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Published: April 20th 2008
Obfuscator writes: The morning was hunky dory, if somewhat earlier than I would generally like. Of course, National Parks like to wring every cent out of you that they can, so our $17 campsite didn't include anything useful, like a shower. That meant that we were up and moving by about 6:30, while the Visitor's Center and ticket office didn't open until 8:00. We drove over to them though, so that we could get in there right away, knowing that a lot of Mammoth Cave tours fill up rapidly.
To kill some time, we hiked around a little bit, along the River Styx Spring and Green River. The trails were full of deer, not quite stupid enough to reach out and take a bite out of, but pretty darned stupid, nonetheless. The Green River was looking pretty high, but was quite pretty, if awfully brown. Also, there was a big snail.
We got back to the ticket office just after they opened, and found that most of the specialized tours were already full. Moreover, the Historic Tour was closed for about another week, until some construction was done. This left us with only two options for seeing the cave.
We chose to do both. The New Entrance Tour is guided, and takes a bit less than two hours. It goes in through an entrance that was dynamited open back when everyone and their brother was trying to cash in on tourists' interest in Mammoth Cave. The owner of the land was a pretty shrewd guy, and did quite well for himself, luring people away from the main entrance to the cave.
What you find going through Mammoth Cave is that its main attraction is its sheer immensity. The cave is large to an unknown degree, but has at least 400 miles of tunnel. It is, however, not a terribly pretty cave. Sure, it's pretty, but when you've seen Carlsbad Caverns, or Louis and Clark Caverns, or any number of other caverns with beautiful speleothem, Mammoth Cave just sort of doesn't measure up. There are exceptional areas though. Frozen Niagara, and the Drapery Room are quite magnificent. The New Entrance itself is pretty neat too, at least when we visited. Thanks to all the heavy rain and melting snow in the north, a lot of water was coming through the entrance, making waterfalls and streams where they aren't normally.
Most of Mammoth Cave though, is just big and rocky. It's all limestone, and there's very few formations. It's big, brown, and dry.
We also took the self-guided Discovery Tour. This tour went through the Historic Entrance, and took us into a couple huge rooms including the enormous rotunda, which was fairly neat. All in all though, it wasn't too different from what we had seen in the other tour, just bigger and with fewer formations.
We turned north toward home, and after stopped briefly for lunch at a place called The Watermill in Cave City. Don't stop at The Watermill. They had a lunch buffet which must have cost at least $8.00 a head, and everything tasted like it was heated up from a can. It was really . . . not good. After many hours in the car, we stopped at our Aunt's home near Chicago to visit with relatives before heading home.
So, nearly 230 days after we left, we arrived back in our neck of the woods. We had originally planned for a six month trip, which we managed to extend to seven and a half months. We originally set out to see
the lower 48, and we've seen all of them. Certainly, some of them have received more thorough attention than others, but having done this for this long, I think I can safely say that we could have spent twice as long on this trip, and still not seen everything. So we've accomplished everything we set out to. Having done so, like our hero, James K. Polk, there was no need to seek a second term.
It's actually hard to believe I'll soon be doing something other than driving and blogging, and sightseeing. Obviously, it was always in the cards, and I always knew it would happen sooner or later, but the actuality of it is somewhat more difficult to fathom than the theory. It's sort of exciting, and sort of scary, since it means I have to find a job and a place to live again. It's all been well worthwhile though, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who feels the need to change their lifestyle for a while. The country is huge and paradoxical. People are sort of the same everywhere, but some of their attitudes and manners definitely differ from place to place. The way the
Dakotans wave to everyone on their largely deserted roads stands in stark contrast to the way people in big cities honk at everyone and everything. One is distinctly more friendly. You'll find the same music and radio all through the country. Everywhere you go you can hear Top 40, Rock, Classic Rock, Country, Christian, Hip Hop and Talk. What's amusing is that you'll find it in vastly different proportions. Fast food is everywhere, but the south has more fast chicken chains than you can probably count.
Anyway, Onaxthiel and I are both grateful for the readership and the great comments you all have left, so thanks for following our travels. If you want any advice on your own trip planning, we're happy to help. Don't unsubscribe just yet, as we have a couple more goodies we're going to upload. The Roadtrip Route in its entirety
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