Our stay at Horse Cave KOA was nice. We stayed in a covered wagon and in a treehouse. The campground had tent sites, RV sites, cabin rentals (with 1 large cabin), 4 covered wagons, 2 treehouses, and a teepee to stay in. There was a bathhouse with individual rooms, which made it really nice.
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The campground was located pretty conveniently on/off the highway. There were a few food options and/or grocery stores within a 20-30 minute drive. It was a decent place to stay while visiting Mammoth Cave. The campground is not gated, so anyone could come onto the grounds (it is pretty close to the highway and gas station, truck parking), and I did not enjoy walking around it at night. For being so close to the highway, it was pretty quiet.
We stayed at the cabins, but there were quite a few RV spots. They were a mix of 30 and 50 amp service, full hook-up and water/electric. The back of the campground had some pretty tight turns, so if we had the RV, I don’t think we would have made it around some of those turns. If you have a larger RV, please be careful picking your site!
The cabins all looked nice. The covered wagons did not have a bathroom but were close to the shower/bathhouse. The treehouses and teepees looked really neat and those did have bathrooms. The cabins had grills and a firepit as well. RV sites had fire rings.
The campground was kept clean and the employees were very nice. The location was convenient to the highway and not that bad of a drive to Mammoth Cave. The negatives were that it wasn’t gated and was close to public traffic. Due to the motel and gas station close to the entrance, it wasn’t necessarily one where I would feel great about younger kids running around by themselves (especially to the putt-putt which was closer to the entrance). The Wifi was spotty and we relied on our cell phones. The cabins had cable, but we didn’t get great reception. There was no cable listed as an amenity for the RV sites. The cabins and treehouses had a great view of the hills and we enjoyed watching the neighbors’ cows and the bats at night.
After the Red River Gorge, we traveled over to the Mammoth Cave area. We stayed at the Horse Cave KOA. When Ben and I saw that they had a certain type of cabin, we knew we needed to stay at least one night in it. Growing up, we were part of the Oregon Trail generation so, of course, we decided to stay in the Covered Wagon cabin!
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It was definitely an experience. The wagon was temperature controlled and had an air conditioner unit. The space slept 4 people: one queen-sized bed and a set of bunk beds. As you climb the stairs and open the door, you have the bunkbeds to the left and a small table, and two chairs to the right. There were a couple of stairs to get to the queen bed area. There was a small nightstand area on either side of the bed with outlets to charge your phone.
In front of the bunk beds, there was a mini fridge and a microwave. The space also had an outdoor fire pit with chairs and a propane grill.
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There was a grocery store within a 20-30 minute drive, so we were able to go to the store and make dinner on the grill. It was nice to have the mini-fridge so we could have groceries to make our own food. For dessert, we of course had s’mores!
It was nice sitting out and enjoying the night. There was a farm in front of us, so we watched the cows for a while, and saw some bats flying around once it was night.
The downside to the covered wagon cabin was the lack of a bathroom. We weren’t too far away, but it is a downside when you get up during the night and have to leave the cabin to use the bathrooms.
For our vacation this year, we wanted to stay in some unique homes. Something that would really stand out in our memories. Our first stop was in a container home. Ben had played with this idea for a tiny home for a while now. I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived; it actually had a nice layout and use of space. (YouTube video link)
The house was pretty private. You could hear some road noise and neighbor’s music, but couldn’t see them through the leaves. It was a pretty short drive to the park, a little under 20 minutes. The house was a comfortable space, seemed just like a cabin. It had a great fire pit area with wood holder and hatchet, bag chairs for fire pit, deck with chairs and a small table, a wooded lot with a few trees that worked for hammocking, propane grill, plates/cups/grill tools, AC, washer/dryer, a couple of games and a fun puzzle. The cabin also had WiFi and cable. There was a Kroger grocery store and a liquor store within about a 20-minute drive. There were several places nearby that sold firewood.
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The drive was pretty easy, but at the end, it is a narrow road that has a few hills. The driveway itself was off of a sharp right turn. The owners did a nice job explaining how to get there though and even had a fun alligator sign to mark the correct turn. The very last bit up to the parking area was a pretty short steep climb. The cabin only had one thin blanket per bed. We could have used more blankets, but luckily we still had our soccer game day blanket in the car. The owner did say to bring additional if you get cold easily, but we didn’t think there would only be two. There were only a couple of blinds in the bedrooms. The bedroom Ben and I stayed in only had blinds on one window, the one closest to the street (at the head of the bed) did not have any covering. If the trees were not as full of leaves, there may be a chance someone could see down into the room. Although the grill and firepit allowed for cooking, the kitchen itself only had a hotplate and a microwave for cooking. Bring bug spray! This is more for the entire area, but we all got bitten (even the one that is normally not bit). You may want to bring a flashlight, as it gets very dark at night around the cabin. This one is more specific to us, but there was poison ivy everywhere (cabin and general area). There was some right next to the cabin stairs, etc. The Red River Gorge area also has a plethora of poison ivy, so I would recommend long socks and/or pants if you are allergic.
It seems crazy the number of things in a three-hour radius from our home that we have not gone to yet. One of these was the Red River Gorge. We know people who had gone, people who had loved it, but we had never been there. As part of our quick summer vacation, we decided to stay a couple of days and see the Gorge.
One of the nice things about Red River Gorge is that is free to enter. There are of course things to spend your money on: local stores, souvenirs, the Sky Bridge, and adventures like rock climbing or kayaking.
Our first day there we drove through the park. Our pathway from our cabin took us through Nada Tunnel. It was a really neat tunnel, rough-hewed, single lane, without any lights. You could see water dripping. We stopped at the Gladie Visitor Center to check out the souvenirs and to get a park map. The Visitor Center had a nice selection of souvenirs, clean restrooms, friendly staff, and fun interactive exhibits. They had different animal pelts that you could touch, as well as a video of the park.
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We ended up at the Sky Bridge. It was a nice little hike. It had a couple of different sets of stairs, but a clearly defined path. It was a very hot and muggy day, but there was plenty of shade along the trails. We walked across Sky Bridge and then took the path that led us underneath the bridge. It was very neat to see it from a different perspective, as when you are up top, you don’t really notice the arch shape. There were several spots that had dripping water, which made a very cool and unique sound.
Day two of our Gorge adventure led us to the Sky Lift. It was $17 per adult for a round-trip ticket. Tickets could be bought in the gift shop. They had an interesting video and a pressed penny machine (Nick was very happy) in the outside booth. The ride up was enjoyable and we had a nice breeze. The steep uphill (or downhill for the return) can give you a jolt when you first see it). There is a nice trail nearby as well that gives you a nice overlook of the area. TIP: Secure your items! If they fall you will not get them back. Nick’s new pocket knife was lost to the wilderness as it fell out of his pocket halfway up to the top. (YouTube: link to video.)
From the top of the Sky Lift, we went to see the Natural Bridge. This was also a neat bridge that you couldn’t really see well unless you were underneath it. Nick and I decided to adventure through Fat Man’s Misery, a narrow gorge in the rock that leads you to the bottom of the Natural Bridge. Ben and Will stayed behind.
We stopped for some pizza at Miguel’s before driving up to Chimney Top for a picnic. The pizza was really good and they had so many different topping options! (Thank you for the recommendation, Mindy!) I froze when presented with so many options and went with a really boring pizza, but it all looked delicious as it came out. After lunch, we took another short hike and really enjoyed the views. There were several caution signs about not getting close to the edges. We watched the river and a hawk floating on the breeze.
The main attractions at Red River Gorge seem to be rock climbing, kayaking, and primitive camping. Due to Will’s restrictions from surgery this summer, we kept to the easier trails. It was pretty empty, as we were late in the summer vacation season. Compared to some other places we have been to, it was tough to tell it was a gorge due to the abundance of trees and other plants. It must be gorgeous in the fall. I’m glad we went, but as we are not rock climbers or really even kayakers, I don’t know that we would go back.
Red River Gorge Rating: 2/5 hitches (For us. If you love rock climbing and kayaking, I’m sure it would be amazing!)
If you didn’t know, Ben is a big art fan. He enjoys art museums and has taken art lessons to learn new techniques. When he heard the Van Gogh exhibition was coming to Cincinnati, he was excited to go. The Van Gogh Exhibition travels to different cities in the US and Europe. We made it a date day and got the VIP tickets (which included the VR room).
If you buy the tickets ahead, it will say “Secret Location”. You will be notified before the exhibit (we got the email about two weeks before). Cincinnati’s location was located downtown, in the Carew Tower building. There is on-street parking, as well as a parking garage attached to the building.
We grabbed breakfast down at Findlay Market and headed over to the exhibit. After you check in, you enter the Museum portion. Take your time here! There is so much to read and learn. There are prints of his works on the wall (not his real artwork, but canvas prints of his paintings), as well as panels detailing his history. There was a short film about the use of color in his paintings; they think he may have been color blind! The use of bright colors may have stemmed from the fact that those were the ones he saw well. The film showed an image of what Van Gogh may have seen color-wise, and it was all muted.
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As you traveled down the room, there was a statue of a vase against a screen. A projector showed images of different vase-based paintings, imposing them over the larger-than-life-sized vase.
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The Immersive Room was a large open room, and this is the image you will see the most when it comes to advertising the event. There were benches and lounge chairs scattered throughout the room. You could see various paintings of his shown on a large scale. They added movement to the images, for example, the blossoms falling from the flowers and trees. It was nice to sit and relax and take in the experience. (Click for longer video clips of immersive room.)
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After the Immersive Room, you went to the coloring station. You could pick an artwork of Van Gogh’s and color it yourself, or create your own on a blank piece of paper. They had crayons available for you to use. When you were done, you could scan your artwork and it would be uploaded to their website. You could keep your creation or tape it to the wall.
The VR room was next and was optional for an additional cost if you had the standard ticket (but is included with the VIP ticket). I enjoyed it, but Ben’s headset was a little fuzzy. They had you wear a paper mask under the headset (I’m guessing for minimal cleaning on their part?). If you have used a VR before, this isn’t the crisp, clear, high definition you may expect. All the graphics make it seem like you are in a painting.
NOTE: Based on other people’s reviews, we choose the VIP experience because we wanted to do the VR room. The VIP included the standard ticket, the VR, “skip the line”, and a poster. Our ticket time was at 10:00 am, right when they opened, so we didn’t have any trouble with waiting for a spot in the VR room. The VR was only $5 per person, so if you want to save some money and don’t think there will be a big line, and don’t need/want a poster, I would just buy a standard ticket and the VR when you get there. (There was not an option to simply add the VR to the standard ticket online.)
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It was a really neat experience and I am glad we went. If you love art, or are simply a Van Gogh fan, then you would probably enjoy this exhibit.
WHERE: Various locations. Cincinnati’s location is at 18 West Fourth St. Check website for other cities.
HOURS: Monday/Wednesday/Thursday/Friday 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, Weekends/Holidays 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
COSTS: Standard ticket $34.90/adult tickets, ages 13+, $19.90/child.
PARKING: Yes (paid on-street or garage)
TIME RECOMMENDED: 1 to 1.5 hours
COVID RESTRICTIONS: N/A
Details correct at time of posting, please double-check before you go.
Anyone who lives near Cincinnati has heard of Jungle Jim’s. It is a grocery store. Now, if you are not from the area, you may be wondering asking “Sarah, why do I care about a grocery store?” The answer is that it is not justa grocery store. It is definitely an experience. If you are passing through or new to the area, please stop to check it out. I would recommend at least an hour or two, and if possible to go on a weekday. The weekends tend to get pretty crowded.
What makes Jungle Jim’s so unique? It is crazily decorated and offers food from around the world. It is home to the famous port-a-potty restrooms (Don’t worry, it’s just the door. The bathrooms are actually big and clean. (YouTube Video.).
There are two locations: Eastgate and Fairfield (both in Ohio). Both locations have the port-a-potty- bathrooms and the Jungle Jim’s movie that show how the store began (NOTE: as of February 2022, the Eastgate location still had the movie playing, but the Fairfield location had the movie room closed). Both locations offer an amazing variety of foods to discover. (Ben loves the winesap apples Jungle Jim’s carries. It is by far his favorite apple. The kids love finding new “weird” snacks to try.) However, each one is decorated differently (mostly because these are one-of-a-kind items). My personal favorite is the original location at Fairfield. Why? I think it has more things to see and to explore.
Eastgate has similar offerings of the Big Cheese, international food items, a big fish counter, and a large candy section. There are some larger decorations at the Eastgate location including an old beehive amusement park ride and a small Airstream RV. If we are just going to go for a quick grocery run, we might go to Eastgate.
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Fairfield has a monorail system installed along the side and front of the store. The cars are stationed amid a large snake-guarded building (located on the right side of the building when facing the front). Inside the store, you will find a large ship in the seafood department, a singing Elvis bear in the candy area, and a Robin Hood treasure-filled forest scene in the English food section where I like to pick up tea and Hobnob’s. They offer cooking classes and different tasting events. There is also a pressed penny machine there.
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Tours are also available for a fee and are by appointment only. We have not done one yet, but it does look fun! There is also a weekly podcast that broadcasts on Wednesdays.
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NOTE: Although both locations have very large parking lots, there is not really designated RV parking.
The boys and I went to the Air Force Museum (aka National Museum of the US Air Force) when they were off of school. The museum was getting a new exhibit ready to open; the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci. The best part was that it was going to be interactive and hands-on! (Click here for details.) The museum and this special exhibit are both free. The da Vinic exhibit runs through 5/8/22. Next week’s post will be about the rest of the Air Force Museum!
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We went back to the museum with Ben to see the da Vinci exhibit. It was newly opened, so we got there right when the museum opened and went straight back to the exhibit (in Building 4). There were a lot of different exhibits, almost all of them were ones we could interact with. A couple of the inventions were locked, but you could ask one of the museum staff/volunteers to demonstrate them for you.
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I think the designers and builders of these inventions did a great job. There were placards describing each item and what it was meant for. I think even younger kids would enjoy this exhibit, although they would need help with the pieces and supervision so they didn’t get any fingers pinched in the gears.
I think one of the coolest pieces was the tank, although it must have been extremely heavy.
We bought Ben a car a few weeks after we got back to Ohio. Between school starting soon (with no busing) and him having to go physically into work, we needed two cars. I drove the truck as my vehicle. However, with diesel prices high and the truck not having the greatest fuel mileage for short distances/city driving, we decided to sell it. We were on the lookout for larger sized car that we could still take road trips in comfortably. We were leaning towards an SUV and narrowed it down between a Jeep Grand Cherokee and a Subaru Ascent. We looked on Facebook, Autotrader, and Carvana for our new (to us) car. I am sure everyone has heard by now but used car prices are inflated and there is a chip shortage for new cars, so cars were going fast and for higher-than-normal used car prices. However, after spending over $200 in one month for diesel with just local driving, we wanted to get a more fuel efficient car.
SEARCHING FOR YOUR CAR: We had never bought a car online, much less sight unseen. Carvana’s site allows you to search for your car by price, make/model, type, year/mileage, and features. Some cars have free delivery, while others have a delivery fee. There are several pictures of the cars, including any chips or “imperfections”. A detailed list of the car’s features and a Carfax report are provided as well. After searching for a while, we finally found a car that we both liked, a blue Subaru Ascent. There were a couple paint chips and a scratch listed, but they didn’t look too bad. We placed the order and were eagerly awaiting our delivery.
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PURCHASING: After you find a car you like, you can then start the process of buying the car by clicking the green “Get Started” button. This will hold your car for 30 minutes while you complete the account registration, trade-in options, payment information (cash/Carvana financing/3rd party financing), delivery/pickup (date/time), driver’s license information, and optional items (gap insurance, etc.). After those steps are completed, there are a few more things that need to be done. If you pay with cash, your bank has to verify the funds either through a 3-way call between you/Carvana/bank, or thorough a third-party called PLAID. To use the third-party verification, you need to give them your account information, including password. We picked the 3-way call, as I was not comfortable giving someone my bank log-in information. Your bank funds will be verified, but will not be withdrawn until you accept delivery of the car. There were a few online forms to complete before delivery as well. Buying a car unseen was a little worrisome; however, there is a 7 day return period for a full refund with Carvana, if you decide not to keep the car.
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The day of delivery, we received a phone call that they were finishing detailing the car and should be there by our appointment time. We had to send (via text) a selfie with our driver’s license, the back of the driver’s license, and proof that the car had been added to our insurance. Your insurance information has to say the name/VIN of the new car in order for them to release the car to you! Even though I had always been told that any car we bought was covered as long as our insurance was up to date, I called and let our insurance know to start it on the date of delivery. Because delivery was on a Saturday, my insurance agent also sent a confirmation letter in case there was a delay of any kind with the electronic card updating.
The car ended up being about a half hour late, but the driver did communicate delays through text message. It was fun to watch the car being unloaded. (VIDEO link here) Once the car was unloaded, we had the opportunity to take it for a test drive. We drove down a few exits on the highway and then stopped in a parking lot to look it over. There were a few more paint chips than were disclosed on the listing, as well as scratches to the interior roof material (which were not disclosed at all). The car drove really well and was comfortable, so we decided to accept delivery. The car came with 1 key fob and a Carvana key chain.
Just like buying a car at a dealer, there was some paperwork involved but there were only a few forms that we had to sign. The car came with temporary tags and Carvana will mail you the permanent plates so you do not have to go to the DMV. I have to say, not dealing with a car salesman and the DMV was really nice. Once we accepted the delivery, we were also given the Temporary Tag application, a Limited Power of Attorney for Vehicle Registration, and an Application for Dealer Assessment that needed to be signed, notarized, and mailed back in the provided FedEx envelope. Our driver was not a notary and we had not been told ahead of time that we would need one to finish the car’s paperwork. We hurried over to my bank with 10 minutes to spare. Unfortunately, she would not notarize the paperwork. She claimed it was because she couldn’t notarize something that gave someone else power of attorney to take out a loan in our name. We read it carefully and the paperwork stated clearly that it was for the purpose of “applying for a certificate of title, to register, transfer title”, so I am not sure why the bank teller would not notarize it. We then rushed over to the UPS store near us that had a notary on staff. It only cost $5 for the notary service. I still would have liked to have known about needing a notary ahead of time. We probably would have moved the delivery time up so that we would have been able to contact the bank(s) and make sure they were available and could/would notarize it.
Because the car only came with one key fob, I wanted to buy another one so that we would each have one. Batteries Plus will cut and program car keys for you. When we stopped in to get a new key fob, it was going to be over $200 for the fob and programing if we bought the key through them. It was cheaper to buy the fob on eBay and then take it to Batteries Plus to program it. Some Ace Hardware stores will also program car keys. Your car does have to be present to program the new key fob. It was $85 for the key fob on ebay and $60 for Batteries Plus to cut/program it. (Check for coupons, Batteries Plus runs anywhere from $60-$70 for programming.)
The key fob that came with the car started dying after 3 days. It seems like the battery was just getting low, but it wasn’t something I would necessarily expect after only having the car for 3 days.
I did send some feedback to Carvana about the missed “imperfections”, the key fob, and the lack of knowledge about needing a notary. They were nice and gave back a standard “we’ll pass it on” message and told me we could always return the car if we were unhappy since our 7 day window was not over yet.
My temp tags were set to expire on 11/23/21. On 11/10, we got an email saying processing had been delayed and that new temp tags were available in my online Post Sale Dashboard. I had to print out the new tags, as they were active beginning 11/10/21 and were a different plate number. The reason given was “Covid”. It seems to be a reoccurring theme; as Ben likes to say, “Covid did it”. At this point, I could have made an appointment with our local DMV faster. On 11/16/21, I received a text saying that the registration was complete and the plates were on the way. It also stated that the plates required a signature from FedEx. I contacted Carvana on 11/17, as the app and online post-sale dashboard did not have a tracking number. I’m glad I contacted them, because they were due to arrive on 11/17. Although it stated I needed to sign for them, and I was home, FedEx just rang the doorbell and left the package on the porch.
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CARVANA, The Pluses:
No negotiating. The listed price is the price (plus any delivery fees/taxes, which are disclosed pretty clearly during the process). There is no sitting for hours negotiating over the price or if the floor mats are included. Not dealing with a car dealership was great.
Getting the car delivered on our time table. Granted, they ran late and we had to change a few things around, but it was still amazing to get it delivered right to us.
Not dealing with the DMV/BMV. No long lines for us! Carvana takes care of getting the permanent plates mailed to you.
Updates. We got several updates during the process via text messages (from online forms needing to be completed to the status of our plates).
CARVANA, The Negatives:
Lack of communication. Some things Carvana was great at with communication: the driver letting us know the schedule changes, online paperwork needing to be signed. However, not knowing that we would have to find and pay for a notary was a big miss in my mind. It would be simple enough to add that to the information given to you during the online buying/closing process. Not being provided a tracking number for the new plates would also be an easy fix. Although customer service told me it should be online, I could not find the tracking number in my account.
Accuracy. The car was in good shape, but there were more chips and scratches than advertised. The interior roof scratches are hard to miss if anyone had actually cared to look. We would have potentially looked at another Ascent, but this one was already here and we did need a car.
The check-in area was not well laid out for larger RVs. It looks like you used to be able to pull straight forward, but now they have you turn into a parking lot. It has not been redesigned for larger RVs. The campground itself has a pond and a lake. There was a laundry room, a few planned activities, a basketball hoop, Snack Shack, putt-putt, playground, and a pool. Fishing was allowed in the pond and lake, but no swimming. The lake by the office had boats available for use. There were also horseshoes and a small baseball diamond.
The laundry room had a lot of machines. There was no change machine, but I was able to get change at the office. Washers were $1.75/load, dryers were $1.50.
The Snack Shack had some ice cream products, shaved ice, and some drinks. It was only open on the weekends when we were there.
Our hotspot and phones worked…kind of. If it was cloudy we lost a lot of reception on all 3 networks. Some spots were better than others in the park for getting a signal. We ended up buying the campground WiFi for the week ($19.95). Phone calls seemed ok for the most part, but internet was definitely spotty.
The campground did have a lot of nice amenities. The boys really enjoyed the putt putt and basketball hoop. It was a nice destination campground and there were grocery stores within a 20-30 minute drive. Cleveland was about an hour drive and Cuyahoga Valley National Park was also about an hour drive.
NOTE: The campground was included in our Thousand Trails membership, but charged us a 50 amp fee at check-in (not stated ahead of time).
We were finally able to get our bathroom fan repaired. MaxxAir had sent us a computer board and a motor, as either one of those items could have broken. We were able to find a mobile RV Tech who came out and replaced the computer board for us. As we were talking, he recommended a RV shop that he thought we might like: Sands RV.
We stopped in a couple of days later. This store was really neat! It had a little bit of everything: curtains, furniture, toilets, fenders…
The store was owned by Bob, who also worked on the Ungers RVs. The picture below was 1968 and Bob is the one on the far right.
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As we were leaving, they also gave us a flame color changing stick for the fire. The boys got a big kick out of it at our next camp fire. It did work really well and lasted a long time (much better than the packet we had bought at a campground store).
We had a great time exploring the store. Everyone was very friendly. If you are in the area, I would definitely check out this store. It was like a RV treasure chest with something for everyone! We did a quick video walk through of the store (link here).