It’s Cold Out There
The last voice I heard in Hyde Park was that of an official, as he waved us forward and out of the park. “Bundle up… it’s cold out there,” is what he said.

This was the understatement of the day. And I was bundled up.
The previous night, I had been asked what clothing I had brought with me to England… then, was advised to wear it all. Thus, I had donned a long-sleeve shirt… put a sweater over that… put a thick sweatshirt over that… put a windbreaker over that… and finally a raincoat over all. I was wearing three pairs of socks and two pairs of pants. If there had been a costume party at the end of the Run, I could have gone as the Michelin Man.
I did not bring a hat or gloves. I could have used those. About an hour into the run, I tapped Mary on the shoulder. She turned to me, but as I started to speak to her, I realized that my jaw was rather frozen, precluding me from making anything other than a series of incomprehensible noises. Now I knew why Mary had “mufflered up.”
We actually passed the first cars encountering mechanical difficulties on our way to the Start. Within seconds of leaving their assigned parking spots, a few cars had developed problems that might preclude them from starting the Run… let alone completing it.
But we passed the majority of cars pulled over to the side of the road with mechanical woes once out of Hyde Park, in the first couple of miles of the Run.
Traffic lights and modern traffic are to blame for many of the cars that drop out early. Indeed, the stop-and-go nature of the first few miles of the Run creates an incredible number of breakdowns. In one stretch of road, just a few miles from the start, the cars parked at the side of the road were so numerous and close to each other that the scene looked like a planned roadside exhibition showcasing the spectrum of problems veteran cars drivers face.
In that same stretch of road, just minutes after the start, our forward progress slowed to a crawl. The problem was at a major intersection ahead. At first, we couldn't see what the precise nature of the problem was. We saw a double-decker bus tilting somewhat precariously as it drove up over the curb of a center traffic island. Then we saw the accident the bus was trying to avoid. Scattered in the street among the usual shattered glass were parts that could only have come from one of the veteran cars. A white panel truck was stopped mid-intersection… and on the sidewalk was the badly wounded veteran. We were past the wreckage before we could fully appreciate the scene.
In the distance, we could see another hastily-parked car that had billows of thick steam issuing from its hood. "Hope that's a steamer," Bill remarked. It was. Had it not been, all that steam would have most likely indicated a much more serious problem.

As the space between traffic lights increased, so did the distance between disabled veteran cars. For the first time since the brief open stretch after the start, Bill was able to bring his Darracq up to sustained cruising speed.  There was a palpable sense of relief.
It was about this time that I realized that my incredible good fortune had been even greater that I had originally thought. Not only had I somehow gotten to ride in the London-to-Brighton… but it appeared as if the ride was in a car that had a good chance of actually finishing the run - something I had naively taken for granted.
When I first saw the picture of the Ellam Darracq en route at top speed (seen at right), I laughed out loud.
Bill looks confident and determined, though you may be sure that he felt “something wasn’t quite right with the car.” Mary looks like a terrorist, though all she’s trying to do is stay warm. And I have the look of a goofy dog who’s stuck his head out the window and is thoroughly enjoying a sensation he can’t quite comprehend.
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out on the Brighton Run.
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