|One has the sense of
coming into Brighton through the back door.
Since the route avoids the main highway,
there’s probably some truth to that sensation. It seemed that each
Brighton building we passed was facing the other way, presenting us with
only blank, windowless walls. Perhaps these buildings all faced the
Channel. The sensation of approaching the finish line “from backstage”
was heightened by the route immediately following a final checkpoint,
where we made a sharp left and proceeded across an open field and a
stretch of rough road reserved for Veterans only.
A few more turns and
we were suddenly, shockingly out in the open. We could catch glimpses of
the sea, and sounds from yet another public address system came and went
with the wind. A quick U-turn brought us into a queue with other cars
approaching the finish line, where each car was announced and each driver
Mary turned back to me. “Not as many
people here, I think it’s the weather.” The wind was strong, whistling
in our ears, and the skies looked as if they might open up at any moment.
Yet, despite the cold, choppy sea to our right, and the threatening skies
above, there was a substantial crowd of people on hand to see the
finish, as warm and receptive as the water and weather were cold and
“And here’s another of the Darracqs here,”
said the finish-line host, walking to meet us halfway as we pulled up to
the finish banner. “All the way from Merseyside… two-sixty-two, the
Bill Ellam car… and has it done everything it should?”
Approaching the finish line in
began with “Yes…” and -- though I was sitting less than twelve
inches behind him, and though his voice was well-amplified through a
series of giant loudspeakers -- his answer was drowned out by the car that
had pulled up behind us and blown out to sea by the wind. I’m reasonably
sure Bill somehow qualified that “yes,” though -- it’s his nature. I
did catch the very end of his remarks.
“We have a guest from America with us,
who’s come over…”
“I shall speak
to your guest from America… the first time you have been on a London to
|“Yes… first time
Now I know how Alan felt.
I haven’t had such a good time – ever!” Hardly eloquent, but
heartfelt; my voice cracked in a most remarkable fashion in the midst of
the word “wonderful.”
|“Nice to see you.
Welcome to Brighton.”
|Déjà vu all over
again. It was the scene in “Genevieve” where Alan McKim is
interviewed, gets tongue-tied, and is left shaken and embarrassed by the
|We drove down to
park with the others who had beaten advanced vehicular age, the odds, and the
weather to complete the 2000 Run... and to await those who had not yet
|Bill and Mary's
Darracq has a long wicker basket on the passenger's side meant to hold an
umbrella in case of inclement weather. Bill and Mary have found a far
better use for the container, though. Bill opened it up and, with some
pulling and prodding, removed a couple of bottles of champagne.
After pouring celebratory glasses, Bill
put the bottle, its labels scarred from a slightly too-tight
umbrella-basket fit, down on the nearest flat surface - the hood
of the Darracq. Speaking as someone raised in a family that does not take
its cars out into the rain post-polishing, this small gesture astounded
and delighted me, symbolizing the unique bond Bill Ellam has with his
car... and the marvelous lack of pretense and joy of the Run. No glass of
champagne ever tasted as good.
New rings for the Darracq? Click on
this picture for a larger image.
|As Bill sipped, one
of his friends approached, wordlessly holding aloft a small, jagged piece of
metal. In an instant - with one quick look - Bill realized what had broken, why
it had broken, and what the break meant -- that his friend had not
finished the Run. Bill's first words were condolences. An old weld -- one
that had remained hidden for decades -- had given way on his friend's car. Some years your
car finishes the Run; some years the Run finishes your car.
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