Monday, August 28
Memphis to Nashville
214 miles today, 2823 miles since Monterey
From Pyramid to Parthenon Without Leaving Tennessee
The first day of our second week on the road promised a short drive through the verdant rolling hills of Tennessee, a very welcome change from the flatness of the West. We gathered early in the morning at the base of the Memphis Pyramid, a full-size replica of the Pyramids of Egypt, but built of glass and steel and used for conventions, arena shows, and athletic events.
It was fortunate that the landmark was so obvious, because finding the obscure entrances into the parking area was just a little challenging, situated as the Pyramid is between two bridges and several on and off ramps serving the Interstates.
But we all did find it, and were pleased to welcome a crew of Motorists from the Southeastern states that had driven in from Atlanta last night to accompany us to St. Louis. In assembling this group, the clubs of that region extended both the reach and the numbers of the MINI Takes the States Tour.
One of the most unusual color combinations we've yet seen was on the "Cooper S in Training" nicknamed "Beep Beep" but we understand has tthe given name "Stella," that Amanda, a Motoring Advisor from Hank Aaron MINI in Atlanta drove up for this leg of the festivities.
One great addition to the event this morning was the boxed breakfasts, including hot sandwiches, fruit, and orange juice, that the MINI dealer provided. That caused us to linger in the parking lot longer than usual, and for many Motorists it was almost ten o’clock before we were on the road.
Nevertheless, with just over 200 miles to cover, we were all in Nashville for a late lunch and a free afternoon to catch up on personal affairs, e-mails, laundry, shopping, and other chores for which there has been no time during the past week. But by five o’clock, MINIs were beginning to gather on the roadways in Centennial Park, which surrounds an exact full-scale replica of the Parthenon, originally built for a world’s fair, and now the centerpiece of a lovely park.
The park was the perfect setting for a free concert of a variety of Nashville’s best bands, sponsored by MINI USA and its media partners and open to the public. As the sun began to set, offering relief from the sweltering humid heat of the afternoon, the crowds swelled to an exciting level, and the energy of the bands increased in response.
Off to one side, in our private marquee open only to Motorists wearing the now-signature red rubber wristbands, we could enjoy the show and take advantage of the opportunity to chat with one another, an opportunity that we all appreciated.
As the evening wore on, it was nice to take those folding lawn chairs we have been dragging with us since Monterey, and go out on the lawn to enjoy the music. The bands got better and better as the evening wore on, but then at ten o'clock the powers that control these things decided we should get some sleep before our trip to St. Louis and the heavens opened up, the rains came, and the concert was declared over.
With the halfway point of the tour now passed, I can say that the event has been a hit so far. One proof is that one of the major topics of conversation in the parking lots in the mornings, and at the rest stops, is where, when, and how a similar future event might be organized. So far, the consensus of participants seems to be that the tour should take place in 2008 (or maybe 2009 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the classic Mini), that it should be at least three weeks long, and consist of a day on the road, followed by a day of events and sight-seeing, with more emphasis on club collaboration in planning events, scenic drives and other activities. Certainly, with very little organizational effort, the clubs all along the way have contributed a significant amount to making this tour the pleasant and exciting experience it has been.
The Folks Behind the MINI Magic
Barry and I had the opportunity to sit down this morning with Jim McDowell, vice-president in charge of MINI USA, and Trudy Hardy, MINI USA’s director of marketing, and one of the topics of conversation was the relationships among the company, the dealers, the clubs, and the owners.
Jim and Trudy, who have been on the tour since the beginning, and can be seen out chatting with owners at every stop along the way, both feel strongly that there is something very special about MINI owners, so that the company wants to always be in a position of supporting, rather than leading or directing, club and owner activities.
We were impressed with their recognition that the relationship between this car and its owners is something very unusual in the automotive world. That relationship explains the run-away success of the MINI in global markets, but it also is something that the company intends to be very careful not to intrude upon or harm.
We’ve also been impressed with the enthusiasm that Jim and Trudy bring to their jobs, and the fact that they both seem to be having a lot of fun in their work. It’s such a refreshing contrast to the automotive executives we’ve met in other companies that we have a lot of confidence in MINI’s future, and its continuing capacity to bring pleasure as well as product satisfaction to its owners.
MINI Motorists on the Road
During the morning gathering, Barry and I had the opportunity to meet another couple who decided to tie their nuptials to the Road Trip to End all Road Trips. Margaret Isa, a merger and acquisitions lawyer in New York City had never owned a car, but as she got to know Stephan Butler, a New Jersey contractor for large-scale construction projects – he’s currently building a multi-screen movie theater – she picked up on his love of cars.
At about the same time they started thinking seriously about marriage, she saw her first MINI, and it was love at first sight with that, too.
Margaret configured a number of alternatives, but nothing seemed quite right to her, until she saw the first announcement of the Works GP cars, and then heard about the plans for a Monterey delivery and a coast-to-coast tour. Suddenly everything clicked and in short order a wedding had been planned, a GP ordered, and arrangements made to honeymoon on the two-week coast-to-coast tour.
Stephan says, in response to the comment they hear most often, that the week they’ve spent together so far covering almost 3,000 miles of highway has made them all the more sure of all the decisions that put them into that MINI.
Now all they’ve got to do is figure out what they want to do over the next few years. Stephan has just been granted a year-long Congressional fellowship by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which means he’ll be living in Washington, D.C. as soon as Congress convenes in the fall, and Margaret has a challenging job of her own in New York City, so they figure that they’ll put some serious mileage on their GP on weekends together, while working apart during the week over the next year.
We join all the other Motorists on the tour in congratulating them and wishing them all the best in the life journey they began together in Monterey.