Lap 39

 

Old Man Millerís field was a popular campground, and soon got crowded. This was good, easy money for him since all he had to do was mow the hay, which he took to his barn. The campers certainly made him more money than any cash crop he could have raised. Knowing a good thing when he saw it, Old Man Miller opened a second field across the road, north of the first one. We moved into the new field because it was less crowded and also for Bunkyís sake, because there was no electric fence.

In the early years, we all camped in tents. At first, I just had a small pup tent, and sometimes, like on my trip to the Glen with Kathy, I just rented a tent, or I shared with someone else. I finally broke down and bought a nice big tent that I could even stand up in, which made it much easier to change clothes. I used that tent for years and pitched it at racetracks across the country from Watkins Glen to Blackhawk Farms to Mid-Ohio and, of course, Road America.

The idea of getting a motor home first came to me one day as I was filling up my car with gas in a station next to an RV dealer. While I was pumping the gas into my car, this small motor home pulled in. It was only as tall as a normal van, and seemed to be a bit longer. I wondered how much something like that would cost. With time on my hands, I went in to the RV dealer to check it out.

The salesman took me out and showed me a couple of models, and they were very nice. They had a kitchen area, a dinette that converted into a bed and a tiny bathroom that doubled as a shower. However, you could not stand up in them and they were priced at nearly $30,000 - way out of my price range.

I was somewhat disappointed, but as we walked back to the office we passed a small motor home made by Mobile Traveler. This looked to be tall enough to stand up in and, although suspecting this would cost even more than what we had already looked at, I asked how much something like this would go for. The salesman said, "I could put you into that one for $12,000." I said, "I think you had better show me this one."

The Mobile Traveler was only sixteen and half feet long but it did have enough headroom so that you could stand up and walk around in it. It had a stove and small sink, as well as a dinette that converted into a bed. Across the back was a couch that folded out into a double bed, and another bed dropped down over the cab. There was also a small toilet that doubled as a closet. There was no oven, shower, or water heater, but then, my tent did not have those either. I had to have it.

There was only one obstacle standing between that Mobile Traveler and me, and she was at home with our young son. Liz had worked in the Purchasing Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago as a buyer, and I knew this would not be an easy sell. I told her all about it when I got home and she listened patiently, then immediately nixed the idea with the predictable, but lame, excuse that we could not afford it. I told her motor homes were different than cars because you could finance them over a longer period of time, so the monthly payment would be well within our means. She refused to consider it and would not even go with me to look at it.

The next weekend, we were at a Midwestern Council race at Blackhawk Farms. As married couples do, we had quickly decided which side of the bed, or in this case tent, we would always sleep on. I carefully selected a spot to pitch our tent that, unfortunately, turned out to have some small exposed tree roots under Lizís side. To level these out, I kicked a few other small branches and stones under there. Sunday, on the way home after a restless night and a long day, Liz said she thought maybe we should go look at that Mobile Traveler after all.

It turned out to be a terrific purchase and we got a ton of use out of it over the next several years. One of the best parts of buying it was seeing the looks on the gangís faces when we pulled into Old Man Millerís field with it for the first time.

That pretty much started the escalation. Soon, Bunky and Mary Ann showed up with a pop-up camper. Tom and Cathy bought a used Ford camper van with a top that popped up so you could stand up in it. They soon decided this was too small and bought a motor home a little bigger than ours. They sold the Ford camper van to Jimmy, who used that thing for over 20 years. Jimmyís camper really started to show its age, but it got him to the races and back, and was really just the right size for him. Both Bunky and I drank a lot of beer over the years in that van with Jimmy.

Bunky and Mary Ann soon bought a small motor home too, and after a couple of years upgraded to a larger one, necessitated by their growing family. They sold their old one to Jerry and Judy.

My brother Greg owned a twin cab Chevy pickup truck and soon bought a camper he could slide in the back. As his family grew, he also upgraded and bought a used 26-foot Itasca class A motor home. Liz and I finally sold our trusty old Mobile Traveler to my brother, Donnie, and bought the Itasca from Greg, and so it went.

The motor homes ended our days on Canada Corner, and they did the same with Old Man Millerís field. We decided to move to a campground were we could use the motor homes to full advantage. That meant a place were we had electrical hookups and most importantly, a dump station.

We first went to a campground southwest of Road America called Westward Ho. It was a nice place to camp, but after a couple of years we decided it cost too much and was too far from the track. We moved once more, this time to the Gun Club.

The Gun Club was just that - a sportsmanís club with facilities for trap shooting. They allowed us to camp on the grounds, and even had outside outlets we could plug into. It was close enough to RA that we could hear cars on the track from our motor homes. Conversely, while at some parts of the track, we could hear the trap-shooting from the Gun Club on Sundays.

The Gun Club had a clubhouse with a bar that they opened for the campers on race weekends. That made the bathrooms available for the campers as well. All they served at the bar was beer and soft drinks, but that was enough. Jimmy loved that bar. Since it was a private club, they could stay open as long as they wanted. As long as campers were willing to buy beer, they would stay open, and Jimmy spent many happy hours in there.

Road America now allows camping at the track, and you can even get a reserved camping spot trackside. We opted for the reserved spot for the Champ car races because these were right along the fence. We still go to the Gun Club for some of the other events. It has been years since I have been by Old Man Millerís. I donít even know if it is still open for camping, but we sure had some good times in that field.

Copyright © 2006 by Terry Aasen

 

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