Day 90 of Year Long Roadtrip Following Scenic Byways in the USA
With the snow accumulation complete, the temperature forecast to reach the low twenties, and a few icicles on VANilla, the dogs and I spent a leisurely morning at Connie and Ron’s before venturing south. The three day forecast called for another wintery blast, thus with the roads in fair condition, I opted to get ahead of the next storm.
Mammoth Cave National Park
The dogs and I returned to the area we skipped yesterday to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. The park offers several tours from a one hour jaunt to a five hour adventure that requires crawling in knee pads. In the winter, the tours are limited, and even more so today, but the rangers accommodated me and two other crazy souls for an hour long excursion through the Frozen Niagara Entrance. The tour didn’t start for 30 minutes, so I stopped by the restaurant for lunch. Here I met Mike, the cashier. He is a seasonal worker and he moves around to different National Parks. Little did I know I could have been paid to visit all the parks. Of course, that would have taken awhile. Anyway, for anyone interested in a seasonal job in a cool place, check out www.coolworks.com. That is what Mike uses to find his seasonal employment.
The Mammoth Cave System is the largest in the world and is over twice as long as any other known cave. Currently, over 365 miles of passageways have been explored, though geologists estimate the cave could extend 600 miles through the limestone. The cave system includes a “wet” section and a “dry” section, the dry section being much larger. The wet section is the area infiltrated by surface water where stalactites and stalagmites form and is known as the living part of the cave. Uniquely, the growth of these formations signifies the demise of the cave. Eventually, it will collapse upon itself. To the contrary, the dry section of the cave is known as the dead part, yet it remains intact.
The Mammoth Cave not only includes stalactite and stalagmites, but also a variety of crystals and as well as cave dwellers. I had hoped to see the eyeless cave fish and cave crayfish that contain no coloring pigments and adapted to the darkness through other sensory systems. We, however, toured an upper passageway, carved by the underground river, that is now many feet below, thus we weren’t close enough to the water to see any. We did catch a glimpse of a bat and a cave cricket though.
I had also hoped to see some crystals, but those tours are longer and take place in the summertime when more tourists visit. The trade off for missing the crystals, however, was touring with only three of us as opposed to 120 people at a time! The ranger took us into a few parts of the cave where the regular tours don’t go due to the size of the group. Another bonus for visiting the cave while it was 22 degrees outside was that the cave’s constant temperature hovers around a balmy 60.
Each section of the cave is named. We visited frozen Niagara where the stalactites appear like a frozen water fall and the drapery room where the stalactites form in a flowing wavelike structure versus the typical cone. A different tour includes the snowball room which is complete with a restaurant and restroom facilities.
The cave system became famous after the War of 1812 due to its significant nitrate supply. Nitrate is used in gunpowder which was in short supply as the English blockaded the Atlantic coast. Access to the Mammoth Cave supply aided American soldiers in defeating the English forces. The cave became a tourist attraction by 1816, and facilitated tourism in America which did not have old, historic castles and cathedrals like Europe. The cave system also helped define the national park system created many years later.
Upon leaving the park, we passed by a variety of birds including a few hawks, a young buck, and several doe rummaging for food in the snow. It was quite a treat to snap a few photos of deer in the snow.
National Corvette Museum
The mutts and I continued south to look for another warm activity. We found it as we reached Bowling Green, Kentucky, home of the American sports car. Yes, we toured the National Corvette Museum. As a child, my father owned a 66 and a 72 corvette that we tooled around in on an occasional Sunday, so I couldn’t pass the museum up. The museum featured almost every year, beginning in 53; the millionth Corvette, Indy 500 pace cars, and even a Corvette that was stolen in 1970 and returned to its rightful owner in 2009 worth 30 times its original price.
I found a 66 Sting Ray, but I couldn’t find a 72. In addition to looking at cars, I found my first cache in Kentucky, part of a Cache Across America series, hidden in a picnic area behind the museum. I picked up a geocoin that honors marines and has a goal to see every state. Kind of weird…a person traveling across America finds a coin that wants to travel across America in a Cache Across America cache! I plan to move it to Tennessee once my hands thaw out. The ammo can, uniquely hidden, was virtually frozen shut.
Southern Bank Building
My last stop of the night before having to brave a bitter cold night in Nashville, Tennessee was in Russellville, Kentucky. We stopped by the old Southern Bank Building that was robbed by Jesse James in 1868. The bandits escaped with $9,000 after shooting and slightly wounding the bank president.
Acting on the advice of Walter, an ex-coworker, I thought I might try the Bluebird Café for dinner and a show in Nashville. After briefly looking up its location on the website, I found out it was closed for the evening due to “treacherous road conditions”! Hmmm, I didn’t have trouble handling the road conditions, but I must say, the evening temperatures required more than a sleeping bag, two dogs, and a heater to keep from turning into an ice block – WOW, a cold, restless night – this time in the Loveless Café parking lot, instead of Walmart. Walter suggested breakfast here, so I thought I would first find the café and then the closest Walmart – 9 miles away…I guess I just didn’t feel like driving any further. ETB