December 14, 2004

(insanely long) account of my MINI's first day trip

This past Saturday I embarked on my first long-distance day-trip in my new MINI Cooper S. After more than a couple hours of sitting in a dealership service department (when, all told, the job should have taken maybe twenty minutes maximum), I was chomping at the bit to get out on the road.

It was a less-than-perfect start, as while the service department was swapping out my mirror caps, they managed to break both mirror glasses... and they only had one replacement mirror on hand. So I was left with a crack'd passenger-side wing mirror. Yay!

Secondly, I was starving... really, really hungry. I hadn't had anything solid to eat, and their super-sugary scrumptious hot chocolate managed to dig a raw hole in my stomach lining. And the effects of the sugar were having their way with my nervous system, inducing a steady shaky, sweaty feeling. Fun!

But I started out on the road nonetheless, eager to get out onto open road. Let me tell you prospective travelers of the 101 freeway something: open road and the 101 between Oxnard and Ventura should never be mentioned together. Oh, the traffic! But it eased up considerably as I transitioned to Highway 33 towards Ojai.

Only moments passed as the wind hit my proverbial sails did a bug go SPLAT! on my windshield. Ouch - it hurt me far more than it hurt the hapless insect, I'm sure. I jumped in shock and brief agony, and attempted to whisk away the smudge with my windshield washers, to no avail. Ah well. The trauma subsided as I kicked it into sixth gear and zoomed forward on the open road ahead of me with such happy, perfect ease.

Ojai was gorgeous. Some trees has turned to their winter yellows, and were a perfect contrast to the über-greens of the nearby grasses. The cloudless blue sky opened up over the hills. Ojai is such a cute, quaint little town. On this Saturday afternoon, city firefighters were amassed on street corners, holding out their big rubber boots, collecting money, as car after car dropped various amounts of bills and coinage into them.

A stop at Taco Bell solved my hunger crisis. Ew. Why do I do this to myself? Taco Bell is N-a-a-a-a-s-t-y! But they took my debit card, and my shakes ceased, so I guess that's all that matters.

Once I made that left-hand turn back onto the 33 out of Ojai, it was twisty fun for miles upon miles. Low in the canyons, the sun would be momentarily blocked by the surrounding trees, causing flashes of light and dark in the cabin. This flashing allowed another MINI Cooper (silver) to sneak up behind me. He was nipping at my heels, so I sped into a turnout, allowing his passage. He zoomed off, and disappeared far ahead me in the canyon. (Sigh...) Someday!

I ran into him again a couple miles up the road. He had pulled off the road and was going to turn back in the opposite direction. As I approached, I took part in my very first, official MINI to MINI wave. Oh, joyous occasion!

On road trips, I have a bad habit of not stopping to take pictures. Oh, you'd think I'd want to get out and snap off a few shots, but I always seem to forget... I get too caught up in the whole driving experience. but this being my first little excursion in the new car, I had to force myself to stop and take the obligatory MINI beauty shot.

I got back on the twisty, treacherous road (no guard rails, that I can remember!), and got stuck behind a pickup truck, well, truckin' along at a tired pace. Fine, whatever - I can't really get too crazy with the car yet (saving that for post-1250 miles), so I can kick back and take stock of the scenery.

Until the silver Porsche Boxster races up behind me. This guy was in a hurry. Not the mean-spirited "I'm late for my tee-time" sort of hurriedness, but a "come on, I wanna have some fun here!" impatience. And the truck continued on its pace. After a couple of miles he got the point, and he pulled out. I then kicked it into gear. I didn't want to have to sacrifice my passing-spot to the Porsche just yet, and I didn't want to be too much of a bother, so I "opened the MINI up", just a little.

I wanted to pull over. Really, I did! But there was no place to go but down here, and the Boxster was just pushing me and pushing me. I think I did a pretty respectable job in front of the Porsche, and quickly spread some dirt on the first turnout available.

The Porsche was G-O-N-E. I would've eaten his dust, but it had already settled by the time I got back on the road (think seconds, here). I talked myself into better spirits, though, self-righteously thinking that at least I would make it off this mountain alive... take that, damned Porsche!

Many miles later I came in contact with the Boxster again. No, I wasn't driving that fast - he was now traveling in the opposite direction. I was a little pleasantly surprised when he gave me a wave of good will as he passed. I like to think that he was giving me props for my spirited motoring (even if it was only momentarily). 'Twas a proud moment for me... I never received such friendliness in my beater '83 Honda.

The treacherous twisties gave way to less s heart attack-inducing roadway as I drove down the mountain. I decided to take a right at Lockwood Valley Road - it cut a beeline through the flatlands and foothills through to Frazier Park, and the 5 freeway. A little while later I was gassing up my MINI at a Chevron station off the 5, and headed back to Los Angeles.

But I couldn't return to Simi Valley just yet. No, somehow, the idea of sitting in stop-and-go traffic all the way to Whittier sounded like a far better idea. My grandparents live out there, so of course I wanted to show it off a bit. And come on, how bad can traffic be in a brand new MINI Cooper?

The day was capped with an evening viewing of the film Closer. Not a bad day, all-told. I've definitely caught the bug, though. No, not the number of bugs I had to wipe carefully from my chrome grill (heh), but the road-trip bug has infected me, and it's going to be really, really difficult to not drive up to San Francisco and beyond this next weekend...

posted by julie at December 14, 2004 09:57 PM

things people have said

Nice story & pics. After a year and a half I still feel the way you now do about my MINI...RB

so said: RB at December 15, 2004 07:44 AM

w00t! I heartily approve of the Taking Pictures approach to driving twisties; they're just not challenging enough without seeing them through a viewfinder.

San Francisco and beyond and then back in a weekend? How 'beyond' were you pondering? If you really want to spend the whole weekend driving, you could go as far north as highway-36, cut over to Redding, and then take I-5 essentially the length of the state. Figure 1500 miles, scenic route.

so said: erik at December 15, 2004 07:49 AM

1500 miles? That's NOTHING! That's a commute! I scoff at your 1500 miles - I say "Ha!".

Yeah, well, I can't go too far, because I can't leave too early... I have an 8:15am appt at the dealership for them to replace a broken side-mirror.. that should take, oh, about 3 hours, I'm guessing... ;)

so said: julie (me) at December 15, 2004 08:48 AM

harumph. you're prolly right about that 3 hours: an hour trying to take out the old one, then a half hour trying to install the new one, then a half hour scrambling around trying to find a replacement mirror cap to replace the one that they broke in the process of trying to wedge in the replacement mirror upside-down, then another hour installing the replacement mirror cap and the replacement mirror, which they might very well end up cracking again, anyway. really, you should just set aside the whole day.

so said: erik at December 15, 2004 09:16 AM

Took mine in yesterday (12.14) for smog recall. They told me I'd get it back by days end...still no car today (12.15) 2:30.

so said: RB at December 15, 2004 02:29 PM

Lockwood Valley Road? You were very close to an ultimate twisty- Cerro Noroeste Road leading up to Mt. Pinos! Lot's of awesome scenery there.

Good to see you're enjoying your MINI and deciding to be careful at the same time.

so said: j/c at December 15, 2004 10:15 PM