Sugar sand at Don Cesar

This weekend is our second visit to the Don Cesar “pink” hotel in St Pete Beach; the beach sand there is so very soft and powdery, and the hotel is pretty good too. On this visit we also discovered that their Martina Grille dining is very special – especially the “reveal” dessert which we had twice!

Here’s some pictures of the hotel and beach:

When we left this morning we took the “long way” home, over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge which we’d gone under a few years ago; stopped to take photos, of course:

 

Another BMW, “the beast”

I’ve been considering replacing my last MINI for a while; while Margaret was looking for her new car I was also taking notice of the Corvette Stingray, Audi TT, Porsche Boxster, and Teslas that we tested – the Corvette was so fast but horribly noisy, the Porsche was both uncomfortable and noisy, the Tesla was a surprising let down considering all the technology it’s equipped with … I’d shortlisted returning to Audi to see what other choices they had.

When Margaret picked up her new car, I realized that BMWs technology (especially wireless Apple CarPlay) had improved dramatically from the last BMW I owned, or even from my two year old MINI which is full of BMW tech. So I set a challenge to Margaret’s BMW salesperson, to find a fun to drive car with technology to beat Audi … She suggested I test drive an X3 which I initially turned down (I’d owned one of them before) but she insisted and so I did – and WOW was it a different and fun vehicle!

So, welcome to my new car, a BMW X3 M40i with insane performance (0-60 in 4.6s!), and loads of technology. Oh, and it’s really hard to photograph the Dark Graphite metallic paint …

Technology includes a touch screen media/map/menu display that supports Apple CarPlay, a “virtual” cockpit dial display that changes for different driving modes and situations, and 360 degree surround camera views for easy parking …

All those cameras can also be used remotely with an iPhone App that displays the cars location – pretty clever! This is the view, a virtual car with the exterior camera images wrapped around to simulate a “drone view” anywhere around the car:

A few other highlights – lots of blue on this car from the M badging, repeated on the seat and door stitching, brake calipers – and the interior lighting is configurable so of course I have it set to blue as well.

 

The end of GBMINI

It’s been more than fifteen years since I purchased my first (BMW designed) MINI; my original reasons were because of the beautiful design of the R50 with it’s many nods to the class Mini (which I’d owned for a while in the 1980s), along with handling and steering response providing for an incredible fun driving experience!

Over the years I’ve owned 8 different MINIs – I’ve upgraded to gain better performance, better interior technology, or better comfort …

GBMINIcollage.jpg

What’s clear though is that those last two cars are not really from the same family as the earlier ones! For sure GPMINI was the most amazing fun of all those cars; it’s handling and performance beat all other MINIs, the Thunder Blue looks incredible, but it was noisy and a harsh ride for sure! Since then, MINI has tried to appeal to more people; my Clubman is by far the most comfortable of all – but it’s also $40,000 compared with the about $25,000 of my early MINIs (even GPMINI was only about $31,000).

In the past too, MINIs kept their value well; I think I’d lose about a third of their value after a few years ownership, meaning that driving a MINI cost me perhaps $3,000-$5,000 per year. But I’ve found recently that my two year old under 10K miles Clubman has lost more than half it’s value, meaning it’s cost me more than $10,000 per year! OK, I chose a very well equipped vehicle so the price started high, but to crash so far / so fast is just horrible!

So for that reason, my Clubman is my last MINI. At the price of a well equipped MINI, there’s many other choices – and when I factor the poor resale value of these cars, it makes choosing something else even more sensible.

The other thing that makes owning a MINI a fun experience is the community; here too that experience has reduced over the years – in central Florida there’s very few events other than the annual Mickey & MINI but my MINI owning friends are still friends even if I don’t own a MINI. I don’t think they’ll mind too much about my next choice (well, one of them might but that’s ok) …