Aside from close-to-home quickie trips, we took several major trips to locations, events, and rallies, covering 18 States around the USA:
Winter trip to Jekyll Island in Georgia
Spring trip to Austin, Texas for COTA (Circuits of The America, racetrack)
We hosted a rally at Gettysburg
Sister Tink's "Spring Fling" in Townsend, TN
Downtown camping at Urban Air in Logan, OH
Parking lot camping at Indianapolis 500 Speedway
Six weeks on the road to the Pacific NW
Put-In-Bay by ferry . . . with friends
Clifty Falls Rally and new National Park Indiana Dunes
Leaf Peeping in GSMNP
National Parks Visited in 2019
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Gettysburg National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park
Craters of the Moon National Monument
John Day Fossil Beds National Park
Crater Lake National Park
Lewis & Clark National Historic Park
Mt. St. Helens National Park
Mt. Rainier National Park
Olympic National Park
North Cascades National Park
Glacier National Park
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
Golden Spike National Historic Park
Hot Springs National Park
Disclaimer: We have been home two weeks and I have not finished the last blog entry for this Leaf Peeping Rally. It has been hanging over my head. For better or worse, I am going to finish it up. Truth to tell: here at the end of the camping season I am tired of blogging and ready to be done with it.
Monday, Nov 4
Three of our camping couples left this morning, leaving 3 more in camp for a few more days. We said goodbye to those leaving, fixed hamburgers at the campsite for lunch, and headed into Gatlinburg at 3:00 to meet up with Caleb and Halie for supper at Calhoun’s. We were back at the campground by 8:00 – dark, tired, and ready to relax.
Tuesday, Nov 5
Something we have not done yet this trip – Tom fixed a breakfast of hash and eggs! Caleb and Halie had a very full schedule today, so we headed out to drive the other end of the Foothills Parkway . . . to Chilhowie Lake. On the return trip we took the old (but freshly paved) Happy Valley road up to Top of the World where we linked back up with the Parkway.
We spent the afternoon at the campground – a beautiful warm and sunny day and perfect for sitting outside. Our dinner was Cornish hens, roasted potatoes . . . a great meal.
Wednesday, Nov 6
Our last day in the Smokies. We hardly feel that we have been gone a total of 16 days – 11 of which were boon-docking in the GSMNP! We celebrated this successful mini-vacation with breakfast at Crockett’s Restaurant with Caleb and Halie, and headed off with them for a driving tour of Newfound Gap and Clingman’s Dome – all new sights for Halie. We were thankful for cloudless blue sky and great visibility at this high point of the Park. We returned Caleb and Halie to Gatlinburg for their last afternoon/evening, and we went back to one more cook-out (steaks!) and to begin cleaning up camp.
Thursday, Nov 7
The plan was for Caleb and Halie to drive to the campground at 8:30 so we could travel together home. They were 45 minutes early, and we quickly finished hooking up and headed out. Before long we were in rain. which lasted until Cincinnati. After that it was very clear sailing all the way home. . . where we arrived before dark!
Saturday, Nov 2
Tom, and a company of 8, were up early for a hike to Grotto Falls. Early was required because the parking spots at the trailhead fill by mid-morning! The group left at 8:00 and drove the 7 miles to Gatlinburg to get on the Roaring Fork Motor Trail -- the trailhead was near the end of that 11-mile loop road.
The hikers were back early in the afternoon, just in time for Tom to have a a rest before Caleb and Halie arrived! They had been unable to do the Smoky Mountains as planned for their honeymoon -- so this little trip was to celebrate their 2nd anniversary! We were terribly excited to have them join us and witness Halie's introduction to the GSMNP!
In the afternoon we took them on a tour of the new end of the Foothills Parkway, where we were totally in awe of the views and the colors! The end of the drive which conveniently dumped us in Pigeon Forge for a little introduction to Margaritaville. Caleb and Halie rode the giant Ferris Wheel, we walked a few shops, and had dinner at Margaritaville Restaurant – the noise was at a decibel that did not allow much conversations.
We completed the circuit tour through Gatlinburg and back to Elkmont, arriving just in time to go to bed! With 4 people/2 dogs in the camper, it was warm inside overnight – even though the temperature dipped down to 27! (We set the furnace temperature at 55 degrees, but it barely came on during the night!)
Sunday, Nov 3
The four of us set out early in the morning to Townsend, eating breakfast at the Carriage House – a buffet. From there we took a quick trip to my hometown of Maryville and then made our way to Cades Cove and drove the loop road. It was beautifully sunny, and color was at its peak!.
We hurried back to the campground where Caleb and Halie packed up and we moved them into a hotel on the downtown strip of Gatlinburg. They hadn’t eaten since our big breakfast, and we turned them loose in Gatlinburg to eat and explore on their own. Their hotel allowed them the convenience of going out the door and being steps away from restaurants, junk shops and attractions!
Back at the campground Tom and I joined our friends around a campfire until bedtime/darktime. . . which came very early with the time change!.
The End . . . of Alumalina! We were splitting off from our friends and John, Suzie, Tom and I were heading for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park – less than 3 hours away. On the road by 10:30 we were on the outskirts of Gatlinburg by 1:30, and stopped for a BBQ lunch at Jimmy’s – enjoying the outdoor patio dining.
By 3:00 we were circling the Elkmont campground, claiming our sites and getting set up. It gets dark in the deep forest very quickly, and the temperature goes down dramatically with the sun. By 7:30 we were done with supper, sitting around a fire and enjoying “real camping.” Bedtime was 9:00 and we made it through the night in good shape without the furnace.
Monday, Oct 28 - Thursday, Oct 31
John, Suzie, Tom and I spent the first 3 glorious, sunny, warm, days at Elkmont, waiting for the rally to officially begin on Thursday, October 31. I’m not blogging the details of those first 3 days, although we made some admirable shopping and driving and out-to-eat trips to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.
On Wednesday Georgia and Rick joined us. Unfortunately, the rain also moved in, and the weather took a nasty turn. The campground had been closed due to high winds (80 mph) and downed trees on Saturday and Sunday . . . and again on Thursday morning!
Rick and Georgia had gone for a Thursday morning drive and found themselves unable to get back to the campground until the road was opened at 2:00 p.m. Yes, it was windy, but only 25 mph gusts. Many campers packed up and left, but we just packed everything up under cover and put down the awnings and waited it out. By mid-afternoon the winds seemed to be over, the temperature had dropped from 70 – 55, and the rain was still strong. Tom and Judy Moran arrived in their beautiful, long, vintage Airstream, and we had a chance to briefly meet them.
Alan, Carie, Chris and Lauren appeared in the afternoon, having driven in wind and rain all the way from Kentucky Horse Park. They set up and headed into town with John and Suzie . . . where a Halloween party was going full-force in the streets despite the damp and cold.
Friday, Nov 1
I guess you could say today was the first “real” day of the rally. Several (four couples) had cancelled out due to the weather, and we were left with six rugged couples . . . facing four days of beautiful sunshine with temperatures in the 50’s!
It takes longer to get up and fed in the morning when the temperature is 29 degrees and there is no electricity; nevertheless, Georgia and Rick left at 8:00 for the trails. Sue, Carrie and I loaded up in our truck, and Tom, John, and Alan in the Couger truck as we headed out for the Roaring Fork Motor Trail, just 8 miles away. The narrow, one-way road meandered through the woods; the sun hadn’t reached the canopy yet and the trees were decorated with a sprinkling of snow-frost. We were all in awe, and hanging out the windows for pictures!
By 2:00 we were in Jimmy’s restaurant enjoying a wild and crazy lunch as our waiter mixed up every order, food delivery, and the bill! The boys headed back for the campground, and the girls hit the streets for a little shopping expedition. By 4:30 we were all back at the campground ready to socialize with a pot-luck dinner!
Friday, Oct 25
The general plan today was two-fold: A cheese factory and a winery. Eight of us loaded up in two trucks, and Mike led the way to the cheese factory. It was a small operation that had down-sized from a large dairy farm. The cheese curds were savory and tender.
The wine tasting was . . . wine tasting! We settled up to the bar, paid our $10, and tasted . . . from light and fruity and crisp, to red and dry. Depending on the palate, there was something to suit the needs. We walked out with our wine glasses and our purchases.
Down the road was a little country restaurant, and it was already past lunchtime. We were seated just in time, as the traffic picked up considerably. Tom’s meatloaf on toast was exactly that . . . dry meatloaf with dry toast . . . NOTHING else!
Dinner at the rally was a Tacos and Burritos feast, washed down with margaritas! The dining pavilion was again short on seating, so we loaded our plates and returned to our headquarters. John had set up an outdoor TV station, and at 8:00, as the World Series nightly feature began while people rotated in and out to watch.
Saturday, Oct 26
The morning began with a pot-luck breakfast, and it was a true smorgasbord of offerings. I was not aware that it was from 8:30 – 10:00 and thought I had missed it when I didn’t wake up until 9:00. After a quick breakfast in the Silvermine, I walked up to the pavilion to see what was going on . . . still breakfast! LOTS of food. GALLONS of food!
eOne of the events today was a flea market/craft fair and both Tom and I had brought stuff to put on a sale table. Tom covered the table at the pavillion until 11:30 when he moved everything to our awning and headquarters – where the Buckeye game started at noon. We sold some things, made some money, and then packed up the rest of the stuff. We didn’t really work too hard at selling!
The afternoon was dedicated to the Ohio State game. Airstreams do not have outdoor TV areas like the big motor homes, and John’s outdoor set-up was a popular walk-by.
Rain set in by suppertime, but from the comfort of the huge pavilion we were able to settle down for a Class A fish dinner – flounder, shrimp, crab, hushpuppies! There was more than enough for second and third helpings . . . and for carryout!
The rain and damp chased most inside by 7:00 – but some of the guys stayed out to watch another football game! During the night we heard rain off and on. In the morning we were grateful for the thick grass of our campsites as we packed up and took off!
Thursday, Oct 24
It was a lazy morning as people continued to set up camp, meet new neighbors and old friends, and generally get settled in for the next four days. Here are Suzie and Sue greeting the day!
My goal for the morning was to try to get pictures of the people in our group. The only one I didn't get . . . was me!
All morning long, and into the afternoon, there was a steady stream of Airstreams arriving at the campground. There was a lot of socializing and mingling in the afternoon under a beautiful blue sky and warm temperatures. Charlie Button got in on the social scene as she performed her dead dog trick for a group.
The rally officially started at 5:00 with a traditional hotdog cook-out served under the large pavilion. But, before that started, in the afternoon, our little group gathered . . . with snacks! The lot next to our six trailers was not claimed, and we gathered chairs and declare it our official hang-out place. John even hung a handy awning screen to shield the snacks from the sun.
The weather had warmed to 68 degrees during the day, but as the sun started to go down, the temperature dropped quickly. Three Fire pits appeared in the hang-out, and there was a steady come-and-go campfire circle. Plans were made for a Friday outing, and people drifted off to the warmth of their trailers.
It’s not over yet! The camping season may be winding down – but the best is still ahead. Our favorite time of year to camp is in the fall and this year we are doing a long trip . . . with friends!
Alumalina, a long-running rally in North Carolina, is known for being one of the best; we are attending with 6 Airstream Friends – and about 200 other Airstreams! It is a big deal!
Following my dental appointment, we ate a quick lunch and headed off by 11:30. Our first night destination was Plain City, Ohio and Pastime Park . . . just a 3-hour trip. A funny thing happened on the way to Pastime Park:
Three years ago I pieced a quilt and never finished it with batting, backing and quilting. Two weeks ago I dropped it off to be finished at Heavenly Stitches . . . a little quilt shop in an old country church. Just 30 minutes out of the driveway, and just 11 miles away from the shop, my phone rang -- the quilt was finished and ready to be picked up! SIDETRIP!
We were back on track quickly and reached Pastime Park before 3:00. We dropped the trailer and headed into our favorite outdoor recreation store, Recreational Equipment Inc. Tom bought boots there in May and the soles were considerably worn after just 6 months. Long story short – REI replaced them! I also picked up a new pair of lace-up shoes; newly shod we were back at the Silvermine for dinner.
We had hoped to hitch up with John and Suzie for tomorrow’s 8-hour drive to North Carolina, but the fates conspired to keep them in town until later in the day. Tom and I planned for an early take-off in the morning, and with that in mind, we shut down early in the evening. With it getting darker so much earlier – it is not as embarrassing to go to bed early!
Wednesday, Oct 23
We were awake at 6:00 a.m. – 41 degrees! By 6:30 we were on the road, in the dark, with lots of people heading to work and school buses. By 8:00 we were well south of Columbus, out of the traffic, and the sun was bright. Our navigator estimated a 7 hour trip . . . we knocked it off in 9 hours!
Marion, NC – the Tom Johnson Camping Center – is smack dab in the middle of Smoky Mountain delights and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Welcomed at the gate, we were given an overview of the weekend and then turned loose to start enjoying. Our campground was a large open field with THICK grass, freshly mowed, and full hook-ups. At this time of year we appreciated the fact that there was full sun! Our little camping community, comprised of six Airstream units staged together in two back-to-back rows, was surrounded by individuals and other little communities. The Tom Johnson Camping Center is so big that it easily accommodated over 200 campers at Alumilina!
The rest of the afternoon and evening was the usual set-up, meet-and-greet, and a quick circle around a campfire. By 8:00, the cold chased most of us in. John and Suzie did not arrive until 11:15, and when everyone else woke up in the morning – it was to find the whole gang here: Sue, Tam & Steve, Chris & Randy, Mike & Sue, Suzie & John, and Tom & Ella.
We were all in place as Caleb entered the stadium and pushed around to cross the finish line. I managed a quick video as he pushed through to the end.
Well. Done. Caleb!
This little gathering was planned while sitting around a campfire on South Bass Island a few weeks ago. Knowing that last minute campsite reservations are hard to come by at this time of year we came up with the idea of storming the Terraport at the Mothership in Jackson Center. Tom called and made arrangements for October 3 - 6, and we spread the word.
Everyone had the same idea: call the service center and see if they could work in a little repair work while we were there! Some arrived on Wednesday and some arrived on Thursday -- but everyone that asked was able to work in for a little service! In all we had 9 Airstreams . . . and we adopted one new NOVA member while we were there! Here is Lou and Larry's Airstream being picked up for an AC repair!
The weekend followed our usual casual meal plan of going out to eat at local at local restaurants (within walking distance!) and some pretty extravagant meals cooked on location . . . we rocked a Mexican Fiesta, and two Grand Slam Breakfasts.
Several NOVA gals are in the middle of making a quilt using the precise method of Paper Piecing. This weekend we had our first chance to lay out the first 8 blocks for a quick sneak peak! There will be one more Airstream and some flamingo blocks, and the whole thing will be read for piecing. Mastermind behind planning this project is Carol, and she will be putting the whole thing together and finishing it with free-style quilting. The quilt be up for auction at a spring 2020 rally!
While working on my quilt blocks I got very intrigued by the paper piecing method and made several little banners to hang from my awning. I tried them out for the first time this weekend.
Here are a few pictures from around the Terraport during the weekend. They show that we are indeed "Happy Campers."
In the nearby town of Minster there was an OctoberFest celebration, and many of us headed out to enjoy browsing the craft tents, beer tents, and food tents on Saturday. All were back in the afternoon to enjoy an outdoor theater that was set up for the Michigan game and later on, the Ohio State game.
Suzie dragged in tons of supplies and set them up, and gave us all a lesson in paint pouring. It takes little artistic talent to complete one of these beautiful projects, and we all found out that it can become very adicting!
A highlight of the evenings was when we pulled out our little biotite fire pits. They made wonderful little fires that we could line up in a row to make for a large gathering, and the Airstreams basked in the glow of the fire.
This is the first campout where we have felt the coming of cooler weather and fall camping. Next on the agenda is a trip to Alumalina where we will meet up with several NOVA members to enjoy what we hear is a fantastic rally!
Wednesday Sept 11
With 16 days since our last trip – the Silvermine had a complete going over – inside and outside! If you aren’t camping . . . you can always spend time getting ready for the next campout!
Wednesday morning we left at 9:00 a.m. with 200 miles to Clifty Falls State Park, near the town of Madison in Southern Indiana on the Ohio River. This gathering was the inspiration of Alan, who was hoping to choose a new central location for several Airstream families to gather.
Featuring rugged cliffs created during the Ice Age, it is believed that Clifty Falls plunged 200 feet into the newly formed Ohio River. . . a million years ago! Since then, the falls has cut its way into bedrock more than two miles north of its original position, and continues to travel one-quarter inch per year. It is a haven for wildlife, wildflowers, and marine fossils. Unfortunately, things were very dried up, and there was very little water going over the falls location.
Arriving at 2:00, the big surprise was the 94 degree temperature! We set up, turned on the AC, and waited for the inside to cool down a bit. With fans and air movement we were able to retreat inside in comfort.
At 5:00 we took a quick trip to the Clifty Falls Inn -- a year-round retreat overlooking the Ohio Valley and the historic river town of Madison. The unique architecture is newish brick with the appearance of a college dorm on the outside. On the inside, however, it is very much a charming Inn with lobbies, sitting rooms, dining areas, and meeting facilities. On this mid-week day, well after Labor day, there were few people in residence.
We ate a late supper (Cornish Hens) at the Silvermine, waiting for temperatures to cool down enough to take the dogs for a walk. Finally, at 8:00 it was bearable enough for a walk around the campground loop. Shortly after that it was dark; there was no desire for a campfire tonight
Thursday, Sept 12
It was getting hotter by the minute when we left the Airstream at 9:00 a.m. prompting us to go on a sight-seeing expedition early – while it was still tolerable. Historic Madison was just a couple of miles down the road. I was very impressed with Madison – every store front, sidewalk, and street in the downtown area sported efforts of pride, time, money, and upkeep. The downtown was just two blocks off of the Ohio River, which also showed a major commitment of the community along a fancy river-walk. We walked along the river, amazed at the sponsored and dedicated stonework, masonry, benches, swings, gazeboes, and piers that extended the entire paved path.
When we returned to the campground – Alan was set up in the site next to us! His site had nice shade, and his trailer cooled down quickly. He was off getting groceries, but soon returned. It was hot enough in the afternoon (95+) to while away time inside the trailers. By 5:30 nobody felt like cooking outside and we headed to town and the Key West Shrimp House. The service was horrible – the food was great!
On the way to eat we passed new NOVA members Jamie and Judy as they arrived . . . their very first time camping in their new 30’ Flying Cloud! When we returned, even though it was still hot, Tom started a fire, and we got down to the business of meeting Jamie and Judy. Former sail-boat racers and big-rig campers, they were used to the general group camping experience. Fun night!
Last to arrive, having the furthest to drive, were Dane and Elaine from the St. Louis area, in their 16’ Lucy (the short-short trailer). They dropped Lucy and headed for the Shrimp House to try their luck at food and service – great on both accounts. When they returned, the circle was complete except for Carie, who arrived Friday after work!
Friday, Sept 13
We had brought our new Biolite Campfire, and Tom had it cranked up for a morning fire. The fire is elevated from the ground and encased in a mesh screen for good visibility. Two handles remain cool and allow you to pick it up and move it! The little fan unit on the side runs from Tom’s phone, and he can adjust the air flow/flame from his chair! It is not completely smokeless – but does dramatically cut down on the smoke. We also noticed that by the end of the campfire, all of the wood is burnt, and there is just a fine ash to empty.
Late morning we headed for the Clifty Falls Inn, hoping to make the breakfast buffet – missed it by 5 minutes! We ordered from the menu in a mostly empty dining room, and dawdled over our meal while making afternoon plans.
Brave ones (Jamie, Judy, and Elaine) headed for the trails, and the rest sheltered back in the trailers! Tom, Alan and I headed on a brief shopping trip to some downtown antique stores – - - and an ice-cream fix.
The heat was oppressive and at 7:30 we again headed for the cool of the Inn; Carie was with us! The parking lot of the Inn seemed to have filled up quite a bit with weekend guests – but we were the only ones in the large dining room. Again we lingered enjoying the cool before heading back to the campsite for another fire!
Saturday, Sept 14
Tom had a plan for today that included watching the Ohio State/Indiana game at Shooter’s in downtown Madison. We headed out early for the noon kick-off, while others hiked the tunnel trail. All of us ended up at Shooters off and on during the afternoon, where our waitress worked hard to shuttle us meals – staggered over several hours. She actually stayed two hours beyond her shift to care for us!
The day was cooler by 10 degrees, and we shopped the stores, walked along the river-walk, and stopped at Scoops – Ice-cream! At the campground we had planned for a grill-meal . . . too full! Later Alan brought out cheesecake, and with that we finished our campfire, chat-fest, and Clifty-Falls campout
Sunday, Sept 15
Usually Sunday morning signals a fast drive home for Tom and me. We changed strategy and headed north for a few nights at Indiana Dunes State Park – and the new National Lakeshore!
We had been here over 35 years ago – but the memories are dim! Just recently, the Indiana Dunes State Park has been surrounded and enlarged by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. We opted to stay at the State Park Campground knowing that it had electric hookups.
It was a longer drive than we had expected, and we didn’t get set up until 4:00.The afternoon was cooler, but the humidity was still high. We took the dogs to walk on the dog beach; they enjoyed the walk, but the deep sand made walking hard for Tom and me.
We made a fire in our BioLite Firepit and sat out for an hour – until the mosquitoes started biting.
Monday, Sept 16
Tom was up walking the dogs in the morning when he heard someone calling his name! Dan and Dawn, and Luscious and Danielle, long-time Airstream friends, were camping a loop over from us! Aside from that, there were at least 5 other Airstreams in residence! Tom and I walked with them up to the Visitor Center, before heading off our own to explore.
Forty Years ago Tom and I met members of my Kintner-family in Michigan City for a weekend get-together. Remembering that it had some nice historical and scenic sites, we set out to revisit the town and spent a nice couple of hours seeing this lake-side town.
We arrived back at the campsite in time to walk the dogs and walk over to the next loop for an Airstream mystery get-together. We, of course, knew Dan and Dawn and Luscious and Danielle. But there were 5 other Airstreams in the park, and Dan had visited each one inviting them over for a 5:30 get-together. One couple we had met several years ago and it took us about 10 minutes to realize that we weren’t complete strangers! Another couple had three young girls, and they were on their 2nd week of full-timing; they were heading to a family full-time rally in North Carolina. All in all, it was a good example of the way Airstreamers come together to share experiences and enjoy a good chat around the fire pit.
The next morning we cleared camp and headed for home -- just a 3 hour drive. At this time there is nothing in the works until early in October.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2018 25' Airstream Serenity with Salsa interior and front twin beds., 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