Continuing south towards the sunshine state, we stopped in Louisville for a couple of days. With plenty of things to do, we figured it would be an entertaining spot for the kiddos. Mammoth Cave National Park is there so of course we had to visit it to check another National Park off our checklist. It’s the world’s largest known cave system with more than 400 miles explored and counting. New areas are being added every year as volunteers push further into the system. It was a popular tourist destination in the early 1800′s, this was one of the many gates that welcomed visitors to various privately owned tour areas.
They liken the cave system to wet spaghetti noodles in a heap. This is roughly what part of the underground system looks like.
They had a neat display about a photographer named Frances Benjamin. She was one of the first to photograph the caves as flash lighting was a rather new (and potentially deadly) thing at the time. After personally going into the cave and crawling through tight spots, venturing up and down the stairs (which were wooden ladders back then), and experiencing the sheer darkness of it (when our tour guide shut the lights off completely), I can’t even imagine what this lady went through.
Due to the sheer size of the caves, the park only offers guided tours. We chose one that had a good mix of the better sites, along with lots of up and downs, but only two hours so the kiddos wouldn’t start pulling the ‘I’m bored’ or heaven forbid, ‘I have to potty’ lines. When you enter, it’s down you go. It’s pretty dark in there so I wasn’t able to go too crazy with photos. Not to mention I had to keep my eye on the stairs and the rocks above my head. Nothing worse than walking into a rock with a camera at your face in the dark.
Did I mention there was a lot of stairs? Still going down on the left, image on the right is looking back up to where we just came from.
The tour guides were excellent and had great stories about the history of the caves and all the entrepreneurs who ran this place until the national park service took over. Their stories even kept the kiddos interest which earns them extra brownie points from me! The history and size of these caves is pretty amazing. We’ve visited the Carlsbad Caverns before so it was hard to not compare the two. Carlsbad seemed to have many more crazy formations and rooms that were so giant I felt like we were inside an arena. The stories of Mammoth and the vastness of it is pretty unique though. When flipping through one of their history books, I noticed that a lot of their guides from the early years shared my maiden name. I texted my dad to see if we have family history here and sure enough, we just might. So that made it even more interesting. Going to have to do some follow up research there.
The next day we continued with the baseball theme that seems to have emerged this trip. Adaline played on a little league team this year and is playing softball in the fall, so she was all sorts of excited to hit the home of the Louisville Slugger.
They had an awesome museum full of history and current things alike.
Along with interactive displays, they also had a special exhibit dedicated to the Warner Brother’s Cartoons. I didn’t realize that the studio was only open from 1930 to 1969 and that every short they produced was all done by hand and in a lengthy process at that.
This was called an exposure sheet. It lists every scene in exact detail, frame by frame, down to every little detail.
They had batting cages so the girls tried their hand at that.
While you couldn’t take photos on the tour (boooooo), it was probably the most up-close tour we’ve ever been on. They literally take you right onto the factory floor where there’s saw dust flying and workers within arms reach. To make up for the no photos rule, the museum and displays throughout the factory are super well done. The bat vault was pretty impressive. In here are all the bat models they’ve made for all the top pros.
This special bat is on display. It was Babe Ruth’s and you can see the notches he added for every home run he hit. I think the guy said it’s valued at over a million dollars?
There’s also a giant wall with thousands of signatures of players who have had contracts with Louisville Slugger. These names are kept on file and get burned into each of custom bat for that player.
We then headed to another spot that Louisville is famous for, Churchill Downs.
We got a short walking tour, said hi to a friendly horse.
We saw the field and the twin spires. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about the derby. Things like a horse will only ever get one shot at it since the derby only lets three year olds run, and the derby has run continuously since 1875, 140 races to date. Crazy considering all the things that have happened during that length of time.
We said hello to this year’s winner (well, his twin wax figure).
The girls tried their hand at horse racing.
And suited up in silks for weigh in and a trip to the starting line.
And of course we saw some pretty magnificent hats.
Sadly, the rest of our stops are just brief over nighters as we finish the drive home. I feel like it’s gone way too fast and yet I feel like we’ve been on the road forever. We’ve seen the beaches….
the beaches that have mountains.
We’ve had some amazing quality time together (cause when you’re around each other 24-7 in a 37 foot rv, you better make it quality or you’ll lose your mind).
We’ve made friends along the way.
We’ve covered more miles and states than I can recall at the moment (probably because my dear sweet husband does all the driving, sometimes with a dog on his lap. He’s awesome like that).
They waited all year for summer to arrive so we could throw our hands up and embrace it. And at the end, they can say the conquered it.
I’ve heard other parents reference the ‘sweet spot’ of parenthood. It’s the years when things are suddenly easier. Sure there’s new challenges with every stage of raising kids, but compared to the first few years of diapers, midnight feedings, temper tantrums, and feeling like you can’t take your eyes off of them for two seconds, let alone sit down, yeah, this stage is pretty good. They’re fairly self sufficient, they get along most of the time (although they definitely have moments when they don’t, they seemed fewer this trip which I attribute to age), and most importantly, they still like being around us! Alan sometimes remind me that we only have a few more years before the brain-snatching aliens (also known as the teenage years) arrive. I’m in denial and want to freeze them in time when I think about it. I look back at our first trip when they were 3 and 5 and think…were we nuts?! Maybe, but I’m glad we did it anyway, and kept on doing it. I hope these two keep up the sense of adventure and get out there and experience everything. There’s so much to see and do and we’ve only scratched the surface. My list of ‘must go’ places is pretty long and intense. If I could, I just might sell everything we own and hit the road in this thing permanently. For now, we’ll live it up whenever we get the chance and I’ll enjoy this sweet spot for as long as it lasts.
And as they say…….
Till next time.
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