Family time

My mom’s from Cincinnati. Irish Catholic. Her parents lived in Mt. Adams, then moved and raised their family in Hyde Park. 

The Ohio River separates Ohio from Kentucky


After nurse’s training in the 50s, Mom ran away to Los Angeles with her girlfriends to live for a year on the beach and sidle up to Catholic celebrities (e.g. John Wayne’s kids) in the communion line. She came back to the Queen City but eventually met my father and they moved to Southern California where I was born and raised. Same house for 48 years now. 

Her beloved brothers and sister stayed in Cincinnati, and the Murray clan is close and so welcoming to their California cousins whenever we visited “back east” growing up and now. Cousins Therese and Tommy met us at Winton Woods State Park on a glorious Monday. We ate and talked and lamented we couldn’t visit longer. Tommy looks just like my brother Mark. Therese is the older sister everyone wishes they had.

My Aunt Peggy is a Sisters of Charity nun (below, left). She lives in their retirement house, slowed a bit, but good for her after a lifetime career as an educator and matriarch of the Murrays. Her friend Eileen has been like a member of the family and is always good for a little razzing about the Reds. 

On the way south, a mere 70 miles away, we stopped in tiny Smithfield, Kentucky tracing Ben’s family this time.

Ben’s grandmother was from here. Her brother, Fielding, was a medic in World War I. Only nineteen, he died as a result of wounds suffered while trying to save a fellow soldier. It was mere days before the armistice. Ben’s middle name is Fielding.

A mere private, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. We aren’t sure if his remains are in there. Maurice, who mows the cemetery grass every two weeks, is married to a Meek, and Ruth has been trying to get documentation on the medal. We told him we’d mail her a print out of what we’d found on the Internet. (They don’t do computers-they know they might be missing out on something, but they’re old fashioned and that’s ok.)

The original Fielding


Alumapalooza – rally time!

Until this week, we had yet to go to an Airstream rally (like a gathering) though they are quite popular ways for like-minded aficionados to get together and see what else they might have in common besides a love of Airstreams. Alumapalooza, in Jackson Center, OH where the Airstream factory is located, seemed just the one for us to check out since it would get us a little bit out into the Midwest (where we haven’t been on our trip yet) and to the factory, where 48 years ago, our baby was born. 

Upon arrival Tuesday, we were escorted to our spot (row 7!) on the factory grounds and got set up. Though it’s not an RV park they arranged to have water and electric hookups strung up for everyone.

The events throughout the week were a mix of social, informative, fun, artistic, mechanical, musical, healthy (daily yoga), unhealthy (daily happy hour) and as much down time as you wanted to check out other people’s Airstreams and visit with folks from all around the country – Canada, New Mexico, Boston, Gulf Coast and some “full timers” for whom the road is home. Since our trip has an end point (likely later this year) we are sort of a hybrid.

Some highlights included a talk about Pendleton national park blankets – history of, etc. Airstream has a partnership with Pendleton for the NPS 100th anniversary this year. And a wool blanket is a great way to warm up your aluminum trailer – get the connection?

Of course the Airstream factory tour was a must do (every M-F at 2pm – open to the public.) No pictures are allowed inside but the company takes a lot of pride in the fact that all of the components are built at the factory (nothing farmed out), they are up to about 800 employees now (from closer to 200 coming out of the recession), and can’t make them fast enough to keep up with demand. The goings on inside are a STEM teacher’s dream – lots of measuring, fitting, figuring, fastening, etc. Making dreams come true. (That’s for the humanities teachers.) Don, pictured at left below, worked at the company for years, most recently in the service center, but loves being a tour guide now.

They had door prize drawings every day and we won twenty Alumapalooza bucks which we applied toward a t-shirt (me) and hat (for Ben). That gift shop did a brisk business. (Wally Byam is the founder of Airstream – his name is everywhere.)

We got to meet the folks behind Alumniarium and Campendium. The latter is a growing website designed to help campers find campgrounds – user-generated reviews and pictures are its heart and soul. I have been entranced by every step Brian and Leigh have taken in the site’s development, so I was and have been very on board from the beginning, working diligently to add reviews as we travel-40 so far! We loved spending time with them (below in front of Wally Byam’s gold trailer) and their friends Adam and Susan, also Elizabeth and Ray, our neighbors Terry, Bernie and Dan, musician Steve and Julie, and Paul who lent us his blue boy (portable waste tank). We also got to spend quality time with Colin Hyde, whose NY shop did some great work on our trailer, and his girlfriend Brenda.

Brian and I found out we both worked at Baskin Robbins-for the same boss-in Glendale/La Crescenta in high school.

There was music throughout the event, both guitars around campfires (well, no campfires allowed) and pros up on a main stage. I did a little ukelele picking and pretended I could play. It’s such a treat to just fake it along a bit and I so appreciated the kindness of the real musicians, especially MJ. 

The sunsets out in the heartland were amazing, even if they were accompanied by noise from the factory (automated system that cuts plywood for interior furniture runs all night). It only rained one day, and cooled down enough at night to eliminate the need for A/C. Thank you to Mother Nature and all the organizers! Until next time!