We spent the evening watching the videos recorded on the GoPro. Wow. You can really see how slow I was going at times! Plus he managed to get me stuck on the zip line, not making it across on the rope swing and basically almost psyching myself out of going round the top trail. I didn’t though, I nailed it. Justice was served though when I managed to get him almost falling 3 times!! It was highly amusing. It also has sound on it so we could hear ourselves talk. We were sat there like “is this really what we sound like?” So to anyone who has had to listen to us, we apologise for our voices πŸ˜‚. 

Breakfast this morning was highly disappointing. I was most looking forward to some waffles to start the day when to my horror I find they had mixed the batter one with cinnamon the other with almond. Two things I really dislike. So I had to settle for a toasted bagel. Not the same really πŸ˜”. 

Stop one today would be the Jim Beam Distillery. No no we’re not alcoholics, we are just experiencing all the important aspects of American culture! From historic  parks to battlefields, to birthplaces of important people to distilleries, they’re all places that need visiting. As a slight detour we decided to go to Abraham Lincolns Birthplace National Historic Park. See, it’s called a balance 😊. 

I’m not sure how much walking my legs will handle today though. I mean I feel like I have been punched 1000 times by Mike Tyson on my quads and hamstrings! I feel bruised but I don’t know if that’s just from where I was hanging in the air by my harness after failing the first zip line. Still, it was worth it. My arms are functioning this morning so that’s a good thing as they definitely weren’t last night. 

We arrived at Abraham Lincons Birthplace National Historic Park and headed into the visitors centre. We were excited at the prospect of filling up some more of our national park passport with stamps! Yes we are now THAT cool!! The visitor centre had a bit of information about his life and his parents, Nancy and Thomas. Below is a replica of the inside of their cabin. They were doing renovation work on the steps leading up so we took the route round the side. Stopped by a spring which is where the water was that the family drew from, perhaps being where Abraham took his first sips. We then walked up the exterior path to the building which covers the cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born. Over 200,000 people come here every year to visit the birthplace of the iconic figure that is Abraham Lincoln. Born in 1809, he would go on to be the 16th President of the United States. He led the country through the Civil War which in turn led to preserving the union and made was for his abolition of slavery. He was assassinated in 1865 by the confederate sympathiser John Wilkes Booth. This was five days after the confederate general Robert E Lee surrendered. He was also a lawyer and considered one of the greatest US Presidents of all time. 

Next stop was the Jim Beam Distillery. We had a tour arranged for 1pm and got there a bit early. We were called to meet under the ‘knob creek’ sign by our guide Stacey. Now this tour was similar to Jack Daniel’s but more laid back. The first part as always is the process…

She described that 90% of all bourbon whiskey is made in Kentucky and 45% of that is Jim Beam. They take the corn and rye mixed it together once it’s been mashed into smaller grains and cook it to 200 degrees. They then cool it to about 100 degrees and add the malt. They have to cool it to 70 degrees to add the donor and the yeast. The next part is a 3 day fermentation process. You can tell it was more laid back than Jack Daniels as she let us stick our fingers in the fermenting distillers beer to taste it! Tasted like bread dough. The next bit was feeding the distillers beer into the still. As the beer goes in the top they heat it from the bottom to get the alcohol vapour off. They then cool it down and at about 125 degrees the low wine comes off. Jim Beam is double distilled so it does into the doubler and the high wine comes off at about 135 degrees. This is where they fill up the barrels. They have their first ever barrel head on the wall from back in 1935 after the prohibition, as well as their 13,000,000th one! She again allowed us to taste the liquid! Next stop was the dumping porch for the single barrel Knob Creek. The liquid had been aged inside the barrel for 9 years. Two people rolled the barrel whilst the other collected some in the glass, which again we tasted. It had a real smooth taste to it. Smoother than the Jack Daniels I would have said too! The purpose of this is to remove all the char from the liquid that’s been floating around in it as it peels off the inside of the barrel to give it some flavour. Next up was Nathan’s favourite. He got to bottle his own bottle of Knob Creek single barrel. He got to choose his bottle, rinse it, (using what they fill it with!!), put it on the bottling line…Watch it get filled…A lid put on it…It then received its label before having the top dunked in hot wax and Nathan’s finger print put on it. Needles to say he was very happy with his product! They’re the only distilled that allows you to bottle your own bottle! Next we went into T.Jeremiah’s decanter room They only make theee nowadays but there were hundreds in the room! We were drawing our tour to a close with only two stops left. The barrel house and the tasting room. First up. The barrel house holding 56,000 barrels!! 

Inside the barrel house they have Mila Kunis’ barrel! They also have their 13,000,000th and 14,000,000th barrel!

The whole tour was really good especially as it was interactive too! As always, the tour finished with the tasting room. This one wasn’t as professional as the Jack Daniels one, it was more like a bar! 

We were given a card which had three samples on it and went to the machines which dispensed our chosen drink. Because I know Nathan likes Jim Beam, I only had a little sip then gave mine to him. I tried the flavoured ones. First up was the vanilla one which is brand new and won’t be in stores in America until June! It wasn’t too bad. Next up I tried the maple one. You actually could taste the bourbon in it. It was so sweet you could put it on your pancakes! Nathan had the normal ones and the red stag cherry one which he loved!! Our tour had come to an end but luckily we got to keep our shotglasses!!!! We do love a freebie! We went to collect Nathan’s bottle and I was reading about the history of Jim Beam. 

I do like the fact that the master distiller gets to live in a house on the site! We are in the smokehouse also situated on site. I had nachos whilst Nathan had a pulled pork sandwich. I must admit that sadly I wasn’t that much of a fan and they were piled so high I had to try and eat with a fork. Not the way to eat nachos πŸ˜”. 

We had made good time. Especially as we would end up going back in time πŸ˜‚. Yes, we were due to go back an hour as we hit Mammoth Cave State Park. This was a good thing as we left Jim Beam at 3pm and were due to arrive at mammoth cave at 415pm which was too late for the last cave tour so by going back an hour, we arrived at 315pm with half an hour to spare before our domes and dripstones tour. This is the entrance to the cave with our guide, ‘Ranger Eric.’ I’m not joking when I say his accent was like Forrest Gump. The tour guides we have had over here have been absolutely awesome. They have also been retired teachers so clearly they’re used to having to keep an audience. And it works. They are so funny! The tour was only $15 for the two hours and so worth it. We began by descending 280 steps, getting dripped on, manoeuvring our way through the cracks and crevices of this underground wonder. In the 1920s a man called George Morrison bought rope and dynamite into the cave and blew out sections. He had two others with him that he sent down into the holes created and they went so deep they needed more rope! They continued to explore the cave and a bit further down the line stumbled across his gemstone…

Can you name all 405 types of the rocks featured in the mammoth cave? No? We can! Limestone. The whole cave is created from limestone. Kentucky used to be closer to the equator and continental drift occurred (who’d have thought geography gcse (and some sort of physics I think) would come in handed many years later!) Not that I can actually remember the theory but it’s something to do with plates drafting over the earths core, animals falling to the ocean bed and becoming fossils…something like that happened here. This kept happening and over time this massive cave network, the longest in the world at 415 miles long, was found. 

We manoeuvred through some wet places, some tight places, some low places (I even had to duck! I felt so tall!), some huge places and some dry places. After we got to the bottom of the first 280 steps, we weren’t dropped on until we entered the drapery. We were 250ft below the surface with the cave reaching a depth of about 365ft where there is water! The formations were just incredible no pictures could do them justice. 

Back in the 1940s (or the 60s) people were encouraged to write their names on the limestone in the cave as seen above but you can’t anymore. Someone had written “in God we trust, in our guide we trust” which was quite amusing. We got to one large section and sat down like in class where Ranger Eric described continental drift and water and fossils equals cave and he then turned the lights off and we covered up the lights on our phones/watches. It was pitch black and deathly silent. I don’t actually think that I have ever experienced anything like those few minutes. 

Yes it is dark at night but you can still see shadows and hear things but for those few minutes…nothing. Not even anyone breathing. Not anyone moving. It was a really bizarre feeling. 

He teased for us to move forward before he turned the lights on. You could actually see where the limestone had just peeled away from the ceiling, which was completely flat. Ranger Eric has worked there 8 years and never seen any fall! “How many times does a rock fall?” Someone asked….”Once.” Ranger Eric replied. A rock can only fall once! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ The rock you can see dangling in the middle of the ceiling has been teetering there for years!! Being in a cave is also the safest place in an earthquake would you believe? The tremors pass over the cave a bit like a fish and ducks in water. Throw a stone into the water and a duck will feel the ripples, the fish at the bottom will be completely oblivious!

After a few more tight squeezes and low ceilings we came to what is known as ‘Frozen Niagara.’ It was a room full of stalactites and stalagmites as well as columns, straws and cacti. It was absolutely beautiful! There were so many different formations.  Definitely one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. The cave remains at a constant 54 degrees so it’s quite cool. Not cold though! The tour ended out through a different exit than when we entered and we waited for the bus to take us the 4 miles back to the visitors centre. 

Next up was finding the campsite. In keeping with a theme running through our travels, we missed the turning, but made some friends. The car in front had decided to throw pringles out the car to entice them over. Idiots. Everyone knows they prefer cheetos πŸ˜‚. 

We found the campsite and as per protocol Nathan pitched the tent whilst I figured out how to follow the instructions to allow entry to camp. Luckily this time it was easy as there were so many camp sites free. Probably not the brightest idea to camp though as my hay fever had been playing up all day. Can’t imagine sleeping with my nose pretty much on the grass would help that much! And it didn’t. I must have kept the whole campsite awake with my sneezing and coughing and sniffing alongside my ‘feel sorry for me’ whimpers. I also probably woke everyone up when I needed to use the bathroom at 1130 or 1230. I mean we had no idea what time it was I got up, practically fell out of the tent trying to put my shoes on and proceeded in the wrong direction. I was headed to a rather large RV that looked like the size of the toilet block. I even had a torch and still went wrong. I then stopped to gather my bearings and this time definitely had it right. I turned the corner and was greeted with “how y’all doin’ tonight?” in a really deep southern drawl. Needless to say he frightened the life out of me! He was sat on the ledge right outside the ladies! I went in and probably waited waited 20 minutes or so before exiting. 

He had gone! I mean who does that! Good job I had good bladder control and made it those final couple of feet! Just…

I either need to eat more carrots or just generally figure out directions better as I started off in the wrong direction again heading back to the tent. I eventually made it back and fell into the tent. Nathan still oblivious I had even gone πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚. 

Eventually we woke to the sound of generators from the RVs. So harmonic first thing in the morning. Not. Major accomplishment of the day…not arguing when taking the tent down! A massive win for us! Car packed and onto the next place. 

Minor stumbling block. Warning light on the dash. Fumbling for the manual in the glove compartment we figure out it is tyre pressure. About 10 miles later we pull into the gas station.change some dollars for quarters to use in the air machine. It was in pounds not PSi!!! Nathan goes round and tops them all up to the same. Check the light has gone which it had so we were good to go!

Next stop…post office. We had decided to send some of our collected items back home. Trying to figure out what to do was difficult. Luckily as always there’s a helpful person behind the desk! An hour later we were done and continuing to Missouri. 

A healthy lunch today at Panera Bread brings us to now. I’m driving so wish us luck…
Until later…hopefully…