Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 100 ~ FIRE! & Mammoth Caves

Mike and Gregory working on the Junior Ranger Adventure Book prior to our departure on the 9:45 A.M. Historic Cave tour. When we saw a group of over 120 school children arrive we got a little worried. Fortunately they had their own ranger and went well ahead of our group of about 40! I've been there, done that!

The Historic Cave Entrance

Double click here to read about The Twilight Zone...the area around the entrance of the cave.

Not a great picture but it gives you some idea of the size of the "rooms" in these caves. You can see the back of Mike's head on the left. He is in the black coat.

Giants Coffin (Yes, I know I really needed something in this picture to give you some perspective. It is really massive.)

These limestone caves were formed by carbonic acid dissolving the rock. A sandstone and shale "roof" keep them primarily dry.

Fat Man's Misery (This wasn't even one of the tighter spaces we had to get through.)

Sidesaddle Pit (It wasn't raining in the cave I just had some drops on my camera lens.)

The Mighty Cavers

This is a little hard to see but we are casting shadows on the cave walls (l-r) Mike, Gregory and Dorrie (You can actually see Gregory's back and arms up in the area if you look on the left.)

Tulip Poplar trees were hollowed out using a spoon-bit auger (a type of drill). They were used as a water pipeline to move water from the waterfall at the entrance of the cave to the mining operation inside the cave. They have remained preserved since 1812 due to a constant temperature of 54 degrees with 80 percent humidity that is maintained in the cave.

Double click on this picture to read more about Salt-Petre Mining. "Cave owners in the early 1800s used mostly slaves to first wash calcium nitrate from the dirt, then process that into crystalized potassium nitrate. A lot of money was made doing this for our country during the War of 1812" (Junior Ranger Adventure Book)

Junior Ranger Gregory is ready to ride in the rain!

We saw over a dozen and a half wild turkeys today! Both the native white-tailed deer and turkey were scarce in the park at one time (because of hunting and loss of habitat to farms) therefore 62 deer and 15 turkeys were released into the park. Both have done well and now are a common sighting in Mammoth Cave National Park. (Information taken from Gregory's Junior Ranger Adventure Book)

Today was our worst rain yet. Gregory said, "It feels like hail is hitting my face!" It did feel a bit like needles, especially on the downhills. I kept hearing Mike say, "Ouch!" every now and then. He was getting pelted by either pokey wet leaf stems or bits of debris off the trees.

The Green River

FIRE! With the fire alarm blaring, our Super 8 was evacuated for about an hour. It turned out that the motel was just "firing up" the heating unit for the first time this season and the dust burning off triggered the alarm.

During our evacuation I had to run Gregory over to the Pizza Hut to relieve himself. This was the scene at the motel upon our return. It was pouring rain.

Gregory asking the fireman, "Can we can go back to our room?"
I felt so bad for him, not only because the whole experience was a bit scary but also because he had worked so hard to finish his journal and do his reading so he could watch some t.v. tonight.

Date: October 27, 2009

From: Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

To: Munfordville, Kentucky

Route: A whole bunch of little roads but mostly Hwy. 70 and Hwy. 335

Miles Today: 25 miles

TOTAL MILES: 2,825 miles

Top Speed on this trip: 54.1 mph

Weather: Rain, Rain and more Rain, Low 50s

License Plates Collected: 5 Montana, 8 Wyoming (2 motorcycle) and 1 Idaho (found in WY), 2 Colorado, 1 Kansas (Gifted from David of Baldwin City), 1 Missouri (To be sent to Grammy’s by our new buddy, Kansas City firefighter Shawn), 1 Illinois, 2 Kentucky (Gifted from of Beth and Garry Feltus)

Flats: 8

Broken Spokes: 3

Cracked Rim: 1

Our 100th day went out with a bang. We just got back to our room, after an hour outside, due to a fire alarm evacuation! The entire Munfordville Volunteer Fire Department came out to check out the second story of the Super 8. When the alarm went off we grabbed all of our jackets, Greg's journal and the computer and headed outside. It was pouring rain but all the guests gathered under the drive up overhang. Then, all of a sudden Gregory and I looked around and Mike was gone. He'd decided to go back in and head upstairs to see what he could do to help. Gregory and I went back into the lobby for a minute or so but the alarm was blaring in our ears and Gregory started getting really upset about his dad being in the building. I felt so bad for the little guy. I just hugged him and and assured him everything would be alright. Once Mike rejoined us outside Gregory felt much better. Mike felt it was safe enough for him to go back to our room on the first floor and he collected Gregory's kitty and doggie. That provided Gregory some comfort but then Gregory realized he had to go to the bathroom and was getting upset that we couldn't get inside. Mike and I were at a loss for a minute then I decided that, though it was pouring and firetrucks continued to pull up to the motel, Gregory and I would hightail it across the way to the Pizza Hut where we had our 100th day dinner a couple hours earlier.

Gregory kept asking us when we could go back to the room and when our answer of, "When it is safe" wasn't good enough for him we let him ask the 6 or so fireman that were standing out front with us. He got the same answer from them so decided he would sit tight on a bench with us. Ironically, as we sat waiting and watching, two of the fireman lit up cigarettes as well as almost every other motel guest! I told you we were in tobacco country! We did have one nice fireman come up and ask Gregory how he was doing. Gregory was at a loss for words (which rarely happens) and we told the firefighter that our bike and all of our possessions were in that room and would he do his best to protect them. He was great and asked for our room number and said he'd do his best. We finally got the all clear and it turned out that the motel had decided to turn on the heater for the first time this season and the dust created the burning smell and triggered the alarm. Luck was with us again tonight.

Today started off with a "bang" of sorts also. We got to tour the incredible Mammoth Caves. There are over 360 miles of charted caves with more that are undiscovered. It is primarily a dry cave due to the sandstone and shale ceiling over the limestone cave that prevents water from entering. For this reason their aren't as many cave formations like stalactites (like icicles hanging from the ceiling), stalagmites (mound-like formations coming up from the ground), draperies (coming down from the ceiling), thin hollow soda straws (a type of stalactite), cave popcorn (on the walls) and other formations like our own Lake Shasta Caverns in Northern California. Mammoth Caves does have some amazing formations including Frozen Niagra, it is just that the formations are only predominant in certain areas of this enormous cave system. We chose the "Historic Tour", a 2-hour 2-mile trek into the large caverns from the historic entrance.

The rock in which the cave is formed is limestone. "Water, mixed with carbon dioxide from the air and soil, makes carbonic acid, which dissolves away the rock." (Junior Ranger Adventure Book) Our ranger Tori also told us that carbonic acid is found in soda pop! If that doesn't get Gregory to cut back on soda nothing will! We actually have cut him way back and are having him drink more water, juice, milk and non-carbonated beverages.

We were fortunate that we could extend check out time until 1:00P.M. so, at noon, we went back to our room, ate our PB&J, and Gregory and I worked on finishing the Junior Ranger Adventure Book that he and Mike started prior to the tour. Packing up to take off in the pouring rain was a bit stressful. I was trying to finish the booklet with Gregory and have him write his thoughts in his journal, meanwhile Mike was packing and watching the clock for checkout time. This was a recipe for disaster and when Gregory was disrespectful it just happened to be one too many times for Mike. He'd had it. Gregory got a talking to, Mike was in a foul mood and I was left holding the bike in the rain while Mike attached the panniers and Gregory sat in the room crying. (The room had a back door slider so all this was going on just out in back of and inside our motel room with the door wide open!)

We finally got the bike loaded and Mike pushed it around to the front of the building while Gregory and I took the key to the desk and then walked back over to the visitor's center to collect his Junior Ranger badge and certificate. You can see in the picture that he isn't an especially happy camper. In my mind I just kept thinking that departing at 1:00P.M. to ride 25 miles in the pouring rain with a cranky husband and an upset 9-year old is a recipe for disaster. Surprisingly we all pulled together and pedaled away safely. I asked Mike to stop 10 miles out at the McDonalds for a potty/warmup break. He wasn't too eager to do it since he knows how hard it is to go back out in a downpour but he also knew he had no choice…two against one! I could tell Mike was still stewing and I was happy he called his friend Scott back home to pick up his spirits. Gregory downed two chocolate milks and two hamburgers and was good to go. He did apologize to his dad for being disrespectful but I prompted him so I don't think Mike found it to be too sincere.

While I was in the bathroom using the hand dryer I got to thinking how it could dry out my rain pants which I was still wearing. At first I just dried the fronts but then I realized if I held out the waistband and pointed the air down the pants it was a cozy warmup. It also gave me clown pants. I had to call Gregory into the women's bathroom to show him and he liked it so much he had to give it a try. Meanwhile, Mike was suited up and ready to go standing out in the lobby. Ha! Anyhow, it was just the trick and we managed to ride 15 more miles without much consequence, except for a couple of dogs at our heels.

We arrived in Munfordville, Kentucky at around 4:30 P.M. and the temperature was 54 degrees according to the bank sign. The sign also read, "When making a living, leave room for a life." What a great quote to end the day on.


  1. I just discovered the wonders of warm air hand dryers during our Katy Trail ride. Some of the trailside restrooms have them and I would always dry my rain gear (inside and out) and then take off my gloves and shoot air down inside them too. It was cold and rainy that whole week so it was very nice to get my clothes all toasty and dry before going out again!

  2. hey folks..... hope i am not too late.... didn't realize how close you were to berea!!!!

    we recommend you stay at the morning glory b&b (bed and bath.... they don't do breakfast anymore but will do your laundry) in old town berea

    even if you don't stay, check out the weaving loom neil uses and the corn husk dolls mary makes.... wonderful people!.... tell them karen and brian said hi!.... we stayed 2 nights with them in 2004 on our tandem recumbent trans am

    i have been following your blog since you met my "distant" cousins thru marriage in mt/wa (dave and mike on recumbents

    ride safe
    karen and brian

  3. Thanks for the tip. We will definitely check that out!! I hope you are enjoying the blog!