Given the weather predictions, nobody expected to have such a good time as we did at this year's Jampot Rally. It would be rain, rain, rain, they said, Friday, Saturday, and probably Sunday too. That kept attendance down - some pre-paid registrants failed to show, and no doubt many last minute deciders opted to stay home and stay dry.
A handful of us avoided the issue by arriving in East Durham NY on Thursday, a glorious day. The Weldon House of the Blackthorne Resort, is barely 30 miles from my home in Albany, but I found 100 good miles to get there on my 1972 Norton Commando. Keith Vent rode his 1965 G15 Norton from Webster NY, more than 200 miles. If we had awards of that sort he surely would have gotten the long distance prize.
Other early arrivals were father and son Stan and Brian Johnson who trucked Stan's Matchless G80TCS down from Ottawa. Not a bike for riding that distance - it is ready for vintage MX, no lights, no muffler, full knobby tires and number plates.
Of course rally Kahuna John Les was on hand getting everything set up. With all the rally equipment to truck in, his Triumphs, a 1979 T140D Special and 2012 1700 cc Thunderbird Storm had to ride in a trailer. (The Thunderbird was put to good use after unloading.)
Friday morning I cleared my head from the effects of the early birds party the night before with a 10 mile ride to breakfast in Catskill followed by 35 miles exploring more of Greene County's back roads. I arrived back at the rally about noon and as I walked to my room, a light rain began. Perfect timing - for me.
Not so for those who rode in that afternoon, including Steve on a new Guzzi 850 V7 Stone Special Edition, Scott on his Royal Enfield Bullet, and Brendan on his well used Guzzi California. The rain was on-and-off showers, never a continuous downpour, so although they got wet, none were drenched. Pop-up canopies were set up to keep the bikes mostly dry. Tim Powers had commitments elsewhere, but his son Mark brought up his bikes - two BSA twins (one with sidecar), a 71 Norton Commando, a perfect 67 Triumph Bonneville, and most exotic, a Greeves Sports Twin. Greeves dirt bikes are rare enough, but a road twin, that is rare, and cool.
The Harris clan deserves special mention. Patriarch John is a former Kahuna with an unmatched record of continuous attendance. His sons Geordie and Deke have usually accompanied him, which we appreciate especially for Deke's skills at the grill for on site meals Friday and Saturday nights. But this year Deke was unable to attend, so John Les grilled some fine burgers and dogs Friday night, with assistance from Deke's brother Geordie, newcomer Claudia, and others.
Saturday our ride destination would again be Steve Rzany's home in Voorheesville, NY where Steve had lunch waiting. Touring his shops, garages, and collection of motorcycles and memorabilia is endlessly fascinating. With everyone obsessively checking their phones for weather reports, talk was of making the trip by car and truck, but as morning progressed, it looked better and better, and almost everyone went by motorcycle. We had a great ride.
Coming back it got a bit chilly, and a detour for a bridge out put us up and over a tall hill where we rode right through some low-hanging clouds. Not rain, but mist condensing on our face shields. Bill Cawley's unrestored 67 Matchless G80CS was notable for marching up the steepest hills with panache with his wife Roxy on the pillion
With no chef for Saturday dinner, John arranged for us to eat at the Old Factory brewpub in nearby Cairo. Rain was threatening, so we carpooled there (except for Keith whose G15 must just be too much fun to ride). As we walked in a lanky fellow was singing "Folsom Prison Blues" just about like Johnny Cash did it. Jack Edwards, who lives nearby in Athens, said that's my friend, Jim, I play with him. So Jack turned around, went home, got his bass and amp, returning to brilliantly accompany Jim on his next set of "hillbilly music" as he called it. Food, beer and music, all satisfied the soul.
Back at the rally, the bonfire was built up and raffle tickets distributed, numbers called, and redeemed for the typical range of prizes ranging from lunatic to somehow actually useful. Best was the bottle of bourbon won by Brian who passed it around before starting a series of alternately touching and hilarious sea shanties. After some hemming and hawing about whether to honor the new holder of the crown, we all stood for "God Save the KIng", followed by "O Canada" and the "Star Spangled Banner".
The day dawned bright Sunday morning. Eggs and bacon from the grill were offered. Bikes were loaded for travel home, everyone was soon on the road. Fear of rain had surely kept our numbers down, but for the most part we managed to ride between the raindrops. I was amazed to get home to find no mud or even any road spray on my Norton Four days of fine motorcycling with fine motorcycling people.
Ben English * Albany * New York * USA