Berkshires Sortie

The 2021 Berkshires Sortie followed much the same format as in previous years. As usual, Alfisti met around 10-10:30 AM at a local roadside eatery, started the tour at 11 AM, and spent the next few hours enjoying (mostly) traffic-free and often twisty two-lane roads and pretty scenery. For 2021 we continued some of the changes that Covid-19 obliged us to introduce for the 2020 Sortie: rather than gathering in the morning at the Fillin' Station in South Deerfield, we met, again, in Bernardston, Mass., the last exit off of I-91 before entering Vermont. And rather than ending at a local restaurant, the 2021 Sortie concluded, as in 2020, with participants partaking of the picnic lunches they had brought to the Ashfield, Mass., home of the Walker family.

For 2021, the turnout was more modest than the previous year: eight cars and twelve participants in all (there were 19 cars and 34 participants in 2020). The iffy weather forecast for the scheduled date (Saturday, September 18) did put a damper on the plans of at least one possible participant, who woke up in eastern Massachusetts to early-morning rain and decided against joining the tour. Another Boston-based participant was not discouraged by the poor early-morning eastern Massachusetts weather but did discover that his car's windshield wipers did not work. Many of us with older Alfas often do not think to service our cars' wipers, until the once-in-a-blue moon downpour reminds us that we should, which, of course, we promptly forget to do once the sun returns.

The 2020 Sortie's gathering place in Bernardston was a roadside eatery aptly, for an Alfa Romeo gathering, called the Four Leaf Clover, and one of the photos from last year's event featured a Giulia Quadrifoglio (i.e. Four Leaf Clover) parked in front of the restaurant's sign. Unfortunately, the Four Leaf Clover restaurant fell victim to the pandemic's economic uncertainty and closed. Luckily, though, Sweet Lucy's Bakeshop is located right next door, has a large parking lot and outdoor seating and offers coffee and a large selection of baked goods, so we were able to gather there for the start of the tour.

Peter and Meg, the Sortie's organizers, arrived at Sweet Lucy's before 10 AM and established an AONE presence at one of the Bakeshop's outdoor picnic tables. During the ensuing hour, seven other AONE cars trickled in, five of which were Spiders, the earliest being George Chris's 1971 1750 Spider and the most recent being Deb and Dan Donovan's 1988 Spider. The other Spiders were: Tom Freiberger's 1974 Spider, which is the same silver color as George's 1971 model (which, Peter pointed out, was also the original color of Meg's and his white Spider); Larry LoPresti's red Spider, like Peter's and Meg's, a 1977 model; and John and Roberta Rowntree's 1987 Spider, which, along with the Donovans', represented series 3 Spiders. Stefan and Sonchu Gavell's lovely, bright yellow 1973 1600 Junior Zagato completed our group of type 105 Giulia-based Alfas, and along with Bob Falco's almost brand new 2020 Giulia Q4 carried the flag for closed cars.

Larry announced that his car was having trouble both starting and idling, though he was confident that it would be able to do clutch starts, and everyone assured him that we would be happy to push when necessary. We were never put to the test, as throughout the day Larry's Spider started every time it needed to. Idling, however, was another matter, and at our second "pit stop," in the parking lot of the Berkshire East ski area, the more mechanically-inclined among us tried to diagnose and improve Larry's idling problem. Of course the tour encountered no traffic lights, no traffic jams, and only a small number of stop signs, so thankfully the opportunities for Larry's Spider to stall and not restart were few.

Having but eight cars on the tour made it easy to keep our group together, especially as the Gavells' Junior Zagato and Bob Falco's 2020 Giulia tended to remain at the rear of our peloton. The bright yellow of the Gavells' Junior Zagato and the brightly-lit xenon headlamps of Bob's Giulia were easy to see in rear-view mirrors. This made it easy to check that we had not lost anyone, and as a result, little time was lost re-grouping at the tour route's intersections.

Since before dawn, the night's wet weather had been moving from west to east. At 11 AM the local roads were dry, but the sky was still mostly cloudy. From Bernardston our group wended its way south and west, toward skies that had been clearing since 9 AM. We drove along various country roads, through Leyden, Mass., where we crossed the first of three covered bridges on the route, and after about half an hour made the first of two stops, at Apex Orchard at the top of Peckville Road, outside Greenfield. A local dog walker on Peckville Road did not take at all kindly to sports cars driven con brio up what he must have felt was "his" hill and yelled out choice expletives that could be distinctly heard over what noise our cars were making. However his objections were forgotten at the top of the hill, in the orchard's parking lot. From this parking lot, we enjoyed an extraordinary view over the Connecticut River valley, with Vermont and New Hampshire in the distance, with Mount Monadnock dominating in the distance. Long-time AONE members recalled how Guilherme Bonatto, before he returned to Brazil, used to organize each fall a Giro di Monadnock in the area around Mount Monadnock.

Apex Orchard allowed for some stretching of legs, kicking of tires, purchasing fresh and local apples and peaches, and taking striking photos. After leaving the orchard, we drove toward Colrain, along the same road where two years previously, but in the opposite direction, Rob Rizzo's GTV6 had run over an oversized piece of firewood lying in the middle of the narrow lane. Fortunately this year any fallen firewood had been cleared away, and our cars reached Colrain without incident. There we turned left onto route 112 (one of the few numbered highways on the tour route). This intersection had been all torn up and excavated down a foot deep and two weeks prior was all dirt road for 500 feet. However, the rebuilding of the roadway had just been completed, and no one had to worry about sump guards!

We remained on route 112 for only a few miles, turning off to cross the tour's second covered bridge, followed by a lengthy climb up another recently repaved road: Adamsville Road, which leads into Heath, Mass. and a junction with route 8A. It is on this numbered road that we encountered the tour's only moving chicane, in the form of a slow-moving pickup followed by an equally slow-moving Honda CRV. We were able nevertheless to enjoy this pretty road, as it ran from farmland to woods alongside a brook, until we reached the tour's third covered bridge, just before Charlemont, Mass., on the Deerfield River. We crossed the river about half a mile from the Berkshire East parking lot and made our second "pit stop" at this ski area. Here, while some of our more mechanically-inclined participants worked on Larry's idling problem, the rest made use of the "facilities."

From Berkshire East, we headed up into the hills on the southern slope of the Deerfield River valley, driving through Hawley, Plainfield, Cummington, and Goshen, Mass. In Cummington and Goshen we followed routes 9 (yes, the same route 9 that becomes Huntington Avenue in Boston) and (again) 112. These roads are wide-open and feature broad, sweeping curves, making for some variety from the narrow and narrowly twisty roads we had followed so far.

At the Ashfield-Buckland town line we turned left onto Clesson Brook Road, which leads back to Hawley and which tends to bring out the Walter Mitty (or at least the hillclimb Walter Mitty) in sports car drivers. From Hawley, we followed another sequence of back-country roads to Ashfield's Bear Swamp and Hawley Roads, which meet right directly opposite the front door of the Walker family home.

We parked our cars in front of the Walker barn and unpacked our picnic gear. As we were a small enough number, and as there was some doubt as to whether the sun had fully dried off the lawn from the night's rainfall, we congregated on the sunny terrace, enjoyed our meals while gazing upon another New England rural vista, with the hills of southern Vermont and New Hampshire, again, in the distance, and discussed Alfas and other interesting topics.

Eventually everyone returned to their cars and headed for home, filled with the satisfaction of having spent a good part of the day using their Alfas as they were meant to be used: driving traffic-free, two-lane blacktop with lovely scenery and a variety of driving challenges. Contributing also to the satisfaction was the lovely weather, ideal for top-down touring and not too hot for the closed cars.Tiny Quadrifoglio

Berkshires Sortie Participants

George Chris, 1971 Spider 1750
Stefan and Sonchu Gavell, 1973 Junior Zagato 1600
Tom Freiberger, 1974 Spider
Peter Walker and Meg Anderson, 1977 Spider
Larry LoPresti, 1977 Spider
John and Roberta Rowntree, 1987 Spider
Dan and Deb Donovan, 1988 Spider
Bob Falco, 2020 Giulia Q4

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Here's a four-minute video that's a collection of clips taken from inside John & Roberta Rowntree's Spider along the Sortie route:

And here's a three-minute video taken from inside Peter's and Meg's Spider leading the pack, motoring up Clesson Brook Road:

See the original event announcement

Berkshires Sortie