Merry MINIs on the Mountain Offers Curve-Chasing Fun!
by Greg Taylor
More than 25 MINIs zipped around switchback curves, blew though brightly colored leaves that sprinkled the road, and raced up steep inclines to the highest point in Arkansas. The whine of superchargers echoed through the valleys on that bright fall morning in November as MINI enthusiasts gathered in the Arkansas Ozark Mountains for the state’s premier MINI event. The drivers, who came from across the mid-South, relished the opportunity to soak up the spectacular fall colors, enjoy sweeping mountain vistas, feel the crisp breeze in their faces, and (most of all) chase some serious curves.
Which is exactly what the organizers were aiming for.
Each Fall the Arkansas MINI Owners Klub (AMOK) hosts its annual Merry MINIs on the Mountain event. The event was started to encourage regional MINI owners and clubs to join with the Arkansas club for a weekend of socializing, beautiful scenery and of course fabulous drives on twisty mountain roads. It is also the club’s major charity fund raiser with a silent auction benefit for a different national charity each year. This year the event was held October 31 – November 2 and was a huge success, attracting MINIs from several surrounding states and raising over $800 for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
The MMOTM weekend takes advantage of the peak color as the leaves change in the Ozark highlands. The event operates out of the recently built Mount Magazine State Park Lodge, which sits atop Mount Magazine, the highest point in Arkansas (at 2,753 feet). The lodge, fashioned in the craftsman style, has commanding views of the surrounding valleys and features enough rooms and stand-alone cabins to support a large crowd of MINI enthusiasts in style.
The drive features the "Arkansas Pig Trail," or state highway 23, which runs from Ozark to Eureka Springs. The Pig Trail runs through the Ozark National Forest, and is a road known for its sharp switchbacks and great scenery. It gets its name from the tracks cut by wild pigs through the dense forest hillsides which were later turned into trails and ultimately roads used by travelers headed to Fayetteville, home of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
The weekend kicked off with a full costume Halloween party at the lodge. As scary movies played in the background, characters such as Mozart, Captain Jack Sparrow, Sherlock Holmes, and many others in creative costumes socialized and enjoyed the hors d'ouevers and cocktails. You know someone is a dedicated MINI person when she dresses up like her car, complete with boot (one), bonnet, and, ahem, headlamps. It was easy to see that kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy dressing up for Halloween when the environment is as festive as this one!
The drive began bright and early the next morning in the parking lot in front of the lodge. MINIs from several states were represented, as well as all levels of customization including a DINAN S. The ride featured both a “fast” group and a group more interested the scenery than speed. The Pig Trail provided a challenging and scenic drive on the way to Eureka Springs where the group met for lunch at the Café Santa Fe. A contingent of MINIs from Springfield, MO, met the larger group for lunch.
The ride back to the lodge took a different route down highway 21 through the Boston Mountains portion of the Ozark Highlands Scenic Byway. Along this route the MINIs encountered several scenic river crossings including the Buffalo National River, which is a world-class trout stream and popular floating/kayaking destination.
After the day-long ride, the group met at the lodge to share stories and bid on the silent auction items. The AMOK membership provided all of the auction items, which ranged from MINI logo items to original MINI-themed oil paintings to a full week at a Hot Springs resort. The AMOK group has a prostate cancer survivor in its founding ranks, and the charity donation this year went to further research into new methods of treatment.
Feedback from those who attended the event was very positive. Discussions about the ride, all 245 miles of it, consistently brought smiles to the faces of those who participated, followed by “let’s do it again next year!” Both the fast and “not-so-fast” groups enjoyed the scenery and the awesome roads. Similarly, the lodge accommodations were rated highly by the group.
The AMOK team is already busy planning next year’s event. The dates for 2009 are November 13-15. Plans for expansion next year include: a wider variety of rides (some shorter), advanced driver training, and massage and tour packages for those who do not go on the rides.
More information on the Merry MINIs on the Mountain event can be found on the AMOK website (www.motoringamok.com).