Most people who attend the Colorado BMW Club of Colorado's Top O' the Rockies have a great time, then turn around and go home or head to another rally when it's over. Many return to the rally year after year, and a few return just to visit.
Then there are those who fall in love with Paonia's small-town charm and all that the North Fork Valley has to offer, and make it their home.
Since it began more than 28 years ago, between 10 and 20 people are estimated to have moved here as a direct result of the rally, according to four local motorcycle enthusiasts.
Jay and Catherine Bagley moved to Paonia from the Sacramento area about eight years ago. Jay Bagley said that by the time he attended his first rally in 2000 he'd already fallen in love with Colorado while serving in the U.S. Air Force in Colorado Springs in the 1970s. It was also during that time he started riding motorcycles.
"It was just such a cool town," said Bagley, who continued attending rallies. One year, a record 1,200 hundred riders showed up and threw a party for the town on Saturday night. Bagley recalled sitting on the bench in front of the Mexican restaurant when a female voice called his name. She turned out to be a former junior high school classmate in Santa Barbara who was living in Paonia and recognized him. "What are the chances?" he asked.
After meeting Catherine they rode their bikes to Paonia to check out the town, "And she fell in love with it, too," he said.
Jay is currently board president of the Mountain Harvest Creative and is preparing to open a new business in town. The Bagleys now walk to the rally, where Jay often helps with registration. "The rally is what got me here," he said. "It's the town that really sold me."
Eames Yates hails from Denver and was riding his BMW to a funeral in Montrose in 1992 when he followed a pack of motorcycles into Paonia. "The place was packed with BMWs," he said.
It was Friday night and he decided to stay in the park and party with his fellow Beamers. On Saturday he attended the funeral, and that night he returned to Paonia Town Park to party some more.
Yates said he returned to Denver and told his wife he'd found a great place to live. In 1993 they pitched a tiny two-man tent at the rally, then bought a bigger tent and sold their little tent for $50. While walking around town his wife found their "dream house." They bought the house without really knowing the town, said Yates. With job opportunities scarce they turned their house into the "Peace and Plenty B&B."
They eventually closed the B&B and left town for a while, but Yates returned in 2005. The place just wouldn't let go, he said.
In the 1970s, said Denver native Mary Czeck, she was fascinated with Robert Pirsig's book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance." She studied it in college. "My goal in life was to meet a guy with a BMW," said Czeck, a petite blonde with a big smile.
Instead, she met another Denver native, Walter Czeck. He owned a Honda. Figuring men can change and she could convert him, she went out with him anyway. She owned a little Yamaha at the time, and they took it on a road trip. It wasn't good enough for road trips, she said, so she bought herself a BMW. "He's still on a Honda," she said.
In 1997 they attended the Paonia rally and fell in love with Paonia. They missed the next couple of rallies, but when they returned in the early 2000s they went house hunting. They wanted to move here then, "But what do you do for work?" she asked.
It wasn't until 2014 that they were able to make the move. They found the perfect place on-line, bought it sight unseen, and sold their Denver home. The timing for both housing markets was perfect, she said.
Their first day in town her BMW wouldn't start. Through the BMW Club of the Motorcycle Owners of America's "BMW Owners Anonymous Book," also known as the "BMW roadside assistant plan," she contacted a BMW owner in the area, and it was Jay.
They have never looked back, said Mary.
Added Walter, "It's just been fun."
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