Indian Summer Sortie

By Peter Walker
Photos by Gene Durso, John Rowntree, Dan Donovan, and Peter

Long-time AONE members will recall the delightful Giro di Monadnock tours organized in southwestern New Hampshire by member Guilherme Bonatto. Those tours always occurred the first Saturday of October, and either Guilherme had a special agreement with the rain gods or at heart those same gods can't help smiling at the thought of a Brazilian samba, but either way each Giro di Monadnock was blessed with ideal New England early fall weather. With the thirteenth running of the AONE western Massachusetts Sortie being scheduled for the same first Saturday of October and with one of the more lovely Massachusetts Septembers behind us, there was hope that Guilherne's good luck would carry over. Hurricane Joaquin and frustratingly fluctuating forecasts had a different idea, as metro Boston was drenched in rain on the last day of September and weather.com kept predicting more or less rain for the first two weekends of October. Nevertheless, a decision was made very early on Thursday, October 1, to go ahead with running the Sortie.

Early Saturday, October 3, dawned grey, chilly, and wet, not auguring well for the Sortie's thirteenth edition. The AONE cars that did not have working windshield wipers and defrosters remained in their garages and under their covers. But seven intrepid Alfas, ranging from Roger Carlson's 1959 2000 Touring Spider to Jeff Greenfield's 2015 4C coupe, plus one "lesser car" congregated that morning at the Fillin' Station in South Deerfield, Mass. As the clouds lifted a bit and the precipitation ceased around the time the tour began, those tourers who did come were rewarded for coming out.

At the Fillin' Sation, tanks were filled at the gas pumps and bellies in the diner, a drivers' meeting rehearsed the fine points of keeping the group of cars together (but not too together), enjoying the roads and countryside, and the now proverbial "slinky method." Organizer Peter Walker promised he would pay for a drink for anyone who drove top down. Although the closed car drivers (in addition to Jeff there were Giorgio and Marisa Kradjian in their 1985 GTV6) cried "unfair," several of the spouses of the Spider drivers shouted even louder: "don't you dare!" to their driving partners.

On schedule the convoy left the Fillin' Station and headed up into the Berkshire hills. The first part of the route was route 116 to South Ashfield. Tennessee has its famous "Tail of the Dragon," but "route 116" are magic words to western Massachusetts sports car lovers, and with reason. The point of the Sortie is to enjoy driving Alfas (and lesser cars) the way they were meant to be enjoyed: on two-lane, windy, country black top roads, and route 116 is one of the best such roads anywhere (but please keep it secret!).

After reaching South Ashfield, the convoy continued on to Plainfield, Mass., with no one noticing the skid marks laid down where Rich Rumelt's Spider's engine seized during last year's Sortie. In Plainfield, the tourers took to the back roads through Hawley and Ashfield to the scheduled stop, at Bear Swamp Orchard, in Apple Valley. This part of Ashfield had several commercial orchards during the early- and mid-twentieth century, but sadly only one now remains. However, local Steve Gougeon has opened an organic orchard that offers apples (both pick-your-own and ready-picked), various kinds of artisanal ciders, and apple donuts; these last were particularly appreciated by some of our Alfa lovers! The sight of all our Alfas was equally appreciated by the Gougeons.

After departing the orchard, our convoy continued to enjoy the back roads of Ashfield, as well as those of Buckland and Hawley. Tour leader Peter was enjoying so much the delights of one traffic-free back road that he forgot about the route and missed a right turn (from Clesson Brook Road to Pond Road). However, thanks to trusty Alfa disk brakes (not only on Peter's Spider but Giorgio's GTV6), the two lead cars were able to screech to a stop, reverse, and make the planned turn before the remainder of the cars arrived. Jeff, in the third car in the convoy, later affirmed that Peter's and Giorgio's cars had laid down definite tire marks screeching to their stops, and Marisa very kindly offered to share with Peter her copy of the route instructions.

After that little hiccup, the group managed to stay on the planned route well into Vermont. In Hawley, we crossed the Deerfield River (where during an earlier Sortie our convoy had been held for some time at a railroad crossing by a long freight train), drove through the center of Charlemont, and turned left onto route 8A, which leads north into southern Vermont. This road had just been repaved, and everyone was able to enjoy for a dozen miles the fine ride that vintage (and not so vintage) Alfas offer on ballroom-smooth pavement. Once in Vermont the group headed north from Jacksonville to Wilmington, where we crawled through the leaf-peeping tourist traffic before finding again the open road on the west side of town.

After Wilmington, we headed south on Vermont route 8 toward our final destination in North Adams, Mass. The left turn onto route 8 gave Deb and Dan Donovan a chance to show off the emergency stopping power of their 1988 Spider, as only at the last minute did they see Jeff's 4C waiting ahead of them at the turn. But once again the brakes on Dan's Spider were up to the task, as he slowed and made the tight turn, and we were all again on our way.

Route 8 southbound afforded us majestic views of the Hoosac range (topped with wind generators) and of Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts's tallest peak (and site of a couple of previous Sortie pit stops).

Once back in Massachusetts, we headed east for a few miles on route 2 to our pre-arranged lunch spot, the Golden Eagle, where we have always been graciously received, pleasantly served, and well fed. We gathered at two neighboring tables and were joined by our one straggler, organizer Peter's mother, who left her Ashfield home two hours later than the other cars and took the shortest direct route to the restaurant.

At lunch we enjoyed our meals and the view and shared our pleasure at the weather having cleared a bit and the roads having dried and remained traffic-free.Tiny Quadrifoglio

2015 Sortie Participants

Peter Walker - 1977 Spider
Giorgio and Marisa Kradjian - 1985 GVT6
John and Roberta Rowntree - 1987 Spider
Jeff Greenfield - 2015 4C
Dan and Deb Donovan - 1988 Spider
John and Lauren DeWaele - 1974 Spider
Roger Carlson - 1959 2000 Spider
Gene and Judy Durso - lesser car

 

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Indian Summer Sortie