My Favorite Road Trip, Part 1…and favorite car entertainment

If you’re lucky, there will be families like the ones we met, and your kids will leave their electronics in the wigwam while they play on the playground, run through the misting station, play games on the sidewalk, and share s’mores with new friends.

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Road trips. Spring break is fast approaching, meaning lots of families will load up their cars and set out on an adventure. Lots of people know I believe experiences are far more valuable than things, and I love making memories with my daughter.

In summer 2015, my daughter and I loaded up in a Ford Expedition with my friend, Mary Ann, and her three kids. Two adults and four kids…in a Ford Expedition…for 10 days. It was incredible.

We refer to our 2015 trip as the Epic Road Trip. I was the driver; Mary Ann was the navigator. Today’s post is about the first part of the trip. I’ll have some future posts about other parts later.

We loaded the car with entertainment, hoping to keep mayhem to a minimum. We started with I Spy Road Game, something adults and kids could play and enjoy. We broke up into teams. Mary Ann and I were a team…a very competitive team…the kids didn’t stand a chance. You can purchase it at Amazon here. It’s playing cards with pictures of objects you can see riding down the road. The player who collects the most cards wins. We also played the License Plate game collectively, trying to see how many different state license plates we could see. You can purchase boards for it at Amazon here. Mary Ann loaded her phone with lots of silly Ray Stevens songs before we left, so we had some goofy music to listen to…the kids were especially amused.

It’s essential everyone stays hydrated, so we had small bottles of water. Kids drink whatever is provided, so big bottles were off limits…too many stops afterward. We didn’t have snacks…too much mess for a long road trip, and Mary Ann I didn’t want to spend our time cleaning out the car at each stop. We would all eat together whenever we stopped…and we tried foods or restaurants we couldn’t experience in Alabama or North Carolina.

Don’t forget hand sanitizer, baby wipes, and garbage bags. A fun hand sanitizer I’ve mentioned before is Maybe You Touched Your Genitals Hand Sanitizer…kids will remember to use it just because of the name. You can purchase it here. Baby wipes are good for any small cleanups. Garbage bags are essential in the car for a number of things…water bottles, paper scraps, used tissues and/or baby wipes, carsickness, and they can be used for dirty clothes.

From Charlotte we drove to Gatlinburg, Tennessee and spent a couple nights before going on to Cave City, Kentucky, home of Mammoth Cave National Park (for more info click here) and Wigwam Village #2 (for info click here). In the early 1900s, seven Wigwam Villages were built across the US. Three remain: one in California, one in Arizona, and this one, which was completed in 1937.

We were going to sleep in a Wigwam.

We arrived in Cave City mid-afternoon. As we approached Wigwam Village, Mary Ann and I got excited. My daughter, however, was apprehensive. She took one look and said, “Mom, please! Can’t we just go sit in the wigwam and sleep in a hotel?” From the road, it was obvious the wigwams had seen better days, but we were determined.

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It was a night we will never forget.

Wigwam Village #2 is set up as a semicircle of white wigwams with a big wigwam at the road serving as the office/gift shop. The open area in the center of the semicircle is a grassy playground with monkey bars and other equipment, plus a misting station.

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We checked in, got our REAL keys (not key cards), parked between our wigwams, and unpacked. We had wigwams #7 and #8, the middle ones. The wigwams are concrete (see photos) with window unit air conditioners and aren’t particularly spacious. They have what seems to be the original louvered doors, and inside, the beds are clearly “antiques.” The bathrooms are basic, but the water pressure in our shower was amazing. However, because of the way the village is set up, we didn’t spend much time in the wigwams, except for sleeping and getting dressed.

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Soon after we checked in, other families began arriving. The family in the wigwam next to us had a daughter about the same age as our kids. Two wigwams down, a lady and her husband checked in with their grandson.

The children played for a while on the playground, and then we decided to check out an old theme park nearby, previously known as Guntown Mountain, but renamed Funtown Mountain by new owners. Sadly, the park was still undergoing repairs, so the only things open were a gift shop and the Haunted Hotel, both at the front of the park.

We visited the gift shop first. It was filled with old toys and a few new things, but mostly, it was junk.

We decided to take a chance on the Haunted Hotel and purchased tickets in the gift shop. At the entrance (see photo), a young man took our tickets. I was the last of our group to enter, and as I handed him my ticket, he said, “Have fun. This is the oldest haunted house in Kentucky, and it ain’t never caught on fire or nothin’.” I thought nothing of it and went inside.11709620_10207224665599785_9102713117535772104_n

We quickly learned it was in disrepair. No special effects were working, and the deeper we went, the passageways became more narrow and darker. It was at this point I started thinking about what the guy had said, and all I could think was “fire, fire, FIRE.”

We were trying to find our way in a dark, narrow hallway, and all I could think was, “If this thing catches on fire, we don’t have a chance.” Right then, I HAD TO GET OUT. I won’t go into detail about the language I used, but we had our phones out trying to provide enough light to GET OUT NOW. Finally, my daughter found an emergency exit, pushed it open, and we all rushed outside into eight inches of mud, but frankly, I DID NOT CARE. Panic over.

*Side note: one week after our visit, “Funtown Mountain” and its Haunted Hotel were condemned. I guess my fears were warranted. Afterward, the owner destroyed the gift shop. See a news clip from 2015 here

When we got back to the wigwams, our new friends were sitting outside and making s’mores over a grill. Children were playing on the playground and running through the misting station. Our kids joined them.

When it got too dark to play, Mary Ann’s kids brought out Beanboozled, a jelly bean game with good flavors (tutti fruity, fresh pear, coconut) and nasty flavors (sweaty socks, vomit, dead fish) that look alike, but you have to chew them to find out which one you have (more info here). The children gathered around and played for an hour or so on the sidewalk while we visited with new friends.

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When it was time to turn in, my daughter was still begging me to take her to a “real” hotel. She wasn’t sure about sleeping in a wigwam. John, the grandfather of one of the kids, assured her he would hear if anything happened, and he’d get there fast. His wigwam was two doors down from ours, and our other new friends were next door, while Mary Ann and her kids were staying on the other side of us. Before turning in, we went to Mary Ann’s wigwam to wait till midnight, so we could celebrate her 40th birthday at midnight. She turned 40 in a wigwam. We sang and called it a night.

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My daughter and I returned to our wigwam and slept remarkably well.

The next morning, we were surprisingly sad to say goodbye to our new friends. We felt as if we’d stepped back in time for 24 hours. It was a brief journey to a simpler time. If you decide to visit Wigwam Village #2, know in advance it’s not a luxurious experience, but if the people are half as nice as the people we met, you’ll have a great time. More info here.

While I can’t guarantee you’ll have the same incredible experience we had at Wigwam Village #2, it’s worth a visit. If you’re lucky, there will be families like the ones we met, and your kids will leave their electronics in the wigwam while they play on the playground, run through the misting station, play games on the sidewalk, and share s’mores with new friends.

What we learned is that sleeping in a wigwam isn’t just about the wigwam. It’s about the experience of spending time with new people in a simple place.

Our trip continued to Louisville, then through Indiana to Chicago, before driving east through Indiana and Michigan to Sandusky, Ohio. We detoured through one small town in Pennsylvania on our way from Ohio to North Carolina, but that is for a later post.

While so many parts of the Epic Road Trip of 2015 were special (more posts later), we loved Wigwam Village #2 so much, it deserved a post all its own.

Happy trails,

Kelly

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