Tank Town USA is a rip-roaring good time (literally).
It was the best thing that I never knew I wanted to do – and the best gift my teenage son never knew he wanted – a visit to Tank Town USA.
It was an adventure that entailed:
- Getting behind the wheel (actually control sticks) of a 17-ton tank – awe-inspiring.
- Riding on the top of a tank in a mounted chair – adrenaline inducing.
- Plowing through 5 feet of deep mud as easily as riding down the street – prodigious.
- Rolling over the top of a car as smoothly as if it were a toy – mind-blowing.
- Creating a lifelong memory – priceless.
I had to dig up plenty of positive adverbs to describe my latest adventure, which made a stellar, memory-filled road trip with my son.
Sitting alongside the Appalachian Highway near Morganton, Georgia (about 3.5 hours from Huntsville) is a simple olive drab sign on the back of a military vehicle reading: “Drive Tanks, Crush Cars.”
As you pass the site, you may even see tanks driving on the obstacle course, making it all the more enticing to turn in.
Pulling into the drive, you enter a different world, one filled with military vehicles, mud, construction equipment, and crushed cars galore, like an adults sandbox full of toys.
And, boy, are they powerful toys.
Unique Outdoor Adventure
Classified as an “outdoor adventure,” the tank driving school has been a hit since opening in 2013. The facility offers multiple opportunities to drive some of the heaviest equipment around:
- Drive a tank over the tank obstacle course.
- Drive and move dirt with an excavator.
- Drive a bulldozer.
- Combo package of driving an excavator and a tank.
- Crush a car with a tank (this also includes a drive around the obstacle course).
While it may seem intimidating, driving a tank is much easier than it appears, plus there is always a Tank Town instructor behind you to give instructions and encouragement.
Driving the tanks is open to anyone over the age of 15 who has a permit or driver’s license. The same goes for operating the construction equipment.
Those who choose to crush a car, as we did, will have an experience like no other.
First, you get to drive the tank obstacle course (with a rider on top). Then the instructor hauls a junked car onto the field. You can spray paint the car any way that you choose with messages or art, as long as it doesn’t include political or hateful messages.
Once you are done with the paint job, it is time.
Jump in the tank, listen to the instructor’s directions to get lined up, and then it’s crushing time. You hardly feel the bulk of the car as the treads move over it, but the crunch of metal and explosion of glass as the windshield shatters is ever so satisfying. You can drive over the car from every angle, just to make sure it’s properly flattened. If, by this point, you are still not satisfied with your crushing job, the instructor gives you a sledge hammer to continue smashing the car until it is barely recognizable.
Tank Town’s popularity has grown dramatically over the years. Visitors come from all walks of life and across the southeast. Tank Town USA offers fun for everyone, from families hosting parties to groups of construction workers, from corporate events to bachelorette parties, or a special treat for a 90-year-old World War II veteran.
After all my years of visiting fun and offbeat places on my road trips, driving the tank (Scratch that. Make it everything I did at TT) ranks as one of my favorite experiences.
Wil Elrick hails from Guntersville, Alabama where at an early age he developed a love for both trivia and history. He has spent the last 20 odd years, fine tuning the art of communication while working in law enforcement, writing, television media, historical research, and public speaking. He lives in North Alabama with his two boys, and a neurotic German Shepherd Dog. He one day hopes that Bigfoot is proven real. Wil’s new book Alabama Scoundrels is available from History Press.