It's a Wednesday evening. I'm working late, with no customers in sight. A last minute decision to check my phone and message my dad sees me ask him to bring my camera to me. He obliges, glad to see that I'm not working the next day, so staying out late won't be an issue. I had been discussing going to a West-Enders MINI Club meeting in Ancaster, Ontario. I knew I'd be late. I didn't know how late. I felt particularly inspired by the nice weather and the sunset. A golden sun cast a sun-kissed glow on the world, a nice, clear blue sky reflecting the perfect antidote to the excess gold. The weather was a photographer's dream. Or, well, it would have been, if I had a tripod. My father had forgotten that key piece of kit to take the photos from a "decent" level to an expert level. "Oh well, look at this weather. It'd almost be a sin to worry about a minor detail."
It was 8:13 when I left Cambridge. Camera in-car, I decided to take the "scenic" way; actually, Google Maps told me to take the scenic way. I wasn't complaining. And, so, it was in this way that I ended up going to a MINI meet in full Honda attire, having just left the Honda dealership.
This was the view that greeted me upon arrival into Ancaster. The gold and blue fought a battle of pastel tone sky and vibrant yellow buildings. The mountains cast an ominous shadow across the downtown Ancaster area, while Hamilton glistened in beautiful radiance. Night was approaching, quickly. And, so were the MINIs, driving the back roads of Ancaster at "spirited pace." It would have been a sight to behold, for sure, seeing brightly coloured hatches driving around the city, reportedly on three wheels.
The destination was a hip, possibly English-inspired pub, aptly known as the "West End House & Pub." The decor screamed MINI Cooper. Upon arriving, you knew that you had arrived in the right place. But, it wasn't just old music playing, and it wasn't all old themed. It had a nice mix of modernity and class, somewhat akin to the cars themselves. I'm still trying to figure out if this was entirely coincidental, or whether the club was named after the pub.
Driving along Emerson St., in Hamilton, you could easily miss the pub. It doesn't particularly stand out... Except when a German flag themed parking lot, stuffed full of MINI Coopers (now made by BMW, making the German flag remarkably relevant,) on the side of the road. When you see a parking lot full of MINI Coopers, you know you're in a cool neighbourhood.
Upon arrival, I got to work. I got the camera out and immediately lengthened the exposure. We were in the shadow of the mountain. The shadow now covered the entire city. It wouldn't be possible to take acceptable golden hour photos for much longer. I had to work fast. So, I stayed outside and used as much of the time as I could, to get photos that would do justice to how awesome, and incredibly clean the MINIs were.
I chatted with the outdoor patio attendant bartender; a cute, gently freckled, and extremely friendly girl named Rachel, while taking some photos, discussing the car culture and what I was doing, among a few other things. We agreed that MINI is one of the manufacturers with the most personality of any car.
After taking some photos, I went in for my nachos and drinks (non-alcoholic, in my case, as I was driving home) and enjoyed a great chat with some of the members of the club. They answered questions that I had about the cars and definitely made me feel like getting a MINI would be fun. I mean, I should drive a Cooper with a manual transmission before really deciding for sure that it's right for me, but they left me really considering it. But, the maintenance costs are a little worrying; maybe they're not that bad, I would need to research before deciding.
After some discussion of Liverpool, Manchester and Northern Ireland, sounding more like a Barclay's Premier League game preview than a Canadian evening with nachos, most of us had heard bits about family, friends, financial/banking advice, driving techniques, suspension setups, brake rotor sizing, limited slip differentials and more. Make no mistake, they might be friendly, but they do enjoy competition. Their competition, though? It's themselves. They seem to be interested in bettering themselves and enjoying their life. The MINI seems to be a fun toy, one which has seen some years of friendship-building and great fun.
We gradually strolled outside, one-by-one, meeting a dark street on our way out. We said our goodbyes and headed on our way. I stopped, though, at the Hamilton escarpment harbour overlook of my choice to take more photos. This is where the post takes a slight detour from the usual world of just photos of cars, and delves into the world of scenery and art photos. Hamilton is always such a beautiful place to take photos... It was a nice treat to top off a great night. I even spotted a deer, but she ran into the forest far too quickly to pose for a photo.
Check out the West-Enders MINI Club on Facebook here:
Directions to the West-End House:
Drew Geier is a Canadian petrolhead whose main mission is to make motoring accessible, enjoyable, and affordable well into the future, by improving the art, hobby and lifestyle of motoring. He builds cars, and he writes about other builds. He's built a Subaru WRX and is building a Honda Civic EK.