We had completely run out of pre-race activities, and Sunday morning it was time to run the race. There were a few changes to our line-up plans. I wanted Halie to get a view from our top row seats with Caleb, before he switched next year to new accessible seating being built in turn one. Halie took my ticket, and I looked forward to a casual time with a lawn chair on a grassy knoll on the inside of the track across from our turn one seats. But, too much sun the day before triggered one of my skin reactions, and I quickly decided that I needed to be out of the sun completely; I stayed in the camping lot enjoying all the comforts of home . . . . and the race on the radio.
Just in case you think it a little sad I didn't go over for the race, here are a couple of pictures of me, comfortable in my lounge chair, protected from the sun by my awning and visor and listening to live race coverage on the radio. The best part is that I would not have to travel down from the top of turn 2 after a few beverages!
The crew made the hike over to Gasoline Alley, looking for drivers and other race celebrities. For a short while a section of the track was -- a great photo opportunity.
It was time for Micah to have a little rest and drink a fortifying beverage for strength before his great feat. The group rested on the grass in the shade beside the museum. Johanna was positioned in the seats at the top of turn 2 waiting to get pictures of the progression up to the top (usually my job.) She got her first shot of the crew coming from the infield, ready to cross under the tunnel to pop up under the stairs that lead to our seats.
While Micah and Caleb got the wheelchair and scooters locked down, Tom and Halie headed for the top.
This girl has more true grit than . . . . John Wayne! Tom left Halie to get settled at the top with Tink and then made his way back down to run back-up for Micah and Caleb. .
Everybody made it to the top, greeted by Tink, and took the annual pictures (Well, maybe Micah was a little affected by the trip up!).
That finishes the story at the top of the stands in turn 2. But, across the street, in the parking lot, I wasn't done yet! I gave the crew plenty of time to get in their seats, and then I made a quick trip over to get a picture from the back side! Follow the red arrows and you can see Caleb in the yellow shirt, next to Tom and Micah . . . Halie is hiding behind the post!
The military paraded the track, drivers were introduced, "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America" were sung, an invocation was delivered, Taps and the National Anthem were sung, followed by the Flyover. "Drivers to Your Cars," "Back Home Again in Indiana," and then . . . "Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines.
I won't even attempt to recap the race, and I don't have any pictures of the cars going around the track. Just chalk it up as one of the best INDY 500's . . . ever!
I don't do the long lines . . . I walk around the plaza trying to sneak my way to the front of the exit lines, to get pictures of the drivers.
My favorite picture was of a Brazilian lady who was spouting Brazilian a mile a minute at Brazilian driver Tony Kanaan. He came right over and posed for a selfie. When the sun angle wasn't right, he readjusted and tried again. Meanwhile, I was on the spot to get a picture of the selfie. Later, the lady tracked me down in the crowd and asked to see the picture -- and requested (mostly in Brazilian) that I email her the picture! Oh -- by the way, TK is MY DRIVER!
Micah had his own plans away from the track, and Tom and I drove him to a world-wide Magic Tournament that was going on world-wide in various cities! Magic is a card-oriented gaming assembly that Micah has excelled in since he was 16 years old. He is now playing with the big boys, and was excited to take a seat at the table for this event.
Caleb and Halie came back from the track and went into the Silvermine for a relief from the heat. Tom and I headed for Camp Bremer! Camp Bremer is a well-kept urban camping secret that exists just 1/4 mile from the track. Pat and Jennifer Bremer open up their yard to Indy fan/camping friends. This has been a regular event for many years, and Tom and I always try to get over for a quick visit. This picture was taken by one of the Bremers, shows their brand new Shasta Oasis travel trailer -- and their weekend guests! The Indianapolis 500 is responsible for some great traditions!
At 4:30 we left the parking lot to pick Micah up and Don Pablo's for supper. Tom's Indy quiz was next and Tink's 28 correct answers earned her the right to choose her driver for the $1.00 lottery first. Here is how we all lined up: Tink, Helio Castroneves; Micah, Will Power; Caleb, Juan Pablo Montoya; Halie, Scott Dixon; Ella, Tony Kanaan, Grandma (rooting from home,) Graham Rahal, and Tom, Simon Pagenaud.
The field is set and our drivers are chosen -- check back to see how we ran this race!
We woke Friday morning with a visit from our little friend "BOO," who shows up when the sun is at the right angle on the Silvermine. Seeing Boo in the morning is a sign of good weather for the rest of the day!
Micah and Tink headed for the track to grab free pins and good seats for the Indy Lights Freedom 100, a 40-lap race. Tom and I stayed at the parking lot waiting for Caleb and Halie to arrive. At 11:00 they drove past on 16th Avenue, turned into Lot #3, and made their way through the camping rigs to our spot. Halie was getting her first look-see of how she would be spending the weekend!
Without wasting time, they grabbed a sandwich for lunch and then headed off to the track for the Indy Lights race. They rode an elevator up to prime seats located on the inside of the track, right at the start of turn one.
At only 40 laps, 100 miles, the race is a fast one, and is followed by the Pit Stop Challenge. There was plenty of time to take advantage of those Bronze Badges for a walk through Gasoline Alley. Drivers were out, and Halie was able to snag Graham Rahal for her rookie picture with a real driver.
My favorite time in the parking lot is as the sun goes down and people stroll the lot and enjoy the unique feeling of camping on-site at the racetrack. For a little evening entertainment, I had created a crossword puzzle that included some 500 history and personal particulars about each of us. That brought our evening to a close.
Tomorrow, Saturday, things would get serious with the early-morning autograph session with the drivers. Come back for a wrap-up on this and the race!
It was time for a change-up in our usual trek to the track. Tom and the boys did Time Trials this year -- I stayed home! Tom left Thursday morning and set up camp at the Indiana State Fairgrounds; I don't think he has ever soloed in the Silvermine before! He enjoyed the whole afternoon walking the Speedway, watching practice, and strolling through Gasoline Alley snapping behind-the-scene pictures of drivers.
Friday, early afternoon, he was joined by Micah -- who arrived in his brand new Chevy Silverado truck -- lookin' good, Micah!
One more piece of the puzzle was missing; and when Caleb got off work at 9:00 Friday evening, I hustled him in the car and drove south towards Indy, while Tom and Micah drove north to meet me. We made the exchange about 1 1/2 hours later, and Caleb joined the boy outing!
On Saturday morning, the boys were up early, at the track, and in their traditional seats in turn one -- by 7:30. From the pano picture, you can see that they were pretty much the only ones there! Practice started at 8:00, and qualifications at 11:00. Two cars qualified before the rain shut everything down for the day!
All week there were serious recurring glitches with the cars set up in qualifying mode. . . they were flipping -- end over end! Sunday after Ed Carpenter took his turn upending, all practice stopped while a 4-hour, closed-session, meeting of the key track officials decided what to do.
Drivers were not allowed to use their qualification set-ups and had to run their standard race-day format, resulting in all cars qualifying in an uninspired performance. But, the field was set, and Scott Dixon was on the pole! The track closed at 6:00, and the boys went to pick up the trailer to head home.
At home, with three days to regroup, we made some minor changes to include Caleb's Halie in our track-side accommodations. Micah would stay with Tom and I in the Silvermine, and Caleb and Halie would drive down Friday morning and make the fold-down backseat of the van their sleeping headquarters. All five of us would live out of the little 16' Silvermine -- on the blacktop, in a parking lot, just off 16th street, across from the Speedway -- for 5 days!
It began with Tom and Micah and I meeting up with Tink for Wednesday Lake Haven RV, in southern Indianapolis, 11 miles from the track. From there we did our customary early dash for the parking lot, arriving at 7:30 AM Thursday morning where we could choose our little piece of urban campsite for the next 4 days.
Our camping pass bought us 4 parking lot spaces each, plenty of room for the two trailers, two tow vehicles, 12' square awning, and a place for Caleb to park when he arrived. We staked our claim far up towards 16th street, literally in the shadow of our seats at the top of turn 2! Creature comforts included electricity, and water, ice, and honey-dipper services could be purchased as needed. Usually the heat on the asphalt in May is a problem, but Thursday as we set up, it was only 48 degrees and we were trying to catch some radiation to warm up!
During the arrival and set-up frenzy, Tink suffered some damage to her main electrical receptacle. Fixing that was a minor wait for the mobile RV Medic -- a repair service that made house calls to the parking lot!
Tom and Micah went to the track for the Indy Lights practice and qualifying. Later Tom and I walked back over so I could see the vintage car exhibition. It was fun to walk around the big-top tents and watch the boys playing with their toys. They made quite a parade taking turns on the big track!
Race cars weren't the only vintage toys -- here was a little Airstream, shined to a sheen and sportin' two stainless steel air-conditioners on top!
Our first day at the track ended with a birthday celebration with Tink at the Outback Steakhouse. Friday, things would rev up a notch as Caleb and Halie joined the party. . . come back to read all about it.
One thing was for sure when we woke up Sunday morning it was going to rain and storm all day! The storms started in the middle of the night, and persisted in the morning with a gray, overcast sky that just shrieked of an all-day rain. Tink and I had a quick huddle and decided the only sane thing to do was to cancel the 10:00 hayride around the loop road, and the evening potluck! Then we sat back and waited for the rain to begin, and tried to think of "dry" things to do for the day.
Steve, Cindy, Tom, and I loaded up in Steve's truck for a trip through Wear's Valley over to Pigeon Forge. The Pigeon River made a split and left an island smack dab in the middle of the Pigeon Forge shopping district. All this time it has remained vacant, until a bright entrepreneur built "The Island" complete with retail shops, restaurants, rides, games, live music, moonshine-tasting ect.
First on our list was a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel -- 200' tall with inclosed cabs (heated or air conditioned) and an unobstructed view of the mountains! It is the 2nd tallest Ferris Wheel in the USA! A real HIGH!
Stepping off the wheel (to blue skies) we walked past Paula Deen's restaurant (Paula was in the house with police protection out front!) and over to watch the outdoor fountain show. All around the little lake were rocking chairs and other seating offering a comfortable view of the display. With no rain yet, we paused for a moment to enjoy.
Backed up to this little viewing area was the Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine Distillery. It wasn't happy hour yet, but they serve free tasting shots (in a communion-size cup) all day long. Tom, Steve, and Cindy lined up for the sampling, while I fanned out for pictures. Such pretty jars all lined up on the shelves: Apple Pie, Charred, Original, White Lightin', Peach, Hunch Punch, and everyone's favorite Blue Flame Moonshine at 128 proof. Tom, Steve and Cindy tried 'em all!
The title of this post is "High at the Spring Fling '15" and I bet you thought it was about the high-ride of the mountain wheel? Nope! It was all about the moonshine tasting high!
I don't shoot the straight shots, but I did roam around and collect the recipe cards for mixed drinks made with their moonshine. Can't wait to try "The Dolly" or the "Hillibilly Hammer" or the "Flame on the Rocks."
I guided the three samplers out of the distillery and down Market Street to the Margaritaville Restaurant and Hotel! All I can say about this place, is that it was just . . . FUN. The waitress agreeably snapped our picture. (Note the blue sky and light clouds in the picture of the restaurant -- still no storms!)
After a late lunch we headed back to the campground, this time taking the road all the way through Gatlinburg and back to the Townsend-side of the Smoky Mountains. After being in Pigeon Forge with all the outlet malls and amusement traps, we could see just why Townsend is billed as "the quiet side of the Smoky Mountains!"
Back at the campground everyone was looking up at that nice sky and scratching their heads and wondering where the rain was. It was almost time for the big extravaganza of the POTLUCK -- that had been cancelled for rain! It was evident that it would remain dry, at least through the dinner hour, so people flexed to reschedule the meal, and bill it as a "clean out your refrigerator" potluck. It was a great last gathering.
That night it did rain and storm. We had everything cleaned up and put away for an early take-off for home, and the rain didn't bother us one bit. Next door, TInk had closed up a lot of her shop -- but her flamingos were still out there, savaged from the storm!
The ride home was quick, stopping in Cincinnati for a quick lunch with Micah and to see his new truck. The next camping trip that is on deck is for Tom and the boys to enjoy a little bonding at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indiana, for the Indianapolis 500 Time Trials. I'll see if I can get them to snap some pictures and tell me the story when they get home!
As promised, the night turned cold, and we woke up to 38 degrees Friday morning. Tink was scheduled to host breakfast at her residence at 8:00 AM, and she woke early prepared for that event. What she wasn't prepared for was to be without electricity! All was well, though, as she had two breakfast casseroles that cooked overnight in the crockpots, that would keep warm. And once some of the guys began to stir, they quickly diagnosed the problem as a blown fuse at a centrally located electrical post -- and a quick flip of a breaker put her back in business.
One mile down the road from our campground, across from the swimming hole known as the "Y", is the Chestnut Top trail to Schoolhouse Gap. It is a popular trail known for spring wildflowers. On the trail, Tom ran into the a Smoky Mountain Wildflower club photoing the wildflowers with classy cameras! Here are some pictures Tom got with his iPhone!
After lunch was a trip to the Cades Cove Cellars, a winery opened in 2012 and just 4 miles down the road. We were scheduled for a free tour and tasting session, and about 25 of our group took the bait.
Tom took another solo jaunt to visit Miegs Falls, a waterfall conveniently located beside a roadside pull-off.
While he was gone Cindy and I waited for a visit from Mike and ZZ Sullivan. ZZ retired from Van Wert High School as librarian and has been living the dream in Tellico City, Tennessee ever since. So many from Van Wert have visited ZZ, and it was time for us to host a social call while in the Smoky Mountains. Years ago, when reading a genealogy book written by my father, ZZ discovered that Mike and I were distant cousins! It was overtime for a cousin reunion!
ZZ and Mike stayed for the evening hotdog pot-luck dinner and the after-dinner amusement. I had found a gizmo that presses spiral cuts into the dogs . . .allowing for some pretty fancy dogs!
After the dog fest we all gathered for a group picture before settling down for a white elephant gift exchange.
You know the routine -- chose a gift off the table and show it around. Hope that it doesn't get stolen! If it does -- choose another one and hope that it doesn't get snatched. And so on. It is always a game that inspires laughter and mock resentment.
Tom was first out of bed Thursday morning with a mission . . . a hike to Laurel Falls. Although we live in Ohio, Tom has spent years and miles on the Great Smoky Mountain National Park trails, with my father, experiencing the good treks. This hike was perfectly suited for a walk in the park!
The trail-head was a 14 mile drive from our campground, and Tom loaded the 6 hikers in the van at 8:00 a.m. for an early start. The round trip was just 2.3 miles, was rated "easy" and was partially paved. The hikers had 314 feet of elevation to gain, so there was just enough physical exertion for bragging rights. Spring is a great time of year for this hike as there is a lot of mountain water runoff going over the falls!
The hikers were back by 10:30 a.m. leaving plenty of time for a drive into Gatlinburg for lunch with Steve and Cindy. We ate Bar-B-Q sandwiches at a restaurant and shopped my favorite outdoor supply store -- don't know the name -- just know it is big and has everything I need for outdoor exploring and living.
On the way out of Gatlinburg, we took Steve and Cindy for a peek at the lost city near Elkmont Campground. In the late 1800's the area was a rip roaring lumber town. The Little River Railroad Company transported the logs to the mill, and also brought well-to-do tourists to the area where they built summer cottages and an exclusive gun-club hotel. With the advent of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the railroad was needed no more for logging, and didn't want to continue transporting tourists from Knoxville. A road was built and the tourist trade continued after the purchase of the land for the National Park, and the gun club gave way to the Wonderland Hotel. The cabins stood empty. The hotel owners continued to work out their leases until they all expired in the 1990's. The hotel has been destroyed by fire, but the hotel annex, deserted homes, summer cabins, and hunting lodge still exist. It is truly a ghost town.
Our next stop was 6 miles down the road at an area known as "the Sinks." I have fond memories from my teenage years of many lazy Friday afternoons diving from the rocks and swimming in the natural, deep swimming hole -- instead of being in school!
Now it was time for Tom and Steve to work out a personal little trip they dreamed up. Coming out of Cades Cove the day before, Tom pointed out that the road back to the campground (7 miles) was downhill all the way! Steve was itching for a bike cruise in the mountains, and they decided this road would be perfect. Cindy and I drove them past the "Y" and several miles up the road and let them out with the bikes. They coasted back down to the campground . . . and called it a bike ride!
Cindy and I had to drive the winding road another mile before we found a turn-around spot. We started back and immediately began looking for the boys around each next turn, but drove several miles and didn't see them. Just as I was convinced they had turned off the road and hidden to tease us, we saw them up ahead. We passed by and it was only another couple minutes to the "Y", and from there another mile to our campground. We got back to the campground about five minutes before they rode in.
The evening's dinner agenda was an "open grill." Tink provided a charcoal fire and large grill rack, and everyone brought a meat to grill and a side dish to share. Tom also got out our little twig-powered grill for our rib-eye steaks.
Dinner was a casual affair and had the full-blown variety of a pot-luck. It was an easy transition from laying out the food, to eating, to clean-up, to walking across the street for an evening campfire. A cold night was predicted in the upper 30's, and Tink was a bit worried about serving an outdoor breakfast to everyone in the morning. Come back to read all about that!
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