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Mammoth Cave NP, TN
Miles Today: 123.6
Total Miles: 6115.2
Days on the Road: 120
Liz pushes the envelope. (She later fell)

Trees Identified Since We Got Our Tree-Identifier-Book

White Oak
Sugar Maple
American Beech
Tulip Poplar
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Kentucky Fried Chickens
N 37°11.172 W 86°06.001
Friday, May 30, 2003 - Day 120

In keeping with our newfound affection for small enclosures (note our current 15 x 6 home on wheels), we were immediately intrigued upon learning about the Wild Cave Tour at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Five miles of belly-crawling, rock climbing and shimmying our bodies through narrow caves sounded like our idea of a good time. We even met the physical requirements by having chest and hip measurements not in excess of 42 inches, but just barely (did we forget to mention Liz's boob job?). Then, to our dismay, we read on to find out the tunneling tour would keep us underground, chin to the mud, for at least six hours. It seemed like a huge commitment at the time, so we opted instead for the Violet Lantern Tour, which required no kneepads and less time staring at the feet of the person ahead of you. Our three-mile tour traced some of the cave's history, from prehistoric scavenging for gypsum to the early 1900s when an experimental, short-lived and frankly quite creepy tuberculosis hospital was installed 2 miles into the cave. Navigating the huge caves with only the dim light of a few hand-held lanterns, it turns out most of what we saw was - you guessed it -- the feet of the person in front of us, so really, it probably wasn't much different from the belly crawl tour.

Today we checked out Mammoth Cave's above ground terrain on a 12-mile bike ride through the backcountry. Aside from a couple rocky slides and impassable uphills, the trail alternately roller-coastered through winding dips then meandered peacefully among dense forest. Liz took two impressive spills, derailed her chain and brakes and finished the ride with mud caked thigh high - perhaps that was nature's little payback for wimping out on the Wild Cave Tour. Once we stopped sucking air, we rated the ride among our top five rides thus far. (For those of you not consistently playing along and keeping tabs at home, we've only been out mountain biking about five times on this trip. But nonetheless, it was a good one.)

Tonight, after a brief stop to see the log cabin, or some sort-of-might-be-close-approximation of the log cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born (now housed in a fancy-schmancy Parthenon-like thingie), we've set up camp at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, which, if we're to believe the barrage of roadside signage, has something in common with Steven Foster, the musical. Clearly, this begs for investigation. Lucky for us, and you, we're traveling with no shortage of guidebooks and, since the time I wrote that last sentence, we've unraveled this great mystery. Here's the story: Years ago Steven Foster visited this area and was inspired to write the ballad, My Old Kentucky Home. There you have it. Nothing like a good mystery.

Photos By Lantern Light

Mean Ferry Man Wouldn't Let Us Get A Picture With The Badunk On Board

Stern Warnings From Ranger Joe
more photos in the archives »

Don't forget « Nashville «.

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yesterday tomorrow