As predicted, the day dawned a bit on the overcast side. We wondered why we had not saved the cave for today, but since it sounded like it was REALLY raining in the area where we would be going, we decided to spend a little more time in Kentucky. After getting clean in our little slanty wigwam shower, we headed out into a little Mother Nature shower, bound for the Cream and Sugar Cafe that we passed yesterday in Cave City. It was a lovely space, with a hardwood floor and cheery yellow walls filled with original art. Our server was a little ray of sunshine on this cloudy day, and our breakfast arrived in a jiffy on darling little cherry plates. Kim had country (not city) ham and eggs with a biscuit, and I got the Highlander omelet - ham, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and cheese - with a biscuit. The perfect way to start the day!
Our morning's destination was Kentucky Down Under, an attraction in nearby Horse Cave that boasted a collection of Australian animals, a cave, and several other items of interest. Since I've just returned from Australia, I thought it would be funny to have pictures of kangaroos taken in Kentucky! We got there just in time for the 10 AM cave tour, which we weren't necessarily planning to take, but when we heard it was a short tour and that the cave had lots of formations, we changed our minds. Our tour guide, Shannon, was a local girl whose grandfather had led tours of this same cave. The only other cavers with us were a mom and her four-year-old son, so we got personal attention. This cave used to be called Mammoth Onyx Cave, as the owners of this land tried to catch tourists before they got to Mammoth Cave (back in the day).
The cave was allegedly discovered by a young girl in 1799, who stumbled upon the entrance (a 30 foot deep sinkhole) while she was playing in the woods. When the owners first began exploiting the cave as a tourist attraction, visitors climbed down (and back up) a wooden ladder through this hole. Imagine the clothes women wore back in the early 20th century and picture that! Since this small cave is open to the surface and is not protected by a sandstone layer like Mammoth Cave is, it is a wet cave and therefore has lots of wonderful formations. It was slippery going in the cave, and some of the passages were quite narrow, but the formations were pretty cool. My favorite one looked like a chocolate fountain! The colors ranged from a light brownish yellow to deep red-orange to chocolate brown. Early visitors to the cave were allowed to break off pieces of stalactites to take home as souvenirs, but today more care is taken to protect the cave.
There was a small pond in the cave that used to be a home to eyeless fish and crawfish, but they are no longer living due to the number of pennies that were thrown into the pond by sightseers (over $20,000 worth!) One of the fun things they always do in caves is turn out all of the lights so that you can experience utter darkness – it is always a surprise to me how very BLACK it is with no light, and how even one little light can illuminate so much! On the way back up the stairs and out of the cave we spotted several small (two or three inch long) salamanders, which is a good sign for the health of the cave. Thankfully, even though it had been overcast and much rain was predicted for the day, we didn’t get flooded down in the cave. Shannon told us she had given tours ankle deep in water!
Back out in the heat and the light (did I mention the humidity?), we went to our first Down Under exhibit, which was about bringing non-native plants and animals to the continent of Australia. I found it interesting that there was no mention of bringing non-native animals (like kangaroos) to the US, but maybe that’s just me. The presenter of this exhibit, Jesse, did a great job. He talked about seemingly non-threatening animals that the British introduced that have since caused much harm, chief among them being rabbits. The Australians had even built a LONG ‘vermin-proof’ fence in Western Australia just to keep rabbits out of the many sheep stations there. Of course, the rabbits just burrowed under it. Other animals he talked about were dogs, sheep, goats, and camels. The camel turned out to be a good thing, as it was good for traversing the desert which occupies so much of the interior of Australia. We met Camelia (original name, huh?) and then we were on to our next stop – the kangaroos!
The exhibit here had three kinds of kangaroos – the reds, the Eastern grays, and the smaller wallabies. We were able to pet a couple of them, but most of the kangas were just lying around being lazy. They were cute, though, and it sure was funny to see them in Kentucky! Also in the enclosure were black swans and emus. We got to pet an emu, too, and feel how thick its feathers are. No wonder it can’t fly – they were heavy! From the kangaroo pen, we walked over to the lorikeets. These birds were by far my favorite Australian birds – they are so colorful! Green, blue, red, and yellow – just like a rainbow of birds. These guys knew it was feeding time, and they could hardly wait until we got in the pen. One landed on Kim’s shoulder and stayed there the whole time! Another stopped on her head for a little while, but it was really funny to see the birds on the heads of the bald men!
We had missed the border collie shepherding event, but we got to feed some lambs and see several different kinds of rams. I didn’t realize that some rams do not have horns, and I surely didn’t know that one variety of ram can have up to twenty horns!! The little boy who had been on our cave tour also got to milk this GIANT cow. From here, we went through the exhibit that had lots of different bird cages. The birds are so exotic and pretty! We had missed the morning digeridoo recital, and we chose not to wait for the 3:00 show, so after a quick stop at the dingo pen, we were on our way. This was a nice little park and one I would recommend if you find yourself in the area for a few hours.
Since we were trying to let the southern torrential rains work their way east before we went south, we decided to take the Cordell Hull Scenic Byway down to Tompkinsville, KY instead of going straight to Nashville. This route took us through the metropolis of Glasgow, where we got hungry for some lunch. Even though we had our Road Food book with us, it was of no use in this part of the state. As much as I’ve liked most of the places I’ve eaten on the Sterns’ recommendation, my biggest gripe about their books is that often, you need to stay in one area for many meals, and then you might go hungry before you find your next good place to eat! You’ve probably realized that our trips are as much about food as anything, and we’ve learned to sniff out the local eateries pretty well. Now with Garmins and iphones, in addition to AAA and books like Road Food, it’s even easier. And so we found ourselves navigating the streets of Glasgow, circling the town square and landing in the parking lot of the Li’l Country Diner, a very non-descript looking building with a large, mostly empty, gravel parking lot. Given that it was about 2:00, this didn’t dissuade us. Good thing, ‘cause there were some good eats inside! We got the meat and two, for which both of us chose roast beef and gravy, mashed potatoes (and gravy), and green beans. I also succumbed to the pull of a freshly made deviled egg, and of course we each had a roll and a huge glass of iced tea with lemon. The pie of the day was butterscotch, but for once we were able to control ourselves. We did have the foresight to take a half-pint of homemade pimiento cheese with us, and you can’t beat the prices here – both of our lunches, plus the cheese, cost under $15…
http://www.wku.edu/kentuckyfolkweb/KYFolklife_Gates__fun.html and learn a bit about Rolley Hole marbles. And if you have a dead LaZBoy, send it to Tompkinsville, KY. They can use it at the Marble Dome!
On the way out of town, we stopped at the IGA to get supplies for the road – saltines for our pimiento cheese, cold brew tea bags, and ice. We were good to go! We had thought we might take scenic route KY 100 over to Scottsville before heading south to Nashville, but after our Close Encounter of the Deliverance Kind, we just went south! Right past the Tennessee state line, we came face-to-face with a grazing buffalo, and then we started seeing some large horse farms. Soon we were nearing Gallatin and surely we were passing some homes of country music stars – big spreads! Kim’s son’s girlfriend, Laura, works in Gallatin, so we gave her a call and stopped in to see her. We invited her to dinner with us and made arrangements for our room for the night, and then we took off for Franklin via downtown Nashville. Even at 6 PM and leaving about 15 minutes after we did, Laura had time to go to the grocery before Lee (our Garmin mate) had gotten us through the center of town. We did get a good look at the Titans stadium, the Cumberland River, the old Union Station, and the state Capitol though! We drove right through Vanderbilt’s campus and eventually got to our hotel in Brentwood. Laura met us there and we enjoyed being in civilization by getting sushi at Peter’s Sushi in Cool Springs. I got Spicy Catfish (a Thai entrée) and Kim and Laura got sushi rolls. We didn’t see anyone famous except In the photos on the walls.
Lost in time but not in space,