30 April - 31 May 2003

Since my last report I got Cousin MINI some aluminum "racing" pedals to replace the original black rubber and plastic ones. My car was a November 02 build and in December or January they started to equip all MINIs with metal pedals. I was going to get the factory replacements but a set would have cost me over $200 plus installation and there was a waiting list. I then saw an aluminum pedal set on the web that a guy in San Diego was making and selling that were about 1/2 that price and looked even better to me than the factory ones so I ordered them. Got then installed just before the Las Vegas trip and they look great and have worked just fine. I am almost through with modifications for the present time with a shift knob pending. I wanted to get it before the end of May but it will be a pre-production knob that the manufacturer is selling to me at materials cost and he has been delayed in finishing it. For the price that he is going to charge me - I can wait!

The original plastic and rubber pedals. The aluminium replacements from a company in CA. Both pictures show the Coco Mats that I bought soon after taking delivery.

My April road trip on the weekend of the 26th and 27th was the longest to date. I wanted to visit Bob & Kay, two Peace Corps colleges in Las Vegas, before it got too hot and see some of Nevada that I had never been to before. In addition, I was hoping for a display of spring flowers along the way. Well everything worked out with the exception of the spring flowers. There were almost none until I got about 100 miles north of Las Vegas because of the very cold weather that we had in April. I left Reno at 4:30am on Interstate 80 east to Fernley where I turned off on to US Alt 50 that joins US 50 at Fallon. By the time I got to Fallon the sun was starting to rise and I had daylight for the rest of the drive up to Austin where I stopped for gas. I stopped at the Gulf station there in Austin where I had filled up Cousin MINI the first time when I was bringing her home on January 4th. Gas was still expensive but less than I had to pay when I went into Oakland and I only needed about 5 gallons to top off the tank. I knew that I couldn't make it to Las Vegas without stopping someplace and there were few alternatives after Austin. After gassing up and having some coffee and a muffin for breakfast I climbed out of the canyon that Austin is in and then turned south on NV 376 for 100 miles through Big Smokey Valley. This was the first time that I had ever driven through this area and I was surprised that there was as much agriculture as there is, mostly hay fields but I wasn't expecting anything. The road also passes Round Mountain, a small town and a huge open pit gold mining operation. At the south end of Big Smokey I turned east again on US 6 to NV 375, also known as The Extraterrestrial Highway. This is some of the most barren landscape in a state that is generally barren and this stretch of highway makes the Loneliest Highway In America seem well traveled. There is one town at about the mid point where I stopped for brunch at the Alien Inn, the "place" in town. At the junction of NV375 and US 93 I turned south once again to I -15, then after 20 miles to the west into Las Vegas. This roundabout way from Reno was almost 550 miles or about 100 miles more that the direct route. The return trip was 443 miles on US 95 through Tonopah to Fallon then retraced my route on US Alt 95, I-80 and home. On the way back I saw a great "Vehicle In Tow" sign. There was a motor home pulling a VW Bug with this sign in the rear window - Please Be Patient I'M Pushing A Motor Home. Total distance of 989 miles, averaged 38.8 MPG with cruise control set for most of the trip at 65 MPH but some city driving and reduced speed zones dropped that average to 60.5. I was very happy with the way the MINI handled the long road trip, it is not overly tiring to put in 500 mile days and the MPG numbers are great. While in Las Vegas I had a good visit with Bob & Kay, this being the first time that I have seen them since they came to visit me in Zlatograd just before they left Bulgaria. They took me for a drive along part of the Strip and then we went to the covered Downtown area to watch the light show. This was the first time that I have been in Las Vegas in probably 20 years so almost everything was new to me. The light show is really something and there is talk of improving it with some latest technology that should make it even more spectacular.

I stopped for a picture when I saw this sign not far from Rachel, NV on NV 375 (The Extraterrestrial Highway). I didn't see any space craft or aliens during my trip across this part of Nevada just nort of Area 51.

I did another trip the following weekend May 2nd and 3rd. This time it was a straight drive to Concord MINI on Friday. I left Reno at about 1:30 and drove all the way in the rain, arriving just in time for the "rush hour" traffic but was able to get to the dealer before they closed at 6:00. I wanted to leave the car sitting overnight for them to checkout a cold starting issue but as it turned out I had already solved the problem through experimentation. The MINI tech just confirmed what I had already discovered about starting cold. He did provide some additional information that explained what I had found. Starting a MINI in the morning or after it has sat in the parking lot all day is like turning on your computer. It takes a little while to go through all its checks and set ups, and since the MINI is dependent upon so many computers it is doing the same thing and isn't ready to drive until it does all of it's checks and setups (perhaps 10-15 seconds). Also, like a computer when you stop for a short time it will go into "sleep" mode but is ready quite quickly when you want to go again. The other reason for going to Concord was to have a MINI recall taken care of. My car and some 5,000 others had a rear lower strut bolt that was found to be "a possible" safety issue". It had not yet happened but the bolt was determined to be faulty and could "possibly" break and cause a loss of control of the car. The fix took maybe 15 minutes! No other issues or problems with the car and I was back on the road heading for home before 9:00am on the 3rd. The rain had almost quit along the coast and had moved inland so I got into some more light rain around Sacramento and a few scattered showers as I climbed up to Donner Summit. At the Summit I had very light snow mixed with the rain but there was no accumulation from this storm. As it turned out this was the last snow of the season, maybe, and the last week of May went from winter snow to record heat. We set two new day records as we went into Memorial Day Weekend with 90+ degree temps that we usually don't see until later in June. It has been a very strange spring in Northern Nevada this year but that is "normal" for this area.