Kentucky – Our 18th State to Visit

Cave City Kentucky – Near Mammoth Cave National Park is about 80 miles north of Nashville off Interstate 65

We made it back from our two week stay near Kansas City Missouri, having left our RV in storage in Nashville Tennessee. We stayed the night in a motel then hitched up our 5th wheel the next morning, heading out to Cave City Kentucky which is a couple miles outside the main entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Before I get to far into the story regarding our visit to Kentucky I want to pass along how important it was to Karen and I having returned home to our RV. We really enjoyed the time we had with family back in Missouri and wondered what it would be like returning to the RV for the first time having left it behind. Well – we agreed the RV still felt like home and was the place we wanted to be more than anywhere. We are both happy in this lifestyle. I hope to remember to tell you the story in the next post of how we talking about embracing this lifestyle and what that really means. These are pivotal moments I want to share, especially with those planning for a future in an RV or experiencing the ups and downs of their first year or two on the road. More on this next time…..

It is worth noting our trip to Kentucky actually included the drive back from Kansas City Missouri. We took the US 60 route out of Springfield Missouri eastbound through the Ozark Mountains, having stopped to visit family overnight along the way. Paducah Kentucky was our first destination with zero plans to stop for a visit. I wanted to drive over a couple bridges a friend wrote about. You can read his remarks here at On the Road of Retirement Blog back in July of 2020. Yes, call me silly or whatever to make a destination out of driving over a rural bridge. We have time and 80 extra miles on a trip seems like nothing. The map of the United States gets a lot smaller in this lifestyle. I wanted to know what the horrifying experience was all about as described by a 10 year veteran driving a big motorhome.

These were a couple of nasty bridges that wanted to eat the side of our truck. Glad we were not towing the RV. And even more happy to find there did not appear to be many diverting to this route with the closure of the I-40 bridge in Memphis. I have no idea why we did not find a debree field of mirrors on the roadway and metal crash marks on the railing. The scenery beyond the bridges was amazing at this crossing of two major rivers. There is an alternative route over Interstate 57 to Interstate 24 which I might have taken had we been towing. You learn that adding a few miles for better roads is just part of the deal. Besides, we find some of the most interesting campgrounds by taking the longer way around.

Two bridges heading from Missouri to Paduka Kentucky via US 60 to US 62. These are very long and narrow bridges.
Google Earth View – Those truck mirrors are right on the line. No way was I going to take a picture while driving. You learn naturally what the center of the road feels like when towing a big trailer and just concentrate on keeping it there. I’m guessing our mirrors where less than a foot away from a semi that passed us on this bridge.
Google Earth view of trucks passing. Google Earth is your friend – look at it from a street view over major rivers.
And this is what John posted on his blog. Construction on the bridge. From prior experience I known in the view ahead is a temporary traffic light used when the lanes are reduced to one. Each end has a red or green light and you hope the other guy is paying attention. If you stay on the road long enough you will learn how to judge traffic patterns and things to look out for. John – for some reason my comment on your blog asking to share the photo never showed up so you never had a chance to tell me its okay to use the photo. If you want to sue me, I’ll be in about five states in as many months, good luck getting me served with the court date 🙂

It was a good idea to cut the days drive to 80 miles after hitching up the RV in storage. Wish we would have booked the first campground for a week to get rested up. We had only four nights stay to explore Cave City Kentucky which is the home of the worlds longest cave called Mammoth Cave. The cave is one of only 21 sites in the United States that is a World Heritage Site. Frankly, it’s hard to impress me with a cave as there are so many back in our old home state. Glad I took one of the 15 different tours. Karen stayed home with the dog and intended to take a horseback ride later. Cave City is an easy stop off I-65 for all you folks coming back after winter down south. No need to just get a quick park for an overnight stop when you can extend for two nights and see the sites. Just like you can do in Huntsville Alabama where I reported about the Space Center. Both were on the route towards our goals in Michigan.

There is a wonderful museum inside the visitors center where you will learn literally everything you would want to know about caves. Millions of years ago the planet consisted of one continent. What is now Kentucky 330 million years ago was a warm, shallow ocean. Calcium-rich remains of tiny plants and animals drifted to the bottom and formed what is now the cave’s limestone. Eventually the water would recede. The lands of Kentucky were uplifted by seismic activity with a layer of sandstone on top and the more water soluble limestone below forming the hills. Over time a river would erode downward and eventually form channels through the cave. Water would flow down in other places through sinkholes that formed above. Ancient man used reeds collected from near the river that burned for up to 45 minutes inside the cave. They packed bundles in as they explored the cave system. There were burn marks on the cave ceiling where reeds had been thrown to illuminate the cave from above.

The visitors center is in the center and the yellow lines are the 400 plus mile cave. Geologists believe there can be another 600 miles yet to be explored. If you want to visit a natural feature that is the largest in the world then visit Mammoth Cave.

It’s difficult to get any photos inside the cave when flash photography is not permitted. My tour began with a long walk down a paved path (later you have to walk back up hill) then down 65 steps into the cave at its historic visitors entrance. This cave has be actively toured for hundreds of years. I noticed a signature painted on a wall inside dated 1832. I had told a ranger the cave even impressed this Missouri boy. He told me that signature I was looking at belonged to a man who owned a cave in Hannibal Missouri. He came through, was impressed and traded that Missouri cave to another. The cave in Hannibal is the Mark Twain Cave where we have camped.

My tour was self-guided with rangers posted along the three miles who would answer questions. The staff is highly educated and appreciated questions, some of which lead to 15 minutes of discussion. If you think of a cave as being a tree with branches, my tour would be the trunk of the cave. I was greatly impressed with the height and depth of features. When asked what was the most important feature in this one of 15 different tours, the ranger said that would be knowing there would not have been a United States without this cave. The story goes on that during the War of 1812 the British blockaded the United States to prevent, among other products, the importation of gunpowder. This cave had deposits of saltpeter which is an additive used to make gunpowder. The wood assemblies, to include wood pipes, remain in their exact locations today inside the cave. Large mounds of dirt are scattered alongside the paved walking surfaces of the cave. These piles are the remnants of what was mined in the cave. I later read saltpeter deposits were also found at the time in the Ozark Mountains. During the War of 1812 Kentucky was a state and Missouri was still part of the Louisiana Purchase Territories. So I guess Missouri and Kentucky both were instrumental in winning the war through mining saltpeter deposits.

Even more interesting were scratches on the cave walls where ancient man scraped off deposits of gypsum for unknown purposes. I was also impressed with a couple stone buildings at the end of one large corridor. They were what is left from an experiment where people infected with tuberculosis where part of a study to see if cave living would cure them. Most died and the experiment ended. The buildings were left behind. In fact there are many items lying about in the cave, in their original locations where it is unlawful to move them. I learned after 50 years items left in the cave become part of the historical features, forever to remain where they were dropped.

Trail towards the historic cave entrance
Stairs down into the cave
Old stone building in back of cave used for medical experiment. Folks living here would ask cave visitors for news outside the cave
Yes, its hard to see, so was it when I took the photo. These are part of the remaining early 1800’s saltpeter mining operation. After about 30 minutes inside the huge cave my night vision kicked in and things were easier to see. I should have worn a patch over one eye for an hour before I entered. Closing one eye at night is an old army trick to maintain night vision when flairs are shot up in the air for temporary illumination.
Photo outside the visitors center. This is the historic entrance. This is just one of several tours you can take. So plan a multi day series of tours if you are into caving. There are other caves around town as well. Book your tour online before arrival as they get busy.
RV parking outside the visitors center in their huge lot.
Wait a minute…. I had to ask why there was a photo of sharks inside the visitors center. Remember this area was an ocean with a limestone bottom. Ancient species of shark teeth where found inside the cave. And yes, they found human remains to include where an American Indian was crushed beneath a rock ledge while presumably mining for minerals.

We camped at Singing Hills Campground in a long pull-through with full hookups. It’s a wonderful smaller campground.

Singing Hills Campround
Typical view of Kentucky Hills – This one is on the way to the campground. There are many things to do in Cave City. We should have stayed a week.
What the heck – Walmart has a liquor store across the lot from their main store. Campground brochure says this was a dry county. Nope, that changed in 2016. We brought our own beer just in case

Weeks ago, Karen ordered items to decorate our fifth wheel. After almost two years, she has finally come up with the desire or ideas to make the place more ours. She is replacing the 4×7 rug, added colorful covers on the dining chairs and had photos, taken during our trips, framed. She had everything shipped to our daughter’s house in Kansas City. This included a 3″ foam topper for the bed bought through the My Pillow Company. Two free pillows came with it which we both like. Our original mattress was an upgraded model but after 18 months it started to sag in the middle. So far so good with the new topper. We like it and will let you know how it holds up.

One of the photos Karen had framed from our trip photos. I’m still worried the extra 3M Command Strips might damage the wall paper. Friend says just heat them a little with a blow dryer before removal.

As you recall we had just come back from Kansas City Missouri for court. I had met with Dee, a retired KC Police Officer who works for the Clay County Prosecutor in Liberty MO, who handled my travel expenses. What a small world. Camped next to us at Singing Hills was a retired cop from Kansas City. We knew the same people. She is best friends with Dee whose husband welded together the generator storage area on the back of her camper. I’m terrible at getting photos of friends, new and old, at campgrounds. Donna was the retired officers name (actually as I recall she was a commander at North Patrol as I thought I recognized her from years ago) Anyway, Karen cooked us a wonderful spaghetti dinner as the three of us enjoyed sitting around the picnic table telling stories and talking about Donna’s first trip as a solo fulltimer. Donna, if you are reading this – you have the right attitude for making it in this lifestyle. I’ll tell the story to others how every evening you moved your diesel truck to the parking area near the office. That way you would not wake fellow campers when you left for the early morning outings. You and your dog, Murphy will meet many wonderful people. Travel safe. See ya next time….

We are currently camped in Warsaw Indiana through the holiday.

10 thoughts on “Kentucky – Our 18th State to Visit

  1. Mark,
    We crossed those bridges while towing our RV. Thank God, we didn’t pass any trucks going the other way. In fact, I’m not sure we even passed any cars. I don’t think I’ll ever do that again though!

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  2. We haven’t been to MC since the kids were little. Maybe 20 years ago. I just might add it to our trip if it fits! Thx for the idea.

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    • Not sure what has changed in 20 years put there looked like a ton of roadside attractions that might be worth a stop. Karen decided to skip the horseback ride where there looked like some decent pricing. I’d think riding in the hills would have been nice

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  3. I’m happy to hear you two are enjoying the RV life so well. I enjoy reading each post. One negative to our RV is very few places to hang pictures due to our large windows. I love the idea of pictures from your travels.

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    • We are figuring it out. Expectations change over time, at least for us, but in a good way. For example where we camp is not as important as just experiencing what the surrounding have to offer. Sometimes the spots are close then we discover a great boardwalk through a marsh area or a neighbor that like to go fishing. We enjoy the scenery during the drive and not just where we decided to stop. We are both paying attention to the way we treat one another more than ever, especially because of the tight living space. I’m sure you get it.

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  4. Thanks for letting me relive those fearful moments on that nasty bridge! Now ,you know why I warned people not to do it. Just glad we did it well after I was very skilled at driving the RV and not during our first year…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Visiting Colonial Charleston South Carolina and Thoughts About Fulltime Travel | Our Future in an RV

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