Frequent MotoringFile contributor Rob Carver recently sent us his thoughts on AMVIV IV. A great read for all those that went and all those that were there in spririt:

This year started quite differently from last AMVIV, as my son Sean and Clarissa, his wife, were coming along in his ‘S’; this meant we had some interesting logistics due to days-off complications. Chris and I could’ve gotten Thursday off and convoyed with one of the clubs, but Sean couldn’t get that day off, so we waited for him to get off work — at 8:00 PM! Clarissa couldn’t even get Thursday or Friday off, and she would be flying in on Friday nite after work. We left San Diego about 9:00 PM and headed out into the desert nite, just two MINIs blasting down the road to Sin City.

It wasn’t much of drive, boring and long, and we’ve been taking along some MP3s and CDs of recorded books on these trips lately to keep us amused and more importantly, awake. This trip it was one of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum bounty hunter stories — they’re pretty funny, sexy, and with a little dose of mystery, just the thing for a drive to Vegas. Along the way, I started noticing that the semi rigs were weaving all over the road, like they were drunk — then I realized how windy it must’ve been out there! The awesome stability of the MINI continues to amaze me – it’s just rock solid on the road, and I couldn’t feel any wind. Anyway, we didn’t make it to the Aladdin until 2:00 AM, and didn’t get up to our room until 2:30. Bleh! We were pretty beat, and Sean, who was sharing our suite, didn’t even get up until noon, even tho Chris and I went out, had breakfast and went to the Palace Station for the Boot & Bonnet Show about 9:00 AM.

It was great seeing all the old MINI friends, and new faces, too. Stoopidgirl and The Future Queen of Nebraska had their awesome pink MINIs together, CoolMINIstuff, where we always seem to buy something, was there, and a slew of vendors along the perimeter of hundreds of MINIs! They weren’t guilty of over-hyping AMVIV IV; there were a lot more Minis, MINIs and vendors than ever before. Plenty of ‘07s, too, altho it takes a second look sometimes to tell the difference, even for practiced eyes. They did a pretty good job mimicking the Stephenson design, and believe it or not, the biggest give-away was often when the car was running — it sounds totally different, much quieter, no steering whine, and in the case of the ‘S’ no blower sound. Ah well, the price of progress, I s’pose. We didn’t really plan on anything that day; it was mostly a rest period for us amongst the cars and friends. Wasn’t interested in the Death Valley run particularly — seen the desert and been thirsty before, and didn’t need a long drive to and from such occasions, but I imagine there’s a bit of an attraction for those that ain’t seen serious sand before.

Sean finally got up and we puttered around amongst the MINIs for a while, until it was time for the M7 Meet and Greet. I must say, as a way to get MINI folk together, it has its good points, and it was nice to see some more folk I’d been trying to catch up to all day, but frankly, the food, such as it was, sucked. Very sparse and very disappointing, considering there was ample notice that pretty much every MINI motorer would be there at one time or another that nite. We left for the airport soon after to pick up Clarissa, and if the timing was right, she’d be getting into Sean’s “S’ just in time to make it back for the gathering for the Strip Cruise. The timing was closer than we ever imagined — as we went south to the rendezvous, the MINIs were just pulling north on to the Strip! Ack! — No time to dally at a light, we just made a quick u-turn and merged into the line-up, honking and waving!

It was great, Fireball Tim on one side, crazed MINI nuts on the other, plus front & back, and we owned the road, four lanes wide. There was plenty of honking, shouting, a few short demonstrations of acceleration, but most of all, grins, smiles and laughter. Soon enough, Jimskater, our buddy from San Diego, pulled up next to us with an Australian lass as shotgun, having arrived in town just in time in his GP! I heard there was some bad-mouthing by losers on the sidewalks, and scarily, a few pellet gun incidents and thrown objects. It never ceases to amaze me, the stupidity of others – and it could’ve gotten bad, if someone had been hurt. Those lowlifes were the only marring of a great Strip Run — even a cop parked on the side got into it, at one point using his loudspeaker to warn us to stop honking. This worked for about 5 seconds, until someone further up started honking again, and we just all slammed our horn buttons! The cop got on the loudspeaker again, and told us all to get out of or MINIs and put our hands on our roofs! Sean and Clarissa were looking right at him and he was grinning — then he started honking, too! Hah! We had a late dinner at the Aladdin’s Desert Passage mall, a great place to wander about as well, and hit the hay.

Saturday was a late morning for us, so only a little time at the Boot & Bonnet, where I met the formerly elusive Gabe Bridger, the Motoringfile Master, but as Chris and I wanted to spend time with the kids, we opted out of any A.M. to-do’s and went to the Spice Market Buffet with ‘em, where we proceeded to stuff ourselves well past the plimsoll line — best buffet in Vegas, ya ask me. Got to the Palace Station starting gate just as the long line of MINIs highed off for the run, and we had a nice drive out to the Valley of Fire, always a beautiful place to visit, and with more MINIs than ever, why, it was just that much more fun. Along the way, we were treated to a few strafing, er, camera, runs by a low, low flying Cessna — very distracting to drive and gawk, but it was nice to take a glance or two up thru the sunroof at it. There was a whole raft of GPs there, quite a sight to see more than one or two at a time, and with all the other MINIs, we filled the whole lower parking lot at the Visitor’s Center, and then some! Photo op here, obviously, and the MINIs were quite the attraction by themselves.

I’ll take moment here to mention something important, possibly even profound, and as they say, from the mouths of babes…I was taking the steps up from the lot to the Visitor’s Center while a family of tourists was going down, and as they passed, their little girl of about four or five years old was just getting her first full look at the parking lot, and she said, ”Mom, look — there’s a whole bunch of MINI Coopers all over the place!” Now I’ve been into Minis and MINIs since as a kid, I saw my first one in action at the Bisbee Hill Climb in the late 60’s, and until the new MINI came out, hardly anyone in the States knew what the hell one was. I had never imagined those words would come ever out of anybody’s mouth for most of that time, and it shows how well MINI has marketed the brand, when a little girl can immediately identify a MINI — I’ll bet she’s not too sure what a Scion, or a Mustang, or a PT Cruiser, or hell, a Ferrari exactly is, but damn me if she didn’t know a MINI when she saw it. I love it!

Any way, we motored around the park in tandem with Sean’s ‘S’, and after numerous photo ops, we headed back well in time to get ready for the Banquet…or so we thought. Just as we got on the freeway, behind us Sean pulled over to the right and stopped. I pulled over and stopped, too and he called on the cell to tell us his right front was flat. Damn! It was truly dead, and he hadn’t a spare, and not enough Fix-a-Flat goo to spray into it. A couple of MINIs stopped to see if they could help, and thanks very much to those who did — it was nice to see a community of MINIs has its advantages, but no one had a spare either. A Nevada Super Trooper stopped soon after, and his advice was to go back to the Sinclair gas station and the store there should have some cans of flat fixer. Well, Chris and I took off to the next exit to turn around and go back to the station — this turned into a 15 mile up and 15 mile back drive in itself.

When we finally got to the station which was on tribal land, I guess, the first thing I see when I step in the door was enough explosives to blow up half of Las Vegas — firecrackers to the max! The next section had every cigarette you could imagine, so of course the third section was, you guessed it, huge amounts of booze and beer! I hustled past to the automotive section, and yup, they were all out most of the emergency supplies, and ‘specially flat fixin’ gunk!! Yeah, they had plenty enough to get liquored up on, have a smoke and use the butt to light up a small kiloton of Black Cats, but if you were in car trouble, tough luck. So I whipped down the road to Sean’s ‘S’ and pulled out my spare — a Cooper does have its advantages — and swapped ‘em out. Now we were under the gun to get to the banquet even on time, so we decided to go straight there and just made it. Whew.

The banquet was wonderful, with lots of laughs, and the White Roof Radio gang emceed with their usual flair — they’re quite the celebs, now, in our little MINI world. Only thing was, if I heard that annoying soundman do any more annoying sound checks, I was gonna slice him to giblets “with a dull deer antler”, as Del Gue once said. Did I say that was annoying? Poor preparation there, boyo. Anyhoo, as I had not gone to the track that weekend, it was nice to hear the results and see the MINI is still attracting the hotshoes and leadfoots to the tarmac. There were more clubs on the shout-out session than before, which is great, but I didn’t really hear any really heartfelt acknowledgment of some of the most important MINI groups out there — Paul Mullet’s MINI2, Mark Ferguson’s North American Motoring, and the MINIUSA Owner’s Lounge. Yeah, most clubs have a msg board for their members, but these websites are easily the most important for the owners here in the States — the first two are essential destinations on the WWW for most owners, with many being very active members on one or the other, or both, and the Owner’s Lounge with it’s numerous members at MINIUSA is the factory’s primary method of communication with owners, where often things that owners post there end up on the Official MINI website, or even in factory publications — where else do you find that level of factory interaction? These three taken as a whole, along with Motoringfile, are a de facto national club with international connections, IMHO, where info is dispersed, ideas are hashed out, pictures are shared, and friends are made. The Vendors outta be the ones giving a shout-out for these sites — without them they’d be bulk mailing or setting up their own much more expensive websites to move product, and these websites provide an unrivaled test facility — if your product ain’t right, it won’t make the cut in the discussions, believe me; snake oil salesmen need not apply.

It was fun to see another pink MINI, The Future Queen of Nebraska’s awesome ‘S’, chosen as Best of Show! There may not be too many pink ones, but two years running, they kicked all the other color’s asses, and deservedly so. HeHe! There were plenty of prizes handed out during the raffle, altho all of us ‘Vanwalls’ came up empty-handed, (Darn!) the Vendors coughed up some serious swag, and the banquet ended on a nice note for us — we’ll be here next year, by God! Got to sleep a bit earlier than usual, as, in consultation with the Sin City owners, we had found a tire place with the right sizes that was open Sunday mornin’ — yay for the Tire Works! Thanks for all the input from the Vegas motorers, too! We went to the breakfast sayonara Sunday morning, said our goodbyes, and headed out. When we got to Tire Works, the manager, Mike, made us a good deal on tires, (we went for four new ones, as the others looked a bit dodgy, too) and an alignment, which it looked like it needed. Sean could’ve made it home on the older rubber, but he would’ve needed new there anyway. We prolly couldn’t have gotten a better deal in Dago, and the service and workmanship was excellent. Now we really were on the way home….or so we thought.

Everything was going smoothly until we stopped for gas in Baker, which is about halfway ‘tween Vegas and LA, where we saw a DS and White ‘S’ with a Las Vegas sticker in one window just leaving as we pulled up. I didn’t recognize the blonde girl driving, and I thought about asking her if she wanted to convoy with our two MINIs, but she zipped right on to the highway to LA and I figured we wouldn’t catch up to her anyway. Well, you guessed it, about halfway to Barstow, the next town on, and there she was, pulled over to the shoulder, with that distinctive lean of a right front blowout. There had been some traffic slowdowns on the way to that point, and Sean had passed us and was some ways ahead. Okey dokey, can’t leave a motorer in the lurch, so I quickly pulled over, called Sean and told him to pull over for bit until we could figure out what’s next, and I walked back to see what as up. Jillian, the 18-year old the blonde girl, had driven to Baker to meet her parents for dinner, and was headed back to LA and had to be at work the next morning! She had grown up in Vegas, but had moved to LA recently and was unaware of AMVIV, (how weird izzat?) — lucky girl, we were passing by, but I figure some other motorer would’ve stopped by, and sure enough another ‘S’ pulled over to see wotsup. He didn’t have a spare, either, and boy did she need one — the tire tread was totally shredded, with a hole the size of silver dollar on the inside section. I talked to her father on her cell phone, and he offered to buy my spare, or borrow it and air freight it to Dago later, but heck I had another plan, and driving all the way to LA on my spare would be a last-ditch back-up only. So I traipsed back to Brooksie, broke out the spare, again, and found myself changing a tire on an ‘S’ the side of the road, again. How’s that work? I guess my karma points will keep me from returning as the interesting life of a gelded water buffalo in my next incarnation. 😉

Meanwhile, we had Sean and Clarissa zipping into Barstow to find a tire shop or service station that was still open. It was now past 6:30 PM, and as we had to continue at only 50 MPH on that space saver spare, it meant an arrival time of 7:30 or so. Clarissa called twenty-some-odd places in rapid succession, and fortunately found a service manager that said even though he normally closed at 6:00, he would stay open until we got there, and damned if he didn’t have a tire that would fit! Between the slow going, and a few traffic slow-downs, (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot widdat in the middle of freakin’ nowhere?), we arrived closer to 8:00 than planned. The service station was actually pretty busy with a few other unlucky souls that were suddenly as lucky as us, altho one couple was heading to a motel for the nite — throttle cable gave out in their van — and I hoped everything worked out for Jillian. They had to cut the runflat off, it was just too hard to remove for the inexperienced, but while Jillian treated us to Starbucks, those guys worked like devils and soon enough I was stowing my spare away, Jillian was thanking us profusely, then we were all on the road, problems solved!

Uh, sorta — we didn’t get home until after 2:00 AM, exhausted. My head hit the pillow and I was out like a light. Dawn came way too soon, and as I headed off to work, I reflected that this AMVIV had aspects of the old Mini Meets of yore – at least one breakdown by the side of the road was expected, and two or three wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, so in a way, we were only doing homage to the MINI heritage. Just so’s it don’t become a habit, tho!