I awoke to the sound of rainfall and a smile creeped across my face. I was indoors in a nice warm room with no worries. Last night I had spent some time with google maps and planned out the shortest route to Mammoth Cave. It was 53 miles to the cave on my route, but if I followed the ACA route and took the optional Mammoth side loop it would be over 80. I made up a cue sheet, sealed it in a plastic bag and placed it over my map.
With only 50 miles to go and no pressing need to get started I slept in and spent the morning leisurely getting ready. The rain changed to a sprinkle around 9 but I didn’t manage to launch until 10. I decided to only take two water bottles for the day and remembered a tip from the web called “camel up.” The idea being that one should drink much water when it is easily available and the need for water along the route when it may not be so easily available will be lessened. I drank maybe four bottles of water that morning and I felt sufficiently “cameled.” About 10 minutes into the ride I had to pee like crazy, then again, and again. I think I pee’d 5 times in the first couple hours of riding, apparently I lacked the ability to camel up.
Early in the day I thought I saw a hobbit house. As I got closer I realized it was just a well decorated entrance to someone’s root cellar. I stopped anyway for a picture alerting angry dogs to my presence. The property owner came out and I considered making a getaway, but he waved for me to stay. The gentleman was named Jeremy and he was very friendly, telling me about the area and the route I was taking to Mammoth Cave. “Yeah that’s the shortest route. When you make a left on 238 that’s a hilly windy little road.” When I made that left turn an hour later I wasn’t surprised, it was truly a hilly, windy and little road. It was the first time I’ve seen a one lane road painted on both edges.
I took it very slow, stopping frequently and relaxing since I had such a short ride, but eventually I got to the Mammoth Park entrance sign where I took the all important self portrait. After that it was a nice and easy 5 mile gradual climb to the welcome center. I like to keep things positive but I’ve got to say a couple things about the Mammoth Cave campground. It’s 20 bucks and in my opinion that’s alot of money to camp. Secondly there are no showers, so it’s 20 dollars a night and no shower. If you want a shower the camp store will sell you one for 3 dollars. It’s the only pay campground I’ve ever been that didn’t have a shower.
Once I cleaned up in the bathroom sink I hung up my hammock and strung up my tarp. This is when I noticed that my hammock was bigger then my tarp. I hadn’t realized this at home. I wasted the next couple hours on a fire. I had no use for a fire, I just really wanted one. It took most of my remaining stove fuel to get it burning. Well it rained that night, it rained hard and it was about 48 degrees. My tarp worked until around 2AM when I started feeling wet. It didn’t really matter I was unable to sleep from being cold and worried about getting wet whether I was wet or not. The wetness was a creeping dampness that moved across the hammock and eventually into my sleeping bag.
Around 4:30 I gave up and retreated to the bathroom where I had seen a hand dryer. The bathrooms weren’t heated but they were dry and very nice. For the next couple hours I ran the hand dryer almost non stop, eventually the bathroom became warm and I became less damp. Around 6:30 a gentleman entered the bathroom and I made to leave, he asked me if I was riding the bike and we started talking about cycling. He was an avid cyclist from Minnesota and we compared notes. He eventually invited me over to his campsite for coffee.
For the next couple hours I drank multiple cups of coffee and my new friend Doug offered me hot toast. He had a fantastic new teardrop camper with an awning to keep us out of the rain. I had been feeling like a zombie until the hot coffee started to warm me up. Now I was feeling great, and talking up a storm. I eventually made my leave and in a short hour Shauna showed up in our car. I was very happy to see her. We did the “Domes and Dripstones” tour of Mammoth Cave which was really neat then began to make our way home.
So the trip was a success, compared to the last time that I tried bike touring I really enjoyed it, I think the key was spending more time on the bike during the day and riding in areas I had never been. If anything I didn’t feel like I had enough time on this trip, I hardly had time to open my kindle. The aftermath wasn’t bad either, I was sore pretty much everywhere, but it wasn’t a bad soreness. I could have definitely kept riding, though the 90+ mile days were a little to ambitious to start with. I’m looking forward to the next opportunity for a tour.