One of the first things you learn about American car culture is the “road trip”. Now I had a friend coming over from Seattle to visit New York, and he wanted to see the Niagara Falls. I had bought my first car ever just 6 months ago and I wanted to do a road trip. The plan was to leave in the morning and come back at night. I had never driven for more than 2 hours in one direction at any time. This would be a 7 hour trip one-way!
To say the trip was not a smooth one would be an understatement. The number of stupid things I did on this trip is surely a record for any road-trip ever.
The night before, we got a flat tire. Or so I thought. Later I was to find out, it was only out of air. No problem, I thought. We have a spare one, and I got that in place by calling MINI roadside assistance. What I did not know was that the spare tire is not a regular tire, it’s half the size and not meant for normal use. Luckily, before we began, I noticed the smaller size and did some research on the Internet. I found the maximum speed you can travel on it was 50 mph. It did not inspire a lot of confidence. It was half the size of a regular tire.
Since we started off at around 7.30 AM, I thought I would drive for a couple of hours at 50 mph and then get the tire fixed at some garage when they opened. After about 15 minutes, I thought 10 mph more wouldn’t really cause any problems. So I duly set the cruise control to 60. 15 more minutes, and I decided 70 should be safe too. After all, the MINI is essentially a BMW and I had heard a lot about them when I started researching cars. Then I noticed how smooth the highway was. What the hell, cruise control on 80 mph.
After a few hours, the search for a garage began, and it was then that I realized that they do not stay open on Sundays. This made me pretty tense, as I realized I might very well have to cover about 800 more miles on that tiny tire. I was worrying about this, when my friend asked me if the fuel needle dipping below the red mark should be of any concern. Immediately, I switched on the on-board range calculator to see how many more miles I had left. The range display showed nothing. Not even a 0. Quickly I set the destination in my GPS to the nearest gas station. 1 mile away. As an atheist, I could not even pray. So I turned off the car audio and the GPS charger in order to save every drop of gas I could. 1 mile later, I found myself going back in the direction I was coming from. I had taken a wrong turn.
5 minutes later, back in the right direction, and the car spluttered to a halt. Out of gas in the middle of nowhere. There were plenty of cars going by, but after a few minutes, it became apparent, that none of the people traveling that day were ‘Christians’, because no-one stopped. A call to MINI roadside assistance , and 45 minutes later, we were off on our way again.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. Most of it was on cruise control at 80 mph. On at least 3 occasions, I reached 110 mph as I passed other cars. On the way back I drove for 5 hours at a stretch, then had some coffee, and then reached home at 2.30 AM. Astonishingly, I noticed the next day, that the gas mileage registered for the trip was around 38 miles to the gallon!
It was my first road trip and truly a memorable one too, even if I acted stupidly throughout. It is stupid and irrational to feel affection for a car, but I am wiling to sacrifice a little bit of reason in this case. So if you have a MINI, you can have the fullest confidence in it even when running on a spare. The only thing that I noticed was the stopping distance increased a little bit. Of course, you should not drive at more than 50 mph on it and certainly not for a 1000 miles, but you can rest assured that this car does its job and more even on a spare tire.