Early next morning, just outside Amarillo, the sun comes up over the Texas Plains. The wind is fierce, but the MINI behaves flawlessly. Even with a relatively low weight, our biggest concern is the bigger vehicles being blown from lane to lane. Before we know it, we cross into New Mexico, an alien land of mesa and valleys, looking as if an entire mountain range was cut down in one slash with a giant sickle. We dive south of the 40 to make a pilgrimage to Roswell. The UFO Museum and Research Center was founded to document and investigate the events of the alleged spacecraft landing over 60 years ago. The Museum is a collection of stories and documents dealing with the crash and UFOs in general. It's worth the price of admission, if you happen to be in (or hovering above) the town.
On the way out of Roswell, we run into more unpredictable desert weather. Combinations of hail, rain and wind pound the MINI without mercy. I consider stopping, fearing body damage to our new car, but realize that hail is hitting the side of the car harder than it is the front and so the decision is made to push on. At the border of New Mexico and Arizona, we end up smack in the middle of several storms. Lightning surrounds us, but right above is a beautiful cool night. We stop to check for damage and grab a picture; it may be the best shot of the trip. We make our way to Kingman, knowing we're getting close to home.
We wake early to the sound of a freight train that runs just a few hundred feet behind our hotel. At breakfast, we decide that we're slightly ahead of schedule and have time to swing a few miles north, to drive the new Cooper S across the Hoover Dam and through Las Vegas. The view from the Arizona side of the dam is amazing. Looking out over the 3,000,000 cubic yards of concrete that created Lake Mead, we realize how far we've come. Once on the other side, the Las Vegas Valley is only an hour away. It goes by quick, while the weather is hot and clear.
After a brief stop, Las Vegas is left to the gamblers and party crowd, and the MINI is pointed south on the 15, the last real open road of the trip. The parched desert is a welcome change to the humidity and storms we've seen the last few days. A few hours later and our new long-term car is finally home in Southern California.
Lessons were learned, friends were made. We averaged between 34 and 36 mpg during our cross-country drive. Sadly, we have no way to put quantify the amount of fun per mile. The MINI Cooper S is fantastic, quite possibly the perfect way to experience a cross-country drive.