• Maxwell Yun

Day 21: Caves, Cows, Corn, and Corvettes!

Updated: Jul 13

30.8 miles. 443ft elevation gain.

Tuesday July 21, 2022

Maxwell here! We visited both the Mammoth Caves and the Corvette Museum in one day and found out the surprising connection between both of them.

Mammoth Caves is... huge. It's an underground network of caves and tunnels carved by nature through a block of limestone and sandstone. People have mapped 420 miles of pathways under the ground, and that's only half (estimated) of existing pathways there! It's probably the largest cave system in the world.

We went on a tour through the entrance of the cave system. Getting near the cave entrance, there was a steady cool stream of air blowing out the caves, a welcome break from the midsummer Kentucky heat. Inside the caves, it was a chilly 55 degrees, and we slipped on some jackets. The cave maintains that temperature all year round. That's probably why the gift store was selling sweaters in the middle of summer.

We were welcomed into a remarkably large "room", or a void in the limestone carved out over millennia, and explored some pathways in the cave. The caves seemed to alternate between being claustrophobic squeezes where we had to watch our heads, to soaring cavernous spaces. We chatted with some park rangers, one of whom told us about his mom's haunted house (?), and one of whom told us about his hardcore caving adventures. We also learned that Franklin had done some caving while at MIT -- you learn something new every day!

Back at the campsite, we ate a brief lunch and drank the icemelt from our cooler, also known as the "fridge", to cool off (Don't worry, the icemelt should be safe to drink). Breaking down the campsite has been getting smoother and smoother as we bike our way through the trip.

Having cooled off, fueled up, and electrolyte'd up with Nuun electrolyte tablets, we set off on our 25-mile ride to Bowling Green. We figured it'd be an easy ride, or a "coffee ride" in cyclist lingo. Sophia didn't even put on the usual bike shorts or jersey, choosing instead to ride in "civilian clothes". It was an easy ride, but dang it was hot. 95 degrees to be exact.

We passed through some farm roads flanked on either side by bucolic farm landscapes. Corn grew high and plenty, its green leaves contrasting against the pure blue sky. We saw some longhorn cattle grazing idly in a lot, and large construction machinery putter down the road.

Here, I honed down my group photography skills. To capture a group photo, I waited for the roads to be clear of cars, then overtook everyone asking them to ride closer together for the photo. I then sprinted ahead of the group to the next driveway, buying myself some distance between me and the rest of the group. As the group approached, I did some "spray-and-pray" -- hold down the camera shutter, take a bunch of photos, and hope one or two of them look alright. I think I got one or two alright ones.

We arrived at Bowling Green, at the Corvette Museum. Bowling Green is where the Corvette sports car is built and tested on a racetrack. Entering the city, we biked down Corvette Lane and a smattering of Corvette flags. The museum showcased a wide range of Corvettes from its inception in 1953 to its modern form in 2022, in almost every color, option and performance package possible. Little did I know that the "split-window" 'Vette is one of the most desirable ones, or that the 1965(?) car did not come with a rear vent.

After the tour, we stumbled upon a kids' section with a pit stop simulation. In racing, pit stops are where the driver refuels their car and changes their tires simultaneously to save time; professional pit stops are a well-choreographed ballet of pit crew members, their tools, and parts. In our kiddie version, we had "tires" resembling large dinner plates, an "impact wrench", and a "filling station" and sought to "service"" the car as quickly as possible. We discovered that "changing the tires" in the sim didn't actually require the tires be swapped out; the existing one could be lifted and re-inserted to game the system. With this trick, we set a new daily record of 5.04 second!

It turns out that the Mammoth Cave network extends underneath the Corvette Museum, and the area is under high risk of sinkholes due to the cave network. In fact, in 2014 the Corvette Museum formed a sinkhole in the middle of the exhibition hall, swallowing up eight of the cars and closing the museum temporarily. But the museum turned lemons into lemonade and opened up an informative exhibit on the karst landscape in Kentucky and the science behind sinkholes!

We arrived at our hotel for the night, checked in, sang karaoke in our room, and grabbed a nice dinner at a Thai restaurant opened by Burmese immigrants. The food was good, albeit extremely spicy. We walked to a corner store, then a CVS, then drove to a Kroger's looking for berries for Sophia's solar cell workshop. We then got some much-needed rest for our Learning Festival tomorrow!

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