of the superslab heading off up into the Ozark hills to the historic resort town of Hot Springs for a break. By this time, trees edged the highways, a welcome change from the barren flatness of the past four days, and the two-lane road connecting between Hot Springs and Interstate 40 is quite a nice motoring road. While not quite the breath-catching stretch of twists and turns that we've found in previous days, this is certainly a rewarding piece of road.
Other Motorists, intent on making time, simply diverted off the road for lunch at one of the many offramps as the Interstate passed Little Rock. It was pretty late in the afternoon when we finally all crossed the big bridge over the Mississippi River into the river port town of Memphis, but we knew we had arrived when the pyramid-shaped arena came on the horizon. Our first impression of the town was shaped by the warm welcome awaiting us at the Memphis Visitors center in the very shadow ot the Pyramid Center.
John and Patricia Ward and Chief Miniac and First Lady Alan and Joni Prouser of the Mid-South MINIacs made MC2 feel welcome by giving us the emblem of their club to put on the Vicar, who has now traveled nearly 3000 miles on this odyssey, finding friends at every stop.
After the warm welcome by the Mid-South MINIacs, complete with drinks, snacks, goody bags, and a raffle of some Motoring gear, some Motorists made the pilgrimage to Graceland to pay respects to Elvis, but nearly everyone took advantage of the quiet non-event evening to visit Beale Street for some barbeque and blues. We're resting up because rumor has it the entire world has been invited to the MINI Music Street Fair in Nashville tomorrow night.
As the short-distance Motorists come and go, we're beginning to get familiar enough with one another to know the folks who are making the entire trip together. I thought you might enjoy meeting some of them, too.
Perhaps the most interesting vehicle to be making the tour is the teardrop trailer of Russell W. and Russell L. Roth, father and son owners of MINI FINI. The pair operate a business in Columbus, Ohio that fabricates metal parts for both motor vehicles and information technology equipment, so it wasn't much of a jump to decide to expand into MINI parts with the purchase last year of MINI FINI.com. To promote their new business, which they describe as "adding versatility to the MINI through a broad range of sport accessories, such as bike racks, ski racks, cargo carriers, and travel trailers," and to do some hands-on testing and market research, they decided to make the trip towing their prototype trailer carrying a range of samples of their products. They're living out of the trailer, camping out at each stop, but they say that if they weren't carrying their wares, they could just as easily have slept in the trailer, which contains a double bed and cooking gear as well as luggage space. What makes the rig so interesting is that both vehicles are emblazoned with a detailed map of the entire route.