17 March 2009

Roadtrip '09, DAY 6: Travel the Wigwam Way

Tal & Sera's Big 2009 Roadtrip
DAY SIX - Wednesday, 25 February.
Destination: Cave City, Kentucky -- Wigwam Village #2.
Miles traveled: 409.5

Our last morning in the Wild and Wonderful. The plan was to leave by 9:00, and away we went like a herd of turtles at 9:15. Not too bad.

The first stops this morning were our usual spots: the Hawk's Nest overlook outside of Ansted, and then the "old bridge" at New River Gorge, a/k/a "The Grand Canyon of the East", which offers a breathtaking view of the arch bridge. The West Virginia quarter, many of you know, features a view of the New River Gorge bridge, from the vantage point of the old bridge.
Gleck Greetings from West Virginia - 2009!

And the "old route" rejoins the current-day US-19 at the outskirts of Fayetteville, and one tantalizing block from a West Virginia institution, Tudor's Biscuit World. Breakfast time!!

"One of the coolest small towns in America", huh? I looked that up, and it seems to be an honor doled out by a website called Budget Travel.com. I can't judge yay or nay, as I haven't ventured off the main beaten path of Highway 19 into town. Personally, though, Fayetteville meets my standards as a "cool town" for one reason. It has one of THESE:
Rupert (shown parked to the right) pouts outside while his drivers enjoy the good stuff.

Enough said. And breakfast was, shall we say, delightful. Tudor-tastic, baby! If your travels ever bring you through West Virginia, I highly recommend at least one stop at Tudor's. Suspend any 'diet' or 'program' and indulge. God gave us West Virginia, and West Virginians gave us Tudor's Biscuit World. "Start your day the homemade way."

(Where's my check? Just kidding. I think.)

'Till next year (and you KNOW we'll be back)

Full of such Tudor-tastic biscuitude, it was time to hit the road and get ourselves into Kentucky and our wigwam for the night. We had just one more stop to make in West Virginia, and it was the Morton Travel Plaza, just south of Charleston on the West Virginia Turnpike, for some drinks 'n' drainage. Sera got a Starbucks-tastic latte, and I a bottle of DMD.

The pain of seeing West Virginia's welcome sign in the rear view mirror was tempered by what lay ahead. Wigwam Village ... Tunica ... lots of stuff in front of us.

A few miles down I-64 we had to stop for gas, and it being well past noon, a bite of lunch. There was a Pilot at Exit #172, with a Wendy's on-premises. A Wendy's that offered a 10% discount on food if one bought 8 or more gallons of gas. Dude, we're there.

Gas in Kentucky was far cheaper than West Virginia, but a bit steep by Kentucky standards: $1.75/9. I didn't gripe and filled 'er up. And filled us up at Wendy's.

And, tummies full of a Dave-tastic lunch, we then got back on the interstate.

Craptastic highways!

Our path of travel called for us to get on the Blue Grass Parkway west of Lexington, and at Elizabethtown pick up I-65 south for the 45-ish remaining miles into Cave City.

Simple enough, yes, but for a small hurdle: Lexington, Kentucky. That city has the most seriously retarded highway infrastructure I've ever seen, and I live in Savannah, Georgia - so I know my retarded highway layouts. Here's a snapshot of a Google Maps image of Lexington:
If there's a reason for this joke, I have yet to hear it.
Maybe Kentuckians like it. Perhaps they were drunk on Ale-8-One
while planning all this deranged splendor. Or they lacked basic horse sense.

Horse. Lexington. Good gawd on a combo bet, I amuse myself sometimes.

As you can see above, there is no interstate 'spur' route into Lexington, proper. Both interstate highways -- 64 and 75 -- skirt the city at a distance. Now I-95 does pretty much the same thing in Savannah, but at least there's I-16 which puts a freeway-grade road straight into the heart of downtown.

Lexington doesn't have even that, just what appears to be a part-freeway loop (orange lines are the limited-access "freeway" roads, and yellow lines indicate regular surface-level roadways). And that really isn't a complete expressway, either. From where we got off I-64/75 until we were well out of the congested part of Lexington on US-60 toward Blue Grass Parkway, it was non-stop traffic lights, clutter and sprawl that shames Abercorn Street here in Savannah!

There, simply, is no easy and quick route from I-64 and 75 to the Blue Grass Parkway, a direct link to points west, i.e. Elizabethtown, Paducah, Nashville, Memphis, et al.

The only redeeming factor were the horse farms we saw along US-60 west of town. And this castle-like thing my wife spotted from the highway:
It's called the Martin Castle, and supposedly it's incomplete. The story goes, a man who invested in and did well with the coal boom married this woman, and on their honeymoon to Europe she became enamored with castles. Rich hubby set out to build her a replica of one of those castles. Unfortunately, they divorced during its construction, and the castle was never finished. Decades later it sits, unsold. Read more here.

Just before the entrance to Blue Grass Parkway is a Chevron station. It was time for more drinks and drainage. They had Diet Fountain Dew, and - since there wasn't Coke Zero - the missus had to settle for Diet Coke instead.

While in there, I spotted a cooler decked out with the insignia of Kentucky's Soft Drink (or so they say):
Ale-8-One ("A late one", get it?) is a ginger-ale like soda sold only in parts of Kentucky. Sera and I both tried one the last time we were in east Kentucky (our Fall 2006 trip to Pittsburgh), and found it to be a very weak beverage, tasting like watered down Canada Dry. Oh well, to each their own. Kentuckians can keep it. They can sip on one while navigating their mongoloidal highways.

Ice ice, baby.

Once on the "BG Parkway" (which used to be a toll roadway until the construction bonds were paid off and the tolls lifted), we began encountering sights which became commonplace over the next several days we were in this region: heavily damaged trees, broken tops, and beaucoups piles of tree limbs. I'd heard of the terrible ice storm which ravaged parts of Missouri and Arkansas back in January, yet had no idea it extended this far east. Yikes. I feel for those people.


Going back in time, in more ways than one

At Hart County, we crossed into the Central Time Zone, giving us an extra hour. Whoopie. Joy. Rapture.

At Horse Caves we spotted the cheapest gasoline for the entire trip: $1.59/9. At this point, we started scouting out possible candidates for supper. We didn't think Cave City, being small and relatively close to a larger city (Bowling Green), would have much beyond the usual Mickey D's and Krystal suspects. And by now, the last thing either of us wanted was another golldurned hamburger ... nor to have to drive an additional 25 miles into Bowling Green for 'real' food, even if it were to be Bob Evans.

Then we saw the billboard. Cracker Barrel, next exit at Cave City. Hot bediggety damn, talk about hitting the spot dead-on.

It was just before 5:00 p.m. CST when we got off I-65. Yup, there was the Cracker Barrel in all her full Lebanon glory. But behind it was an abandoned location of what used to be a popular regional chain in these parts, Jerry's Restaurant. Love that sign. Love it, I tell you.
If that place were open, that would've been our eating choice. The Gleck Cardinal Rule of Travel Dining goes thus: "Whenever possible, always opt for those eateries - chain, or otherwise - which one cannot get at home."

Although a dead chain, Jerry's has a legacy in the restaurant world: in the late 1960s, they began a spin-off group of 'fast seafood' restaurants which they named ... Long John Silver's.

Golly, such trivia. Just remember who you're dealing with. When it comes to trivia, I'm full of it.

ANYway ... we drove through downtown Cave City toward US-31W (one of several paths of the old Dixie Highway) north of town, where our teepee for the night was waiting. We got there, and let me tell you, it was ever the sight for roadside-sore eyes.

Wigwam Village was a chain of motels started by Frank A. Redford. The first 'village' opened in nearby Horse Caves, on the other route of 31, US-31E. This is Wigwam Village #2. There were a total of 7 in its heyday ... #5 was near Birmingham, Ala. and in operation from 1940 through 1964. It's long gone. Today, only three remain: Cave City, Holbrook, Ariz., and Rialto, Calif.

The big teepee - which used to serve as the restaurant, office and gift shop - was closed, and guests were to check in at the adjacent "normal"-looking house, which served as the innkeepers' residence.

The Wigwam Village was recently sold, and now a family of Indians own the property. How appropriate, right? Well, not really. A motel with an "Indian" (i.e. Native-American) motif was being run by the other "Indians" (i.e. Asian-Americans). Or, as a friend of mine put it, "Casino Indians versus Convenience Store Indians."

The irony of the whole thing had me laughing.

I checked us in, and were given the key to Wigwam number 6.

As we said to one another, as a reminder: "Low expectations." We didn't want to have our hopes up, just in case it turns out to be a nasty place, where we'd have to sleep standing up. Here's hoping.

The idea wasn't to cop a cozy, luxurious Hampton Inn room, but instead to be able to say we spent the night at a genuine roadside original from the early days of automobile travel, the last remaining Wigwam Village east of the Mississippi. I mean, in this economic meltdown, who knows how long this place will stay in business (and, going by the fact that we were the only ones here that week.....). In any event, here was our once-in-a-lifetime chance. We had to do it. And we are.

We drove the little roadway behind the teepees, and parked next to our tent for the night. With fingers crossed, we opened the 'flap'......

Holding the key to our pointy-roofed concrete bunker.

"Hmmmm, this works."

The rooms are amazingly spacious, considering how tiny they look from the outside. Plenty of room for two fullsize beds, with a shower large enough for two consenting adults.

The desk and bedframes all are from day one. All 1937 vintage. It's a very clean and well-kept room. A pleasant surprise. We're happy.

Photo Pow-Wow

While I still had some daylight, I went out to take pictures. I had to get a good shot of the main signage, which dates back to the motel's opening. As I was doing this, I noticed a young boy, maybe 10 or 11-ish, riding a bicycle approaching the backlit (and faded) Coca-Cola sign in the distance. This was the owners' son. He reached down to a power box and threw a switch, turning it on for the night. He then rode over to the base of the main Wigwam sign, and did the same thing.

And with a loud buzz and flicker, her neon came to life! I damn near wet my pants ... it looked beautiful when it all 'warmed up' and cast its roadside siren call, just as it first did 72 years ago.

May God bless the inert noble gas Ne!

Once my wife mopped up all the yellow puddles, we unloaded Rupert and then left to get ourselves some of that goooood Cracker Barrel food. Though not before trying to find another wi-fi location. After a short period of wardriving, we found a spot across from Cracker Barrel, nearby a motel with an unprotected signal (shame on them, heh heh).

Supper, as we'd hoped, was Cracker-tastic. A stop by a convenience store on 31W yielded Sera a Coke Zero, and I a Diet Fountain Dew ... and then it was back to our merry teepee for some television, and a good night's rest.

Our only concern was that we were the only ones here that night. It's a good thing Cave City looked very clean (I love the name -- it even sounds retro!).

Here are a buttload of pictures we took of this place:

And the best part about Wigwam Village?
That's right ... it has a damn ice machine!! (private joke ... just ask if you're curious)

To be continued............

Dead skunks spotted and/or smelled: 2

Bob Evans restaurants passed: 4
Diet Mountain Dews consumed: 5
Number of Ale-8-Ones consumed: NADA!!!!!!!!!
Traffic lights along our route in Lexington, Ky.: 9
Red lights hit in Lexington, Kentucky: 7
Times I cursed Lexington, Kentucky: 7
Times I changed my underwear in Cave City: 4

1 comment:

nettiemac said...

BWAAAAAAAAAAH! I love the Manitowoc at Wigwam Village. Hey, you know I can get a discount on those things if you ever get the urge to send someone one of them.... :D :D :D