Category Archives: Mini

Back in Black

Kid, Cars, Gas, House, Bills. I would prefer not to skimp on #1, so #2 and #3 needed to change so I can keep a #4 over my head while paying #5. Every time I hit the gas pump in the truck it really bothered me how much gas it sucks up. So yeah, the car bug bit me pretty bad and I started justifying all the reasons why a different vehicle would make sense.

I decided to sell the truck and use the equity to get a trash car, and thankfully Robyn talked me out of that. From there we decided to look at smaller economy cars that could still baby. I test drove the Kia Forte 5, Mazda 3, Ford Focus, and a Ford Fiesta ST. The Fiesta ST is a fun, growling little nimble beast of a hot hatch; I would have bought it that day, but with the car seat installed my knees were on the dash. I also looked at the FR-S, but it’s just too small for baby, and sitting in one made me realize that a 2 door sporty car was just not going to cut it. Lots of people make do or even choose to put babies in those cars, but for me it was kinda nice to be over a sports car and feel great about wanting something to haul my lovely family in.

I was not really excited about any of the options I had, and we gravitated back to the Mini dealer sites, where Robyn pointed out a few examples of used Countryman as the back up baby hauler. I drove over to Mini, and after wistfully looking at Hardtops decided a used Countryman was the way to go.

So this happened…


It’s a 2012 S All4 manual 6spd with only 10k miles. A few scratches, but it’s a really tight find. All black… black body with black roof, black wheels, black out lights, and black interior. It is pretty much how I would have configured one out for me in 2012; with the cold weather package, no sunroof, and HID lights. We are pretty satisfied… lower payment, better gas mileage, more warranty, while still keeping one AWD vehicle with the ability to baby. Driving a more driver-focused vehicle again is great! I let Robyn drive it home after she signed the papers and she thanked me for her new car :)

Farewell, Mini :'(

Well, I did it. The Mini is gone. I am kinda sad. I loved that car and will miss it. But it just wouldn’t work with a baby seat and stroller, at least not work well. With the Mini there was no room for anything except the stroller in the trunk, which would make grocery shopping interesting. We of course have the truck, but that isn’t the best baby hauler either. The seat would fit easily, but the stroller would have to go in the bed, or be wedged between the front and back seats. The most ideal thing for the truck would have been a bed cover of some kind, but those aren’t always water-tight.

We could have waited to get it of course, but it would have been weighing on us until we had it taken care of. So, today we took advantage of what is technically the last day of the month and year for car dealerships and bought a 2013 Mazda CX-5, Grand Touring edition with the technology package in pearl white with black interior. It is well optioned and I like it, but I will mourn the loss of my Mini. I will try to remember to post a picture sometime soon. I have never liked white cars, but somehow this one just looked best in white so that is what I chose.

I am still waiting on some accessories because their parts department was closed for the holiday, and it was raining so I told them to put the detailing on the ‘We Owe’ as well… so I have to find time to out to Mazda in Cary again to have it cleaned and get the accessories I ordered (rear bumper guard, cargo cover, all weather floor mats, cargo area mat). They do offer loaners, so maybe if they get the stuff in this week I can just drop it off one morning or something. There are only a couple days left before I fly to California.

As far as the pregnancy goes, not much has changed since yesterday. Although I was more nauseated today, but that might have just been lack of eating since we were stuck at the dealership all day.

Got my Clubby back!

I have my car back! I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I got back in it today. I love that car. But, given the list of stuff they did to it today… probably will be ditching it when the warranty is up.

What all was done?

  1. Passenger door pull was loose and driving me nuts when bass in my music rattled it, so they tightened that up.
  2. Fixed the oil leak which involved replacing a cable harness the oil had dripped on and the oil pump solenoid valve, gasket ring, and cover plate – this happened with Sean’s car too and there is a service bulletin about it so I assume it is common
  3. Replaced wiper blades
  4. Oil change
  5. Flushed brake fluid
  6. Resurfaced front brake pads
  7. Replaced front rotors
  8. New cabin air filter
  9. The timing chain tensioner was checked and declared fine (there is a recall where some seal rings are leaking)
  10. Coolant temp sensor was replaced due to recall, which involved a hose, adapter lead, spacer, strap, and antifreeze
  11. All fluids were topped and they washed the car

At least it didn’t cost me anything! Well, it did cost me $20 in gas I guess. The loaner was given to me with a “full tank” which of course wasn’t really full but I still had to fill it up before I returned it. $20 of gas for two days? In a Mini? Oh well, $20 for all that work isn’t bad at all. I just fear the day the maintenance plan ends!

Vacation = Mini & Dentist

Yesterday I took my first vacation day at work. What awesome things did I do, you ask? I took my car for service and went to the dentist for a crown and two fillings.

My car was telling me service was due in 800 miles, so I made an appointment. While I was there I told them about a minor oil leak on the right side of the engine. I also told them to check my brakes, since I saw a groove in one of the rotors… to which I was told my Mini was calling for front brakes, and they were just going to replace those while they had it. Turns out my standard maintenance plan not only covers oil changes, but brakes and wipers and such too. So that was cool and unexpected. Sean was a little disappointed though I think, because when we saw the grooves he was having visions of installing fancy new rotors and ceramic brake pads.

After sitting at Mini for an hour or so they came out and said, “We’re going to keep your car and give you a loaner.” The oil leak was caused by a “cylanoid” (which I took to mean solenoid) although they didn’t tell me which… I am assuming the oil pump but I wasn’t in a question asking mood. They fixed me up with a Countryman S and sent me on my way. At least Mini usually is good about loaners like that, but I am wondering exactly how long past the warranty period I want to keep it!

After killing some time at Triangle Town I headed over to my new dentist, located at Six Forks & Sawmill. If anyone is shopping for a new dentist, I think I like this one. Although I sorta feel like a kid when I am there because they keep over-explaining things as though they think I am scared of them, and are constantly telling me what a good job I am doing. This is the first dentist (or doctor of any kind) that has ever called me personally, let alone called me before my initial appointment to welcome me to the practice and see if I had questions. And then after the first visit they sent me a hand-written card.

When I got there yesterday I had to wait a little bit, which isn’t unusual. But once they got me in the chair things went really fast. Old dentists always seemed to plop me in the chair, make me wait, then come shoot me up with Novocain, make me wait, come back see if I needed more, then make me wait… I assume they were juggling multiple patients. But this one listened to me when I said I usually needed extra Novocain, gave me the shots and stayed in the room and started a few minutes later when the numbing started to take effect. I was also happy that she didn’t wedge one of those things between my teeth to keep my mouth open, which always kills my jaw. It went really well, and I was out of the office in under two hours. Plus, they provided sunglasses to help with the light and gave me a smoothie on the way out the door.

This is my forth crown (although only the second currently in my mouth) and it was the best experience so far. Today I have a sore gum and a sensitive (to hot/cold) area around the temporary crown, but it is much less painful than some other dental trips. The first was actually a silver “cap” that was on a baby tooth… that one sucked because the dentist basically made me shove it on my self by biting, and it hurt quite a bit as it burrowed into my gum. The other two crowns were for the adult version of the same molar, the first crown broke so I am on the second one there. With the first one though, the dentist trimmed the gum around it which was super painful after the numbness wore off. The last crown wasn’t bad at all, but it was just a replacement so it doesn’t count really.

MiniPalooza 2011

We attended MiniPalooza again this year, although this time was a little different since we both have MINIs now. The event itself has changed as well. Last year it started in Old Salem and went to West Bend Vineyards. This year it started in King, NC and went up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia before heading south again to Shelton Vineyards near Dobson, NC. This year they also combined the annual club cook out into the event.

Last year we had to get up early and rush to Old Salem to get there for the 9:30 departure time. We ended up getting there at about 9:32 to find only one MINI in the expected location, looking just as lost as we were. As it turned out the group had become too large and they moved to a different area, then left a couple minutes early. We still had a lot of fun running the course on our own, but we didn’t want to miss the group again. So, this year we decided to spend Friday night in Old Salem, then drive the 20 some minutes north to King on Saturday morning.

Therefore we were able to spend Friday night relaxing at the Augustus T Zevely B&B, and had a nice late dinner at Old Salem Tavern. When we got up Saturday we actually ended up sitting around killing time until breakfast was served at 8:00, then leisurely headed out to meet up with everyone. So much better than our rushing around last year!

I am not sure how many MINIs attended; seems like I heard it was over 70 from someone. Everyone congregated in a church parking lot, which had more than enough room for all of us. It was easy to see why they chose this as a meeting spot over the cramped Old Salem area like last year. Once we all had received some brief instruction, we headed out in a few groups.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before it started raining. The beginning of the run was pretty good, but soon it was literally raining on our parade. The roads quickly became too wet to trust traction, so we all had to slow down and give extra space between cars. Between the rain, fog, and the lazy nature of the Blue Ridge Parkway it wasn’t the most exciting run. We found it a little disappointing, and I was soon glad I had chosen to leave my Clubby back at the B&B and just ride along with Sean.

The run ended at Shelton Vineyards, which is NC’s largest. It was a little amusing as we were directed to drive along what appeared to be a paved foot path meant for a golf cart at most. The MINIs fit perfectly though, and soon everyone was parked on the grassy area in front of the main building. The food was already cooking and it smelled great. Unfortunately it wasn’t quite ready yet, so we headed in for a wine tour and tasting.

The tour was a bit laughable because of a lame guide, but it was still interesting to see the winery. The accompanying wine tasting included tasting 5 wines each, but we teamworked it and tried nearly every wine they made. I just took small sips, while Sean finished off what they gave us. This of course meant I was the one driving back to Old Salem!

Thanks to the tasting we ended up with three bottles of wine (one of which is huge!) and a box of awesome truffles from Nancy’s Fudge Factory. I have been trying to pace myself on those truffles, they are quite yummy… and large enough I don’t even want to contemplate the calories.

After consuming what probably was about two glasses of wine with only a handful of oyster crackers and a couple truffles, we headed back outside to discover we were probably among the last to eat. There was still plenty of food though, and we had a couple tasty burgers before wandering around to check out MINIs and socialize a bit. Upon finding Mel (who was the lone MINI driver we found last year) we learned that her group had hit a bit of bad luck. They had gotten split up a bit, and even had a minor accident on the wet roads. One MINI rear-ended another, causing minor damage to the left rear (photo in gallery) section of the car. The offending MINI had to be towed away though, as they had cracked their radiator.

Once we were done lounging about, we headed back to Old Salem so we could hit the Winkler Bakery before it closed. We were feeling pretty wiped out, so after acquiring various baked goods we went back to our room to relax a bit before our dinner reservation. We ended up falling asleep and had a nice little nap, although it made it difficult to sleep that night.

The next morning we again awoke bright and early so that we could head out in time to make it to VIR by 10. Last year this part of MiniPalooza was rained out, but thankfully this year it was a dry and beautiful day. Although we left a little later than planned, we made it to VIR with plenty of time to spare. What a relief!

There really isn’t much to say about VIR aside from the obvious about how fun it was. We ran three parade laps on the north course, which basically means no passing. It was quite fun to be able to drive without worry of speed limits. I definitely want to go back up there for another go, three laps were far too short.

In all it was a pretty good weekend, even if it was very tiring. It was nice to get out of town for a few days, explore some new places, and revisit others. Definitely looking forward to MINIs Slay the Sleeping Dragon next month!

MINIs On The Dragon

Last weekend we went up to the mountains for MINIs On The Dragon (MOTD). MOTD is a huge annual event, one of the biggest events (if not the biggest) on this side of the country. Sorry it took a week to write this. Time has just flown by!

This year there were 543 MINIs and 823 people pre-registered; no clue how many of those actually came or how many more registered when they got there. There were MINIs everywhere! This was much bigger than MINIs Slay the Sleeping Dragon (MSSD) which we attended in October.

As with MSSD, MOTD is based at the Fontana Village Resort. We weren’t able to stay at the resort though, since rooms are usually booked a year in advance. We didn’t even have MINIs this time last year. At one point there actually was a two bedroom cabin available, but at $240 a night it just wasn’t worthwhile. However, we were lucky to find a cabin nearby through for the much more reasonable $50 a night plus a $30 fee. We are so grateful to have found that! The cabin was nice, and it was large enough to also help out a couple club members that needed a place to crash as well.
The only downside to that cabin was the road leading to it. You had to turn off the nicely paved Hwy 28 (aka Hellbender) onto an incredibly bumpy and narrow county road. From there you turned onto a private road. Private roads in the mountains are always an interesting experience.

Coming off the county road you had to take a very sharp turn onto a very steep gravel road, steep enough you had to go to first gear if you wanted to make it up. About halfway up you could switch to second gear, but that was it. It varied from paved to gravel, and the steepness also varied. It was narrow enough that we were glad we never met another car while we were on it. The turn into the cabin’s driveway was another sharp turn onto a very steep grade, but at least it was paved. Although the transition from gravel to pavement was teeth jarring. Here is a video shot with an iPhone of the descent, although it doesn’t really convey how steep it was… you can hear the engine braking though. The video is also pretty bouncy.

We went up Thursday night, getting there just before dark… which was a good thing considering the road we had to traverse. The only sign that it was time to turn right into the cabin’s drive was a dark brown pump house on the left. You couldn’t even see the turn until you were already next to it. A friend (with a lowered MINI) from the club came to stay with us the next night. When we asked what he thought of the drive up he said, “No, no, no, no, no…” And that is a direct quote!

Since it was late and we were unfamiliar with the area, we decided to head to Fontana Village for dinner and explore the small towns around us later. I climbed in the driver’s seat (Sean had driven to the cabin) and happily hit Hwy 28. Love that road! It felt good to be zipping along the curves with my Clubman. I had wondered how it would handle compared to Sean’s hardtop, since it is a bit heavier in the back end. The answer was that it handled great, but had a little bit of understeer. We later fixed that with a new sway bar though!

We shared an excellent dinner of a porterhouse steak that had been smoked in apple wood, then blackened. Tasty! Fontana Village definitely has good food, but it is pretty pricey.

The whole time we were at dinner, Sean was pretty quiet. After some prodding I found out he was not looking forward to another climb up that private road in the dark, so I volunteered to drive. I was quite happy to have another run at 28, and didn’t really mind the private road that much. Maybe I am just a little desensitized to roads like that after seeing plenty of them when I was a kid visiting my aunt in the mountains. It didn’t take long before he got over the road though, but we are both very glad to have never met an oncoming car on it!

Friday morning we woke up a little early so we could make it out to the dam by 8am for the MINI Parade. This is a run of a LOT of MINIs going down the section of Hwy 129 known as “The Tail of the Dragon.” The parade was pretty fun, for the most part. In the beginning we were behind a Justa Clubman that wasn’t keeping up with the rest of the pack. Thankfully the driver eventually pulled off and let the rest of us pass. After that we flew down the dragon to catch up with everyone else. With so many cars traveling as a pack, the 30mph speed limit seems to have been forgotten. Definitely the most fun I have had on that road. Generally it is crowded and you spend most of your time trying to stay within the speed limit, but the MINIs ruled the road that day!

After the parade most of us gathered in a lot on the TN side of the dragon. There was some milling about and car ogling, then a few moments of “so, uh, what now?” before we decided we were hungry and wanted food. I took advantage of the opportunity of knowing there were no cops and plenty of MINIs to do another dragon run, so we once again ate at Fontana Village. Then we hit the vendor tents!

The first order of business was a sway bar. As I said, the Clubby is understandably heavy in the rear compared to the hardtop. I have been intending to add a sway bar ever since I got it and MOTD was the perfect opportunity. I am so very much in love with my sway bar, and Sean seems jealous so that makes it even better. In addition to the sway bar we also picked up a stubby antenna for mine, a torque arm insert (I already have one) for Sean’s, and a few other things like badges, wheel cleaner, and t-shirts. It was hard not to walk away with more!! There were so many things there on my list of wanted mods!

The rest of our time there was spent having fun on the twisties, relaxing in the cabin, and exploring local stuff. We have come up with several things we are interested in seeing on future trips, of which I am sure there will be plenty. We took lots of photos of MINIs… I posted some of the more interesting ones in the ‘photos’ section of this site.

Stripes!! – Robyn

As you probably know, I got a Clubman two weeks ago. Immediately I started agonizing over what stripes I should choose. I hadn’t even owned the car half a day when I was posting on the club forum about it, which is how I got in touch with a couple members of the club that do stripes.

After a week of surfing the net for ideas, looking at tons of photos, and chatting about stripe options I finally made a decision about what I wanted to do. And that was double stripes with pin stripes on either side. Of course then Sean made me doubt myself and I almost dropped the pin stripes, but I stuck with them in the end and I am so glad that I did. I also wasn’t going to do roof stripes in the beginning, but at the last minute stumbled across a photo of a blue Clubman like mine with the blue stripes on the roof and it looked much better than I had imagined… so with Sean’s encouragement I went for it.

This past week, waiting for word on the vinyl and install date was hard. I spent most of it daydreaming about what it would look like, with sporadic moments of fear that it would turn out horribly. Then, Thursday, I finally got confirmation that we could do the stripes Saturday (today!) and then of course time slowed to a standstill the rest of the week in anticipation.

This morning was the day! We dropped the dogs off with Sean’s mother and headed to Winston-Salem, where the two club members I mentioned live. It was not hard at all to spot the house… it was the one with six MINIs outside! I think they had done a run out to some vineyard this morning, scouting possible club activities, and then just hung out a little while we were doing the stripes. So it was sort of a tiny club meet!

We started out by doing Sean’s car since it would be easy. I had suggested he have the boot striped to match the bonnet while we were doing my car, and he agreed. I think he is happy with how it turned out, it looks nice with the extra stripe! His car only took like 30 minutes, and then it was on to my car… which took about four hours. Originally we had planned to leave and do some motoring while my stripes were being installed, but then we ended up enjoying the install and just hung out while they worked on it.

The end results is great! There are a few bubbles that I will have to keep an eye on and work out over the next few days, but that is to be expected. I can’t wait to see it on a sunny day! So far I have only been able to see it in garage lighting and at dusk/night. Plus it was cloudy and cold today. Once the weather cooperates I will take some more photos, but for now I will post a few of what I have in an album on the photos tab.