The MG was ready to return to her restorer for a 5,000 mile check-up and Indianapolis is one of our favorite stomping grounds. This happy combination resulted in a two-night camping trip to Mounds State Park with a strategic plan to drop off the MG for the day, and then head out on the town for a round of . . . whatever popped up!
We had not been planning on taking Scout the Pomeranian on this trip -- we sometimes leave him home to pal around with Caleb. But he knew the camping preparation routine, right down to the last good-bye, and as we left he slipped out the door and refused to come back. After a brief chase Tom captured him and threw him in the car-- which is what he wanted all alone!
Finally Leaving home at 9:30 we made the trip to Mounds by 11:30 -- me driving the van and towing the Silvermine, and Tom leading the way in the MG. That view never gets old going down the road!
With campsite chosen, set-up complete, dogs walked, and lunch over, we couldn’t resist taking some pretend pictures of the MG and pulling the Silvermine; two classic Icons!
Then, we kicked back to read and rest under the trees. My recliner is a relaxing "0-G" experience; when Tom was ready to go horizontal he retired to the Silvermine!
From my laid-back position I saw a little 21' Airstream enter the campground and choose a spot several rows over. We're always ready for a meet and greet with Airstreamers, and we added that intent to our agenda. Although I stalked that Airstream for two nights I never was able to meet up with them.
Well rested and hungry we cooked lamb steaks for dinner, walked the dogs, and set out on our bikes for a ride to see the Indian Mounds. We have seen them many times before, but the trails to view them make for a beautiful evening walk. The bikes got us several miles to where the trail led through the woods to the mounds without having to drive the car, and then we locked up the bikes and followed the footpath through the woods to the Great Mound.
The Great Mound is believed to have been constructed around 160 B.C. It is a circular earth enclosure measuring 394’ with an internal ditch and south to southwest entrance. The 9-foot-tall embankment is 63’ wide at its base, and the ditch is 10.5’ deep and 60’ across at its top. The central platform is 138’ across and was occupied by a 4-foot-high central mound’ feet in diameter. Got all that???
Hiking back to our bikes, and then biking back to our campsite, we were pleasantly tired as the sun went down. Showers at the bathouse were good, although I have to say that mine was a little warm, and I was not able to cool it down as much as I would have preferred! I don't think too many people complain about the water not being cool enough at a campground shower!
Tuesday morning we delivered the MG to Bob Connell's and Tom spent some quality time with the shop boys going over the finer details of her first four months back home. There were a few adjustments to make, and lots of good 'ole boy MG talk and some boy bonding under the dashboard.
Scattered around the driveway and workshop were several MGs working on their own restoration. It was fun to look and to know that Tom's MG had already been through that long haul!
A loose agenda for the day allowed us to pick and choose the shopping we wanted to do and the sites we wanted to see. Jungle Jim's, Gander Mountain, Recreational Equipment Incorporated, Dick's Sporting Goods and Hobby Lobby rounded out the shopping . . . with no major purchases.
Then we saw a sign we had never noticed before for Fort Harrison State Park -- right in downtown Indianapolis. We checked that out to find that it was a beautiful preserved Citizens Military Training Camp and World War II prisoner of war camp transformed into a State Park -- but alas there were no camping facilities. We had hoped to find that it might be a nice setting for next year's trip to the Indianapolis 500.
By late afternoon we were back at the campground, where Scout and Charlie had been enjoying a private camping experience in the Silvermine. They were ready for a long walk and we were ready to cook supper before ending a looooooooong day.
Wednesday morning we were up early and heading for home. During the drive home on the interstate Tom managed to stay dry with the top down in the MG as the rain skimmed above his head. However, when we got off the interstate he had to pull over and hustle around to put the top up!
We have one week to repack and prepare for the 150th Anniversary at Gettysburg!
Raccoon Holler was the location of Rob and Trisha Ritchie's R-Pods & Friends rally in Glendale Springs, North Carolina, located less than ½ mile off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drive to get there is on narrow, winding, North Carolina roads, smack dab in the middle of Christmas tree country where trees in all stages of growth cover the hillsides. It is a splendid location for a rally and the campground is outstanding with its amenities.
The story of how we were invited to this R-Pod rally goes back quite a few years. Tom and I started our rally days with TAB campers and continued for over 7 years. When sister Johanna purchased an R-Pod she invited us to R-Pod happenings, and we invited her to TAB gatherings. Likewise TAB owner Sharon Sigmon was welcomed to hang out with her R-Pod-owning cousin Rob Ritchie, and visa/versa. When we made the move to the Airstream we joined one of the biggest rallying organizations in the world, but continue to rally with our former camping friends. Indeed, most such casual groups of campers have an open-door policy that is not limited to a specific trailer brand . . . it is more about lasting friendships that are formed around the campfire!
This rally started as we left Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains (see previous post) and met up with Johanna at the Interstate split of I81 and I40 outside of Knoxville. Three hours later we arrived at Raccoon Holler where we were welcomed by Trish and Rob and a few other early arrivals. The Richie welcome was an amazing little glamping bag with custom embroidered towel and potholder made by Rob on his new embroidery machine!
We set the Silvermine up at the end of the loop road and the Tink 'R' Pod and Tink set up in her customary space right beside us!
Through the trees to the back of us was Sharon Sigmon in her Coffee Cup. Earlier in the year I had been on a journey with her to pick up her new camper, and now I was with her on the Maiden voyage of the Cup. Sharon keeps a blog on the Coffee Cup and you can view it here:
Sharon's Coffee Cup.
Through the trees on the corner side was Rob and Trisha in "Pod." They established a headquarters with a signboard that was updated frequently, and a cozy, fully enclosed visiting porch. The rally centered around that central site, and it was always a meeting point! They also blog, and have lots of details about this rally and all of their adventures: R&T's Podding Blog.
Over the days we were joined by 16 campers. Final tally: 13 R-Pods, 1 TAB, 1 Scotty and our Airstream. Throughout our stay there was a regular procession of people coming from the surrounding area to see all the cute little trailers. Many stopped to visit and for tours.
One of our favorite places to visit when in the area, is the Shatley Springs breakfast buffet. Served family style, once you sit at the big table the food doesn't stop coming: eggs, bacon, ham, red-eye gravy, sausage and biscuits, baked apples, pancakes . . . . It all comes out of the country kitchen in a steady stream.
Above is beautiful Shatley Springs restaurant and gift shop, and below is our group (minus Tom who took the picture) lined up and ready for the breakfast feed.
The rest of the meals at the rally were all camp meals. As you can see, we eat pretty good when we're on the road. Chicken, grilled corn-on-the-cob, roasted onion, and potatoes one night. . . .
Saturday night was the greatly anticipated pot-luck dinner. Don't even think of having a rally (even an "un-rally") without a chance to share the grub and pass by the food table!
The rally was worth the 12-hour, 630 mile to get home. Tink followed us out of the mountains and back to Interstate 81, where we left her at the I40/I81 split. I'll leave you with a picture of Tink and I -- wearing our "sister" shirts!
Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a family favorite, since I was a girl growing up and since Tom and the boys and I have been dropping in. The Little River pours through the middle and is sometimes so full and loud that it is hard to hear anything but the roaring water. During this early June, 2013, visit to view the synchronizing lightning bugs, the river was as full as we have ever seen it!
Backing up a bit: last year in Elkmont we met Laura, who was traveling in a Little Guy teardrop, following along with her family who traveled in Airstreams. Coincidentally, the family hails from Ohio! Laura looked at our 16' Silvermine, and decided that was just right for her and traveling poodles Lobster and Spot. Long story short, we kept in touch as she conducted a search for her dream trailer -- ending in the purchase of a 2004 CCD 16' Bambi Airstream. Thus, Laura spent this past winter preparing her trailer, Lucky Penny, for the family's annual trek to Elkmont Campground in Tennessee. We made plans to meet up again with Laura during the annual firefly event. I was in our campsite with camera in hand as Laura arrived on her inaugural trip. On this first trip out she had been severely tested by pouring rain but arrived successfully and backed it right into her camp site!Photo "borrowed" from the Internet
Every year in June the Elkmont Campground in The Great Smoky Mountains lights up with fireflies flashing a synchronized light show. Synchronous fireflies are uncommon in North America and were just "discovered" in 1994, although locals have enjoyed the entertainment for decades. A Georgian Southern University professor studying Asian synchronous fireflies was amazed to find them right next door in Tennessee. The fireflies of Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the only species in America that synchronize their flashes; sometimes flashing in unison, and sometimes in waves across the mountainside!
This was another prime reason for our trip to the Smokys; one that we had been looking forward to since last year’s unconvincing visit when we hit the winding-down portion of the two-week firefly show. This year we were hoping to view more of the synching exhibition.
The show takes place adjacent to Elkmont Campground, and the road leading back is blocked off to regular traffic. Unless camping on location, visitors must catch a trolly from Sugarland's Visitor Center (7 miles away) to be dropped off at the viewing spot.
Walking from our campsite with rain gear and flashlights about an hour before dark we chose a location with a direct view into the forest undergrowth. The wide trail was packed with people, many sitting in lawn chairs. Very slowly the show started with a single flash of a lonely firefly. Minutes passed before another firefly joined in. Then another -- but there was no synching in the beginning. As the fireflies woke up we could see that they were harmonizing in short bursts of 5-6 flashes before going out completely for a few seconds. Before long, the twinkles picked up a rhythm that slowly morphed with flashing variations and wave formations.
Fifteen minutes into the display the very light rain changed to a down-pour and we began the walk back to the comfort of the Silvermine. It was dark, and even with flashlights we stuck to the paved road, not trusting the steep and rocky footpath. The temperature was perfect, and we thoroughly enjoyed the walk in the rain!
For the remainder of our 3-day stay our campsite in G loop was situated pleasantly among tall trees close to the river. Lack of electric or water hook-ups added to a primitive feeling. Our luxuries were not neglected as the Airstream had on-board water including enough for a shower, and our battery power for lights and microwave use could be easily recharged by generator. Nice bathhouses were scattered throughout the campground. Our little Sportbrella Sunshade was all we needed for shelter in case of rain.
After 4 nights at Elkmont, and half-way through our trip, we left on Wednesday morning to meet up with sister Johanna (Tink) to travel to Raccoon Holler in Glendale Springs, North Carolina. Tune back in to read about that delightful rally.
Our reservations at GSM did not begin until Sunday night, but we were ready to go Saturday and wanted to spend a night at Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky. Arriving by 2:00, we set up camp and went out to view the falls dubbed the "Niagra of the South." The falls span 125 feet and plunge 7 stories into a gorge. They were as beautiful as advertised with wonderful hiking trails leading to the top or the bottom of the falls for viewing.
During a full moon the mist of the falls creates a unique "moonbow" that is seen nowhere else in the Western Hemisphere, and on clear days a rainbow can be seen at the base of the falls. A moonbow calendar is published with best viewing days blocked out by the month!
Historic Dupont Lodge features mountain stone construction on the outside and solid hemlock beams, knotty pine paneling, and massive fireplaces on the inside.
Cumberland Falls was a one night stop-over on our way to the Great Smoky Mountains. This stop is definitely worth the time if you are ever in the area of Daniel Boon National Forest just off of Interstate 75 a few miles north of the Tennessee/Kentucky border.
Alumapalooza rolled around this year with one full year+ of camping under our belts and with us feeling like we were experienced streamers. We had down all the procedures, had expanded our gear, had read all the books and magazines, and had logged over 11,000 miles since our first Alumapalooza. This year when we showed up to help Lou and Larry Woodruff with parking detail we were . . . . veterans.
I headed out alone for the one hour drive to Jackson Center with Tom to follow in the MG after school on Tuesday, May 28. Arriving at 8:00, the gate was set to open at 9:00, and I was 6th in line for parking. Welcomed by good friend Lou, my objective was to quickly set up in the generator lot and head over to the gate to help Lou and Larry Woodruff with welcome, gate and parking duties.
On the first day, there was a steady stream of Airstreams flowing through the gate. Lou and I greeted each unit getting information about their parking preferences. Our offerings were for 3 amp electric, part-time generator, or full-time generator. Riding the Gator cart, Larry and Tom would provide escort to a marked parking spot, filling in row after row of silver trailers. Working the gate was fun, because most arrivals were tickled to have arrived!
Busy volunteers provided each trailer with water and electric hookup and offered assistance as needed.
The big white entertainment tent, and smaller vendor tent, were the focus of 5 days of events and in short time they were surrounded by Airstreams.
Working the gate didn't allow our crew much time to attend events during the first few days. But, nothing made me feel more a part of this big 'palooza as being able to meet and greet everyone that attended! It was a steady stream of happy campers, each with a story to tell of where they were from and how they got there. I lost count of the number of drivers that were beaming from ear to ear on their very first outing in their new-to-them Airstream!
After several 14-hour (or more) volunteer duty days, some of the staff got a little slap happy. Here are some of the boys showing the never-ending good-will of Airstream volunteers!
I did not get many pictures of the parked trailers showing the famous silver line-up and my individual favorites. It was all there -- I just didn't have time to do the walk-around with camera in hand. Here are a few that I quickly snapped.
Not to make excuses, but I really did not do a very thorough job of documenting Alumapalooza 4; I was a bit busy at that gate! So, I am going to suggest that you visit Rich Luhr's blog. Rich is the Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine and the organizer of Alumapalooza. His blog, Man in the Maze, documents the events that took place on a daily basis. Click here and search the archives for the end of May and beginning of June: Man in the Maze
Tom and I leave tomorrow morning, in about 8 hours, for the annual firefly synchronization in Elkmont Campground in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Then we again link up with sister Tink and head over the mountains into North Carolina for an "R-Pod & Friends" rally at Raccoon Holler! Stop back by in a week to catch up on the details!
Tony celebrates 1st 500 win!
Every year as we prepare for the Indy 500 each fan in our little group chooses a driver for the win. Tom, Micah, and Caleb compare practice and qualification speeds and keep informed about engine performance and other such vital indicators and then choose their winners based on the facts! I tend to stick with my current fave year after year – through thick and thin. With Tony Kanaan as my current chosen driver, I have seen some good runs, but have never won the pool -- with a whopping pay-off of $1 for each participant! Arriving at the track in 2002, Brazilian Tony Kanaan experienced a notable streak of bad luck for eleven seasons, before winning the 500 this year!
Our stadium is empty at 10:30 a.m.
At 5:30 AM the cannon booms on race day announcing the opening of the track gates. An advantage of camping in the parking lot across from our seats is that we can all sleep late and leisurely head out without the hassle of the legendary traffic snarl. For Tom, Micah, and Caleb, this means leaving the camper at 8:00 to visit the strip of bricks on the track, call on the drivers in the garage area, and stroll through other areas of the famous speedway. Tink and I choose to spend a slow morning of preparation in the parking lot followed by a quick walk to the track – putting in an appearance at our seats by 10:30.
From our seats high above is a view looking across the track towards the infield. Behind us is the Silvermine in the parking lot, as seen from our seats. In case you can't see her in this picture . . . . . .
. . . I zoomed in for a close-up view!
From my seat, through my telephoto lens, I was able to see Tom, Micah, and Caleb as they left the infield and crossed under the track tunnel, on their way to join us in the stadium.
Every year I anxiously await their climb to the top. Micah works out all year long on a stair-stepper machine to keep in shape so he can help Caleb to the top. I stand at the top of the stairs and try for several pictures on the way up!
And once on top, I give Micah a chance to rest for a minute and then take the annual, traditional picture of my three boys!
And, here we all are -- me with the boys, and Tink, whose seat is right in front of us.
As the cars made their first parade laps, everyone stood up. Tom and Micah each put a foot on the seat and lifted Caleb up to sit on their knees for a good view.
Here was our view of the cars coming out of turn 1 and the short shoot, and into turn 2!
It was one of the most exciting races that we have ever seen -- a day of records!
Hometown boy Ed Carpenter was on the pole -- the first American-born pole-sitter since 2006, and the first owner/driver to sit on the pole since 1975.
For the first time since 1987, two drivers in the field entered the race attempting to win a fourth Indianapolis 500 -- Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti.
The average speed of the race, 187.433 mph, was the fastest Indianapolis 500, breaking the record set in 1990 by Arie Luyendyk.
There were a record 68 lead changes and 14 different leaders!
The race boasted the most cars running at the finish (26), the fewest caution laps (21), as well as a 133-lap caution-free segment from lap 61 through 193.
All of this added up for one exciting race. Up in turn 2 we were in on all of the action.
Saturday, the day before the race, is the annual autograph session of the Indy car drivers. Lined up in racing order, 1-33, there is one mad hour where the fans brave the lines carrying a variety of collectables for autographs. The whole process starts at 7:00 when those holding a bronze badge pass (Micah, Caleb, and Johanna) are allowed into the track an hour early, running to be at the front of the lines. At 8:00 the rest of the fans (Tom and Ella) are allowed in and fill in the remaining positions in the lines. The front row diver line is usually closed by 9:00 (when the drivers make an appearance) and Micah and Caleb and Tink were at the front of it.
Years ago I was able to work my way towards the line-up of drivers as they sat at their tables and take some pretty good photos. Now those tables are guarded and it is not easy to reach a good vantage point for taking pictures. But here are some pictures I managed to get of the drivers.
After being at Lake Haven Campground in Indianapolis for 7 days, we packed up and headed track-side on Thursday before the race. With the strategy of packing and hooking up the night before, we arrived at our P3 parking lot by 8:00 and were able to lay claim to a couple of prime spaces up close to 16th street – in full view of our race-day seats!
With Micah to help me, set-up was a breeze – until we plugged into the massive generator for electricity. Micah saw corrosion on both the cord outlet and the Airstream power receptor. It appeared to have been “fried” and there was no way we were going to risk plugging in. Enter “The RV Medic” – a rescue truck that makes on-site visits to ailing camping trailers! They came completely equipped to rewire the trailer and the electrical cord, and had us up and running with electricity before lunch.
Thursday afternoon practice and qualifications for the Firestone Freedom 100 Indy Lights race were underway at the track and admission was free! Those that wanted to attend had only to step out of the trailer and cross the street.
The next day, Friday, was an important day in many ways: Indy cars had their final practice for the 500, the Firestone Freedom 100 race was run, the Pit Stop Challenge contest was conducted, the Coors Light Carb Day Concert featuring Poison was held – and at 11:30 p.m. Tom and Caleb left Van Wert to join us for race-day weekend, arriving at 2:00 a.m.
Here are some pictures taken inside the track as the Speedway gets in high gear for race day.
Check back in a few days to see the conclusion of our Trek to the Track!
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2018 25' Airstream Serenity with Salsa interior and front twin beds., 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