First…IT LOOKS LIKE A BARN! The lean-to will be Petunia’s cover when we are “home”. Still a lot of work to do on the inside and need to add the barn doors and front metal, but there is progress. Eventually there will be an apartment in the top. Yay, the waiting is almost over!
On Thursday, September 12, we took our time getting up and on the road, then headed east to catch part of the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Trace is almost 450 miles of roadway roughly following the old north-south route used by Native Indians, soldiers, slave traders, and settlers. Along the way are many opportunities to hike, bike, and camp. Several years ago, after visiting family in Florida, MW and I drove the entire route and enjoyed it immensely. Like the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive (both of which we’ve driven before), it offers a slower pace and beautiful scenery…definitely worth the trip.
East of Hohenwald we stopped at the Meriwether Lewis Monument. Prior to Lewis and Clark‘s famous trek, Meriwether was a Captain in the U.S. Army, then Thomas Jefferson’s private secretary. When Jefferson sought volunteers for the now famous expedition, Lewis’ hand went up immediately. Jefferson thought he was perfect to lead. Although they failed in their main mission to find the water route from the US to the Pacific, they provided the east with an abundance of information from geography to culture. Once back in the east, Meriwether was made Governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory. In October 1809, Lewis was heading to Washington along a portion of the Natchez Trace when he died of gunshot wounds to the head and stomach while at an inn called Grinder’s Stand. He was 35 years old. While initially treated as a suicide, later speculation suggests that he was murdered, which was not uncommon along the Trace at that time. There is a contingent, including his family, who would like to exhume his body to try to determine what really happened, but there will probably be no answer to the mystery. In 1848 the State of Tennessee erected a monument in the form of a broken column, meant to represent a life cut short.
Back on the road we made our way across the Tennessee River to the Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park, our spot for the night. This park is one of many built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Created in 1933 as a part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the CCC was designed to help alleviate the massive unemployment brought on by the Great Depression. Approximately 3 million young men were put to work on various projects around the nation. They were given food, clothing, shelter, and $30 per month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families). Thanks to those hard-working folks, approximately 3 billion trees were planted, 3,470 fire towers built, drainage systems were built for 84+ billion acres of land, recreation areas (including campgrounds) were built, and many other major projects. The CCC helped America through a dark economic time and lasted until enrollment dwindled as our attention turned to the war overseas. As we travel around the country, we see evidence of their work in every state. What a great legacy for a relatively short-lived program.
The park is on the shores of Kentucky Lake and has a primitive camping area right along the lake, a group camping area, and Happy Hollow campground, which has water and 50-amp electric hookups. The campground is not huge, but is somewhat wooded and pretty. The gravel sites are not right on top of each other, but are closer than we prefer. There are several on the back part of the loop that would be too short for most motorhomes and fifth wheels and some travel trailers. The bathhouse was centrally located and very clean. Along with miles of hiking trails, they also have a museum, cabins, boating, fishing, a beach, and a sports field with a volleyball net. There is definitely a lot for families to do here. What you won’t find, though, is much in the way of cell signal. The campground has wifi, and you can get the password at the visitor’s center. It was hit or miss while we were there, but they were working out the kinks in the new system. After getting set up, we relaxed for the evening. The weather is still very hot and humid, so sitting outside hasn’t been much of an option except for the occasional morning.
One thing I don’t have a picture of is probably the coolest DIY RV I’ve ever seen. We saw it pulling in, but he left before I had the chance to get the pic the next morning. It was a pontoon boat initially. The guy put plexiglass sidewalls on it to close it in, then furnished it. Not sure what all was in there, but it seemed full. I guess he sometimes uses it as a camper and sometimes as a boat. Way to multi-purpose!
On Friday we were up and out to take a good hike. Wow…I had no idea there were such steep hills in this area of Tennessee! We started out and right off the bat it was up, up, up, up, and more up! Thankfully I’ve adapted to our walks, so except for slowing down on the climb, I was fine. We hiked for an hour or so making a big loop back to the campground. After cleaning up and doing a little work, we checked out the museum and headed down to Camden to do a little grocery shopping, then came back and relaxed. The park has filled up considerably since we arrived, although many of the short sites at the top of the loop are still vacant. Since our TV doesn’t pick up any stations here, we watched the first two Men in Black movies in the evening.
On Saturday morning MW decided to take advantage of having so many trails close by and went for a 5-mile hike. (No, I did not volunteer for that!) Part of his trail this morning followed a portion of the Trail of Tears. It was finally cooler and less humid, so we sat outside enjoying the weather for most of the morning after he returned. I did manage to do some client work and then worked on this blog until mid-afternoon. For supper we FINALLY finished up the leftover barbeque from last weekend! (I’m okay with not having that for a while now.) Then we settled in to watch the third installment of Men in Black.
Sunday dawned just a little more muggy than Saturday, but still nice enough to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air. Thankfully, although it was fairly full on our end, it was a quiet group and the morning was pretty peaceful. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to families having fun, and camping is a great way to do it. I do think, however, people should think about those around them in the evenings and mornings. It seems, though, that more often than not people only focus on themselves these days and courtesy is a remnant of bygone times. We took it easy all morning, reading and doing puzzles. Early in the afternoon we became a little concerned about our neighbor across the street. On Friday two men came in with kayaks, fishing and camping gear, two pickups, and one tent. Before noon MW noticed that one truck and what appeared to be half of the gear was gone, although the tent was still up. As 1 PM (checkout time) approached, he started to wonder what happened to the other guy. (We may be watching too many murder mysteries or “dropped dead in the wilderness” stories.) After he pointed this out to me, we decided that we (and by we, I mean he) should go peek in the tent if there is no movement soon. By this time the campground was almost empty (the great Sunday exodus), so after a while he surreptitiously wandered over. Thankfully, no one was home. Around mid-afternoon the missing truck showed back up to drop off our potential dead guy. New mystery…how can two men grow up and not learn how to tell time? After this anticlimactic ending, we decided to head over to the Beaver Dam Restaurant for supper. This is a little bar and grill at the marina with a nice view of the lake. The burgers here are hand-done, and the patties were about an inch thick. (MW was thankful that the waitress gave him a heads-up before he ordered that double!) They were pretty darned good, although the fact that they allow smoking in the bar took away from the overall experience. Tennessee is one of a dozen or so states that does not have an outright ban on smoking in public places. There are several exemptions on the books, one of which is restaurants or bars that don’t serve anyone under 21. So if you want a hamburger at this little venue, you have to be 21 and you have to put up with the smoke. It really wasn’t terrible when we arrived, because there were only a couple of folks in the bar, but it was much worse when we left and the bar was more crowded. The exit door was through the bar, so you had to hold your breath on the way out. On the way back to Petunia we picked up a few things at Dollar General before heading back for an evening of Dark Shadows.
On Monday we got up early and headed out for our hike. Another strenuous one! The hills around here really are pretty tough! We cleaned up quickly back at Petunia and hit the road headed generally northeast. We stopped for gas, then in Clarksville (where we did not even see tracks for the last train) we popped into Big Lots and Dollar Tree to stock up on a few things. Back on the road, we passed through Russellville, Kentucky, and saw a giant cow with pink sunglasses. Just around the corner there was a giant pink elephant. Not sure what’s going on in that town, but they really like large animals. We didn’t stop again until we made it to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. The first order of business was LUNCH. I was starving! We hit the cafe…chicken salad sandwiches with potato salad. (Pretty darned good for me, but MW didn’t like the added grapes.) Once my hunger headache was sated, we headed to the exhibits. Now I like a fancy sports car as much as the next person (especially the classics), and this place certainly has a lot of those. (My “never can afford it, but would LOVE to have them” cars are a ’62 Corvette and a ’61 T’bird. My “maybe one day” car is a late ’70s or ’80 Mercedes 450SL.) The coolest part for me, though, had nothing to do with the cars. This museum was the site of a pretty large 65′ by 45′ sink hole in 2014 that was right in the middle of one of the showrooms. Eight classic cars fell in, and three cars (the ones they were able to salvage) and five piles of junk came out. There is a video from the security cameras showing what happened. It was sad, but still stinkin’ amazing. The floor bounced, a small hole opened up, and then everything just sank in. This part of Kentucky is filled with limestone, which makes the Bourbon sweet, but leaves the ground full of caves. One of those caves under the museum gave way and caused the sink hole. The museum did a great job of cleaning up and restoring, but added the story of the sink hole to the displays. I found it fascinating. The three they could restore were a ’62, the ’09 ZR1, and the ’92 1,000,000th Corvette. The former had a good story. A guy bought it new in 1962 when he was still in high school. (Bet he was a hit with the ladies!) A few years back he donated her to the museum along with a substantial amount of cash to maintain her in perpetuity. He passed away in 2013, and I’m certain he sprinkled some angel dust on that thing as it went into that hole. One other cool thing…You can order a new Corvette from any dealer in the country and specify that you want to pick it up at the National Corvette Museum. They will have it prepped and ready for delivery on your appointed day of arrival in the Corvette Nursery. That’s like Babyland General, but for sports cars instead of Cabbage Patch Dolls! Too funny!
After taking it all in, we made a quick stop at Joann Fabric in Bowling Green, then headed on to our final destination for the day, Moutardier Campground in Bee Spring, Kentucky. This Corps of Engineers campground is amazing. Clean, neat, well graded, and beautiful! It is right on the Nolan River Lake, and many of the campsites overlook the water. There are several, really clean bathhouses, three playgrounds, and a nearby marina. They have some primitive sites, and the rest are electric and water. More folks were there that we expected for a Monday arrival, but it still wasn’t crowded. Once we set up, we had a little supper and settled in for the night.
Tuesday we were up and out early to head over to Mammoth Cave National Park to get underground and enjoy some cool! This area is really beautiful and the park is huge. Aside from cave tours, there are miles of hiking/biking/horse trails, fishing, boating, scenic drives, camping, and quite a few Ranger-led programs. A family could spend a few days here for sure. The National Park campground has water available, but no hookups. On the way over, we saw deer and turkeys along the road. Arriving just before they opened at 8 AM, we checked out the various tours. There are quite a few ranging from easy, short walks to 6-hour long crawling and climbing tours. We chose the Historic Tour, which promised 2 hours of walking over 2 miles and a bonus of 540 stairs! We had time to kill before departure, so we explored the lodge, all three stores, and the museum. When it finally came time for our tour, the Ranger spent a few minutes explaining the strenuous nature, which made me a little concerned about my knees (they ended up doing fine), then we were off. Mammoth Cave is the longest continuous cave system on earth. When it became a national park in 1941, only 40 miles of passageway had been mapped. Now it is at 414 miles and continues to go up. (There is a group who do nothing but map new passages.) The cave has been a source of curiosity for more than 4,000 years and was an attraction long before it was made into a National Park. The walk was definitely strenuous, especially the second half, but was over before we knew it. It is amazing how different caves in different geological areas are. Our entire walk through Mammoth revealed no stalagmites or stalactites, although I understand that there are some in other areas. Carlsbad Caverns, on the other hand, is covered with them. Both are amazing, though, and at 55-60 degrees, Mammoth was a welcome respite from the miserable heat we’ve been having. We had two guides, one who led the group and one bringing up the rear. The leader gave a very informative tour and was very helpful. The follower was funny at times, but seriously sarcastic and odd at others. For instance, I asked if there was a distinction between a cave and a cavern or was it just separate names for the same thing, and he said “one has more letters”. Then I made a comment about how vastly different this one was from Carlsbad, and he started running down Carlsbad and said we were “rooked” into going there. It would have been funny, except that he sounded like he was seriously irritated at the comparison. Who gets defensive about a cave? I did hear one woman when we returned to the surface with a question that may explain the sarcasm. She said “Have you ever heard of switchbacks? They really need to put some in there! That climb is too steep!” After giving my glasses a minute to unfog, we went back to the shops to pick up a couple of things. Then it was over to the lodge restaurant for a lunch of grilled ham and cheese sandwiches (very good). On the way back to Petunia, we stopped in at the local market for a few things. Then it was home to put our feet up and watch a little TV. (Sorry some of the pics below are dark. No flash photography.)
After our Mammoth tour, we went over to check out the Nolan River Dam. The river after the spillway was beautiful, and it must have been 10 degrees cooler down there. The park had a very nice playground, pavilion, and picnic areas, along with a boat ramp. There were signs that said boating is not advised, so we think people mostly use it for kayaks. The water was cold, even though we’ve had searing temperatures for weeks.
Wednesday morning we headed out for our regular walk. For the first time it was truly cool with low humidity. We can’t get used to it, though, because it’s back into the 90’s later. There were no real trails to speak of, so we walked around the campground, which is a huge area. Saw a woodchuck (not chucking any wood, so MW said he must be lazy) and a couple of deer along the way. After we returned, we sat outside and enjoyed the cool breeze off of the water. In fact, we were able to hang out outside until 11 AMish! After doing a little work, we headed out to the hardware store. One of our chairs lost a nut and was coming apart. After a successful search, we popped in at a local pizza joint to take home some supper. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, doing puzzles, and watching tv.
Thursday was, once again, moving day. We were on the road around 8 AM with a plan to go to the Four Roses Warehouse & Bottling Facility in Cox’s Creek, Kentucky. I called to make sure they had RV parking, and the young lady said there is plenty “up top” and that we would see it coming in. Turns out that “up top” is a small parking lot with only one entrance just off of the road that would possibly be wide enough to get an RV in and turned around IF there was no one else there. The lot was pretty full when we arrived. After a brief search for an alternate parking location, we decided to change the plan, head to the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg today, and come back here tomorrow. I checked in with them with the same question, and they assured me that there was plenty of RV parking. There was. What they didn’t say was that a large VIP event (outdoor tents and everything) was going on which filled up the entire parking lot AND the RV area with CARS! Compounding the issue was the fact that the RV parking was way in the back and you had to weave through cars that were parked on the side of the driveway and on the ends of rows where there was no space, making it a tight fit. Thankfully, there was an area we could back into to turn Petunia around. Frustrated, we just parked in the grass on the side of the driveway. As we walked up through the ocean of cars to the building, you could see more cars were pouring in tightening up the driveway even more. I was a little worried that we would be there for the rest of the day waiting for an exit path to open up! The walking tour was about an hour long and very informative. The Four Roses brand has been around since 1888, but was marketed exclusively overseas for 50 or so of those years. It wasn’t until 2002 that sales returned to the United States, and it has been growing rapidly since. The best part of any bourbon tour is the smell. (Well, the tasting isn’t bad either!) In the distillery there is the cooking yeast mixture called beer that smells sweet and steamy. (They let you stick your finger in and taste it. It is definitely not something you would want to drink yet.) Four Roses distinguishes itself by actually distilling ten distinct formulations of bourbon using two different mash bills (recipes with different grain ratios) and five separate yeast strains, all of which are cultivated on-site. Every variation they market is some mixture of the ten formulas. It is an interesting way to vary recipes. After an informative tour, we headed back to the visitor’s center for the tasting. Some distilleries don’t do tastings at all, and other do just one or two of their regular items. Four Roses does all four of theirs. My favorite was the Small Batch Select, which is a blend of six of the formulations, aged a minimum of 6 years, and 104 proof. It was just introduced this year and is only marketed in five states with more to come soon. MW liked it, too, which is why a bottle made it back to Petunia with us. Thankfully the parking lot was less full when we left, so we were able to get out without too much trouble.
Back on the road we headed over to Frankfort, Kentucky and Elkhorn Campground, a private facility on Elkhorn Creek. This park has a lot of amenities including a pool, volleyball and basketball courts, playground, mini-golf, shuffleboard, fishing and kayaking on the creek, laundry, and game room. There are a handful of tent sites, plenty of water with 50-amp electric, a few that add cable, and a lot of full hook-up plus cable. We rarely stay at private campgrounds, and the layout here is exactly why. The paved sites are stacked in tight. There was about 18′ between the pavement of our site and the ones on either side, but there were a few that looked like that distance was only 12′ or so and their picnic table was just behind our wall. When we backed into our site, the couple next door was setting up. I made a comment about the close quarters, and the guy said they also had the next two sites and would be spending the weekend with their kids and grandkids, mostly at the next site over. Yay! Maybe that would keep the noise down a little. After setting up, we headed over to Cattleman’s Roadhouse for supper. They had a great salad bar and good specials, too. We returned to Petunia and settled in for some tv and relaxation.
Friday morning we skipped our walk to backtrack to the Four Roses Bottling & Warehouse Facility. It was a cool, overcast morning giving this area a little hope for rain. (It has been about 3 weeks since they had a drop.) We arrived before the first tour. (Tourist tip: If you buy tour tickets at one facility, it includes the other facility if you go within 30 days.) About 5 minutes before tour time, the sky opened up and it began to pour. Not rain, but giant, blowing sideways drops obscuring visibility. We headed out with our guide, Abigail, as soon as it slacked off just a bit. (The tour required getting in and out of a van as you move from building to building.) We were taken to the bottling plant, the barrel dumping area, and the warehouse. Remember how I said before that the distillery had a great smell? Well, the warehouse is a whole building filled with the aroma of bourbon. That’s the best! After finishing the driving tour, the rest of the participants headed in to do a tasting. Well, actually they headed in to wait to do a tasting because a group of VIPs came in unexpectedly and were occupying the tasting room. We weren’t going to the tasting since we did that yesterday, so we headed out.
Somewhere along the way we picked up a Kentucky Bourbon Trail map and were amazed to see that there are 17 distilleries in this area. It was also interesting to note that Kentucky produces approximately 95% of the world’s supply of bourbon. We’ve done tours at Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, and Maker’s Mark before (plus Jack Daniels in Tennessee), so we’ve got quite a few more to check out. They were each different and all interesting, plus there are the tastings. Who wouldn’t enjoy that?!
The next stop was the Kentucky Railroad Museum in New Haven. This was odd for a museum. First, there was a guy in the store when we were trying to buy tickets who said he couldn’t sell them because he wasn’t allowed to use the cash register. He did explain that he could give us a guided tour or we could walk through on our own. We opted for the latter, because as much as he talked, we’d still be there. We waited for around 10 minutes and no one came to sell us tickets, so we asked the guy if we could go ahead and walk through and pay on the way out. He gave us vague directions, but once out on the property, it was unclear where we could go. No signage or anything. Just a bunch of cars on tracks in various stages of repair/decomposition. It took us all of 10 minutes to walk the entire length and back. When we returned to pay, the girl told us there was a display room. We checked that out, too. It was a large room with a big model railroad with at least ten trains on it, but only one ran. There was also some memorabilia, but it was spread out randomly and separated by things that didn’t seem to relate. All in all, it was a very disorganized museum. At least it was only $5 each.
By now I was pretty hungry. (A protein bar at 7 AM doesn’t last forever!) Our next stop was supposed to be Bardstown, which is one of the small towns on the 50-best list. My plan was to grab a bite at a restaurant downtown, and then walk around a bit. However, we didn’t know it was Bourbon Festival weekend. The crowds were not huge, but there was no parking to be found. After trying for a bit, we opted to head on down the road and find lunch on the way. In Springfield we found Mordecai’s on Main, which had a nice menu and a buffet. The salad bar was great, and the catfish was amazing. Definitely two thumbs up! Our waitress, though, reminded me of Eeyore or Lurch with her down tone. I don’t think she smiled the entire time we were there. Sated, we headed back to Petunia. I worked on this blog for a bit, and we caught up on some Dark Shadows.
Saturday was laundry day. First we got up early to walk. There are no trails or safe roads to walk on here, so we had to be content with laps around the campground. After cleaning up, MW loaded everything into Brutus for me, and I headed out to Mom’s Laundry. There were already a couple of folks there, but it wasn’t crowded, and they had free wifi. Unfortunately, they also had more than a few washers out of service, so it ended up being more expensive and taking longer than normal. At one point a woman came in with a child about 3 years old. I didn’t see them come in, but did hear the child screaming and running around. He finally fell, which was bound to happen, and “bam”! I think everyone in the place had a heart attack. I really don’t like balloons! That didn’t make mom do her job, though, but thankfully she put her stuff in the washers and left. Back at Petunia we put everything away and MW vacuumed. Later we headed out to Kroger to pick up ingredients for the crockpot tomorrow morning. That was really about it for the day except for a little tv.
Sunday was, once again, mass exodus. The neighbors I told you about earlier ended up spending their evenings and mornings literally right outside our windows laughing and talking LOUD. On Friday night the kids were playing tag until well after we went to bed, running all around our RV and yelling. Every park has published quiet hours, and they did abide by those, but RV etiquette and common courtesy dictates that you stay out of other peoples campsites, be considerate of your neighbors, and not make a lot of noise when all the lights are off next door. They let their kids run around everywhere, and when they wanted to fish, they parked themselves at the back of our RV blocking the view when they had three sites of their own right along the river. Camping is a great family activity, but why do some people think their fun should interfere with everyone else’s? The thought of doing the same to them at 6 AM when we get up is appealing, but that would make us just as bad. So we tip-toe around for the first couple of hours to make sure we don’t disturb anyone, but I do have to restrain myself. In any case, we were SO happy when they left and we felt like we had a little space to breath. There are now empty sites on both sides for a good ways. Maybe tonight we’ll get to sleep at a decent hour. Plus, it’s looking like the weather may let us sleep with the windows open! Yay!!
I put Chicken Tetrazzini in the Crockpot in the morning and later roasted some onion, tomato, and squash to go with it for supper. We spent the day hanging out enjoying the quiet and watching a little tv. I caught up on this blog and did a little work, too.
Tomorrow is moving day again. See you on the road!
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