15 May - 15 August 2004

Well I completed my trailer pick up trip to Yucca Valley, CA. I drove down to 29 Palms, CA on Jun 18 where I stayed overnight. This was an all day trip of almost 600 miles, the most miles that I have driven Cousin MINI in one day since I have had her. It was tiring but no more so than any other car that I have ever owned. Anyone concerned about his or her comfort on a long road trip need not worry in my opinion. I was then up early the next morning, had breakfast and was at Locke Nest Teardrops just after 8:00 as I had promised. The builder does his work in a large barn like garage at his home and likes to build two trailers at a time but was working on only one when I picked mine up. We spent about an hour going over my trailer; learning how to hitch up, use the leveling jacks in the back, securing the hatch in an upright position and taking some pictures. I then began the tow home with a problem and worry that kept me busy for almost a week. The problem was that I had no break lights on the trailer and I was worried about getting a ticket on the way home (I also had no temporary permit from CA to have it on the road and no NV license plates). I also knew that the MINI and the Teardrop each would elicit attention but didn't really understand how much. I had people gawking all the way from Yucca Valley to Reno. The first interest came within 10 miles of my picking up the trailer. A car pulled up beside me on the 2-lane road between Yucca Valley and 29 Palms and then slowed to my speed while the passengers could look at my car and trailer. This went on for a couple of miles and then the car came up beside me again and a woman was leaning out of the rear window yelling, "Where did you get your trailer?" I stopped in 29 Palms for gas and we had a "show n tell" session, I gave them a brochure and I was on my way in about twice the normal time it takes for me to get gas. I had been told that this was going to happen but didn't expect it so soon! The first 150-200 miles were on rather rough roads through Amboy, Kelso, Baker and Shoshone, CA (the same route that I used when I delivered the wheels). After I joined US 95 in NV the roads smoothed out a lot and the trailer pulled along like a dream. There is a cost in reduced gas mileage but it seems to be only about 4 mpg on average; probably less than 3 mpg on the flats and 5 or more on some steeper climbs. I stayed overnight in Tonopah, NV and then arrived home about noon on Sunday. I then faced a second problem - getting the trailer un-hitched. I had a terrible time getting the hitch coupler to release from the hitch ball and some trouble getting the hitch receiver disconnected from the hitch on the car. I have subsequently hitched and unhitched it a few times and it has become easier each time. The reason for this seems to be that I have a better idea of what I am doing and I have also worn off some of the paint that was causing the coupler to stick and bind.

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leftpic This is Pandora/SHOOBOX waiting for a tow home. Three pictures of Cousin MINI/MACHBOX and Pandora/SHOOBOX at the photo shoot before the long trip home.

After making it home without any tickets, my first priority was to get the brake lights fixed so I could register and license the trailer. I took it back to the independent BMW shop that had installed the hitch and wiring on Tue and they did a "diagnostics" that they said indicated the trailer or car to trailer "converter" was at fault. They then ordered a replacement converter and installed it on Wed and everything worked fine (the mechanic that did the work told me in an aside that the original converter was the wrong one to install the first time). I even noticed that the turn signals on both the car and trailer were blinking at a normal rate versus the fast blink that they had before. I was very happy with this but attributed it to the trailer being hooked to the electrical system and providing enough load. I unhooked the trailer Wed evening and drove to and from work on Thu but didn't notice the cars turn signal behavior. I then reattached the trailer Thu evening and towed it to work on Fri and then to the NV Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) after work. All of my efforts to have a trailer with working brake lights were for naught at the DMV, they didn't even check to see if they worked! What they were most concerned with at the inspection was the absence of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) on my Bill of Sale. The inspector finally decided that it was all right and they gave me the DMV Inspection Form that I needed to register the trailer. I then waited almost 2 hours to see a DMV clerk to register it and she, after consulting with her supervisor, said that I had to get the builder to add the VIN to his Bill of Sale and bring it back. The only good news that came out of this whole experience was - I have fixed the rapid flash turn signal problem! After taking the trailer home on Fri, and unhitching it once again, I noticed upon driving the car Sat morning that the turn signals were working properly. It seems that the replacement converter and/or the rewiring adds load to the electrical system without the trailer - the "rapid blinking" turn signal project is completed! I have a number of other additions to make to the trailer before it will be finalized. I have received the first three: locks, one for the hitch coupler that locks the trailer to the hitch ball or locks the coupler shut so that it can't be put onto a ball and a second one to lock the hitch cover to the hitch. The hitch cover is of stainless steel that I had engraved by Whalen Machine, Inc. a well-known supplier of custom stainless steel shift knobs. I have ordered curtains, a three-piece foam mattress, bedroll and sleeping bag for the "bedroom" of trailer; all to received by mid-September (I hope). Still to be purchased are camp box(s), water barrel, and chair with some tie downs to secure everything; also a battery and battery charger.

leftpic rightpic Two pictures of the MINI hitch cover made by Whalen Machine, Inc. The first shows it installed on Cousin MINI. The second is a close up that was sent to me prior to my paying for it.

I received a Certificate of Origin from the trailer frame manufacturer the week after trying to register it and a copy of the Bill of Sale, with VIN included, from the builder after two weeks. I then went back to the DMV again and after another hour, three supervisor consultations by the DMV clerk and a revised Inspection Form I finally got the trailer registered and licensed. I also got a "vanity" plate for Pandora - that is what I have named the trailer. My first plate choice was SHOEBOX so that I could say that I drive a MACHBOX and live in a SHOEBOX when traveling. But, some other fool had already taken that plate, I can't possibly think of any reason why someone other than myself would want SHOEBOX as a vanity plate. I then selected PANDORA as my second choice and a second fool had taken that one! So, I went back to my first choice and asked for SHOOBOX, which Pandora will now proudly wear. Cousin MINI and Pandora now make a great looking pair, even if I do say so myself.

I went on another MINI Run on Sat Jul 24. This was originally planned by a new MINI Club in organization in the Sacramento Valley called Gold Country MINI but ended up with NorCal MINI (mostly a Bay Area Club) participation also. The Run was much smaller than the two previous ones that I have been on. This time there were only 6 participants and one of those was a non-MINI driven by an employee of Mini Mania (the host of the two previous Runs that I have been on). We had two Gold Country members, two from NorCal, the Mini Mania rep (he brought some "freebies" as raffle gifts) and myself. I gassed up on Fri and then left early Sat to give me time to stop in South Lake Tahoe for breakfast before meeting everyone at the intersection of Highways US 50 and 89. From there we drove clockwise around Tahoe Lake to Emerald Bay, (stopped for pictures) and North Shore (stopped for lunch). After lunch the Mini Mania rep went back to Nevada City, CA and I drove with the group only as far as Mt Rose Highway (NV 431) were I turned off and returned to Reno. When I got into town I stopped at the laundry and then stopped once again at TCBY for yogurt before going home. With all the stops plus the climbs to the Lake and over Mt Rose the On Board Computer registered 42.7mpg for the 147 miles. I have submitted that as my entry for the 2nd Annual Gas Mileage Challenge although it doesn't exactly comply with this years "rules". The Challenge this year is for the best gas mileage recorded over a flat 10 miles at a constant 60mph. I'll see if my submission will be accepted since I'm the defending Cooper Champion from last year but even if I don't "win" again I'm very happy with the 42.7mpg!

I also combined a trip to Chico, CA with another MINI gathering in Carmichael, CA on Aug 7th. The reason for going to Chico was to visit with the owner of PWB (Peregrine Bicycle Works), to see what he had to offer. His shop specializes in recumbent, folding and three wheel bicycles with most of his sales made through Internet or word of mouth contacts. I have been thinking about something that I can take along in the trailer/car while traveling that won't be as much hassle as my touring bike. The touring bike will separate at the S & S couplings but I don't want to be taking it apart and reassembling it all the time. I have fallen in love with the Greenspeed GT3 trike that has just recently come to the market. It is a folding "tadpole" design trike, two wheels in front with a rear drive wheel, that is made in Australia with all the features and build quality of previous Greenspeed models. Among the available options is a Rohloff rear hub that can be matched with a Schlumpf Speed Drive bottom bracket. The Speed Drive functions like two chainrings, but without a derailleur, and would give me same gearing that I have on my touring bike in its high range plus an additional 5 lower gears in the low range. I like everything about it except the price - its very expensive! As I said before, I was very interested in the Greenspeed GT3 but there was also a GTO model and a Catrike Speed to test ride. He also had a partially assembled Catrike Road; a model similar to the Speed but designed with a more upright seat and heavier frame for touring. As happens many times, at least to me, the product that I was most interested in turned out to not be the one I liked best after seeing it. I'll provide more details about the GT3, GTO and Road in my next letter but I have ordered the Road and hope to have it in a couple of months. I left home early to arrive in Chico before 10:00 am and spent two hours there before leaving for Carmichael to meet up at 1:00 pm at a coffee shop. This was not a MINI Run but rather just a gathering/meeting of some of the Sacramento area MINI owners that are forming the Gold Country MINI Club. It turned out to be not much of a gathering - myself and one other couple with their brand new MINI. It seems that the Gold Country MINI Club is getting off to a slow start. Participation at the Tahoe Run was only two and then only one showed up at this gathering. I won't give up on them yet but it seems that its going to take a little time to put together a MINI Club in the Sacrament area even though a lot of owners express interest on the Forums.