Wednesday, August 22, 2012

From CO to NJ and Mammouth Caves

Project Move-Dave-to-NYC  started just a week after returning from our Teton/Yellowstone trip.  The series of travel-log I will post involves a one-week drive to NJ, a one-week vacation in NY, and a one-week vacation in WI.  

We had just kind of ruined the VW van engine and needed to figure out how we were going to get Dave and his stuff to from Colorado to NYC.  After a quick Excel spreadsheet to compare Uhaul rentals with flights combined with shipping stuff, the obvious solution was for Dave to buy a cheap car that he could move out in, tow a Uhaul trailer behind, and park on the street or at his parents’ house in New Jersey.  It’s not that he had a lot of stuff to move, it’s that the stuff he had to move was fragile and oddly shaped, like bikes, instruments, records and record player.

The original car search was for vehicles that were similar to the VW van—unreliable, no air conditioning, and really, really old.  Eventually we stopped messing around and narrowed it down to an old Subaru:  reliable, cheap, room for moving items, could sleep in the back in a pinch, good gas mileage, a hitch, and working air conditioning.  Sure, it’s 15 years old and has well over 200,000 miles on it, but it is a truly great car!  The only thing wrong with it is that I can’t drive it.  I have yet to learn how to drive a manual.  

We picked the car out on Wednesday, but the gal needed it until Friday at 3:30.  That left little wiggle room, but it worked.  We picked up the car, Dave registered it before the office closed and even had time to pick up a piece for the hitch and change the oil before having a beer with friends.  

Saturday, July 21 we rented a Uhaul trailer.  Of course we couldn’t find the wiring that went with the hitch and the Uhaul man told us he couldn’t rent us the trailer unless we installed some, oh, and we had 30 minutes to do that because they closed at noon.  He had a change of heart and did it for us.  We slipped him a nice tip for not ruining our plans and were on our way.  Saturday was supposed to be our packing day, but it ended up being over 100 degrees and we couldn’t think of a single box that would be safe in a trailer in the sun in that kind of temperature.  We went out instead and had a few beers and goodbyes.

Sunday we woke up early and Dave packed the trailer while I packed the car.  We had enough room for both bikes in our 4X8 trailer along with everything else, which saved us the annoyance of having to carry a bike rack.  Goodbye to Boulder for Dave!  

We witnessed several dust devils in Kansas, which shows just how hot and dry it was.  Oh how I would miss the dryness!  We made it just past Kansas City, Missouri and Dave’s mom reserved a hotel for us.  It was so nice to just check in and crash for the night.  We didn’t make it to St. Louis as planned, so we had more driving in store for the next day, Dave’s 28th birthday.  

St. Louis

Kentucky!  Happy Birthday, Dave! 
We drove through Missouri, Illinois, and some of Kentucky when we stopped just outside the National Park for Dave’s birthday dinner, an upside-down banana split and French fries from a very tiny ice cream shop.  We drove until about 7:30pm on Monday, when we finally reached our hot-as-hell destination, Mammouth Caves of Kentucky.    

We quickly set up our tent and went off to find the visitors center.  Closed.  Grocery store?  Closed.  Great!  We wandered around the paths for a bit until we found the most glorious thing in the world, the historic entrance to Mammouth Caves.  Aside from the bats, it was simply amazing, as the temperature was a good 40 degrees cooler in front of the cave than it was just 50 feet away in the hot, humid hell that is Kentucky.  We hung out until we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces, then went back to sleep in the tent where it was 95 degrees, and so humid, I felt like I was swimming.  We have a full mesh tent, had no fly on it, and sweated all night long.  I bet the low was 85.  The whole area was under an extreme heat warning from the NWS.  We were NOT sleeping there another night.  We packed up in the morning and headed to the visitors center to get a tour in addition to our 11:15 Grand Avenue tour.  We arrived at 8:15 and everything was booked.  I grumpily pouted in the warm car, in the sun until going for a short hike seemed like a better use of my time. 
Some river at Mammouth Caves.
Dave trying to dive into a small, cold cave.  I'm going to venture to estimate the heat index at 100 at this moment.
Finally, our tour started.  We’d go down into the caves for 4.5 hours, about 4 miles with 76 people and a tour guide.  It was gloriously cold in the caves and I even put on a long sleeved shirt for a bit.  Before the tour started, we were lectured on how strenuous of a tour we had picked and how the infirm should stay behind, so as not to hold up the group or require medical attention in the cave.  We were told to expect steep hiking and narrow passageways no bigger than our hips.  This made me nervous, but I decided not to explore these ideas in my head, and it worked.  I didn’t have claustrophobia problems the entire tour. 
The 76 people who accompanied us on the tour were annoying.  There’s no nice way to say it.  Kids with flashlights and adults with no control over them were difficult to avoid, but there were a few enjoyable minutes of silence when we managed to fall far enough behind that the annoying people in front of us were too far ahead, and the flashlight kids were too far behind.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that there were two bathroom stops, a literal cafeteria, and nothing actually strenuous on the trip.  What’s a person got to do to feel hard-core around here?  

Inside the cave.
The caves were neat.  
Frozen Niagra.

This may be upside-down.

This too. 
We raced to our car and got on the road by 4:30.  We made it to Huntington, West Virginia, where another hotel reservation was waiting for us thanks to Dave's mom.  This drive was foggy and much of it in the dark.

The next day we drove the rest of the way to Dave’s parents’ house in northern New Jersey by dinner time.  I’ve never been so happy to see A.  someone else to talk to, B.  a home cooked meal, and C.  a comfortable bed that felt like home. Thank you, Dave's parents!!!

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