South Bend, IN

OK, so I didn’t really get much of the work done today that I said I would. From now on, I’ll have to stop saying publicly what I mean to get accomplished. You might start to get the impression that sometimes I blow off work and go do something more interesting …

Today was work of sort. I had an obligation to go to Elkhart to the RV / MH Hall of Fame to appraise a trailer that is to be donated. Yes, even the RV industry has a Hall of Fame, just like all the major and minor sports categories. I hadn’t been there since 2005, when they were in a much smaller facility, and it was nice to see how the Hall of Fame has grown, despite some serious financial challenges in the past couple of years. I met with Al Hesselbart, the facility’s historian, and spent about an hour browsing the collection of vintage RVs from the very early tent campers of the 1920s through the motorhomes of the 1970s. (By the way, there’s overnight courtesy parking there if you need it, right off the Indiana Toll Road.)

After that, Charlie led me to the incredible Tippecanoe Place Restaurant in the old Victorian district of South Bend, just for a quick look at the interior. It’s a large 1880s stone mansion reminiscent of some of the eastern Vanderbilt homes, resplendent in carved oak and fine craftsmanship. Absolutely beautiful, and well worth a visit. It was the home of the Studebaker family for over 40 years.

Studebaker, if you didn’t know, was based here in South Bend, and at one time employed 21,000 people on an enormous factory campus with over 150 acres under roof. So our next stop was, of course, the Studebaker National Museum, just around the corner. It’s a pretty nice example of a single-brand car museum, with about 70 drool-worthy cars on exhibit at any given time. For eight bucks it’s a decent deal for any car buff, or anyone who appreciates industrial design.

We’ve never really explored South Bend on our prior visits, so this is the first time I’ve had a chance to appreciate what the town has to offer. It has many small and large legacies of its industrial heyday scattered around, from Victorian homes to city parks and museums. Of course, not all of the legacies are good — in many places you can see the slow slide into urban decay as major manufacturing continues to depart, either from being exported overseas or simply driven out of business.

Yesterday I got out to Lowe’s for some materials, and spent about half an hour building a little deck from 2×2 and 1×4 boards and a bunch of wood screws. The deck is about 3×4 feet, and will be placed at the entryway of the Airstream this summer while it is parked in Vermont, to provide a place to put shoes and reduce the gravel that gets tracked into the trailer. We started carrying a miniature 1×1 ft. version of one of these decks last summer and it has proven very useful for muddy spots (much better than the entry mat, which just gets wet), so the one I built is just an expansion of the same strategy, for our long stay.

Tonight we joined about 20 of Charlie & Lynn’s friends and family at Moser’s Austrian Cafe, in nearby New Carlisle IN. I don’t know why we were in a small and obscure downtown German cafe, out of all the places we could have gone, but it turned out to be a fine place to have a celebration. In this case, the celebration was sort of a combination of themes: their anniversary (which was months ago, apparently), and their impending departure to Minnesota, and I suppose our mutual general love of Charlie & Lynn. At least, that’s how it looked to me from the many happy faces. Whatever — we were gate-crashing strangers to nearly everyone there and had a great time anyway, which says something about the kindness of their family and other friends.

Saturday we will head out to Jackson Center. I’m looking forward to Alumapalooza, because we will have hundreds of people with us having a great time. I’m dreading Alumapalooza because I’m partially responsible for those hundreds of people being there, and I want to make sure that they have a great time. If you’ve ever thrown a party for 440 people, you know the feeling. The work starts immediately and I won’t get a chance to relax until Sunday June 5. (sKY:: and ~slaDE, I may need a little yoga therapy mid-week!)

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine