From Ocean to Desert in One Exciting Drive
Contrasts marked day two of the Road Trip to End All Road Trips, as 250 Motorists started in the verdant beauty of Southern California’s Ojai Valley, and ended in the high desert of Nevada, traveling from the peaceful beaches of Santa Barbara to the high-energy House of Blues for the evening event.
The early morning drive took the group up into the hills east of Santa Barbara and down into the valley surrounding quaint Ojai and a handful of other tiny towns that populate the area, then back up high again to the edges of the desert north of Santa Clarita.
By the time the morning sun had burned the fog out of the hills, the Motorists were already into the desert and headed towards Barstow in the center of the state. Southern California’s Mini Maniacs created an oasis in Barstow where the group could stop for refreshments, but the In N Out beckoned, offering opportunities to meet other drivers who had been passing and repassing one another all morning long.
A group would gather at one of the tables, and first identify themselves by the color and designs on the car they were driving – those two friends were driving the pirate-themed MINI, that couple had the blue convertible with white stripes, the Chile red MINI with the Union Jack on the top was owned by this woman driving the first portion of the tour on her own. But after the cars were identified and home towns shared, the conversations spread into a variety of topics, as if the friends had known one another for years.
Unlike many other functions, several of the staff members running the tour were right in the middle of the dining room participating in the fun and looking as if they were enjoying themselves as much as the participants (left to right, K.P Pfeifer, JP Stephenson, majordomo Dineen Vaugh, event kingpin Ray Brown, and our hard-working Wired Bus driver). These serious folks are actually intently working out the details of the next stage of the Rally. The tour was a collaborative effort of staff members from MINI USA, the Butler Shine Stern advertising agency, and R/A Performance Group event planners, who worked together to plan and execute the tour.
Patterns of behavior in traffic are beginning to be worked out. Though there are hundreds of MINIs on the highway, which could be a major traffic hazard, the MINI Motorists all seem to be safe and sane drivers, sticking to the prevailing traffic speeds, and avoiding huge clusters of cars, but still enjoying the spectacle that is created when eight or ten colorful MINIs go whizzing by, followed in a few minutes by another, and then another such group. We’re certainly helping make it obvious to other drivers on the road why we love these cars.
However, when we got enmeshed in an enormous traffic jam when joining Interstate Five, we discovered that traffic could be played as a team sport. If you needed to get into the next lane, you could count on another little bulldog to cut out a space for you to slip into. With everyone working together, we were able to get the whole group through the backup and off at the right ramp with no problems.
By late afternoon, we were at the Nevada border, where another desert mirage had materialized, a metal roller coast with the longest drop of any coaster in the western United States, at Buffalo Bill’s Casino just across the border at Primm. Arrangements had been made for a free ride for anyone wearing the red rubber wrist band that is the identifying mark for everyone participating in the MTTS Rally. The first picture at left shows Barry in battle dress, doing the obvious tourist "Look where we are!" pose.
One small group among many reported back later in the day that they had driven down into Death Valley, and discovered that if a Works GP is used to do donuts in the desert, it can create its own dust devil, sort of a MINIature tornado.
Most of the group was into Las Vegas just in time to enjoy the evening rush hour, but after a quick shower and maybe a little nap, we were ready to go.
The House of Blues had been closed down for the evening just for us, and by nine o’clock the place was rocking, as the group bid farewell to Dr. Kay Segler, global brand manager for the MINI, who participated in the festivities at the Monterey Historic Automobile Races, and then drove with us on the first two days of the Rally. Unfortunately, we can't show you pictures of the party, because the House doesn't permit photography – what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
Tomorrow morning, we’ll be heading east towards Flagstaff, our evening’s stop, but many groups that met today have worked out various alternative routes, including one down into the red rock country around Sedona guided by members from the local Las Vegas MINI club, as well as another up historic U.S. 66 north of Kingman, that will take us to the Wednesday stop-over. After two days on the road and at least 620 miles under our wheels, we’re definitely Motoring.