Where Eagles Dare

September 14, 2008

Your first time is always an awkward experience. You are not sure what you should be doing and you are worried that you won’t match up to the other person’s expectations. You constantly question yourself; “When should I get there?”, “What if I get there too soon, will I look too anxious?”

That was the situation Ed Burgess found himself in as he braced himself against the rain blowing across the Wal-Mart parking lot. A new member to the club, he thought it would be great to invite other Miata owners to ride some of the roads that he and his wife enjoy on a regular basis, but by 9:30 AM he was rethinking that idea.

First one, then three, then eight, and finally twenty Miatas arrived at the Chicopee parking lot all looking forward to visiting “Where Eagles Dare” as the ride had been promoted. But at this point it looked like only ducks would dare be out in this weather! In fact, the wind was so strong that we had to move into the lobby of the Wal-Mart for the driver’s meeting just to get out of the weather. There we were met by a very nice Wal-Mart employee who handed us plastic bags specially designed to hold your wet umbrella. I’ll tell you what, Wal-Mart thinks of everything! Of all the door prizes and gifts that I have received at a club event, I think that plastic bag may have been the most useful!

The trip started on Route 33 and it didn’t take long to figure out how the road got its name there were at least 33 traffic lights in the first mile! You can imagine the CB chatter as each red light showed itself! But after an obligatory “U” turn and an unscheduled pit stop to fine tune our communication, we found ourselves on a great winding road to the Summit House high atop Skinner State Park. On most days from this location you can see south into Connecticut, north into Vermont and enjoy a great view of the Connecticut River as it winds past Hadley and Northampton. This was the inspiration for today’s trip; we were high above the Pioneer Valley at an elevation where only eagles would dare soar! Except today the eagle would need radar-assisted guidance to soar through the fog and rain. We could barely see the building let alone the sights! For Ed’s first time, this was not going well!

Now ordinarily, these things would spell disaster for a Sunday drive, but not for Miata owners! As the clouds encompassed us in a ghostly fog, twenty-something Miatanites (Miatanuts?) nodded in agreement with the statement: “Even a bad day in the Miata is better than a good day anywhere else!”

That is one of the great things about Miata owners; they are unpretentious, unwavering, and undaunted. They are determined to make the best of every moment with their cars. And how do you make the best of being fogged in on a mountain top in a convertible? With homemade cookies of course! The Cookie Lady mysteriously appeared with bags of cookies and we forgot all about red lights, raindrops and missing vistas. We became twelve year olds and every care and concern we had momentarily disappeared in the fog. For those few moments, it was about our cookies and our cars.

The next leg of our journey took us past fields of Hadley Corn and Sunderland Tobacco, past the church advertising tonight’s Goulmpki and Chili cook off, and into the parking lot of the Yankee Candle Company flagship store. After half an hour of browsing and shopping and wondering just how many flavors of scented candles there can possibly be, it was finally top down weather as the skies cleared and beckoned us forward.

Route 116 from South Deerfield to Ashfield is arguably the best Miata road that Massachusetts has to offer. The radio chatter stopped and we concentrated on enjoying the road and the sights. An hour later we pulled into the grounds of the Middlefield Fair, a site that has changed little since the 1800’s. We enjoyed our picnic lunches in the building that housed the annual pancake breakfast just weeks earlier and enjoying what had turned out to be a beautiful warm, sunny Sunday in Western Massachusetts.

By 5:00 PM we were back in South Hadley waiting in line for what is apparently the basic staple of all Miata owners: ice cream. What had started as a cloudy, stormy, foggy day ended in typical Mass Miata fashion, folks standing around talking about what a great day we had, the sights, the sun, and the roads. This trip once again proved two principles to be accurate: Miatas bring out the best people and the best in people and; Miata owners will go anywhere that ends in ice cream!

It also proved that in spite of all the stress and anticipation of doing it for your first time, you always look back at it as a positive experience that you would like to do again! Thanks Ed!

Brian Rust

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