When Tom and I decided to get married in 1978, we arranged for our parents to meet on a camping trip at Hocking Hills State Park in Southeast Ohio. The event took place around August 11th, 1978, just one month before the wedding. Both the Browns and the Kintners enjoyed the hiking on the many trails of Hocking Hills. I dug out some pictures of this great event:
We were so thrilled about Hocking Hills that in February, 1979, we went back for a winter visit in Tom’s parent’s VW camping bus! To this day it is one of the coldest winters that we ever remember, as illustrated in the pictures we took. Every stream and every waterfall was frozen solid, but we slept snugly in the VW van and have cherished the memories ever since.
Although I didn’t start my blog right when we bought the Silvermine, I did start keeping detailed records! So many times during our 7 years in the TAB I wished that I had kept better records of her miles and wanderings. Thus, the day that we towed the Silvermine home from the dealership lot in Tennessee, I started keeping a log.
Now that I have started the blog I want to bring our short 2011 camping season up to date. Because we didn’t buy the Silvermine until September 7th, we didn’t have a lot of time to take any extended camping trips before the winterizing process. We settled for several trips close to home, allowing us to get used to the feel of the towing, to perfect our hooking and unhooking techniques, investigate how to run all the on-board systems, and figure out our outside camp set-up and our inside packing and organization.
I worked hard to write a check-list cheat sheet to help me hook up for a trip and set up at a campground. I wanted to be able to do the whole process myself -- without a hitch!
From September 7th – October 30th we drove her 1,763 miles; 425 of those were driving home from Tennessee and the rest were weekend trips originating from home. This included 7 camping trips and 12 nights of camping. Ella was able to spend two more nights in the Silvermine than Tom as he started teaching in the fall. Ella even towed the rig to Jackson Center, OH (where Airstreams are made, only 1 hour from our house) for a service appointment. The factory has its own campground called the Terraport, and it was a good place for Ella to practice backing in, unhooking and setting up all by herself. Oh, and learn to dump the holding tank! During these few camping trips we got to camp with Airstream clubs as well as our long-time TAB buds and we had not one regret about trading the TAB in for the Silvermine.
So the winter has been spent dreaming about spring and the 2012 camping season and working to fill the camping calendar. At this time we have 7 outings scheduled from April to the end of June, including a TAB rally, several Airstream rallies, the annual 10 days at the Indianapolis 500 and a three week vacation! July is open for some unplanned trips, and there are already 4 fall outings planned in August and September. Meanwhile, we are keeping our eyes open for that first perfect March weekend when the weather cooperates and the urge to take that first spring camping trip overpowers us -- to officially begin the 2012 season!
Buying an Airstream opened up many new camping opportunities for us including the eligibility to join the oldest caravan club in America – the Wally Byam Caravan Club International! We have always been aware of the name Wally Byam and the image of the Blue Beret. The T@B taught us the fun of joining a camping group and traveling to rallies to share a similar camping lifestyle. Tom’s parents purchased an Airstream in the 1980’s and joined WBBCI and attended many events. . . it seemed that joining the WBCCI was in our immediate future!
Within days of buying The Silvermine and His, we sent off our paperwork to join the WBCCI. We showed up as new members in the next issues of the club’s Blue Beret publication, and we were issued the big red 4048 numbers to announce our membership on the front and back of our trailer. We researched on the internet, read back issues of the Blue Beret, and watched old video clips of some of the first Airstream caravans on You Tube! We were extremely proud to be a part of such an established Airstream tradition, and we couldn’t wait to participate in our first rallies and caravans!
Northern Ohio Virtual Aistream
As novice Airstreamers, we didn’t know that we could have checked out clubs in our area, and then joined the WBCCI through a local club rather than as an At-Large Member. We joined the on-line forum that connects Airstreamers ( www.airforums.com ) from many different clubs. As we discovered the bigger picture of Airstream ownership, we found that the Ohio area has a variety of WBBCI affiliated clubs that could give us a more personal experience. With the efficiency of an on-line dating service Airforums helped us narrow down our group camping preferences which led us to NOVA – the newest club of the WBCCI.
NOVA is dedicated to the traditions of the WBCCI, but is unique because it allows meetings, voting and full participation to take place from all over the United States via an internet chat-room in Airforums. After all, Airstreamers are known for being off on an adventure, and the Nova group allows everyone to meet on-line without worry about where they may be roaming.
The NOVA group is also very active in getting together informally for last-minute mini-rallies. A running thread on the Airstreams Forum allows a member to post camping plans on the spur of the moment, and invite anyone who might want to come!
All of this Airstream fun opened up to us at the end of the 2011 camping season! As Spring and the start of a new season now approaches, we are finding that our camping calendar is rapidly filling up. the TAC Amish Rally, which I am helping to host, the Alamoopalooza at the Airstream headquarters in Jackson Center, OH, and the Airstream Computer Rally being held right here in Van Wert are all on the schedule with reservations made. In addition to these Airstream events we also have several two spring rallies planned in Tennessee and North Carolina, and we’re expanding our Indianapolis 500 experience to include 10 days of camping in at the Speedway! And all of that is just the preliminaries for a vacation that covers the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Florida to Texas and up the Natchez Trace -- concluding in the Smokey Mountains!
You might say we are a bit anxious for the 2012 camping season to get started! Follow along as we document these upcoming episodes of camping in The Silvermine and His.
So how did this love for camping start? Ella and I can truly blame this love on our parents. They were born between 1915 and 1921. So their parents had fought in WWI, they experienced the Great Depression, they participated in WWII, and raised their children in an economic boom time. They shared a desire to see this great country and to take their children with them. Coming from humble beginnings they knew the value of a dollar and were frugal in their spending. The automobile had grown from a luxury to a family necessity and the interest in trailer camping had grown out of small homemade kit units to manufactured units.
Both units supported beds off the ground with a canvas top. On arrival to camp set up was required, but within a short time supper would be going on the white gas Colman stove. During these summer treks Ella visited 49 states and Tom saw 48.
We met during the Ohio Blizzard of 1978 and started dating. As spring arrived Ella decided to go to the camper show in Fort Wayne, IN to look at a Coleman Camper. She bought it! It didn't take Tom long to realize that this was the girl for him. Consequently we were married in September. The Coleman was a great little camper, but as Micah and Caleb came along we decided to enlarge our facilities.
The 18' Scotty was our next camper. It was wonderful. The entire rear of the unit was our eating area with windows all around...great ventilation. Of course this unit had air conditioning installed for those beastly hot nights.
Following the Scotty was a 22' Wilderness. The boys were bigger and we needed the sleeping room in this bunk-house floorplan. This trailer lasted until Micah was fully employed in Cincinnati and Caleb was off to school at Edinboro University. Then, we decided to go smaller.
Tom envisioned us in a teardrop and he had a Camp-Inn model all picked out. Then we noticed that Dutchman was making a new model called the T@B and there was one for sale in Toledo, OH. Hooking up the Wilderness we drove to see if a trade was possible.....well....four hours later we were pulling the T@B home! During the next 7 years in the T@B we developed a love for small trailer camping.
You already know the story of the Silvermineandhis. Travel camping has been a part of our lives since the beginning and the Airstream is simply the next chapter in this glorious story.
There is nothing better than wrapping up in the comfortable cocoon of a homemade quilt; unless it is wrapping up in that same homemade quilt and tucking inside the Silvermine for a cozy night’s sleep. One of my first goals with the new Airstream was to add bedding and linens to match the inside colors and reflect my love for little-trailer and camping-themed fabrics.
Tom and I have very different ideas on what a perfect quilt is: Tom wants one that is extra long and wide to roll up in and wrap around his feet and up over his head; just like a big burrito! I want a quilt that it narrow and short so that my feet are never covered and so I can slide a leg out from underneath to cool off!
As I developed an interest in quilting this past year, I discovered a wonderful quilting program that gives me freedom to design my quilt and see the finished project before starting. Quilt Design Wizard (www.quiltdesignwizard.com) helps me design every aspect of my quilt using standard quilt block templates while being able to customize size, colors, and fabric choices. One of the best things about this program is that it has wonderful tutorials to learn how to use it!
Here is a print-out of my first quilt design, with all my notes and scribblings.
In the program I chose fabric swatches similar in colors to represent my fabrics: little trailers, marshmallows on sticks, and a variety of camping equipment. I also had fabric with little camping sayings and a cute little polka-dot fabric for one of the borders. For this first attempt, i had basic blocks with nothing more complicated than a single diagonal pieced block. The quilt consisted of 50 6" blocks and two 4" borders.
Below, is my finished quilt.
Next came Tom's quilt. He wanted a traditional log-cabin quilt and I found that there is a lot to learn about making this famous quilt! The typical log cabin will have two color families splitting the block in half diagonally. The center square of the log cabin quilt is usually red -- representing the hearth of the home. However, I chose a chocolate brown square which was used to signal a safe house for escaping slaves in the underground railroad. The dark half of the block represents the dark times that a family goes through, and the light half of the block represent the good times.
Tom's fabric choices were some of the same as mine, with rusty reds on one side of the block and tans on the other side. The dividing of colors on the diagonal sides of the block allows the finished blocks to go together in a variety of ways for completely different looks.
I found that I enjoyed the process of lining up all my little strips of fabrics and chain-stitching them together in a process that let me add one fabric strip to each of the 48 blocks; then go back and add the next strip of fabric. In this way, all the blocks grew at the same rate and I had a nice little assembly-line process that was easy to complete.
When all 48 blocks were done, I showed Tom where to click on the computer program to see dozens of ways to lay out his quilt blocks, and I made him get down on the floor and crawl around trying the different options. He chose this pattern which is called "arrow". Once the quilt was all laid out, I picked up the blocks in order and sewed together the rows and then sewed the rows together to complete the quilt top! Adding borders and batting and backing and machine quilting (stitch in the ditch method) only took a few days.
So each of us has a quilt made from my special camping fabrics representing my first attempts at making our Airstream our away from home, home.
Those who sleep under a quilt,
sleep under a blanket of love..
She is a 16’ Bambi “Sport”, the lightest and smallest Airstream that is made! Inside she is stripped-down sleek with the same aluminum walls on the inside that are on the outside.
At 16’, there is only one Airstream floor plan to choose from.
Some of the Silvermine’s stats are:
8 feet wide (outside)
16’ 4” long (hitch to bumper)
23 gallon water tank (fresh)
21 gallon black/grey water (holding tank)
2,897 total weight (unloaded)
a unique "rubber" floor
a TV and audio sound system that is iPAD ready
Her upholstery is “cinnabar” with nice rusty red, yellow and tan colors – perfect for my accessory ideas. The front dinette also makes into an extra bed or a front sofa. The front wrap-around window offers a great view!
The bed in the back is always made up, and it stretches a spacious 7' 7" across the width of the trailer. It is a cozy little nest that I have every intention of accessorizing with my all of my little trailer themed fabrics. For now, the quilts I made for the TAB work just fine!
As you come in the door, the kitchen is dead ahead with everything I need to prepare a meal: refrigerator, microwave, sink, and stove-top, a water heater and 23 gallon water tank.
The bathroom is small, but is always there if you need it! There is even a nice tinted privacy window for viewing and to alleviate claustrophobia!
The hand shower can be used inside or passed through a little hatch opening to use on the outside!
So now for the fun part: shopping for special purchases (think silver!) and time spent organizing all those lovely little spaces. There is also that little chore of learning all about the Silverstream's various systems, especially learning to hook and unhook. A fun shake-down campout is very much in the future -- somewhere close to home -- and close to a Walmart!
With ulterior motives guiding my unexpected trip, I made plans to attend the fall Vintage Rally at Misty River Campground in Walland, TN. On Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 I pulled the TAB 450 miles from Ohio to Tennessee, slowing down in anticipation as I drove past Chilhowee RV on Alcoa Highway . Right out by the highway sat a little 16’ Airstream Bambi! Well . . . maybe I had done a little advanced planning in deciding to attend the vintage rally; and so I stopped to check out all the Airstreams on the lot. With 15 minutes of advanced warning, my sister Beccie joined me -- further evidence planned intentions!
It didn’t take long for me to see that the 16’ was exactly what we wanted, and it took even less for me to convince Tom over the phone! The salesman looked at my little orange TAB (right in the middle of University of Tennessee “Big Orange” country with the first football game of the season 4 days away!) and asked: “Do you want to trade in that little orange teardrop?” I looked him in the eye and said: “I would – but I don’t think you can afford it!” Later, he looked it over and his offer was more than I could have ever hoped for! Deal Done!
A vintage Airstream at the Vintage Rally
Now that the preliminaries were out of the way, there were several things that needed to be accomplished in the next few days: Tom needed to make arrangements for the purchase, I needed to have electric brakes installed on the van, the dealership needed to prep the Airstream, and Tom needed to drive down from Ohio to join me for the transfer! To keep me occupied in the meanwhile, I needed to drive on to Vintage Rally at Misty River Campground. Once there I set up our T@B campsite for the last time!
Tom arrived late Friday night, and early Saturday morning we emptied the Tab of everything that was not to stay with her. Although we had a premonition that we might be trading trailers in the near future, we certainly weren't prepared for an exchange in mid-rally! Lots of outdoor equipment was piled on the picnic table at the campsite, and the rest was shoved into the van! Sister Johanna took our last picture in the TAB, and we drove away to make the swap! It was a sad trip, as we had enjoyed every single night of camping in the 7 years we owned the TAB.
Arriving back at Misty River Vintage Rally!
The switch didn’t happen all that fast – Saturday morning was a busy day for the dealership and they had a lot to show and tell us about our Airstream. It was a full 6 hours until we headed back to the campground. As I drove the new rig into the campground, Johanna was sitting on the picnic table patiently waiting to get a first picture.
Slowly a crowd gathered, realizing that an Airstream was replacing the camper at the site that had been occupied by the little teardrop TAB. Oh what fun we had introducing our new little Bambi to the campers -- especially the many vintage Airstream attendees!
Backing into our driveway at home
Sunday morning it was time to set off for Ohio again -- with the newly named "Silvermine and His" in tow. We now had two cars in Tennessee, and we took turns driving the new rig to experience the feel of her tow -- and driving behind to admire the view! Eight hours later, we were backing her into place in the driveway marveling at how balanced and solid she handled the trip.
So ends the story of our purchase and first camping and towing experience in The Silvermine and His. Meanwhile, we have heard rumors from people in Tennessee that watched as a TAB arrived at a rally - - - and an Airstream left! We know there will be many and frequent trips in our future, and we look forward to 'streamin' them in this blog!
You could say she was born to bring a smile! At the Airstream factory she was ordered for the specific purpose of being Little Debbie’s Million Smile Mission giveaway trailer! She traveled the west coast from Seattle to San Francisco gathering smiles and passing out Little Debbie products along the way. After 6 months she was awarded as the Million Smile Mission’s grand prize – and was sent to Ohio. Somehow, (we haven’t pieced together all of her ramblings yet!) she ended up on Chilhowee RV lot in Alcoa, TN – just a few months old and looking for a forever home!
After camping for 7 years in our little orange teardrop TAB trailer, we were seriously looking at Airstreams. We loved the small trailer style of camping and didn't want to go much bigger; we were just ready for a change. When an internet search found a 16’ Bambi on an RV dealer lot in Alcoa, Tennessee, I made immediate plans to meet sister Johanna at Misty River campground for a Vintage camper rally -- conveniently 18 miles from the RV dealer!
Chilhowee RV had a large variety of Airstream trailers to look at starting at 16’ and working up to 25’ and longer. We knew we wanted a 16’ or 19’, and I wanted to compare the two side by side. One look convinced me that we didn’t need the extra length of the 19’ which was given up mostly for a large bathroom. The 16’ had a wet bath and room for 3 to sleep comfortably, and was only 4” longer than the little teardrop we were used to camping in. Only 4” – but OH SO MUCH MORE!
A quick phone call to Tom on Wednesday, September 8, 2011, directed him to get on the phone, set the wheels in motion, and to come on down Friday to help wrap up the purchase and bring it home.
Christened “The Silvermine . . . and His”, our little 16’ Bambi is as fat as a little blimp, and offers us many new camping conveniences, not to mention the security of the iconic Airstream quality. She pulls easily and hooks up quickly, and fits in just about any campsite we would want to choose.
Stream along with us as I recap our camping adventures in
“The Silvermine . . . and His”.
Tom & Ella Brown
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