Road Trip to the Great Smoky Mountains
Day 2: Champaign, IL to Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
Not so early the next morning, we were back on the road. The sky was gray and the humidity was climbing to tropical levels, but it wasn’t yet raining, so we considered that a win. We headed toward Indy via a network of backroads – the kind that force you to travel single file behind slow-moving trucks. Unless you’re willing to jump into the oncoming lane of traffic to pass, you die a slow death until your exit.
Our stop at REI was a success: Luke got a new pair of boots, I got a really nice camping mug and adjusted my contact lens that was inside out, thus dramatically improving my driving ability!
A few hours later, we were snaking our way through the green, rolling hills of Kentucky. Everything was lush and beautiful as the sun lowered in the sky. We entered Mammoth Cave National Park (for free!) and located our campsite just before sunset. We unfurled our creaky bodies from the car and were immediately greeted by two little girls from the next campsite over. They stood side-by-side like The Shining twins and informed us of an incoming rain shower. Luke got busy setting up the tent, while I started unpacking the Rubbermaid tub of camp pads and sleeping bags. I removed my bag from its stuff sack and began shaking it out. Something foreign caught my eye: it looked like a mushroom was growing inside the hood of my bag. I went in for closer inspection and realized it was petrified, regurgitated cat food.
Sidebar: Henry has a bad habit of eating too quickly and throwing up his half-digested kibble. He prefers to do this on the soft surfaces in our home: the bedspread, the area rugs, and apparently, my sleeping bag.
I haven’t used my warm weather bag in about a year, so the kitty barf had adequate time to fester. Despite wiping the hood down with antibacterial wet wipes, the smell lingered. It intensified with body heat and the stench of cat food filled our tent each night. On the bright side, it made me miss Henry a little bit less.
Back at the campsite: We didn’t have the chance to get food or supplies yet, so we hopped back into the car and drove to nearby Cave City for a bite. We were surprised to find a liquor store because we assumed a majority of Kentucky was dry. WRONG! According to the store’s owner, the residents voted to repeal the age-old law and were now able to purchase and consume alcohol freely and legally. This liquor store opened just two weeks ago. We did our part to promote business by stocking up on beer and whiskey.
After a stop at the best/only Mexican restaurant in town to consume platter-sized burritos, we stopped at a few convenience stores (gas stations) to get some supplies. The evening was capped off by witnessing a minor robbery committed by a gentleman sporting an impressive mullet and high on homemade drugs.
By the time we made it back to our campsite, The Shining twins had long gone to bed (thank God). We built a roaring campfire and drank a six-pack under the light of the moon.