EVENT REPORT – Dawn Patrol 19 – October 11

In the pre-dawn darkness on Sunday, October 11, 11 E-types, plus a ’63 split-window Corvette, a Ferrari Daytona, an XJ6C, a Porsche Speedster, a Porsche 911 and an Alfa GTV, assembled in a parking lot in Great Falls, Virginia, in preparation for the 19th running of Dawn Patrol. The route that day would cover some 230-miles of back roads that would culminate back in that same parking lot at 11:30 that morning. We departed at 6:00am, picked up 2 more Es that were waiting along the way (for a total of 19 cars), made a pitstop at around the 100-mile mark, and arrived home 5 1/2 hours later.

Not everyone who started finished the entire route. Two Es arrived at the start without tail lights, although their brake lights worked. Both decided to start, hoping to make it until dawn. One bailed out when dense fog along the Potomac River turned tail lights from a luxury into a necessity. The other pressed on until shortly after dawn, when he suffered a flat tire. He made it to the pitstop as the rest of us were leaving, and upon closer examination of his now deployed spare tire, decided it could well have come from Browns Lane with the car. He decided that a more direct, less taxing route home would be the wise choice. Another E, one of the original eight from DP1 (indeed, the cover car from E-type Magazine Issue No. 28, March 2007) started to hear a troubling rattle from deep in the engine early on and limped home. The pre-start attrition was even higher. Twenty-four hours before the start, we had 26 cars signed up. By late evening of the night before, five had withdrawn with various mechanical or personnel ailments, and 2 more simply didn’t show up for the start.

Dawn Patrol is a semi-annual, invitation-only event, first run in the fall of 2006. Since thatmaiden voyage, the list of eligible Es has grown from 8 to approximately 50. As noted, we also invite other period cars that we find interesting. In addition to the “others” mentioned above, these have included an AC Aceca, an Aston DBS and DB V8, a couple of other period Ferraris, a 300SL, a 450SL, a BMW 3.0cs, plus various Healeys, Triumphs and MGs. Further, a Bentley or Rolls of any vintage may join in (for many years, an incredibly well-driven ’83 Corniche ran with us).

DP routes change with every run, generally covering 225-250 miles. Maps are distributed at the pre-start meeting and navigators are highly recommended. Whoever designs the route leads. The routes typically take us over a combination of back mountain roads through Virginia,
West Virginia and Maryland. For the first time, DP19 took us into Pennsylvania.

At the start of DP19, we headed northwest in the pre-dawn darkness toward Leesburg, Virginia, then north toward the Potomac and Maryland, encountering dense fog as we approached the river. Once into Maryland and away from the river, the fog finally lifted, and we turned north, running through part of the Allegheny Mountains, across the Maryland panhandle. We kept to the west of Camp David, the President’s Catoctin Mountain retreat (no sense having to stop for a conversation with the Secret Service), continuing north to the Ski Liberty resort in Pennsylvania, before turning south. After our pitstop near Thurmont, Maryland, we headed back through the mountains, pointing generally south toward the Potomac, reaching the river near Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, where the Shenandoah River runs into the Potomac. We then ran through the forests along the Maryland side of the river before crossing the Potomac just east of Harper’s Ferry, clipping off a small portion of West Virginia before headed southeast back to
Great Falls.

At various pointe during the run, we encountered the the typical area fauna: deer (lots of them, especially in the pre-dawn fog), raccoon, opossum, wild turkeys and the like. Veteran DPers believe that all of these creatures (but especially the deer) have a death wish and want to take one or more of us with them. Fortunately, we all managed to avoid catastrophe. However, there were some close encounters with a couple of the domesticated variety. Not long after the pit stop, drivers toward the back of the pack encountered a fairly large cow that had manage to escape confinement and was blocking half the road while grazing along the shoulder. People wisely chose to slow their pace a bit while passing. Later, heading into the home stretch (apologies for the impending pun), the lead group encountered a rather large horse, being somewhat restrained by a rather small woman holding its lead, while standing by the side of the road at the exit of a very tight, very blind curve. We exchanged hand signals (mine was a friendly wave), and there might have been a comment about our cars and/or driving that I couldn’t quite catch, but all contact was avoided.

The rest of the way home was uneventful. Back in Great Falls, we settled into our traditional post-DP brunch, consisting of an equal mix of coffee, Bloody Marys, eggs, smoked meats and other equally healthy foods. We toasted our successful run (success being defined as no arrests or injuries; it is a low bar), and agreed to reconvene in the spring for DP20. Dawn Patrol 20 will take place on a Sunday in the late-April/early-May timeframe (the exact date will be announced by early February). If you have an E-type that is in superb mechanical condition (particularly brakes, steering, suspension, tires; we’re not very concerned with cosmetics), please join us. A friend to act as navigator is highly useful. This person should be
possessed of outstanding courage but no more than moderate intelligence lest they start start analyzing the risks. If you would like to join us, please contact Jeff Olson at jeff-olson@cox.net.

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