Tuesday, August 29
From Nashville, Tennessee to St. Louis, Missouri
356 miles today, 3179 miles since Monterey
A Day of Lakes, Rivers, and Trees, and Baseball
After a week of the arid west and days in single states, Tuesday’s drive was in sharp contrast. The road between Nashville and St. Louis not only took us into four states, but we also crossed numerous bridges over three major rivers and many small lakes, with the highway continuously edged by deep green foliage or fertile farmland. Even the weather was a contrast, as the day began in overcast, was punctuated by short showers, and finished in light rain.
This didn’t prevent MINI USA and its media partners from throwing a great baseball tailgate party for at least 500 Motorists and friends, and the blow-up furniture in the cozy block-long tent next to Busch Stadium was the perfect place to watch the Marlins play the home team Cardinals, unless you were one of the lucky ones who won a skybox ticket. Too bad our team lost, but as on the road, there’s always another day to look forward to.
The morning take-off point was in Centennial Park, the site of our party-hearty evening of Nashville music, but by the time we arrived all of the tents and stage were gone, and the park had been returned to its green state. As a send-off, MINIs of Nashville held a drawing to award some worthy Motors some of the fine MINI Motoring Gear that they had been selling last night. Heidi and Gary Savill of Cresskill, New Jersey were certainly among the most worthy, as they found room for a new MINI picnic set, including a food pack, utensils and a picnic blanket in their Works GP, which they have driven from Monterey.
Gary is an expatriate Brit who has lived in the U.S. for the past 14 years. Gary and his American wife Heidi run a business in New Jersey providing carved stone architectural features to contractors doing high-end residences, and classic style commercial buildings.
When asked how they wound up with a Works GP, Gary said, "It's all Heid's fault. She kept trying to swap her Lincoln Navigator for my MINI Cooper S, so when the Works GP came out, I suggested she sell the Navigator to buy the GP so we could both be happy."
They were the excited couple who took delivery of their Works GP in Monterey in matching MINI shirts emblazoned with GP0076, the serial number of their new car. Unfortunately, they had run through all their matching numbered shirts, but were heading back to New Jersey this morning anyhow, since they were only able to get baby-sitting help for two weeks and so couldn't do the St.Louis to New Jersey legs. But they will be with us on Sunday in Jersey City and complete the trip with the other proud coast-to-coast GP owners.
After backtracking westward across Tennessee, we entered Kentucky in the riverbottom area formed where Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois intersect. Here, in an area called the Land Between the Lakes, our alternate route took us through Cadiz, Kentucky, then across a bridge and into the recreation area, pierced from south to north by a road called The Trace. We were seeing more water than we'd seen in one place anywhere since we crossed Hoover Dam almost a week ago.
The Trace is an almost untrafficked secluded strip of pavement which makes up in solitude and natural beauty whatever it lacks in driving excitement. From the road all we could see were tall trees and deep green foliage, but the Garmin told us that we were indeed traveling on a parallel course with two lakes fed by the major rivers of the area.
Though I had been traveling alone for almost two hours, I only had to stop to take a picture and almost instantly, I heard the hoot of two MINI horns as George Constantino and ian Cull breezed by. Jumping into the Vicar, i was able to catch them up and chat with them at the next rest stop as we examined a small flaw in the aero kit on the GP cars. George and Ian have both been on the trip since taking delivery of their GPs in Monterey, and have found themselves to be compatible touring companions, since they both enjoy travelling at the same high speeds.
George is in information technology, probably the dominate professional field of MINI owners judging from the folks we've met in the past few days, and lives in Westbury, New York out on Long Island. George doesn't like to own the same thing everyone else owns, so the limited edition factor of the GP was what appealed to him.
Ian, well-known in MINI web circles as GBMINI – though his new plate reads GPMINI – also is involved in software, owning a company that develops and manufactures the computer controls for scissor trucks and cherry-pickers used in building maintenance and construction. He's lived in Gloucester, Massachusetts, were he's made his home since moving here from Englad.
Soon after our pleasant off-route interlude, we were back on I 64 heading west across the flat and fertile farm fields of southern Illinois, but even that relatively bucolic atmosphere soon was replaced by the complex, noisy interstate web on the banks of the Mississippi River. Several folks reported missing ramps and getting a little lost before crossing the Mississippi, but soon everyone had gotten to their hotel, freshened up, and made their way with the many Cardinal fans to the area around Busch Stadium, which was just rebuilt last winter, completed barely in time for the new baseball season.
There in a block-square parking lot next to the headquarters Westin Hotel, part of the new stadium complex, MINI USA, its media partners, and the BMW/MINI Midwest Sales Region had organized a huge tailgate party with an open-air area, a block-long tent, and hamburger and hotdog cookers going strong.
Unfortunately for the baseball fans, the intermittent drizzle soon gave way to a steady light rain, but our tent had been fitted out not only with tables and chairs, but also inflatable living rooms under each of the big-screen televisions so we could watch the game in comfort as we enjoyed the appropriate hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, cole slaw, popcorn and cookies (but no apple pie) that were being served.
During the announcements, Jim McDowell (in the center of the back row in this picture), asked all those who had been on the entire route since Monterey to join him on the stage. Including the Motorists who had already gone over to the game, the number is about 25! Trudy Hardy, director of marketing for MINI, and the spark plug behind this tour, then announced that the entire coast-to-coast contingent would be MINI's guests in the sky boxes to watch the game.
Now if only the game had been up to the preliminaries. Unfortunately, it was pretty much a wash-out, as the home team Cards lost to the Marlins by an ignominious spread of 7-1.