15th - 17th June 2008

In Kentucky we sampled our first commercial RV campground.   It was time to get online and attend to business and the easiest way seemed to be to patronize a campground with free wi-fi right at the site.   We checked in to Cave Country RV Campground.    We wanted to visit the Mammoth Cave National Park, which was located only a few miles from the Campground.     We went online to try to book our tour of the cave, as recommended in all the guidebooks.   We were disappointed to find nothing available for that afternoon, so went ahead and booked a tour early the following morning.

By early afternoon, having already dealt with all our internet business, we decided to take a drive up to the National Park and take a quick look at it, maybe walk a trail or two.    On arriving at the visitor centre we were surprised to find plenty of places available on the tour departing in just a few minutes time.     This was our first experience of confusion with online booking, more would follow........

Heading underground at Mammoth Cave NP

Christine squeezes through "Fat Man's Misery"

A friendly park ranger changed our reservation and before we knew it, having donned warmer clothes, we were heading out for a tour of the world's largest cave system.   We'd opted for the Historic tour, which would take us to visit old saltpeter mining works, to see historical graffiti made when freed mining slaves began giving tours of the abandoned caves and ancient Native American Indian artifacts found in the cave system.

The cave system was so immense that even as we approached the entrance we felt the icy cold air rising out of the caves from a couple of hundred metres away.    We were glad we'd dressed more warmly, despite the hot and humid weather outside the caves.    

Before we entered the cave system, our ranger again offered people a last chance to opt out of visiting the caves and get their money back.   "This is not the tour for you if you are claustrophobic or afraid of heights," we were told.     We looked at one another, one a claustrophobe and one with a fear of heights,  hmmm.    We decided to "feel the fear and do it anyway", heading apprehensively down the stairs to the cave.

In our two hour tour, we only visited a tiny fraction of the cave system.    Highlights (or terrors) of the tour included the "bottomless pit", a deep pit alongside the walkway, several hundred feet deep. "Fat Man's Misery" was a section of the tour which needed some agility and would surely live up to its name, but the claustrophobe made it through with sanity intact.    There were several large chambers in the network of narrower caves and one was even used for church services in the past.    Apparently the minister wanted to be sure that his congregation would stay right through his sermon, which he did by making sure he had the only lamp!    When our ranger turned out the lights, the darkness was certainly very intense.    Don't worry, she told us, even if the lights went out, all the electronic gadgets and gizmos carried by the tourists would generate enough light for us to find our way out!    She had us turn on digital cameras and cell phones to demonstrate how much light they produced, which was pretty amazing.     Finally we came to the long, fire-tower-like stairway which would lead us upwards and back out of the cave.  We were glad to see daylight at the top, despite the heat!

Corvette's Bowling Green Assembly Plant


We realised it was the 7th anniversary of Phil's retirement and we wondered how we should celebrate.    Well we were in Kentucky, so maybe some chicken would be in order.    We didn't want fast food so opted instead for the southern institution Cracker Barrel.    We'd never patronised that chain of restaurants before but it seemed to fit the bill and, as luck would have it, the special for the day was southern style fried chicken.     Later, with bellies bulging we made the most of the rocking chairs which line the porch at every Cracker Barrel restaurant.


We hit the road early next morning to make it to the Corvette Assembly Plant at Bowling Green, 
Kentucky for the nine am tour.     For only five dollars you get to tour the whole impressive assembly line and see for yourself how they build their two sports car models,  from raw steel frames welded by robot welders to fully finished, beautifully trimmed sports cars.    When they are finished, the cars are seriously put to the test.   Not only are all the systems tested out in a computerised testing bay, the cars are also checked for leaks in another bay which simulates a severe rainstorm.     Customers who had ordered a car were able to witness the assembly of the car and drive it off the production line themselves.   
We were on the road again before lunchtime and decided maybe it was time for a couple of days rest and recuperation.   We decided to head west through Kentucky to the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, which seemed to fit the bill perfectly.   

The recreation area lay on an island between Lake Barkley and Lake Kentucky, which had been created when an artificial dam was built.   We picked a campsite at the north of the island and our new home proved to be idyllic, with fabulous waterfront views.   Of course, some pesky boaters decided to come and anchor at the bottom of our garden - what a cheek!

Land Between the Lakes Elk and Bison Prairie


During our downtime we rode some bike trails and visited the elk and bison prairie, managing to spot both types of wildlife.   The Bison, or buffalo, which can grow up to 2000 pounds for a bull can move at up to 35 miles per hour over rough terrain, so caution was needed.     Millions of buffalo used to roam an area from Georgia to Hudson Bay and from the Appalachians to the Rockies.  Many present day highways in Kentucky and Tennessee follow buffalo trials or traces.   By 1800 buffalo had disappeared east of the Mississipi due to unregulated slaughter and destruction of their habitat by the settlers but luckily, due to the foresight of a few individuals who developed small captive herds, the buffalo were saved from extinction.   Buffalo were reintroduced to the park but the size of the herd has to be controlled based on the feedstuff available.

Phil also went on a fishing trip with our neighbouring campers to try his hand at lake fishing.    On his first cast he hooked a small-mouthed bass.  


To round off our visit we took an evening walk around peaceful Hematite lake, where we were in company with several deer and a large number of beautiful butterflies.



Hematite Lake

Return to homepage     Return to 2008 index