Drive4Corners 2019 is just a month away, and for those of you who have not registered yet, here’s a look at last years D4C and what makes it such a special event on the BMW calendar.
The Drive4Corners BMW meet has become a local institution within the Rocky Mountain chapter and beyond. It draws participants from the Four Corners region of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, and last year, from as far as California, Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Illinois. D4C 2018 was the eighth iteration of a BMW road trip with friends that was started and is hosted by Tom Schultz, his brothers Tim and Ted, and a dozen dedicated volunteers. The Schultz family members are stalwarts within the Colorado BMW community, collectively owning two-dozen fine examples ranging from a 1976 3.0CSi to a 2008 M5 with nearly everything in between. With the help of volunteers, they bring the same attention to detail and enthusiasm as they do with their cars to D4C, putting in painstaking hours of preparation to unite BMW enthusiasts together from far and wide, and treating them to one of the most scenic areas of the country.
D4C started back in 2011 shortly after Tom purchased a Euro-spec 1980 633CSi. After doing a few mountain group drives on Colorado’s Front Range, a friend invited him to a hotel that he was renovating in the small town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Tom invited a few other friends with BMWs and D4C was born. A total of six cars showed up that year after a disabled E34 M5 arrived in the wee hours of the morning on a trailer (that same M5 made it this year under its own power). As the event grew, it attracted BMW enthusiasts from the surrounding states of the Four Corners region and outgrew its small hotel venue. This year it would be held at Purgatory Mountain Resort outside of Durango, Colorado.
There are fewer scenic places to host a BMW gathering than the Four Corners region, where thanks to the island in the sky effect, the arid deserts of the Southwest meet the lush highlands of Colorado’s Southern Rocky Mountains. An hour’s drive can result in vast diversity in climate and ecology ranging from red-rock desert, to sagebrush prairie, to alpine meadows and aspen groves, to snow covered rocky peaks above the tree line. The visual echoes of humankind can be seen etched into the landscape from the ancient cliff dwellings of the Anasazi people, to quaint mountain towns surrounded by the rusty abandoned ruins of a once vibrant mining industry. Exploring the area with some likeminded friends in Bavarian sheet metal was an opportunity not to be missed.
The sheet metal in attendance spanned five decades of BMW models of all sizes, numbers, and shapes. The Schultz boys are sticklers for statistics, counting thirty-eight chassis types with the most popular being the E30 3 Series. The oldest was a 1970 2800CS, while the newest was a 2018 X4 M40i in Long Beach Blue. Some other notable examples were Ted Schultz’s own turbocharged Euro-spec E30 325iX and Robert Bondi’s 1977 530i that he drove all the way from Dripping Springs, Texas—a car that’s been in the family since new. Greg and Barrett Scrivener, also from Texas, drove an E30 that had the roof hacked off to make it a pickup truck. It has a roll bar, but literally no roof, which undoubtably made for some wet hours behind the wheel thanks to August’s monsoonal rains. A quiver of E34 5 Series were present including several M5s, Jason Grace’s beautiful Calypso Red 1995 540i six-Speed from California, and my 1993 M5 Touring. Every generation of M3 was in attendance, along with a matching Imola Red Z3 M Roadster and M Coupe. One oddball was an alleged one-off right-hand drive collaboration between BMW and Datsun, that may have actually been an R34-generation Nissan Skyline wearing a BMW Roundel, but whatever it was, it fit right in—kind of… The confusion of onlookers was priceless, “That’s a what?”
The festivities began on Friday when attendees caravanned to the initial meet up point at the Durango, Colorado Rec Center, converging from all directions. The contingent caravanning from Denver had sixty-five cars in attendance—and only a few minor breakdowns. From the Rec Center the large group made its way up Highway 550 to Purgatory Resort, our home for the weekend. Purgatory hosted us with our own private parking lot, meeting room, garage access, and a car wash station. We were also offered discounts on a their new Mountain Coaster and alpine slide, where despite my repeated challenges “not to touch the brakes,” not one person was injured. Friday evening, event sponsor Angry Ass Solutions hosted a Bimmers and Brews beer garden and taco dinner.
The great thing about D4C is the relaxed schedule, you can make it as lazy or as intense of weekend as you like. Social events are loosely organized, along with drives along various routes to nearby destinations—hence the name. Four drive routes were offered on Saturday, the most popular being on Highway 550 to Silverton, then continuing on to Ouray along the Million Dollar Highway. The road was as much of a reward as the destination. Originally completed along its current route in 1924 after connecting sections of mining toll roads, the Million Dollar Highway did not disappoint—especially when it was occupied by a snaking line of Bavarians. We climbed the appropriately named Red Mountain then descended through the remnants of the Idarado Mine into the Uncompahgre Gorge. The drive is not for the faint of heart, and patience is key for the inevitable encounters with white-knuckling tourists who find even the conservative speed limits too daunting. It is good form to always be courteous and expeditious (in that order), and dispense with a friendly wave as such road blocks are dispatched on the periodic passing zones. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate that, despite outside popular opinion, BMWs do in fact have turn signals!
As it descended the Uncompahgre Gorge, the million-dollar pavement was literally etched into the canyon walls with a dynamited slab of rock on one side and a guardrail-less sheer ledge on the other. If you listened closely you could almost hear dislodged pebbles ricocheting down into the abyss as we went buy—almost. That is because in actuality the only sound was Jason’s Calypso E34 540/6 painting the entire canyon and the eardrums of all of those within it with the soundtrack of a lightly muffled BMW M60 V8 revving gloriously with each downshift. It was thunderous enough to offend even Harley Davison riders, and also nice to give them a taste of their own medicine. Luckily, there were frequent avalanche tunnels to protect us from the inevitable boulders that were shattered loose from the thunder. A glance in the M5 Touring’s rear view mirror was filled with angular haunches of Andrew Jordon’s Long Beach Blue M2, his dog Apex riding shotgun, ahead of a long line of BMWs in-trail.
The picturesque historic mountain town of Ouray, whose nickname is Switzerland of America, is nestled in a small box canyon surrounded by towering granite walls. A tourism economy has long since replaced the original mining industry, and the D4C crew did our part enjoying a relaxed lunch, shopping (I may have almost bought a Pontiac Fiero), and a dip in the local hot springs and vapor caves. Hikes to one of several local waterfalls are a must, as is a stop at Mouse’s Chocolates & Coffee for a hot chocolate or their famous “kitchen sink” scrap cookie, which has every delicious ingredient but the kitchen sink baked into it. That hot chocolate came in handy when the temperature plummeted double digits thanks to a drenching monsoonal thunderstorm. It made for some great hot spring weather, so my wife and I headed just north of town to an oasis called Orvis Hot Springs. The crystal clear landscaped pools of varying degrees are some of the best in Colorado, but those with weak retinas be warned; they are clothing optional—it may best to go at night or keep one’s eyes on the ground!
Rejuvenated and with retinas unscathed we made it back to Purgatory in time for the annual group photo. Lingering rain showers threatened to dampen the festivities, but fortunately the rain held off until after ample pictures were taken. The BMWs were organized loosely by age into three rows on our private parking lot with attendees grouped together in center. As the sun set we gathered in Purgy’s restaurant for a buffet dinner, raffle, and awards. Jerzy Banasiak won Furthest Traveled, coming all the way from Park Ridge, Illinois in his Alpine White 2003 M5. Richard Neely of Farmington, New Mexico took home a duo of Over the Hill and Fan Favorite awards in his 1970 2800CS. The D4C Addict award went to Buck Clifford of Aurora, Colorado in his 2001 750iL for six years of unbroken attendance, and Angry Ass Solutions took home Spirit of D4C for sponsoring the Bimmers and Brews social on Friday evening. Raffle prizes were plentiful enough for nearly everyone to win something; I took home a set of Hot Wheel BMWs and an umbrella that my wife immediately commandeered for the rainy walk back to our condo.
Sunday was rounded out with sunrise yoga and an evening ice cream social for those wanting to stay until Monday. Most people departed at their own pace, with BMWs diverging in all directions. Some ventured off into the vast enchanted lands of the Southwest deserts, others eastbound into Colorado’s high country, and to the wide-open prairies of Texas. Jerzy had the longest journey home, traveling 1,360 miles back to Illinois, but luckily for him there are few better tools for the job than an E39 M5. A weekend in the Four Corners region with friends in BMWs is how it started, and now after its eighth iteration, is how it has remained thanks to the hard work of the Schultz boys and everyone else who volunteered to host the event. If you have the weekend free this August, I highly recommend you come out and join us!—Alex McCulloch
[Photos courtesy Alex McCulloch, Tom Schultz, Brian Twig.]