MAMMOTH CAVE / ST. LOUIS

// Day 1: Road

The shades are drawn on our apartment windows and the car is loaded. It is a sophisticated game of Tetris to fit the gear and bags but we are wizards. We have named the car Nigel. We know it is culturally inconsistent with his German VW heritage, but as he literally could be “none more black,” we have decided that Nigel Tufnel, the fictional lead guitarist of Spinal Tap, is a perfect eponym. Also, we don’t hate that our car shares a name with a Wild Thornberry.

We pull out at 10:00am, exactly on time. The day is crystal clear and sunny and perfect and we are jittery with the anticipation of 28 open road days ahead of us. We have exciting read-aloud books and new music and bags full of Trader Joe’s flavored Marcona almonds. It is wonderful to be on the road without being in a rush. The only thing waiting for us at the end of this day is campsite #10 at Mammoth Cave National Park Campground. Campsite #10 won’t care if we are late.

We stop for lunch out of the back of the car just outside of Asheville. Kyle isn’t allowed to bite apples because of his fake teeth so he has to cut his into slices with a knife. I make a point to bite into mine really close to his face.

Around 7:00pm, we are approaching Mammoth Cave National Park. We have gained an hour of time by crossing the time zone border, which is good, but the sky has opened up and the rain is coming down, which is not. Our phones have lost signal, so we hit the Mammoth Cave Hotel restaurant for dinner and hope the rain will have stopped by the time we are done.

It doesn’t stop. We fumble through a tent set-up admirably, and while Kyle tightens up the rain fly, I sop up the puddles of rain water that have pooled inside the tent with a sport towel. The sound of rain against the fly is strangely comforting. We are so glad to be here.

// Day 2: Mammoth Cave / St. Louis

I get a tip from the girl in the women’s showers room that the the one at the end gives you more than just 10 minutes for your token, so I snag that one. Her equivalent in the men’s showers tells Kyle which one has the best temperature control. We don’t know how they know. We surmise that they live here.

Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known underground cave system. Our guided historical tour starts at 9:00am and lasts for 2 miles and 2 hours. It is dark and rocky and bizarre. It is terrifying and wondrous that human beings used to traipse through it with reed torches and bare feet.

By noon we are on the road. The rain has apparently brought winter back with it. It is 57 degrees and windy. I eat lunch with a beanie on.

We are in St. Louis by 6:00pm. Our dear friends Jason and Abby are waiting to host us for the night. It is a fun surprise to learn that they live in the maids quarters of a Victorian era mansion that is magically situated in the central west end of St. Louis instead of in England, where it looks like it belongs. We walk to dinner and stay up late drinking wine and catching up. It is sweet to be with old friends.

// Day 3: St. Louis

We sleep in, knowing that a bed will soon be a distant memory. We brunch, and while we wait for a table we are ushered to the waiting bus in the back alley. We wonder at the concept of a waiting bus and conclude that it is brilliant, especially since inside there is free coffee. We overeat and spend a lazy afternoon in the living room while our tent (hopefully) dries in the yard. Jason and Abby are camping with friends this holiday weekend, so we will be sleeping tonight in the empty house of their friends Liz and Chris. Their caravan heads out around 5:00pm. We have been given a spare key to Liz and Chris’s and instructions to please collect the eggs from the backyard coop before we leave tomorrow.

We hit Target because we are already out of lunch meat and I’ve forgotten to bring a pillow, and then find a coffee shop that can provide sandwiches and WiFi before heading in for night. One last night of sleep on bed before we hit the road tomorrow. Sweet dreams!Thanks for following along!

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