The day our MINI froze over

One winter day, as I finished work late in the evening, about eight o’clock, I went out to the parking lot and saw my MINI looking this:

I hadn’t expected that. It had rained earlier in the day, particularly during lunch and it had continued to drizzle through the afternoon. The evening had brought a freezing spell with it, and all that water had turned to ice, on the ground and in the sky.

What to do? I didn’t have an ice scraper with me, but I remembered someone had given me one of those mini-CDs and I’d put it in the car. After prying the door open, I grabbed it and started scraping off the ice from the windshield. Who knew that thing would do something useful someday? 🙂

It took about half an hour to get the windshield clean and another twenty minutes to warm up the car sufficiently so that it melted the rest of the ice from the windows. I loved every minute of it, in spite of the freezing cold. You know why? Because an unexpected adventure is a chance to experience something different, something extra-ordinary and it’s a welcome thing in my book.

What do you think I did after I got the car started? Did I take the highway and head home fast? No, I took the scenic route and enjoyed my MINI’s wonderful winter handling, with the aid of my winter tires, plodding through the freshly fallen snow and sliding over ice patches. I did a few donuts in the empty parking lot, slid the rear through corners, braked just so I could slide on the empty roads… I still smile when I think of that evening. Fun, fun, fun! 🙂


In the MINI

One stable element in our life through the past decade has been our 2003 MINI Cooper S. I placed the order for it in the closing months of 2002 and got it in March of 2003, exactly as I wanted it.

Although our life has undergone major changes in those years, and even though the MINI’s had more than its fair share of problems, we kept it. We even brought it over to Romania with us, and it sits in our courtyard right now, just waiting to be driven to some fun place, ready to eat up Transilvania’s twisty roads.

Our car’s seen a lot of ground during its almost 10-year existence. We plan to keep it around so it sees a lot more of this incredible blue world of ours. Even now, as we open its doors and get in, somehow the new car smell hasn’t gone away. The design (both exterior and interior) is still appealing to us. The engine still pulls like a fine horse and it still tears up the curves. And the fact that it’s been with us this long, through thick and thin, through incredible changes, has provided us with no small amount of comfort and it helped ease the transitions that took place in our lives. It’s a keeper.

I took these next few photos in the MINI, as we were driving around DC one winter day, a few years ago, with a 35mm film camera, an Exakta EXA Ia.


The C&O Canal in winter

I still remember fondly one occasion back in 2005 when, after copious snowfall, we took our MINI out for a drive with our new Michelin winter tires. We lived in the DC area at the time, and those of you who live there know we only get about one serious snowfall every year, usually toward the end of January or start of February. Well, that day, we had our annual big snowfall, and we wanted to make the best of it.

We took the car out on River Drive (it runs parallel to the Potomac River) and turned onto an access road that took us downhill, toward Lock 21 of the C&O Canal. It was quite possible that we wouldn’t be able to get back up onto the main road, but we didn’t care at the time. We were thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

Our MINI handled itself beautifully thanks to the winter tires, and we drove uphill through the thick snow without a hitch. Soon we were back home, sipping on hot tea and warming ourselves after the wonderful outing. We had so much fun!


Premium gasoline dips below $3 per gallon

As I filled up my MINI a couple of days ago, I glanced at the pump and noticed the price of the premium gasoline: $2.77 per gallon. I couldn’t believe it. I left the pump running and ran toward the street sign to take a photo.

I just didn’t think I’d ever see premium gas dipping below $3 again. While I’m sure others welcome the change — and I can’t say I disagree when you consider the issue solely from the point of view of one’s bank account — I still say gasoline needs to stay above $3 at the pump, in order to encourage proper driving behavior and to make research into alternative fuels and technologies viable.

It wasn’t that long ago that I paid $4.45 at the pump to buy premium gasoline for my MINI. There’s a huge difference between $4.45 and $2.77, and I don’t like this sort of yo-yo behavior when it comes to gas prices. First it was too high, and now it’s too low. It’s not right. It needs to stabilize somewhere between $3-4 dollars per gallon, preferably somewhere between $3.00 and $3.50.

If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on a gasoline tax (which isn’t a new idea, but already in use in Europe), see this post from March of 2005.

I took the photo above with my Nokia N95.


A clever bit of marketing

I was driving to work a couple of days ago, and as a MINI passed me from the opposite direction, the owner stuck his hand out the window, making the victory sign at me. I smiled, and responded by raising my hand. This sort of thing has happened countless times since I bought my MINI.

Why do MINI owners do this? Because it’s in the MINI literature. The pamphlets that come with our cars will tell you just how to salute other MINI owners. The victory sign was one of the recommended gestures.

MINI’s marketing stood out from the start. It was different, it was likable, and it was fun. The salutes were one of the things that really stood out. After all, saluting other MINI owners is a nice and friendly thing to do, and on some level, it makes one feel like they’re part of a club that’s not open to everyone — which, incidentally, is another notion taught in the MINI literature and reinforced on the MINI website, where the owner section is called the Owner Lounge.

Let’s face it though, the club isn’t that exclusive. You can get in if you have the money to buy a MINI. And this club’s membership is growing. In 2003, when I bought my MINI, there weren’t that many on the roads. Now, five years later, I see a lot more, particularly in the DC area, where I currently live. If you want to talk about an exclusive car club, take the classic MINI owners. You can’t make those cars any more, and there are very few of them here in the States.

Since there are only going to be more MINI cars on the roads, it begs the question: at what point do you stop waving at other MINI owners? I’m not asking this because it bothers me to wave back, or even to start a salute; I enjoy doing it. It’s the nice and sociable thing to do. It puts a smile on my face, and that’s always a good thing.

But I see plenty of other MINI owners that aren’t interested in it. I look at them as I pass by, hoping for some sort of little wave (after all, I’ve gotten used to this clever bit of marketing), and I see nothing. Then I wonder, did they read the pamphlets? Don’t they agree with the marketing? What could make them so uninterested in being nice to other people? How could they be glum while they’re driving a MINI?

Then I catch myself, and I chuckle. Because let’s face it, it’s the marketing that makes me think and do those things. It’s powerful stuff, because it appeals to the basic human need for company, for social interaction. It’s good stuff.