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Northeast USA Jampot Rally 2005

Ben English

A motley crew once again survived the Jampot Rally. This year we didn't even get rained on… much. A lot of wet roads led to Bucksteep on Friday afternoon, but I found a narrow path through the raindrops myself, and I didn't hear of anyone else getting too wet. Once there, the umbrellas did come out, but we didn't need them at all after Friday night. Even so, the shinier Matchlesses and AJSs found shelter under marquees and canopies now provided by the rally Kahuna and co-conspirators. The Jampot is getting frighteningly organized- we didn't have any fancy stuff like that when I was Kahuna! Even a website- sheesh!

Turnout was good, with most all the regulars, several newcomers, and one or two faces that had not been seen in some years showing up again. Last year's array of Matchlesses and AJSs was unusually spectacular, and I don't think it was matched. Some sweet machines were seen nevertheless. A highlight for me was standing beside a perfect G80TCS Typhoon (600cc scrambler) when it was started and then sat idling while waiting for Saturday's dinner ride to commence. What a sound! My favorite twin has to be John Gurr's mid-50s French Racing Blue AJS Model 31 650. Just a few years ago he found the bike unmolested and original with only 2000 miles. It had never run right for anyone, because the left and right cylinders fired about 25 deg off from each other. Re-profiling a magneto cam ring is no trouble for John, and the bike now runs great- he has made the 500-plus mile round trip from Montreal to the Berkshires on it three or four times. One of John's companions was an Englishman on a Velocette Clubman, one of those exquisite bikes that seems perfectly stock until you look closely and notice an array of subtle and expertly executed modifications designed to enhance over-the-road performance.

Oldest bike was a 1936 Indian Chief, a real beauty. Jim Friedlander rode it up from Connecticut along with Charlie Taylor on his 1948 Norton International. Since Charlie lives in San Francisco and keeps the International in New England, he doesn't get much chance to do maintenance, so he did your basic magneto tune-up- file points, clean the slip ring- in the field with borrowed tools. Starting was much improved, but too late for the Saturday rides. Costa Zarifi's neat Triumph Trident had lots of trick Norman Hyde high performance gear, including cylinder head- not reworked, but a new casting manufactured by Hyde. John Rancitelli was also Trident mounted, and his brother Sam was a newcomer, on a “new” (1996) Trident. Several Commandos, including Mike Taglieri's 1972 Interstate, Triumph twins, a perfect little BSA Shooting Star, and some other nice bikes that escape me now were also on hand. Many riders came on newer BMWs and Moto-Guzzis, as well as Italian and Japanese dual sport bikes, and a handful were of the modern cruiser persuasion. An HRD Vincent was spotted down the far end of the campground, but the rider never brought the bike over where anyone would see it.

Friday night's on-site feed was plentiful and tasty, and once again the keg was Berkshire Brewing Co's "Steel Rail Ale", an excellent light ale. Plenty of other brews were available in bottles for variety- and to keep the party going when we killed the keg early Saturday evening.

Saturday morning's breakfast ride took us to the Misty Moonlight Diner in Pittsfield, just far enough to blow out the cobwebs. Back at Bucksteep, we gradually sorted ourselves out into those who stayed at Bucksteep to hang loose, and two rides. A "slow ride" (some dirt, no faster than 50 mph) led by Peter Rock on his 1999 Enfield went to the Ashfield Lake House for lunch. A "fast ride" (no dirt, no more than 55 mph) led by Greg Sudak on his BMW R75/7 aimed for the Mohawk Pub & Grill up on the Deerfield River. I went on the “fast ride”. Once up at the pub, we found not only BBC's Steel Rail on tap, but also their River Ale, maltier, mildly hopped, perhaps half way between a brown ale and a bitter. Getting there, true to promise, we only briefly touched 55 mph in short legs on state routes- mostly we were on town roads, winding up and down hills, with some rough pavement and occasional sand. On one decreasing radius downhill curve, John from Rhode Island got out of shape on his Harley Springer Softtail and crashed. He suffered quite a bit of road rash, especially on his left knee, and his bike was well bent, but after dusting it all off, he decided to ride on to the pub. There we called for rescue, and Jim Chivers showed up with his van to take rider and bike back to the campground. John did well to keep up at all- you'd have a hard time finding a more unwieldy bike for the kind of tight twisties we were riding, even at our moderate speed.

Saturday dinner was at the Depot in Dalton- more BBC Steel Rail, entertainment also provided by steel rails, in the form of passing freight trains on CSX (formerly Conrail/Penn Central/New York Central, nee Boston & Albany). Back at Bucksteep, we found a new sucker, oops, honored next years Kahuna, John Les. Sunday morning was the usual fine breakfast in the manor house, followed by distribution of the grab bag prizes, including oddballs and leftovers from the back of the garage, as well as some truly inspired and profane homemade apparatus. Some Jampoters have a highly twisted sense of humor.

I was in a state of barely suppressed envy all weekend, as my Commando is down for motor work. I was on my backup bike, a 1982 Honda FT500 Ascot- I have it pretty well set up for squirting around on twisty little back roads, and it is always fun to ride, but it does lack charisma. All the way back to Bucksteep from the “fast ride” lunch stop, I followed Peter Curtis on his newly purchased, very nicely turned out 1972 Commando Fastback. The bike has BUB imitation Peashooters just like I used to have- every time Peter downshifted, I was in agony. I was having plenty of fun, but I knew Peter was having so much more…. Got a good hot fire lit under me to get my own Norton back on the road.

On the way home I stopped in Lenox, where the Yankee Chapter of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America was putting on a Road Run for the first half of the week. Registration began that Sunday afternoon, it was right on my way home, and I knew Jim Friedlander was riding his ‘36 Chief down there from the Jampot. What an event! This was no show, these guys came to ride. I saw trailers from as far away as Texas, and plenty of bikes rolling in under their own power. I spent just an hour looking at bikes and chatting with AMCA members- I tell ya, these guys were having way too much fun. I only saw two Brit bikes- a beauty of an Indian badged Royal Enfield and an exquisite Vincent, but there was a large handful of nice BMWs from the 50s and 60s and a superb Nimbus (1930s Danish in-line, OHC four with flat plate steel frame). The latter's owner told good tales of bringing it to Denmark for the annual Nimbus rally last year. But mostly there were Indian and Harley-Davidson twins in profusion, dating from 1920 to 1965, if mostly post-WW2. Probably 50 of them, some perfect restorations, some with all the tricks determined fettlers can cook up (electric start Chiefs, that sort of thing), but several really cool and creative bob jobs as well as a number of bikes bearing patinas that redefine the word. Imagine an H-D Knucklehead seriously modified to get down the road fast and in style with all the good stuff available in 1950, ridden hard, put away wet and left in a barn until someone digs it out in 2005, cleans it off, and just plain rides it…. Some of the riders had quite a patina as well…

On the way out I saw another observer had parked his modern bike off to the side as I had. A Buell S1 Lightning, with the iridescent purple frame and orange body work. It had one of those big carbon fiber swing arm mounted rear fenders, extending back to form the license plate mount. Above the license plate, on the top of a sort of spoiler lip, so you couldn't readily see it unless up close to study the bike, was a little black sticker reading “Fuckin' A”. Well said, bro, well said.

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