Indian Summer Sortie

By Meg Anderson
Photos by Vi & Dave Pratt and Meg

Peter Walker and Meg Anderson, hosts of the 12th Annual Indian Summer Sortie, arrived at the Whately Diner, known to AONE Alfisti as the Fillin' Station, to find theirs was not the first Alfa Romeo on the scene. Giorgio Kradjian from Billerica, Massachusetts, arrived early and first with the hope of gaining a good pole position. Roger and Karen Carlson, dedicated kayakers and Alfisti, arrived from Connecticut soon after Giorgio, their 1959 2000 Spider providing company to Giorgio's 1975 Giulia Nuova Super 1300 (well, it said "1300" on the back!).
Walker, feeling youthful during the morning drive through his childhood stomping grounds, and Phil Bostwick, dressed to drive in his racing boots and gloves, were next to arrive, escorted by regional local Ken Shapiro in his 1973 Spider. Bostwick makes the annual run all the way from Cape Cod in his 1972 GTV, but breaks it up by staying in nearby Ashfield the night before. I challenge you to get the scoop from Phil as to the best room in Ashfield; you will have to make reservations more than six months in advance if you are going to get it before Phil.

Here's a view of the prelude to the tour (that's Ken and Phil ahead of Peter and Meg):

There was not much sun shining down on the parking lot at the Fillin' Station, but as more Alfas rolled, rumbled, and purred into the parking lot the smiles on everybody's faces at seeing old friends and beautiful cars provided a glow to the morning. Jeff Greenfield, last year's birthday boy and luncheon host, and his elegant wife Valerie came in their 1974 Berlina, complete with specialized license plate that appropriately reads ALFAMD. They brought along another very western Massachusetts resident and enthusiast of Alfa Romeos, and Pharoh Dogs, John Woodruff in the youngest and one of the sprightliest Alfas, a 1991 Spider.

Filling out the lineup were Tom Freiberger, who got the morning off and showed up from Vermont in his computer-assisted silver 1974 Spider. Yes, he still has his Montreal (and his Giulia GT and his Lotus), but chose the Spider for this outing. Ready to give his recent engine rebuild a true test of high RPMs, opposing turns, and unexpected quick braking was Rich Rumelt, from Greenfield, Mass., in his 1979 burgundy Spider Veloce. (Phil does not recommend the Super 8 motel in Greenfield; maybe Rich has a better suggestion.)

Rounding out the roster were ever club faithfuls Dave and Vivian Pratt in their (ahem!) "lesser" car. What? Yes, Dave and Vi have passed on to their nephew, along with a year's membership to AONE, their lemon giallo 1974 Spider. They can't give up the company of great Alfisti friends, though. (That includes you, reader.)

Just in time for the drivers' meeting, thanks to Nancy's 8:30 am nudging Steve to wake up, were Steve and Nancy Perry in their 1978 Spider. Last-minute scratch entry Dan and Deb Donovan dropped out the night before due to an uncooperative 1988 Spider. They were sorely missed. Hope you can get the car in order for the Wachusett run.

A quick briefing by Walker and distribution of route copies, complete with turn-by-turn directions and mileage and interval notes, saw everybody ready to get behind the wheel or in the navigator's seat. Cloudy skies meant that some tops stayed down, some stayed up, some debated the theory of occupants' age and outdoor temperature before determining if their top would be up or down. The hard tops remained in place and the cars negotiated into formation after engines snapped, jumped, clattered, or sputtered to a start, a true Italian sports car symphony.

Giorgio did not get the pole position behind Walker in the pace car. That went to race-experienced Phil with Giorgio behind him. Next were the ever-great teammates Karen and Roger (FYI: they compete in Ballroom dancing, canoe and kayak competitions.) With anticipation of a lively drive, Rich and first-time tour attendee John closed in behind the Carlsons. Tom Freiberger, Steve and Nancy, Jeff and Valerie fell in ahead of sweepers Dave and Vivian. There would be shifting of position both during the drive and after the break. Unable to join the ride, Ken gave us a hearty wave as we made our first move onto Massachusetts routes 5 and 10, our entry to the hills and turns of Western Massachusetts.

Our drive started out with a warm-up of a few turns, a pass through some remaining post-Sandy road construction, and a slow-down behind a FEDEX truck. As navigator, I intended to read Jane Eyre, but it quickly became clear to me that I would need one hand to hold my hat on my head and one hand for the "Oh, ***t" bar. With the only traffic lights of the route negotiated and all cars perfectly aligned behind him, as soon as the FEDEX truck pulled over Peter gave the pedal greater acceleration. All others followed suit and Jane Eyre and Rochester tumbled to the footwell. Thornfield may have had a mad woman in the attic; we had a few mad men in the cockpits.

The drivers were all focused on the road and the car in front of them; navigators saw the landscape pass in a blur. Each yellow "curve-in-road" sign meant another acceleration. There were many such signs: to the right, to the left, squiggles, 90 degrees to the right at 15 mph, 90 degrees to the left at 15 mph, squiggle to the right, squiggle to the left, and dangerous curve. On a rare straight away, noted as 2 miles long, Giorgio made his move and gained the position behind the pace car. There may have been one or more over-takings. I don't recall; I was busy holding on and rescuing Rochester and Jane Eyre from the footwell.

There were also yellow diamond signs warning of slow children, cows, horses, new oil and loose stone. Children don't play outdoors any longer; we could smell the cows, never saw any horses, and the oil was at least a week old, but we did slow down for the loose stone. We didn't want to mar the old or new paint jobs on our fine Italian ponies (and one German pony). After a breezy five-mile run down a 5-star road, we pulled into our pit stop, Berkshire East Ski resort. We took the opportunity to inspect and test the newly expanded facilities, get reacquainted, or settle some nerves. I shared my observation that each time Peter accelerated the clouds receded and the sun came out. Apparently desiring more sun Rich replied, "Well, then. Let's accelerate some more."

Ready for more and looking forward to lunch, drivers and navigators remounted their steeds Mesrours and buckled in. Our Pilot carried on at a vigorous pace, circling back in the direction of South Deerfield, but somehow with minimal backtracking and not losing sight of our lunch date in the other direction. The sun came out as we accelerated through more turns followed by a six-mile straightaway.

But then there was a cloud that no Italian pony screams could obliterate. Rich's steed seized up. Witnesses tell of hearing a terrible noise. Two tire streaks on the pavement showed exactly where his car's engine seized. Rich tells of knowing just what to do: throwing in the clutch, going into neutral and rolling to a stop. Fortunately, there was cell service (never dependable in the area) and those near Rich were able to contact Peter in the front. And Rich was able to call AAA, who arrived with a flatbed within the half hour to transport him to his home town and his car to the shop that had done all that engine work not long ago.

All cars, minus Rich, reconvened on the side of Route 112 and chose to cut a few miles off the remainder of the planned route to make up for the time rescuing our fellow Alfista and instead head right for lunch. More "curve-in-road" and yellow warning signs. One last hairpin turn on Massachusetts Highway 2 welcomed us to the Golden Eagle restaurant. After two years of our not dining with them, they were happy to see us. And we were happy to see them and to enjoy a hearty meal and the restaurant's beautiful view. They even made up separate checks!

All-in-all, we negotiated 8 squiggles, 17 right, 18 left, 10 left to right, 15 right to left, 3 right 90 degree, 3 left 90 degree and 1 hairpin marked curves (there were many more unmarked) and only 8 stop signs over 100 miles. New faces, familiar faces, new cars, old cars, friends, and camaraderie, all in the name of Alfa Romeo. Great to see everybody out there. Hope to see you at Mt. Wachusett.

For those who wish to relive the experience, or for those who were unable to join us, the itinerary can be found as the final photo below. You can choose to follow the mileage cues or my pictograph notes taken during the tour.Tiny Quadrifoglio

(Click on the thumbnails below for a larger view, and then
swipe, scroll, or use the arrow buttons to navigate)


See the original event announcement

Indian Summer Sortie