That sad time of year comes around every year when the Silvermine is bedded down in the driveway for the winter. First she enjoyed an end-of-the-year SPA treatment at the factory where she was maintenance and winterized. At home everything that shouldn't freeze was removed from the basic on-board supplies, and there was one last clean-up for the winter. As she takes a 3-month hiatis, we are busy making camping plans for next season!
6 nights in one place might not seem like a lot to many Airstreamers – but for Tom and me it is somewhat of a record! Seven days, six nights, in the Smoky Mountains National Park! First though, on Tuesday, November 1st, we headed for East Fork State Park, around the corner from Micah, to celebrate his birthday. Leaving at noon on Tuesday, we were set up in our campsite by 3:30, and shortly after Micah called to say he was off work, done exercising, and ready for us to descend.
We arrived at Elkmont at 1:30, just as our Airstream neighbors-for-the-week, Terry and Sue, were returning from a morning hike to Laural Falls and a climb up Clingman’s dome -- they pack a lot into a morning! We wasted no time in choosing a spot and setting up the Silvermine for the next six nights. Terry and Sue were on their first adventure in their new 28' Airstream, and had already traveled from Ohio to North Carolina, and then joining us at Elkmont. Here are pictures of our rigs sitting side-by-side -- they all look alike, RIGHT?
Trails from our campground lead back to an abandoned village, and we wasted no time showing this little hidden gem to Terry and Sue. We ran into a painting club that was capturing the derelict buildings on canvas . . . while we did likewise on film.
This little collection of days-gone-by retreats always amaze me. They are inside the National Park, and I think they just can't decide what to do with this bit of nostalgia --- let them continue to crumble into decay . . . or fix them up for the sake of preservation.
Leaving the ghost cabins we took our time walking the campground loops back to our site, and admiring some of the very different camping fashion statements.
Back at the campground we did the minute-math, and figured we had time to head into Gatlinburg, only 7 miles away, and shop up our favorite outdoor supply store. An hour shopping yielded mosquito head-nets for next summer’s Alaska trip – a cheap trip!
We were back at the campsite with a fire going and dinner on the grill by 6:30. By 8:00 it was dark, and we shut down for the evening!
Up at 7:00 and ready to check an item off my bucket list! For many years (actually decades!) I have wanted to ride around Cades Cove in a lawn chair, in the back of a pick-up truck – redneck style. Leaving the campground at 8:00 it was a bit chilly, and I wasn’t sure that it would be good redneck-riding weather. First we took a quick trip around Cades Cove campground and stopped at the store to empty our tanks and snap some pics.
Before we even got to the start of the loop road we sighted our first wildlife - which the loop road ride is famous for. Unfortunately, this was about it for close-up wildlife viewing for the trip.
By now the weather was warming up, and Sue and I decided to try the redneck ride. Terry and Tom took over the cab, and we enjoyed the lovely views and smells in the open air,
We stopped at several of the viewing opportunities listed on the loop road map . . . and passed by several more. One interesting stop was at the Primitive Baptist Church where a volunteer gave a great lecture on the importance and meaning of the church in the lives of the valley people. He pointed out that they did not have welfare, health insurance, or any of the other stop-gaps between catastrophic loss and survival. But, they did have the church, and the congregation stepped to fill the shoes of all of our social programs!
Half-way through the ride, we stopped for a more extensive walk around the Mill area of Cades Cove, where there are several buildings on display and a nice little store. By this time it was well past the lunch hour, and we settled back in the truck with a switch of the girls up front and the boys in the back, and finished the loop without another stop.
A drive of 10 miles led us to the Subway restaurant in Townsend, and a late lunch. By 2:30 we were back at the campground, and settled in for a peaceful couple hours of enjoying the 70-degree temperatures.
We rallied in the afternoon for a walk around the “other” part of the campground which was closed off for camping at this time of year. Our favorite campsites, the “G” loop has large, flat, sites that are by the river.
We enjoyed a Cornish Hen dinner, and as dark settled we invited new friend, lone-camper Ruth to join us around the fire. Ruth’s husband had passed away in January, and she was on a solo camping, hiking trip, reaffirming her passion for the great outdoors in this new unaccompanied stage. Camping in a very small pup tent, Ruth relayed to us that she had just become owner of a 1962 25’ Tradewind Airstream. We certainly will keep our eyes out for Ruth in the future!
Friday morning Terry, Sue, Tom and I left the campground at 8:00 – destination: breakfast at the Pancake Pantry in Gatlinburg. There are scores of pancake places in Gatlinburg, but our favorite is the Pancake Pantry, and it is the first pancake house in Tennessee.
Shops were not open yet in Gatlinburg, so we headed for Pigeon Forge and the little shopping venue called The Island – Margaretville. It was also just waking up for the day, and a stroll through the little shopping street scored a new pair of shoes for both the girls! We rode the giant Ferris wheel for a great view of the surrounding mountains. The ride is not at all like a carnie wheel – the seats are enclosed and climate controlled, and the ride is very smooth and quiet! Here are some of our views from above.
Back on the ground we lingered just long enough to hit up a few stores and take in the views of the shopping smorgasboard
While in Pigeon Forge, Tom had two stops to make in his quest for an Outback jacket for the Alaska trip. The particular brand is famous for the below-hip and ankle-length “duster” styles, but Tom is looking for the oiled canvas that fits at the waist. No luck, but he still had some addresses of places to try in Gatlinburg later in the week.
Exploring ended early for the day as we headed back to Elkmont with the intent of taking showers in the Airstream. We were meeting brother Richard and friends for dinner in Townsend at our favorite Trail Head restaurant.
Richard, Paula, Barb and Josh arrived within 10 minutes after we got there – I spent the 10 minutes with the phone service and catching up on emails. Then it was time to catch up with my brother while we ate dinner Tom had a hamburger and I had the fried catfish, and we enjoyed 1 ½ hours around the table with chit-chat and catchin’ up. We got back to the campsite at 7:00, just as it was getting dark, and enjoyed a last campfire with Sue and Terry. They would be pulling out for home in the morning.
It was only 39 degrees when we got up this morning – we had fortunately closed all the windows before going to bed. I had the Yellowstone Pendleton wool blanket out, but we didn’t have to layer it on our regular quilt bedding. I did, however, sleep in a hoodie!
Tom started a fire and made egg sandwiches on the griddle outside. I perked coffee on the stove-top in an old-fashioned percolator. Tom said it was the best coffee he had in years, and that is how I felt about his egg sandwiches!
By 9:30 we were off to Gatlinburg in search of a couple more stores that might have Tom’s Outback, oiled, canvas jacket. Both stores that we found had the jacket, but they all just had the long, long, duster style in stock. We came back to the camper for a quick sandwich lunch and to pick up Charlie Button and then did the Roaring Fork auto tour that takes off from downtown Gatlinburg and winds up the mountain for 15 miles. Hiking trailheads are sprinkled along the 16 mile road, and although there are signs to prohibit parking on the roads, at each trailhead there were dozens of cars barely pulled over and parked. In several places it was a tight squeeze. On the back half of the loop, the road turns one-way, and become really tight. But the scenery is Tennessee forest at it’s very best, as well as several well-preserved log cabins and a grist mill.
In Gatlinburg we stopped for a splash of gas to fill up the generator (yes we are cheating and using a generator to recharge our battery, and power my hair dryer!) By 4:00 we were settled into the campsite for the duration of the evening . . . the temptation was to go into Gatlinburg to watch the Buckeyes play Nebraska, but Tom resisted that urge. Supper was lamb chops on the grill, salad, and potatoes.
Another cold morning in the 40’s (and a time change) greeted us, and a plan for a big day of more auto touring. The Heintooga Ridge road would require a trip past the famous Chimney-Tops, up to Newfound Gap, across the top of the mountain, down past the Oconaluftee Visitor Center and a short stint on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had never done this drive before, and were anxious to check out the Campground on Balsam Mountain.
The Blue Ridge Parkway was quiet and peaceful and beautiful, as always, and we had no trouble finding the turn-off on the Heintooga Ridge Road. We drove along several miles just to find that it was closed for the winter! Turning around we headed back into Cherokee for lunch and a brief shop-stop to see if the local outer-wear store carried Tom’s Outback jacket. NIX!
With that we reversed our trip back down and through Gatlinburg, with a quick jaunt out to a grocery store in Pigeon Forge to buy a steak for the evening grill. We were back at the campground by 3:00, with plans for a book-session, a quick nap, dinner, and a movie in the camper.
Our last day began with a run in towards Maryville, my home town, for a visit to our favorite hiking store, The Little River. I saw the exact jacket that I want for the Alaska trip – the light-as-a-feather shell that is reported to be toasty warm. For $300 it ought to be! Tom had the same experience with looking for new hiking boots. We drove on into Maryville to the Route 401 cut-off to Sevierville – thru beautiful developed country homes scattered along secluded valleys. In Sevierville we renewed our relationship with the Smoky Mountain Knife Works – the largest knife shop in the . . . . .. area? It was a favorite of our kids when they were little and it has been at least 5 years since we have visited. Stock full of knives and guns and ammo and kitchen slicer and dicers, we left without a purchase. In Sevierville we settled on Long John Silvers for a quick lunch, and a return through Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and back to Elkmont. The temperatures were in the mid 60’s, and it was our last day to enjoy the 0-G experience in the lawn chairs at our campsite. Beautiful.
This last trip of 2016 was a great way to end the camping season. The Silvermine has an appointment for a spa day at Jackson Center, and we have managed to accumulate a list of items to be taken care of. She has performed admirably for 9 months and is ready for a few months rest. This ends my blog, also, for the season . . . except that I will be writing a summary of our statistics for the season! Tune back!
It’s been a long time since we have been to one of our favorite Ohio State Parks on Lake Erie – Maumee Bay. What better time to revisit this “great” lake-side park than just as fall is emerging. We arrived to see that we were headquartered in the loop that we had occupied with TABs and Rpods, over 7 years ago. This time the rally was the annual Anniversary Rally hosted by Loren and Mike St. Peter with an anticipated 16 camping units to arrive.
The thing I love about this campground is that every campsite is carved out of the low-growing wild hedges and shrubs, giving each a complete sense or privacy. At the back of the site, sometimes a little pathway/tunnel is mowed to connect the campsites, but the impression is always that you are alone in the campground. Here we are in our little private oasis.
One one side of us were Doug and Terry in their new-to-them 1950 Spartan trailer. Every inch of the inside and outside was revamped and modernized . . . It received an A+ on my home-worthy index.
Across from us were Terry and Sue, reliving some memories from past years. They had recently traded for a new 28' Airstream that was not off the production line yet, and they gamely joined the rally with cots and coolers and lights and heaters . . . in this big tent:
We went to bed that night expecting rain to move through during the night.
Just as the rain began at about 8:00, John and Suzie pulled in, and Tom and I reported to their campsite to guide them in by flashlight. Meanwhile, back at the tent, Sue and Terry found that through 10 years of storage, the tent was no longer waterproof! We heard all about that the next morning!
The rain washed through in the middle of the night and Tom was up with a morning campfire burning at 7:00. The plan was to visit the Toledo Glass Pavilion, an off-shoot of the Toledo Museum of Art. The Pavilion itself is built of over 360 panels of glass -- many of them curved -- and just seeing the facility was a delight.
Inside the Hot Spot, we watched as a guest artist fashioned . . . tumors! It wasn't until later, when Tom and Terry returned to listen to her evening lecture, that the rest of the story came out. Her sister had a facial tumor that caused people to stare, and now she makes tumors as a part of her art form -- designed to make people feel uncomfortable. And stare. Tom and Terry learned a lot more about her various art media and subjects -- a lot of them sexual and almost pornographic in nature. Enough said.
The rest of the glass displays were very traditional in nature, with beautiful vases, bowls, plates, and other glass objects!
That little tour took us right up until lunch, and just a short drive away was Tony Packo's -- made famous by MASH. Mostly a hot dog and chili joint, for us it was all about those wonderful old MASH television episodes.
It is an election year, and Tom has been (like many people) a little mystified about what to do about voting. I bought him this shirt at Tony Packo's; not exactly sure what it means, but it did seem appropriate.
We returned to the campground to find that lots of people had moved in since we left. Here are some of the faces that joined us for an evening dinner gathering.
A campfire ended earlier for some than for others. We haven't followed daylight-savings time yet, and the dark came pretty early! Before heading for bed, though, we made plans to tour some local historical venues on Friday!
Breakfast was pancakes on the griddle provided by our hosts-- but Tom and I were up and ready for breakfast before the griddle was hot! We resorted to our own breakfast -- not too shabby!
Friday's tour plan included two historical reviews; one from the French & Indian Wars and another from the war of 1812. Fallen Timbers was our first stop.
Fallen Timbers was a quick walk-around battlefield. The victory by General Anthony Wayne's troops fully open up the Northwest Territories to the settlers who were always moving west.
We stopped for a late fast-food lunch and a shopping trip through a very large Field & Stream outdoor store before returning to the campground. There was just enough time to enjoy a nap session in the sunshine and a walk around the campground to view all 16 of the attendees, including the newest arrivals. Supper was a beans and wienies dinner with lots of contributions, and a fire took us into the evening.
Next door Rob worked on his chili for the competition cook-off. Real men make their chili outside over the open fire. In a Dutch oven. Hanging from a tripod!
Later in the morning people gathered at our host's campsite for chili judging and a goodie raffle. There were 9 chili entries, and the chili that Tom and I both voted for in a blind taste-taste -- won! It was made by Suzie, and was a family favorite recipe with beer, wine, and other hard sprits. . . what is not to like!
Early afternoon Tom and I headed for a walk around the beautiful lodge; we had hoped to hike the nature trail, but as a part of the birding trail, dogs were not allowed. But the lodge was spread out giving a nice long walk, with the back side bordering the lake.
The rally was winding down, with one last grand gathering for the traditional potluck dinner. The fire circle thinned out early as the cold moved in -- and there was also the Ohio State Buckeye evening game that made the Airstream seem cozy and inviting! A great game is one that comes right down to the last play -- and this game was a GREAT GAME!
Tom and I headed out early in the morning with a stop at a Waffle House for the traditional brunch. It had been a wonderful campout with a beautiful introduction to true fall camping -- with leaf changes and cold nights.
We bought a new house -- not for us to live in, but as a retirement investment! Oh, and we just happened to find our first set of renters -- son Caleb, and finance Halie! What a coincidence that they were just starting to concern themselves with where they would be living!
The location is in New Haven, Indiana, which will be almost equal-distance for Caleb to come to Van Wert to work, and Halie to drive to Turnstone of Fort Wayne for work -- 25 minutes max for each.
The subdivision is new and situated circle-style with neighborhood homes backed around a pond. This particular house is only 5 years old and has not really even been lived in . . . a man living out-of-state used it for an office and place to stay when he was in town tending to business.
Today was the house inspection, and the inspector told us in all of his years of inspecting he has only had one other house that had "0" issues -- ZILCH! While he inspected I was able to go around and get some pictures.
I guess I didn't get pictures of the bedrooms and spare bath -- but you get the idea! Meanwhile at home, we up to our ears in packing and boxes and re-organizing!
Our site was so large that we set up in a big spread – chairs under the shade tree, Kelty shelter next to the airstream. The afternoon was chilly at 63 degrees, heavy clouds, and breezy. Still, we preferred sitting out with light jackets and . . . lap blankets!
At 4:00 I suggested a dash in to Frye’s, my favorite super-electronic store, before supper. After a quick walk-around we got out without a purchase and returned to the campground just in time for supper: lamb chops, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and grapes. It was dark shortly after supper, and with a light sprinkling of rain, we saved the campfire for morning coffee and went inside. I had The Shallows downloaded on my computer and couldn’t wait to settle down with a good shark attack.
Lunch was Chuy’s Mexican and we made a brief attempt to go to a movie – but the one we wanted to see wasn’t on for another few hours. We headed back to the campground to rescue Charlie Button who was cowering from all the thunderstorms! It was a drippy evening and again we retreated to the Silvermine without a campfire.
Saturday Tom fixed us egg sandwiches for breakfast; there is nothing better than two eggs on an English Muffin with bacon and cheese to start the day out right! We were off to the races by 9:00, planning to meet Micah and friend Paul by 10:00 when the gate opened. The track arrival strategy was different for the AirRace as it all took place above turn 4 – but Tom knows every inch of the track and surrounding parking lots, and he navigated straight to the infamous Coca-Cola Parking lot. We arrived 20 minutes after Micah, but were parked just one row over and a dozen cars down from him.
Entrance to the track was easy, and we quickly chose seats in the top row of the NW Vista, and made the march to the top. It was hazy and foggy, but our view of the flying field was first-rate, and we settled in to get our bearings. Here is a diagram of the flying field and pictures of our view from the top. As we climbed to our seats, in Turn 4 Stand Row RR (same row as our Indy 500 seats located in Turn 2) we noticed everything was shrouded in the fog and barely visible in the distance is the Indianapolis downtown skyline.
We didn’t know quite what to expect from day #1 at the air races, but our race guide booklet showed a pretty active agenda of practicing, entertainment, and qualifications . We were in our seats by 10:00, anxious to see what would happen.
Practice was first, with a chance for us to get a feel of where the planes would take off, how they would negotiate the course, and where they would land. As each pilot left the runway, the announcer broadcast: "smoke on."
A motorcycle stunt-rider performed with a variety of tricks in front of our stands.
Several paraglider jumpers landed in front of us.
An Aerobatic Helicopter stunned with climbing, diving, free-fall and tumbling moves that helicopters are just not meant to do!
A paraglider trailing a long, long, tail, soared high over our heads and then did a death spiral with the tail twisting into a large corkscrew. I was so shocked -- I missed the picture!
With that, we left the stands to scout out the midway, the merchandise and the food stands. A foot-long corn-dog later we were back in the stands for another practice session followed by qualifications.
I got a few more pictures, myself, and then headed down to do a little sight-seeing on the ground level and left the boys to cover qualifications.
From the darkening sky, I had a feeling that some rain was moving in, and sure enough, within an hour it was spitting rain. I made a quick jump for the car, and within 20 minutes Tom joined me. So ended our first AirRaces and another great experience at the Indianapolis Speedway. Next weekend we're taking a weekend off from camping and will be hanging around the house with Caleb and Halie to make apple butter!
Late September and it should be coolish weather, but this past camping weekend had plenty of hot temperatures during the day and barely a hint of changing leaves to signal the shifting of the seasons. This Caesar Creek campout was a merger of good ole camping buddies and new and offered some interesting events for us to focus on.
As customary , Alan arrived first, without Carie. She would show up to visit on Thursday night (arriving in style on the Spider/Can Am!) and then come back on Friday to spend the weekend.
Tom and I arrived Thursday early afternoon and were happy to find that we had a nice shade tree at our campsite -- many of the Caesar Creek campsites are in open sun!
Steve and Cindy pulled in Thursday late afternoon on a mission to conduct a virgin run with their new truck tent. The Vista Cruiser was along as base camp and for extended family members (Steve's sister and BIL) to sleep in.
Dinner and a campfire finished off the first night with me heading in early to finish the book that had me hanging -- The Stranger Beside Me, by Ann Rule.
One of our favorite little towns for junk/antique shops is just 15 minutes away from Caesar Creek -- Waynesville. Steve, Cindy, Alan, Tom and I headed out with the intent of walking the streets and being gone over the lunch hour!
Early afternoon found us back at the campground for a drive-by of an egg-shaped camper gathering -- mostly Casita and Scamp, with a few other lesser-known brands thrown in. There were probably over 30 eggs, but they were spread out all over the loop.
The afternoon nap-session took place under the shade tree . . . with a little help from the heavy-duty air-blowers.
Friday evening brought in the last of our weekend peeps -- Steve's sister Lynn and her husband Rick. Meanwhile, Cindy headed off to go care for the grands overnight in nearby Troy, Ohio, and Carie arrived on the Spider Can-Am. Nobody was keeping score, but I think by bedtime we all ended up in the right place at the right time!
Cindy returned with her three grands in the car, and her daughter and S-I-L (Erin and Anthony) following in their car. The stage was set for a full day of activity. Carie had missed our little town trip yesterday, so she, Alan, Tom and I headed back for Waynesville. The other faction headed for the Medievel Festival right down the road.
The views downtown were the same as yesterday, with different stores, merchandise and lunch options. We ate at the Hammel House Inn, offering bed and board in Waynsville since 1799. This structure, where we ate on the open front porch, was built in 1817 and has been remodeled several times over the years.
I didn't take as many pictures today, but I couldn't resist this one of a troop of little ventriloquist dummies -- is it politically correct to call them dummies?
The afternoon sit-around session offered another chance for me to practice close-up portraits with my new camera. Why is it that children are so much more interesting that adult subjects -- Cindy's grands had enjoyed the Medievel Festival and enjoyed playing around the campground with their wooden knives, swords and shields souvenirs!
I got a few pictures of the adults, too, but they aren't nearly as cute as those kids!
That about did it for the evening . . . and the campout. We did have a pitch-in dinner, a birthday cake for Carie, and a campfire . . . but everything began winding down. In the morning we were slower to take off for home than usual, and we indulged in a waffle-house breakfast -- a new tradition that we are developing every Sunday morning on our way home from weekend get-aways!
This is my favorite time of year to camp, and our camping schedule bears that out with back-to-back-to-back weekends visiting our Ohio State Parks. This past weekend was at East Fork with a get-together that fluctuated significantly in the weeks before the gathering and ended up being a nice small assortment of two Airstreams, one Argosy, and a T@B. Perfect!
We left on Thursday and issued an invitation to Micah to join us for a Cornish Hen cookout at suppertime; the campground is just 10 miles from his house in Amelia. Alan and Carie were the only other ones there for dinner, but Lou and Larry were on the way. Aaron, Stephanie and baby Maddy didn’t arrive until Friday morning. When we all got there and set up, here is what we had:
I am still trying out my new camera, and I found the cutest subject to practice close-ups on -- little Maddy! It just doesn't get any cuter than the many faces of . . . MADDY!
On the agenda for Friday was the kick-off for the Cincinnati German Octoberfest Festival . . . . with the annual running of the Weiner Dogs. Micah has been 6 years in a row, and said he would convoy with us to the races. It just happened that Carie was working at the downtown Macy’s corporate office for the morning and Alan went with us to meet up with her for lunch. But, first . . . the races!
Micah was nicely positioned to get a video of the final run!
The races were over just as Carie was able to join us, and we all hiked back up the hill to find a nice little brewery for lunch. Later, she would join us for the rest of the weekend.
Friday dinner was threatened by passing thunderstorms, and it was a fairly quick consensus to head for a restaurant -- Red Robin.
Saturday was a do-as-you-want morning and an afternoon trip to a local theater to see "SULLY" -- the movie about the miraculous landing of a passenger plane on the Hudson River . . . I was effected very emotionally about the movie, and came right back and ordered the book!
Saturday afternoon was a good lazy session in lawn chairs, ending in a shared meal around the picnic table.
Sunday we were up early and off -- Ashley's beat us out of the shoot by 15 minutes; Alan and Carie were in no hurry, having just a 30 minute drive to get home. Next weekend will find us back in the general area at Caesar Creek State Park with a slightly different make-up of camping friends.
One of our favorite summer pleasure trips is a weekend on South Bass Island – especially during the annual Historic celebration of Admiral Perry’s victory over the British in the war of 1812. This year a group of 6 trailers planned a weekend at East Harbor State Park with a full day excursion to Put-In-Bay.
During the week the weather did not look promising, but we stuck with the plan, knowing that predictions do not always pan out. If you read all of this blog, you will know how that worked out for us! Leaving at 1:00, Tom and I followed Steve and Cindy for 2 ½ hours, ending up at the end of loop Port Clinton, Ohio, East Harbor State Park, Loop “C”, site #88. By late afternoon we were all there. (Dan and Dawn, in their 2005 31' Classic were not there yet as I took pictures.)
Steve and Cindy had to borrow a truck to attend the weekend. You can see that Cindy's father used to be in . . . politics!
Within a short time we had a variety of awnings and screen rooms set up as the center of operations for the weekend.
Thursday evening was a late bring-your-own-food dinner-gathering and a campfire. Charlie Button enjoyed camping again, and recognized all the other Nova dogs that came: TJ, Sam, and Oliver.
Friday morning started with breakfast -- it is starting to become a tradition at these gatherings. Suzi was the mastermind for this affair with her grandmother's homemade buttermilk pancakes and John headed up the bacon and sausage, while Tom cooked eggs to order.
Plans were a bit hit 'n miss for the morning, with some needing to work from a lawn chair, and different groups heading out for local attractions. We went to the Cheesehaven outlet and picked up needed supplies of cheeses and cheese spreads.
Steve had a flashback of coming up to the mainland as a young boy to go night-fishing with his dad. He described his memories of the fishing pier and Tom said: "I know where that is, in Lakeside." Lakeside is a little private, restricted Methodist community where Tom attended summer band camp. Off we went for a walk down memory lane!
The main city street was just 3 blocks away, and we marched uptown for lunch in a little sports bar. No TVs, no alcohol; the only thing making it a "sports bar" was the name of the items on the menu: The Grand Slam, The Touchdown . . .
Our next stop was at the Mon Ami Winery for a little wine tasting. A group of women beat us to the tasting bar, and they looked like they were going to be staying awhile. We did not wait them out, and we did not buy any wine.
We returned to the campground to link up with the rest of the delegation, to compare morning and early afternoon mainland outings, and to prepare for the open grill/pitch-in dinner. What no pictures? I’m slipping!
A ranger came around on his golf cart to give notice of a large storm with rain and high winds that was coming our way around midnight. That motivated the tear-down of the awnings and screen room and the retraction of the Airstream awnings, and a general clean-up and put-away of all the outside frills.
Saturday we woke to a brief period of overnight rain -- but no high winds. The payoff would be that, when we returned from a long day on the island, all of our outdoor stuff was already put away. The prediction was still for some periods of rain, but we were trusting that they would be brief showers that didn't compete with our touring schedule. We headed out in a caravan of trucks for the Miller's Ferry boat dock just 10 miles away.
Here is a picture of the group that caught the 10:00 ferry to the Island. Back row: Cindy, Rick, Tom. Front row: Steve, Ella, Dan, Dawn, John, Suzie. Later, Bruce and Melinda would join us on the island!
The ferry ride was 45 minutes, and it was sunny and warm and nicely breezy on the top deck. On the other side, at the Kiln boat dock, we offed the ferry and climbed the big hill and walked the short distance to pick up our golf carts. The golf carts are the premier transportation around the island, especially this weekend when the threat of rain storms and wind keep the bicyclists in low numbers.
During the first hour of our trip we did have some brief, hard, rain, but it didn't last long, and we were mostly in the cover of the down-town shops to wait it out. Later, we had one more brief rain shower while we were on the carts -- but it lasted only 5 minutes and we did not get wet. Most of the day was a mixture of sun and clouds and nice weather for touring all over in our carts!
Our first stop of the island was at the relatively new Visitor's Center, for a short documentary updating our knowledge on the circumstances of the war of 1812, and Perry's defeat of the British. Then, a walk out and around the smallish-sized tent city set up by the 1812 re-enactors.
By now, the rain storm had passed, our last couple had joined us, and we selected an outdoor-patio restaurant for lunch. I can vouch for the beer-battered Walleye, and Tom can assure that the cracker-crumbed perch was worthy. Many in our group chose the same lunch fish options with a side order from the beer menu!
After lunch, with a 3-golf-cart-caravan (a 6-seater, a 4-seater, and a 2-seater) our group of 11 headed out for a round-about of the island.
This is a well-worn story, but I have to give an abbreviated version because of this next picture! On our honeymoon, on our first night on the island (in my little Coleman pop-up camper) I was stung inside the mouth by a yellow-jacket. The swelling was immediate and dramatic and, following an emergency drive to the island's police station, we ended up at this little garage/clinic of an 88-year-old doctor. I received emergency treatment and spent the rest of our honeymoon with a grossly swollen upper lip! It is now just a garage, but it is as pretty as the day I first saw it . . . 38 years ago through the haze of my allergic reaction!
Activities cranked up Friday morning as we settled into 3 more days of track-side routine with a full schedule of practice sessions, qualifications and races. The weather couldn’t be better, and the seating for all events was open seating – wander around and plant wherever you want! I’m pretty happy with all the action from my front terrace!
Tom and Micah started their engines early this morning, as soon as they heard the Ferrari boys take the track. They headed to “the 90” seats – a long way away from where we are camped because you have to leave the inside of the track through the tunnel and make your way all around the outside of the track. But, when I walked along the front-stretch grandstands I could spot them (the only ones in the stands!) and could see them waving at me! So close . . . . but so far to walk to join them! Later . . . boys!
I satisfied myself walking around our general area and getting the lay of the land . . . and almost ran right into Simon Pagenaud just a few MoHo’s down from us. I know those drivers don’t always like having cameras shoved in their face, so I hid behind a truck and used my telephoto to zoom in on him!
Tom and Micah made a pit-stop back at the our pitts for fuel -- BBQ pork sandwiches -- and then geared up for their afternoon session. Tom’s hip was sour, but there is a great network of shuttling golf carts standing by for free transportation, and that cut down tremendously on the walking.
They were back at 6:00 and ready to go out to eat in downtown Watkins Glen– Micah treated Tom and I to a 38th anniversary dinner at a local BBQ/Brewery café.
By 8:30 Saturday morning the boys headed out for seats in the 90’s Grandstand. I waited for awhile and then followed, on foot. I got less than half the distance when a golf cart stopped and picked me up and bounced me the rest of the way through the tunnel and out and around the track. I found Tom and Micah on the top row of the Senaca Grandstand. The purpose of my trip was to learn my way around the track, and to grab some cash from Tom’s wallet. I stayed 10 minutes, helped myself to Tom's billfold, and took off. Micah pointed out a road that would take me down the front-stretch, where there was a bridge over the track back to my home turf. Several carts stopped to offer a ride, but I needed the long walk to justify the lazy afternoon I was planning! Here are some pictures from the Senaca Grandstand -- this is where Tom and Micah will watch the race.
The Indy Lights race completed and there was a celebration of sorts at the Victory Lane platform – the announcer had a great, strong voice, but there were few people in attendance to watch the presentations to the racers.
Qualifications for tomorrow’s Indy car race were in the afternoon and only took 1 ½ hours. The boys returned to our garage for --- BBQ ribs, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. Micah took a late-night run out and around the track, and ran into Hinchcliff out reconnoitering with his crew. Tom and I went to bed.
Tom and Micah suited up early race-day morning and drove the truck over to “The 90” and the Seneca Grandstand – climbed to the top row, and anchored down their seats for the race. They were back at 7:30, and I got a picture!
We were out walking around the garage area as the drivers arrived at their driver meeting. We watched as they went in, and hung around to watch as they came out 30 minutes later! Then we continued taking in the sights and sounds of the neighborhood. The race was scheduled to start at 2:37!
I enjoyed watching the driver introductions as they took place on a large dias in the middle of the track. This year's USA Little League team World Champs were lined up on the stage to high five/low five the drivers across the stage. Unfortunately, the pictures of the drivers were taken through the safety fence. It was fun to watch as Helio Castroneves gave James Henchcliff some pointers on his upcoming "Dancing With the Stars" gig.
Finally, the announcer called for people to clear the track, and the drivers reported to those beautiful cars.
From my vantage point at the start/finish line, I was able to zoom directly across the track and shoot a picture of the Silvermine. I also walked to the end of my grandstand to view the Senica stands where Tom and Micah were seated on the top row. Then I hustled back to the center point for the final pre-race ceremonies -- the Star Spangled Banner, a prayer, and a sky-diving appearance.
Now there was only one thing left to do -- start the engines and start the race. I had a to readjust my usual race understanding as the cars raced the wrong way -- clockwise -- around the track. Tom and Micah saw the cars come right towards them on the first lap and snapped this picture.
I now faced with my biggest challenge with my new Sony a6000 camera. I set it for shutter speed priority at 1/4000 of a second, and set it for 3 continuous shoots at a touch . . . it was to be a real test of the ability of the camera to stop this cars as they crossed in front of me going over 200 mph. The down side of that was that I quickly shot a hundred pictures in the first 3 laps and figured that I didn't want to have to preview and send all the extra pictures to the garbage! Enough to say, the camera worked well for stopping action in it's track -- from the top row of the grandstand.
My next camera test was to walk down the steps, closer to the track, to see if the camera could stop those cars at close range. A+!!!
At that point I figured I could keep up with the race very nicely from my lounge chair under my awning, so I made my way back to the Silvermine. What a wonderful place to be engulfed by the sounds of the race over the loudspeaker, and to listen as Scott Dixon drove to a victory.
Tom and Micah came back, and we had a hamburger grill-out to celebrate our last night at the track. We ate with a front-row seat of the garage area as it was completely dismantled, leaving the parking beside us vacant. The drivers were on their way to Sonoma, California -- and Monday morning we would be on our way home! For me, this was a completely eye-opening experience of Indy racing! Will we go again next year . . . . YES!
Wednesday morning (before Labor Day weekend) Tom, Micah and I left Van Wert and drove over 500 miles to the Watkins Glen KOA, an early launching stage for our move to the Watkins Glen Raceway.
A funny thing happened on the way to Watkin’s Glen, New York! We stopped for lunch in Medina, Ohio at a Chipolte’s. Two hours later I saw a message from Loren with a picture of our rig -- taken at 11:48 with the query “Are you guys in Medina?” Talk about a coincidence! Loren is an Airstream buddy that lives in LaGrange, just 20 minutes away from our lunch stop and she was shopping at an outlet store when she spotted our instantly recognizable rig!
This trip is a different venue for us – a return to the Watkins Glen Raceway in the Finger-lake region of New York – but this time for a Watgins Glen Indy car Grand Prix race. (Last time was for a wine festival!) It is also a new race venue for the Indy cars, and we were one of the first to sign up for camping for the Labor Day Weekend!
Thursday morning we set up in campsite #7, neatly sandwiched in between the driver garages on one side, the pit-row stands and the start/finish line on the other side, and Victory Lane on another side. All within easy view of my lawn chair! There are not many campers here yet, but it just so happens we are camped 12 spots down from MY DRIVER –Tony Kanan and his entourage of 3 motor-homes. Tom won’t let me go down and stalk for pictures!
Shortly after setting up, we drove into Watkins Glen to see walk the incredible glen trail. This was Micah’s first time in his clear recollection – he was probably five the last time he was here. We walked the steep Glen walkway, thankful that it was only 72 degrees, and not the 90+ of last week. Near the top, Tom and I walked back down to get the van, and Micah finished the climb; we drove to the top and picked Micah up.
The parking lot had added a few more customers, but was by no means full. We enjoyed a leisurely afternoon with the boys heading off to explore the interior of the speedway. Tom returned to tell me that Tony K was sitting outside of his motor-home . . . and we went for a very casual walk-around . . . . I got the MoHos, but not TK!
Right next to our trailer is the Victory Lane platform -- Tom stepped up for a picture!
Activities rev up tomorrow as we settle into 3 more days of track-side routine with a full arrangement of practice sessions, qualifications and races. The weather couldn’t be better and the seating for all events is open seating – wander around and plant wherever you want! Tom and Micah will try out every grandstand in the speedway, but I’m pretty happy with all the action from my front terrace!
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown