With both tripometers set for zero at 8:00 Tuesday morning June 24, we shot out of the driveway launching our vacation. One tripometer was to record the total mileage for the trip -- the other was to record the miles on the Silvermine. This is our first trip West in the Airstream and that will make everything new again. We didn't feel as bad about leaving Caleb home, as this time he had Grandma for company . . . and both dogs!
The destination for day #1 was the Wisconsin Dell area and Rocky Arbor State Park -- about 400 miles. Driving out of Ohio and into Indiana on westbound Route 30 we saw lots of flooding -- all the way up to barns and houses. Chicago traffic was not bad as we worked our way up and around to the west side and got on Interstate 90 west. We made our campground at 3:30 and had lots of time to see the area: a stroll on the River Walk, a drive down the River Road, and shopping in the junky stores downtown.
The last time we were here we took an 8-hour boat tour of both the upper and lower Dells, and this time we did not feel the need. Instead, we went back to cook our evening meal -- the first cook-out of the vacation.
For supper Tom brought out the little Biolite Grill that is a cute little cooker using twigs for fuel. It uses thermoelectrics to convert heat from the fire to a stored battery which runs a fan to stoke the fire! If your cell phone happens to be out of battery, you can plug it right into the little battery via a USB port to charge! While you cook. No kidding!
Wednesday, Day 2, we were up early and crossing the Mississippi River at Onalaska, WI by 9:00. we learned that the river has crested five times already -- it usually averages just once a year!
Staying on Interstate 90 as we approached Sioux Falls, SD, Tom asked to see if there were indeed any “falls” to see in Sioux Falls. We usually zip right by on our hurried way to parts further west, but this time we pulled off to take a look at Falls Park. It was breathtaking, and yes, there were falls!
Another two hours had us at Mitchell SD, the home of the “world’s only” Corn Palace. The original Corn Palace was established in 1892. Early settlers displayed the fruits of their harvest on the building exterior in order to prove the fertility of South Dakota soil. The present building was completed in 1921. The exterior decorations are completely stripped down and new murals are created each year. The theme is selected by the Corn Palace Festival Committee and murals are designed by a local artist. Unfortunately, the murals were still under construction for this year! We did get some pictures of the unfinished outside, and the completed murals on the inside.
Our R & R Campground was close to a Cabala's outdoor equipment store, and we enjoyed a quick trip through it before heading to bed.
With 10 days to go before leaving on vacation, Tom and I tripped off to Toronto with friends Steve, Cindy, and Eric. Cindy had researched Glen Rouge Park campground, situated in downtown Toronto and had scoped out other attractions in the area – as well as planning a day trip to Niagara Falls.
Our campsites were lush and green, and you would never know that we were camped practically on top of the busy city of Toronto.
After dinner, and a blasting, brief rain shower, we drove to the old Distillery District of Toronto -- home to many of Toronto's hottest designer boutiques, unique cafes, artisan shops, art galleries, performance venues and award-winning restaurants. We enjoyed the walk through the old-town cobblestone streets, and celebrated our arrival in Toronto with drinks at the Mill Street Brewery.
With a view 1,122' straight down, even those not afraid of heights might need a little help. It took me a long time to grow enough courage to walk out on that glass floor, and I only manged by looking straight ahead. When I sneaked a peak down, my head rocked, and I froze; what an amazing feeling. It took Tom a bit longer to edge up to the brink, but once he did he went for the total experience laying down and sprawling on the floor, posing for a picture. I just wish the picture could show the view beneath him.
I also got a proof of Cindy's walk on the glass -- she told me she didn't look down -- but the picture shows otherwise.
The regular tower viewing areas, both inside and outside, gave a tremendous 360 degree peep of Toronto.
When we were down again I took some street-view shots of the tower.
The tower was next to the Toronto Blue Jay's ball park, which had some very impressive artwork on the outside.
Conveniently close for a final stop of the day was the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada. We saw wonderful wet displays walking through the Canadian Waters, Rainbow Reef, Dangerous Lagoon and Planet Jellies.
We reversed our trip taking the subway back to the Kennedy Station, and driving through the awful traffic back to Glen Rouge, where we planned our next day's jaunt to Niagara Falls.
From our group of five, Steve and Eric had never seen the falls, and it had been over 35 years since Cindy had seen them. Tom and I have managed trips throughout the years with several in the past 10 years. However, it is always a new experience and the view never gets old.
Tom and I left on Friday morning, needing to get back for the final count-down preparations for our upcoming vacation. On Tuesday, May 24th, we head West for three weeks. Check back for vacation updates.
Tom established his retirement on Monday, June 2nd -- his last day of teaching. Finally he is going to start holding up his end of this retirement lifestyle! I’ve been staffing the retirement routine solo for five years and after 40 years of teaching it is time for Tom to step in and take over the joystick. On the weekend’s menu was a rally at Pastime Park in Plain City, OH -- a shared gathering between NOVA and Mohican WBCCI units. For Tom and I it was a celebration on reaching the next milestone of our life-cycle –- full-fledged retirement!
NOVA and Mohican were each represented by 6 Airstream units with some arriving Thursday afternoon and some trickling in the next day. The scene was set for a pot-luck dinner on Thursday, breakfast on Friday and Saturday, and dinner at the Der Dutchman Restaurant on Saturday evening.
After Thursday night's pot-luck, two carloads headed out for the the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Columbus. Tom and I have never been to a comedy club before, and I am not much of a fan of stand-up comedy. But, the featured comedienne for the night was a fellow I had watched (and liked) on America’s Got Talent last season. He finished 2nd in the show, and that of course, gave him some good fodder for poking fun of himself at the start of his act. Taylor Williamson is a nerdy little Mr. Rodgers clone, complete with a little button-down sweater and a cheesy little grin that punctuates awkward comments. I enjoyed him just because I had seen him preform several times.
Friday morning we were visited by our friendly little alien who only seems to appear on the back-side of our trailer when it is facing west. While taking pictures of him, I wandered around the campground snapping pictures of some of the other rigs.
Mohican cooks fueled Friday with a pancake, sausage, fruit, OJ, and coffee breakfast. On Saturday it was NOVA’s turn serving toasted English muffins, Canadian bacon, fried eggs, cheese, hash-browns, fruit and coffee. Breakfast grilling was a snap when Larry set up his big propane griddle and whipped out all of his accessories.
Saturday was a distillery trip for the boys and a fabric/yarn shopping trip for the girls. We all met back at the campground for a lazy afternoon followed by a trip to Der Dutchman restaurant for dinner -- then a campfire.
Sunday morning we lingered a little longer, sitting around procrastinating about packing up and parting. Here are some pictures of some very satisfied Airstreamers!
The ladies even had time for one last crochet conference!
Inevitably, it was time to hitch up and head for home. When you are the first one to leave, there are plenty of volunteers to help hook up!
Since the spring of 1974, Tom, prodded by a college roommate, has made the trek to Indianapolis to witness "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing --The Indianapolis 500. As the years passed Tom gained loyal partners in the month-long sabbatical. First Ella joined in the fun in 1978, then Micah in 1990, Caleb in 1995, and in 2000 Tink became a member of the Brown crew on race weekend. Count it all up, and we have 124 years of experience at the track!
Up at 6:00 am and off by 6:45, we drove the 11 miles to Lot 3P located on 16th Street just opposite of our seats high in turn two. The parking lot had opened at 6:00, and we heard there was a long line to get in -- we drove straight in at 7:30 and quickly struck claim to our piece of pavement (four parking lot spaces!) with full generator service. It didn't take us 30 minutes to settle in and start feeling like we were . . . . Back Home Again!
With our 16' Airstream and 18' RPOD, we are used to being the small guys in the lot, but this row of mammoth motor-homes was almost intimidating!
Only one thing got me out of bed at 6:00 on Friday morning – the chance to be in line to get one of only 100 bracelets for a Meet and Greet with Jim Nabors. Bronze badges got us into the track an hour early (7:00 a.m.) and Tink and I placed 6th and 7th in line, where we stood for two hours to get the bracelets. Then we had a few hours to graze around the track until reporting to meet Mr. Nabors.
This is Jim's last year (42 years!) to sing "Back Home Again" in Indiana, and we will miss this favorite tradition on race day.
At the parking lot the weekend was truly starting -- with the arrival of Tom and Caleb. The Indy experience never correctly begins until the whole family is gathered!
For our 5 prior Indy camp-ins we were the only Airstream in the parking lot.This year we were joined by four Silver Sisters -- including a 2014 16’-twin of the Silvermine! Later we met Becky, the proud owner of her little one-week-old June Bug! Here is June Bug, ready for her first party! (Becky -- we need to talk some more! Have June Bug's people contact Silvermine's people)
By Saturday evening we were down to some serious business. . . a time-honored tradition of choosing a driver to root for during the race. We jockey for position by drawing numbers for choice; Tom always goes last! This year the results were: Caleb, Helio Castroneves; Micah, Will Power; Tink, Juan Pablo Montoya; Grandma, Marco Andretti; Ella, Tony Kanaan; Tom, Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Tom also prepares a written quiz to test our INDY 500 savy. One of this year's questions was especially prophetic:
Q: Who did Tony Kanaan and Carlos Munoz pass to finish 1st & 2nd in the 2013 Indy 500?
A: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Tink, Caleb, and Micah ponder their answers on the quiz!
At 6:00 a.m. race day we are usually blown out of bed by a cannon that signals the opening of the speedway; only Micah heard it this year. One of the luxuries of staying at the track is getting to sleep late for a leisurely stroll to our seats. Although the boys get up and head over at 8:00, I tend to take full advantage of our camping location for a late start. Tink was up drinking coffee and snapped picture of Tom, Micah, and Caleb as they left the parking lot.
They made their customary hike to the garage area, always on the look-out for drivers and other famous somebodies.
Tink and I moved a bit more sluggishly arriving at the bottom of the stairs leading to our seats at 10:30 for a 12:00 flag drop. At this point the stands were very empty, and we had plenty of time to get to the top -- over 100 steps!
Behind us we could zoom in on the Airstream in the parking lot. . .
In front, the track came out of turn one, through the short shoot, around turn two, and all the way down the back stretch.
From our seats we can see a lot of the track, and many of the Speedway landmarks and events:
But, before we can settle down to enjoy all this racing overload, there is one more detail -- getting Caleb up to our seats! Micah trains all year long, 5 days a week, in a program designed to build strength to carry Caleb to the top row on this one day of the year! As Micah prepared to have Caleb climb up on his back, a gentleman came up and shook his hand, commenting that he had watched Micah and Caleb for many years, and that it was one of his great memories each year. Mine, too!
Oh, and there was a little detail about a battle that was to be raced for a checkered flag! The finish was well worth the 4-day investment! We watched 150 laps of caution-free racing while the drivers planned their strategy. Finally, Ryan Hunter-Reay beat out Helio Castroneves (trying for his 4th win) who finally got to drink the celebratory milk in his seventh try. He beat Castroneves by just 0.060 seconds — only the 1992 race had a closer finish when Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds. Here are a few shots of the race, although they are hard to get from such a distance, moving at such speeds!
Tom and Micah lift Caleb up for the final laps. Although we couldn't see the start/finish line, here is a pictures from the internet of what it looked like at the end. Let's hear it for the All-American winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay.
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