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