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!