Summer Road Trip – MINI Takes the States

MINI Coopers have always been a part of our relationship.  On our very first date I realized that if we became a couple, MINI’s were going to be a big part of our lives.  I’d never been a huge car person… I liked cars and all….they get me places and they go fast… but I didn’t know anything beyond the basics about cars.  Brian drove in MINI Rallyes… He did Auto Cross and Track Days… He was president of the MINI Club!  If I was going to date this guy, I was going to have to accept MINI’s in my life….. hmmmm…

As our first date came to an end Brian walked me to my car (Big, Black, SUV)…. and we paused to look at his car…. and I called it “cute.”  Then he didn’t call me for two whole days.  UGH!  Today he swears that he was just busy… that it wasn’t the “cute” comment at all….. I still wonder though…

Family Photo

Family Photo

We’ve been together for six years now and MINI’s are a huge part of our lives.  They are like our little, adopted, British kids.  We take the blue one to track and cross-country events… the little yellow one just likes to go on short trips around town and out for ice cream…. and our newest baby gets to go to the zoo and social events.  I now have a bigger, black SUV so that I can take the blue kid to her track events out of state.  Kids!  Two legs or four wheels, they are all consuming!

Brian and I have been talking about going on the MINI Takes the States Rallye since our first date. MINI USA organizes a cross-country  rallye with events at each evening’s stop.  MINI’s from all over the US (and I’ve heard of a few coming in from overseas for the event) meet in different cities and travel from event to event.  It’s a fun way to make new friends and see new places.  MINI parents are just a fun group of people.  MINI only hosts the event every two years and we weren’t able to go in 2010 or 2012…. But this year, especially since we just got the new Roadster, we decided to make this our summer trip.

We are going to meet the MINI’s in Albuquerque, NM and travel back with them to St Louis.  I wish we had the time to take the whole trip… from one coast to the other… but not this year.   We are going to take an extra few days and make a couple of stops along the way to Albuquerque.  Our plan is to stay on old Route 66 for as long as possible.  Our MTTS Route

The trip is still over a month away, but we are already trying to plan how to:

  • A.) pack 10 days of clothes and supplies in a 2 seat MINI Roadster
  • B.) eat gluten-free and healthy on the road for 10 days

We plan to take a cooler and pack lunch meat and cheese slices for lunches… but we may not have a fridge at every hotel.  I could probably survive off of pistachios, so we’ll have to get a big supply of those before we go.  Breakfasts are my biggest concern though.  Not all of our hotels offer breakfast and  we don’t eat cereal anymore…..  I wish we could take our Breakfast Bake, but I wouldn’t trust it in a cooler for that long!  Anyone have ideas?

Follow along and we’ll post photos and fun places as we go!

Winding Away the Weekend

Fall has arrived and I am SO excited.  I love fall.  It’s my absolute favorite time of year.  It’s kind of like Mother Nature is trying to gently ease you into Winter.  She doesn’t bother to do that with Summer (we live in Missouri).  One day it is winter and there is snow on the ground… the next day the tulips are blooming (there is still snow on the ground)…. then BAM!  the tulips are dead and its 95 degrees…. Hello, Summer!  With Fall she kind of eases you into it… Chilly mornings, warm afternoons, frosty nights.  You are so distracted by the pretty leaves you kind of forget that Winter is right around the corner.  I think Mother Nature just gets sick of listening to us complain.   “It’s too hot” or “It’s too cold.”  At least with Fall it is hard to find something to complain about.

Since Fall has arrived Brian pretty much knows that I am going to insist on doing something every weekend.  When Winter gets here I won’t mind staying home (directly in front of the fireplace) all the time.  Mid-September through early November I fill our weekends with Fall activities.  Resigned to his fate (don’t let him fool you too badly, he is happy as long as he gets to drive the MINIs) Brian came up with the following suggestion: Drive to Chaumette Winery (long, winding back roads!) have lunch and then explore Elephant Rocks State Park.  (He’s good, right?)

MINI Road Trip

So into the MINI we climbed (Spice Orange Roadster….. when we bought it, he sold it to me with the promise of autumn drives.  He knows me so well!)  It is completely possible to get to the winery by the main roads (mostly), but we just don’t see the fun in that.  Brian mapped out a route that would keep us on the back roads almost the entire drive.  (Coincidentally, this took us past a number of yard sales… where he actually let me stop!)

Between the yard sale stops and the winding roads, we were pretty starved by the time we got to Chaumette.  Reservations aren’t required at their restaurant, the Grapevine Grill, but it is a smart idea to call ahead.  We hadn’t made reservations, so we had a 40 minute wait.  Not horrible and well worth the wait.  Baetje Farms was onsite offering free goat cheese tastings.  Mega-Yum!  I like goat-cheese.  It has a bit more of a bite to it which I really love.  Brian isn’t the biggest fan, but even he was impressed with a number of the flavors we sampled.  I bought the Cranberry Cinnamon and the Feta (recipes coming soon).

We  still had some time to kill so we shared a wine tasting.  I say “we,” truthfully, Brain doesn’t drink…. I taste the wine and I make Brian smell it… they smell pretty!  Chaumette is my favorite winery, I already knew that I liked most of the wines, but I got to try some of the other wines that I hadn’t tasted before… namely the reds.  I’m not normally a fan of red wine (I’m a sweet, white girl… um…), but I discovered that I love the Hugenot Red.  Brian (the non-drinker) asked about the Wine Club.  It’s a pretty good deal… no membership fee and they will send you two bottles of wine (20% off) every two months.  You also get free tastings, 20% off in the gift shop and at the Grapevine Grill and invitations to special events.  Also, you can earn a night at the Villages at Chaumette when you coerce your friends to join the Wine Club too (so if you join, tell em I sent you!)  Brian and I opted to have them hold our bottles instead of shipping them to us (shipping charges eat up your 20% discount). Now we have a good excuse to visit Chaumette every few months!

Hugenot RedFinally, our table was ready, and not a moment too soon…. the goat cheese samples were not absorbing the wine fast enough and the floor of the winery was moving around a bit (I’m a light-weight, I admit it.)  We were seated out on the wrap around porch that over looks the winery.  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  There were plenty of options on the menu for Gluten-Free me to choose from (not a ton, but better than most places).  We both ordered the Sayersbrook Ranch Bison Burger (mine, without the bun).  Delicious!  For dessert, Brian ordered a brownie and I got a Chocolate and Tart Cherry Trifle (Gluten Free).  I also had a bottle of the Hugenot Red (I didn’t drink the whole thing!) with lunch.  The whole bill was around $40.

photo 3

I bought a new hat in the gift shop.  Thank you, Wine Club discount!  I’d been looking for a hat the would stay on in the convertible, and still shade my face and the back of my neck.  Brian swore I would lose it in the first five minutes, but it stayed on nicely.  It has an elastic-ish band inside that clings to to top of my head and the brim sits very low.  Perfect!

Our waitress asked what we had planned for the afternoon and we said we were headed to Elephant Rocks after lunch.  She suggested we visit Pickle Springs.  We’d been to Elephant Rocks a number of times so we decided to give Pickle Springs a try. (Post coming soon!)

Beautiful View