Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stone Mountain Park - Georgia

When you think of Stone Mountain, you think of the rock dome near Atlanta. People there like to refer to Stone Mountain as the largest exposed piece of granite in the world. While I cannot confirm nor deny this claim, I can tell you that the "rock" is impressive.

Stone Mountain in Georgia
Another impressive element of that park is how well it is maintained. The grounds are beautiful and well groomed. They should be because this was one of the most expensive parks we have camped in so far. How expensive? Camping here is a $50/night deal. In the world of camping, that is a very high fee.

So, is the rock and the grounds worth the premium fee? We will address that question later.

First, why did we decide to camp at Stone Mountain?
Lots of Airstreams!

This was our first Airstream rally. More than 40 Airstream owners were at this park for the weekend. Since we are rookies in the world of Airstream camping, this was a golden opportunity to pick up some tips and to answer our growing list of trailer questions.

Rosie at Stone Mountain's Campground

One of the first things we learned was the difference between the different clubs sponsoring Airstream rallies. There appear to be two major groups currently sponsoring rallies. The first is the Wally Byam club. This is the group that is behind the big orange numbers you see on some Airstream trailers. The second group is TAC or The Airstream Club.

There are many differences in how these clubs operate. The Byam club appears to be more structured and tends to offer rallies that are planned years in advance. The Byam club also has a dues structure and a national organization headquarters.

On the other hand, TAC seems to be a "no rules, no dues" kind of operation. It appears that anyone can create an on-the-fly TAC group and rally.

The interesting thing is that we met really great people from both camps. People who said that they were members of one or the other were great and helpful.

Rosie at the Rally

This was the first time we traveled with our bicycles. There are many great areas to ride your bikes at this park.

Some points about this park:
  • Many sites have both 30 and 50 amp electrical service
  • RV sites also have water and sewage hookups
  • The park provides basic cable TV service
  • WiFi (slow) is available in the park
  • There is a decent camp general store in the park
  • There is a LP gas refill station in the park
  • The campground is pet-friendly
  • Most sites allow up to 50' RVs.
 AT&T provided decent 3G service in the park. The park's WiFi service was OK as long as you restricted your online activities to reading email and looking at a few simple Web sites. It was painfully slow when trying to download an online newspaper to our iPads.

Since the individual camp sites had full connections, we didn't go inside the restrooms and showers. Judging by the other facilities at the park, I assume that the restrooms and showers are well maintained.

Becky inside Rosie

We learned lots at this rally from Don and Kate and Bill and Kathy, two couples from South Carolina. As camping newbies, we didn't realize the perils of trailer tires. Their point was that if your tires are more than five years old, you are riding at risk when continuing to use them.

Our tires were six years old and outward appearances were that they were solid. Some online research plus a discussion with our Airstream dealer confirmed that trailer tires should be viewed differently from other tires because of the heavy loads carried by them.

Another issue was the brand of tires on Rosie, our Airstream trailer. Our new Airstream friends (Don and Kate & Bill and Kathy) were quick to point out that the Goodyear Marathons on Rosie are not known for their reliability and have a reputation for blowouts under load. This was surprising because I have never had unusual problems with Goodyear tires on my cars over the years.

The tire concern was confirmed when the tire expert at our Airstream dealership strongly recommended that we move to another tire brand that has proven to be reliable and trouble-free. Our new tires were ordered and will be installed next week.

The next point we learned at our first Airstream rally was about hospitality. The lesson learned was to bring extra goodies to share with your neighbors.

Our new Airstream friends invited us over to their trailers for a fish taco lunch (absolutely excellent!) and for a refreshing glass of tea after a bike ride. We now know to pack some extra food and goodies so that we can be better fellow campers.

The third point learned was about trailer maintenance. We want to install a second Fantastic Fan in Rosie. Our Airstream dealer is willing to do this for us, but they need to check our current credit rating before starting this task because their fees for this installation is substantial. Our new Airstream friends told us that many of the major suppliers, including Fantastic Fans, show up at some of the large Wally Byam rallies and perform warranty work plus new installations there.

Speaking of big rallies, I mentioned earlier that there were more than 40 Airstream trailers at the TAC rally and it was amazing to us. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be at a park with 300+ Airstream trailers. We are looking forward to attending more rallies, both large and small.

The fourth point centers around cards. Having dabbled in amateur radio for many years, I am familiar with QSL cards. QSL cards are printed postcards that have your name, amateur radio call sign and other information on it. It seems that many Airstream people also have their own version of QSL cards. We need to print some cards to hand out to our fellow Airstreamers giving our names, email address and our Web page information. (This may refer back to the hospitality thing.)

One of the events at this rally was the Tour of Trailers. My thought on this tour was that everyone brought an Airstream so how different can they all be? How naive since they were all different.

Rosie's Kitchen

Out of the 40 Airstreams there, no two were alike. Several people came in their vintage trailers from the 1950s and 1960s. It was a lot of fun to see the different models and customizations added to the Airstreams at this rally.

Rosie has a queen size bed
On Saturday afternoon, we decided to play a quick game of badminton in the grassy area between the camping roads. While there, a church group arrived and started tossing around a football. One of the adult leaders noticed that we were wearing "Airstream" themed t-shirts and asked if there was some sort of an Airstream function going on that weekend. We told him that he was in the middle of an Airstream rally. Then he asked, "What is it about Airstreams?"

Being new to Airstreams, we are not the best choices to answer that question. Without a doubt, Airstream trailers are one of the most recognizable icons on the American highway. The design and quality of Airstreams are legendary.

My parents had a 16 foot Norris travel trailer while I was growing up under their roof. I have very positive and happy memories of my parents dragging that trailer from one end of America to the other. I bring this up to let you know that I have some history around campers.

The mystique around Airstream trailers is well deserved. They are well designed and constructed. They represent American quality. If you are asking, "What is it about Airstreams?" you haven't looked at one. Once you camp in an Airstream, you know why people get excited about their Airstream trailers.

While Stone Mountain's Campground is nice, it isn't the natural beauty we are finding at many state and federal parks. The best thing about our visit to this park was meeting new friends.

Would we camp there again? Maybe, but it will because of an Airstream rally being there drawing us back.

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