Cars, Caves and Lincoln’s Birthplace – Bowling Green, KY

Cars

Some of you know that Steve has a love affair with cars, and if he gets a chance to visit a car museum, show or assembly plant he’ll do it.  I think it’s his way of reliving his previous hobby of restoring and modifying muscle cars.

He asked me if he could show off some of his work; these are just a few of the many projects he completed during and after his years in the Air Force:

He has promised to build me a modified red Ferrari or Pantera when we are done with our travel adventures – let’s see if that works out!

Apparently our tour of the BMW plant in South Carolina was just a warm-up for more of the same as we tour the good ol’ U.S. of A.  Hanging out just a few miles from Bowling Green put us in a prime location for touring the plant of the greatest muscle car of them all – the Corvette!  And it also turns out that Toyota has a huge assembly plant in nearby Georgetown, so we checked that one out, too.  It was interesting to note the differences between the smaller, exclusive Corvette plant and the huge toyota facility.

Without a lot of detail, let me give you the juice on both tours:

  • Cameras are strictly forbidden in both plants.
  • The Toyota plant in Georgetown is their largest manufacturing facility in North America, and the largest Toyota plant outside of Japan.
  • The GM Corvette plant in Bowling Green has been the exclusive birthplace of Corvettes for over 30 years.
  • Toyota’s tour is free, and folks must ride on a tram for an hour and a half just to cover this massive facility.
  • The Corvette tour costs $7 and is a one-mile walking tour led by an intern.
  • A future Corvette owner can watch their Corvette being built and take a personalized tour of the facility.  They can also start their car for the first time on the assembly line – how cool is that!
  • Both tours were fascinating, as the tour guide led us through the assembly process – from the beginning where rolls of steel are shaped into car parts – until where the finished product is running and going through final testing.
  • Toyota’s plant rolls out 2,000 Camry’s, Avalon’s and Venza’s per day.
  • Corvette creates 130 sparkling coupes and convertibles each day.
 Corvette Stingray

We saw this awesome new convertible in the parking lot.

Both tours were very informative, and we were amazed to watch how cars come together from beginning to end.  I enjoyed it as much as Steve did!

National Corvette Museum

Just across from the Corvette plant is the National Corvette Museum, which has gained much attention lately.  A few months ago, the roof of one of the many caves underneath gave way, and eight Corvettes on display were gobbled up.  Since then the sinkhole has become the museum’s hot new tourist magnet, and business has doubled.  Nature has provided them with the best publicity they could have hoped for!

Instead of repairing and filling up the hole, the destroyed Corvettes remain on display and are called the “Great 8” or the “Sinkhole Corvettes.”  Click here for a news story and pictures of the sinkhole.  Since we were not excited enough to pay $12 each to see the “Great 8”, I just snapped a few pictures of these vettes outside the entrance.

Corvette

Caves

The presence of that unknown sinkhole is not too surprising here, as the museum is only 30 miles from the largest underground cave system in the world – Mammoth Cave.  This region is known as the Sinkhole Plain, where caves are formed by the action of acidic water eating away at limestone over a very long period of time.  And that leads us to our next adventure at Mammoth Cave.

In addition to thoroughbreds, bourbon, car plants and many other attractions, Mammoth Cave National Park is another draw to the state of Kentucky.  You might think we’re getting bored of cave tours by now, but each cave is unique and this one is the biggest!  “Mammoth” refers to the large width and length of the passages connecting to the Rotunda just inside the entrance.

Mammoth Cave Passageways

A representation of the system of passages at Mammoth Cave

What makes this one different is that the cave system is made up of 400 miles of surveyed passages.  It’s the longest known cave system in the world, but it doesn’t stretch in one direction.  The passageways intersect and run above and below each other.  It has been compared to a big shallow platter of spaghetti.  The NPS offers several cave tours, and we selected the Domes and Dripstones Tour.  It wound through deep pits and high domes as we walked 280 feet below the surface.  We looked up to see some amazing vertical caves and large canyons, and noticed that the ceiling of many passageways was very flat.  This is where the acidic water hit a vein of sandstone, which is not so affected by the water.  Thus, this layer constitutes the ceiling in many areas of the cave system.

Mammoth Cave

Flat cave passageway ceilings

Mammoth Cave dwellers

Cave dwellers , eyeless and colorless crickets

Mammoth dome

Mammoth Dome – courtesy of NPS

Vertical Cave, Mammoth Cave

Looking up to the ceiling of a vertical cave shaft

We came back the following day to hike the park’s surface trails, and chose two backcountry trails which took us through forested hilly country.  But to get there we had to cross Green River on a 3-minute car ferry ride.  We were the first and only people on the trails, as Steve found out while walking through dozens of spider webs.  I gave him a “spider wand” so he could clear the webs in front of him as we walked.  We enjoyed being out there with only the deer and birds keeping us company.

Sinkhole at Mammoth Park

One of the many sinkholes in the park

Lincoln

Three states have laid proud claims to Abraham Lincoln – Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky – and rightly so.  Prior to becoming the 16th president, he may be best known as the congressman from Illinois, the “Land of Lincoln”.  But not so many folks know that he was actually born in Kentucky, where he spent the first 7 years of his childhood (the guide on our tour told us “Kentucky had him first”).  He then moved to Indiana, where he grew from youth into manhood before becoming a lawyer and finally being elected to the presidency.

We visited Lincoln’s birthplace in Hodgenville, where a memorial has been established at his birthplace and subsequently turned into a park named the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park.

Lincoln Birthplace Cabin

Symbolic birthplace cabin inside the memorial building, but not the actual cabin

Lincoln memorial building

The Memorial Building that protects the symbolic birthplace cabin is on a knoll where the cabin once stood.  The 56 steps leading up to the memorial represent Lincoln’s age at the time of his death

Back at our home base, Cave Country Campground, our afternoon entertainment consisted of the ever-changing cloud formations that sometimes brought pretty clouds, sometimes rain-laden clouds and sometimes some really ugly thunderheads:

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That one is pretty…

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…that one’s not so nice…

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…time to put the chairs away and get inside!

Let me leave you with my first  supermoon capture.  What is a supermoon?  It’s when the moon is full or new during its closest proximity to earth.  There will be two more this year, and I hope they will be visible wherever we may be!

Supermoon

P.S. – We are now in Indiana, and I’m a little behind with my posts.  We took a quick trip to California for a few days, leaving Betsy all alone in Cave City.

 

Next up:  A day in Music City!