Annie is what I called my first Cooper in 2002. The xenon headlights reminded me of the weird white eyes that the cartoon Little Orphan Annie had, and the fact that Annie always wore red and white with black shoes made it seem a fitting name. Though they still are to a point, at the beginning, MINIs were real attention-getters. You could not go anywhere and not be stopped and asked the same few questions: What is that? (A MINI) Who makes it? (MINI) No, but who makes it? (MINI). Ultimately people were looking for the parent company, which I guess would have been easier. But no one says Volkswagen makes Audi, Audi makes Audi.
2002 was also the heyday of meeting people online to meet them in person (now we just meet them online to know them online, right?). So it didn’t take long for meetups to start. I went as an attendee to a few of these meets where I met one of my very best friends. She and I went on to plan our own meets, half start our own car club, and were among the first few to be part of Sunshine MINIs (a loose club for MINI owners in Florida).
Through her and my MINI I went on to make even more friends, attending a car meet pretty much every week. Some of these new friends and I went on a road trip to South Carolina for EuroFest – an event put on by BMW at their facility there (BMW Zentrum). As we hit the road, the pep of our new MINIs got the better of us and we were all pulled over by a Florida Trooper! Two MINI Cooper Ss, a BMW M3 and me in my little Annie :). Not my finest moment, this was my second (and last) speeding ticket.
This is when I learned BMW built both the Z4 and the X3 here in the US! They also have a museum there which houses a lot of great BMWs including my favorite ,the 1-seater Isetta. In addition to the tour, there was a car show that featured all makes of European cars. Of course I only really cared about the MINIs!
This was the beginning of my love of driving for the sake of driving.