Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Daniel Boone National Forest and Beyond

I wrote a lot of quick Facebook posts while on the road, and not one blog post. This is not typical of my travel style. Yet it wasn’t for the lack of spectacular riding, but maybe because of it that I was such a slack off. Our first full day in Kentucky was spent with our friend Lee. The Nada Tunnel, Red River Gorge and the Natural Bridge were on our agenda. The roads in this area are just fabulous! It had me wondering why The Tail of the Dragon gets so much attention. These roads are as twisty if not more so, and definitely longer than the eleven miles that the Dragon boasts. In addition, we had the gorge, the tunnel and the natural bridge all along our route. The Nada tunnel was such a treat, we returned here near the end of our day to go through again from the other side. Then we selected another route out of the forest and found ourselves on some tight roads. While riding these is fun, such long stretches of twists and turns can be fatiguing. Our high tailing back to the motel on the open highway was refreshing after a day in the forest.

At the entrance to Nada Tunnel.

Lee in the chair ahead to the top of the Natural Bridge.

From the top of the Natural Bridge the squeeze to get below.

On our second day we left Lee to his own explorations, and headed for route 89. This route was spectacular also and had very little if any traffic on it. This was a good thing, as the only painted lines on this route were the white ones at the edges. I don’t think they dared even paint any yellow as those taking this route would realize just how narrow the roadway is. We did encounter a family with small children driving this route in an open Kaboda type utility vehicle. We did pass them as the Kaboda was probably going 5 miles an hour. Later we came to a narrow bridge and decided to stop here for lunch. It was the only place we found to pull over. After lunch was over, along came the utility vehicle. We had a fun time chatting with the family and kids, teasing them that they missed lunch, and them teasing us in return. I got a kick out of the local accent and the Grandma telling how the little boy in the crowd had shouted “Mama, there’s motorcycles behind us! Two of them!!!” The family had been out for a day of swimming at the “crick”. That would be creek to the rest of us (grin).

We arrived at Cumberland Falls around three pm and once again rejoined Lee. The falls here are one of the largest falls we’ve seen this year. When I say this, I mean as far as width and power by the amount of water flowing over the falls. The area is commercialized so getting there on your motorcycle isn’t a problem. Be aware that if you are low on gas, the last 12 miles to the site are bare of any amenities including gas stations.

Cumberland Falls

Our next day’s adventure took us to the Cumberland Gap. I wanted to travel up to Pinnacle Overlook. The road on the map anyway, looked challenging, but it’s also a National Park, and well, I need another stamp in my National Parks stamp book. The road wasn’t as treacherous as I imagined it to be. One of the rangers gave me courage beforehand by telling us she used to be on the fire brigade. She would often drive the fire truck down that mountain at night with the lights off so she could better spot the fires. If she could do that we could certainly negotiate the mountain in broad daylight on a couple of motorcycles. Our bonus was having our photo taken in two states at one time! The view from here of three states is awesome and being that it was a clear day was a bonus. We ended our visit to this area ended with a ride through the tunnel and back so we could say we’ve been in Tennessee on this trip. This tunnel is a mile long and nothing like tunnels in Boston! First no one is racing and changing lanes in the middle of things. Second, they have giant fans overhead, and we were not choked by fumes. I’m not a great fan of tunnels with lots of traffic, but this was actually pleasant and fun.

After we left Cumberland Gap, we headed off to Yahoo Falls at the Big South Fork. There was more happening here than this blog can describe. However, I feel that Yahoo Falls left a more lasting impression because of its remoteness, the history of the ancient people that lived in the caves beneath, and for the beauty and solitude of the area. If you are on a motorcycle, it will not be an easy ride. A dual sport would be a better bet. Also, to fully appreciate the falls you have to climb down, and then back up 160 steps. Considering the humidity in Kentucky, don’t go unless you are sure you can survive the climb back up.

The picture doesn't really show the drop.
It's a place you have to go to.

On the fourth day we again connected with Lee and headed to Mammoth Caves. We were a bit confused when we arrived near the entrance. Our watches and the time on our GPS units did not agree. It seemed we traveled across a time zone, so we were there early. That turned out to be a good thing, as the parking lot soon filled along with nearly all the tours. We were fortunate to get tickets for the tour via the “historic entrance” or as our guide quipped should be called “prehistoric entrance.” These caves are the largest in the entire world, and the awestruck feeling I had cannot be fully be described in words. It’s a place you need to visit. At one point, the guide turned out all the lights and as the tour group quieted, you were fully aware of total sensory deprivation. No light, no noise. Spooky. Be aware that if you go, not only is the Historic tour a two mile walk, but there are a total of 440 stairs to contend with. The last 155 up and out through the dome are the most strenuous. (Pictures are allowed in the caves, but not flash. Hence, no really good photos to share.)

We waved goodbye to Lee again as we were now headed off to the historical part of our Kentucky visit. To round up our stay we visited Lincoln’s Birth Place, the old Lincoln Homestead and Perryville Battlefield. This last was a very somber visit. Any visit to a Civil War site leaves me with this feeling because of the reality of so many lives lost. Yet, on some level I probably would not be enjoying this great Nation of ours in the way that I do if not for their sacrifices.

Lincoln's Birth Place.

With the bikes loaded back on the trailer, we spent the next 14 hours of nonstop driving to home. As with all vacations, they seem too short. One spends a great deal of time researching the area, searching for and downloading GPS points and routes, making lists, organizing and expediting. Then it’s suddenly over. Yet despite being a one paycheck family these days, we were able to enjoy all on our budget and didn’t feel deprived. Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy blog. It’s not typically my style but wanted to give as full a review as possible. If you’d like to know more about any of the places we visited, feel free to drop me a line. I’m always happy to answer any questions.