Today was the official start to MINI Takes the States. Brian and I chose not to attend the early check in event the night before because there were protest happening in Atlanta and Atlanta traffic is a nightmare on a good day. 

Morning came extra early today, but I was still wound from the whole buying a house in another state thing, so I was basically awake already when the alarm went off. (Not bright eyed or bushy tailed…. but awake.) 

We grabbed a quick bite to eat at the hotel and then headed out to meet the rest of the MINI’s. (MINI USA often provides breakfast sandwiches or burritos, but being GF we can’t eat anything there. Fortunately we stay at Holiday Inns and they have foods that we can eat.) 

We recognized so many people from the 2014 MTTS and surprisingly they recognized us too!  (It says a lot about a company that they can keep the same employees year after year.) We were so impressed with the happy/friendly/helpful attitudes of all the MINI Staff in 2014. They were working crazy hours and herding cats… I mean CARS all day long for two weeks… And everyone was always smiling and nice…. Kinda like Disney employees! 

Once we got checked in and got our lanyards with our first pins we climbed up into the bleachers at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. I rifled through our MTTS goody bags while Brian actually socialized with the other humans. The bags are made out of old MINI USA billboards!  How cool is that?!  So every bag is different and you kinda look at your bag and think… Oh! I got a tire! We had a few stickers in the bags and a bunch of windshield (or ‘windscreen,’if I’m going to use the proper Brittish terms) wipes. Which will come in handy since I like to put my foot up on the dash and Brian gets annoyed when I leave toe prints on the glass. 

Since we’re going the whole way this year – Track to Track – Atlanta to Los Angeles – we got different colored lanyards (orange) than the people just doing one leg (yellow) or a few legs (blue) of the trip. We also got a laundry bag that we get to stuff full of dirty clothes and MINI will wash and return them too us. MINI really has thought of everything. 

The event kicked off with the National Anthem and then ‘hellos’from MINI Corporate…. Some of the head honchos from Germany came over to see what the big deal was with Mini Takes the States. (If we can hunt him back down, he’s supposed to have a special pin to add to our lanyards, but the guy was a million feet away… I’m gonna have trouble recognizing him again… I guess I can just be listening for a German accent.) And THEN! There was a humming sound from overhead… and we looked up… up…. up… to see a plane circling overhead and three skydivers jumped from the plane…. And LANDED IN A MINI!!! How’s that for a precision landing?! 

You can check out my videos on YouTube:

Then we all climbed into our cars to take a lap around the Atlanta Motor Speedway. We were all warned not to go up the banking of the track or all of our oil would slosh to the side and our cars would start throwing codes (which is like car curse words, but more expensive.) There were about a bazillion of us there, so it took a while for us all to A) find our cars and B) get back in them. 

Note: There were not actually a ‘bazillion’ of us at the event. MINI said that there were 900 of us Track to Track people and about 4000 total people registered. So at any given time there will be 900 of us on the trip with more of our MINI cousins popping in at different points. 

And of course, since this is MINI, we got a special send off before we sped off on the track – Atlanta Motor Speedway Lap

After our lap around the track we started following the map provided by MINI to our first afternoon Suprise & Delight. 

We stopped in Ridgeway, Georgia at Laura’s Tea Room. Ridgeway is a teeny, tiny town… I think the population for less than 350 people…. We kinda invaded and overwhelmed the town. It was awesome!  People would stop along side the road and take photos of the migration of MINI’s. We’d wave and they’d wave back with slightly bemused looks. 

MINI Value Service gave us all reusable coolie cups and Laura’s Tea Room gave us all iced tea. Delish!  I don’t think Laura’s was expecting the number of people that showed up… I heard that they were expecting something more like 600-700 people over the span of a few hours… Not all 2000 or so of us that decended on them like a thirsty horde. Laura’s staff was all very gracious and welcoming… if a little frazzled.  I thought the whole thing was great fun and Brian and I got our tea and wandered through the little town for a bit before hitting the road again. 

We arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina and got a quick bite of dinner before heading to the evening event. I found a place through the Find Me Gluten Free app called Nothing But Noodles that promised gf rice noodles. The meal was pretty good, nothing mind altering, but still good. 

Fettuccini Alfredo w/chicken & tomatoes

The evening event was held at the Charlotte NASCAR Hall of Fame. NASCAR’s not really my thing, but Brian and I roamed around and looked at all the cars and displays that showed how the cars have changed over the years. It was interesting. Brian got more out of it than I did since he works at some of the NASCAR track events in St Louis.  

MINI provided dinner… They never promise a full meal, but they usually offer a pretty good spread. Brian and I had already eaten since, even though we suspected they’d have food, we didn’t figure there would be anything GF safe. (Not a complaint!  MINI does an amazing job… I can find my own food since I’m a challenge.) 

We had a wonderful first day with MINI and our new MINI friends. Looking forward to tomorrow’s Motoring Adventures! 

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