Kentucky Bike Trip: Exploring Mammoth Cave and Bowling Inexperienced


Kentucky Motorcycle Ride Mammoth Cave National Park Kawasaki Versys-X 300
My totally loaded Kawasaki Versys-X 300 was a trooper on this Kentucky motorbike journey.

It’s humorous how generally the most effective elements of a motorbike journey don’t have anything to do with the vacation spot and even the motorbike. One such second on a latest Kentucky motorbike journey concerned me enjoyable in a hammock underneath the shade of a tarp, slightly sunburnt and lots exhausted, dozing off for a much-needed nap.

Why was I so exhausted? Hours of strolling – first by means of the woods amidst sinkholes and is derived, then deep underground at Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park. 

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride

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The Trip Down

From my dwelling in northern Kentucky, I rode south to Frankfort, the state capital, which has a historic downtown harking back to lots of the small Kentucky cities that punctuate the farmland and curvy roads on this space.

See all of Rider‘s Kentucky touring stories here.

To fortify myself for the journey to Mammoth Cave, I ended at Important Road Diner, a ’50s-themed restaurant with checkered flooring, colourful decor, and vinyl information within the jukebox. It serves a tasty and satisfying plate of biscuits and gravy, one among my favourite street meals. With historic buildings, colourful murals, and attention-grabbing retailers and eating places, Frankfort’s well-preserved downtown space is enticing and vibrant.

An hour and a half of using by means of rolling hills landed me in Campbellsville. The day was shortly warming up, so I ended at Harden Espresso to chill off with an iced chai latte and chill out within the calm, quiet cafe.

After one other hour of using, I arrived at Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park’s customer middle – all the time my first cease on journeys like this. I can’t depend what number of attention-grabbing trails, roads, and sightseeing alternatives I’ve found by talking to the educated rangers at customer facilities in state and nationwide parks. They know greater than the web and the brochures mixed, and so they’re very happy to share their insights with curious vacationers.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride Mammoth Cave National Park
My campsite at Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park was surrounded by timber and felt pleasantly secluded.

With a marked-up map of treasures in hand, I arrived at my campsite and arrange camp. My neighbor and his younger daughter expressed their awe of how a lot gear I had match within the 170-plus liters of space for storing on my Kawasaki Versys-X 300. In campgrounds, individuals could stare, however they not often speak to the odd solo girl on her motorbike, so the dialog was welcome.

After the journey and organising camp, I used to be too drained to enterprise far to seek out precise firewood. I bought some compressed sawdust “logs” on the cute and handy camp retailer close by, permitting me to get pleasure from a campfire earlier than bedtime.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride
Rok Straps are indispensable for securing cargo, akin to once I wanted to move compressed sawdust “logs” from the shop to my campsite.

Mountain climbing By means of the Forest and Touring Underground

First on my agenda was to hike a number of the trails in Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park. Whereas the park is greatest identified for its intensive underground cave system, I needed to give the paths aboveground an opportunity too.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride Mammoth Cave National Park
Descending to the doorway of Mammoth Cave takes guests to a different world that’s as large as its title implies.

With names like Sinkhole, Inexperienced River Bluffs, and Echo Springs, I used to be wanting ahead to seeing what distinctive options would exist on the paths on this space. Most of them had been paved or gravel, which aren’t my favourite surfaces to hike on, however they’re accessible to most walkers – a profit to anybody in search of a simple hike. I used to be in a position to view rock formations, sinkholes, and a spring that arises from throughout the cave system itself. I noticed wildflowers exploding in bloom and a number of other totally different vantage factors of the Inexperienced River, which runs into the cave system (and whose eroding properties finally created the cave itself). 

Quickly after, I had the chance to take one of many many choices for cave excursions supplied by the park. I selected the Prolonged Historic tour, a 2.25-hour hike by means of 2 miles of the primary elements of Mammoth Cave. I’m glad I booked upfront as a result of once I arrived, nearly each tour for the day was offered out. 

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride Mammoth Cave National Park
The within of the cave greets you with each broad and tall passageways.

A blissful 54 levels underground felt nice after my sweaty, sunny hike to the customer middle, the place the cave excursions start. Studying concerning the cave was fascinating. Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system on the earth, with over 400 miles mapped and presumably greater than 600 miles but to be explored. Scientists and researchers uncover new passages practically daily. Over 1000’s of years, the cave has been utilized by Native People, troopers within the Battle of 1812, slaves, and even a failed tuberculosis clinic. Now its essential goal is to entertain and educate vacationers who journey by means of its darkish recesses.

After the tour, I rode into close by Cave Metropolis, previous dozens of billboards for different caves and sights within the space. There have been many choices to select from, however I used to be hungry, so I ended at a restaurant referred to as 5 Broke Ladies. I’m not exaggerating that they make the most effective onion rings I’ve ever tasted – and a imply patty soften too. I’ll cease there once more once I’m within the space.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride 5 Broke Girls
The patty soften and onion rings at 5 Broke Ladies had been wonderful.

My subsequent cease was Market KY, a vivid and colourful store with a enjoyable assortment of candies and treats, in addition to a wall of stickers and a myriad of T-shirt choices. A number of boutique sweets may need discovered their means into my saddlebag.

Overburdened on My Kentucky Bike Trip

Again at camp, I used to be struggling. I used to be as soon as informed that each merchandise you deliver on a motorbike tenting journey is a burden. I by no means actually understood this. If the merchandise is helpful and provides you shelter or sleep or sustenance, how might it’s a burden?

I realized my lesson on this journey. With my new Givi baggage, it was straightforward to pack my bike to the gills. This exhausted me in two methods. For one, my package was heavy, and this meant all my low-speed maneuvers felt sluggish and I used to be simply thrown off-balance. I hate dreading the method of parking or making a U-turn, preferring to be as nimble and lightweight as potential. 

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride
In hindsight, whereas a lot of my tenting objects had been good to have, a few of them weren’t vital.

Secondly, unpacking and sorting by means of a pile of devices and trinkets to seek out that one spatula I introduced or that collapsible bowl that I ended up forgetting to make use of once I merely ate out of the dehydrated meals bundle was irritating and time-consuming.

Lastly, I used to be uninterested in zippers! Shifting my pockets or keys from a zippered pocket of a jacket to a special zippered pocket of my tankbag and again once more was tiresome, and I needed to repeatedly double examine the place issues had been. I hate that panicked second whenever you attain right into a pocket and the merchandise isn’t there, solely to seek out it in a special pocket moments later.

I ended up going by means of the trusty issues I all the time use and setting them out entrance and middle, whereas placing superfluous objects apart. This helped ease my frustration, and now that I perceive the thought of things burdening us greater than I did earlier than, I will probably be packing a lot lighter subsequent time.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride
This underground river has a small however lovely dripping waterfall.

Again on the Highway

It had been a minute since I had ridden extra than simply to a restaurant and again, and this was a Kentucky motorbike journey in any case. On the customer middle the day earlier than, the ranger had proven me numerous roads on the map, so I set off to journey one among them: Mammoth Cave Parkway. The velocity restrict was solely 35 mph, so there wasn’t a variety of alternative to enthusiastically traverse the numerous curves. One factor I did get pleasure from, nevertheless, was the stunning drop in temperature on this space. It was a welcome reprieve from the warmer circumstances elsewhere.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride Mammoth Cave Parkway
The curves of Mammoth Cave Parkway are enjoyable to journey, however the 35-mph velocity restrict reduces the fun.

The following day, I rode to Bowling Inexperienced, a bustling small metropolis about 30 miles from Mammoth Cave Nationwide Park. I ended within the historic downtown and loved views of Fountain Sq. Park, which was surrounded by boutiques, a theater, and the Meltdown ice cream store. Resistance to frozen treats is futile.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride Bowling Green
Fountain Sq. Park is within the coronary heart of Bowling Inexperienced.

Meltdown provides house-made ice cream in distinctive flavors like brown sugar chocolate chip and dump cake (a Southern amalgamation of pineapple, cherries, yellow cake combine, and butter). I’ve had dump cake many instances, and placing it in ice cream elevated it to new heights. I savored a candy scoop on a bench close to buzzing bumblebees that had been having fun with their very own deal with of some purple flowers.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride Bowling Green
The Capitol, a historic theater in downtown Bowling Inexperienced, is throughout the road from Fountain Sq. Park.

Bowling Inexperienced is the place Chevrolet Corvettes are produced, and it’s dwelling to the Nationwide Corvette Museum. Though I had been to the NCM Motorsports Park racetrack, which is situated throughout Interstate 65 from the museum, for motorbike monitor days, I had by no means been contained in the museum. I spent over an hour reveals, akin to a cross-section of the third Corvette ever created, highly effective racecars, the enduring Batmobile, and even the remnants of a sinkhole that occurred on the museum in 2014.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride National Corvette Museum Bowling Green
The outside of the Nationwide Corvette Museum in Bowling Inexperienced includes a sculpture of a traditional ’Vette.

This pure catastrophe broken eight Corvettes, one among which was estimated to be value $750,000. Whereas the injury had been cleaned up, markings on the ground confirmed the huge dimension of the sinkhole – over 40 ft broad – and a plexiglass panel on the ground confirmed the underside of the sinkhole, 30 ft under my ft. Standing there was each eerie and exhilarating.

Earlier than leaving, I ate on the museum’s restaurant, the Stingray Grill. It wasn’t your typical cafeteria-style grill however relatively a swanky eatery with good decor and even higher meals. I can add “blackberry bacon grilled cheese” to the checklist of scrumptious meals I’ve tried. 

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride National Corvette Museum Bowling Green
Corvette followers will love the depth and breadth of the museum’s reveals.

Discovering a Misplaced River

The ultimate factor on my checklist for Bowling Inexperienced was what initially drew me to this space within the first place: the Misplaced River Cave. Though a lot smaller than Mammoth Cave, as its title implies, Misplaced River Cave has a river main into it, and the house owners run an underground boat tour.

A misplaced river is a waterway that flows right into a cave or underground passageway. I used to be fascinated by the thought of floating right into a cave, so I hopped into the small pontoon boat and listened to my charming tour information inform the historical past of this cave.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride
The Misplaced Cave boat tour was a singular solution to expertise an underground river.

Having modified palms many instances through the years, the cave’s worst destiny was when it was stuffed with trash, and maybe its greatest was when it was a secret nightclub throughout Prohibition. I used to be content material with its present life as a touristy however enjoyable and interesting tour. It was thrilling to duck underneath the low ceiling on the entrance to the cave and float alongside the dam inside that was constructed to maintain the water in. 

The following day, it was that bittersweet time to pack up and depart, thus ending this specific Kentucky motorbike journey. I had an important expertise on the nationwide park and exploring Cave Metropolis and Bowling Inexperienced. I additionally loved the downtime, particularly that nap in my hammock on the day I ventured into Mammoth Cave. Over the quick span of only a few days, I had hiked at floor stage in forests and museums, walked underground in cool and darkish caves, floated alongside a misplaced river, and even hovered 30 ft above a sinkhole. This journey had slightly little bit of all the things, and I look ahead to coming again.

See all of Rider‘s touring stories here.

Kentucky Motorcycle Ride Bowling Green
Downtown Bowling Inexperienced is a captivating mix of previous and new.

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