I’m overdue on writing an update. Every time I sit down to do it, I get distracted with other projects. So, here I am! There’s a lot to catch up on. I was in a wedding in mid-October, 3-weeks after returning from our Virginia trip. I can’t say enough about how beautiful and carefully thought out everything was. I loved that they had a ring-warming ceremony. It was a small, intimate gathering, and we had a lot of fun getting to know everyone. A couple days later, we left for Kentucky, and then in late November we took an impromptu road-trip to Michigan with my brother and oldest nephew. It has been a busy couple of months leading up to the holiday season.
While we were readying the RV for Kentucky, my mom called to let me know that my Granny (maternal) had a nasty fall, which led to a broken hip, broken arm, and a cracked rib. She ultimately had surgery, and thankfully the hospital allowed my mom to be there in the hospital with her. On top of that, my brother was scheduled to have major surgery during the tail-end of our Kentucky trip. I was stressed out about both of them, but unable to do anything to really help. My brother’s surgery went better than anticipated. My Granny’s surgery went well too, but once they moved her from the hospital to the rehab facility, she was not allowed to have visitors. My mom would stand outside and talk to her through a window.
When my brother asked me to accompany him to Michigan to visit our family in November, I jumped on it. It was so nice to see everyone, and be back in the middle of the woods. I was really happy to be able to visit with Granny in the rehab facility, even though we had to stand outside in the snow and talk through an open window. We also got to spend a few days with my Opa (paternal grandfather). Overall, it was a really nice week away. We made and consumed many of our favorite family meals, worked on puzzles together, watched the river go by, played dominoes and cards, and my mom taught me how to can preserves – mango habanero!
We prefer to keep our drives between 3 and 4 hours, so that we can get out and explore a bit. It’s nice to stop at Harvest Hosts’ (HH) locations to break up the driving. It’s also a good way to see points of interests and talk to locals. I know I have mentioned it many times before, but we really love our Harvest Hosts (HH) membership. The Appalachian Distillery is family-run, with a wide variety of moonshine flavors. Since they weren’t able to pour samples due to COVID, we purchased a box containing all ten moonshine flavors in small 50 ml bottles. After setting up and walking Stevie, we opened a few to taste between us, and then headed next door to the Yacht Club bar and grill, where we sat outside on the front porch with Stevie and enjoyed a nice meal and the sunset. I was really impressed by the food at this place; it’s definitely a hidden gem. Some goats wandered over to the upper parking lot in front of the restaurant, and after our meal, we walked over to look at them. There were a couple other HH guests, but plenty of room to accommodate us all. We had a nice conversation with both couples. Overall, it was an extremely quiet overnight stay (the track wasn’t running that evening). We were back on the road by about 8:30 am.
Kentucky River Campground
The folks at Kentucky River Campground (KRC) extended the warmest welcome we’ve ever encountered at a campground. Most campers here have been coming for 10-years or more; it very much feels like a family. That said, we were invited in with open arms as if we were part of the regular crew. During our initial planning for this trip we booked a site at a campground in Shelbyville. However, a week prior to leaving, we decided that it made more sense stay in Frankfort, which is closer to the two main distilleries we wanted to visit. Every site at KRC has full hook-ups. They also upgraded us to a river view site for no extra charge. Cell reception was nonexistent, though they did have spotty WiFi. This was challenging because Andy was in the middle of a business deal that he needed to download and review documents for, and also have phone conversations about.
The lack of decent service also posed another issue in getting a ride through Lyft/Uber. Though, even finding a ride via a local taxi service was near impossible. Frankfurt just doesn’t have drivers available. We found that once we got to a distillery, we could call an Uber/Lyft/Taxi to take us to another distillery, but no one wanted to drive us back to the campground. Each 10 or 15 min ride was also about $20-30. Sure, we could have tucked everything away, pulled up chocks on the RV, and driven to the places we wanted to go. However, the roads leading to many of these old distilleries can be quite narrow and twisty. We also didn’t want to drive the rig after sampling bourbon at more than one distillery, or get Stevie unsettled by moving and leaving her inside alone.
We had a reservation to enter Castle & Key on a beautiful, sunny day. All tours were suspended, but we did get to walk some of the grounds (the distillery sits on a total of 113 acres), have a long and informative conversation with an employee, and enjoy a cocktail outside. The buildings and grounds belonged to the Old Taylor Distillery, which according to the website was established in 1887. I have been unable to find out why one of the buildings has 1867 etched into it prominently. The site closed in 1920 fell into disrepair until around 2014 when investors purchased the propertuy and and began restoring it to it’s former glory. Castle & Key is currently aging their first batch of bourbon, and employ Kentucky’s first female master distiller, Marianne Barnes. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them. If you’re in Frankfurt this winter, you can visit and purchase a bottle of their first ever batch of whiskey, Restoration Rye, which released just after our visit. If you watched Neat: The Story of Bourbon on Hulu, you’ll recall that all bourbon’s are whiskey, but not all whiskey’s are bourbon.
From Castle and Key, we took an Uber to Buffalo Trace. We didn’t realize that all of the tours for Buffalo Trace were free, or how quickly they would fill up. We tried to book a tour about 2-weeks prior to leaving for Kentucky. So, unfortunately, we only got to walk around a small part of their grounds and go into their gift store. Buffalo Trace is one of my favorite bourbons, and they’ve been working on their craft for over 200 years. If you can get a hold of a bottle of their bourbon cream this winter, I guarantee that you won’t regret buying a bottle or three. I was lucky to find it somewhere at home, and I plan to go back and get more.
The following day, we missed the tour I booked at Glenn’s Creek Distillery. I’ll own this mistake. I didn’t double check the reservation, and I had it in my head that it was booked for an hour later. We were having a difficult time getting a ride anyhow, even though it was a Saturday. We decided to take the $15 as a minor loss, rather than paying $60 for two more cab rides in addition to tasting fees. Instead, we spent a large part of the afternoon sitting on our site’s deck overlooking the Kentucky River, I threw together a charcuterie board, and we sipped on some Buffalo Trace bourbon (center picture below). We even took a nice bike ride beyond the campground and saw some scenic farmland.
On our way to Mammoth Cave National Park, we made a quick stop in Bardstown for lunch, and ended up sampling a flight of bourbon at Bardstown Bourbon Company, which is near Makers Mark and Four Roses (neither of which were running tours at that time). They were also still in the process of aging their first batch bourbon, but they had some blends on-hand. This was our first time sampling a bourbon blend, and it was also where we learned about mash bills. Though they don’t disclose up-front which three bourbons make up each blend, we were able to look up the individual mash bills by percentage of corn, rye/wheat, and malted barley to see what brand it was.
Mammoth Cave National Park
On our way to Mammoth we passed the exit sign for the birth place of KFC, but we didn’t stop. In hindsight it was better that we didn’t delay. We should have double checked the park website and directions to Mammoth. We had been without consistent cell service for most of the trip at this point, so I don’t think we thought much about it. We were using Waze, rather than our internal GPS that has our rig information plugged in (though, I’m not sure it would have really mattered), and it routed us to the main entrance of the park. Waze assumed we could take the Green River Ferry across to the Maple Springs Loop, where the back-country horse campground sites are located. However, there were two major issues: the ferry can’t transport RVs, and the ferry was actually closed. There was a detour in place that Waze didn’t appear have flagged, and we didn’t realize that we couldn’t connect to the Maple Springs loop from the south until after we had driven well out of the way. Ultimately, we had to drive ALL the way around the park to the other side; there was no better alternative. The detour signs were also confusing toward the end of the route. I later asked a park ranger which way he would have taken around the park, and he at least confirmed that we had gone the best way. Anyhow, after the 40-mile detour and a couple of wrong turns into the other camping areas (there were quite a few horse camps bordering the park), it was late afternoon by the time we reached the campground loop. By then, we had once again lost cell service and couldn’t double check a digital map. We found the campground, but aside from a bus conversion, no one else was around. So, we stupidly followed our GPS down a sketchy road through the woods that brought us back out to the main road. I wasn’t sure the RV was going to make it without getting stuck or hitting something. It was more like a double track trail, and now that I am home and able to check a map with satellite view, I see that it’s not even marked.
Anyhow, we returned to the campground, declared we were indeed in the correct place, and set-up camp. We stayed at this site for 2-days, and it rained most of the time. The first night we took Stevie on a short walk since it was getting dark. She ran after a deer in the road and caused it to slip and fall. I think she was quite pleased with herself. The next morning it began to rain. We waited for a break in the weather, but without consistent access to radar data, we weren’t sure how much rain was to be expected. In the afternoon, we set off for a trail ride. By then the rain had let up considerably, but soon after getting onto the trail, it was too heavy to continue. We went back to the RV, and watched it pour for most of the day. At dusk, the rain finally cleared, and we were able to take a bike ride on the closed road leading to the Green River Ferry (the north side of the river). Also of note, this was the first time I have ever heard coyotes howling at night. Being in the middle of no-where made their cries even more eerie and hair raising–especially at 2 am.
After two nights and extensive rain, we were ready to move to the other side of Mammoth. We backtracked the 40-miles around the park to the HQ campground. They were very strict about check-in times, and we were early, so we parked in the huge lot where cave tours start and tickets are purchased. The lot had a bunch of designated bus and RV spots. We had lunch and took Stevie on a walk, and then decided since we had an hour or so to kill that we may as well enjoy a bike ride. We got Stevie settled inside, and took off on our bikes. About half mile later on a wooded trail, I decided it would be a splendid idea to Superman off of my bike (Zero stars. I do not recommend). I jumped. I don’t know what I was thinking except that the trail was not working for my skill level, and I didn’t want to be on it anymore. Luckily I didn’t break anything, but I did end up with some cuts, contusions, and a sprained knee. Andy had to pick me up out of some brambles and off the side of hill. Meanwhile, I asked after my missing shoe and bike. haha They were left behind, and intact, on the trail when I jumped off. I tried to ride it out a bit on the paved road, but I was in pain and bleeding, so I went back to the RV to clean myself up. I sent Andy back out to enjoy a solo ride, figuring at least one of us should enjoy being outside. By the time he returned, my ego wasn’t as bruised, I had cleaned off the dirt and blood as best as I could, and was icing my knee after taking a couple ibuprofen.
We lucked out on the sites at the HQ campground. Though we couldn’t book either of them back-to-back for consecutive nights, we were easily able to just move over one spot in the morning. Both spots had full hook-ups and were the only sites like that at the campground. They were also closest to the path leading to all of the facilities: cave tour meet-up location, gift store, post office, camp store, showers, and laundry (the latter two were closed). Andy chatted with the neighbor, whose site we were moving to, while she was out tidying up and disconnecting her rig, a Unity. We got some ideas from her on towing a car and options for winter destinations. She was the second solo female RVer we met on this trip. We met another very nice lady at the next campground, who was driving a Winnebago Travato. I’m very intrigued by solo travelers.
On our last day in Mammoth, my knee was still pretty tender, but we went on leisurely 8-mile bike ride. We discovered an old graveyard on the grounds, and later took the self-guided cave tour. They did have Park Rangers positioned at points of interest within the cave, so you could ask questions and learn more about the history and geology of the cave. We spent a long time looking at everything and asking lots of questions.
National Corvette Museum
This was a fun stop for both of us. The best part for me was learning about the sinkhole that swallowed eight corvettes in 2014, and the aftermath of recovering the cars and stabilizing the building. There is still a cave under the museum, and I took a picture of myself standing on the shaft with a ladder descending down 30 ft down. I’ve linked a couple videos above, but for more information, and to explore the cave virtually, click here. I also really enjoyed seeing people taking delivery of their new cars in the middle of the museum. Additionally, they had a huge side lot for RVs and trailers for daytime visitors (no overnight stays are allowed). I noticed that they had power hook-ups and picnic spots as well.
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park
We camped at the Ridgeline Campground, which was interesting to get to. It felt like we were never going to stop climbing up the twisty roads. Once again cell service dropped off, and at some point the GPS declared that we had arrived at our destination when we hadn’t. The signage for the campground wasn’t great, but we eventually found our way. The campground itself was fairly small, pretty full, and none of the spots were anywhere near level. It took us a little bit to figure out the best way to situate ourselves. The site was wide, but not very deep. We had to park with our bike hitch essentially hanging over a steep drop off, so that our nose wasn’t in the roadway (our RV is only 25 ft long). There was a concrete wheelstop that our tires weren’t anywhere close to touching. This site also had a lot of overhead trees, and acorns were pelting the roof. They woke us up a couple of times.
When Andy hooked up the water, he noticed that the pressure gauge was reading incredibly low. We decided to add enough fresh water to the holding tank for a couple days and use the water pump, rather than deal with subpar water pressure. This was the first campground where we did laundry. I was happy that I had the foresight to bring a roll of quarters because, as suspected, they didn’t have a coin machine. We packed enough clothing for the trip, but since we had some time during a pop-up storm, I figured I may as well get ahead on doing laundry at home.
We didn’t ride our bikes here because the roads leading down were pretty steep and narrow, with no margins. There didn’t seem to be any biking trails from where we were to the base. We did hike to Cumberland Falls (aka Niagara of the South or Little Niagara), and then down onto the shore area below the falls. Stevie had fun splashing around in the water and exploring the trails. I couldn’t believe the size of some of the leaves on the trails. Some of them were bigger than Stevie! We missed the moonbow by a week. I bet it was incredible on Halloween. By the way–the only other place in the world where you can see a moonbow is at Victoria Falls on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border.
Zilpo Recreation Area
With our trip winding down, and my birthday approaching (hello, 39!), we relocated to the Daniel Boone National Forest. We stayed in the Fox loop of the Zilpo Recreation Area, which is managed by Thousand Trails. It was pretty much a ghost town, as the whole area closed for the season the day after we checked out. The water spigot here was missing a washer, and rather than have water continuously spraying out, we once again just added more water to our tank and used the water pump. This site was by far my favorite campsite we’ve stayed at. It was large, had two picnic tables, gravel, trees surrounding it, and the fire ring was positioned a good distance from where you’d want to park. I actually took a picture of the site, which is something I keep forgetting to do when we stay somewhere. The picture doesn’t do it justice, but I’ll drop it below.
We had hoped to kayak in Cave Run Lake (a 8,270-acre fresh water lake), but it had gotten quite cold and windy. It was much warmer during the first half of the trip. We rode our bikes through every single loop of the campground, and hiked around a bit. There was a sign posted on the road leading down to the boat launch area that read, “PREPARE TO LAUNCH,” and it had Andy laughing hysterically. Remembering my jump off of the bike, it went something like, “hey, Jess, here’s YOUR SIGN! hahahahahahahaha!!” I should have stolen that sign. Just kidding! 🙂
I had a nice, quiet birthday with my loves. We spent most of the day outside, had ribs for dinner, and Andy built me a nice campfire. It was funny hearing Andy explain where he had to squirrel away my card and present in the rig to keep me from finding it for 10-days.
Riffle Run Campground
For our last stay, we drove to Riffle Run Campground, an Army Corps of Engineers site. The campground didn’t take advanced reservations, and was on a first-come-first-serve basis. We figured with camping season dwindling down and it getting cooler, it would be fine. We had another campground option flagged as a back-up. It was a pretty ride to the campground, and also another quiet area. You’re able to choose your own campsite–whatever is unoccupied. You just complete a registration card with payment, and leave it in the drop box. There are a lot of trails to hike on surrounding the campground, but we set-up camp around 3 pm. We did take Stevie on a walk around, and then biked up to the dam and on some access roads around the campground. We spent awhile talking to a nice couple about our rig. They popped by to ask some questions about it, as they were considering downsizing. We have really enjoyed meeting new people on the road this year. Everyone has been incredibly friendly.
We planned to drive to Cumberland, MD and stay overnight at the 1812 Brewery (HH) again (see the Mitten state post), but when I double checked their hours, I realized they were closed. We likely could have still stayed there, but we wanted to enjoy their beer and some food, stay the night, and then head home the next day. It would have been a nice end to a long trip, and a fun way to break-up a long drive. We have to get better at reviewing plans and GPS coordinates before we hit the road. It takes so much advanced planning to plot a trip like this, that it’s easy to forget some of the details, or glance over the route and think you have everything you need plugged in. Also of note, since this was the first time we largely had no cell service–at least at campgrounds–it’s important to have GPS coordinates and information saved off-line somewhere. We use RV Parky to plot trips, but couldn’t access notes and data stored in the app without cell service.
How’s Stevie Mix doing?
Stevie is fine as wine. She loves to be on the road and in the wilderness. In fact, she loves the RV so much that we take her to the storage facility periodically when we pop over to check on the rig, or we’re doing maintenance or making mods.
Since I mentioned mods, we just added a 3-inch Tempur-Pedic mattress pad topper to our bed. It’s called ‘Serenity’, and we purchased it at Costco. I also bought a seat-belt extender from Amazon, so that bed could stay secure while driving. Once we added the topper, we could no longer connect the safety belt on the ceiling. We also bought a couple of replacement parts to store inside the RV, like a water pump and a transfer switch. Andy upgraded our on-board tool kit as well. We finally located our water pump, which is under the cabinet where we store things under the sink. For some reason the manufacturer stapled the board down, so Andy plans to take the staples out and instead affix it with screws. He’s also going to drill some finger holes so that it’s easier to open. The same goes for the cabinet the transfer switch lives underneath in the linen cupboard.
Where are we headed next?
To be determined… We’re actively looking (virtually) for a house or property at the moment. We’re also just enjoying being home for a bit, especially with Andy’s birthday and Christmas coming. We hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, spent making fond memories. Wishing you all a warm, happy, and festive holiday season!