2013 AJS/Matchless Jampot Rallye, A Roaring Good Time
by Frank L. "Cranky Frankie" Palmeri
To say I was anxiously awaiting the 2013 AJS/Matchless Jampot Rallye is putting it mildly, since I'd had to miss last year's due to a graduation. My plan was to leave after work from Albany, NY on Friday in a mini-van towing an enclosed trailer with my newly restored 1973 ½ BMW 750/5 "Toaster" and just relax at good old Bucksteep Manor in Washington, MA. Then I heard about a wake for my riding buddy's son, so I headed to the funeral home first. As a parent you never want to see your children go before you, but the family had tons of family and friends to support them, so that was good. Still, it has to be tough.
After paying respects I made it to Bucksteep, unloaded the bike, set up the canopy, then set to catching up with my old buddies, some of whom I've known for over 20 years now. By the time I'd broken out the stogies and the single malt (an Ardbeg 10 year old, peaty from Islay, which was superb) my buddy Ben English, who'd also attended the wake, had arrived, leaving the rain (temporarily) in Albany, and the party was on, finally.
I always say that Friday night at the Jampot Rallye is the best night of the year. To be in such a great place with so many great people and bikes is rejuvenating in so many ways. This year Jampot regular Marty Messick made the night special by doing an excellent barbecue featuring tons of marinated chicken, burgers, and sides. Marty also gets up early both days and mans the big coffee pot so all of us can wake up easier and nurse any hangovers. Marty is an excellent bike mechanic as well, and an overall great guy, one of many that help make the Jampot Rallye the best motorcycle event of the year, every year.
Highlight of Friday night was watching my NYC Norton riding buddy Mike T. try to get up from a chair after imbibing for a couple a three hours. If Ben hadn't been there to catch him it would have been a full-on face plant in the verdant October Mountain forest loamy soil for sure. By that time it was raining cats and dogs and last I saw Ben was steering/carrying Mike to his cabin in the woods. Mike wasn't seen again until late Saturday afternoon, and by that time he was on the wagon for the rest of the weekend. Good, that meant more scotch for Ben and me, hahaha. Ironically, the next day I attempted to sit on a plastic chair outside of Mike's cabin when the leg broke and I wound up taking a reverse header myself!
On Saturday I went on the 8:30 breakfast ride with the /5. To be in a large group of British motorcycles, especially those roaring, barking big singles, truly has to be one of the greatest joys in motorcycling. Hearing and feeling those burly thumpers pounding the road is just thrilling. At one point I was behind a Matchless single when his tail light lens fell off, hit the road, then bounced I swear 30 feet in the air. I had to swerve to avoid the rebound. I briefly thought about stopping and trying to find it, but I figured anything plastic that hit the ground that hard had to be toast anyway, so I didn't bother. Turns out Ben had seen it too and actually found it and returned it to the owner later in the day; it was only a little bit worse for wear and tear, imagine that.
When parts are falling off your bike, folks, you know you're having big fun!
Breakfast was at Ozzie's in Hinsdale on the big covered outdoor deck, a Jampot tradition. I asked the waitress, a young, attractive thing, what her name was, and she said “Jessica.” “Oh,” I said, “you must love that song 'Jessica' by the Allman Brothers Band, right?” She looks at me like I'm from planet Krypton and says “I've never head of the Allman Brothers.” Ouch! Are we that old now? I mean, for the first time at the Jampot, I got the feeling that we're now just Old Guys riding Old Motorcycles. I'd never felt that way before, but time of course marches on so I guess I do now. Thanks for nothing, Jessica :-)
On the way back to Bucksteep I picked up some toothpaste and a newspaper, deciding to skip the ride to Jimmy Hoellerich's Ossa Museum and Mt. Greylock, instead spending the rest of the lovely sunny summer afternoon reading, napping, listening to shortwave radio, whittling, and just hanging around. I never get 5 hours to just do what I want even if it's nothing so this was heaven for me. Normally on a Jampot Saturday afternoon there'll be a cylinder head off or a clutch apart or a multi-meter chasing a dead short so there's always plenty of helping out to do (I had plenty of parts and tools in my trailer), but there was none of that this year. Yes the turnout was smaller than past years, but the bikes that showed up all ran great, which means everyone is doing a good job with their maintenance, yay.
Jampot web-master and Treasurer John Les had posted a note on the Party Porch warning of fresh "tar snakes" on Rt. 8. Sure enough, the freshly repaired roadway featured slippery, wavy black tar patches or snakes as they are more commonly known. When I ride the /5 I really take it easy, no sense pushing stock 70's suspension technology, but had I been on a modern bike like my K1200RS I'd have wicked it up for sure and it wouldn't have been pleasant at all. On subway platforms in New York City there is a rubber coating right at the edge so you can feel when you're close. This rubber coating has a sandy substance mixed in, really helping to provide grip. Why the various state DOTs can't include some sandy material in their roadway patch filler is a mystery to me. Surely they know motorcycles are riding these roads? The weave they induce in the bike is similar to what you get with a flat tire, no fun at all. Thanks to John for providing a much needed warning.
Saturday night was a barbecue buffet catered by Bucksteep which was terrific, then the past Jampot Kahunas (of which I'm one) all got together to see who would become the new Kahuna for the next 2 year term. I'd gotten the feeling that the guy they were pushing was going to work out, but when we approached him for the ceremonial dry-humping he wanted none of it. Same with our plan B and even our plan C, though they all had good excuses. Still, when you volunteer for anything you always get more out of it than you put into it, too bad for them. Finally John Les' fiancé, the lovely Christina McIntyre, a beautiful lady with a great personality who doesn't even ride (yet) agreed to become our first female Kahuna (Kahunette?) She immediately announced she wants flowers on the legendary Party Porch! I think she'll do a great job and get a lot of help, so we're in good shape for the immediate future (as long as Bucksteep doesn't get sold to developers for constructing McMansions or some other such nonsense).
At one point in the evening there were two ladies riding around on, of all things, a bicycle built for two. They pulled up in front of the Party Porch, but the one in front stopped short and when she did the one in back got shot off the seat and onto the frame of the bike, ouch. The one in front yells out “Sorry!” The one in back then yells out what has to be the best line ever delivered at any Jampot Rallye: “Don't worry, it's only my crotch!”
There was a portable movie system, I'm not kidding, under a big tent right outside the Party Porch, so after dinner you could alternately chill-out by the fire, then turn around and watch “Wallace and Grommet,” “Blazing Saddles,” and Isle of Man TT highlights on a huge screen. It was way cool, though I prefer Jampot Jeopardy, but that's just me:-)
When I went to pack up on Sunday morning I had a hell of a time removing one stake from the canopy. Because there was a real chance for severe weather all weekend I'd wound up pounding the stake into a tree root. It took me one-half hour working with a hammer and a tire iron to get that ^^%!% thing out, while serving as breakfast for every mosquito in Western Massachusetts. Thank God I wasn't too hung over.
After the buffet breakfast we give out door prizes. I won a complete Bondo kit but I wound up giving it to Jampot regular Howard, a big guy who'd had a bad night. What happened was he got hungry at 3AM so wound up driving to Pittsfield to grab something. On the way back he's using his GPS to find Bucksteep, and has it set for shortest distance. The way he described it was that the road kept getting narrower and narrower, until he had to force his nice big truck BETWEEN two trees! He's gonna need a lot more Bondo than what I gave him – he destroyed the whole left side of his truck – but it's a start.
The thing that makes the Jampot Rallye really great is that each Kahuna only serves a 2 year term. This way no one gets burned out and every Kahuna gets a chance to put his (and now her) unique stamp on it. I didn't get to attend Bill Reilly's first effort, but I'm sure glad I got to go this year. While Bill didn't organize everything down to the Nth degree like I tried to do, he had the basics down pat and was always available for problems, jokes, etc. Nice job Bill, thank you so much for your hard work. Now if you can only find the Kahuna belt!
The 2013 Jampot Rallye was another blast as usual. Next year's bacchanal for all things Matchless and AJS and lesser marques will begin on Friday, June 13th, 2014, Father’s Day weekend. Hopefully my lovely wife Charlotte, who's bravely battling breast cancer with all her might, will be able to attend next year, which would make it even better. I can't wait.