Tag: Kentucky

Lost River Cave, KY

Lost River Cave, KY

Kentucky – or at least the area around Bowling Green – is has a lot of caves. We knew we would pretty much have to visit one while we were there, but were more than a little intimidated by the size of Mammoth Cave National Park. We decided to visit Lost River cave instead, which offered tours of a cave by boat. It seemed unique and sounded like it could be fun.

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We made the right choice! The cave and the area surrounding it have a great history. On our cave tour, we learned that the river has four exposed blue holes. One of these was the cause of the Lost River being listed by Ripley’s Believe it or Not as the “Shortest, deepest river in the world.” Plumb bobs indicated that the blue hole was 427 feet deep, while the river itself is only 350 feet long. However, the measurements were faulty. The blue hole is linked to a further underground river, and the plumb bobs that were dropped in to measure the depth were swept away rather than hanging straight. The real depth of the blue hole is only ten feet.

We started our tour at the cave entrance, where a dam built in 1872 still stands.

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After a brief introduction, we were led to the boat that would take us into the cave:

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At one point, we had to duck a little because the water was high and the cave ceiling was low. Our guide was practically laying across the back end of the boat and guiding us through the narrow opening.

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The cave was damp and dark, as you would expect a cave to be. I don’t really remember much about the cave itself, except that sailing into it on a boat was pretty cool.

The guide spoke a little about the cave’s history during the Civil War, including the fact that it was under the control of first the Confederates, and then Union soldiers. The Union soldiers, in fact, used the location as a camp, and soldiers names and ranks have been found written inside the cave.

Shortly after the end of the Civil War (1868), there was a bank robbery in Russellville, Kentucky. Jesse James and his gang were believed to have been responsible. It is widely believed that Jesse James hid out in the cave to escape capture by law enforcement following the robbery.

But what fascinated me the most was that the cave had been used as a nightclub! Known as the Cavern Nite Club, the venue was popular because of its cool temperatures. In 1939, Billboard Magazine named the Cavern Nite Club as the only air-conditioned nightclub in the U.S.

By the 1960s, nightclubs were a thing of the past. People were entertained at home by way of television and radio. Additionally, an interstate highway was built in the area, pulling traffic away from the site of the cave. And the advent of air conditioning meant that people were less likely to be drawn to the naturally cool environment of the cave. For several decades, the area fell into ruin and became a dumping site. Thankfully, a group of concerned citizens formed a non-profit group in 1990 to bring the site back to its original state. Three years later, Lost River Cave was opened to the public.

Today, there is still a big area suitable for dancing, with a large chandelier overhead. It is a popular (and unique) wedding venue.

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After our tour, which lasted about 45 minutes, we visited the butterfly garden, which is another attraction at the Lost River Cave property, and did a little gem mining. The gift shop was very nice with a wide variety of souvenir items. All in all, it was a very enjoyable excursion and I recommend it, especially for families.

Lost River Cave is located at 2818 Nashville Road, Bowling Green, KY 42101. Telephone 270-393-0077. Hours vary by season.

Kentucky’s Historic Rail Park

Kentucky’s Historic Rail Park

The Historic Railpark Train Museum is housed in a no longer used train depot. I will say right off the bat that, had I been traveling alone, I would not have gone to this museum, because I’m not that interested in trains. There were a few displays to look at and some video presentations as well. I think the most interesting thing that I learned was that Bisquick was invented for use on railroad cars.

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The second half of our visit consisted of a tour through three railroad cars and a caboose. First was the dining car. They certainly knew how to eat in style – check out this dining service set from the museum:

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But the kitchen was a little less glamorous:

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After the dining car, we proceded to a sleeper car.

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I was impressed with the ingenious use of space. Nearly everything was a multi-purpose item. The seats became beds (see above) and the sinks became vanities:

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I’m not a big fan of small spaces, and it didn’t take long to realize that I wouldn’t have appreciated this mode of travel. Until we got to the Presidential car. That I could have traveled in, as it was much more spacious and luxuriously appointed (at least by comparison).

While trains don’t hold a particular fascination for me, I think this would be an ideal place for train enthusiasts to visit. I did leave with a keen sense of appreciation for the employees and passengers of the railway lines of ages past.

The Historic Rail Park and Train Museum is located at 401 Kentucky St, Bowling Green, KY 42101. Telephone 270-745-7317. The museum is open 9:00 – 5:00, Monday thru Saturday and 1:00 – 4:00 on Sundays. Free parking is available onsite.

Australia in Kentucky

Australia in Kentucky

Kentucky Down Under is an attraction near Bowling Green, Kentucky that features Australian animals. At first, I thought it sounded really hokey and lame, but it ended up being one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. Here’s how we spent our day there…

First, we got loads of good information from the lady in the Visitor’s Center. She told us the best times to do most of the featured activities, marked everything out nicely for us on a map, etc.

After that, we wandered up the hill, bypassing the budgie area. The employee we spoke with recommended that we save that until we were on our way out, so we kept walking. At the top of the hill there was a large group of school children eating lunch. A peacock was wandering nearby, showing off his plumage. We took a few pics of the peacock (why, I don’t know, because I see them at our local zoo all the time), then kept walking down the path.

The first animal we saw was a dingo. I don’t know what I was expecting — maybe since they’re referred to as “wild Australian dogs,” I thought I would see a snarling beast the size of a wolf and twice as scary. Whatever it was that I’d been expecting to see, it certainly wasn’t this:

dingo

Honestly, he was just a cute little dog with a head that was slightly too big for his body. Not vicious, not threatening. Kind of cute/pitiful, really.

Anyway, from there we strolled down to the Bird Garden, where a dozen or so birds were hanging out in their pens. They were not at all flighty (pardon the pun) but seemed quite comfortable interacting with humans. We were able to get close to their cages without them retreating from view, and many of the birds were being vocal. The kookaburra, in particular, was skilled at carrying on a conversation. My son got him going and he wouldn’t shut up!

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From there, we went to the aviary, where we were given a small cup of nectar to feed the rainbow lorikeets.  Once we got over the initial shock of having birds land on us, it was quite fun.

We finished feeding the rainbow lorikeets, then we had a few minutes to sit in the shade of a tree and hang out while we waited for the sheep herding demonstration to begin. The border collie’s name was Roxie and she was a very eager (but well behaved) dog. As soon as she got the command from her handler, she went flying across the field to round up the sheep. Roxie meant business!

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Following a very informative talk about sheep and dogs and the working relationship they have, we went to the wool shed, a large barn where various breeds of sheep were displayed for our enjoyment. There were (I think) nine different breeds. The Merino got most of the attention, as he is the sheep most commonly found in Australia. The Romney sheep kept giving me the eye.

He was the only sheep on the platform that stood up the whole entire time we were in there. And he was just a few feet away from me.

I got nervous after a while.

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So again, we learned some fascinating things, some of which I won’t repeat in detail here. Suffice it to say that sheep have wool on every part of their body, and every part of their body is sheared. (Shorn?)

That gave us about an hour to kill, so we went to the Kangaroo area. We entered the pen and met our informative guide, who began talking to us about kangaroos. We walked down the path and when the guide stopped to talk to us some more, I was surprised to see a kangaroo lounging on the ground just beside him. I couldn’t believe that I was *this close* to a kangaroo, and there was nothing between us except air!

 

My mind officially boggled.

And honestly, I can’t even tell you what all the guide said because all I heard was, “You can come over and pet the kangaroo now, one family at a time.”

And I was all, “What?!?!? I get to pet a kangaroo?!?!?”

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I did. He was much softer than I thought he would be, and a lot calmer. He just laid there with this dopey, mostly-asleep look on his face. In fact, he reminded me quite a bit of my old fat tabby cat, Daisy. When I regained my coherence, I asked the guide if kangaroos are normally such docile creatures and he said that after they eat, they tend to just lie about and sleep most of the day, particularly when it’s hot outside.

Yep, just like my Daisy.

I am still so blown away by this experience that when anyone asks me how my Kentucky vacation was, I blurt out, “Ohmygosh! I got to pet kangaroos!” That usually confuses them, and they say something like, “But I thought you were going to Kentucky…”

After we quit gawking at the kangaroos, we saw what we thought were joeys. The guide explained that they were actually wallabies. I sensed an opportunity…

ME (to guide): Oooh! Knock knock.

Guide: (bewildered look)

ME (nodding head in encouragement): Knock knock!

Guide (reluctantly): Who’s there?

ME: Wallaby.

Guide (with dread): Wallaby who?

ME: Wallaby darned, it’s a marsupial joke!

My son looked like he wanted the earth to open and swallow him whole. The guide half-laughed, half-smirked, then tried to tell his own joke. I confess, I didn’t think his was anywhere near as clever as mine; in fact, I don’t remember it.

After we finished our tour through the kangaroo area, we went back to the wool shed for a second sheep-herding demonstration. I was so glad that we did because the presentation was completely different this time around, and it was less crowded. We had seen the first show with a school group and this time it was just four or five families. Both of my kids got picked to feed lambs.

In addition, we learned how to set a sheep — placing a sheep on its butt so that it sits still while being sheared.

And then, just as our time in the wool shed was coming to an end and the employees were talking about farm life, one of them brought in a cow. I was not expecting it at all and I think I gasped or made some sort of horrified exclamation. The employees started talking to us about milking the cow and inviting us to come up and do it. I had no desire to be anywhere close to that cow.

The employee sensed this and decided it would be fun to tease me about how if I lived on an Australian sheep farm I would rather let my family starve than provide them with fresh milk. I said, “You’re going to shame me into doing this, aren’t you?” Well, I can’t let a challenge go unanswered, so I got up and stood in the cow-milking line. When it was my turn, I reached down, gave the teat a pull and once I saw some milk hit the bottom of the bucket, I ran over to the sink to wash my hands. Thoroughly, I might add. Ick.

Our day at Kentucky Down Under ended with a tour of the cave there. (There are a lot of caves in Kentucky.)

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Then, on the way out of the park, we stopped by to feed the budgies. They gave each of us a popsicle stick with peanut butter and bird seed on it. We walked in and the budgies flocked to us, landing on the sticks and gobbling up the seeds.

We left the park after that, completely exhausted but absolutely thrilled with the day’s adventure. I cannot recommend Kentucky Down Under enough!

Kentucky Down Under is located at 3700 L & N Turnpike Road Horse Cave KY 42749, about 45 miles northeast of Bowling Green. Telephone 270-786-1010. Park is open daily at 9:00 am. Closing hours vary by season.