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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cumberland Gap and Home

Wilderness Road Campground at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park had a quiet wooded site for us. Sites are first come, first served with a charge of $20 for electric or $14 without.
Crossing the main highway into the town of Cumberland Gap, the park service had an informational trailhead with sculptures of historical users of the trail, starting with these bison.

 The town itself has a bed an breakfast where folks were relaxing with coffee next to a clear stream. A bicycle trail with a covered bridge added on top of an old steel railroad bridge beckoned, but we need to get home. Definitely calls for a return visit.

6:17 PM and we're home in Durham. Our first trip "out west" covered 5,265 miles in 24 days. We had a great time, but would plan a little more time for exploring the next time out. We averaged 18.5 mpg spending $630 on fuel for the trip thanks to a low average cost per gallon of $2.09.

Oh yes, we did get home in time to celebrate Noah graduating from NC School of Science and Mathematics. We are very proud of this young man! Looking forward to having him aboard for some summer adventures before he heads off to college.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Mammoth Cave

We're in one of those three states where they meet at the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park campground. We luxuriated in hot showers here where no coins were needed. We worked up a little sweat earlier in the day on the Domes and Drips hike in Mammoth Cave. The tour dropped three-hundred steps down into an old dry underground river channel which we followed until getting to an area with active water. With water added, the stalactites, stalagmites, and columns came into view and the oohs and ahhs started. I didn't realize that it is the longest identified cave system in the world with over 400 miles of caverns mapped. 

Found a spot with a little shade

Busses are fueled with LPG

Ranger/Guide had over 45 years of experience - and puns!

Step into the Ground 
Old Drive River Course Underground 

Back in Daylight

3D Map of Cavern System

I enjoyed seeing the 1888 train that once brought tourists to the cave. The steam engine is only half the size of the combination passenger/baggage car it pulled.

This may be our last night on the road for this trip as we are only 6 hours from home. Of course, we may find something interesting to delay us...

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Paducah and Quilts

Narrow Mississippi River Bridge
Up early and on the road to Paducah, Kentucky, Bufffy led us across both the Mississippi and Ohio rivers before lunch. 

Carriage rides offer tours of Paducah

Flood Wall and open gate from the Ohio river

Downtown Paducah

Beth checks out the high water marks

Murals on the town side of the flood wall tell the history of Paducah
Wandered around this interesting river port waiting for the National Quilt Museum to open. There was a steam engine mfg plant that still makes diesels and a historic walk inside the flood wall with plaques on the grass and murals on the wall. They had a 64' flood in the 1930's that made a mess. Some buildings are still around from the 1800's so it is an interesting town. Unfortunately, most places are closed on Sunday. 

Mikado Steam Engine

Paducah Shops

We took a guided tour of the museum and  the docent did a great job telling the stories behind some of the quilts. The first one we saw turned out to be a sculpture of a quilt made of basswood! There were quilts for any subject from JRR Tolkein's Lord of the Rings to Space, or Hockey. Visiting quilts from Japan were exceptional. It was hard to believe the amount of detail in each work of art. There was even an accordion quilt that my dad would have liked. Viewed one way it was an elephant, from another angle it was a child's bed with a sign that read "The Elephant in the Room."  Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed in the galleries, though it would be hard to capture the detail anyway. 

Now we are at Mammoth Cave National Park campground. A little too much driving today, but we should be refreshed and ready for spelunking in the morning. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Wright House, Little House, and Big Spring

Our serendipity route took us from Oklahoma to Missouri today with a stop in Bartlesville, OK to see the only Frank Lloyd Wright high rise design ever built.

Intuition waits for us by the 66 sculpture

The 66 sign is by the same guy who did the Love sculpture with the slanted "o".  It is on Route 66 and the town has a major Phillips 66 petroleum research center.

The Rock House
Wilder House
The next stop was for Beth, at the Laura Ingles Wilder home and museum. It is where she wrote the "Little House on the Prairie" books and includes the house that her daughter had built for them. 

View from the Rock House

We're spending the night at Big Spring National Forest campground. We were worried about getting a spot on Saturday night and there are probably 50 sites open. Just found it on a map this afternoon. Arrived around 5:30 and pulled the bikes off the rack (we love our bike rack) and explored the park. Another CCC park, they are restoring the lodge and cabins. This is the lodge.

Biking a little further we found the BIG spring. Sounded like a waterfall coming off the cliff, but water is just bubbling from under the ground - at the rate of 288 million gallons a day! Another great "off the beaten path" find for navigator Beth.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Bison and OK Gardens

Tonight we are near Bartellsville, OK at Osage Hills State Park. Arrived around 5 and jumped on our bikes. A small waterfall and an overlook built by the CCC in the 1930's were the rewards. Nice to see trees and green. Back roads have shown us rolling hills, small towns, oil pumps, wind farms, natural gas rigs, and lots of cattle. All of our sealed containers are compressed and breath a sigh of relief when we open them now that we are closer to sea level. 

Earlier today we drove northeast through Oklahoma, starting at the visitors center from last night's campground. A small herd of Buffalo live on 390 acres at Foss State Park, so we finally found live Bison.

Beth adopted a small Buffalo at the State Park headquarters. "Buffy" the Bison is now our dashboard mascot leading us to new adventures.

After visiting with the buffalo and confirming that their "patties" are the size we found in Arizona, we headed to OSU based on a listing in "100 Best US Public Gardens." Their botanical gardens were okay, but not as extensive as those associated with universities at home. I did like the cacti exhibit. Here are some photos of specimen plants we found interesting...

After the relaxing stop at OSU, the van chimed and informed us it was running low on diesel emissions fluid (DEF), so we stopped at a shell station where they wanted $6 a gallon. Knowing that was too high, I asked Beth to search for the nearest Wal-mart and she found one on our way. It ended up being in Kingfisher, the town where Sam Walton was born. I'm not a Wal-Mart fan, but he was a good businessman and they had DEF at $9 for a 2.5 gallon jug!

Today's unique roadside sighting was a bus painted with zebra stripes. We had to stop and take a photo to share with the Zebracorn robotics team. I wonder if they could convince the school to paint a bus in the team colors?

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