We made pretty good time getting from Ashville back to Tennessee. The rain gradually disappeared, and we found a Cracker Barrel parking lot to park it for the night. We crossed the next morning into Kentucky. Our first stop to break up the drive was at Cumberland Falls, aka “The Niagara of the South”. Entrance to the park is free and it’s an easy, level hike to the overlooks for views of the falls. Fun fact: Cumberland Falls is one of two places in the world where you can regularly spot a moonbow. (The other is Victoria Falls in Africa.) It was a really cool stop.
We continued along the highway and soon spotted a sign that said that the next exit was the site of the KFC museum and original Cafe, so of course we had to make the detour. The KFC Cafe houses all kinds of finger-licking relics and stories about the rise of a chicken empire. The Colonel was a bit of a problematic person, and not just because of the plantation getup. Did you know that he was such a hothead that he was banned from practicing law after getting into a courtroom brawl with one of his own clients? He went back to live with his mama before becoming a millionaire. It was definitely an interesting stop, and we had no idea that that amount of KFC paraphernalia existed in the world.
We continued onward toward Lexington, where we stopped for a beer break in the city’s distillery district and had the best beers at Ethereal Brewing. We knew we liked Lexington when we overheard the emcee reading out the scores of trivia night for teams that had names like “If monkeypox is sexually transmitted, then were none of us are going to die” and “Beer tastes good, but I could sure use some baby formula”. Clearly people there have a healthy sense of humor. We met some awesome ladies/fellow vanlifers afterwards who came to pay respects to our rig.
Our final stop of the day was Louisville, birthplace of Muhammad Ali. We passed a night on the outskirts of the city so that we could get an early jump on exploring the following day. We spent a lot of time in the historic district and on Museum Row, where there are so many cool-looking, old buildings.
But then a jewel-encrusted limousine that was decked out to resemble pomegranate seeds caught our eye. Soon after, a staff member from the 21c Museum Hotel beckoned us inside and told us that there was a free, contemporary museum in the hotel, so of course we wandered in to soak up the eye candy. We were dazzled, and couldn’t believe what a treasure we’d stumbled across.
As we were staring at a blacklight mural downstairs and noticing a door in the middle, another staff member noticed us and said, “You’re wondering where that door leads. Here, I’ll show you.” He led us into the spa and down a corridor that led past a workout area housed in a kind of cave. He then radioed the front desk and asked, “What’s the status on room 101?” We got really excited, like we’d walked into some sort of secret sci-fi experiment. After a long pause, the voice on the other end said, “It’s empty.” Our tour guide smiled and beckoned us to follow, and led us to a secret hotel room that’s located in the basement, and that’s also its own brand of art installation. It felt like the hippest apocalyptic bunker in town, complete with a vintage record player and old pinup magazines. What a treat, and a great way to start our day.
And, because you can’t pass through Kentucky without sampling a little bourbon, we found Rabbit Hole distillery and shared a tasting flight upstairs. Pro tip: time your tasting to when one of the tour groups arrives there as their final stop, you’ll get to eavesdrop and gain a free education about the bourbon distilling and tasting process!
Thank you Louisville for bringing some magic to our day.
It was a short enough drive from Louisville to Indianapolis, where we were headed to have a week’s visit with family. We had a package waiting for us when we got there that brought a huge smile to our faces. Thank you so much @shoplovelights for our new led neon sign, what an amazing job you did!! We’re so thrilled, and the sign really completes our home.
We had a great time after that hanging out with fam and celebrating Vanessa’s birthday.
Although we were headed north, we couldn’t help but make one more detour east when we realized how close we were to Dave Chappelle’s hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. It was a short drive from Indy, and we’d heard good things about the town. Our adventure began at Trail Town Brewing, where we came for the beer and tacos but stayed for the complimentary overnight parking spot that the bartender offered us, complete with prime seats for the free concert taking place that night in the back. We met such wonderful folks, and had a great time making new friends and listening to incredible music. We got to chat with the musicians afterwards and gain a better understanding of the overall Yellow Springs vibe. We were even charmed by Phil and Jane, who (very kindly) woke us up at 7am to give us the boot because they needed to set up their gemstone tables.
We also strolled through town, checked out some shops, and the actual spring that the town is named for. But we mostly interacted with the people, who are easily YS’ best treasures. We didn’t quite know what to expect going in, but what we found was this magical vortex of kindness and sparkle that’s filled with beautiful, authentic souls who welcomed us as if we were one of their own, and who openly shared their stories about their lives. Yellow Springs is like a big, warm hug. We just fell in love with the place, and will easily make a point of going back if we get the chance.
Our plans after we left Yellow Springs were to go straight up to Lake Eerie, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans… An hour into our drive we noticed a leak. We pulled in at an Autozone in Delaware, OH and realized that our pinion seal was leaking and we were hemorrhaging oil. Shane wasn’t able to do an easy fix on this one, so we decided to take her in to a mechanic. But it was Saturday afternoon, and the garage didn’t open until Monday morning. After a quick chat with the Autozone staff, we secured a parking spot in their lot for the weekend and set out to make the best of it.
Delaware turned out to be a cool place. It’s a pretty town that’s steeped in history, especially to do with the Underground Railroad. It’s home to Wesleyan college, which has a small but beautiful campus. And the historic downtown core, a 10 min walk from where we were parked, has DORA, aka the Delaware Outdoor Refreshment Area, where you can take your drinks to go from bars and restaurants and walk around. There’s also one of the nicest Planet Fitness locations we’ve been to that’s situated just outside of town.
Best of all, we noticed some guys having engine trouble in the parking lot on Sunday. Shane jumped in to lend a hand and next thing you know, they invited us on their boat and we spent the afternoon jetting around the party cove. We had such a great time with really good people. Hey, if you’re going to be stranded in the middle of Ohio, this is how you want to do it!
We took our girl into Delaware Automotive Service on Monday, where the guys were fair and knowledgeable. They replaced our seal and got us back on the road by the end of the day.
We’re grateful for happy endings, and for the chance to have explored a cool new place that we otherwise would have missed.
But before we could get too comfy back on the road, we had yet another incident that stranded us in Sandusky. This time, the brake pipe burst, a result of rust buildup, and leaked fluids everywhere, which in turn caused our brakes to stop working. Not our first rodeo, as we had this happen a couple of years ago before leaving Vancouver. We replaced that section at the time, and now it was time to tend to the final section.
Luckily, we were able to limp into a lot next to a Planet Fitness, where the staff assured us that we’d be golden if we parked for the night. (Ohio has certainly been one of the most chill and vanlife-friendly places we’ve been to in the last 6 months). It took a few bike rides back and forth to O’Reilly Auto Parts to get exactly what we needed. And it also took an assist the next morning from the folks at the Firestone across the street, who generously took a pause in their busy schedule to modify one of the pipes for us that was just a little too long.
Oh, the irony of us entering into the States back in December, breaking down, and having to go to O’Reilly for parts, and 6 months later here we were once again broken down and having to fish for parts at O’Reilly’s. Full circle, baby. But it all worked out, and we were on the road again by late afternoon. We waved a quick hello to Lake Eerie since we were expecting one hell of a storm to start moving in. But Ohio sure showed us the love, right down to the guy earlier that day who asked if we needed anything and even tried to offer us some money, which we didn’t take but it was just so kind of him to offer in the first place. It’s been such a blessing during our travels to be shown just how much kindness and decency still exists in this crazy world of ours.
We pretty much raced from Ohio to Michigan, still trying to get ahead of that big-ass storm coming our way. We made it to our Cracker Barrel outside of Detroit just in time, and had a nice cozy night while the rain poured down. We made sure to rest up because tomorrow we were going to have some amazing Detroit adventures…