Tuesday, Oct 23
In preparation for this next trip, I made the kids new matching blanket PJ’s. I have to start with this picture of Jasper and Charlie Button sportin’ their new duds . . . Jasper is still getting used to the idea that he has to play dress-up!
For the past few years we have celebrated fall colors with a trip to our favorite Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mts. National Park. . . . sometimes with friends and sometimes by ourselves. As we started planning this year others jumped on the wagon, and we ended up with a total of 5 Airstreams on board -- all arriving on a different schedule!
For us, good trips seem to always start with an overnight to East Fork State Park to see Micah, and that’s how this trip – our last big trip of the season – began.
Tuesday morning we didn’t leave Van Wert without a hitch. . . the trailer brakes did not register as working! Tom fiddled, twiddled, and wiggled all the connections and got a few intermittent responses, but not enough to feel comfortable driving with a 7,000 pound Airstream rolling behind. Problem solved when he turned off/on and rebooted the whole system. We were on our way by 10:00, with one eye on the truck brake-read-out.
We arrived at East Fork to find that there were very few sites (out of over 450) left on this – a Tuesday night. Most of the sites were paid for and “reserved” for the whole week although they wouldn’t be occupied until the end of the week -- the big Halloween extravaganza. We did find a nice spot and by 2:00 we were set up and taking the dogs on a long walk. By 3:30 we were sitting in the bright sun -- which felt wonderful in the 55 degree temperature.
At 5:00 we left to pick up Micah for his birthday dinner at the Hofbauhaus Restaurant downtown Newport, KY, on the river. Always our first-choice place to celebrate, we love the food, the atmosphere, the live entertainment, and the beer.
This time of year the campground gets dark quickly, and once the sun disappears the chill really sets in. The full moon was great to light the way for a last walk for the dogs, but it did nothing to generate warmth. Tom set the heat pump for 63 degrees, and it worked well as we settled into evening entertainment . . . and all night long.
Wednesday, Oct 24
Up at 8:30 – off at 9:00: we worked our way across the Kentucky border, and then left I-75 to angle West to General Burnside Island State Park –the only Island State Park in Kentucky! A beautiful (and mostly empty) campground, 18-hole golf course, and a marina that is currently non-functioning -- it was peaceful and just right for a 55-degree sunny day. Our afternoon was much like yesterday – dog walks and time enjoying books in the sun. A steak dinner, campfire, and showers rounded out the evening.
Thursday, Oct 25
Awake at 7:00 it was still dark and we had to kill time to wait for sufficient light to hook up. We only had 90 miles to travel down I-75, across the border into Tennessee, and on to Norris Dam State Park. The road leading back to the campground was narrow, winding, and (luckily) not eventful. The campground sites were well worn, but the bath house had been recently updated. We quickly settled into a site and had some lunch. Later we found that the tag signaling that the site was taken was missing . . . and we had to change sites!
We headed out to explore the area, only to find that there wasn’t a whole lot to explore. The Dam is notable as one that you can drive over. Other than that, the Dam Visitor Center and the State Park Visitor Center were all but shut down, and the town of Norris seemed to be only a meat market, a restaurant, a gas station, and a public school! The sun was not shining today meaning that the 54 degree temperature was not at all tempting to sit outside for an afternoon book session. Supper was frozen left-overs that we had brought with us – easy! As Tom put together a fire, it sprinkled lightly, and that was all it took to chase us inside for the evening.
Friday, Oct 26
These have not been big mileage days for us – today only 60 miles! We arrived at Yarberry Penninsula Campground on Lake Loudon (near Knoxville, TN) by 11:00 and set up at a spacious campsite backed right up to the lake. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating, and the drizzly, damp, day didn’t make much of an appeal for an afternoon outside and lakeside! Instead, we drove through the nearby Tellico Village for a look-see of this beautiful lake-side community. Then, we went on a quest for pine needles suitable for my pine-needle-basketry-craft. The two local craft stores did not stock them, but the parking lot landscaping was full of prime 12” pine-needle mulch! Tom “liberated” two big handfulls of them, and we returned to the campsite where we sorted and bundled the needles into bunches to be processed for crafting!
Really – was that all we accomplished for the day??? Still rainy, drizzly, and wet (no full-out rain showers) we fixed a supper of fajitas, took showers in the local bath house, and retreated to the Silvermine; I watched the John Wayne movie “The Searchers” and Tom worked on mapping next summer’s vacation!
Saturday, Oct 27
The big event today was a camp-side visit by sisters, Johanna and Beccie, and brother, Richard., and a 5:30 reservation at Calhoun’s on the Lake for dinner. These years it doesn’t happen very often where the four of us manage to get together. When I set up this gathering, I pictured us sitting out lakeside in 68 degree sunshine – what we got was 52 degrees, dark sky, wind and occasional dribbles. I did the only smart thing I could think to do – call and tell everyone not to come until 4:00 . . . forget enjoying the campground amenities and head straight for the restaurant! That plan worked out well enough, and by 5:30 we were sitting for dinner and ordering drinks and eats, and enjoying catching up. By 7:30 we were back at the Silvermine . . . where it was still cold and damp!
For those of us that own an Airstream, the factory is often referred to as the “Mothership.” In thinking of when and where I wanted to host a fall rally, this popped in my mind . . . and I began the plans for the “Bring It On Home To Mama” rally.
My contact person for mapping this rally was Tim Maxwell – Regional Director of Sales for Airstream. He agreed to set aside campsites in the Terraport for us and to help arrange some very special events. As rally-time rolled around, I had confirmation of 9 Airstreams -- 18 people hoping to attend!
On Wednesday morning, Oct. 3, Tom and I arrived at the Terraport at 10:00. Tuesday had been a busy day/night for Airstream, and every Terraport spot had been taken. We were glad to see it cleared out by Wednesday late morning, and we hustled around “C” loop staking our claim to a circle of consecutive sites for the rally.
Several others arrived on Wednesday, each with a short list of fixes to be “worked in” at the factory, if able. The fix-it crew (better knows as Factory Service Department) is scheduled solid until January, but having a few quick-fix items to do on a short-term notice seems to fit their work plan. In years of working with Airstream I have never heard of them not bending over backwards to accommodate an owner’s needs. This fact was to be proven time and time again at this rally!
Wednesday evening we gathered outside in circle-groups that grew, and shrank, and rearranged, as people and topics of conversation cycled. Joe, WBCCI historian, headed-up a discussion of round-the-world-trailers. Joe is restoring one, and our NOVA member Dan is also working on one. There were some outdoor theater presentations to test the system and make sure it was in working order. It was an animated group; next door to us was one of the new Atlas Airstreams, and owners Wayne and Jean had no choice but to come over and join in! That’s how Airstreamers make friends wherever they go!
Thursday, Oct 4
I woke to Tom stepping in the trailer at 7:20 and announcing: “They’re coming to get our Airstream for service in 10 minutes.” Quickly we vacated and headed to the near-by “Heidout” restaurant for breakfast. When we texted the group what we were doing . . . 5 more showed up! The Heidout is next-door to the factory, and is frequented by Airstream workers, Airstreamers in for service . . . and the local farmers!
The big rally event for the day was a factory tour by Tim Maxwell. I have always heard that Tim pulls off an exceptional tour – touching on many places that none of us have ever been at the Factory! He lived up to his reputation, and everyone ended up feeling very connected with our Airstream Factory!
Thursday night we caravanned the 7 miles down the road to the Inn Between Tavern. Even at 5:30 the restaurant was crowded, and we opted to eat outside on the patio . . . at the picnic tables . . . with the feral cats! Not a very pretty place, the Tavern seems to host to large groups, and we found the quite of the outside patio a pleasant option to the packed and dark interior.
The evening movie was provided by Larry – “Night of the Grizzly.” It was a documentary-telling of a night in 1967 at Glacier National Park when two grizzly bear attacks occurred within hours of each other in different locations of the park. Aside from being a good examination of the two separate incidents, it also had some very good history about Glacier Park, and it’s lack of bear policy in the 60’s.
As we watched the wind picked up and the temperature dropped . . . but everyone sat out the showing, wrapped in hoodies and blankets and coveralls! Tom also had a fire going in the above-ground fire pit, and several chose to hang at the back of the theater for the warmth of the fire.
Friday morning (after another Hideout breakfast) we drove down the road about a mile from the factory to see the WBCCI headquarters. A small facility, it is comprised of a few office spaces, a work area, and a nice reception area/lobby. The lobby had many nice wall-groupings of Airstream-generated and WBCCI-related pictures and artifacts. While there, several of our members “re-upped” their membership for 2019, and several bought WBCCI swag!
In the early afternoon we had a presentation from Brad Herring, the head of Airstream’s service department. Meeting in the training room where he updates his Airstream dealers in all procedures, he threw out a few topics to get us going – which morphed into a steady stream of questions by the group . . . and answers by Brad. We all left with the absolute certainty that Brad and his crew were dedicated to the Airstream as a product . . . and to us as customers.
Friday night was pizza and a movie. John had obliged by bringing his outdoor pizza oven, and we had a regular buffet line beginning with individual pizza shells and followed by all kinds of toppings. (Sorry I forgot to set the bacon out, everyone.) John played pizza chef while everyone made . . 1, 2, or 3 pizzas!
The pizza fest brought out two high-tech gadgets – thermometer guns for the pizza oven and electronic fly swatters for the flies!
Pizza over and cleaned up we gathered in our outdoor theater for the classic RV movie: The Long, Long, Trailer. Everyone enjoyed the wacky comedy of 1950’s couple (Lucy and Desi) starting married life in a 40+ foot trailer. They go through lots of the newbie issues and the learning curve that we all remember from our early Airstream days. The weather was a bit warmer and without the wind, making an nice little outdoor gathering. Once again, Tom had a fire going in our outdoor fire pit.
Saturday began with a planned power outage at the Terraport. Airstream is in the middle of a big building expansion and updating of their current facility. The good news is that our breakfast extravaganzas don’t require any electricity . . . John fired up his griddle, and he and Tom played chef. On the menu: egg omelets with all the left-over pizza toppings from the night before (onions, sweet peppers, mushrooms, cheese, sausage crumbles) and bacon and sausage links, and french toast! LOTS of bacon and sausage links!
The little German town of Minster was in full-swing October Fest mode during the weekend, and a delegation of five headed over to check out the beer tents. The rest of us sat out the power outage in lawn chairs under the tall trees in the grassy corner across from our campsites -- very warm, but a nice breeze! By 4:30, the power was back on, the October Festers were back, and John had set up a super theater for Buckeye Football. The day had been off and on clouds, but towards evening it looked more and more like rain!
We had one more event before shutting down this rally -- a pot luck/fish fry. Tom heated up the oil pit and cooked beer-battered and breaded fish. Everyone contributed fishy sides -- coleslaw, buns for sandwiches, mac 'n cheese, green beans. As the drizzle began the food line was moved under our Airstream awning, and Tom stood his ground cooking his fish. During all this, the Ohio State game continued under John's Airstream awning. With clean-up everyone disappeared for awhile . . . but returned with fruit pizza, homemade ice-cream, and brownies with fudge sauce.
Tom and I were home by noon on Sunday, and according to our calendar we'll be home for the next few weeks! I am counting on something to pop up that requires us to head out for a few days -- the Airstream has been unpacked, cleaned, repacked . . . and is ready to go!
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