There were times, on Saturday, where I would catch myself thinking “I am really here. I am out in California, in Santa Barbara, attending Bimmerfest. I’m not just going to read about it online on Monday, I am standing right here looking at this sea of pristine classic and modified BMWs and taking it all in with my own eyes. Enjoy it now, because you’re going to be back in the office on Tuesday wondering if it really happened.”
Yeah well, it happened. I have the media to prove it. I flew out to California and experienced my first Bimmerfest, and took away memories of a show, and indeed an entire weekend, that I will never forget. I met a lot of people who until now I had only known for years as online entities, and even saw a good amount of old acquaintances from the East coast who had also flown out to participate in the show. Before I begin recounting the details of the trip, I want to thank Mariano Garcia (CleanAzzE30z) and the entire Garcia family for their immeasurable grace – I have never known better hosts, and may the future find you all in the very best favor. If ever you find yourselves slumming it out here in the East, it would be my honor to repay the kindness of your hospitality.
I touched down at LAX around 7:00 PM on Friday, and met Mariano and Julie, Mariano’s wife, at the baggage claim. Mariano and I have been friends for years, but this was the first time we had met in person. Another first was the In and Out burger that I had about a half hour after getting off the plane, two examples of which were devoured with the ravenous abandon of a big man who had gone too long without food - It had been at least two hours since I had eaten. We then hit Mariano’s house, picked up his E30 M3 whose Alpha N/custom tuning had just been finished, and began the hour and a half drive up to Santa Barbara. After a nice, spirited-yet-uneventful drive, we checked into our spot at the Best Western, plopped down on the couch in a surprisingly nice room, and made the decision to save the carousing for Saturday night, after the show, because the next day would be an early one.
True to the plan, we were up and out the door before 8:30 AM. While the drive to Bimmerfest from the hotel was short, it proved to be quite the production number actually gaining entry to the grounds! BMWs swarmed in from all sides, causing traffic jams and overall road bedlam. Irate motorists communicated with stiff-fingered hand gestures as they found themselves surrounded by E36s M3s, M Coupes and 2002s jockeyed for position as two lanes became one, and a pack of E60 M5s were honking and yelling playfully at each other to “get that old POS out of the road.” The general air was an accepting fraternity of good fellowship – Welcome to BMW heaven.
Once inside, it took me a moment to take in the scope of the show. By 9:00 AM Bimmerfest had already started shaping up to be the largest BMW-only show that I had ever attended. The large parking lots were already almost filled to capacity, and more BMWs were rolling in by the second. I grabbed my camera gear and set off to do my thing.
Bimmerfest 2007 was filled with so many cars, vendors, and places of interest that I made no less than three full circles around the grounds before I removed my lens cap. It was flatly overwhelming – There were BMWs that would leave me stunned were I to see them on the street, but in their company that day their standout nature was run of the mill in comparison to the next BMW, which was outdone by the next, and so on. While the vendor areas were of course filled with impressive BMWs, I was fearful of missing anything in the parking lots that would be worthy of note. After about 11:30 AM, there were so many people walking around that the open areas of the grounds were filled with the din of large crowds, and the capering tomfoolery had long began in the parking lots. Somewhere, a fight broke out - Another first (for me, at least) at a BMW show.
The day is a blur in my memory. There was so much to see and so many people to meet, that the trophies were being announced in what seemed like a very short order as the day came to a close. In order to get the jump on the mass exodus, Mariano decided to leave a bit early. It was now Party Time, but I needed a nap first.
Little can be said about the ensuing debauchery that evening save for this – The Pacific Northwest guys are crazy. I mean seriously out of their minds. I ran into SneakyMike and the PNW crew at the Motel 6 that night where everyone had congregated before going out (it was, after all, Cinqo de Mayo), and all I am going to say about that episode of the trip is “Damn.” I hope those guys made it back in one piece! The rest of the night was a lot of fun as I met even more BMW enthusiasts, this time from the Forced Induction side of the BMW world, and I had a great time hanging out with them before my body reigned me in and it was time to put one hell of a day behind me.
Mariano and I slept in on Sunday, and had a great drive back to his house in LA. As with the drive up, we didn’t see one fine officer of the law as we blasted down the highway. Since my flight back to Connecticut was not until the late evening, we had time to relax beside his pool and reflect upon a successful weekend before I had to be at LAX.
Mariano’s house is beautiful. The garage is filled with European goodness including, among others, a BMW Individual Mora Metallic E46 M3 with Kiwi interior, a fully restored classic 911, and Mariano’s own pristine M3 and E30 ETA. Nestled high up in the hills, the house has a stellar privacy to it that I would not have imagined possible in LA. Also of particular note were the gorgeous gardens adorning almost the entire perimeter of the grounds, along with a set of BMW doors set to the main wall behind the pool that announced with ultimate certainty that the beautiful home belongs to a true automotive enthusiast.
I guess that’s about it. I’m not really concerned with ending this article with a particularly poignant comment other than to thank Mariano and the Garcia family again for their hospitality. I really hope that I can get out to California again for the next Bimmerfest – to all those considering the trip, I will tell you now that it is well worth the plane flight. Bimmerfest 2007 was best BMW-only show that I have ever experienced, and it was the people along with the cars that makes me hold it in such high regard.