Tuesday, May 3, 2016: Woke to the songs of birds and the rustle of the wind in the trees while we remain nestled in our camper on the banks of Kentucky Lake.
This morning, Kit and I were delighted to learn that we have a new neighbor back home. Young Silas was born a few days ago to Katie and Nick, a very nice young couple who live next door to our sticks-and-bricks home up in Maine. And since Kit loves babies as much as knitting, she has really enjoyed spending the past few months creating a baby blanket for the new little guy.
Welcome to a wonderful world and to our great neighborhood Master Silas!
Well, today is a travel day…so we pull chocks and roll out of the Corps of Engineers park that has been our home for the past two days.
Jumping on I-24 heading east until we intersect I-69 which takes us to the north.
It is a beautiful day to be on the road and we are really looking forward to our next destination, another of our nations national parks.
Mammoth Cave marks the fifth US National Park we have enjoyed this trip during the park service’s 100th Anniversary Celebration.
Scoring a nice campsite in the sparsely populated campground, Kit and I set up for a few days stay in one of the few National Parks located in the eastern half of the US.
After getting settled, Kit and I enjoy a stroll to the visitor’s center to secure some brochures and information. Returning to our camper, we relax under the trees until the sun began to set into the west horizon. Since our site was heavily wooded the following photo is the best I could do in capturing the sunset.
Wednesday May 4th and Thursday May 5th 2016-Mammoth Cave National Park: This park features the longest known cave system in the world. To date, explorers have discovered over 400 miles of tunnels and caverns which is estimated to be only half of the massive underground labyrinth…and the cave system is still growing thanks to the relentless forces of hydraulic erosion!
Access to most of the public areas of this mammoth cave system (no pun intended) is only available during a ranger guided tour. However, there is one self-guided route through the original Natural Opening into a small part of the cave but there is some much needed infrastructure work going on so unfortunately it was closed. Since the pathway down to the Natural Opening was still accessible I decided to go down and take a look. The access trail was a pleasant walk along a heavily wooded path which led to steps that descended to the opening itself.
Not seeing any signs restricting access, I made my way down the steps, under the waterfall, and entered the cave.
Within about 50 feet I came to a locked gate. Since there was no artificial illumination, all I viewed was the inky blackness of a deep cave…it was a nice little hike however!
I did sign up for a couple of guided cave tours which were very enjoyable. Both required boarding a bus to access the cave opening which was a few miles from the visitor’s center. Then there were many steps to be negotiated to take you down into a sink hole where the entrance was.
Once entering the cave, there were more steps that led through the steeply angled access tunnel.
Everything was covered with water and the steps were a bit slippery, but watching your foot placement and utilizing the robust handrails made for a safe descent.
Mammoth Cave has been, and continues to be, sculpted by centuries of ground water seeping through cracks in the harder surface capstone to find and dissolve the underlying softer limestone. The water then formed underground streams and rivers that flowed horizontally until it reached the Green River valley. The erosion process continues to this day…there is a river flowing hundreds of feet below where we were touring and at times you could hear the rush of water, and at certain points you could look down an illuminated shaft and see the underground river flowing along!
I have explored many cave systems over the years. My two favorites are Kartchner Caverns State Park in Southern Arizona and Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota…both of which feature gorgeous formations. Due to the way Mammoth Cave was formed, it does not have any of the majestic and colorful dripstone formations of those caves, however what is lacks in pure beauty is more than made up by its massive size.
In the photo above, one can visualize the flow of water eons ago carving out the huge oblong tunnel.
There are a few places in the cave where surface water has percolated through slowly enough to create stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Explorers of Mammoth Cave have discovered evidence of American Indian presence within the cave. In addition to pottery, grass sandals, and cane torches, there are many areas that contain mummified human remains leading scientists to the conclusion that Mammoth Cave was a ceremonial and spiritual place to the native population. Many of these mummies still lie where they were found and are protected by federal law. These places of eternal rest are not illuminated or marked for the publics information so we were likely very close to some of them as we walked upon the designated pathways!
I thoroughly enjoyed the tours of Mammoth Cave…Kit being a bit claustrophobic decided to wait above ground and enjoy the many displays in the visitor’s center.
However, Kit did enjoy a drive to the nearby “gateway” community of Cave City. A small town with a nicely defined downtown area that appeared to cater to the many tourists that visit Mammoth Cave National Park. In addition to the antique and craft/gift shops, there were a few nice restaurants. Since it was May 5th, we decided to check out the Kentucky version of Mexican food at El Mazatlán. Not bad, not as good as in the southwest, but acceptable…and they were serving two dollar Margaritas!
One day following a morning cave tour, Kit and I drove south to Bowling Green, Kentucky to visit the National Corvette Museum.
Inside was an incredible collection of historic automobiles spanning the years from the very first model in 1953.
Which might have been the last year produced as well! Since the car featured a rather anemic six-cylinder engine with a two speed automatic transmission the performance did not match the sexy looks of the new sports car. The slow performance was matched by slow sales and the Corvette model limped along in the Chevrolet lineup until a V-8 engine and four speed transmission were introduced in 1955. Then two years later an optional fuel injection system raised the power of the 283 cubic inch displacement engine to a whopping 283 horsepower. That car was the first mass produced automobile to attain one horsepower for one cubic inch!
The museum also features some of the famous race cars through history, such as this 1963 model.
In addition, there were a few concept cars on display. These one-off creations were made by Chevrolet to generate buzz for the marque at the various annual “Autorama” shows of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Sometimes, between presentations, the cars were repainted a different color so the automobile magazine spreads didn’t all look the same.
Many of the Corvettes are placed within a display representing the era of the cars manufacture, such as the service station exhibit below.
Much of the collection belongs to the National Corvette Museum or are on loan from the Chevrolet Motor Division of General Motors. However, a fair number belong to private citizens who place their car on display at the museum…one of these recently loaned cars belonged to a gentleman who was in to see how the staff presented his car.
Being a 1973 vintage Corvette, it is not particularly noteworthy or collectible as this was at the height of the national gas crises and the engines were tuned more for economy than performance. However, this particular car is a fully optioned and very well cared for survivor with only 56,400 miles on the odometer during its 43-year life.
While chatting with the fella, he asked me to take a photo with his iPhone which I gladly accommodated. In further conversation I learned that his name was Jeffery Taylor and that he is not only a Corvette collector but a Kentucky State Representative as well! Another example of a serendipity meeting of an interesting person!
A few years ago, tragedy struck the National Corvette Museum! Upon arriving for work on the morning of February 12, 2014 this unbelievable sight greeted staff members.
A large sinkhole had collapsed the concrete floor in the Skydome and took 8 rare Corvettes to their demise. The ground underneath the National Corvette Museum is composed of the same geologic strata as Mammoth Cave and the same erosion forces that created the National Park created this natural disaster. Even though the loss totaled in the millions of dollars, the good news was that there was no one in the museum at the time and that all eight cars devoured were owned by either Chevrolet or by the museum itself…no private cars on loan were damaged! In a classic “Lemon-Lemonade” move, the cars were exhumed, the floor repaired and the damaged Corvettes were pretty much left in the condition they were when pulled from the wreckage. They are once again on display in their original orientation on the Skydome floor.
The sight of all these beautiful and rare Corvettes all mangled and twisted makes a gearhead like me cringe.
But at the same time, it’s a fascinating sight…I spent more time in this display area of the museum than any other! Apparently I’m not alone, the membership and attendance at the National Corvette Museum has increased dramatically following the disaster.
Both Kit and I agreed that the National Corvette Museum was well worth the time to explore, so if you ever find yourself in Bowling Green, Kentucky make sure you stop by for a visit.
After a quick dinner at a nearby Cracker Barrel we headed back to the campground as the sun shone through a distant rain shower.
Friday, May 6, 2016: This morning, while taking my morning walk about the campground, I spied this unusual tree formation.
I guess that explains the age old question as to if a bear does his business in the woods!
Kit and I were on the road at 1100 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 65 degrees. As we wound our way through the national park we couldn’t help noticing all the songbirds that were giving us a farewell serenade.
After finding our way to I-70 and heading east we rolled into the Eastern Time Zone and lost yet another hour of the day!?!? However, this puts us in the same zone as Maine and marks another milestone toward getting home.
At 1330 Kit and I arrived in Fort Knox, Kentucky and headed for the US Army Recreation facility known as Camp Carlson.
The campground was pretty full with active duty service members and their families. In addition, there was as a number of retired folks that appeared to be camping here for an extended period of time…however, we were able to bag a nice spot for a few days.
Notice the awning out, the chairs set up, and the barbeque on the picnic table…this is to be relaxation stay!
Saturday May 7th and Sunday May 8th 2016-Fort Knox, Kentucky: Camp Carlson is a full service military recreation park with numerous walking paths along a nice creek.
Also, in addition to the very nice and well-kept campground there is a stocked fishing lake bordered by picnic pavilions and a large community center.
Where we enjoyed sitting on the veranda and enjoying the beautiful weather.
For most of this two day stay, Kit and I just goofed off. However we did take one trip onto the Army base to resupply at the large and well stocked Post Exchange and Commisary. Also while on base we took a peek at the General George Patton Museum.
An interesting display depicting the career of the famed WWII General as well as other US Army leaders throughout history. A particularily poignant historical artifact was the 1939 Cadillac staff car that patton was riding in when a “Duece and a Half” military cargo truck turned in front of the Generals automobilie.
The resulting crash fatally wounded Patton and a few days later he succumbed to his injuries. A rather tragic ending for a soldier that survived many combat engagements during his storied career. General George Partton lies at rest in the American Cemetary in Luxenburg as per his final wishes to be buried with his fellow soldiers who perished during World War Two.
Monday, May 9th 2016: On the road at 1030 heading east on US-60.
It’s a cloudy and rather cool day as Kit and I motored along until reaching I-64 where we continued traveling toward the east.
By late afternoon we crossed the border into West Virginia and started looking for a place to remain overnight. The All Stays App showed us an RV friendly Walmart just ahead in the town of Barboursville so that became our destination.
After securing permission from the store manager and doing some shopping, I walked next door to a Chick-fil-A to rustle up some dinner which we enjoyed in our asphalt campsite as the sun set over our benefactor.
Tuesday, May 10th, 2016: Woke from a very peaceful and restful sleep, which is not always possible when parking lot camping! There was only one other RV nearby and they pulled out sometime during the evening or early morning.
As is traditional with us when dry camping, we left our campspot rather early and got some miles under our belt before stopping at a local diner for breakfast…a regional chain called “Butter it Up!” They featured many interesting breakfast entrees that were fortified with localy produced and very delicious butter!
Even the freshly pressed coffee was laced with butter! Probably not the healthiest food choice, but boy was it ever good!
Back on I-64 we continued east through the rolling hills of West Virginia.
Nearing the town of Charleston, we moved onto I-79 and headed north for a few hours before intersecting I-68 which led us toward the east once again.
At 1420 hours we crossed the border into Maryland and an hour later crossed the Eastern Continental Divide at an elevation of a mere 2,880 feet. Soon, Kit began looking for a place to camp for the night…the All Stays App showed us a number of promising spots but she chose a Maryland State Park known as Rocky Gap.
Securing a nice campsite, we left the truck and trailer connected and didn’t even deploy the leveling jacks as this was to be only an overnight stay.
Everything was brilliant green on this damp and overcast spring afternoon. There were a number of hiking paths and walking trails passing the campsite and led into the back country.
Where they occasionally popped out along the shoreline of Habeeb Lake.
Before calling it a night I called my cousin who lives a few hours away in York, Pennsylvania to see if he would be available for a visit. Fortunately he was, so we now have a destination for tomorrow! But that visit, as well as the rest of the trip adventures will have to wait for the next, and hopefully final, installment of Bill and Kit’s 2016 Excellent Adventure…stay tuned!
Kit’s Bit’s: I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being back in the greener part of the US! Love the desert, especially when the flowers are blooming but my very favorite places are green. Maybe, due to being born and partly raised in Minnesota. I passed on the cave tours due to being claustrophobic. However, I used the time to get in lots of walking around the park and checking out the budding trees and flowers and listening to the birds. I was also able to complete the baby blanket I’d been working on for a few months. Very anxious to meet our new little neighbor, Silas! Having a new baby in the neighborhood is about the most exciting news we’ve had!