The Midnight Run: East Islip to Watkins Glen Oct. 1,
To All That Remember Such Things
There always seemed to be just one more thing to do. On this night we were expected at the Woodland to meet up with the group at 12:00 midnight. The headlights needed a last minute adjustment, so something quick against the garage door, and it's 11:50 time to fly. The Woodland Restaurant is a long standing landmark along Montauk Hwy. on the South Shore of Long Island, in a little Hamlet called East Islip. This was a favorite starting spot for last minute coffee and talking about taking it easy. Hmm, anyway it's 48 degrees out and of course, all tops are down (show up with the top up, and your in for a serious roasting). Leather bomber jackets with fur collars were the style of the moment. Lap robes and heaters were for the faint of heart, and top and side curtains were only for the "well adjusted". Walking out of the eatery and seeing the seven MG's lined up, gave one a rush. Jump in, turn the key, pull the starter,
rump, rump, rump, rump, we're off. Now, there are some that would say that all that noise "aint" civilized, "yeah", (picture a big grin here) teehee. A quick left and up Carlton Avenue, under the Railroad bridge and the sound was a magnificent symphony of music.
An hour later and we were crossing the George Washington Bridge, by now the fur collars were fully deployed, but we were touched, whoops, excuse me, that's
tough young men. I looked over at my co-pilot, still grinning, but I noticed the heater had now slipped
on. (must of hit a bump) The bark of the exhaust was all we needed for entertainment. I remember thinking, the temperature must have dropped a couple of degrees, time to put on some gloves. Ah, the sound coming out of the toll booth,
aaarrrrhhh, shift, baaarrrrr, as we rushed off into the darkness. Road signs, road signs, Highway 17 where are you? Pick up 17 heading North West and as we got away from the warming effects of the water around L.I. & N.Y.City, it was definitely getting colder. The heater felt pretty good up as far as your knees, but then...Heh, we're talking wind/chill factors here.
For those of you to young to remember, 17 was not always a modern interstate style highway. Most of it was two or four lane, later it was a little of both and eventually it became what we see today (read boring). In 1957, it was just plain great. Plenty of times you would have to swing out to pass a slow moving car or truck. Ah, there's the sound of MG's in unison again. I wonder if today's T-restorers aren't too concerned about correctness and originality, and miss the point. The first thing one did back in the early days was to trash that ridiculous stock muffler and the one inch tail pipe. A funny thing, the cops didn't even turn their heads, they just accepted that's what a MG sounded like...I digress.
As we approached Middletown at 2:30 in the morning, we would recognize our need to tone it down, "lest" we wake the cop in the cruiser on the corner. Short shift, short shift, short shift but it still sounded wonderful echoing off the old buildings.
On through the night, Circleville, Bloomingburg, High View, Wurtsboro, Rock Hill and on to Monticello. Damn, it's getting cold, the hell with this macho stuff, Hey, copilot reach back and get that big robe will you? Copilot are you there? He looks at me with look of death on his blue face, says nothing, just pulls this big blue blanket up and we spread it over our laps. Now we have to reach under the blanket to shift gears, but it sure felt good. Now that we had the lower extremities taken care of we wonder why we didn't think about a hat? Once again we tip toe through a city, this time Monticello. Back on the open road and we are passing everything. Amazing what you can do with 54 horsepower and a little adrenaline.
Swan Lake, Ferndale, Grossinger, Parksville, Livingston Manor and now I know why we are going so darn fast, just 8 miles ahead the Famous Roscoe Diner and warmth.
We have made it to our half way point, it's 38 degrees and we are "grinnin" (Idiots?)
This diner is placed in just the right spot. It seems that every body heading for the Glen stops there. There are a couple of 120 Jags and a new Healey in the parking lot, as well as a hand full of American Iron. We walked in and speculated as to whom was driving what. All eyes seemed to be staring at us, what? You've never seen a popsicle before? We push a couple of tables together and the waitress shows up with a big pot of coffee. Time to head to the rest room. Kind of a small room for such a large place but big enough for two. I stepped into a booth and when I came out there was this guy looking in the mirror and putting eye drops in his eyes. We glanced at each other in the mirror for an instant and said hello, it was Sterling Moss. Back at the table for a round of cheese burgers and a few laughs with the waitress. We kid around about who was going to put the top up first and suffer the ribbing. With that, a couple of guys got up and headed out. We all laughed knowing they caved in first. Time to pay the check and hit the road. When we got outside the other two guys had just finished folding the windshield down. Yikes, their upping the ante. After a few laughs, the windshield was put up again and time to saddle up. Rump, rump, rump.
5:00 AM and now the temperature is 36 Degrees. So how come we are having so much fun? A string of TD's pull out on to 17 and this time we picked up a guy with a TC that seemed to want to ride along. For some reason the green glow of the gauges haunts my memory. That and the 120 Jag that passed us at well over the century mark. Was that Moss driving that thing? We all thought so at the time. I guess we will never know for sure. After that, the second leg was pretty much like the first so I will not bore you with every mile. Suffice is to say, we all made it to Watkins Glen. We pulled up to the curb in front of a restaurant, checked the business hours and they opened at 7:30 AM . Only 20 minutes until breakfast. Ask me if the bacon and eggs tasted good!
It is now Saturday and we are up at the track. As I look around I see many of these all night drivers in their cars catching some ZZZ's. Which raises a question, why do it at all if your just going to sleep through the race? Well, in an old MG, it may just have been the journey, not the getting there that was so much fun. I have made this run, many times in many interesting cars but this is the trip I remember, when I think about Watkins Glen.
Richard C. Adams
The following friends made this momentous trip special:
Al & Deloris Clenaghan
Don & Alice Gray
Richard Lusak (copilot)
And a fellow named Martin in the TC
Thanks Guys, it was great, I only wish we could do it again.
Fact or fiction? Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Editors Note: Richard Adams is now living in Ocala, Florida.
He welcomes contact from all interested parties at: