1 - 28 February 2003

My buying experience at MINI of Murry was generally pleasant. The fact that I did the entire transaction including arranging the financing via e-mail and regular mail may have had something to do with that. My MINI Advisor (salesperson) was Debbie Linge nee Horton (she got married after my order and before delivery) is also the Assistant Manager and that may also have smoothed out the process. The post delivery experience was a trauma for me. Debbie said that they would mail me the paperwork that I would need to register the car in Nevada and that I should have it within 3 weeks. When the 3 weeks had gone by and I had not received anything I contacted her and told her that I had nothing. She responded that it had been mailed Certified Mail 10 days ago. I replied that I had received nothing and please send me a copy because my temporary plates would expire at the end of the week. Her response was that they could not mail copies until the originals in the Certified Mail were returned. I was UPSET! After a couple of calls to Nevada Dept. of Motor Vehicles (DMV) I left work early and went to the DMV and asked to speak to a Supervisor. Had to "fight through" a clerk to get to a Supervisor but after talking with her she finally looked at the paperwork that I had received when I took delivery and signed the BMW/MINI loan papers. It seems that this was enough to register in Nevada and I was out of there in less than an hour with a registered car. I could have done the same thing right after getting back from Utah with the car and saved myself a lot of anguish over the lost paperwork from Debbie. Lesson learned- don't take anything that a car dealer tells you as fact, verify everything!

I received and mounted my vanity license plates on Feb. 19th. The DMV said it would be 4-6 weeks and they gave me a temporary certificate for my window that was good thru March 30th. I got them in less than 3 weeks, surprise, surprise! I have been debating what the vanity plates were to say for almost a year now, selecting and discarding a lot of possibilities. When I went to DMV to register I had these 3 choices remaining: XS SIZE MACHBOX WEE CAR Each of them had been my #1 choice at one point or another but when it came time to fill out the plate request I listed MACHBOX as my first choice and got it.

My effort to install the seat covers that I bought was also a frustrating experience. I bought them from Diamond Racing, a MINI aftermarket parts supplier, but they were shipped directly from Wet Okole, the manufacturer. It seems that the only advantage of buying from the distributor is that they have the rights to use the MINI logo, at an additional cost to me of course. I received the covers during the week and my first attempt to install was on Sat. I discovered that I couldn't fasten the seat back at the bottom because there was a "change catcher" fastened to the back bottom of the seat. I sent an e-mail message to Diamond Racing and they responded that I needed to "pull the change catcher out and fold it up". This helped me not one bit, which I wrote and told them! Their response was that they were going to post installation instructions with pictures on their web site in a few days. I waited until the following weekend for their instructions and by Sat I thought I had determined what pull out and fold up meant and got the change catcher out of the way. However, after installing the seat back and fastening it at the bottom it was still very loose from side to side and did not fit tightly around the air bag cut outs. I didn't like the way it looked at all but started to install the seat cushion and found that it also seemed much to big. So I gave up and sent Diamond Racing an e-mail that said the covers didn't fit, I was sending the covers back to them and wanted a refund. I then got a bunch of e-mail and telephone calls from them and Wet Okole about who and where to send the covers. From my conversation with a rep at Wet Okole it seems that they are the ones that are preparing installation instruction and don't have them ready yet. Diamond Racing is preparing nothing and in a conversation with them I found out that they have never even seen an installation done. The rep was also very surprised that the covers didn't fit. He said that they were selling 100 sets a week and no one else had any problems. His only explanation was that mine were the first seats that had fabric; all the previous sales had been to people with leather seats. I find this explanation disingenuous at best, I can't believe that a 100 MINI buyers a week, who have just paid $1,250 for leather seats, are then buying seat covers. He did agree that they would give Diamond Racing credit and that I should then get a credit from them. Will see how long this all takes, Wet Okole got the covers back on Feb 13th.

I received my floor mats, Cocomats, On Feb. 8th. They installed in less than a minute each and look great. They are made of Coconut fiber woven in a pattern of black and silver that matches the interior of the car very nicely. They have a heavy rubber backing that will protect the underlying carpet from any water that I track in. So overall I'm not doing to badly with my modifications, I have attempted 5 and 4 have worked out as planned.

The purchase of summer wheels has also begun. I sent in my order on Feb. 15th. I want to get them about the middle of March and have them on the car by the 1st of April. The distributor said a 3-4 week delivery. For now I will take the stock tires off my white wheels and put them on the new wheels. Then in October I'll buy winter tires to mount on the white wheels by Nov 1st for the winter season. Maybe replace the stock Continental tires next summer depending on how they have worn; some people are reporting that they wear out quickly but that may be due to driving habits.

I continue to do some motoring in Cousin MINI. On Feb 8th I did a loop from Reno. First, I went to Auburn, CA via I 80. With cruise control set at the speed limit and 5 to 6% grades both up and down I got 45mpg per the On Board Computer. The OBC is not accurate but is usually within a couple of mpg of what I calculate manually after a fill up so I was very happy with the mpg while using cruise control. I then went from Auburn to Placerville by way of CA 49, a twisty road with a lot of hills. I had two motorcyclists following me for most of the way and they seemed happy to just follow and never attempted to pass, I even lost them briefly on a couple of the more twisting sections. Cousin MINI, and all MINIs, just love a twisty road! In Placerville I visited with a couple of bicycling friends, John & Janis, that I had stayed with for almost 3 months after returning from Bulgaria. They continue to do 3-4 months of bicycling every summer, unlike my lazy self, riding Rails To Trails and Cross State rides all over the USA. When I left Placerville I returned to Reno on US 50 to CA 28 and NV 431 over Mount Rose. This is a climb to over 8,000 feet and the car did it with apparent ease. On US 50 I was able to pass when passing lanes gave me the opportunity while staying in 5th gear. If you want to get very rapid acceleration to pass it is necessary to shift down to 4th but while using a passing lane the gradual acceleration while in 5th was enough. The total trip was 260 miles and the OBC was recording 36mpg by the end, very good for a lot of climbing and the extra gas burned in passing.

The second road trip of this month was to Concord, CA for warranty service at Concord MINI. One of the things that I wanted fixed was the front windscreen washer that had never worked since the day that I picked the car up. As it turned out this was totally operator error, the washer worked just fine but I wasn't pulling the lever correctly. The wiper controls look like what I had on my 1990 Toyota and I was trying to use them the same way. When I didn't get any spray from the washers I assumed that they didn't work. Of more importance was a problem with the idle and attempted stall when cold. This was fixed, I think, with a program upgrade to the ECU (this is the main computer chip that controls the car engine). They also fixed the drivers side sill plate that had come loose from the body of the car. I thought they would just re-glue it but they gave me a new plate. I have also had trouble with one of the two keys that came with the car. When I try to start the car I get all the dash lights but the starter doesn't turn over. By taking the key out and trying it again, sometimes repeatedly, I manage to get it to start. This has happened 4 times but they couldn't duplicate the problem at the dealer. English cars have a tradition of electrical problems; Lucas an English auto electronic manufacturer was known as "The Prince of Darkness". The New MINI is only continuing that tradition I guess.

To get to Concord I decided to do some "Motoring". The MINI sales slogan is "Let's Motor" and the basic idea behind that is to simply drive for the shear joy of driving and/or seeing new things. Therefore, I took CA 49 from Sierraville, CA to Nevada City, CA a very twisty road that is a lot of fun in a MINI. In Nevada City I spent a few minutes to find Mini Mania's store, they are a major supplier of Classic Mini and New MINI parts and accessories. They were closed because it was Sunday, as I expected, but I just wanted to find the location and see what hours they were open during the week. After stopping in Grass Valley, CA for breakfast at the Breakfast Club I continued west to Marysville on CA 20. From there I used county roads, city streets and CA 160 to follow the Sacramento River south and west to San Francisco Bay and Pittsburg, CA where I stayed overnight in a motel. I then took the car into to Concord MINI at 8:00am on Monday. The only thing that would have made the trip any better would have been doing it about a month later when the orchards are in bloom, they are now only starting to bud out. The drive back was just that, "a drive", no motoring. I left in a light rain with the prospect of snow on Donner Summit so I didn't want to take any longer getting home than necessary. As it worked out I had only very light flurries at the very summit and the only problem with the return trip was the wet roads that got Cousin MINI filthy.