Day 7 - It Started With a Dropped Bike and Ended in a Cave

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May 31st 2017
Published: June 1st 2017
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Day 7 - Chattanooga to Cumberland Caves to Cave City, KY

We got up early this morning - Jody because that's what Jody does - and I because I wanted to be certain that my tire pressure issues were finally behind us. So I got up at 6, took a shower and headed down to the bike for what I hoped to be the last time checking tire pressure. The good news is that it was exactly 42psi just as it should be! So I headed back to the room to book a hotel for tonight and tomorrow in Cave City, KY. I had briefly considered the Wigwam Village Inn in Cave City which are hotel cabins made of concrete and shaped like teepees. They're left over from the 30's, and a little small, so we opted for something a little more conventional. By the time we finished breakfast and headed out on the road, it was a little after 7:00.

First stop of the day were the Cumberland Caverns about 80 miles and 2 hours away. The back-roads that the Garmin lady selected were awesome for about the first 30 miles. They were full of twists and turns and ups and downs, mostly in 4th gear, but there were a few occasional 2nd gear, 15mph, 180 degree uphill hairpins that really got the adrenaline flowing! The remaining 50 miles or so were also beautiful scenery, just not as much exhilarating driving. We figured that by leaving at 7:00 for a 2 hour ride, we would arrive at the Cumberland Caves at 9:00 just in time for the first tour when it opens. Unfortunately, we forgot to take into account the time zone change, so it rapidly became apparent that we would actually arrive at 8:00 or an hour before the place even opened. You also have to understand that we are in rural Tennessee, so it's not like you can stop at the next Starbucks, or even McDonald's for that matter and have a leisurely coffee while you kill the extra hour. As we were heading down the road trying to figure out what to do for that hour, we passed by a local post office. Just what we needed to mail back the LL Bean boots that Jody no longer needed and a bunch of t-shirts that we had originally packed so we could make room for some more new ones. I contemplated sending back my little air compressor as I could always by another if the need came up, but I found a corner in the saddlebag to store it so I just decided to hold on to it just in case.

So even with our post office side adventure, we still managed to make it to Cumberland Caverns at about 8:15, which is a full 45 minutes before it opened. To make matters worse, I hadn't noticed the motorcycle parking area, and went to park the bike in a slanted portion of the parking lot. As I pulled in to the parking spot, I was moving too slowly and had the wheel turned to sharply and sure enough the bike went over. Jody came tumbling out of the seat, but both of us had done this several times before on our last trip. So this was just the first time of this trip. Fortunately, the Goldwing is designed to tip onto it's side without damaging anything, so it was just a matter of setting the bike back upright. Usually Jody and I can do this ourselves when the ground is level, but in this case the ground was slanted and we just couldn't lift it back up. Meanwhile an older guy with Kentucky plates pulled up and he was there early just like us. I was hoping a carload of teenagers would show up to help us, and I was reluctant to ask the guy to help. Just then, the bike began to leak gasoline onto the ground, and so I was forced to ask for his help right away. The three for us lifted it quickly and it started right up so I moved it over to the motorcycle parking where I should have parked it originally.

A few minutes before 9:00, some young guy showed up to open the place. By then another older couple celebrating their 52 wedding anniversary showed up, so we ended up being the first tour at 9:00. Just 5 of us - Jody, myself, the guy who helped us lift the bike, and the 52 wedding anniversary couple - and the tour guide. He was really nice and knowledgeable about the cave and it's history. In fact the son of the guy who found the cave was 82 years old and still lived on the property in a double wide trailer near the entrance. The cave itself was much larger than we had expected, mostly dry, but some great formations in some areas. There was one section of the tour that was optional as it involved climbing up and down 160 stone steps cut into the path. Never one to miss a challenge, Jody and I along with the 2 other men decided to give it a try. Only the guys wife, who had some problems with asthma decided she had better not. It was really a fun climb, and the formations on the other side were great. By the time we made it out of the cave it was about 10:30 and the Garmin lady said that if we left right now we could be in Cave City by 1:30.

So off we went, thinking that if we went to Mammoth Cave directly, we should be able to book our tours for tomorrow and maybe even one for this afternoon. Mammoth Cave has about a dozen tours available. They are based on how strenuous they are and distance need to be walked. They also have some lantern tours, but we're not big fans of these as while they may be a little more authentic to the way tours were run years ago, we just though we would be spending too much time messing with lanterns and trying not to trip in the dark, and that most of the formations would not be well visible by only lantern light. So we picked the 2 hour Gothic Avenue ghostly tour in the morning and 2.5 hour Domes and Dripstones tour in the afternoon. For today, we were able to book the 2 hour Historical tour at 2:45. This gave us enough time to get our Passports stamped, buy a couple of t-shirts, and get everything stored back on the bike before the tour started.

The Historical tour was excellent! Mammoth Cave is - in a word - Mammoth! We walked about 2 miles underground and the Park Ranger was great. Since this was a historical tour, he spent some time on the history of the cave system, and showed us the remnants of the saltpeter mine that was used to mine saltpeter to make gunpowder in the War of 1812. There are some areas of the cave that are still active to flooding, and he showed us the water height when the cave flooded during the Nashville floods that flooded the Grand Ole Opry several years ago. But most of the time was just spent walking and viewing formations. This tour also include the "Fat Mans Misery" which is a narrow passage several hundred yards long where there it plenty of room for the upper body, but a very narrow squeeze for the lower body. To make matters worse, at the end of the squeeze, the ceiling comes lower making it difficult to pass through.Jody and I love this stuff, and the National Park caves are the best!

We finished our tours just in time to check into the hotel at about 5:00. There wasn't a good restaurant in walking distance, but TripAdvisor said the best restaurant in town was a Mexican place called El Mazatlan. It turns out they were right! I'm not sure why there are all these Mexicans in Cave City Kentucky, but there are, and they sure know how to make great Mexican food! I had an enchilada dish and Jody had the chicken fajitas and both were outstanding. We are both looking forward to tomorrows tours.

233.5 Miles Today

1187.0 Miles Total

5.360 Gallons Today

33.037 Gallons Total

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