I sort of love Kentucky.
I love almost everything about the south. If it wasn't so god-forsaken hot, and the insects weren't the size of my open palm, I think I'd be perfectly content to spend the rest of my days down here calling people "darlin'", exploring caves, eating ribs, saying "y'all" and listening to Elvis. Rico likes it too, and Yoda never seems to tire of complete strangers saying, "Well aren't you the cutest lil' thang."
Much to my dismay, we plow through the bluegrass state much faster than I'd like - but not without a few great stops.
First on the list - Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home in Hodgenville, KY. It's another testament to what a hard working person can accomplish, and it did not escape my attention that without the little cabin we visited today, the house we stopped at yesterday may never have existed. Little Neeks played in the same spot where little Lincoln planted pumpkin seeds, only to see his hard work washed out in a flash flood, we read the grave marker for Abe's best buddy, Austin, who once rescued him from drowning in Knob Creek, we marveled at the cabin, learned about his siblings, and felt the humanity of a man we only knew as legend.
Of course, Rico being who he is, couldn't possibly leave without muttering, "I wish he was alive right now, to tell people to shut up, quit whining about life, and get a job." Which is, quite possibly, exactly what he would have said, but likely with more elegance, and without the dramatic sigh at the end.
Stop number two was an absolute delight: Kentucky Down Under in Horse Cave, Kentucky, near Mammoth Caves National Park. Part Austrailian Zoo, part cave tour, it was the perfect place for the three of us to spend two hours (though we could have spent more). We met kangaroos (you can pet them, but we didn't have time) a kookaburra, llamas(we did pet them) bats (that would be a no), black swans, cockatiels, and best of all - the lorikeets. (Or "the loraxes" as Rico referred to them). For no additional charge, the keepers at Down Under, give you a small paper cup filled with nectar and oped the door to the lorikeets cage - after that, you're on your own. Yoda was completely enamored, and not at all scared whe they landed on her head and climbed up her pigtails, but Rico was the star of the show. It was like a multicolored Hitchcock movie from the second he stepped into the place. Those birds loved him - but who doesn't?
Seven cups of nectar later, we were off to our tour of Mammoth Onyx cave. Located right in the park, it is one of the "cave-i-er" caves we've been to - full of drips and drizzles, stalactites, stalagmites, and all sorts of cave formations. There was more climbing than I (still not cleared after surgery), or the grandparents ahead of me, planned for, but completely worth it. Yoda and I both received "cave kisses" - apparently being dripped on by cave water is good luck. Supposedly crickets are good luck too, in which case we should be set for life, because the long-legged albino variety down there were HUGE.
Three hours later we landed in our home for the night. Move over Savannah, Georgia - Chattanooga, Tennessee just might be my new favorite city. I know right?! Chattanooga! Who knew? I'm completely smitten with their southern drawl, the sound of horse drawn carriages on cobblestone, love the fact that absolutely nobody is in a hurry. (It doesn't hurt that Priceline gave us a double suite in a completely gorgeous 19th century hotel complete with waterfall pool for only $60). We had dinner at Sugar's BBQ, which served the best beef brisket I have ever tasted - smoky, salty, soft and tender it was everything I hoped it would be. And the homemade banana pudding - well lets just say that every single bite we took made us smile like this: