Yes, today we covered such a broad range of interests that there should be something here for everyone.
Let’s start with nature, more specifically geology. If that’s your thing, you have loved to be with us on our tour of Mammoth Cave – a must-see for cave enthusiasts. More than just an underground-wonder experience, we had the amazing honor of having Jerry Bransford as our guide. In addition to being a very knowledgeable Ranger, Jerry has many unusual distinctions. He is the fifth generation of his family to act as a guide for Mammoth Cave tourists. Back to his great-great-grandfather, a slave who came with his owner from England, the Bransfords have lived on top of and around this huge cave system for decades.
Jerry’s story is an amazing one, and the New York Times discovered him earlier this year with this feature article:
He tells the story a bit differently, but nonetheless, it is an amazing lineage and quite a slice of American history that he can share. Plus, he was warm and funny – bringing the cave to life with stories from his boyhood, and that of his father’s family.
The cave itself is spectacular, and one could spend several days on the various tours of this huge underground world. But we did the “Niagara Falls” tour, which was originally thought to compete with that wonder of the world. It was dramatic and not too scary – just perfect for us.
But if history is more your passion, you would not have been able to resist a stop at Lincoln’s birthplace and his boyhood home. We were there many years ago – perhaps one of our first road trips together – and can report not much has changed.
On the site of the Lincoln farm in Hodgenville, Hardin County, a major memorial was erected early in the 20th century to house the sacred birthplace cabin. That was fine, until mid-century scholarship revealed it to be a later cabin, with no particular relevance to the Lincoln story. However, it will live in this lovely mausoleum for a good long time, with all its visitors trying to pretend it is the real thing. The 56 steps to the top symbolize Lincoln’s age at his death, and many internal markings are done in patterns of 16th – the number of his presidency. The site was known then as Sinking Spring Farm, and you can still see the actual spring.
When Abe was two, the Lincolns moved to a farm on Knob Creek, ten miles away. Lincoln had his earliest memories of this farm, and it is easy to picture a life lived in this pleasant place. An inn was built on it in the late 19th century, already capitalizing on his history.
But say you had something more spiritual in mind. For that, you would go to nearby Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery near Bardstown founded in 1848. It is considered the motherhouse of all Trappist monasteries in the US and is the oldest operating monastery in the country. It was the home of Trappist monk, social activist and author Thomas Merton until his death in 1968. (And yes, these are the monks who make the fruitcakes.)
And nearby are the Sisters of Loretto, who have been there since 1812, in a beautiful and peaceful setting.
What if your tastes are of a more secular nature? Then you would have appreciated our stop on the Bourbon Trail at the Maker’s Mark distillery, for their tour and tasting. You may recall our stops last spring at Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel’s and know that we are old hands at these kinds of the tours. But this family-owned and run business was very charming and their grounds and buildings have a very nice homey feel.
Loved their ads and enjoyed the tasting room.
And would you believe they just had a Chihuly installation added this spring? That man and his ceilings follow us everywhere!
All in all, a day that catered to every taste, and landed us in Louisville this evening, where Halloween revels are in full swing.