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Northeast USA Jampot Rally 2004

Ben English

Yes, the agglomeration of fiascos, misadventures, over-indulgence, and down home biking that we call the Northeast USA Jampot Rally has once again been logged in the memories of the survivors.

Notable was the large crowd, all the usual suspects as well as numerous new faces.  Not typical even at this Matchless-AJS rally was the huge number of AMC machines.   All manner of 350 and 500 singles (from 1937 to 1967) sprouted up at every turn.  Two 600cc G80TCS Typhoons parked side by side, only about 800 serial numbers apart, and almost identical in flawless restorations.  A nice turn out of twins from G9 to G15, too.  This year's Kahuna, Jim Chivers, came up with portable canopies for these elite products of Associated Motorcycles Co to park under, topped with a nicely lettered banner reading "Plumstead Palace".   Also in attendance were two Indians (one of them Jay Hawley's sweet little Junior Scout bob job with Sport Scout cylinders), several Triumph twins, Charlie Taylor's plunger framed Norton International, three Commandos, one Velo, Peter Rock's India Enfield Bullet, numerous BMWs, Guzzis, Harleys (including one Knucklehead with sidecar), Buells, Hondas, and Kawasakis.  Oh yeah, the Scott (1920s by the look of it) and one of those paratrooper scooters.   Also Marty Sabba's Hinckley Triumph - Watsonian combination.  Then there are all the small bore dirt bikes on hand for the kids.  Lots of motorcycles, good ones too.

The weather was spectacularly clear and crisp all weekend, showing off Berkshire County, Massachusetts at its best, which is pretty damn good. Early arrivals had been off for a ride on Friday, but most of us just enjoyed a fabulous day for riding up to Bucksteep Manor on our favorite backroads.  Friday night's cookout was as good as ever, and the keg was Berkshire Brewing Co's "Steel Rail Ale", an excellent light ale, the right stuff to lubricate social side of the rally.  Better tales are told with better beer.

Saturday morning's breakfast was at the Misty Moonlight Diner in Pittsfield, an easy ride which left plenty of time for the day's big ride. With far more organization than is normal for the Jampot, a remarkable tour had been arranged.  A "slow ride" (lots of dirt) and a "fast ride" (some dirt but guaranteed no mud or stream beds) left separately but met almost simultaneously (at the eastern portal of the Hoosac Tunnel, which carries the Boston & Maine Railroad under the spine of the Berkshires).   Less than a mile up the road was our true destination, the New England Power Co's Bear Swamp pumped storage generating facility, built in 1974.   Gates were opened and the twenty five or more bikes crossed a dam, stopping at a giant portal in the rock wall of the mountain.  Slowly the doors opened to reveal a tunnel winding deep into the solid rock, and we entered in.  After a quarter mile descent, we parked at another huge door, which was opened to reveal the "Erecting Room" of the facility, a cavern carved out the mountain 100 feet high and wide and 200 long, topped off with a 606 ton crane.   Down through five levels of stairs and elevators, we saw the ball valves, turbines, motor/generators, and the tremendous amount of equipment including a full machine shop, to make it all work.

What it does, is buy electricity at $.02 per kilowatt in the wee hours of the morning to pump water up to a man made lake on top of the mountain. Then in the daytime, the water is fed down to the turbines to make juice sold for $.08 per Kw.  Two complete systems sit at north and south ends of the facility.  One factlet:  The "pony motors" to start the motor/generators in motor mode to pump water uphill are rated at 29,000 horse power.   This is BIG equipment.

One of our two guides wore a Hinckley Triumph hat- and a t-shirt reading "North Atlantic Branch, Ariel Owners Club".  We have people working on the inside....

It was all downhill after that, and I do not mean the roads- they were uphill- and down, and back up again, just the way we like them, but it was mass confusion, as various contingents got separated, lost, ran out of oil, and so forth, but we all ended up back up Bucksteep eventually.   I led a small expedition to an alternative dinner venue, which was aborted when John Harris's famous "AMC" (G80 motor in a Norton Featherbed), made a loud and very bad mechanical noise.  He shut it off, I ferried him back, and we hijacked Marge and Jack Burns' pickup to retrieve the bike.  Several wrong turns later, after picking up some other strays, we all ended up at the "official" dinner site, the Old Forge restaurant in Lanesboro, where everyone was already exaggerating their tales of woes and adversity overcome; we happily joined right in.  They had Ruddles County on tap, good enough for me.   Back at the Manor, the keg was attacked again, but with a certain moderation- we are getting to be health nuts in our old age.

Sunday morning brought breakfast in the manor house, a bit more deluxe than past years, as Bucksteep's new management is upgrading their act, and have hired the daughter of one of the local Jampoteers as chef.  (Chuck borrowed her EX500 Kawi for the weekend, as his T140 is laid up now.)   The following grab bag/raffle of oddities and weird junk cleaned out of everyone's garages provided the usual opportunity for bad jokes and banter en masse.   Then the last stray tent pegs were squeezed into saddlebags, goodbyes made with promises to wreak more havoc next year, and the Jampot wound to a close once again.

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