I last checked in as we left Savannah, GA and that is where I will start up.
On Friday, Saturday, Sunday (June 15 - 17) we drove a total of 985 miles picking up Caleb at the Houston Airport, and then on to Bay City, Texas. A little road-weary (after sleeping in the Airstream 28 days out of the last 31!) Grandma’s home was a chance to stretch out and relax. Meals, bathroom, bed, and lots of good family catch-up time made it a perfect 3-day stop. The weather even cooperated and the temperature one day was 88 in Texas – and 97 back home in Van Wert!
Family in Texas is Tom’s mother, Evelyn, who lives around the corner from her daughter Becky (Tom’s sister) and husband Jim. Their younger daughter Ellen was visiting from Bloomington, IN where she is completing her doctorate at Indiana University. Oldest daughter Emily drove down from where she lives in Houston with husband Matt and 3-year-old Max. Except for our son Micah, it was a complete family event!
Refreshed and ready to resume our rambles we left Grandma's house on Wednesday heading for the Natchez Trace. My only regret was that we had not bothered to get out the camera for pictures of our visit. Thus, we thank Jim Coe for arranging us for this group picture
. . . as a Christmas gift -- the City of Savannah."
These were the words written by Sherman to President Abraham Lincoln after his successful march to the sea. I never knew how much I would admire Savannah, Georgia, until I spent a day walking her streets. But, backing up a bit, here is the story of our day.
Having camped overnight at Fort McAllister State Park, (Charleston, SC) we toured the Fort before the day heated up. The park showcases the best-preserved earthwork fortifications of the Confederacy. The earthworks were attacked seven times by Union ironclads but did not fall until 1864 when Sherman ended his “march to the sea.”
The park and fort is nestled among giant live oaks hanging with Spanish moss in a salt marsh setting. The tour was self-guided with sufficient literature and signs to describe the activity during the war between the states.
Leaving Fort McCallister and Charlotte we headed for Savannah. At a road-side rest we pulled in beside this silver beauty; look in the reflection and you will see . . . . us!
By mid-morning we routed our way through Savannah to the historical river walk area. There were lots of shops and restaurants, and a real antebellum feel with balconies overhanging the cobblestone street.
Walking towards the old town area there were tree-lined streets with hanging moss creating picturesque boulevards. Plotted out in geometric perfection were dozens of small "squares" offering moss- draped, shaded benches to sit and enjoy some leisure time. Homes were on a grand scale with many famous ones open for tour.
_ It is considered the finest example of Gothic Revival architecture. This Savannah treasure features a beautiful cast iron portico at the entrance and a covered porch on three sides of the house surrounded by ornate ironwork. We’ll have to go back sometime to see the inside.
Hours of waking left us primed for an air-conditioned rest stop -- the Savannah Public library where there was a chance to catch up with some blogging, and to take a rest from the walking.
The afternoon agenda put us back in the van following that river-walk road all the way out of town to Old Fort Jackson. The fort itself was an absolute beauty as far as forts go -- but the $12 self-guided tour was a bust! We were the only ones there, and there was nobody to provide information or to direct questions to.
On that end of town we continued the drive out to Tybee Island to see for ourselves why the island environment keeps popping up as a rally location. OK -- I get it, and will add a rally on Tybee Island to my bucket list!
Heading back to our campground we went slightly or of the way to stop at Nancy's seafood market. Everything you could think of, but we settled for a pound of shrimp. Grilled Creole sausage, onions and peppers, hash browns on the cast-iron griddle, and a side-order of that unbelievable shrimp. Oh, and fresh, sliced Georgia peaches!
In the famous words of Big Sam living in Savannah's shanty town: "hoss--make tracks." (you may need to think deep for that one--let meknow if you got it!) the next few days are just about making miles. Our destination is the Houston Hobby Airport to pick up Caleb who is flying down to continue the vacation with us. 1,000 miles and 6 states (Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas) in two days. At that point we’ll settle in with Grandma Brown for 3 days and then follow the Natchez Trace towards the Great Smokey Mountains.
Tuesday we checked the Outer Banks off our vacation check-list and loaded the 9:30 a.m. ferry from Ocracoke to Cedar Island and the North Carolina mainland.. This pay ferry saved us from a 90 mile trip back up the Outer Banks, and then another 150 miles back south to continue our journey.
Lunch was especially interesting as we climbed into the Airstream and made sandwiches and sat at the dinette watching the water go by! Off the ferry at 12:30 we resumed our day’s journey on dry land . . . 7 hours to Charleston, NC. Here, at our first private campground, we plugged into wifi, did 2 loads of laundry and did other housekeeping chores.
Wednesday morning we left our Airstream at the campground and headed into Charleston with our eyes set on adding Fort Sumter to our Civil War circuit. A 9:30 boat left the mainland for a 30 minute narrated ride across the sound to the Fort. An animated lecturer narrated the history of the Island for us and then turned us loose with a map to sight-see the Island on our own. I am especially interested in the story of the Hunley (a Confederate submarine that was the first sub in history to sink another boat; she was just raised in 2005!) and it was amazing to think that the Hunley patrolled right in those waters – not to mention the Union Ironclads that bombarded Fort Sumter.
Notice the five smaller flags standing behind the 50 Star American Flag. From left to right they are the 31 Star American Flag used before the succession of the Southern States. The second flag is the first "official" flag of the Confederate States of America. The third flag is the State of South Carolina flag. Next is the second "official" Flag of the Confederate States, which was approved only months prior to the fall of the Confederacy. Finally the last flag to fly over the fort was the updated United States Flag which held 34 Stars, three new ones for the newly admitted states during the War.
On this vacation we don’t stay in one place for very long, and Wednesday afternoon brought us to Savannah, GA, where we had reservations at Fort McAllister, another famous Civil War coastal fort. Before enjoying that tour, though, we were ready for supper, a shower, and a good night's rest.
Posting live from the Savannah Public Library!
Sunday (four days ago!) was all about the drive – 2 hours to the coast, and then turn south and travel North Carolina highway 12 down through the Outer Banks. Water to the left and water to the right and plenty to stop and see as we passed Corolla, Duck, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, Roanoke Island, and Cape Hatteras -- all the while listening to Tom's new Flatt & Scruggs CD!
Having been to Jamestown and heard the story of the first successful and permanent British Colony, we were intrigued by the story of the Roanoke colony, which predated Jamestown by 20 years. John White established the colony with over 100 settlers, and then himself returned to England when it was evident that re-supply was desperately needed. Upon his return, the entire colony had simply disappeared and remains a mystery to this day
Today there is nothing there except some earthern-works to mark where the colony once stood.
All day to spend on a 16-mile stretch of land – leisure time at its best! Ocracoke Island is called the Pearl of the Outer Banks and is a part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Except for the village, the entire island is owned by The National Park Service. It has established ample parking along the main highway so that walking over the dunes and onto the beach is very easy.
First on the agenda was a walking tour of the village of Ocreacoke at the tip of the island. Weather cooperated with temps in the low 80’s and a nice breeze making it an enjoyable circuit for shopping and viewing historical markers.
Throughout history this island, along with the rest of the Outer Banks, has played an important part of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, The Civil War, and WWII. Especially surprising to us was the fact that over 300 American ships were torpedoed by German U-boats right off the coast, creating what today is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic! We actually got back on the ferry and rode back over to Cape Hatteras just to see the Graveyard Museum.
Well, this has been about as much sand, surf, and saltwater as we need, and tomorrow we turn inland and begin working the coastal Civil War sites of Charleston, SC and Savannah, Georgia.
Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg are considered America’s Historic Triangle, mixing the beginnings of America’s settlement with the finality of hard-won independence. We spent all our time in Jamestown and Williamsburg, and will have to save Yorktown for a future visit.
Jamestown continued to thrive, but the capital seat of Virginia Colony eventually moved just down the road to Williamsburg. Our first stop was the public library to check in on the internet and post a blog of our previous days. Then, with delightful weather to walk outside and the complete absence of crowds, we opted to walk the streets and browse the public-admittance shops rather than purchase a ticket to tour the historical buildings. Mostly, I was plotting a future trip to celebrate Christmas in Williamsburg – a prominent item on my bucket list!
Here are a smattering of dwellings and sites on the streets of Williamsburg:
A quick drive to the coast will take us to the Outer Banks . . . come back and check it out!
Next stop was the thoroughly fascinating White House of the Confederacy in which Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his family lived from 1861 – 1865. Fully restored and open for tour are 11 rooms of the mansion, containing 65% original furnishings to the Davis family.
Our tour guide was a sincere and fervent southern gentleman, revering Jefferson Davis, the Confederacy, “Old Virginia” and the time-period of the “war between the states.” Although a man of color and vehemently opposed to slavery, he was able to picture Jefferson Davis as a great man leaving a lasting legacy to the United States of America. Our guide’s colorful stories made no apologies for President Davis, and at any time that he had to refer to that “other” President -- it was always as “that man from the State of Illinois”. One person on our tour made the mistake of asking a question about the “civic war,” and was politely corrected with a pointed answer about the “war between the states.”
No better place to begin my vacation blog posts from than the Williamsburg Public Library in Williamsburg, VA! Let me backtrack a bit to the journey that got us here.
Montpelier, the long-time home of James and Dolly Madison is located on a narrow, winding, road in Virginia country-side. Several years ago when we toured Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello (located in the area), Montpelier was in the beginning phases of being renovated and restored. It is still a work in progress, but is now open for tours while research continues. On a weekly basis, new items are being discovered and authenticated and added to the homestead. Just the day before we arrived, silver plate was added to the dining table and only last month authentic period wallpaper and carpet finished the dining room decor. Unfortunately, no pictures were allowed inside the mansion.
The house, where James was born and grew up, went through numerous expansions during his lifetime. At one time it was a duplex being lived in by James and his new bride Dolly on one side, and his parents on the other side. Later, after his two-term stent as President it was transformed into a single family home fit for a past President of the United States of America to entertain guests in!
We’ve been counting it down since we first bought our Airstream 9 months ago
– our first International event, the 3rd Annual Alumapalooza!
When you think of Airstream you might think it starts and stops with the Wally Byam Caravan Club International (WBCCI), but that would be a mistake! There are many other Airstream promoters out there, and Airstream Life magazine sponsors this silver celebration at the Airstream factory in Jackson Center, Oh – just 52 miles from our house!
We were scheduled to help our NOVA club work parking detail, and rushed to set the Silvermine in place in the generator lot, and head down to report for welcome duty. Lou, Larry, and Terry were hard at work directing the steady line of Airstreams to parking positions in the 3 amp lot or the generator lot.
Parking was in high gear all afternoon, and many times when the gator was busy, Tom would hop on a bike to lead new arrivals to a site.
The greeters kept greeting, and those silver rows kept growing.
By Friday there were 177 Airstreams settled in for the weekend events, parking detail was mostly over, and it was our turn to walk around and view the assemblage of Airstreams. Here are some of my favorites:
Every afternoon happy hour kicked off in the main tent, followed by a roving happy hour where different Airstreams displayed a green flag inviting people to travel around and mix and mingle. Our NOVA, the newest WBCCI unit, hosted a well-attended event, passing out drinks, treats, and some NOVA promotional items. Picking up 6 new members and renewing another member is an indication that our NOVA group is filling an important need in the WBCCI market!
A new event for this year was the back-up derby where a driver and assistant navigated a U-Haul trailer through cones and into a parking space, competing for the best time. Some teams showed real backing talent, and some displayed the need for practice!
Our Silver Family team of Al and Shinim Cutcher proved they know how to buck a rivet with the best of them, finishing in a tie for 2nd place in the riveting contest. Aside from being a practical Airstream skill, it has allowed Shinim and Al to fancy up the inside of their Airstream with some extra silver additions.
Combine everything trailer trash with comedy and music -- and you have Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours! With such songs as:
"Living in Aluminum"
"Trailer Park Princess"
"Trailer Park in Heaven"
"It Ain't Home Till you Take the Wheels Off"
Antsy had the audience in stitches for over an hour at the Saturday night get-together. I've still got those songs twangin' through my head, and the only cure is to go online and order a CD!
With all that silver camped in one field, you might think it would be hard to find the right trailer at the end of the day. Not so! Lou Woodruff, has created custom designed and stitched signs to display on the outside of the Airstream to help lead you home at night! Thanks Lou!
That doesn't even begin to do justice to Alumapalooza 3! Being a part of the parking staff was a great opportunity to enjoy the event by feeling that we were a special part of helping to make it all happen. Next year can not come soon enough!
A race day weather report predicted we were on track to be the hottest race ever. This didn’t stop Tom, Micah, and Caleb from starting the day at 9:00 am for the annual tramp to gasoline alley and a quick kiss of the strip of bricks.
Down on the track, nobody was preventing pedestrians from the pit area, and the boys grabbed a golden opportunity to stroll down and absorb some prerace preparations before heading for our seats.
A word about our seats; they are prime seats on the very top row (RR) of turn two! We have been there for at least 20 years, and there is nothing not nice about those seats – except the climb up! Doubly so for Micah, who works out all year long so that he can heave Caleb up on his back and haul him up to his seat!
A bit more about that weather prediction! At one point in the race, the radio announced that the temperature, at 93 degrees, was being declared the hottest race on record! Later, that pronouncement was retracted! I am not going to quibble about a couple degrees and will just say that it was plenty hot! The track temperature was reported to be 138 and going up! On top of row RR we were in the shade for all but the last hour of the race, and the breeze was constant and cooling.
We enjoyed all the prerace ritual and pageantry: the parade of the old-time cars, a tribute and procession of our armed services, “Back Home Again, in Indiana” by Jim Nabors (recorded this year because of health conflicts), The National Anthem wonderfully performed by Martina McBride, and a delightful prayer that included all spectators several times pronouncing “AMEN” right on que; just like an outdoor revival! Oh, and we also suffered through “God Bless America” by Florence Henderson – she needs to get on key or give it up!).
Finally, the drivers were ordered to their cars and the famous “ladies and gentlemen start your engines” rang out as the crowd stood and cheered. Three parade laps – and they were off.
These were all new Dallara car chaises with either a Honda, Chevy or Lotus engine and there was a lot of speculation on how the cars would perform. There was also concern about how the heat would affect the race. However, once the field settled down it was one of the best races ever for passing, lead changes, and 4 and 5 side-by-side face-offs.
Almost every accident and incident occurred within our view, helping us to easily keep track of who was still in, and who was taken out!
At the end of the race, the two Target cars driven by Dario Frankchitti and Scott Dixon traded leads almost every lap. Right behind was Takuma Sato, and Tony Kanaan who also both took turns leading the race.
But, in the end under a yellow flag occurring on the last lap, it was Dario Franchitti that crossed the line first, winning his 3rd victory at the Indianapolis 500.
Thus ended Tom's 38th Indianapolis 500, and Ella's 34th! As always, Memorial Day and Race Day signal the start of our summer camping; we headed for home with only one day to clean out the Airstream and repack and regroup for our next big adventure. Check back for details of our first Airstream Alumapalooza!
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