33rd Annual AJS/Matchless Jampot Rallye
June 25th-27th, 2010
Whitcomb Summit, Florida, MA
By Ben English
After 28 years at Bucksteep Manor high in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, the Northeast USA Jampot Rallye of the AJS-Matchless Club, the 32nd rally moved even higher in the Berkshires, to the Whitcomb Summit resort on the Mohawk Trail.
There was plenty of angst about the move. Bucksteep's elegant decrepitude felt like home, but new management apparently wanted to take some of the shabby out of their chic, so us old time bikers wuz shown the door. And Whitcomb Summit is nothing like Bucksteep.
But it served well enough. The people and the bikes saw to that. Whitcomb lacks the faded ambiance of Bucksteep, but it has 20 modern motel rooms and a view that is amazing. It faces east and we had a full moon, so it was spectacular.
I got a late start out of Albany NY on Friday, and somewhat ironically, stopped by Pete Talabach's Mohawk Garage in Becket, just a few miles down the hill from Bucksteep. The purpose was to review his selection of Ducatis and Guzzis for sale. I am in no hurry, but I think a new-to-me bike is in my future.
I was riding my 82 Honda FT500 Ascot. Even if it is not British, this is a good Jampot bike, because at 350 lbs with dirt bike genes it loves the back roads the Berkshires are laced with. And it does have a Lucas headlight. My Commando is in storage while my garage undergoes renovation, and once I do get my shop set up, I need to find out what is making that funny noise in the gearbox. There we have one more reason for my intent to add to my stable.
Whitcomb served up a fine chili Friday night, and the bar had Berkshire Brewing Company (BBC) Steel Rail Ale and Lost Sailor Ale both on tap. Meeting new friends and greeting old ones while watching the moon rise over the many ridges spilling down towards the Connecticut Valley and then rising again towards New Hampshire, the Green Mountains of Vermont just to the north- mesmerizing.
Plumstead Palace sheltered plenty of nice AMC products, mostly G80 and G3 singles, accompanied by two really sweet G12 650cc twins, one of which I know was Rich Hosley's. Rich also brought a recently acquired and truly exquisite featherbed Norton International. The Turkington brothers, Phil and Mark always bring nice bikes, and kept up their standards with a BSA Rocket Gold Star and am early Honda CB450 in the rare red paint. John Rancitelli was there on his black and red T150 Triumph Trident, Costa Zarifi brought his gorgeous white and gold T160, there was a nice Ariel single, and a clean 850 Commando Roadster. Mike Taglieri was there with his 750 Combat Interstate, never shiny but oh so well fettled. Peter Rocke is a character and a half, and so is that f-u-n-k-y Honda CX500 that gets him around. Coming and going were various and sundry Triumph twins, from modern Hinckley 900s to T100Cs set up for serious trail riding - remember the 1973 Int'l Six Day Trial was in the Berkshires, there is lots of good off road riding.
Saturday Greg Sudak led a few of us to Tannery Falls on his Yamaha SR500. This is a double waterfall just a half hour ride away, a mile or so of that on just slightly gnarly dirt. We hiked down to the top of one falls, then way, way down to the bottom where the two falls join, and then way, way back up on the trail beside the second falls. Got my daily aerobic exercise, yup. Greg knows his way around the woods, and among other things, pointed out the wild strawberries all around where we had parked. Delicious.
Whitcomb has satellite TV, so some folks hung around to watch the US lose to Ghana in the World Cup. But I talked Bill Mauro to fire up his Matchless G80S and ride down to the Ashfield Lake House for lunch. We got back in time to watch the extra time in the match. Sob.
The dinner provided was pretty good, and the moonrise was again remarkable, if intermittently obscured by clouds. Hanging out at the bonfire, I looked up to see a hawk of some kind soaring silently just twenty feet overhead- Greg said it must have been a horned owl. An omen?
I gather the new rally Kahuna, John Harris, got mostly positive feedback about the new venue, but I am sure there will be plenty of discussion about next year's rally. A few things were lacking at Whitcomb, notably the absence of a central gathering place to meet and find out who wants to go for what ride when. There was an awful lot of miscellaneous small groups and single riders just going off by themselves, and I know plenty of folks missed the camaraderie of the group rides.
Going home, I explored back roads through the Savoy Mountain State Forest to get down to Adams. The town of Cheshire put up a "Road Closed" sign on my favorite shortcut over to Lanesborough, but I knew that was just for show to keep down the traffic. The hair pins are pretty beat, potholed and washboarded, but no real trouble. So I got in another signal marker of a really good ride, passing a road closed sign and not having to turn around. Can't wait for next year, wherever it is.
Ben English * Albany * New York * USA