I wish I could have managed to hold my camera while driving I-80 from Joliet IL to Gary IN yesterday, but I was too busy juggling the steering wheel and the walkie-talkie. The pictures I would have captured would show an uneven concrete jungle crowded with speeding 18-wheelers, bridge construction, sudden slowdowns, and in the midst of it all, an Airstream trying to avoid being smashed from three directions at once and a tiny Mazda Miata cowering in terror, dwarfed even by the wheels of the trucks.
It was a final test for Eleanor, who has borne up well despite 1,900 miles of bone-rattling driving across the country in a ragtop car that has no soundproofing. The I-80 assault was noisy even in the pampered environment of the Mercedes. (I almost had to increase the volume on my iPod, boo hoo.) In the Miata it was a deafening rumble of tanks crossing the desert sands of Iraq, a bladder-loosening flyover of B-17s in diamond formation, and a 7.5 earthquake in Japan, all at once. After nearly an hour of physical and mental abuse, we reached the relative peace of the Indiana Toll Road and pulled out to a rest area, where Eleanor collapsed for half an hour in bed. But she survived, and recovered well enough to drive the last fifty miles.
And now we are here in South Bend, parked on carefully-laid pavers next to an antique farmhouse, surrounded by a few well-manicured acres of grass and horse pasture. The contrast from the noisy, smelly, crowded, and cracked I-80 Death Race Challenge is so dramatic as to seem unreal.
The 34-foot Excella belonging to Charlie and Lynn is parked with us, stocked and nearly ready to go for their upcoming trip to Minnesota. We have been here many times before, and it has always been an oasis for us at the intersection of Chicago, Michigan, and Airstream. We’re ready to relax and catch up on things for a couple of days.
This is great, and crucial, because I am supposed to have the Fall 2011 Airstream Life magazine completed for layout by next Wednesday. That isn’t going to happen, because Alumapalooza makes it impossible for me, but I at least will get 3 or 4 articles in process so that the entire magazine isn’t held up until I return to it. Today and Friday will be dedicated in part to getting a bunch of editorial work done. Fortunately, I have been greatly assisted with this issue by Associate Editor Tom Bentley, and at this writing I am also working to bring another Associate Editor up to speed for Winter 2011.
You may have noticed that photos in the blog for the past week have been of lower quality than usual. That’s because I have been experimenting with using my iPhone as my “point and shoot” camera. It is highly convenient but the photos aren’t great. In particular the iPhone is very contrasty and can’t handle low light at all. It also lacks optical zoom, and any sort of manual control over the image. So when I get to Jackson Center I’ll switch back to the Nikon D90 for Alumapalooza pictures.
We have been granted a huge boon. Five months of awful weather in Ohio have finally broken, just in time for our event. It has rained almost continually and will do so again today, but as of Saturday the sun is forecast to shine — and keep on shining — with very little prospect for rain next week!
Of course, the ground is wet and may not dry out entirely by Tuesday, but we have contingency plans to temporarily park arriving trailers on pavement if needed. Personally, I think we’ll be fine to start using the field by Tuesday or Wednesday. The ace Alumapalooza parking team of Lou, Larry, Terry, Brett, myself, Alex, Charon, Laura, Alice and Tim will all be on site in advance to finalize our parking and utility strategy. Plus we’ve got support from Lisa, Eleanor, Kirk, and several other folks if we need it. So when 100 trailers arrive on Tuesday, we’ll be ready for ‘em. Look for us in the orange t-shirts, bearing walkie-talkies and trying to look competent.
The forecast suggests the usual JC weather pattern next week. It will be damp and cool in the mornings, so you’ll come out of the trailer dressed in long pants and a jacket. Shortly after, the fog will burn off and you’ll be roasting hot in the sun, so you’ll have to change clothes and find some sunscreen. That evening, the temperature will drop suddenly after sunset. At least once during the week a shower will pop up with little warning, too. It definitely is a place where the old adage is true, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a while and it will change.” Keeps things interesting, I say.