It was reported the other day that in New Jersey, there has been rain on at least one, if not both days of the weekend for the past ten weeks. The corollary to that is that the weather forecasters have been batting about .210 (if they were ball players, they would have been sent back to the minors by now).
So it should not have come as a surprise to awaken on Sunday June 10 to showers, even if 24 hours prior they had not been predicted. It was two months ago that the NJ Chapter of the Alfa Romeo Owner’s Club (AROC) selected this date for its spring driving tour through Hunterdon County. But Alfa drivers love to cruise so much that a little moisture wasn’t going to deter us. We met as planned at the Readington Diner on Route 22 in Whitehouse at 10am, and after a brief driver’s meeting, ten people in six Alfas were off.
The half-dozen vehicles were neatly divided into two groups of three: in the ‘older’ group were two ’67 Giulias, a sedan and a coupe, along with a 164 four-door sedan. Alfa Romeo’s current model lineup was thoroughly represented by the 2nd group of three: a Giulia sedan, a Stelvio SUV, and a 4C Spider. The factory couldn’t have planned that better if it tried.
From the diner, we drove about 4 miles on Route 22 before turning south. From that point on, 100% of the driving was on two-lane secondary roads. We wound our way around Round Valley Reservoir, and meandered through the towns of Stanton, Barley Sheaf, Cherryville, Quakertown, and Pittstown before descending into Frenchtown, on the NJ/PA border. The rain at this point was nothing more than a nuisance, and made me long for intermittent wipers on my ’67.
Back on the road, we turned left and began to head east, passing through Sergeantsville, Ringoes (named after John Ringo), Unionville, and Reaville. We briefly entered Somerset County, driving through Cloverhill and Montgomery, before circling round, winding through Wertzville, and finally turning south toward our destination, the town of Hopewell in Mercer County. We covered just over 70 miles in slightly under 2.5 hours, including our break.
Lunch was at Antimo’s Italian Kitchen, and it was charming. Our wait staff catered to our every need, and the food was delizioso. Perhaps best of all, new friendships were formed, as several of today’s participants were on their maiden voyage with the Alfa club.
The roads were lightly traveled; the scenery was verdant and historic; the overcast skies kept the temperatures reasonable; and no one broke down. What else but to conclude that our NJ AROC Hunterdon County tour was a roaring success?
This is what we do: we get up early on a Sunday morning, earlier than many of us would otherwise arise on a day off from work. We hop into our toy car, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a 40-year-old gem we’ve owned for many a decade, a recent “beater” that’s a work in progress, or a brand-new supercar. (One rule in this club that has no rules is, we do not criticize each other’s cars based on age, marque, horsepower, color, or relative value.)
We meet at a pre-arranged spot, and then we drive. It’s almost always delightful, verdant, winding, two-lane roads, which may take us north, south, east, or west. We delight in the sights and sounds of our friends’ cars in front of us and behind us. Sure, we drive in a spirited fashion, but there’s no reckless behavior on the road; we respect each other too much for that. (Rule #2 in this rule-less club is that overly aggressive driving will certainly ensure you’re disinvited to our next soiree.)
Upon arriving at our destination, we anxiously await our morning treat: hot coffee, good breakfast food, and lots of conversation. Some of us have known each other for 25 years. Some of us met about 90 minutes ago. It doesn’t matter. We share a passion for our internal-combustion-powered devices, and we’ll talk about them and the exhilarating freedom they provide until the waitresses toss us out (pity the future generations who will not know the thrill of piloting such sporting machines).
With breakfast done, our desire to continue the chat is all too obvious, as we spill out onto the sidewalk, inadvertently blocking the restaurant’s entrance. Finally, as the noon hour approaches, we reluctantly wish each other a fond “see you next time”, and head back to our machines, and back to whatever reality awaits the remainder of our Sunday.
This is what we do.
As we exited the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River, Rich S took these photos, and they are used with his permission:
It means that we must remember the true spirit of the holiday, as we honor those who served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
It means that we have the freedom to pursue our own vision of happiness. For many of my friends, as well as for me, that means sharing our passion for the old car hobby.
It means that I can volunteer to spend a few hours to participate in a local parade, giving citizens a reason to come out and smile, cheer, and wave the flag.
It means that I have freedom of choice to purchase and drive the car that I want, not based on what someone determines is “the right choice” based on that vehicle’s country of origin.
It means that our children, our future generations, can learn from the past, and work toward a future that we hope is peaceful and safe for them.
It means that there is great joy in recognizing that Americans come in all colors, from all different backgrounds and nationalities, and they are as proud and happy as anyone to celebrate this momentous holiday with all their fellow Americans.
The 2018 edition of the New England 1000 rally was held during the week of May 21. The rally started and ended at our host hotel, the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY, with additional overnight stays in Newport RI and Lenox MA. The group also visited Wayne Carini’s F40 Motorsports and Mystic Seaport.
In all, about 35 cars drove in the event (the number is estimated because first, not every car listed in the tour book showed up; and two, some of the cars spotted earlier in the week seemed to have dropped away by the end of the week). The oldest vehicular participant was a 1952 Cunningham convertible. Tied for newest set of wheels were a 2017 Audi R8 and 2017 Porsche 911.
For rally co-driver and co-navigator Steve Hansen and me, this year was a double-milestone: it was our tenth NE1000 (although not all 10 were driven with each other), and it was the 20th anniversary of our first such rally in 1998. We both recall that during our initial drive to Freeport ME in Steve’s Tiger, we pondered what other vehicles might be joining us. Instead of the resto-modded Camaros and slightly rusty Chargers we envisioned, the first car spotted in the hotel lot was a white four-door Bugatti. We instantly knew we were in for something special.
This year’s rally was different in several ways:
The semi-official featured marque was Cunningham. The realized dream of Briggs Cunningham, a total of 25 road cars were manufactured. Four were scheduled to run the rally, but only three actually did so. It was a rare thrill to see three in the same place at the same time, and even more rare and thrilling to hear them run and watch them move.
For the first time in our experience, one of the four “rally days” consisted of no driving events. Tuesday was spent in Newport RI; participants were given the option to ride on an America’s Cup yacht, visit an automobile museum or two, and/or tour the “cottages”, as Newport’s mansions are euphemistically called.
Also for the first time, there were no optional driving events, such as hillclimbs, gymkhanas, or drag races. In large part due to only three days of touring, we drove slightly less than our usual 1,000 miles. As per the tour book, the mileage total for the week was 837.
Those of you in the Northeast know all too well what disappointing spring weather we’ve had. Things were no better as we departed Neshanic Station on Saturday. We drove in a near-steady rain on Saturday afternoon, the trip made more bearable only by its brevity (Mohonk is just two hours away). Sunday dawned damp and cloudy, but by that afternoon, we saw the sun, and except for some sprinkles on Tuesday evening, we were spared further precipitation.
Our steed, my 1967 Alfa Romeo GT 1300 Junior, was in its fourth (2013, 2014, 2015, 2018) NE1000. Its performance was almost flawless. Tuesday morning, intending to drive into town, the car would not crank. The battery was drained, but the car instantly roared to life with a jump start. With the help of Peter and Keith from RPM (thanks guys!), we determined that the alternator was intermittently charging. It’s very likely that the Saturday drive, with lights and wipers on the entire time, helped accelerate the battery’s depletion.
The local NAPA store, in exchange for some credit card info from me, donated a new battery, and our starting problems were solved for now. From my phone, I ordered a replacement alternator from my preferred supplier, Classic Alfa in the UK. The alternator was on my front porch on Thursday afternoon, a day before we arrived home. How’s that for service?
Participation in multiple events has taught me that rally photography is a tricky proposition. Once the driving starts, opportunities for the camera can be few and far between; after all, I’m either driving or navigating. Below is a sampling of pictures, organized roughly chronologically by location. Please note that all these photos are different from the “Photo Gallery” pictures posted last week. Enjoy the shots!
ARRIVAL, SATURDAY & SUNDAY
Although the official festivities begin on Sunday afternoon, many participants (including us) arrive on Saturday to feel less rushed as we perform any final car prep. Here are some of the cars as they arrived in a lot set aside for the rally participants.
Every year, the rally events begin with an informal “concours” on the hotel property, done as much for the owners to show off as to present our wares to the hotel guests and public. At Mohonk, we were crowded onto a narrow walkway.
F40 MOTORSPORTS VISIT
On Monday, we made a scheduled stop at F40 Motorsports, the home of Chasing Classic Cars starring Wayne Carini. Mr. Carini was on the premises, and gave a short informal presentation. Better still, he led us into the back shop where many treasures are hidden away. He was warm, gracious, humble, and obviously a very knowledgeable enthusiast.
THE AUDRAIN MUSEUM
On Tuesday’s “open” day in Newport, we had every intention of visiting two of the local car museums. Our battery issue, while fortuitously falling on the non-driving day, shortened our available time. We were only able to get to the Audrain Auto Museum, located in downtown Newport. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece. The smallish display area featured American muscle.
Wednesday found us in Mystic CT, with about 2 hours to kill at the Mystic Seaport Museum before our scheduled lunch. As lunch ended, the parking lot served as an ideal staging area for our departure, and was also a great photo op.
THE RALLY ENDS
By Thursday, everyone feels a sense of accomplishment at just having driven the roads. That evening’s banquet dinner will reveal the final score, including how many teams “zeroed out” (this year, only one). As the cars arrived back at Mohonk, they were prepped to be either driven or shipped out on Friday morning.