It’s not often I get to see my dad. We live in the same state but rarely see him as he works 12 hours or more a day in southern Indiana. He had been asking Jason and I to join him for a weekend at West Baden Springs Hotel near French Lick for some time but was never able to find a room as the place is always booked because there are so many activities to take part in. Finally, we were able to get a room booked (almost 2 months in advance). I don’t know who was more excited — Jason and I for a weekend away or Dad for a chance to visit with his daughter (and future son-in-law)!
The luxury hotel was built more than a century ago. It was once called the eighth wonder of the world for its atrium that spans 200 feet and fireplace that can hold 14 foot logs! The original hotel, with an opera house, full-size baseball field, casino, and pony track burned down in less than 2 hours in 1901. When rebuilt, the owner envisioned a large dome, much like the ones he’d seen in Europe. The hotel has changed hands several times since then, but flourishes today nonetheless.
We arrived at the hotel right around 4:30pm and met my dad at the front desk. He got our room keys and -a dog bowl?? Turns out he brought his wing
man dog, Peanut. We lugged our luggage for what felt like miles on a circular track before we finally got to our room. As soon as we opened the front door, I knew we were in a faaaaancy place. First of all, we had 3 windows that overlooked the atrium. The bathroom was the size of our bedroom at home and had a phone next to the toilet. The robes were so fluffy you might accidentally suffocate yourself if you fell asleep inside of them. After checking out our room, we were ready to go adventuring. Peanut led the way around the shops on the main floor which held everything from inexpensive jewelry to a $24,000 rocking horse. Scared to break something, we put peanut back in the room and headed out for some fast fun.
If you know me and/or my family at all, you know we are a family of motor heads and ultra competitive. So of course, when we found out about the French Lick West Baden Indoor Karting Center, we had to go. Always looking for a good deal, Jason and I found a 2-for-1 deal on Groupon and paid $69 for 6 races between 3 people. We brought our own helmets and goggles (because we wanted to look cool) and waited in line. The two tracks are Grand Prix-style and go up to 40 miles per hour! The complex also holds a kids track, an arcade, and a bounce house! The lady at the counter suggested we buy gloves because it was freezing out on the track. When we got out on the track, I was glad we bought the gloves because she was right. It had to have been close to the same temperature it was outside (which was like ten degrees). We got into our karts and waited for lights to go green. Our first race, my dad was the quickest. I didn’t come in last so that made me happy. My arms were so sore from pulling the steering wheel in either direction in the cold so I was glad for the little break between races. As soon as the second race began, I knew I was in a much better kart. It wasn’t so hard to steer and the tires didn’t bounce when I turned. Jason came in first this round (and made sure to let dad and I know several times throughout the night) and I think I came in 5th.
When we finished racing, we couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel to warm up. We parked and got lost trying to find our room so we decided to waste some time checking out different parts of the hotel. We stopped by the pool (which looked like it was out of a movie scene) and the fitness room where dad and Jason took turns testing their masculinity. After a five minute workout in street clothes, we headed back to the room to watch the nightly Christmas Light show before heading out for dinner to watch Supercross.
The bar and grill we went to was pretty busy. We were able to find seats at the bar and I put in a request to change one of the TV’s to Supercross as soon as possible. We started off with some appetizers and a round of drinks. If you like Rumchata, I recommend you try it shaken with orange juice over (crushed) ice. It tastes like an Orange Julius. My mom makes them for special occasions and I wanted something fun and different from my normal order. The bartender was iffy but made it anyway. He tried it and shrugged his shoulders so I guess he didn’t find it as delicious as I did.
Halfway through the first 450 moto, our bartender told us the front of the bar was shutting down and they would be done serving food. He said we were more than welcome to watch in the back room where there would be a deejay and another bar open. We paid him for our meal and finished up our drinks before heading into the back room. Jason accidentally tipped the man 40% of our meal so the gentlemen eagerly agreed to set up a table in the back for us as well as two TVs. The bartender also told me he thought he could make my drink better next time and refused to charge me for it. (WIN!)
We watched the race, some terrible dancing, and even a fight in the ladies room between 2 chicks over some guy (I’m assuming. He was also in the bathroom so I just put two and two together). After the race we called the shuttle from the hotel to pick us up so we could change into our formalwear for the casino. No, the casino didn’t require us to dress up but I asked the boys if we could and they agreed so I put on a dress and high heels and the boys put on ties and dress pants and we looked like a scene from a movie as we walked to our private shuttle. You know what movie scene I’m talking about, where they the crew walks side-by-side in slow motion while something blows up behind us and we look like a bunch of badasses without a care in the world.
The casino wasn’t very big. I think Prairie Meadows in Iowa is bigger. We walked around the live games to see what our options were but each game was $10 per hand and we didn’t want to spend that kind of money so we played the penny slots. About halfway through the night, the guys each put $20 in a penny slot and I pressed the buttons. We won a little at a time and decided to try it again at another machine. That’s when I saw the Ellen DeGeneres machine. If you know me, you know how much I love Ellen. When I saw her machine, it reminded me of my birthday weekend in Las Vegas with my dad and I had to see what we could do. I put $20 in and Jason and dad followed suit. Not more than two minutes into the machine, we hit some big jackpot that gave us a bunch of free bonus spins and then multiplied our prize times four. We won $575 off a penny machine!
We cashed out and went to the Wheel of Fortune slot to see if we could spin the big wheel. 15 minutes later we had hit the wheel five or six times and won another $110! Feeling pretty happy with our winnings, we cashed in and divvied up the money. We called the shuttle and were finally able to take a breath. Only when we got back to the hotel room did we realize it was 6am! We called room service (we’ve all been there right?) and ordered steak and eggs and waffles.
We originally planned on taking a tour of the hotel in the morning before we left but we were all in desperate need of some shut eye so we opted out and slept until 10 minutes before we had to check out. We were so lucky that dad wanted to spend time with us and that we were able to experience this amazing, historic, and fancy hotel even if only for a few hours.
Jason and I headed north while dad headed south back to Evansville. Even though we were both tired, I begged Jason to go to IKEA with me and he obliged. (how did I get so lucky?) I think he only agreed because he talked to his buddy Tim and convinced him and his girlfriend to join us for brunch and IKEA. More details about our first trip to IKEA coming soon!