2013 Western Road Trip, Day 2, May 31st

We were up early  due to the time change effect so we got to eat breakfast and wait around until 8:30 am to drive out to Mammoth Cave. The drive out to the Mammoth Cave is about a thirty minute drive through rural Kentucky. We spotted several wild turkeys, box turtles, and deer on the route.

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We arrived just in time to redeem our ticket reservation and join the 9:15 am tour.

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The bus ride to the cave was another ten minute drive in a really old coach/ school bus.

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After a ten minute dos and don’t speech by the park ranger, we entered the cave.

I'm REALLY excited about going into a cave!

I’m REALLY excited about going into a cave!

Our tour was described as one of the easiest traversed “Frozen Niagara” section of the cave. It is also the wettest. The tour headed down, and down with all manner of formations present, bacon,  stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and plenty of spider like cave crickets.

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Rock formations called “Bacon”

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Stalactites & Stalagmites

Ceiling Hole

Ceiling Hole

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Cave Wall

At times it also had low ceilings and was narrow enough that I felt as though I should have had a yellow flashing light on my a head and a wide load sign on my butt.  Early in the tour, the ranger killed the lights and you literally could not see your hand in front of your face. The ranger said Mammoth Cave is the deepest, 360 feet deep, and the longest in the world, 365 miles currently surveyed and another possible 600+ miles yet to be discovered and surveyed. I only did the first 2/3rds of the tour but Babs went all the way to the bottom, another 50 steps down.

After Mammoth Cave, we headed to northwestern Tennessee to visit Ft. Donelson National Battlefield. This is where General Ulysses Grant got his nick name of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. It was also the first Confederate Fort to fall to the Union. It became a “safe haven” for runaway slaves.

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On our trip to Ft. Donelson we did not have an address or map to guide us, so we relied on some verbal directions, from friendly strangers, which were less than accurate. A real highlight of this leg of the trip was when we stopped in Tiny Town, TN to get gas and discovered Tiny Town was home to a Giant Pink Elephant ans a Giant Dairy Cow sporting red reading glasses.

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Giant Pink Elephant at liquor store

The more I travel our country, the more I marvel at how little I know about our states. I had no idea as to the huge amount of wheat grown in Kentucky. I also had no idea that Clarksville, TN was a semi-conductor mecca with no less than two large manufacturing plants. I had always associated semi-conductors with California.

Leaving Ft. Donelson we head toward St. Louis, MO. This drive begins in beautiful forest for about 30 miles (an area called Land Between the Lakes. After crossing a huge lak,e it was back up onto the interstate.

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For some reason there were several semi-tractor trailers carrying large loads of radio active material in high cube vans covered in black plastic shrink wrap. Later, we had this semi with a radio active load in front of us in a construction zone backup.

Radioactive load!

Radioactive load!

Our Geiger counter was off the map!

We almost made it to St. Louis but it was 6:30 pm and I was dead tired, so we put up at a Hilton Garden Inn in O’Fallon, IL. Tornado weather was threatening in about an hour and a half, so off to dinner we went to a Golden Corral, one of our travel standbys.

Tomorrow we are heading to Council Bluffs, IA.

Babs Says: Have you ever noticed how meteorologist seem to get so exuberant during severe weather? “We have a tornado on the ground! Oh, look another cell is forming!” (This is so great. Bring it on!) “OK, folks it is time  to take shelter. (I’m so excited!) “Look at the rotation on that one!” (I love this. This is just fantastic!)

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