Friday, April 26
It did rain last night – a gentle drumming that picked up towards morning. In the morning it was nice enough to sit under the awning with coffee and to visit with those venturing out. Late morning Tom and I headed out in search of strong phone reception to check messages and e-mails, still sprinkling off and on.
The weather cleared up during the afternoon, and was perfect for Tink’s acclaimed Amuse Busch. Amuse Busch is a “foodie” thing on TV, and means “small party in the mouth.” Tink has made it into a traveling affair where single bites of sampling-sized foods are served at each trailer. Of course, everyone serves more than just the single bite, and all of the servings added up to the makings of a full meal! Oh, and small drinks were also served at each stop . . . a smorgasbord of offerings to keep us well hydrated! Tom and I served margarita shrimp (hot off the grill) with a slice of lime and a shot of Tequila!
Tink’s added dose of fun was to add matching hoodies for the ladies that read: “We’re more than just camping friends – we’re like a really small GANG!" Needless to say, our little progressing around the campground, eating and drinking and appropriately outfitted, caused more than a little interest!
Saturday, April 27
That brings us to our last full day on this trip and at this rally.
Deep, deep in my memories as a child, are bumpy car rides up to and around Cades Cove. I always knew there was a “back way” into the Cove that we used to drive, but I wasn’t sure about the details. On our Cove tour Ken pointed out the road about 5 miles into the loop road: Rich Mountain Road that crossed over the mountains from the Cove to Townsend and thus into Maryville. The one-way road (heading from the Cove into Townsend) is 12 miles long, gravel, and very narrow. As it reaches the park boundary it becomes a two-way paved road and winds through a little community before landing in Townsend. It was a great trip down memory lane and something that we have never done in all our years of visiting.
The Spring Fling was ready to wind down, and on a very mellow note, Dan and Tim brought out guitars, Don brought out his harmonica, and we were entertained by a full hour concert of songs everyone knew. It just doesn’t get any better for an ending note!
Sunday morning early we headed for home. We had Monday and Tuesday to clean and repack for a very different type of venue: Urban Air.
Wednesday, April 24
We were in no hurry to leave Cades Cove today . . . in fact we had guests over for breakfast! A cute little couple was camped next to us in a very small tent, with no other amenities: camp chairs, cooler, firewood, etc. Last night they shared our campfire and told us how they were “trying out” camping. As we ended the night we invited them for breakfast.
We also had not been around the cove loop road yet, so at 9:45 we headed out for a quick trip . . . no stops. The traffic was light of both cars and bicyclists making a speedy tour.
By 11:30 we were hitched up and heading for the ten mile drive into Townsend and the Little Arrow Campground where sister Tink was holding her annual Spring Fling. It used to be an RPod event . . . but nowadays many of the originals have transitioned to other style campers. Tink still has the original RPod with the colored “rings” on the side!
Tom and I each showered and then loaded friends Bonnie and Ken into our truck for a run into Little River Trading Post (still looking for boots for Tom) and a grocery stop. With that, we were back at Little Arrow and ready to settle down into camp life – with electric, water, sewer, cable TV, and shower houses. The shower houses even had real, individual terry-cloth towels to dry hands on – no paper towels -- and beautiful stone floor/barn-sided/marble-seat stalls, distinctive sink troughs, and strong waterfall showers!
Thursday, April 25
We met Bonnie and Ken 10 years ago when we were newly involved in our TAB teardrop. Ken was nick-named “Mr. Gadget” because he always had the latest doohickey. Ken was on a fast track for retirement so they could head out work-camping for a few years. Following a stint in Florida (on an Island!) they migrated back to their first love . . . the Smoky Mountains. Here, they are park volunteers and deeply involved in all things Smoky! Today, Ken was leading a bus tour for us through Cades Cove.
Twelve of us left for a four-hour-tour in the comfort of a 14-passenger van with Ken talking us around the Cades Cove loop road. Even having grown up here, I learned a lot about Cove history! We made some stops and had a lecture at the Primitive Baptist Church by Cove Historian Volunteer Ranger Tom Harrington. We paused at the gristmill for a lunch stop and tour of the out-buildings. By 2:30 we were back at the campground, and I think everyone headed inside for a nap!
Supper was at a Townsend burger shop with outside seating. Onion rings were outstanding, and my corndog was at least 12” long! With rain predicted for the night, and maybe high winds, we put the camp chairs away and took the awning up, and settled into the Airstream for the evening.
Saturday, April 20,
9:00 a.m. found us floating down the road for our next adventure – rain, lots of high water, and temperatures in the low 40’s! Evidently our destination (Great Smoky Mountains National Park) was experiencing the same wet/cold front as we heard reports of flash floods in Elkmont Campground, and high water in our destination of Cades Cove. Our plan was to stop at the Tennessee border at Indian Mountain State Park, and head on into Cades Cove the next day – when temperatures were to climb to the 70’s, and the rain was to disappear!
In no particular hurry we pulled into Indian Mountain State Park campground at 3:30, and were pleasantly surprised by a beautiful small lake surrounded with campsites sporting full concrete pads and trees in full buds of spring green. We didn’t unhook, and other than these pictures by our campsite, we didn’t explore any more of the State Park! But, Tom did walk the pups around the lake!
Sunday, April 21
Easter Sunday – He is Risen!
With under 150 miles to drive from Jellico to Cades Cove we were off by 8:00. It was still a bit overcast, but predictions were for a steady climb in temperatures and sunshine all day.
Passing through the “Y”, the turn-off for Cades Cove, and just 2 miles short of the cove we saw the cars in front of us slowing down. A lot! We immediately thought of three causes: road construction, a back-up of traffic around Cades Cove loop road . . . or a bear jam. In the rear-view mirror we saw people leaving their cars behind us to walk up the side of the road; one woman stopped and told us there was a bear with two cubs up ahead. After 45 minutes, we could see crowds of people on the side of the road with cameras . . . and more up in the woods. The mother bear had climbed high up a tree and the cubs were about 15’ below her in the same tree. I clicked all my pictures from the truck, and we were then able to resume normal speed, arriving in Cades Cove by 11:00.
This might be a good time to show you the new purse that I got especially for this trip to the Smoky's!
As Tom was checking in at the ranger station, Airstream pals Georgia and Rick came up announcing they were camped fairly close to us in “B” loop. We were aware that they were going to be here visiting family over Easter. After we got set up and ate a snack lunch, we walked over to say hello and visit for a while.
During the afternoon, long-time camping friends Ken and Bonnie (they camp in a new Casita) drove through the campground and recognized our rig. They are park volunteers, and on duty somewhere in the park every Sunday. They will also be attending the Spring Fling, arriving on Wednesday. Bonnie and I made a date to teach her how to make pine needle baskets!
Tom and I had a special Easter Dinner: grilled shrimp on the Barbie, foil-packet potatoes, fresh pineapple and a bottle of our favorite Portuguese Lancer’s Wine . . . that we have carried around with us for the last 8 months! We trekked over to Rick and Georgia’s campsite for an evening campfire, and as it got dark, groped our way back home.
Monday, April 22
It has been a long time since we have had hash and eggs cooked outside for breakfast, and that started our morning.
As we drove the road from Cades Cove to Gatlinburg after breakfast, Tom wondered how many times we have driven it in the past 41 years together? Not enough to ever get tired of it!
Our mission in Gatlinburg was to look for boots for Tom at our Nantahala supply store. He didn’t find what he was looking for . . . but I found two pair of earrings and a little puzzle-cut wooden bear! We walked the length of the town, finding it not too crowded on this Monday morning after Easter.
At the bear jam location the rangers were taking a do-not-disturb policy of marking off the sides of the road to prevent cars from pulling over and stopping. Even with this precaution people were parking and walking and a large group was gathered under the tree where the mom and two babies hung out.
During the afternoon I took a shower and Tom took a nap in the sunshine (75 degrees) in preparation for dinner in Townsend. At 3:00 we drove the 7 miles into Little Arrow Campground where sister Tink was all set up and hosting an RPod Pre-Rally, and where we would be joining her on Wednesday. She, along with several friends, drove into Townsend where we met brother Richard and his friend, Paula . . . 9 for dinner at the Trail Head Restaurant.
I didn't take very many pictures today!
Tuesday, April 23
We’ve done it all before . . . but we did it again anyway! We left the Cove with Rick and Georgia following and drove to the “Y” and on to Sugarlands. We continued up and up to Newfound Gap, and then down over the other side into North Carolina and the Oconaluftee area and Cherokee. We ventured onto Big Cove Road, and for the fourth time in a row (during the past 3 years) we found the Balsam Mountain Road still closed for winter! We opted for a beautiful drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Soco Gap and followed Route 19 back to Cherokee. We then backtracked to Newfound Gap, Sugarlands, and back to the Cove. 6 hours of glorious mountain scenery at the peak of spring.
That ends the first part of our spring trip to Tennessee. Tomorrow we would be heading 10 miles down the road to Townsend, where we would be joining Sister Johanna (Tink) for her annual Spring Fling! Check back for more about this rally!
Saturday, April 13
All aboard the breakfast train! Thirteen of us made it into the famous Lincoln’s Diner in downtown Gettysburg. Famous for 24-hour breakfast service, it lived up to it’s reputation as a great place to eat.
Having not seen Little Round Top yesterday, we scouted out a back road access and headed out there after breakfast. One of our favorite stops on the battlefield trail, it is impressive to overlook the field of war far down in the slaughter den, the Devil’s den, and the hill the rebels climbed to challenge Chamberlain on the extreme left of the Union line. Chamberlain held them off with a famous bayonet charge that sent the Rebs scampering down the hill for good.
We picked up lunch and carried it with us to the next appointment . . . A hike following Pickett’s infamous charge across the battlefield. All who wanted to tramp this one-mile walk met at auto stop #5 – the Virginia Memorial. We arrived 90 minutes early, tucked into our lunch, and took a 20 minute nap in the truck. It turned out that several others had the same idea.
A confederate soldier was resting at the edge of the field and was able to offer some information on the path to follow.
At 2:00 a group of 6 (Tom, Carol, Chris, Randy, Sue and Terry) and guide dog Buddy, posed for a picture and headed out on the hike following Pickett’s footsteps. The rest of us set out by car to pick them up at the High Water Mark, Pickett’s destination. Along the way, the group picked up another foot soldier, Rick, who had hiked out to meet them! On the other side drivers and walkers posed for pictures before heading for our last stop of the day – The National Soldier’s Cemetery.
The cemetery is the site where Lincoln visited on November 19, four months after the battle, and delivered his Gettysburg Address. Tom verbally commemorated it with the group, and it was on this note that we ended our visit to Gettysburg.
A note about today’s backdrop: Sunny, 72 degrees, every flowering tree and in peak bloom, and other trees and shrubs fully budded in a fresh green. It could not have been more perfect.
We had two more items to mark off the weekend agenda: A pot-luck dinner and the last episode of our movie.
The food spread was amazing: lasagna, potatoes and sausage, chicken, chili with toppings, corn cake/pudding, pies, ice cream . . . . didn't stop eating to get any pictures! By 7:00 we were cleaned up and settled into our outdoor theater to finish our 4-hour movie! After focusing our efforts today on Pickett’s charge, the end of the movie, featuring this devastating effort, was a very moving way to end this rally!
At 9:30 pm we all said our good-byes and agreed that we would be on our way in the morning without worry about getting together. For Tom and I there was a 10-hour drive to get home.
Thursday, April 11
A side note about those beautiful new shower houses at Pine Grove Furnace: There was a button to push to start the spray, and the water was pre-set to a nice-warm. But the spray only lasted 5 seconds before you had to mash that button again! I quit counting at 36 . . .
Another side note about our campsite – it appeared that the battle might have gone through, leaving cannon holes in the trees!
The day began with different combinations heading into the Visitor’s Center to begin delving into Gettysburg history and some remaining in the lovely setting of the Pine Grove Furnace to enjoy the two lakes and many hiking trails. At the Visitor’s Center we purchased the tickets combining the story of the Gettysburg film (“A New Birth of Freedom” narrated by Morgan Freeman) with the famous Cyclorama of Pickett’s Charge, and a visit through the Museum. We ran short of time with the Museum as we needed to eat lunch and report to our SegTour location by 1:00.
At the SegTour site the nine of us were issued horses (a Segway with the name of a horse from the battle of Gettysburg) and received vigorous training in Segway modus operandi on the indoor obstacle course/training track. Three patient, funny, and knowledgeable instructors spent an hour teaching us the ropes before heading out the back door, down the city streets, and across into the battlefield road. Being Thursday the roadway was nearly void of other traffic, and our little single-file brigade, armed with ear speakers linked to our guide, navigated the road up to Culp’s Hill and back – a 1 ½ hour trip. We all slowly settled into our groove on those upright travel vehicles, and within a very short time we were all feeling comfortable and safe. Most of us agreed that 1 ½ hours was plenty of time to enjoy our first Segway tour.
We weren't allowed to take pictures while on the move -- our tour guide, Al, took plenty and posted them on a Flicker site where we had download access!
At the campground we gathered for a campfire and another episode of our “Gettysburg” movie in our outdoor theater! I gave a brief recap of our plans for tomorrow, and then we were all off to bed!
Friday, April 12
Today it took a little bit of reworking to define drivers and riders and destinations. Some went hiking in the State Park, and some went into tour the battlefield. All agreed on a meet-up time for dinner tonight.
Our truck included Tom and I, Alan and the dogs – headed for the Battlefield. A short stop at the Visitor’s Center where we bought the Gettysburg Field Guide Auto Tour, and we were off on the 24-mile tour with historian Wayne Motts narrating our ride. While at the Visitor Center we had a little chat with Abe Lincoln, and then by 10:15 we were on our way.
The battlefield drive is always a treat, and each time we learn a little bit more. I forget most of the details, but Tom retains them all and has a wonderful sense of who was where and what was what.
The battle started when Confederate infantry began advancing east along Chambersburg Pike. From the Lutheran Seminary cupola General Bufford saw the advancing army, and his only hope was that he could hold them off with his 2,500 Calvary until Reynolds arrived. He did, but when Reynolds arrived, he was immediately killed giving him the distinction of being the highest-ranking officer to die over the next three days. So began the battlefield tour at the North end of the battlefield. At the end of the day, the Confederates may have won the battle . . . but the Union still held the “high ground” . . . “the good ground.”
I won’t try to detail the whole 3-day battle, but I will show you some pictures that I took around the battlefield. Sad to say, the portion of the road going up to my favorite location – Little Round Top – was closed.
Everyone had scattered during the day, and we re-grouped at the campground at 5:00 to make up a dinner plan. With some reluctance to drive back into Gettysburg to the General Pickett’s Buffet (23 miles) we opted for the town of Carlisle and Red Robin Restaurant . . . it ended up being 19 miles! I neglected to even take a picture.
Back at the campground rain started and was too heavy to sit under the awning to watch our movie. Everyone enjoyed retiring to their Airstream . . . where they listened to the lovely patter of raindrops all night.
This rally was my fabrication – the Gettysburg Battlefield! It slowly started developing in January and picked up interested people along the way. We ended up with a nice grouping, and it was hard to wait for April to roll around to get it on!
As usually happens some of us got the itch to get an early start, and a little pre-rally plan materialized! Terry and Sue left a day early heading for BarkCamp State Park in East Ohio. Tom and I jumped on that idea and made another little plan of our own. We drove out of our way a bit to visit the little town of Charm . . . and the big Keim Lumber store! Here we looked for some specialty lumber for Tom’s wood projects and my basket bottoms: logs to slice of Apricot and Russian Olive, and planks of aromatic cedar and rainbow poplar.
Welcoming us to BarkCamp was a weeping, flowering, tree. We arrived 30 minutes ahead of Terry and Sue in time for our first lazy sit-around in the sun at 68 degrees with friends! (I’ve been waiting all winter for this moment!) Later we got word from Alan that he was leaving from Cincinnati after work, and he was expected to arrive by 9:00! Lou and Larry got the itch, too, and headed out on Monday arriving at Gettysburg on Tuesday.
We had Sue’s Cap City meatloaf around the picnic table for supper, and sat around a feeble little fire -- made from wood left around the campsite. When Alan arrived at 9:18 we guided him in by flashlight!
Wednesday, April 9
Take-off was at 8:00 with a mini caravan of three. We plotted a route out of Ohio and into Pennsylvania mostly on the Interstate. One stop at a Flying J, another stop at a toll plaza for lunch, and a beautiful drive through Pennsylvania countryside landed us at Pine Grove Furnace State Park by 2:00!
Newly redone from top to bottom just last year, the sites were big, level, and graveled and the restrooms were new. Because of the layout we were all a bit spread out, but we could still see each other through the trees.
Tom and I made the rounds welcoming those that were already encamped, and we were able to greet the last remaining as they arrived. I had a bag of printed material and buttons for each, and I clicked a picture of each for a visual headcount. Final count: 7 Airstreams and one solo Viking woman -- 14 people!
Late afternoon was dedicated to getting established in the campground. After dinner we gathered ‘round a campfire for basic information and an educational discourse from Tom explaining events leading up to the battle and the placement of the armies on the battle’s eve. In our outdoor theater we watched installment #1 of the movie “Gettysburg” based on Jeff Sharrah’s book “The Killer Angels.” WOW – what a day.
Thursday, Apr 4
This rally, hosted by Alan, was an opportunity to visit Elkhart, IN – the RV capital of the world! It is also the home of the RV Hall of Fame where vintage campers reside in a handsome museum dedicated to camping throughout history. Our group of old campers couldn’t wait go see those old campers! First, we were gathering at Eby's Pines Campground in Bristol, IN.
Our weekend began a night early as rally host Alan drove to our home to camp in the driveway on Wednesday night. It is always fun to have TWO silver beauties in the driveway!
Thursday morning we left at 9:00 for the 1½ hour drive to Elkhart. We discovered that Lou and Larry were already busy in Elkhart, where they had outfitted their 29’ Airstream with a new sofa . . . with two recliners!
Other early arrivals were Gary (in his Globetrotter) and Brad (NOVA president) who had some AS/ RV business to take care of in the area. Jane would join him the next day.
Chris and Lauren are still working, and they didn’t arrival until way after midnight.
A surprise couple, Dik and Lucy, appeared in their Airstream 190. They have only had their Airstream a few months, and they decided to test the WBCCI waters with this rally.
There were a few other friends and family that joined in, making a total of 7 Airstreams and 2 other-style campers!
It was cold and rainy and by group consensus we headed 12 miles down the road to the Das Dutchman Essenhaus buffet for supper. Still raining when we got back, everyone headed to their silver habitat for the evening. Late at night, Tom saw it was snowing and ventured outside to retract the awnings!
Friday, April 5
The main focus of this rally was the RV Hall of fame. Since 1972 the museum has showcased vintage campers along a roadway back into history that meanders past vintage motor homes, pop-ups, and travel trailers dating back to pre-World-War II. Our group of old campers spent two hours checking out these old campers! Here are a few:
After lunch, back at the trailers, we headed out to Yoder Meats & Cheese, and the Ris’N Roll bakery. Tom and I stocked up on our favorites: smoked bacon cheese, aged swiss, summer sausage, sweet-meat sticks, Cajun crab dip, and a sausage bread loaf. This would provide our snacks and lunches for the next few days.
The weather had improved and prompted us to all prepare our own dinner and then gather around several picnic tables. . . where I had a chance to sneak a few up-close pictures. We adjourned from the table to the campfire for the rest of the evening.
Saturday, April 6
In the middle of Indiana Amish country are old-world towns such as Nappanee, Shipshewana, Middlebury, Wakarusa, and Goshen. All are famous in their own way for good Amish offerings, and in separate groups we headed off to explore. Our destination was the Old Bag Factory – a shopping mall that had been built around an old factory building. Since we were here the last time the shops seemed to have declined and were mostly second-hand stores with lots of empty spaces and not of much interest to us.
We returned to the campground by 2:30 to enjoy the nice day – sun and warm temperatures. Around an afternoon campfire we socialized, crafted, and Lou gave Lucy lessons in crochet. This trickled into another shared supper-time and an extension of the campfire into the evening.
Jane got this group picture of us gathered around the picnic table.
That is pretty much a wrap for this rally. Several of us were going home to regroup, repack, and head out for the next big event – Gettysburg!
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