I Am Your Father

Long ago (well, it was 1971), in a country far, far away (Germany, so not too far) my father, Claus, first tapped into his Bavarian roots and honored his birthplace by buying a 2002tii. Skipping local delivery, he picked up his Granada red ride directly in Munich and drove around Europe for several weeks before bringing it back to California. As far as ways to join the BMW fold, I can’t think of many that are better. We have had at least one BMW—and often several—in the family ever since.

At some point way back, he even joined the Club. But he never managed to make it to the big national event, Oktoberfest…until this year.

Of course, he wasn’t going it alone. The plan was for me and the family to travel from Cleveland to Cincinnati the weekend before Oktoberfest, then my dad and I would drive down to Greenville that Tuesday. There was only one small hiccup in the plan: my dad needed to have knee replacement surgery about three weeks before the trip. We decided it was worth risking it for the 50th and let the refund deadline pass. Then my work travel ramped up even more than normal, making for a tangled web of driving all around the Eastern U.S. But before piling on a few thousand more miles, I wanted to get a few minor maintenance items taken care of, plus a general once-over of Hailey, my trusty 328xi GT.

Koala Motorsport—or KMS as it’s known to us locals—has been a fixture of my BMW world for nearly fifteen years. With the GT now out of its free maintenance window, it was the perfect time to revisit the independent shop. Brett Anderson’s crew quickly resolved the handful of open items and gave Hailey a thorough once-over to ensure none of the various road debris that she has encountered this year left a lasting mark. After receiving a clean bill of health, it was off to Cincinnati! Scratch that. First, I had to make a stop for work in Eastern Pennsylvania.

The nostalgia factor is always high at Koala Motorsport.

After an 800-mile detour, I swung by home in Cleveland to swap out dirty work clothes for a mound of BMW gear. Oh, and I picked up the two younglings for transport to Cincy, given that the whole family was going for the weekend. It was the least I could do, since my wife had to make the trip separately—or else she wouldn’t have a vehicle to drive home in—and was keeping the kids solo the entire following week. Pit stop completed, weekend in Cincy winding down, and it was time to for one final systems check.

First, was dad still willing and able to make the trip? Yup. We’re doing this, even if it meant bringing along Darth Vader levels of gear to keep his leg comfortable and healing properly. The artificial knee has joined his synthetic hip, and with the automated ice water recirculation system strapped around the entirety of his leg, he’s getting awfully close to becoming more machine than man.

Second, did we need to cancel any events? With the bio upgrades still strengthening, there was no chance that he could do the various actual driving events, which was no issue, since schmoozing and socializing with fellow Club members was more than enough reason to attend. Plus, you know, seeing all of those fabulous cars.

Third, could we get all of our gear in the car without having to get too creative? All too easy—that hatchback swallows a vast amount of stuff without even having to resort to dropping the rear seats—most impressive.

All of our gear fit into the trunk with just a bit of room to spare.

The weather cooperated for our drive to Greenville.

Tuesday rolled around, and thus began the final leg of the very long journey to my dad’s first Oktoberfest. The drive from Cincinnati to Greenville was mostly pleasant, despite encountering one rogue driver near Knoxville who caused the trip’s only “well, that was close” moment.

After settling into a nice suite-sized room at the Holiday Inn, we hiked over to the host hotel to register and enjoy the opening night dinner. With my dad’s new artificial knee, the sidewalks might as well have been sand dunes, but he persevered, and we arrived at registration just in time.

The real fun began on Wednesday, even if the weather wasn’t the most cooperative. Many years ago, my father’s original 2002 met its end with me behind the wheel—I know this, because he reminds me of that fact several times each year. And that day, we were practically surrounded by pristine examples, plus all of the other BMW exotica that tends to show up at these national events. For a 2002 purist, he sure did like the 507 that was on display. The pull of the Dark Side is strong, though I’m confident he wouldn’t trade in his first-born for one, even if I swear he said otherwise under his breath.

My dad, Claus, pining for his own Granada Red 2002.

But he quickly found an acceptable alternative.

We spent the majority of the next two days at the BMW Performance Center. The afternoon festivities on Friday were something else, with everything from Isettas battling it out like a flock of TIE fighters to Matt Russell in a factory-fresh Alpina B7 chasing Bill Auberlen in an M8. You can’t make this stuff up. And, even though both my dad and I are still unsure if Bill was supposed to do that wicked burnout at the end of his laps, it perfectly encapsulated the week into ten seconds of smoke and screeching. That evening, we soaked in the nostalgia and emotions that came with Friday’s BMW North America sponsored dinner.

My dad was quite the trooper that week, diligently walking the hills around the host hotel and the grounds at the Performance Center. With a sizeable storm in the forecast for Saturday and lots of driving ahead, we decided to declare the week a success and head back to Cincinnati the next morning. But first, we had to swing by the BMW CCA Foundation building to see our bricks in person.

That Saturday, I am not sure how many other members headed northwest, but I do hope they all made it home safely and didn’t get caught in the dreaded black-and-red traffic that shutdown I-75. Luckily, the BMW navigation did its best droid impression and steered us towards the scenic route—which ultimately got us back to my parents’ house on time and with far less stress than traversing Knoxville.

After dropping of my dad, it was a relatively short stint to the home base in Cleveland for a short reprieve before repacking yet again and heading straight back to Eastern Pennsylvania. Traveling with a copilot as engaging and entertaining as my dad is always preferable, but at least I had the memories of a fantastic week to keep me company.

Throughout my childhood (okay, and most of my adulthood) my dad has always referred to me as “my young Padawan.” We’ve bonded over BMWs since I can remember riding in the backseat of his 2002 through the hills around Cincinnati, so it was a great honor and pleasure to finally attend Oktoberfest with the Jedi Master himself.—Chris Doersen

[Photos courtesy Chris Doersen.]

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