Traveling in a fried out Kombi
I turn off of I-65 at the Mammoth Cave exit. The stretch of road leading to the visitor center is lined with kitschy tourist traps. Right off the exit is a towering T-Rex promoting Dinosaur World. Big Mike’s appears to be the power house of rock shops, but this doesn’t dissuade some locals from piling their geodes on pallets and makeshift plywood tables to hock their crystalline rocks and other novelties. I admire their capitalistic idealism. Of course there is the always ever present southern favorite: hillbilly mini-golf, taffy and fudge shops.
I find such joy in these fading relics of a bygone era. I could spend the day just supporting the local entrepreneurs and zooming down the alpine slide. But today I have a tight deadline as I have to meet a VIP at the Cave for a 10:30 tour.
I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
Months ago when deciding to embark on full time travel chasing down Supergraphics. I reached out to U-haul from their web contact page. Never in a lifetime did ever expect anyone to respond to my request to use their graphics much less engage me in my whimsy.
Much to my surprise, not only did they respond with enthusiasm, a member of their Marketing Department took such an interest in my wild idea that she joins me today as I track down the elusive cave crickets in Mammoth Cave.
I meet Shannon, just as the tour guide, Charlie, begins gathering the 40 or so of us who have braved the December chill for the “Historic Tour”. Charlie, seems to know his history well and begins the tour explaining we’ll find a common thread in the stores and events he will explain as we go. We are to unravel this mystery as the tour processes.
Where Woman Glow and Men Plunder
Mammoth Cave is the worlds largest cave system with over 400 miles explored and 12 miles of developed trails. We begin our 2 mile hike by entering a voluminousness rotunda that contains some old wooden structures that is explained as relics from the saltpeter mining performed here in the 1800’s. Much of the labor being that of slaves. The tour proceeds through an “amphitheater” once known to house the Booth’s (from the John Wilkes fame).
Things get interesting when the lights go out and we see the ghost of Martha Washington. Seriously, she’s down there, but the glowing visage eludes capture by my camera.
The 2-hour tour proceeds through Fat Man Misery and Tall Man Misery which requires some ducking and contorting to navigate. This is probably my favorite part of the tour. The tour wraps up some 300 feet below ground before the climb back out is to begin.
The history of the cave is interesting but I was hoping for a little more visually. The Frozen Niagara and Domes & Dripstones tours offer more of that. If you’re wondering what the common thread was? The grease lantern, of course. Yeah, I didn’t get it either.
On Hippie Trail Head Full of Zombie
Mammoth Cave National Park offers 84 miles of hiking trails and right at the exit of this tour is the Styx River trail. Cleverly named as the Styz, in Greek mythology, is a river between Earth and the Underworld. Today we just call it the Green River.
I listen intently as Shannon recalls the history and attention to details of the Supergrahics. It amazes me the cornucopia of knowledge that she possesses. I feel a bit unworthy of calling myself a Supergraphic aficionado. The stories are only interrupted by stopping to admire a few white tail deer. The deer watch us in apparent amazement as we hike by.
Do You Come from the Land Down Under
No trip to the caves is complete without a visit to Kentucky Down Under. Billed as an adventure zoo, this little park offers up close and personal encounters with some of Australia’s most unique wildlife.
Opting for a golf cart to help fend of the winters cold, we head to the bird garden. A Laughing Kookaburra draws my attention. The sign states if you roll your R’s at a high pitch he’ll laugh. Sure enough he does. Just not with the camera running. It takes several attempts of leaving the cage and returning and repeating the process before the little fellow lets loose with the camera running.
I have my eye on the Walk About field. It has about 20 Kangaroos, several emus, and a couple of albino wallaby’s. I regrettably refer to the Patagonia cavys as big rats. This is much to the chagrin of the zookeeper (don’t repeat my mistake).
We are supplied animal feed by the same zookeeper I had just offended. It seems all is forgiven while feeding the now clamoring kangaroos. The park has red and eastern gray kangaroos. Most all of which are happy to take food from your hand, and pose. The trick is to avoid the ever lurking and opportunistic emu. He is ready to strike and inhale the kibble in one gulp.
You Better Run, You Better Take Cover
We wrap up the trip with a stop by the Lorrie House. I see no birds when entering the large aviary. However, when leaving the attached shed with a cup of nectar, there is a swarm. A flock of strikingly colorful albeit hungry and unafraid birds swarm us. They are nesting in hair, shoulders, arms anything they can cling too while waiting their turn at the free meal.
They pose no hazard, but are a bit unnerving when coming at you from every direction. Especially when landing on your head. You know that sugary treat they just slurped down has to go somewhere.
I come from the Land of Plenty
Mammoth Cave and Kentucky Down Under are right in my back yard and too easy to take for granted. I’m glad Shannon gave me another opportunity to visit one of the wonders of the world.