Last weekend, I went on a little road trip. I drove to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky all by myself.
At first, I was not sure this trip was going to happen due to my back, and the weather was looking rainy most of the weekend. On top of that, I was extremely anxious about driving through Nashville.
Not only did I make it through Nashville traffic without any incident, but it rained way less than forecast. The weather was pleasant and refreshing in Kentucky to the point I had to turn on the heat both nights I was in my hotel.
My first stop was in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which is a college town an hour north of Nashville with a population of about 70,000. The city is not only home to the Corvette manufacturing plant, but Bowling Green even has a minor league baseball team called the Hot Rods.
I visited the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. The inside of the museum took the visitor on a tour of America’s first sports car from its inception in the 1950s until today. Many Corvette owners have donated their old vehicle for display inside the attraction.
The best part of the Corvette Museum was the sinkhole exhibit. In 2014, a humongous sinkhole opened up inside the main wing of the museum and swallowed several corvettes on display. Instead of turning the damaged cars to scrap metal, the destroyed Corvettes proudly stood over the covered sinkhole.
Also, NASA sponsored a display of Corvettes that were driven by some of the astronauts on the Apollo Missions. The exhibit was in conjunction with the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission where the first man walked on the moon.
Since the weather was beautiful that afternoon and it was not quite time to check into my hotel, I decided to poke around Mammoth Cave National Park. The drive through the park was peaceful as traffic through the park was light.
While in the park I walked on trails that were close to the visitor’s center and saw old churches and cemeteries, including the grave of Stephen Bishop, who lead the first tourists into Mammoth Cave over 200 years ago.
I also saw the Green River, which slices through the gorges of Mammoth Cave National Park as it winds its way to the Ohio River. Instead of a bridge over the river, a ferry carries vehicles across to the other side. I parked my Toyota Corolla on the boat and peacefully went across the river. Best of all, the ride was free.
After checking into my hotel in the town of Cave City, I ate at a local restaurant called the Sahara Steakhouse. Although I could have ordered a steak, I decided to try a Kentucky specialty called the Hot Brown.
Originally started at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, the Hot Brown is an open-faced turkey sandwich with cheddar cheese, tomatoes, bacon, and remoulade sauce. The dish, along with a bowl of homemade vegetable beef soup, was a delicious meal on a cool night.
After a hearty breakfast at the hotel that morning, I drove back into the park and went on two different cave tours. For those not familiar with Mammoth Cave, it is not just one cave but a complex system of caves and is the most extensive cave system in the world.
The first cave tour was called the Mammoth Passage Tour. A park ranger carried other eager tourists and me down to the historical entrance of Mammoth Cave. Inside the large rooms within the cave, I learned about the history of Mammoth Cave, including its use as a saltpeter mine during the early 1800s and how the first tourists etched their names into the cave. Unlike modern graffiti, these tourists used candle wax to etch their names into history on the rocks.
My next cave tour was the Frozen Niagara Tour. In that particular portion of the cave, I was mesmerized by the stalagmite and stalactite formations forming from water dripping into the ground below. The reason the tour was called Frozen Niagara is there is a particular rock formation that looks like a frozen waterfall. I even got to walk underneath the Frozen Niagara formation.
After lunch, I attended a question and answer session with a park ranger where he gave a detailed explanation about the topography of southern Kentucky. I also went on a guided hike of a place within the park called Sloan’s Pond, which was formed by a combination of a sinkhole and beaver dams.
Unfortunately, I did not entirely escape the rain. Fortunately, the visitor’s center features a detailed museum with hands-on exhibits about the history and science behind Mammoth Cave.
While driving back into town for dinner, the rain cleared out enough that I was able to drive back to the park and attend an evening program with one of the rangers. She gave a power point presentation of George Morrison, who created a new entrance into Mammoth Cave during the early 1900s. However, the best part was seeing deer prancing through the park during the evening.
After a busy day in the park, I went back to the hotel for a peaceful night's sleep. The ride home, fortunately, was uneventful.
A note about Cave City, where my hotel was located: although there are attractions for visitors, such as other caves, rock shops, and miniature golf courses, the area is a lot less commercialized than Gatlinburg in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. You will not find condominiums, fancy resorts or touristy restaurants such as Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville or the Hard Rock Café outside of Mammoth Cave.
Although I was fearful and anxious about going on the trip, I am glad I did not give in to those fears and went on my vacation. Best of all, I had the perfect mix of social interaction with the park rangers during the group activities and being by myself to explore the park. There were quite a few people at the visitor’s center on Saturday, but it was not overwhelming to the point of sensory overload.
I especially liked being able to escape the loud and chaotic nature of modern society and be out in nature, even if only for a weekend. I encourage families and individuals with Asperger Syndrome to visit their nearest national park, or even their local state park, and get away from stimuli that cause overstimulation.
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