Generation Z. Cruising in an RV.: OLA: Riding Kentucky's Unbridled Spirit

Sunday, September 25, 2011

OLA: Riding Kentucky's Unbridled Spirit


an RV  flat tire on I 71, just 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky
I looked up the meaning of ‘unbridled’ (from this state slogan) in dictionary.com; it has two. The second meaning says: free from restraint.

As soon as we left Cincinnati and, as we were approaching Louisville, the right front tires of M’A ‘turn blew out (she has 8 in all, 2 in front and 6 at the rear, on 2 rear axles!)   It was such an unfamiliar booming loud noise and I got really scared (for once?).  Luckily, Bill was able to steer the 20,000-pound rig to the shoulder of Interstate 71.   In about an hour, our Good Sam road assistance was there to ‘unbridle’ us and we continued on to Diamond Caverns Golf and RV Resort further down in Park City.  

The original meaning is: horse bridles removed. Kentucky is where majestic horses run 'unbridled' in fertile pastures.
grass with a tinge of blue...

Churchill Downs, where the annual Kentucky Derby is held,
shown on its 360 degree screen
It is known as the ‘Bluegrass State’, literally because of bluegrass that is great for livestock especially thoroughbreds native to the state (saddle bred) who run ‘unbridled’ on the fields. Bluegrass is a perennial species native to Europe, north Asia and Africa, but not North America. Colonists brought the seeds with them and native Americans call it white man’s grass..  I spent many hours foolishly looking for grass that’s blue (so what else is new?). The name derives from both its dark green blades and blue flower heads which appear only when the plant is allowed to grow to its natural height of 2 to 3 feet.

the entry to Churchill Downs guarded by Barbaro a Kentucy Derby Winner 
This land makes the breeding of high-quality racing horses possible.   Churchill Downs, now a World Heritage Site, is in Louisville and is North America’s longest operating horse racing track. The famous Kentucky Derby is held there first weekend of every May and this year saw its 137th. We toured the grounds and imagined Derby Day when 120,000 people spill out of its 54,000 seat grandstand, with its famous twin spires and millionaires’ row, onto the grass lawn inside the mile long dirt track.  $150M is wagered through its 3,000 windows. We toured the back barns where 1,500 future champions are being trained and stood in awe at the many testaments to past and current champions and the sublime walkway of those who have passed on. A showcase miniature horse named Winston and a retired champion named Risen Warrior bid us goodbye.
Winston, the miniature horse, and Risen Warrior, retired champ

Frozen Niagara in Mammoth Cave National Park,
longest cave system in the world
North central Kentucky is famous for the Downs, the Derby, and many horse farms. But in the south central part of the state is the world’s longest cave system in over 50,000 acres of the Mammoth Cave National Park. 394 miles of connected underground passageways were formed by the ‘unbridled’ waters of the Green River.  If you remember, in Rapid City we saw the second longest, Jewel Cave National Monument (154 miles), and the fifth longest, Wind Cave National Park (135 miles). The third longest is Optymistychna in the Ukraine (144 miles) and the fourth is Sistema Ox Bel Ha (139 miles) in Mexico.

Carol sanitizing her shoes on 'foam-ations'
The System was formed about millions of  years ago under a ridge of sandstone and shale, making it very stable and dry, though not as gorgeous in formations. We took the easy (I can’t do strenuous tours anymore!) Frozen Niagara  tour, so named for the waterfall that comes through a hole on the cave roof and alternates between a trickle and a downpour depending on water activity above. A huge flowstone with draperies looks like frozen falls. Unfortunately, I was singled out (not for being pretty, sigh) but for having been in another cave system only 2 months earlier, wearing the same pair of shoes! White nose syndrome has killed millions of bats and I had to be sanitized through the ‘foam-ations’.  At the end, all of us had to go through it.

one of the one=car river ferries
Driving through the scenic byways of Kentucky was also pleasant. The Cordell Hull Scenic Byway goes down to the border of Tennessee at Tompkinsville where we found an Old Meeting House that was built in 1773 during the religious upheavals. Every day the old game of rock marbles is still played at a unique ‘Marble Dome’ in town. The Duncan Hines Scenic Byway goes around and inside the Mammoth Cave National Park, crossing the Green River on 3 points via small ferries, through pretty treed landscapes, many historic cemeteries of families who once lived on the park, and antique stores full of treasures.

the old Marble Club Super Dome, still in daily use today
Next: Riding Kentucky's Unbridled Spirit, Part 2