Honestly, you can thank Facebook for reminding me of this amazing trip that I took nearly eight years ago when I am first starting to see posts reminding me that this started to occur. It was 2012, several months after my first major Urban Exploration Meetup, since a rather off-putting event in Buffalo, New York. MAMU or the Mid-Atlantic Meetup had been resurrected by DJCraig, who I had met in December 2011 outside an abandoned hotel north of Dayton, Ohio, at a separate UE event VCXPEX. Early in April, I found myself on a twelve-hour drive south, the first time I had ever done such a long drive solo period. At the same time, most of the other explorers at the event were coming from various points in the United States and were planning on staying overnight at a Nuclear Power Station further west in Tennessee. It would also be the first time I had ever been to Tennessee. I set my course south and let fly.
During that drive, I discovered the power of mixing up the media that I consumed during driving, between music, public radio, podcasts, and audiobooks. Not to mention a lot of coffee that kept me going as I drove the long lonely routes. Honestly, having a passenger on long drives these days makes life and drives seem a lot shorter. But I did not have such a partner back in those days. And Heather certainly would not want to do a twelve-hour drive. As I got further south, the weather turned sour as the rain started to run in through the mountains but needing to make a stop for beer, I ended up pulling into Bristol and found a brilliant downtown.
I don’t remember too many details of that first night, but I remember being welcomed warmly into DJCraig’s parents home. And then the chaos happened; the parents were more than happy to join in the celebration making everyone feel welcome as we invaded their home taking up almost every room available, crashing on floors and couches. Not to mention the booze flowing even freely. Despite the amount of alcohol consumed, we all gathered bleary-eyed at a downtown Johnson City Coffee house. At the same time, teams of explorers went to a nearby abandoned cereal mill within walking distance of the coffee house.
After the mill, the group went Nuclear after seeing all these amazing exploring opportunities of America’s failed plan to power the country with Nuclear power at least until Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl. Simultaneously, the Phipps Bend station is far smaller and much less complete than the larger Government Spiders location, which a group had visited back while I was driving down. It still proved an amazing experience. While initially named by the community, Baby Spiders, the presence of many tractors earned the location a new name, Government Tractors. Plus, we got to see the ariel silk demonstration there from our host, DJ Craig.
Despite having a full day and another late night of partying, complete with cracking into the moonshine (because Tennessee), we headed out again with fresh locations to check out on day three. We headed out into the rural areas to visit the relics of the once-mighty rayon industry that occupied whole land swaths. The nice thing about MAMU was that it wasn’t overly intense during the day, and again I did once two locations, well technically one spot but two different buildings. First being a coal power station that once powered the entire rayon plant, and second the burned-out ruins of Unit 3 of the plant. I also learned that, yes, American Walmarts are that crazy, and duct tape is an effective means to sealing up the crotch of your pants if you tear it on a fence.
Easter Sunday and the final day out proved that having a handful of days of luck doesn’t always stay that way. Things went a little sideways. After another night of partying, I took a good wandering around where we were all staying and found a small rural church to celebrate Easter. Today we were heading out to a drain, not exactly my favourite location type, but the region’s scenery was gorgeous. Of course, it was in the drain that things went sideways. Entry was fine, I was among the group that took the boats through the outfall, but another group decided to rappel down. A slip, misjudge, and soon we had someone on the ground having fallen from a height. But this is where the group showed their true colours and executed a daring rescue. And I’m pleased to say that the individual who fell survived and walks still today.
Having realised that doing another twelve-hour drive home would not be a wise idea after such a weekend, I had already planned to do the drive in two days, with a second stop in Bristol to enjoy the downtown and shoot a final roll of film before heading home. Finding a hotel at the midway point to rest up before the final push home. MAMU IV would be my first Mid-Atlantic meetup but certainly would not be my last. I would attend the several more times over the next several years before hanging up my hat five years ago, which ended with the wedding between DJCraig and his lovely bride, a nice bookend to a fantastic event.