I left Hartwell, riding north with plans to be back in Milwaukee for the fireworks on the weekend of the 3rd. I had time, and planned to stop in Wisconsin Rapids to visit a friend before going to the Big City.
There were a few things I decided I wanted to see on the way north. First was a new Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge. I know most people consider Pigeon Forge as a fly over city, unless you need something cheap and plastic anyway, but I am intrigued by museums and wanted to see this on. The owners actually put it inside a building shaped like the Titanic itself, though I thought the giant iceberg along side in poor taste.
The museum was interesting, though at $25 I thought it was a little overpriced. I was also annoyed at the rigid no pictures policy, enough that I almost passed on the whole thing. The air conditioning was nice though.
After the museum I headed for Kentucky and Cumberland Falls State Park.
I had passed it on the way south, and a little bit of research in Hartwell had shown it was supposed to be THE waterfall to see in the south. It was also one of two places on Earth where you can see a Moonbow, a rainbow made from refracted moonlight. Unfortunately I wasn’t even close to the right time for one of those, which is probably just as well since the campground fills up.
I have stayed at a lot of state parks, I like them on the whole. They are usually a little cheaper than private campgrounds, and usually better maintained with more services than county parks. This was the only Kentucky State Park I can recall staying in, and I was seriously unimpressed. The sites were dirty and the one staff person was more interested in smoking than helping. The site I ended up with was nice enough, there was no breeze anywhere and I ended up roasting. My neighbors also weren’t able to get their fire started and so kept dumping lighter fluid on it, causing flares of light and heat late into the evening.
I was up early, and at the falls around 8am.
Nothing on site even opened until 9, so I had the place to myself. The falls were pretty cool, but I can’t say they were spectacular or awe inspiring. There were a lot of stairs to get there-
They were pretty good though. The weather was awful, it was like walking around in a sauna, and I was happy to get some air moving through my jacket, leaving the park just as the employees for the Falls area started pulling into the parking lot.
Next on my too see list was Mammoth Cave, also in Kentucky but a National Park. I had wanted to see it before, but the rest of the trip made it impossible, so this time I decided I would swing past.
I ran into a immediate problem when signing up for a tour (you have to sign up for a tour, you can’t just wander around in the cave. I guess part of me was expecting that, but I had hoped for otherwise) I was told I couldn’t bring Blue in. The rule is “No containers of any kind,” and Blue, who is of course stuffed with stuffing, was considered a container. I thought it weak, but couldn’t really argue. Since he had been out of the bag for a while being examined I decided to lock him in a locker rather than leave him on the bike. Poor Blue.
The cave was impressive, and the Ranger guide amusing and informative. His assistant (who stayed at the back of the group, turning off lights in the cave and making sure no one wandered off) was a little annoyed with me at the beginning. Apparently I wasn’t moving fast enough. The group was large (The tour I was on had a limit of 122 people, it wasn’t full but there were a lot of us and I wasn’t interested in being in among them), and got strung out on it’s own. She lightened up as the tour went on and we talked about various places in the cave.
The cave was nice and cool, 52 degrees according to the ranger. It had been chilly when we first entered, but after being in the cave for a while you were comfortable. Then the tour was over, and we had to leave the cave. It was the sauna again, even though it had cooled off some since Cumberland Falls. As we left we had to walk over this sponge clean our shoes. There was apparently a fungus killing the bats.
After the cave I rode north and camped in a State Park in Indiana. It was a pleasant change from Kentucky. I had the place to myself too, which was nice.
After a good nights sleep I headed for Illinois, which is always something to be sad about. I bypassed Chicago, heading up the middle of the state with plans to camp around the border. When I got there, though, it was still early (5ish), and so I decided to press on to my friend’s in Wisconsin Rapids. I didn’t know if she would be home, but we had discussed it and she had hidden a key.
So I kept riding, and after 580 miles I got there around 11. It was a pretty long ride, the longest I had even done on the 250. She was home, and I was very glad for the real bed, and air conditioning again.