Sunday, August 31, 2008

Getting to Harriman.

The drive down through Virginia seemed to take FOREVER. We stopped a few times for gas and to pee, but mostly we kept on going, trying to get to Harriman at a decent hour. If there's one thing we didn't manage to do on this trip it's getting to our destinations by the times we thought we would. Too many plans and too little time to get them done in.

If we'd stopped on the way out of Pennsylvania to look at the Gettysburg battlefield, like we'd originally planned, there's no tellin how late we would've been. We just need to ether take an extra week off for road trip, or spend less time with each one of these folks we love. Nether option is acceptable, so we'll just have to keep passing up sights and plan to see stuff in future trips. We ended up getting to Williamsport a few yours later than I though we would, and the same thing happened in the drive to Harriman.

Last year it took me about nine hours to make the same drive, but with a stop for breakfast and a few stops at Wal Mart, etc., and it turned into about 12 hours. We got there by about 8:30, I think, and then we had to clean up and get purdy, and then we drove over to Mushy and Judy's place. Takes about ten or fifteen minutes or so to get there from the hotel, and I remembered the directions. Easy, like I'd driven it a million times. When we got there Mushy came out to greet us and I introduced my woman.

It was great to get back to that house. It's like home. We exchanged bear hugs and I introduced Denise to my buddy Mushy (not his real name) and his lovely wife Judy (her real name). We piled into his big King Ranch pickup and headed off to Oak Ridge. Mushy'd planned to take us there to eat pizza at Big Eds.

He drove me around Oak Ridge last year, showin' me around his old stompin' grounds. We'd driven by Big Ed's Pizza but we didn't stop. For whatever reason, whether it was from being tired or whatever, I didn't take the camera with me. Left it in the car. So I'm stelin' shots like the one above from one of Mushy's old posts.

I don't think he took too many pictures that night ether. This shot of their pizza was it, I think. Ours was good too, I wanna tell ya. The thing is, as we walked in I realized they were playin' Jimi Hindrix in the place, loud, I was in bliss. Back in Tennessee, back in the bosom of my family here, and chillin' with good tunes, good pizza and good beer. Best thing... This year I could share it all with my woman.

We closed the place down and then headed back to Mushy's place, but stayed only briefly. It'd been a long day and we had a hiking trip planned for the next morning. Mushy picked me up at the hotel at about 8:15 or 8:30 and we headed off to meet his brother-in-law Ron at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast. After that we all drove on in Mushy's truck up into the Smokey Mountains to a trail near Cade's Cove called the Middle Prong Trail.

When we got there we changed into our hiking shoes, tossed our camel back canteens over our backs (Ron used water bottles in a fanny pack) and headed out on a 4 mile round trip walk in the woods.

It was a nice steady incline, and a nice path most of the way.

The scenery was beautiful, and I tried to take as many shots of it all as I could.

One of the sights we passed is the place where Mushy took a dive into the creek last May.

The temperatures were just right, perfect for us to enjoy the trip without my hiking pardners getting into too much trouble. At one point I lit up a nice cigar for the walk. Mushy looked around saying something about smelling smoke, then couldn't believe I was smoking while hiking.

It was hilarious. I mean, it wasn't like we were through hiking the AT. It was a very fun, relaxing time.

Beautiful scenery and wonderful company.

After the hike we drove back to town and joined all of our ladies at the Smokey Mountain Brewery for a late lunch.

(OK, stealin' pictures again here). Mushy's wife Judy (center), her sister Neena (Ron's wife, in blue on the left) and Denise (in yellow next to me... But you know that), had all been terrorizing the shoppers while we fellas hiked.

It was a great day all around. After the meal Ron and Nina headed off home and the rest of us went back to Mushy and Judy's place. He and I enjoyed cigars and drinks on their porch for a few hours while Judy and Denise watched the Olympics on TV.

That porch is a wonderful place. I'd been looking forward to getting back out there for a year. Mushy pipes in endless music from a party file on his computer so that you can drink and smoke and enjoy great tunes forever. Ya just gotta get up to pee and get more beer. Meanwhile the bugs in the back yard make all sorts of noises and the bats chirp. It's great!

That lasted till about 11 or 11:30, when we adjourned till the next morning, when Denise and I had plans to go canoing on a local river with Ron. More about all or that later.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Well,it's another Friday, and I haven't had time to come up with another road trip post...

So you're gonna have to wait a bit longer for that. Probably this weekend, but I ain't promisin' nothin'.

The new classes I started this week have overloaded my time and my ass is draggin'. While I try to get this schedule classes strait(six or seven classes a day), I'm also trying to work up an application for another teaching job.

There's a new campus opening up at a state prison unit in San Saba, and there's a full time gig in it for me if I take the job. Regular pay checks every two weeks and and a higher pay scale, based on a 12 month contract. I'd have to drive to San Saba from here four days a week (about an hour both ways), but I'd finally be a real full time Prof, after 17 years of teaching, and I'd be able to budget my money a little better.

I really don't want to have to drive all that way every day and deal with prisoners (done it before, in Gatesville), but you gotta do what you gotta do. I'll never be able to get a full time gig here, but maybe if I get on full time in San Saba I can eventually shift back over here. So I'm getting my foot in the door.

I'll probably still be able to teach evening classes on base during the week, but the full time salary I'll get will mean that those classes amount to extra money. Maybe shoving me up into a financial position where I can start payin' things off for real. That's what I'm hopin' anyway.

In the meantime, I'm gonna go to Salado to get my hair cut today and then Denise and I are plannin to head up to Temple, as per usual, and take Mom out to eat. Probably BJs this time. We haven't been there in a while. My sister's been pissin' and moanin' lately about wantin' to come with us but none of us want to have to deal with the drama. We'll see what happens.

After dinner and visiting with Mom, "D" and I might head over to Academy and watch a high school football game. It's that time of the year of course. I used to enjoy doin' that with Dad.. You remember those posts? The few times that Denise went with us she really loved it too, so why not keep the tradition going? We'll probably split the difference between Dad's old school and the kids I teach down in Florence. So long as we don't have to drive too far to get to the game, it'll be fun.

So you guys (the one's with jobs) have a wonderful 3 day weekend and I'll see if I can get some time this weekend to get the road trip goin' again. Cheers.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Chowing down in PA.

As we sat around their beautiful house in Williamsport, Bob and Linda and I filled Denise with stories of the wildlife that walks up out of the woods to feed in Bob's back yard from time to time.

They regularly see dear, as well as smaller critters like squirrels and badgers. Linda's constantly complaining about the animals that eat her flowers. She's pretty anal about that garden.

Now and then they are visited by bears, both small cubs and large, potentially dangerous adults who are attracted by the corn they put out for squirrels, and the sound of moving water from their hot tub. The cover of that hot tub is still decorated with duct tape from one such visit.

Linda woke up one night about a year-and-a-half ago, hearing a noise on the deck right outside their bedroom. The back deck connects to that bedroom by a sliding glass door. On the other side of that glass door, standing on the cover of the hot tub, was a huge black bear. She woke Bob up and he reached to open the door and shoo the bear away when Linda protested, saying he'd set the house alarm off. He says now that in that moment he thought, "Yea, good idea", and slid the door open. When the loud pulsing alarm sounded the bear hit the trail, ripping a few little holes in the hot tub cover in the process.

So while we were there, Denise was constantly looking out in the back yard, hoping to see some wildlife. She wanted to see a bear bad! On Saturday afternoon, after the boating trip, while people were getting ready to drive up Pine Creek to eat dinner, Denise let out a shout that there were deer in the back yard. I ran to get the camera and we ended up getting a few shots of two deer as they walked through the back yard. One stood by the salt lick long enough for me to get a few good shots.

After that excitement, Bob and Linda took Denise and I for a long drive up into the mountains northwest of Williamsport, along Pine Creek, up towards the are where Bob hunts every year. They took us to a wonderful restaurant, the Hotel Manor, where we had great food and a wonderful time.

The deck of the restaurant looked out on Pine creek flowing by, and the mountains all around us. The road leads eventually to a beautiful are known as Pine Creek Gorge, or the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. Maybe next time we come we can take a drive all the way up there and check it out.

We had to wait a bit to get a table out on the deck, but it was well worth it. The weather was perfect for it. Our luck on that score was continuing. Now and then people would come up to Bob, recognizing him from his previous job building the levee that protects the city of Lock Haven from floods on the Susquehanna. The last time the town flooded was in 1972. Something to do with Hurricane Agnes.

Bob was hired to run the project building the protective levees in 1992. It was mostly finished by 1995, when I went up there to go fishing with him the first time. He has interesting stories to tell about that time, getting death threats from people who were having their riverfront property taken over by Imminent Domain and having to carry a gun around with him. It all worked out though. The river tried to flood again in 1996 and 2004 (Hurricane Ivan that time), but the levees held the river back. I'm proud of my boy.

You can probably see that Linda's pretty happy with him too.

And what the hell, we were all havin' a good time.

I got to try out a new kind of Yuengling that I hadn't heard of... The Premium brand. It turned out not to be to terribly premium. The Traditional Lager was just as good, if not better.

I had one of those with my cheesecake, after the New Orleans Jambalaya I had for dinner. Wonderful stuff!

After dinner, as Bob drove us back towards Williamsport, he decided to take us up on the mountain where he and his buddies hunt in the winter. Denise had been asking him exactly where it was.

The girls were howlin' and I was lovin' it when he switched the dial on his dash to 4-wheels (he's got a nice new Trailblazer) and suddenly diverted from the barely graded dirt road along a corn field out into the brush of a rough mountain trail. He knows this place like the back of his hand, having hunted on foot there for 30 years or more, so I wasn't worried, but the girls were in shock. The laughter from me was punctuated by their pleads to him to move away from the edge of the road, which was carved out of the side of the mountain and which led you to a pretty decent drop down the side of the mountain. We both assured them that the trees would almost certainly break our fall. I don't think that made ether of them feel any better though.

As you might guess, I rolled the window down and stuck my camera out there with the flash on to see if I could get any decent shots of the wilderness as we flew through it.

A few of them came out OK.

One might even have caught something lurking out there, just beyond the range of the flash. I mean, you tell me.

Anyway, it was a great trip up the road there. We stopped on the top of the mountain and spent a little time looking at the stars, but the girls were ready to head back to town, so we soon did.

Sunday was spent shopping and laying around and eating massive helpings of Linda's home made lasagna. Denise and I went back to the same beer distributor that Bob and I visited last year and I filled the trunk with about four cases (24 bottles a piece) of that Yuengling Traditional Lager. I think I'm stocked up for this year, or at least until My buddy Jim drives his truck home to Texas when his job in York, PA is finished and he brings me another load. It's good to have good friends who also know a great beer when they taste one.

Monday morning, as they both went to work, we said goodbye to Bob and Linda and headed south along highway 15, which snakes along the length of the Susquehanna as it flows south from Williamsport towards the Chesapeake Bay. This route took us towards Harrisburg and then on along I-81 through little stretches of Maryland, West Virginia, and then all long the length of Virginia. Our eventual destination was Harriman, Tennessee, just west of Knoxville. I knew from having done it by myself a year earlier that this was gonna be about the longest day of driving on the trip. It's not the mileage though, but the slow traffic, the friggin' trucks and dead boring, monotonous scenery. I know, the Blue Ridge Mountains. Very pretty, but monotonous.

As I mentioned a second ago, my best buddy Jim is working in York these days, so we made plans to meet him along the way and eat breakfast. We ended up getting together in Carlisle at a Cracker Barrel just off I-81. That was a fun time too. I've known Jim ever since we went canoeing together for the first time in about 1989. Since then we've developed a very close friendship, so it's always good to hook up with him when I can.

Anyway, that's enough for this installment. Next time I'll pirate some of Mushy's pictures from our first night in Tennessee (I didn't take the camera to Big Ed's), and we'll begin that leg of the journey. Relax, it's almost over. There's just a weeks worth of pictures left. Cheers.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The weekend was fun.

No, I mean this last weekend. Relax people, I'll get back to the road trip in a bit.

Denise and I took Mom out to eat Chinese food Friday night, and then after sitting around and chatting with her for a while we left Mom and went over to a local Mexican food place in Temple that has a funky screened in bar and enjoyed some adult beverages while we watched the Cowboys play a preseason game on the flat screen over the bar. Denise threw back a few strawberry margaritas while making snide comments about my team while I sucked down a few beers from their paltry selection, as well as a basket of complementary chips-n-salsa.

After that we chilled out Saturday, sleepin' in and gettin' a few chores done. Nothin' to telll there.

Sunday we got up at about 9:30 AM and headed up to Ft. Worth to visit my buddy Jim, who's flown into town from Pennsylvania, where he's working now. We stopped in West at the Czech bakery, and got him some jalapeno/beer bread (Mmmmmmmm, good!) and got Denise a decent cup of coffee.

We had a ball in Ft. Worth, my old stompin' grounds. We checked out Jim's five acre property west of town, where he's buildin' a barn/apartment/two car garage, and where he and his wife Terry plan to build a house some day. It's a beautiful area, made nicer by the fact that the gas companies are payin' folks HUGE money for the rights to drill for natural gas. He's had a nibble, and may end up gettin' a windfall. Me, I bought 17 acres in BELL COUNTY! What a fuckin' idiot! Oh well, who knew?

We wandered around Hulen Mall for a time, not buyin' anything, and then went back to Jim's to eat home made spaghetti. Jim's a wonderful cook, and he was in rare form. We said goodbye to Jim and his wife Terry at about 8:30 PM and got back home from Ft. Worth around 11. It had been a long, but fun time.

Monday morning started bright and early for me. Summer vacation from the dual credit classes is over. I drove down to Florence and started three new class, two governments and one history, lasting from 8 AM to 10:40 AM. Then I drove up to Ft. Hood to continue the regular semester on the base that stated last week. So, I teach seven classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, six on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and five on Friday. It's a full load, but I'm used to it, and the pay, when I get paid, will be good.

So, everything is basically cool. Havin' a schedule like this makes the rest we get on the weekend that much more important. The plan is to chill out this weekend, which will be a three day weekend, with Labour day and all.

You guys enjoy your week, and I'll get back to posting about the road trip tomorrow. Cheers.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Boating on the Susquehanna.

Saturday afternoon, after Scott came to get Gabe, Bob and Linda took Denise and I out on the Susquehanna in Bob's fishing boat. We'd worried about rain during our visit there, but it turned out to be a beautiful weekend.

Last time I came Bob and I went out on this river and caught a few fish. This time we took our womens out there and they showed us to cool sights along the shore, where the local folks camp out and recreate in the summer.

You think it looks like we're related? It turned out to be a beautiful day. The girls sat up front while Bob drove and I sat back, both of us smokin' nice ceeeegars.

I hadn't been up this far upstream on the river before, so it was fun to see all these little cabins and a few nice homes that folks have built along the river.

A few of them reminded me of some of the cool places we've seen along the lower end of the Guadalupe, back in Texas.

Bob and Linda said they knew the folks who refurbished this boat. Most of these people have bought land along the shore and rent it out to other folks when they're not using it. Rather than building a cabin out there, they just tie up a pontoon boat and set up camp. It looked wonderful to me.

This place, built up on stilts, led me to the obvious question. How often does the river flood? They said that it happens about once every fifty or one hundred years, and that the last time it happened was back in the 1980s.

This one was basically a trailer that has been reinforced with cinder blocks, painted pink. Mmmm hm, yea. Pink. Maybe they wanted it to look like adobe?

As we passed by these folks we caught sight of this lady, rounding up her hounds.

This place was more typical of many that we saw. Basically a trailer and a few tents, or just a covered patio with people having a cook-out and throwing a football. It looks like huge fun to me. These folks know how to have a good time.

The scenery was just beautiful. It was a great time.

One of Bob's buddies, one of the other guys we fish with, is selling his bigger boat. If Bob can figure out a way to fit it in his garage, he may end up getting it. We may well be fishing in higher style this coming June. We'll see. Linda said she hoped they did get it because the bigger boat will allow them to go out more comfortable on trips like this.

After the trip we headed back to the house to clean up and get ready to drive off to eat dinner. more on that in the next post. Cheers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

We left Kentucky on Thursday morning, driving North into Ohio.

We planned to meet up with a blogger along the way and maybe check out the Air Force Museum in Dayton. I'd been there in 1977 with my folks and wanted to see it again. I guess my plans turned out to be bigger than our schedule, because there was no way we could make all that fun stuff happen and still make it to my cousin's house in Pennsylvania by dinner time.

As it was, spending about an hour and a half in Dayton with Pat Houseworth left us getting to Williamsport late, rolling in there at about 11 PM. Of course, I wouldn't change anything about that lunch. It was a blast to finally meet this guy who's been impressing me with his life story and his opinions for a year or so.

Denise and I met Pat at the Ruby Tuesday just north of town. He'd told us that there were lots of places to eat at that exit and left it to us to decide where to meet. We got there a little early (Denise was drivin' like a bat out of hell, keepin' up with the truckers on I-71 and 75), and called him to tell him to meet us at RTs. We don't have those restaurants around here, so it's fun to try them out on these road trips.

The food, beer and conversation were all wonderful (Denise and pat drank wine), and after that we all stood in the parking lot and took pictures.

What can I say. We gotta do what we gotta do. You should have seen his camera, the one he's holding there. It's a HUGE beast, big enough to take a floppy disc to hold all his shots. Cool, but I need somethin' I can put in my pocket. It did make me feel better about my own camera, which I've always thought was ridiculously big.

We've made plans to do all this again next year, and we hope to be able to get together and walk through the Air Force museum. That would be a huge blast.

After the dinner and parting with Pat we drove off to Columbus on I-70, experiencing the worst traffic of the trip so far as we headed east through that town. When we got to eastern Ohio we got on I-77 and headed north through increasingly beautiful scenery till we got to Canton and Akron. Then we headed east again on I-77 till it turned into I-80 and we headed into Pennsylvania.

As soon as we got to Pennsylvania the weather turned shitty on us, with rain pouring down and the temperatures dropping by about 20 degrees. Don't get me wrong. The cool temps were wonderful, but driving at night in the rain was a pain in the ass. We found ourselves feeling sorry for a few older bikers who got drenched when the rain started, before they could take refuge under an overpass.

We drove on along I-80 till we got to 220 and headed northeast towards Williamsport. We got to my cousin's house by about 11 PM, finding Bob sitting up, waiting for us, while his wife Linda had already hit the sack. She had to go to work early in the morning, but Bob had taken Friday off so we could hang out together. Denise and I took our stuff down into their basement, which is decked out with a full bathroom, bar and big screen TV, and hit the sack ourselves. It felt good to sleep in the next morning.

We found out when we got there that Bob's step-daughter was gonna bring his grandson over Friday morning so that he and Linda could babysit till Saturday afternoon. His son-in-law would come by Saturday afternoon to get the kid, which meant I had another day to put the finishing touches on that knife I was gonna give him. You remember that? Well, I'd finished the bead work on the sheath while Denise drove us up to Dayton, but I was still wanting to soak the leather sheath and dry it out to harden it. I managed to get all that done with time to spare.

This is Gabriel, my cousin Bob's grandson. His first grandson. Maybe you can't tell from these shots, but Bob is as happy as he can be with this little wiggler. Linda's smitten too, as you can imagine.

We spent all day Friday and part of the morning Saturday playin' with Gabe and hangin' out, relaxing from our drive. Friday afternoon Linda and Bob put together a huge feed for us and we all gathered on their porch for grilled chicken, corn-on-the-cob and a great tomato casserole.

You can see that Gabe took part in the carnage and we all got full to capacity.

On Saturday afternoon, Bob's son-in-law Scott showed up to get the kid and I handed over the knife. Sorry about the fuzzy shot, but there was a lot of emotion in that moment. I told him "This is for your son, but you can play with it till he gets old enough to." He thanked me and I told him it was nothing. He's given my cousin Bob a much greater gift in that little boy.

I can see the joy in him, determined now to try to live long enough to take Gabe fishing and duck hunting, wanting the boy to remember him. Anything that keeps Bob going and giving him a reason to stay healthy is cool with me. I love him like a brother. I grew up without one and wanting one bad, and now I have two. Ain't that cool as hell? I can't wait to go on those fishing trips myself. It'll be fun to watch Bob and Scott show the boy a thing or two.

See, Bob's a real man's man, whatever that means. He was a big football star at Penn State in the late 1960s, and has built a very successful life for himself there in Pennsylvania since then, but he's never had a son to romp and play with, and to share his love of the outdoors with. His first marriage ended in divorce after the two adopted a daughter, and his second marriage to Linda gave him another daughter. Those little girls both grew up to be beautiful, smart women, but they don't share the love of the outdoors that Bob revels in.

His new son-in-law Scott is a huge hunter and fisherman, so Bob's had a great time getting to know him, and I know he's enjoyed the growing sibling relationship that the two of us have built in the last decade or so. Scott now joins us on our annual fishing trips to Canada, where I've gotten to know and like him too. It's like I've got a great, fun extended family up there that I get to hang with once or twice a year. It's wonderful.

I saw how much Bob and Linda loved that baby last year when I did this road trip on my own. Gabe was brand new then, and I could see the joy in Bob when he cradled the kid in his lap and walked with him in the yard. When Bob flew down for my Dad's funeral earlier this year the plan to build the knife crystallized in my mind. It was my way of paying all of them back a bit, and maybe showing Bob how much I love him.

Anyway, it was fun, and it worked out well. Everyone is happy, and we're all looking forward to getting together again next year. Next I'll show you shots of our boating trip on the Susquehanna and going out to eat and four-wheeling with Bob and Linda. Y'all relax and we'll talk again in the later. Cheers.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

By the way...

Here's the picture they took when we got in the boat to go into the cave. I couldn't remember where I'd put it. Found it in the Makers Mark bag. Scanned it and presto, you get to see it.

No snide comments please, about them having to put more people on the other side of the boat to balance it after I sat down.

Go back and watch that little YouTube video again and you can see basically the same view we saw once we got in there. Not much, in other words.

The whole boat tour lasts about ten minutes. The only reason you can't walk in there is that they dammed up the stream inside the cave so the water would be deep enough for this little john boat. Kind of a letdown.

Again, the best thing about that cave was the cool temps and that cool dance hall. It'd be fun to go down there and attend one of their special events. Maybe some day.

Tomorrow, Road Trip 2008 will continue when I post something about getting to meet another blogger in Ohio and heading into Pennsylvania. See you then. Cheers.

This is Interesting ...

Give it a try. When you click on this link, a series of about 15 pictures will come up.

Click on a photo in that category that appeals to you. When you do, 15 more pictures will come up. Click the one that feels good to you and move on.

Just continue to keep picking. At the end it will give you a profile of yourself. It's called a visual DNA. Your choices dictate your profile.

Click on the tabs on the right and it'll lay out your profile. Actually, I thought mine was about half right, half bullshit, but you give it a try. See what happens. Cheers.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's friday again...

And we're back home, so that means I'll be goin' over later to take mom to eat Chinese food. Denise has been hit with a computer glitch at work that's probably gonna force her and her coworkers to do overtime all weekend. She'll probably be able to get away tonight though and we'll take Mom out to eat, but then she'll probably have to go in Saturday morning to get everything done. It's a bummer, but what can ya do?

As far as trip pictures are concerned, the last thing we did in Bowling Green before we left Kentucky was go to check out the Lost River Cave. We'd seen the signs for the place ever since getting there, and in the end it turned out Denise's daughter Lynn had two free tickets from work. So Denise and I decided to check it out.

It turned out to be pretty cool, both literally and figuratively. It was in the 90s while we were in Kentucky, with the humidity workin' on us, so when we went down into the little gully where the river was and where the trail led to the cave, the cool breeze from the cave and the cool water was a real relief. The stream was filled with cool, clear water. I didn't see anything other than crawdads in there. No fish at all, but I'm sure they're there.

When you got down there the guide told you all sorts of stories about the "Blue Hole" (above) and the river that flows underground into the cave. Several people, including some unlucky Civil War soldiers, were sucked down into this hole by the current from the underground river. People speculated on the depth of the hole and tried to drop weighted lines into the hole to discover its depth.

Robert LeRoy Ripley himself came out one day and certified the depth of the hole at over 400 feet. It turned out though that the Blue Hole itself is only about twelve feet deep (modern cave divers found that out), and that the hole opens up to the underground river flowing beneath the ground, which was sweeping the weighted lines and everything else that fell into the hole down stream, underground, till it reached it's end.

The stories the guide told about the Civil War era fascinated me. She talked about different times when the cave and the cool little gully were occupied alternately by both Confederate and Union troops, and how the soldiers carved their names in the rock and took little stalactites home with them as souvaneers.

I keep thinkin' about those poor Civil War soldiers who went swimming that day. Having lived through those horrible battles, only to drown, sucked down into the depths of the earth after divin' nekkid into a beautiful, cold pool of water. Damn, that's not a good way to go.

They also tell you stories about Confederate raiders using the cave as a refuge. John Hunt Morgan, of "Morgan's Raiders" fame, used the cave as a refuge after a raid on the Union depot at South Union, in Logan County. A former rebel raider, Jesse James, having turned his raiding skills to profit, supposedly hid out in the cave after robbing the Southern Deposit Bank in Russellville in 1868.

James supposedly nabbed a local Bowling Green doctor and drug him into the cave to treat one of his compadres. The guide told us that everyone always got away clean, managing to also avoid getting sucked into the bowels of the earth during their stay. After layin' out many of these tales, the guide takes you on a short walk to the mouth of the cave.

Along the way you see remnants of other times in history, when the cool water from the river was pumped out and used to run a mill and a distillery. The old square pumping station above is a remnant of that mill.

Once you get to the mouth of the cave you're given a floatation pad and your group is piled into a little flat boat for the short trip into the cave. It turns out the boat tour is mostly a bust. It doesn't take you in very far or show you very much. I found a video on Youtube showing what the whole place is like. You be the judge.

The really cool thing about this cave is the history behind it and this fabulous dance hall that was built in the early 1930s and operated till the 1950s.

It turns out, of course, that in the era after the Civil War, before air conditioning, folks could come down here, walk with their dates and make out in the cool woods, and once this dance hall was built they'd come to listen to a live band, dance to swing music and drink adult beverages. The place was amazing, and I loved to look at the pictures they had on the walls from that earlier time.

You know folks were havin' a good old time down here in the dark.

I guess it's the history dude in me, or maybe the voyeur, but I'd love to have been around back then to see what went on, and maybe join in the fun.

Of course, all this fun eventually had to end, or move, and in the end the dance hall was closed. The building of I-65, rerouting traffic away from the cave, and the invention of things like air conditioning and television probably did more than anything to bring this fun to an end. After that the cave became a local dump, with people tossing their trash, old cars and refrigerators off the road into the creek below for about thirty years.

In 1990, a group of local citizens met at a dinner party and formed a volunteer group determined to clean up and restore this local treasure. The organization that still keeps the creek clean and runs the tours is the descendant of that original volunteer group. The money you pay to take the tour helps maintain the cave and river.

If you get a chance on a hot summer day, do yourself a favor and check the place out. It was a lot of fun. Cheers.