Like so many other people I had so much planned for this year. However, the current pandemic had me change my plans. Originally, I was planning on doing a trip around Florida. We would have gone to Tampa, Orlando, Titusville, and many others.
I had a week planned at POP Century at Walt Disney World for August. Well I ended up cancelling that trip. The cost of going to Disney is not cheap. I didn’t want to pay the same price for half an experience. Looking back I should have considered going since we could have riden all the rides with little wait.
We than booked a flight in late June to go to Vegas. Flight was $97 for a round trip from Philly. Couldn’t beat that price. Well American Airlines decided a few days later to fill the entire plane.
I just didn’t feel comfortable being on a plane for 5 hours. With the middle seat open. Not too bad. A packed plane is a completely different thing. So the coronavirus road trip idea was born.
I couldn’t decide if I wanted to hit up the New England states or drive out to Mount Rushmore. I wanted to drive around New England. My daughter wanted to see Mount Rushmore. My daughter also wanted to go see the Titanic Museum in Tennessee. So I started to plan a trip to Tennessee and the surrounding states.
I had been years since I visited Tennessee and figured it was a good place to go. Crowds should be lower. Plus gas would be cheaper in this area. Plenty of places to pitch a tent for the night and hotels are a little cheaper right now since they are trying to get guest to stay.
Make sure you come back everyday this week to read up on our other days of our Pandemic Road Trip.
So I knew that I have to visit the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. But what else do we do. What can I do in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia? I know Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge along with a lot of other little attractions.
However, I kind of want to skip amusement parks right now. The two of us enjoy do things outside. The Smoky Mountains are nearby so we will probably spend a day exploring that. We also plan on doing the Skyline Drive in Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina.
In Kentucky, we are planning on visiting Mammoth Cave and Kentucky Down Under. We will also be just going on the fly too. Maybe we will get a hotel room for the night (with the exception of Pigeon Forge) or find a campground. When I started planning I booked two nights at the Baymont by Wyndham Gatlinburg On The River.
The rest of the trip we would go day by day and try to find a campground at a National Park or a State Park. Those campgrounds are usually $20-$30 a night and you can stay one night. Private Campgrounds usually require a 2 night stay and are about $40 on average per night. Maybe we would grab a campsite maybe just a hotel room. It was really up in the air.
The plan is to spend 11 days on the road for this covid-19 road trip. Leave on a Thursday and come back the following Sunday. We ended up not going for that long but you will discover why as the days past by.
Day 1: Travel Day
Up until about 2 days before we left I was planning on doing the Skyline Drive first. Good thing I checked the weather and found out that the two days I was planning on camping and traveling along the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline drive they are calling for 80% chance of thunderstorms.
That’s not great weather to be camping in or trying to take photos. Sure if you happen to catch a lightning strike. But that isn’t easy plus driving in heavy rain along side a mountain isn’t fun either. So I decided to drive to Kentucky first.
I am kind of glad I did too. I knew it was a far drive but I guess I didn’t realize just how far. It is about a 12-hour drive from Philadelphia (my starting point). I would much rather start the trip on a long drive than end it. Since I was now driving to Kentucky first I had no plans on stoping anywhere other than for gas.
The day before we loaded up the car with our suitcases, camping gear, snacks, camera equipment, and anything else we could think of. So far I don’t think that we forgot anything. We have plenty of drinks and snacks and of course hand sanitizer. Really cannot forget hand sanitizer on any road trip let alone a coronavirus road trip.
The tablet and phones were fully charged along with the portable DVD player. The DVD Player was probably better than any other tablet or anything. We were all set and ready to start our Pandemic Road Trip the next morning. Of course, my daughter wanted to leave right at that moment (9pm). I tried telling her that I would be too tired to drive all night and even if I could I wouldn’t be able to do anything the next morning.
Well she offered to help drive. SHE’S NOT EVEN 10. She was just so excited for our road trip. I told her that the morning would be here before she knew it.
Sure enough I was right. We were up, showered, dressed, and out the house before 5am. After stopping for my coffee and her muffin we were on the turnpike heading west. She might have been up for about a half hour before she was fast asleep.
I just put on the music, drank my coffee, and kept my mind on the task at hand. A 12 plus hour drive to Kentucky.
Well about an hour or so into the trip we hit some pretty heavy rain. Luckily, it was only for about 5 minutes.
It was pretty much smooth sailing after that little bit of rain. We passed by Harrisburg and headed towards the tunnels. Got through all three tunnels with no issues. They are working on the one but it didn’t back up traffic or anything.
I got off the turnpike at Altoona and head south towards Maryland. I don’t think I ever have driven through this part of Pennsylvania or Maryland. It was a really nice little drive. The scenery was very beautiful. One of those places I need to put on my list for a weekend road trip.
So many places I wanted to pull over and pull out the camera and snap some pictures. However, I was focused on the task in hand. I wanted to get to Kentucky around 5pm. Little did I know that the area of Kentucky we are visiting is in the Central time zone.
Usually I cross state lines on major highways. When we crossed into Maryland it was on US 220-S. While not really a back road. It kind of had that feel to it. Before we knew it, we were on 68 heading west towards West Virginia.
I was getting close to a quarter of a tank of gas so I knew I wanted to stop soon. I figured Maryland would be better than West Virginia. At least in terms of people wearing a mask. I personally don’t care for or against the mask. It doesn’t bother me having it on since I have to wear it at work all day like many, many others.
We stopped at a Sheetz and filled up the tank. We than went inside and grabbed a snack and some ice to make sure the cooler kept all the drinks nice and cold. As for the mask…. I was right everyone had a mask on at the Sheetz we visited in Maryland. I can’t remember which exit it was but I know it was close to the West Virginia state line.
One thing I remember learning back in school (but have forgot over time) was about the Eastern Continental Divide. It is located in Maryland and there was a sign on 68 W that let you know you crossed it.
Now West Virginia was an interesting state to drive through. It was very scenic for the whole drive. At least that’s how I remember it. It was also a LOOOOONG drive. When planning the route and looking at the map I didn’t realize how much time we would spend in West Virgina. Plus we hit another round of heavy rain and thunderstorms. One lightning strike didn’t hit too far off the highway.
I was just upset that I didn’t have my GoPro hooked up at the time. I usually hook it up on long drives. I didn’t for this leg of the trip because I thought it would be pretty uneventful. It would have been pretty cool to catch that on the camera. That just reminds me of always hooking it up when I go on my trips no matter how uneventful I think it will be.
Now since West Virginia was such a long state to drive through it was getting close for me to start thinking about filling up the gas tank again. Much to my surprise everyone was wearing a mask at the Sheetz I stopped at. People were even wearing mask while pumping gas. I really didn’t expect that in West Virgina while on my coronavirus road trip.
After West Virginia comes Kentucky. The state we were spending the night in. It felt so good to be so close to where I could finally quit driving for the day. The clouds broke and the sun started to shine. Now up until this point the temperature outside most of the day didn’t get above 71.
Of course we were driving through the mountains and rain so I wasn’t too surprised. Now in Kentucky the temp was rising quickly. Before you knew it, it was up above 86.
Maryland and West Virginia were very scenic to drive through. Kentucky on the other hand was a little boring. There were spots here and there. But nothing too over the top.
In some areas we spotted a lot of horses. I mean a lot and huge areas for them to roam. My daughter loved it. She kept pointed out all of the horses and other animals we would see.
Since we left PA we haven’t really hit any traffic. I wasn’t too surprised by this fact either. For one, we left early in the morning. Two, many people canceled their travel plans for the summer. Heck, that’s one of the reason’s why I’m doing a covid-19 road trip instead of visiting Florida.
Now for the most part we didn’t really hit any traffic the whole trip up until we reached Lexington. Even than it still wasn’t that bad. We just had to drive through a little bit of the city. We got off one highway to a local main road to get back onto a different highway.
One thing I can say about the drivers I encountered in the Lexington area. They just go the speed limit. Not a mile per hour over. If the posted limit is 55. That’s what they are doing. Where I’m from. If you are going the speed limit you are driving too slow.
From Lexington, we continued on towards Cave City, Kentucky. This town is located right outside of Mammoth Cave National Park. At one of my gas stops, I booked a hotel here for the night so I could get a good night of rest, and then the plan is to camp tomorrow night in the national park.
I don’t think I could have picked a better area. It is close to many of the area attractions. Walmart is only a 10 minute drive. You also have many fast food locations to choose from. Places like KFC, McDonald’s, and even Pizza Hut. There are two local owned places. Bucky Bees BBQ and The Dog Pound.
Plus there were plenty of Hotels to pick from. I ended up booking a room at Baymont by Wyndham Cave City. I chose a Wyndham hotel since I have an awards card with them.
If you are a Vet (like me), you can get a free upgrade to the gold membership. Just go on the Wyndham website and follow the directions.
We took a quick trip to Walmart to pick up a phone charger for my daughters phone and to see if they had any unique gifts. We found the charger but no unique gifts. Than it was time for dinner.
Since we were in Kentucky my daughter wanted KFC. The food came out quick and hot. You can’t ask for much more. I wanted to try something from the local area so I went to The Dog Pound. I was very happy with it. I will have a more in depth review when I review the hotel and local area in a later post.
That was our uneventful day 1. Just a whole lot of driving and not much else. Tomorrow is when the fun begins. However, it looks like I will miss out on exploring Mammoth Cave. It looks like all the tickets are sold out for tomorrow and even the next day.
It goes to show you why it’s important to do a little planning and purchase tickets in advance for things that are on your must-see list. When doing a coronavirus road trip planning is key. I’m still holding out hope that we can explore that cave. But if we can’t there are other caves in the area. Plus we are still planning on camping there tomorrow night.