Our 1949 Alvis TA14 Drophead Coupé in the USA.
The Alvis Tour of Eastern USA, September/October 2000.
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David Jobson-Scott and Sarah Westwood in the 1949 TA14 Carbodies DHC.
The picture used in the glossy publicity brochure, but actually taken at Santander in Spain in 1999.
This is a personal account and reminiscence of the events which occurred during the Alvis Owner club and Register tour of the New England area of the United States of America from 15th September to 7th October 2000. Because of the very large number of cars and members participating, it is inevitable that an astonishing variety of different memories will be recorded. When the different accounts are compared, it will be very difficult to believe that everyone was on the same holiday! Certainly, during the journeys between the hotels on lots of the days, it was rare to see many other Alvis cars. It was only at specific tourist attractions and arranged functions that we met up with other travellers in great numbers. The one rather sad aspect was that we didn’t get to know as many of the other participants as I had hoped.
The US trip was wonderful, and can truthfully be described as the "trip of a lifetime". It was in embryo form over three years ago, when my first wife Joan was still alive. We were at the Alvis weekend at Orford in Suffolk in November 1997. The idea was floated then as an extension of the private trips I have been doing for years to the Continent. We thought that getting twelve cars (our absolute maximum normally) together for such an ambitious undertaking would be difficult. Early planning was based on twenty. When the idea was floated for real last summer, Robin, the overall organiser was astonished to get well over a hundred firm enquiries!!! Everyone seemed to have crawled out of the woodwork. In the event, eighty-one cars were shipped from Southampton, bound for Baltimore, in early September. One of the most worrying aspects was that almost half the participants had never been on a touring holiday before. Many had never even been to a club event! Quite a few cars had only done a few hundred miles a year.
The response for the trip was so large that it was thought wise to make this an official club event. Thus it was that we had a spares trailer supplied by Red Triangle, the official Alvis Spares, Servicing and Restoration Company. This in itself was a major undertaking because every model except two, of the twenty-two basic models, was represented on the tour. Add to that the fact that almost every car within a model group is different, and you have a problem knowing what spares to carry. Suffice it to say that every car completed the 2,700 mile tour without needing to use the spares. The few cars that experienced problems, either were carrying the necessary spares themselves, or were repaired by the support team supplied by the US members (fifteen of their cars joined us, plus three from Canada) and the local Lotus owners. We also had an official Press Photographer/Video filmmaker (plus lady friend!) in a brand new supercharged XKR supplied by Jaguar USA. I suppose Jaguar thought that the publicity would be good for them. They could have sold the car at least ten times over, but there is an eighteen month waiting list!! The Press/Radio/TV coverage in the US was extensive and quite unexpected. There was even a video team especially flown over from California to follow us on one day.
One of my overriding memories of the holiday will be the locals who would come up to us and thank us for bringing our beautiful cars to their country. Most just looked in awe when we told them that we had shipped eighty-one cars over from England (including one each from Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium and Germany), just for a holiday! The most asked question was "where is the show?". It is clearly rare to see many elderly cars being driven around in the US, unless they are on the way to a show. I lost count of the number of times that I was asked if people could take pictures of the car. We seemed to create an enormous impact wherever we went. Some of the English tourists we encountered during our travels were somewhat bemused as well! Seeing British registered cars driving around in the USA is very unusual. The original idea was for a pleasant, relaxed touring holiday. Our passage through the Eastern States couldn't have been more publicised if we had tried.
Now to the tour itself. A very brief summary is as follows:
We left Baltimore, heading west in the direction of Frederick, Maryland then south/south west through West Virginia to Front Royal, Virginia and on to the Skyline Drive south to the area of Luray (Shenandoah National Park), then north through Winchester, VA to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and on to Williamsport. PA, Emira in New York State, Watkins Glen and the Finger Lake region. Then northeast passing close to Ithaca, up to Utica, through the Adirondack Mountains to Lake George and on to Burlington on Lake Champlain in northern Vermont. We then crossed northern New Hampshire to the coast of Maine, then south via New Hampshire, southern Vermont and western Massachusetts, passing through the Northwest corner of Connecticut, back through New York State into Pennsylvania through the Pocono Mountains and down to Hershey/Lancaster, finally arriving at Baltimore again after almost 2,700 miles. The actual overnight stops from 15th September to 7th October are shown below.
Night 1/2/3 15th-18th Marriott Hotel, Inner Harbour, Baltimore.
Night 4 18/19th Skyland Lodge, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia (on the Skyline Drive).
Night 5 19/20th Eisenhower Inn, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Night 6 20/21st Hampton Inn, Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Night 7/8 21-23rd Seneca Lodge, (on Lake Seneca), Watkins Glen, New York State.
Night 9 23/24th Surfside Inn, Lake George, New York State.
Night10/11/12 24-27th Holiday Inn, Burlington, Vermont.
Night 13 27/28th Mountain Club on Loon Lincoln/Woodstock, New Hampshire.
Night 14/15 28-30th Freeport Inn, Freeport, Maine.
Night 16 30/1st Fireside Inn, West Lebanon, New Hampshire.
Night17/18 1-3rd Crowne Plaza, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Night 19 3/4th Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee, Delaware.
Night20/21 4-6th Brunswick Hotel, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Night22 6/7th Ramada Hotel, Towson, nr. Baltimore.
I now give a more detailed account of our travels, with some information on the route taken each day. Photos are from scanned images and the quality isn't always too good.
When I go on the holidays on the Continent, hotels are booked and you find your own way between them. This trip was quite different. Wayne Brooks of the US Alvis Owner club had published the most astonishingly detailed route plan, which could be followed for the entire tour if desired. Very explicit instructions for finding each of the hotels were included. It must have taken ages to compile, because every mile had to be driven at least twice! The route kept us off almost all of the major roads, and included exact mileages both cumulative and individual for every road junction. Sarah and I followed these routes for most of the holiday. I'm told that the route plan was an absolute godsend for those on the trip without previous touring experience. Every part of the recommended route had been chosen for the scenery, and it was wonderful to be seeing areas where the tourists wouldn't normally venture.
Sarah and I, in my 1949 TA14 Carbodies Drophead Coupé, travelled most of the time with another car owned by Jim Tatchell, an eighty-one year old friend of ours. His companion was his grandson Tim, nineteen. Thus, "the youngest" and "the oldest" on the trip were in the same car! This was a 1948 TA14 with special fixed head two door coupé body by Duncan. Jim was a member of the club in the early fifties and is a fascinating fellow. Last year, he visited very county in England, Scotland and Wales in his Alvis. He did almost 8,000 miles!!! I think that I'm doing well, covering almost 5,000 in a year. Since I introduced Sarah to him early this year, she has had a soft spot for him and thought we ought to look after him during the trip. I think she is now finding out just what a tough old chap he is! The advantage of travelling with another couple is that coffee/lunch stops and general sightseeing is so much more interesting. The disadvantage is that you can't always stop (for photos mainly) when you want to. The fascinating thing about the trip was that we very rarely saw any of the other cars during the day. You would sometimes see a few stopped for coffee or lunch, but it was only at the major tourist attractions that you would have a larger group. So, despite the large number of cars roaming around, it was very relaxed and pleasant.
Jim's car in front. Cars await collection.
We flew from Heathrow to Dulles, Washington and were transferred to the Marriott Hotel in Baltimore on Friday 15th September and collected the cars from a secure warehouse at the Docks next day. Later that day we drove out to Ellicott City, MD for a barbecue with a very wealthy American Lotus owner. He had invited about a hundred other British car enthusiasts from the area and catered for almost four hundred people! His "motor house" was the size of a normal small family home, and the floor was clean enough to eat off! His cars were equally immaculate and clean. This was our first taste of the wonderful US hospitality. The next day was scheduled for a trip to Washington, but Sarah and I decided that as there was so much to do in Baltimore, we would stay behind. We had a wonderful day looking around one of the historic old (?!) houses during the morning, had lunch beside the Inner Harbour and spent most of the afternoon there being typical tourists.
On Monday the 18th we set off for Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive. It was a wonderfully hot day, around 83 F, and we drove out towards Frederick, Charles Town and Leesburg into Virginia. Both the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers were crossed on the way. We visited a very upmarket restoration business at White Post and had a picnic lunch in their lovely grounds. This reminds me of the normally strategy for lunch. Most garages have coffee constantly on tap and the larger ones have touch sensitive computer screens for purchase of sandwiches. Once you have navigated your way through the immense selection of different fillings, dressings, etc., the machine prints out a copy of your choice, plus order number. All this high tech, and yet in the distance you can see the sandwich being made up by hand!! The scenery along Skyline Drive is very impressive. It did get very chilly though as we climbed up into the mountains. The car hood stayed down, but we had to keep putting on more layers of clothes.
During the night we had continuous torrential rain and this continued throughout the next day (tail end of hurricane Gordon). It was reported as the highest rainfall recorded for over fifty years at over three inches. The drive on Tuesday, to Gettysburg, PA, was miserable. Many of the cars were saturated. Those who had left their hoods down, just with tonneau covers for protection, had the worst time. It is very difficult to put the hood up in these conditions. Luckily, my car is really very civilised for a drophead coupé. The route took us via Luray Caverns, Strasburg, Winchester, Harpers Ferry and Cacotcin Mountain Park. We managed to find a small diner for lunch, otherwise the journey was just torrential rain all the way.
To cap it all, the hotel was totally incapable of catering for us all. Dinner was a disaster. After such a horrendous drive everyone wanted to eat in the hotel. We discovered by bitter experience that this is impossible for US hotels. They can’t even cope adequately with 25% of the clients staying in the hotel. In the UK and Europe a hotel would expect to cope with all their guests, and lots of outside people eating in the restaurant. The overriding memory of dinner in the hotels is total chaos, constant running out of wine (if you could get any at all!!!!). On many occasions we were drinking wine out of disposable plastic cups because the hotel had no wineglasses. Despite this, we still enjoyed the holiday.
Drying the cars out!!!!!!!
The following morning, Wednesday, was taken up with “drying out”. The whole car park and cars were festooned with carpets, rugs and anything else that had been soaked. Today was the drive to Williamsport, PA. We were joined by our friends Nick and Genny Walker in their 1933 Speed Twenty SB Vanden Plas tourer, so three cars for a wonderful picnic right out in the country overlooking a river. We didn’t stick to the route plan this time. Nick is an ace navigator and we followed his revised route, so I can’t remember exactly how we went. We stopped for petrol at one point and sorted out our lunch. Sarah had spotted an antique shop (one of her weaknesses) just across the road and we ended up with an antique (?) chair, which took up a large part of the back seat for the rest of the trip. At this point, we had Richard and Judy Peplow with us (1937 Speed Twenty SD Cross & Ellis tourer), but unfortunately lost them on our way out of the town.
The picnic. Williamsport
The hotel at Williamsport was the most organised of all we stayed at. Checking in was very efficient and each couple was given a list of all the other participants, with room numbers. This was another major major problem during our tour. By law, the hotel reception is not allowed to divulge another guest’s room number! Consequently, it was very difficult to contact friends to arrange to meet for dinner, etc. It was infuriating because, unlike European hotels, there are usually no lounges or bars to act as meeting places. We even had an individual letter from the Mayor of the town welcoming us. There was also a very large notice outside from the local old car club, welcoming the “Alvis Antique Car Club”. Members from the local club very kindly patrolled the car park all night. Extensive Press coverage had publicised the visit and lots of locals were expected to come and look at the cars. The hotel had provided us with a list of good restaurants within walking distance. A group of us went to the Old Corner Hotel and had an excellent dinner.
The weather had turned much cooler, although still warm enough to have the hood down for our drive to Watkins Glen, NY, in the Finger Lakes region. Tim and I visited the Lycoming engine plant with most of the rest of the group before setting off. Sarah and Jim went off looking at some of the old Williamsport houses and we met up later at the Wal-Mart on the outskirts of the town. Misreading of the travel instructions after this meant that we headed out of the town in the wrong direction! We consequently ignored the rest of the instructions and made our own way until picking up the suggested route about thirty miles from the hotel. Lunch this time was in a very small roadside diner, the sort where the expression “just like mamma baked it” springs to mind. Simple, clean and good value. It was here that we learnt about the law prohibiting open bottles of alcohol being carried in vehicles. We were also presented with a copy of the local paper reporting our visit.
Lunch Stop. The Hotel at Watkins Glen.
At Watkins Glen, the group was split into three for the two nights of our stay. We were in a delightful Motel on the west side of Seneca Lake, with a wonderful view out over the lake. Each room had a covered veranda outside with rocking chairs. The rooms looked out over a small swimming pool, with the lake in the distance. There was no alternative to driving for dinner, so we went back into the town in Jim’s car (remember the chair in mine!) and had an excellent dinner beside the lake. Quite a lot of the group seemed to find the place!! It was so good that we went back the following night as well. On the way home on the first night, Jim made an unexpected excursion over the grass and into a shallow ditch. The access to the Motel at night is very narrow and difficult to see. Fortunately, only his rear flasher lamp was damaged. He had been having problems with the flasher unit anyway, so some work was required.
The following day, Friday the 22nd was earmarked for a coach trip to Niagara. I decided that two hours in a coach each way was too much for me. Sarah, Jim and Tim went off with the rest of the group and I stayed behind. It was to be my day of rest, relaxation and pampering myself. I drove off up the west side of the lake and visited Glenora wines for a wine tasting. A mixed case of wine was duly purchased, to be of great benefit during the rest of the trip. Only four bottles made it back to the UK! I then had a very leisurely lunch in the Winery restaurant overlooking the lake. This was a delightful place in which to linger. Everywhere I went people wanted to talk about the car. UK registration plates are clearly very rare in this region. They don’t show which State the car comes from and this appears to puzzle the Americans. The “GB” plate means nothing to them.
Wine tasting at Glenora Winery. A mixed case was purchased.
After lunch, I drove further up the lake and tried several of the minor roads heading down to the lakeside. I spent the afternoon exploring; it was so peaceful and quiet beside the lake. On my way back, I called into a car spares store to get Jim a new flasher unit. When I returned to the Motel, I was quite surprised to find that some of the others had also missed the Niagara trip. I had a delightful swim and then sat beside the pool, soaking up the late afternoon sun and drinking wine with Tony and Madeleine Hayes (1953 Grey Lady Drophead) and Bill and Sandra Rankin (1937 4.3 VDP short chassis tourer). Ted Halliday (1934 Sp 20 SB Cross & Ellis tourer), son and grandson were also there. We were treated to the most wonderful display of Second World War aircraft practising for an air show to be held over the weekend. Tony has always worked with aircraft (was Fleet Air Arm) and described each one. When the others returned from the coach trip, we went off for dinner.
Relaxation beside Seneca Lake Total seclusion!
The weekend again and onward to Lake George, NY. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and we had the top up today. The route was via Ithaca, Cortland, Barneveld, Oxbow Lake and Speculator. Our coffee stop was in Bouckville, renowned for the antique shops! Quite a few of the other cars were in evidence today, and Sarah was ensnared by the large antiques shop beside the coffee restaurant. Several more items joined the chair in the back of the car! It was quite wet for a lot of the drive. The rain relented for long enough for us to have a pleasant picnic beside the river. The display of cars at the hotel was very impressive. Sarah and I were in one of the cabins, rather than the main part of the hotel. The whole group had dinner together, unfortunately probably the worst meal of the holiday. As usual, the supply of wine was a problem, eventually solved by decanting wine boxes into carafes!
Sunday 24th September dawned grey and overcast. Sarah and I decided to go on a pleasure cruise on Lake George in one of the wonderful old paddle steamers called the Minnie Ha Ha. The weather wasn’t very kind, but it didn’t actually rain and the trip was great fun. There was even a supply of free doughnuts and coffee. A quick shopping expedition afterwards for more postcards and we were on our way, alone, to Burlington, VT. We headed out on the very scenic Interstate towards Montreal. Normally we avoided the very major roads, but this one had very little traffic and was delightful. We headed to the Ausable Chasm for a tourist sightseeing session: very spectacular. A restaurant was attached to the visitor centre and we had our lunch there. As you might expect, quite a few of the group passed through during the day.
The Minnie Ha Ha on Lake George.
Further north we headed off the main road to Plattsburg bay and took the ferry across Lake Champlain. It was then only about 25 miles on the other side to Burlington, also on the lake. During the ferry crossing, we met Lorne and Diane Plunkett (1953 Grey Lady Drophead) who had just motored down from Ottawa, Ontario. Sarah and I were to spend quite a lot of time with them during the short period that they were with the tour. They had spent some time living in our area of Berkshire thirty years ago and took their Alvis home to Canada with them when they returned. Unfortunately, due to pressure of work, they had to leave the tour after only a few nights. Their 800 mile round trip to join us was much appreciated and demonstrates the dedication of Alvis owners. The Canadian member (1960 TD21 saloon) from British Columbia had a 2,500 mile drive home!! Sarah, Jim, Tim and I had dinner at an Italian restaurant a few minutes drive away from the hotel. Burlington was a three night stop.
The next day was a rest day for us. Some of the group went off on a 130 mile scenic drive up into the mountains, but Sarah and I headed off into Burlington to find the waterfront. We relaxed for some time drinking coffee and enjoying the wonderful scenery around the lake. As so often happens, we were interrupted by the arrival of some others from the group. Stewart and Judy Peace (1964 TE21 saloon) and the Press couple (2000 Jaguar XKR) joined us. We retired a few blocks back from the waterfront to a restaurant with a first floor balcony giving a wonderful view of the lake and had lunch there. Sarah and I then went into the main part of the town and visited lots of shops in Church Street. Later on we invited Robin and Julia Bendall (1932 Sp 20 SA VDP tourer) to join us for dinner in the restaurant next to the hotel. Robin was the main organiser and driving force behind the trip.
Now followed one of the most unlikely drives of the holiday. We had been invited to a barbecue by one of the Canadian members, Vincent Prager (TD21 DHC), at his house in West Bolton, Quebec. The round trip was about 170 miles and involved taking all the cars across the border and back without any documentation! Vincent is a very senior lawyer in Canada and had somehow persuaded both the US and Canadian authorities to allow us free passage. We set off in the company of Jim and Tim, and headed north. Richford was the last town in the USA before the border, so we stopped for coffee at the garage. The Fryers (1954 Grey Lady DHC) had beaten us to it. We had in fact headed out of the town first, realised that this was the last watering hole and returned for our coffee. This caused some speculation amongst our friends in some of the other cars, who saw us travelling in the wrong direction.
Coffee stop at Richford on the way to the barbecue.
The Orchard parking.
Once in Canada, everything was in French. In fact rather surprisingly the road signs had been in both languages on the US side for quite a few miles. The drive was quite pleasant, very scenic, but very bumpy. The last five miles was on dirt, although quite well graded and probably better than some of the paved roads. Vincent’s estate was spectacular and the view stunning. All the cars were parked in the orchard and made a very impressive display. His elderly mother was quite overcome, having been married to a British Officer and had longing memories of England in her youth. At the end of the afternoon, I introduced her to Jim, who is very much of the same generation. Vincent has an interesting collection of other British cars as well, including Humbers and Fords.
As so often seemed to be the case, we were about the last to leave. The journey back was interesting for one particular reason that we returned the same way. Points of interest noted on the journey out now became stopping places on the return. The fascinating little roadside stores selling fruit and especially pumpkins for Halloween, were a particular case in point. The sight of all the pumpkins arranged outside was almost awe-inspiring. Everywhere we went, you would see these wonderful displays. Sarah had bought some Canadian stamps for her postcards whilst at Niagara and needed to post them in Canada. When she went into a shop to ask where to find a Post Office, or even post box, no one spoke English! A good demonstration of how different Quebec has become.
Back at the hotel, we prepared for dinner and went over to the bar in the restaurant beside the hotel. This was one of the rare occasions where a meeting place was available. Quite a lot of the group seemed to have gravitated there. We had a very pleasant dinner with Lorne, Diane, Jim and Tim. The chat was continued in the bar afterwards. Lorne and Diane were enjoying themselves so much and it was very sad that they had to head off home to Ottawa next day. I was given a large tin of real Canadian maple syrup as a memento of our meeting. Burlington was an excellent base for the three nights and we enjoyed ourselves greatly.
Wednesday 27th September and on the road again. Our destination was the Loon Mountain Resort near Lincoln and North Woodstock, NH. We headed out towards Montpelier, then Stowe. Our coffee stop was the charming Olde English Inne, a large Tudor (?) building owned and run by an English couple, who collect Rovers and Aston Martins. A very large proportion of our group seemed to be partaking of the free coffee and biscuits. I wonder why?! I noticed two of the Northern members Chris Taylor and Peter Lakin tucking into a hearty full breakfast. They had both joined us, without their cars, for about a week. Although with us for a few days by this time, I hadn’t seen them or had a chance to chat until this meeting: tends to demonstrate that there were too many of us. Chris and Peter are normally on the small private trips we do to the Continent.
We continued the run with a steep and tortuous climb to Smugglers Notch, then Lowell and Orleans. The route passed close to Lake Willoughby and we had a pleasant, albeit rather chilly, picnic lunch parked overlooking the lake. After lunch we motored on through Lyndonville, across the Connecticut River and into New Hampshire. At Lincoln we joined the Kancamagus Highway to the Loon (a kind of bird) Mountain Resort. The hotel was very large and quite well appointed, but dinner was a total disaster again. Prior to dinner, we had been sitting outside on the terrace. We were only allowed to have wine out there in disposable plastic cups! Daniel Fischlin (1961 TD21 Graber saloon from Switzerland) was almost incandescent with rage at this nonsense! Altogether, a very strange hotel, vast, but totally incapable of handling many people. One suspects that guests do not usually eat in. We were very unlucky that another large group booked in the same evening and also wanted to eat in the restaurant.
Picnic at Lake Willoughby.
Parked at Paris to visit the car museum.
The Kancamagus highway was to be our route out on Thursday. Through Conway we journeyed, across the Saco River covered bridge and into Maine. So many of the town names are familiar and yet strangely out of place. We head through Norway to Paris. Here we visit what is probably the largest and most valuable private collection of cars in the world. Never open to the public, but especially opened for us, Bob Bahre’s museum is a fairyland of exotic cars. Five Duesenburgs alone and countless other priceless “antiques” as the Americans would say, including the fabled Mercedes 500K roadster. Probably almost 50 million dollars of automotive history was stored here out of sight. The most wonderful thing of all was that the Curator has instructions to fire up each and every one of the cars on a regular basis, and take them out on the road.
Winter seemed to be well on the way and driving with the car open was becoming less appealing. Turner, Wayne, Cathance, Gardiner, Richmond, Topsham, Brunswick and finally into Freeport. As we drove into the centre of the town, the reassuring sight of Arthur Fairburn, our Chairman from Scotland, sitting on a bench beside the road gently puffing on his pipe greeted us. We had made it! The reason for that statement was that my car’s exhaust manifold gasket was blowing and the noise was getting progressively worse as we neared our destination. It was only a few more miles to the hotel. It was getting very cold by now and the forecast was for 5 degrees of frost. There was a mad panic to buy some antifreeze by those, like me, who don’t normally run with this in the cooling water.
During our visit to Paris earlier in the day I had been talking to one of the locals who had recommended the Jameson Inn/Tavern as an excellent place for dinner. It is situated almost next to LL Bean, the famous store, so was quite a landmark in the centre of the town. The place was very busy, but we did have a very good meal. Sarah and I went with Jim and Tim in the Duncan. My back seat was still occupied by a chair, case of wine and various other purchases. By the time we returned to the hotel it was quite frosty.
Fortunately, the car was on the sunny side of the building next morning and it had warmed up enough for me to change the gasket. Sarah and I had decided to have a relaxing day around Freeport on our own. Imagine my distress when I discovered that the speedo cable had snapped when we arrived at the hotel. This is not an item that one would normally carry as a spare. The mileage read 249,596. What a catastrophe that the magic 250,000 miles from new wouldn’t appear! From now on a very careful daily mileage check was necessary, and we had to let Jim and Tim navigate for us. Without a milometer reading, the route plan is almost impossible to follow.
During this day on our own I had to estimate the mileage we travelled. We explored some of the countryside around the town and ended up at the Harbour for coffee. The harbour was enchanting and so peaceful and tranquil. We were to spend the best part of the day relaxing there and didn’t move on until well after lunch. Several of the group passed through during the day, including the Macleans in their delightful 1929 12/50 Carbodies Doctors Coupé. We headed off into town to visit LL Bean (actually rather a disappointment), looked in various other shops and ended up for afternoon tea at the Jameson Inn again. Nick and Genny Walker, travelling with Jim and Tim, joined us for dinner at Crickets restaurant. Sarah and I were in our car. Sarah had her first whole lobster and nearly freaked out. The poor girl hadn’t realised that it would come with everything still attached!
Freeport Harbour where we spent much of the day.
The weekend had arrived again and we were off to West Lebanon, NH. My recollection of this drive is somewhat hazy. I remember that the scenery was stunning and we stopped for coffee at a country store, which sold almost everything, including guns. We passed through Walnut Hill, Gray, Standish, Freedom and on to Chocura. There we visited another fascinating car museum, John Moir’s “Caa Bahn” containing cars with names starting with every letter of the alphabet except Y. Many of the cars were unrestored and the museum was far less overpowering than the Bahre collection visited earlier in the trip. The traffic was quite heavy after that, but we managed to find a delightful picnic stop on the lawn of a Private Yacht Club overlooking the lake.
Another picnic stop at a Yacht Club overlooking a lake.
We continued towards Lebanon and visited a Shaker village on the edge of a lake. Jim and Tim were concerned about one of the tyres on the Duncan and changed one of the wheels. The hotel for the night was quite large, but the management had decided to close the restaurant because it could not have coped with us. In some ways this was a pity, as the restaurant was situated in a large Atrium in the centre of the hotel and would have been rather pleasant. There was a reasonable sized bar. Sarah, Jim, Tim and I slummed it for our dinner and tried a Dennys fast food restaurant. The atmosphere in the place was somewhat dire and there was no alcohol, but the food was actually quite good. It was probably one of the cheapest meals we had! We retired to the hotel bar afterwards.
Sunday dawned very grey and cold. We were supposed to be on duty quite early for a photo shoot. A Californian film crew had flown over and wanted to spend the morning taking video of all the cars. We set off in a long convoy for several junctions on the Interstate, thus allowing the film crew to leap frog up and down the line. We then returned to the hotel. Sarah had spotted some antique stalls close to the hotel and we were about the last to leave. She bought some rather nice silver spoons. Not long after setting off, we again stopped for quite a while at another large antique place. Tim had been really champing at the bit earlier on, so we let them go of to catch up the others for more filming. Despite being very late in continuing, we still caught the others up queuing to be filmed going across one of the covered bridges. Our late departure had spared us all the waiting around.!!
We were on our way to Pittsfield, MA, and were to go via Windsor, Vermont and through North Springfield to Grafton. Grafton is described as a quaint New England town, with lots of interesting features. Consequently, the town was full of Alvis cars! I managed to park the car right outside the small Town Hall and Sarah, Jim, Tim and I sat on a bench outside eating the picnic lunch we had purchased in the local delicatessen. We finished off with some very sickly chocolate ice cream that Tim had chosen, covered with maple syrup. Sarah thought it was revolting. It would be vanilla ice cream next time!
Lunch at Grafton. View of some of our cars form the hotel room, Pittsfield.
Off again through Townsend, Wilmington, Jacksonville and into Massachusetts, then Charlmont, Dalton and into Pittsfield. We were now in a larger town and the hotel was more difficult to find. It was back to a multi-storey car park like the one in Baltimore. Sarah and I were on the 9th floor, with a good view of some of the car park, with our cars looking like Dinky Toys far below us. We had the usual problem of contacting anyone else to arrange to meet for dinner. Our phone also didn’t work properly and an engineer had to fix it for us. Dinner in the hotel was passable, and Sarah even managed to persuade the head chef to rustle up some cheese. This was the one and only occasion that cheese was available for dinner. There were the usual problems with the supply of wine.
Monday 2nd October and Sarah’s birthday. I had done her a very special card on the computer. The car had also clocked up the magic 250,000 miles the day before, so we had two great things to celebrate. We had two nights in Pittsfield, which was perfect for giving Sarah a wonderful day to enjoy herself. The weather was hot and sunny, so we put the hood down and went off on our own to the Shaker Village just outside the town. We had visited a Shaker site earlier in the holiday, but this village was to prove a fascinating place. It is difficult to imagine why anyone would want to set up a non self-perpetuating group. Celibacy was compulsory and the men and women weren’t allowed to mix. Lots of the buildings were built in two parts, as mirror images. No wonder the people in the photographs looked so incredibly miserable!!
Some views at the Shaker village.
We spent the whole morning at the village and then had lunch sitting outside the restaurant. Some of our group passed through while we were there. The next stop was at the Norman Rockwell museum, somewhat further out than we had expected, but very interesting. His studio was particularly fascinating. It had been moved from the original location to the museum site. While we were there, the Oliveiras (1935 3.5 litre SA Charlesworth DHC) and the Friths (1927 12/50 SD Carbodies Beetleback) joined us. On the way home, after filling up with petrol, the starter motor on the Frith’s car disintegrated. We waited with them while Adam put it back together. Back in the hotel room we started the celebrations with the Champagne (actually sparkling wine) I bought at Glenora. I had also bought two proper Champagne flutes at the same time, so things were done in style, at least for the two of us. Anyone else had to make do with the dreaded plastic cups! Jim and Tim had dinner with us and presented Sarah with card plus maglight present. A delightful day and I like to think that Sarah enjoyed herself.
Norman Rockwell's Studio.
Once again it was time to move on, this time to Shawnee on Delaware, PA. I think some in the group were starting to flag somewhat at this stage. Those who had never done any touring before appeared rather like zombies. We had been on the go for eighteen days. Personally, I love the driving and seeing all the new places, but even I was feeling the effects. It was all the hassle at the hotels which wore you down. Even checking out could be a marathon. The 231 mile drive to Shawnee was to be one of the longest of the trip. We travelled in company with Jim and Tim via Great Barrington, Salisbury, Sharon, Cold Spring, Florida, Warwick and into New Jersey. Once again the scenery was stunning and most of the roads were a delight. However, we did travel on some rather more major roads. We even had our picnic lunch in a lay-by beside one, but with the most wonderful view out over the surrounding countryside.
Lunch in a Lay-by!
Our route took us through Hamburg, Newton, Andover and towards the Delaware Gap. We briefly visited another very impressive restoration business near Vienna and arrived at the hotel in time for some afternoon tea. Sarah and I were in an annex some way from the main hotel complex, which was rather inconvenient because there was no coffee making equipment for her in the room. We met up with Hugh and Nora Clarkson (1955 Grey Lady DHC in the USA and 1951 TA21 saloon in London) who live in Philadelphia, but spend lots of time in the UK. They are British and Hugh is President of the US Alvis Owner Club. It was also delightful to meet up with Ed Haleman who has a 1948 TA14 saloon in New York. He had driven out straight from the office to be with us that evening. I met him at the Harrogate weekend last year when he was in the UK for a trade fair and managed to participate in the weekend as well.
Mike and Jan Baker (1939 4.3 VDP short chassis tourer) had organised a special table for dinner in honour of our US members. You would think that a resort hotel would be able to cope with lots of people, but the evening turned into a total disaster. Despite the fact that we were the “top table” with all the most important members with us, it took almost an hour before we even given a menu. There was no drink during this wait and I created such a fuss at the bar that I managed to acquire two one and a half litre bottles of red wine. It didn’t last long with the twelve of us, but was a start! When our food did eventually arrive, the quality was quite good. Nothing, however, could make up for the terrible service. It wasn’t the poor waitresses who were at fault, but gross mismanagement by the hotel. At least all the wine was free in view of the problems and we negotiated a reduction on the meal price as well!
The following morning dawned clear and bright, but very cold with very heavy dew. A local radio station had set up outside the hotel main complex before 7am and was broadcasting live. Anyone expecting a lie-in was due for a big shock because loud pop music was blaring out between the interviews. Sarah and I set off quite early, with Tim navigating. We were extremely well wrapped up because of the cold. Tim got lost twice within the first few miles! I think that it was too early for him. We were on our way to Lancaster, PA, via Hershey. We had been invited to show our cars at the Hershey Classic Car Show, by far the largest gathering of vehicles in the world. We travelled through wonderful scenery again, passing through Leighton, Orwigsburg, Landingville, Friedensberg and Fort Indiantown Gap to the show. It became progressively hotter as we drove and many layers of clothes came off.
A tiny part of the Hershey show.
On the way to Lancaster, waiting for the trains!
Hershey was so enormous, acres and acres of cars and stalls selling the most amazing range of items. We were tucked rather out of the way between the stadium and chocolate museum and it turned out to be a non-event. The show is over at least three days and we were only there for the afternoon, so not really part of the show. It was blistering hot, 85 F at least and quite tiring walking around. By the time we returned to our cars, most of the Alvis group had already left for the thirty mile drive to Lancaster. We were held up for at least ten minutes by trains shunting back and forth over a level crossing. It was good to be able to leave the hood down in the covered multi-storey car park at the hotel. This was to be a two night stop.
For once, the hotel had a bar and socialising was possible. In fact it was in full swing when we arrived. We had booked a table for dinner with Jim and Tim for 8pm and yet again everything went pear shaped. We ended up in the Pool room, beside the Pool table, but adjacent to the bar and main restaurant. The self-service buffet was passable, but getting the wine was the usual nightmare. Sarah was very upset that we weren’t in the main dining room with the rest of the group. It definitely put the dampers on our enjoyment. We didn’t even linger for long after dinner. There was one highlight though, which occurred after we had finished eating. A group of about five of the Alvis men asked whether we would mind if they played Pool. Sarah took a series of photos while they were playing. These have turned out to be real gems!
The next day was a rest day. Many in the group, including Jim and Tim, went off to visit the Harley Davidson motorcycle factory. Sarah and I headed out into the Amish country. We had coffee at the Amish Barn and explored the area a little before going around the Amish Farm. I regret to say that the publicity material for this place had us in stitches of laughter for ages, and still does. The instructions for getting there said that the farm was situated on Route 30 East between the towns of “Bird in Hand” and “Intercourse”. The farm was actually fascinating. We bought some lunch in the little snack bar there and went to find somewhere for a picnic.
Parked at Intercourse.
One of the classic covered bridges.
The most picturesque area was between Route 30 and the Interstate 83, and north of Route 30. I don’t think that most of the tourists venture off the main roads, because it was almost deserted. Finding a picnic spot was difficult but we did find a quiet spot opposite some large houses. While we were eating our lunch, a chap came out of one of the houses to ask if he could take some pictures of the car. During the discussion we asked about the covered bridges and he directed us north of Route 30 to a real old fashioned one with the original wooden decking for the road. All in all a very pleasant relaxing excursion into the Amish area. We finished the day off with a very delightful dinner with June and Ian Smith (1939 12/70 Mulliner tourer) at the Press Room, about fifteen minutes walk from the hotel. There was even a good wine list, although the place did run out of coffee!
Friday 6th October 2000 and our final day of touring! We ignored the route plan completely. We were heading for Towson, MD, on the outskirts of Baltimore and the recommended roads all appeared to be major highways. The journey was to be only about 70 miles, so we decided to use minor cross-country roads. Our first port of call was the National Clock Museum at Columbia. This must be the largest collection of clocks, watches, etc in the world. It was the most incredible place, and the descriptions in the museum were in proper English, unlike so much of what you read in the USA. We then crossed the Susquehanna River and headed south, stopping at a small Bar for a drink and to get a picnic lunch. Our lunch spot was well off the road and right beside the river, with the very impressive bridge that we had crossed earlier acting as a backdrop to the wonderful view. The two cars looked terrific parked side by side on the slipway.
The final picnic beside the Susquehanna River.
We continued on our way, having had to put the hood up because of the very threatening weather. It did actually rain briefly shortly afterwards. The roads were much more built-up than we had been used to for some time. We passed through Craley, Bittersville, Windsor and then got slightly lost. We ended up heading south on Route 45 straight onto the main Baltimore ring road, where we picked up the recommended route, and all the Friday evening rush hour traffic, to the hotel. That evening, we had the most wonderful celebration dinner with the whole group. The food wasn’t all that special and getting wine was the usual headache, but it was a great end to the holiday. I think that Sarah had just about had enough by this time and she went off to the room some time before the party ended. Twenty-four days with me is enough for anyone!!
The following day was so sad, packing the cars up, driving them back to the docks and bidding them farewell after nearly 2,700 miles of faithful service. My boot was crammed full of souvenirs and would only just close. The route to the docks was quite complicated, particularly without our navigators, and Ian Smith had organised a taxi to lead a group of us to the secure hanger where the cars were to be stored until loading. This was one of the very few occasions when cars travelled in convoy. It wasn’t much fun!
Sarah, Jim, Tim and I had a light lunch in a small Pizza place close to the hotel, visited a local (and excellent) “Liquor Store” and we then all boarded the coaches for the drive back to Dulles airport, Washington for the flight to Heathrow. The journey from Heathrow was unplanned because of the outgoing problems of lack of petrol due to the petrol blockading. The Taxi firm couldn't take us and wasn’t prepared to accept a return booking, so Sarah and I had to take the airport coach to Reading. My next door neighbour Felicity had used my Ford to take us to the airport on the way out. I had to get a taxi from Reading, and Sarah a train to Wargrave.
The cars didn’t arrive back at Southampton until Saturday 28th October and were unloaded the following day. June and Ian Smith took me down to the docks the following Tuesday and we drove our cars home. As a final postscript, Jim Tatchell’s car was damaged during unloading when one of the dock gates became unhitched in the very high winds and punched a large hole in the nearside front wing. A sad ending for Jim, but the holiday itself was the most wonderful experience and the memories will last forever.
On the slipway beside the Susquehanna River.
Well that’s all folks!!
Copyright DMJ-S 2000.