Thursday, March 21
We took care of a few housekeeping duties in the morning, and then headed for the COTA track and our parking lot “N”. Early arrivals, we had a good choice of camping sites in the very large, open field that sat on top of a hill overlooking the track. We settled in on the second row from the fence/gate that led to the track, and a few sites down from the “General Store” and the bathroom/shower facilities. These were all mobile units – very clean and under good supervision. The general store sold shower passes for $10/shower or $25/weekend. Otherwise – no water or electric hookups! The fact that there was also no shade was of minor consequence as the temperatures were to stay in the 70’s! The surroundings were part mowed scrub grass with lots of silt and rock pads to park on. We were positioned so the awning offered shade all day long, and for extra measure we sat up the Kelty awning. From under our awning we had a great view of the track and tower.
There wasn’t much to do but get settled in, meet the neighbors, and head out for a Mexican dinner in the evening.
I turned to the internet to get some overview pictures of the track.We were truly out in the middle of nowhere, and the whole facility was like a colorful racing oasis far away from anything. On the track map you can see our location in Lot "N".
Friday, March 22
The track opened at 8:00, and with our setup next to an entrance gate, the boys were off. I am not sure what the morning attraction was except they wanted to scope all the possibilities and get oriented for the next 3 days. Later in the morning was a driver autograph session and with small crowds they were able to zip right through. Later the cars came out and there was practicing.
They made a quick trip back to the Silvermine for lunch and then headed out for afternoon practice, where they got some of their first pictures of the track, the surroundings, . . . and the empty stands!
Back at 3:30 to relax. Dinner was a pick-your-own from the freezer – chicken wings, deluxe hamburgers, and steak! No day would be complete without the dash into Walmart for whatever-we-though-we-needed.
ME? I stayed at the camper all day with the dogs and had a relaxing time finishing a pine-needle basket, reading, and walking the dogs.
Saturday, March 23
The action picked up this morning with Indy Car Lites practice and race followed by qualifications for the Indy Cars. There was a slight chance of rain (30%), the sky was clouded, and the temperatures stayed cool and breezy. The schedule was picking up a bit, and Tom and Micah had a lot to do while at the track. They were back by 4:00, and we fixed dinner at the campsite and relaxed away the evening.
Sunday, March 24 - Race Day
For race coverage, I asked Tom to step in and give his perspective:
COTA offered a ticket package with seating in a different stand for each of the three days of track activity. Not having been there we chose Turn 1 Stand for Friday Practice, Turn 12 Stand for Saturday Practice, Indy Lights Race, and Indy Car Qualification, and the Main Grandstand just across from the IndyCar Pits for Race Day. Sitting in the MG offered Micah and I a different perspective than we had seen before….the cars were zooming by at speed and also the crews were busy with fast pit stops consisting of changing 4 tires, filling the tank with fuel, and making wing adjustments as needed . . . all in 6 seconds.
As the race began it was a typical IndyCar Event with a Penske, an Andretti, and the Ganassi cars in the front positions. The COTA track is 3.427 miles long so much of the action took place on the video board in front of us….we watched as much TV as we did live action. The race was fast and entertaining and surprisingly an 18-year-old rookie, Colten Herta, won his first Indy Car race. Micah and I followed the crowd onto the track, after the race, and walked up the steep hill leading from the main straight to Turn 1, wow it was steep, and the walk provided us with an understanding of the unique elevation changes the course offers.
We did not get pictures of the race, but did get a few of the sights around the track and from our seats.
Since this was our last night in Austin, we returned to the Silvermine, loaded up in the Rubymine, and headed back into Austin for one more taste of Texas BBQ at Coopers…a real treat, and a fitting way to bring this trip to an end.
Ella back to wrap up the trip! Monday morning we dropped Micah at the Airport and retraced our route north and back to Hot Springs for the night. Tuesday we made the Bowling Green, KY area, and Wednesday we were home in the early afternoon.
We have a whole week to regroup for our next outing -- a Rally in Elkhart, Indiana hosted by Airstream-enthusiast Alan!
Warning: For the first 7 days of this trip Tom and I were sick and barely performing driving and camping duties. Finally we went to an Urgent Care Unit for HELP – and a slow return to wellness. But, I was behind on blogging this trip, and my details are very sketchy. To make matters worse -- I forgot to pack my camera, and had to rely on our phone/cameras for all the pictures! But, FINALLY -- here it is!
Tuesday, March 12
We flipped the calendar to a new month, and here it is March and time for our first big trip of this year! The ground-hog reported not seeing his shadow this year, but we have had a recent downswing in the temperatures and some cold, cold weather that disputed his prediction. This made us doubly excited to head south – to Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas – for 2 ½ weeks. The purpose of the trip was COTA: Circuit of The America's IndyCar racing!
Tuesday, in no rush but anxious to be off, we left the driveway at 8:00 with a destination of 450 miles near Nashville, TN – Montgomery Bell State Park. It was a beautiful day for driving, the temperatures climbed, and by the time we entered Tennessee we saw signs of spring – flowering pear trees and spring-green buds on some shrubs were showing their buds.
By 3:00 we arrived and set up in our campsite backed right up to a river. There were other people in the campground, and at 65 degrees many were wading knee-deep down the middle of the stream. Tom had some end-of-winter maintenance to complete and the campsite, complete with sewer and water hook-ups, made it convenient. We ended up with every RVers dream: a full tank of fresh water and an empty black tank.
We enjoyed meeting neighbors on either side of us (a set of tween-aged red-headed twins on one side!) and a girl that is spending her first night in her brand new 25’ camper and will be full-timing into the future). That’s what camping is all about – seeing new places and meeting new folk.
An update on our traveling -- we now have a single doggie bed in the car that holds both dogs. Charlie and Jasper finally have learned to . . . spoon!
Wednesday, March 13
Eight hours saw us through Tennessee, into Arkansas and arriving at one of our favorite National Parks –Hot Springs, Arkansas and Gulpha Gorge Campground. In the middle of the week we were immediately surprised to find the campground full, with us filling in the last campsite available! We have been coming to this campground for over 40 years. It is small, nicely wooded, has flush toilets and water, sewer and electric hook-ups . . . all for $15/night for Seniors! We waited out the rain, walked the dogs and headed into town.
Bathhouse Row has an incredible history. Native Americans and settlers came to take the water hundreds of years ago, and the first bathhouses were crude tents perched over the springs. By 1884 the federal Government took over the hot springs creek and operated free bath houses and public health facilities. In 1921 Hot Springs became the 18th National Park, and new expensive bathhouses and the Army/Navy Hospital (now the Hot Springs Rehabilitation Center) were built. By 1960 traditional bathing was in decline and the houses fell into disrepair, but in the 1980 the Park explored ways to return the bathhouses to their glory. We remember the derelict buildings when we first toured in the late 1970’s . . . and have enjoyed the impressive restoration as it continued over the years. It is always fun to come back and see what is new on Bathhouse Row.
Dinner was in a Mexican cantina downtown in Hot Springs . . . still raining. We scoped out the town enough to know what we wanted to do/see the next day . . . when is was supposed to be sunny and 60’s!
Thursday, March 14
Rain all night cleared the way for a beautiful sunny morning! I was slow getting going with the run-downs of a bad head cold, but by 9:30 we were headed into downtown Hot Springs. The plan was to begin on the Promenade walkway that follows high above and along the back of bathhouse row. It is a wide brick pathway with old-world charm, and it is easy to envision Victorian-turn-of-the-century-folk strolling along and resting on the many benches. Along the promenade are many of the original hot springs – some capped off and some bubbling up from the ground. Charlie and Jasper didn’t seem to notice as they trotted through little pools of hot water!
Many locals (and visitors) make daily visits to the hot water sidewalk spiggots to collect their drinking water.
We did some shops, which are across the street from the bathhouses, and made the decision NOT to partake of a bath. Many of the bathhouses have been restored and you can take a “therapeutic” bath, but with my resistance down due to my cold, I thought I shouldn’t be joining in any communal-type-viral baths!
We came back to the campground for a BBQ Pork Sandwich lunch, and I promptly conked out for 1½ hours. Then we returned to the downtown area, without the dogs, to walk through the Visitor Center which is the old Fordyce Bathhouse restored to it original glory with original furniture, steam cabinets, soaking tubs, massage tables, sitz tubs, and various men’s and women’s parlor resplendent with stained glass windows and marble floors.
Friday March 15
No pictures today. We drove from Hot Springs to Bay City, Texas . . . 9 hours. There is a little downtown RV Park with full amenities that was built in demand to the oil-boom business several years ago, and here we set up camp for 3 nights.
Saturday, March 16
We started the day at Jim Coe’s house (Tom's BIL) where he had visiting family from Michigan. They were at the end of their visit, and we piled into two cars to drive to Richmond, Texas, where niece Emily, husband Matt, and boys Max, Alex, and Xavier entertained us for the day.
Jim drove his famiy to the airport, returned, and we all went to a wonderful BBQ place – the Swinging Door. Then the hour drive back to the campground where we collapsed in bed.
My cold was not getting better, and Tom had been giving into it for the past few days, and we decided tomorrow we needed to get help
Sunday, March 17
The Urgent Care Facility in Bay City (a division of the Matagorda Hospital) a pleasant experience, and we transferred through the intake, nurse-interview, and doctor once-over to confirm we just had heavy respiratory infections with some inflamed ears, red throats, and active mucus-making. The ear drops she gave us had the antibiotic Cipro in them, and we returned to the Silvermine to sleep away the first day of treatment.
Monday, March 18
We left Bay City mid-morning with just a 3 hour drive to Austin, Texas. In the little town of El Campo we spied a big Washateria that was not busy, and stripped the trailer of every piece of laundry we could find – including the bedding and rugs! While the wash was processing we wiped the inside of the camper with antibacterial wipes, and then drove on to McKinney State Park. Here we were situated just a few miles from the Airport to retrieve Micah, and another few miles from our COTA venue. The rest of the day - - - REST!
Tusday March 19
We gathered Micah by noon – our Austin guide for the week. He had spent a lot of business time in Austin and knew all the good eatin’ places. True to his word he took us to Terry Black’s BBQ on the main drag of town, and after a great lunch (all served on butcher-block paper) Tom and I were flaggin’ . We made it back to the Silvermine, got Micah settled in the front silver-quarters, and rested all afternoon – Micah from having left at 4:00 a.m. and us from our virus. Dinner was rib eye steaks and roasted potatoes at the campground; bedtime was early.
Wed, March, 20
Feeling better (ear drops twice a day – Tom called it ear-sex!) we had ambitious plans to tour the State Capital Building today. Micah channeled us to a parking garage, and we enjoyed walking the beautiful edifice and sat in on a little Texas Senate session; unusual because they only sit every/other year! A 10-block-stroll took us to Cooper’s BBQ – one of the most famous joints in Austin. You buy your meat by the slice and sides, and a big bowl of pinto-beans is all-you-can-eat. Best BBQ I have ever had.
Tomorrow we would be heading from McKinney Falls State Park to Circuit Of The Americas -- 8 miles away!
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