I’m a MINI Cooper nut. In “proper” terms, I am a MINIAC. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know that. I have been in love with Mini Coopers for years… it’s just something about the style, mixed with quality, mixed with fun. I was once told that you don’t just “buy” a MINI. You adopt a lifestyle. That is so true.
In October of 2009, I drove through the streets of Philadelphia with a smile on my face and tingles down my spine. After years of admiring the Mini, and cutting out Cooper photos from magazines, I had just placed an order for a Lightning Blue MINI with a white roof, mirrors and bonnet stripes. For me, this was a dream coming true. Somewhere in Oxford, England, MY Mini was being “born,” and would soon board a big ol’ ship and sail across the pond to MY house. (ok, well, my dealership) When you order a Mini, you can track its progress online, and I was pretty much pressing “refresh” on my browser every 10 minutes. About a month after I placed the order, I got a call from Mini of the Mainline (my dealership), telling me that my car was ready to be picked up. This was like my baby. I almost wanted to cry. (In fact, maybe I did … just a little) Do you know that feeling where you get a little pang in your heart from being either really sad or really happy? Well, I got that pang when they drove Pixel up to me that day. Pixel is his name, of course. Every MINI needs a name, and his was decided even before he had tires or an engine. If you never thought a car could make you smile inside… make you happy… then you’ve never had a Mini.
Pixel and I hit it off immediately, of course. I had been told that MINIs are fun to drive, but I had never really experienced it. Pixel is not an “S,” (aka sport model) but man, can he corner. Everything about him is solid as hell. And to top it all off, he’s adorable and gets amazing gas mileage. It wasn’t long after I got him that I was reminded of something I heard at my dealership. “You should join PhillyMINI.” PhillyMINI is the local motoring club, and I was told that if I was an enthusiast, I should join. So about a month later, I attend my first member meeting, and about a month after that, I drove in my first rally. PhillyMINI is made up of the greatest folks in the tri-state area. I fell in love with them immediately. I was also amazingly tickled to see 30, 40 and sometimes 50 MINIs ALL together in the same parking lot. The photographer side of me also took over at these rallies, and I started getting some AWESOME car shots. And I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I spent a lot of time driving and shooting at the same time (but you didn’t hear that!).
So Pixel and I had a pretty fun life. On the weekdays, we’d deal with standard rush hour traffic, but on the weekends, we’d motor like crazy with PhillyMINI through some of the most scenic and twisty roads in the area. If there were no rallies on a particular weekend, we’d head to the shore or Longwood Gardens… anywhere we could just let loose and motor. Then things changed a bit. My thirst for travel took over AND I met the most amazing man in the world. He lives a mobile lifestyle and I started living on his motorcoach/tour bus full time. I did have one condition though… The MINI stays. So although Pixel didn’t join in immediately (he needed the proper towing gear), a few months later, we came by New Jersey to switch out Ben’s Jeep for the MINI. He got his towing gear installed and Pixel was ready to tour the U.S. of A. And that he did. He went coast to coast with me, and lots of places in between. From Acadia, Maine, to Arches National Park, Utah, to Lake Tahoe, etc. Pixel got around.
When the time came for Pixel’s lease to end, I knew I had a big decision to make. Originally I had planned to just buy out the lease, but that was when it was just me. Now that Ben and I are together, we learned that the Mini is a bit small to hold all of our photo gear. It’s doable, but not comfortable. In 2011, the MINI Countryman was released. The Countryman is the first 4-door MINI with somewhat of an SUV feel to it, while still being a MINI. At first, I wasn’t into the Countryman. Really, I wasn’t into anything that wasn’t Pixel. But after seeing the Countryman’s debut during the MINI Takes the States event, and then taking it on a test drive at a Las Vegas dealership, I had to admit that the Countryman was damn nice. But still… I just couldn’t deal with the idea of handing off Pixel to a complete stranger. This was my baby.
Then… something karmic happened. Ben and I were parked in St. George, Utah, with our dear friends Cherie and Chris. They are nomads just like we are, and they just switched from their Oliver trailer to a vintage bus. They were spending a lot of time customizing their “new old bus” to their needs, and adapting their lifestyle a bit. When they had a trailer, they used a truck to tow the trailer. Now, the motorcoach they live in is the towing kind, not the towable kind. They had no tow vehicle… but they wanted one. Their new bus happens to be blue. Pixel is blue. And he was set up for towing. Wheels started turning. I couldn’t bear giving Pixel up to some stranger, but to great friends… this was a different story. After discussing it a bit, we all decided that this was a good thing for everyone. Cherie and Chris bought Pixel, and Cherie flew out to Las Vegas, where we were parked at the time, to pick him up. I have to admit, I cried. Ok… I cried a lot (In fact, I’m welling up a little right now as I type this). But in my heart, I know that Pixel couldn’t have gone to two better people. I’m actually honored to have them in the driver’s seat. If you haven’t already, you must check out Technomadia.com, because Cherie and Chris are not only “technomads,” but they are a driving force behind the whole idea of technomadism, and they’re the inspiration and support for tons of folks to get out there and travel full-time.
Above is a video of my time with Pixel. Makes my heart warm inside.
So what did Ben and I do? … with no car? Well, we went to Desert Mini, in Las Vegas, and ordered a 2012 MINI Countryman. After several beautiful years with Pixel, a new chapter begins. The only problem was that the order time was over two months… which meant we would be without a car for a while. I wont lie. It sucked. We ended up renting cars three times, when we absolutely had to for special destinations (like Napa Valley) and special events (like amazing gallery opening), and for the rest of the time, we either walked, took public transportation, or got really used to hanging on the bus for long periods of time. When we migrated down to San Diego for the Winter, our friend Misty loaned us her VW Van, appropriately named Vanna White, so we’d have some wheels while we waited. Vanna was great. She gave us our freedom back. But then she decided that she wanted to visit the auto spa (aka the shop). I can’t say I blame her.
During this car-less period, I was not only tracking the new MINI’s status, but I was trying to get myself excited over the new Countryman. I was still sad over saying goodbye to Pixel, and I really wanted to be happy over the new “baby.” I even put a big pic of the new Countryman on my Mac’s desktop so that I would warm up to him sooner. I’ve got to admit that the whole tracking process helped up my enthusiasm. I was straight up giddy when our new MINI was on a ship, making his way through the Panama Canal. I had a live webcam going, and was watching intently all morning as the ship went through. By the time the ship docked on the West coast, I was antsy.
Since we were parked in San Diego, and the Mini was being delivered to Las Vegas, Ben flew over to pick him up and drive back to the bus. At the time Ben took delivery, he still didn’t have a name (and that’s just wrong). I had been going back and forth in my head over what he should be called but I finally came to a decision. It would be “Red.” That might sound unoriginal, but it’s really not. He’s not named after a color at all. Instead, his name takes inspiration from the Red Pill in the film, “The Matrix.” The Red Pill represents freedom… the real world. In a way, it represents our nomadic lifestyle. So there it is.*)
I was pretty much jumping up and down when Ben finally arrived with Red. I was worried that, because I loved Pixel so much, I wouldn’t have the warmest feelings toward Red. Luckily, I was wrong. I connected with him right away and was delighted! I’m not 100% comfy driving at night, so I waited until the next day to take the driver’s seat, but when I did… holy s***. Red is an “S” and hides a lot of power under that white roof. Mix that with the spine-tingling sound system and gorgeous red accents and Karen’s in a happy place.
The day after Red came home, he got his new base plate installed. That’s what will allow us to tow him with the bus. The only thing we have left is the installation of the bonnet stripes. They should have been installed before but were somehow forgotten. Considering they’re cosmetic, I’m not making a big deal out of it. At the time of my next post, the stripes will be on.
I still have yet to take real (meaning DSLR) photos of Red, but I’m sure that’s what the next post will be. The current shots are from my iPhone. I have a lot of bonding to do with Red, and I CAN’T WAIT to take him on his first PhillyMINI Rally, but as of right now, I couldn’t be happier. Pixel is in wonderful hands and I will be seeing him every time we see Cherie and Chris, and Red is just amazing. I know I talk about these cars as if they’re actual beings, individuals…. But they are… because they’re MINI.
* Notes about the name and the color: I mentioned that the name “Red” is inspired from the Red Pill in the Matrix. This is true, but being a horse gal, I also like that the name pays homage to the greatest (in my opinion) racehorse who ever lived… Secretariat (whose nickname was Red). I must also add the the main reason for the choice of red is to match the Vintage Bus that Ben and I will soon call home.