For its third year in a row, the Washington, D.C. area’s Cherry Blossom Run has dazzled both local and not-so-local BMW enthusiasts in attendance. What started as an impromptu early morning cruise amongst nine classic-BMW-owning friends has truly blossomed—see what I did there?!—into a full-scale independently organized annual automotive event.
It began in 2021 when friend and fellow BMW fanatic Sean Vojecky messaged me, “We’re all going to the Tidal Basin tomorrow morning to get photos of the E30s. Wanna come?” Let’s just say it wasn’t a hard sell as he had me at “E30.” So, at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning, eight E30s and one E38 met in Tysons Corner, Virginia and cruised 30 minutes into the nation’s capital. We arrived as the sun was rising over the Tidal Basin, lined with D.C.’s famous cherry blossom trees in peak bloom. In addition to enjoying each other’s company, it made for a great photo opp with the original nine: Jorge Figueredo, Alfonso Larios, Julio Lemus, Alexander Machuca, Paul Machuca, Alexis Moreno, Jerry Valega, Sean Vojecky, and myself.
For its second year, the event grew in size and took things up a notch, building on the format of the previous year’s run. This time, a total of 60 BMWs cruised into D.C., 30 of which were E30s. The cherry blossom trees were once again in peak bloom, and seeing so many classic BMWs cruise under a canopy of flowers was surreal. As an added bonus, and my personal favorite part of the event, the sizable group headed to Urbano restaurant in Fairfax, Virginia’s Mosaic District, where the streets were blocked off for a BMW car show and attendees could enjoy a special menu, all thanks to Cherry Blossom Run co-organizer and Urbano’s Managing Partner, Jorge Figueredo.
That brings us to this year’s event, which took place on Sunday, April 16th. With a few small tweaks and simplifications to the show’s schedule, the collective of customized BMWs met at the starting point in Mosaic District. After sunrise, we drove to a familiar spot on Ohio Drive SW and parked under descendants of the original cherry blossom trees gifted to the U.S. by Japan in 1912. Across the Potomac River, planes taxied, took off, and landed at Reagan International Airport. Unlike the blustery late-March weather from the previous year, this year was perfect—not too hot, not too cold, and minimal wind.
While we missed peak bloom by two weeks, this may have been for the best. Based on images seen on local news and social media there was an absolute cherry-blossom craze in late March. Two weeks prior, the people were as plentiful as the pedals on D.C.’s Tidal Basin, which would’ve made for a challenge to navigate and park in the city. We did manage to find one remaining flowering tree, which provided an ongoing shower of petals onto Figueredo’s 1989 325iS (E30) and Julio Lemus’ 2001 740iL (E38).
After an hour in D.C., our gaggle of German vehicles headed back to where the day began. Thanks to Figueredo, there was a special Cherry Blossom Run menu at Urbano and a closed-street BMW car show from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the heart of Mosaic District. In addition to outside seating, the restaurant’s large windows were open providing unimpeded views of German steel no matter where you sat.
Adjacent to the show, there was a large farmer’s market, which had booming attendance due to the spectacular weather. Cross pollination of the groups ensued, bringing spectators of all ages to mingle with BMWs and their owners. I recall one conversation with a gentleman who asked, “Do you know why all these cars are parked here?” After explaining it was a car show, I still wasn’t sure he understood the “why,” so I said, “We’re just a bunch of weird car enthusiasts who enjoy driving and sharing our cars, and happen to own BMWs.” His brow relaxed and he said, “That’s cool, I can appreciate ‘weird,’” and he walked off to explore the blend of classic and modern BMWs.
In addition to the mix of cars, there was a mix of familiar and new faces joined the band of Bimmers for this year’s event, some traveling hundreds of miles like Rick Eickhoff of Royersford, Pennsylvania in his Alpine White 1987 535i (E28). This was Eickhoff’s second year attending, and again brought his five-year-old Samoyed, Kiev, who he says “is a local celebrity to camera lens at car shows.” Kiev is very photogenic, so I believe it.
Eickhoff describes his trip to the show, “I departed at 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning to make the pilgrimage down to the Mosaic District. This show is tailored for the BMW community who enjoy the classic marquee. It’s a great way to get the cars out of their winter slumber and back on the road, test some of the new winter project upgrades, and talk with new and old friends of the BMW family.” Will he be back next year? Without hesitation, Eickhoff agrees, “Definitely–can’t miss the great show and cruise, along with the Outstanding brunch at Urbano!”
Mike Van Gheem is another second-time attendee who woke at O-dark-thirty and traveled from Virginia Beach for the event, making the long drive in his Cashmere Beige 91 325i (E30). He describes his E30 as “a former Cali car running Apex ARC-8s wheels and a few tasteful mods.” Though it wasn’t the car he brought to the 2022 event, saying, “Last year was my first trip up from Virginia Beach, and I drove my ‘87 Diamond Schwarz 535iS. I met two other E28 owners last year and we joined up again this year.”
Van Gheem says he returned because “The Cherry Blossom Run is a great opportunity to join with old Bimmer friends, celebrate the joys of driving, and fixing and modifying the cars we love!” As with Eickhoff, he is already looking forward to next year. “[I’m] already planning on bringing our green ‘91 325i Cabrio—hopefully during the height of the blossoms down on the Tidal Basin!”
For some, like Ryan Groll of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the excitement comes from the event’s high E30 quotient. Groll brought his Zinnoberrot Red 1987 325iS (E30) called “Nugget”, of which he recently completed a full multi-year restoration. He says, “What I really enjoy and get excited about is seeing so many of the same vintage cars in one place and being able to connect with the owners. I live on the eastern shore in Maryland, and I may see one e30 on the road in a lifetime. And even if I see it on the road, the chances of me getting to talk to the owner is slim! So, at this event I was able to see and talk with everyone, which is inspiring.”
One BMW sparking inspiration at this year’s run was Antoine Muller’s Tundra Green 1972 3.0CS (E9), a car that has been a big part of his life since he was young. Muller’s father purchased the E9 as a daily driver in the 1980s, after a light restoration had been performed. Muller recalls, “I remember being dropped off at school and doing Saturday morning errands with my Dad—I was a little guy riding in the front seat. I grew up in that car.” When Muller’s father passed away, he inherited the E9 and the title was signed over to him when he turned eighteen. He reflects, “That car is definitely part of his identity to me, which is one of the reasons it was so important for me to keep it.”
It’s certainly a unique E9 with a lot of history. Muller says, “You see a lot of restomods in the American muscle car scene, and I see that as the late ’80s or early ’90s euro hot rod of the time, and I’ve tried to keep it as true to that as I can.” This includes many of the track-specific parts Muller’s father had installed when he used to attend BMW CCA HPDEs in the late ’80s and early ’90s, like the home-made front lip. This E9 was retired from track duty when Muller’s father built a full wide body race car E9 in 1992, which Muller has been trying to hunt down for some time. (So if you know of its location, drop him a line!)
This was Muller’s first Cherry Blossom Run, along with his good friend and fellow “BMW nerd” Graham Savage, who rode shotgun in the E9. In addition to enjoying the driving, weather, and scenery, Muller says, “These types of events are more approachable for more people. And I loved to see the diversity of ownership. I think that’s what makes it so awesome. You’ve got such a diversity of cars there, and such a diversity of owners.”
The following week, Figueredo and I connected to reflect on this event’s third iteration. Speaking of the people and vehicles that attended, Figueredo comments, “Seeing Rick [Eickhoff] again this year was really nice. [The distance that people are willing to travel] was telling that people really are enjoying this event. Even though it’s a car meet, I think that it’s turned into a little more than that—something where people are coming to have fun, enjoy a different environment, enjoy the cars, and there’s nothing crazy going on. I really enjoyed seeing [Eickhoff] return—he really stood out.”
Figueredo continues, “I think what I liked the most is that whenever you go to a car meet that is organized by a restaurant or a coffee shop, it’s hard to enjoy the venue because it’s usually so packed. Our intention isn’t to get that packed, it’s to provide an ambiance of being able to sit down and relax—it’s not hectic. We don’t want to make money off it, we just want to provide an enjoyable space.” With the Urbano Mosaic portion of the event running from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., there was ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, brunch, or lunch, and even go back for seconds. What can I say? Sometimes you just have to treat yourself.
In line with Figueredo’s thoughts, I enjoyed seeing faces that I hadn’t seen since last year’s Cherry Blossom Run and catching up with friends. I enjoyed hearing stories behind people’s projects, and seeing long-running projects back on the road doing what they’re intended to do: be driven and shared with the community. And who wouldn’t love seeing classic BMWs in motion, when transiting between locations?
While most car meets may only involve parking your car at a single location, the nearly eight-hour Cherry Blossom Run visits multiple locations, allowing attendees to enjoy a relaxed group drive and a variety of settings, with a closed-street car show at its conclusion. As many attendees of this year’s event have indicated, we’re looking forward to the friends and fun of the 2024 Cherry Blossom Run! —Mike Bevels
Visit our BimmerLife image gallery to see more photos from this event.