Day 12: Sunday Cook-out #KentuckyTour2014

cook out, bbq, kentuckyEveryone’s up early for breakfast that is hosted by Ellen’s aunties, which is closely followed by the Chelsea-Liverpool title decider.

We soon order cabs to take us out into the countryside for the last hoorah; a traditional southern cook-out laid on by Molly and Becca and their two husbands Bull and Ryan. The ranch is now home to Molly and Bull, and the place is littered with dinner tables, garden games and the vast majority of the remaining wedding guests.

“Wow, look they’ve got a keg, and everything!”

Bill brought me a signed copy of his book too, and took me through some of the characters he’d been fortunate enough to meet over his career.

After a few days of fast pace, this was exactly what everybody was after; sun, beer, beef, ribs,cook out, bbq, kentucky, winchester chicken and corn hole.

Corn Hole? Right, a lawn game consisting of two teams of pairs. The pairs stand opposite each other, at a rough range of 30ft, each trying to throw bean bags on to each others wooden platform (1pt for landing it on, 3pts for getting it in the hole). The first to 21pts is the winner – though of course as interest peaked we reduced this to 11pt.

Right about now, I’m pretty certain my Dad is midway through constructing his own version, smashing up some old chest of draws in the process.

corn hole, kentucky, summer, bbq, cook out, USA

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Day 11: Nupitals #KentuckyTour2014

moundale manor, winchester, weddingAfter breakfast with Dad, Joe and Luke at Shakespeare and Co to discuss last minute details, we join the rest of the Groomsmen on board the shuttles to take us up to Moundale Manor.

Moundale Manor is a 38-room private house in Winchester and only minutes from the church. Similar to Bullock-Bodley House, Moundale is a classic example of antebellum architecture, typical of neoclassical and Greek revival mansions of the Southern states. In essence, most likely a former slave plantation.

It’s here where we’ll get changed into our tuxedos, play killer on the pool table, play air hockey in the games room, watch Man Utd/Norwich in the home cinema while sinking a few beers on reclining sofas and wait for the call. It’s the sort of place you’d dreamed of having when you’re young, where the Sports Bar of the 90’s failed to replicate.

The place is so big, that up on the second floor Ellen and her bridesmaid are also getting ready. It takes a good 10 minutes to find one of the many bathrooms.

Hot sunny day, men walking around on fresh cut grass in suits, coaches to and from venues. It was all very FA Cup Final day like. After a few photos, it’s time to board the coaches for the short trip to the First Christian Church for the ceremony. It’s a church that’s been in the Collis family for generations, attended by Ellen’s Dad and his brothers.

The guests started to fill the church as we arrived, with Angie, the wedding coordinator, given us the final reminders of where to stand and where to hide.

The ceremony went without a hitch (sadly I’m not the first person in the world to crack a wedding related pun here). Tears, cheers and many happy years.

Luke wore that crown, and not a single person lined up at the alter felt the need to chuckle.

We congregated outside, lining the steps from the church to the street. Then the two stars of the show came down the steps, through the cheering crowds and into the waiting white Bentley, where they’d meet everyone back at Moundale Manor for cocktail hour.

It was here at Cocktail hour that I met Bill, Ellen’s uncle. He’s a former eye surgeon and has recently published his memoirs called Me, Myself and Eyes. I instantly had a hundred questions lined up for him, as you normally do when you meet somebody so interesting. Dad had met him last year at Luke and Ellen’s engagement party, and so I had been looking forward to hearing some of his many anecdotes since.

Then it was back on the coaches, and onto the Winchester Opera House for the reception.

On every table, at every seat, lay a personalised note for the guest. Ellen and Luke wrote one for every single person. 160 guests. I genuinely wondered at what point they realized the scale of the operation, yet conscious they’d gone way too far to back track.

But as Liza pointed out in her Maid of Honour speech, the pair of them, Luke and Ellen, genuinely value everyone in their lives. And so it’d never be a case of “actually, this is ridiculous, told you this would take too long”.

winchester, opera, moundale manorMine was written by Ellen, as was most peoples (Luke’s ones will no doubt surface in several years as collectors items) and have to say was very touching. I’ve welled up a number of times over the last few days, in particular around the speeches; mother of the bride, mother of the groom and the bride herself giving particular touching speeches. Though I must admit, I do wonder where the emotional energy gets transferred to if not in the form of salty tears. And are there any side affects? Bags under the eyes? Brain tumor?

Then Joe’s speech; a brief history of the pre and post-Manhattan Luke Oliver.

Anecdotes from being forced to play Sunday League football by Dad, to Saturday afternoons shopping for World War 2 rifles at Islington war market (aged17), to working at the local fruit and veg shop to ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

I think it came in at around 17 minutes. He’d read it out to me earlier that morning at Moundale Manor shortly before getting ready.

The first dance was followed by a good healthy stint of Greek dancing led by Mrs C and her gang. I really enjoyed the Greek dancing, a perfect way to trick everyone onto the dance floor.

The live band played a great set, the Greek music fed into Irish ballads. It really was a great night.

We all piled back on the Hilton-bound coaches. Luke’s London mates were leading a sing song at the back. Never in my life have I more wished I knew the full lyrics to Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Still I manage to slide in on the parts I did know, and sip my drink during the parts I didn’t.

Once we’re back at the Hilton we, if somehow by default, head to the main centre of Lexington, an area that had hosted almost every after party of the last few days. Between running back and forth to the hotel to coordinate groups, I find myself on my jacks, still wearing the full-piece tuxedo and being subjected to taunts about attending ‘prom’ from various pissed college kids. Half thinking I might get my head kicked in, the other half assessing how much I probably deserved it for looking like this whilst on my own, I continued my search for everybody on the next street. Spirits are soon lifted when I meet Kateri and Casey, who’ve come to round everyone up.

Day 10: A rehearsal to end all rehearsals #KentuckyTour2014

Up early, and on form, to head to the church with the rest of the wedding party for the wedding rehearsal.

I’ve always taken a Gary Linker approach to warm-ups and rehearsals; why waste a goal in the warm-up?

Though given the Greek twist to it (such as Luke having to wear a crown), a run through is essential. A crown? Liza is quick to ask that that we don’t succumb to childish laughter during the actual ceremony, which lets face it is quite a big ask when somebody has to wear a ceremonial headpiece.

The rehearsal dinner itself is at Bodley-Bullock House in downtown Lexington, a 3-storey town house built in 1814. The 70-guest dinner was in the main room, though the house itself was a pleasure to explore. The Bullock’s snuff bottle collection a must-see, though unfortunately we only found out about it once the night was over. The house is used by the Junior League of Lexington as their headquarters, but is also a popular spot on local ghost tours.

After drinks and photos in the back garden we head back in to the main room to join the other 70 guests for dinner. Followed by some speeches.

I think it’s fair to say I paid the price for my stance on rehearsing when it came to my turn to play the role of after dinner speaker. Cautious few people ever really want to hear about somebody else’s day, I decide to keep it quick, managing to stagger through some stuff about me and Luke staying up all night writing unreadable novels and unsellable sitcoms, having a new cool sister and our introduction to Grits and the Waffle House via Mrs C.

On the otherhand, Mum’s was brilliant. A perfect combination of anecdotes of a much younger Luke, and context around his departure to New York. And also, quite rightly, pointing out that Ellen has far exceeded the expectations of a Daughter-in-law.

Ellen and Mrs C both touched on Luke’s ability to master human qualities that are often hard to maintain simultaneously. In that he’s both “well liked and well respected” and “interesting, and interested”. If you can pull both of those off, you’re pretty much sorted.

All three also mentioned the very special loved ones that weren’t present at this special occasion.

Dad went for the instant crowd pleaser, orchestrating the cheering crowds as he called out the places that people had travelled from. From Los Angeles to Singapore and everything in between. Of course going East to West.

It was just great catching up with lots of old faces from the last time I was on the East Coast back in 2009. Second cousins Caroline and Susie, and their mum Rita and auntie Eileen. This lot gave me a tour of Philadelphia on that trip and are hugely popular amongst our family in London. Not least for their ability to appreciate puns and regurgitated Tommy Cooper jokes from the 70’s that we pass off as our own – “just like that”.

And Ellen’s old school friends Molly, Bull, Rebecca and Ryan – I’ve not seen this quad since the latter two kindly let me sleep in their attic when I was in Washington DC for Obama’s inauguration.

And nothing’s changed since that 2009 trip – I’m sure Obama’s legacy team would like to hear otherwise, but I refer to how familiar everybody seems. Though of course social media probably has something to do with that.

Also from that trip, and more specifically my stay in New York with Luke, is Casey a very talented photographer. And her boyfriend Josh, who had a tattoo of that Octopus that can open a jar of pickles; a decade of engineering undermined by a billion years of evolution. And also her good mate Kateri from Harlem, another whizz with the lens.

I’ve never been one to question the “meaning of life”, as it always seemed futile to ponder something that can be answered by a novelty T-Shirt slogan, but essentially this must be it; a series of coming togetherness to celebrate the love of people we know and love.

You don’t need to be some 19-year old philosophy student to get down with that.

Joe definitely has the same curse with technology that has seen me go through a number of laptops and software virus’ over the years, as his plan to surprise the room with a selection of video messages from home takes a hit when the projector and sound fail to work. After messing around with the cables, we get it up and running. But the wait (and the corresponding red sweaty faces) is well worth it, when everyone from my Grandparents to our local shopkeeper are beamed on to the main wall to wish Luke and Ellen well.

“Isn’t that Mistry from the Pied Piper?”

“Yeah, he’s been getting ripped off on the pick ‘n’ mix since 1974”

Who needs luck when you’ve got Church Lane’s finest on your side!!

So after the rehearsal, we make the short walk in town for more laughs.

Ellen is rightly concerned that Luke will continue to lead the party crowd late into the night, a Pied Piper of Lexington. Afterall, the wedding is tomorrow, and everybody needs to be on form after a good solid year of planning. A whole lifetime depending on which way you look at it.

Given the track record of the Oliver Brothers, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be the first to leave a party. History will dictate that we’re there until the lights come on. It’s not necessarily a symptom of our lust for life, just merely an irrational fear of missing out.

Myself, Joe and Kate didn’t find it hard to persuade Luke however to get a relatively early night at 1am, he knew the score. But Kate suggested (just for the craic, ya’know) we send Ellen a photo of the three us lying down next to some black bin bags. So, we do.

Of course Ellen knows the score (everyone knows the score nowadays), but she was probably still be a tiny bit concerned that despite the jest intent, we were still drunk enough to think lying face down in some alleyway wearing our best clothes is somehow a good idea.

I’d actually stopped taking notes for this trip some time after arriving in Lexington. Since arriving it’s been non-stop. It’s been hotel bed to shuttle bus, shuttle bus to designated event, designated event to afterparty.

All these events are just the headlining acts. But in between they’re filled with serendipitous lookalikes, quick pints at the hotel bar, good solid handshakes, generous word play, film references, looking for plug adapters, applying quotes from The Office, charging iPhones and everything else that is worth writing about but not worth jotting down at the time.

And everybody has been up early, and on form. Though the beer is evidently fresher and lower in alcoholic volume, I think it’s more to do with adrenaline and the enthusiasm that every day demands of us. This is a once in lifetime trip, and we cannot afford the luxury of staying in till ‘noon with a dry mouth and a banging headache.

At some stage of this trip we’ll crack on with some Moon Shine from the Appalachian Mountains, digesting the strawberries that have been preserved in alcohol for a number of years…but that’s a different story for a different time.

Day 9: Suit fittings and horse racing #KentuckyTour2014

lexington, winchell's, geno's, kentucky, bloody maryI broke my Bloody Mary duck over breakfast, and what better group to do it with than the rest of the Groom party; Joe, Me, Dad, Andy K, Jimbo, Johnny, Mark R, Mark W, Bruce, Will, Foster and Paul.

We’re at Winchell’s Bar for breakfast, next door to Geno’s who have the honour of being the official suit supplier to the #TeamColliver Wedding. We’re here to get our final fittings for our Groomsmen tuxedos before heading off to Keeneland Races for a day of gambling with the rest of the gang.

Despite us all providing our sizes 6months earlier, they’ve still buggered up most of the kit. They’ve pretty much gone for the much practiced and much failed one-size-fits-all approach, despite clearly getting a heads up that unlike Ellen’s Bridesmaids (a fine collaborative cohort of Southern Belles), Luke comes equipped with a band of men of all different shapes and sizes.

Anyways, after given the store clerk a wedgie and leaving him hanging from one of the outside lampposts, we jump in Paul and Foster’s shuttles and head for Keeneland.

Now’s a better opportunity than ever to say the ease would not of been possible without Foster and Paul. Jumping from one vendor to the next, these two made sure of a seamless experience. We did our bit (i.e. waking-up in the morning) but they did the hard, and often thankless, bit of making it all come together.

Meanwhile, the Bridesmaids party spent the morning in a town called Nonesuch, about 20 minutes from Lexington, for a Bridesmaids Brunch at a restaurant called The Glitz. Mum said how the beautifully lit restaurant sits below Irish Acres, a huge gallery housing antique furniture, jewelry, dolls, toys and glassware. It sounded a bit like my Nan’s house back in Kingsbury.

keenland, kentucky, horses, racesWe all meet at the prestigious Keeneland, the no.1 thoroughbred horse race track in the USA, for a day of laughs in the sun.

Day 7: Searching for falls in the physical space #KentuckyTour2014

mammoth cave, geography, teacher

Me, rocking the Geography teacher look!

Our last full day in Cumberland Falls and so we head out to the train yard which would dispatch Kentucky’s coal to the rest of the Country during the industry’s heyday. It’s closed, but the lady kindly lets us have a look around the yard and museum.

So we headed out to Yahoo Falls instead.

“Bet you had to use a search engine to find that one” somebody said, most likely me.

It’s a real optical illusion. When you see it in photos or from the many viewpoints that hover above it, it looks big but not worth-the-trip-big. It’s only when I climb aboard one of the boulders next to it do I realize just what we’re dealing with. I’ve let Dad, Kev and Mary follow the pathways into the rock behind the waterfall. Within minutes, they’re almost lost amongst the vast backdrop of grey, resembling nothing more than little florescent rain-proof dots.

yahoo falls, cumberland, kentuckyThe downpour from up above is no trickle, as first thought, but a pounding of water. Nonetheless we get the photo of Dad pretending to take a shower underneath it.

“Would be a great place to have a music show in this cave, think of the sound and the natural acoustics” says Kev.

“That’d be some rock concert” I hit back quickly, secretly knowing that Kev was lining that piece of word magic up for himself.

We make tracks out to the viewpoint where The Natural Arch of the Daniel Boone National Park can be viewed. We also continued along a dirt pathway that loops around the northwest end of the arch for more specular scenery of the thick forest below.

Even at the height of the financial crisis “Recession? What recession?” appeared to be a key phrase said by many in London, whilst marveling how it was possible to get a full English breakfast and a pint of Stella for less than £6 in JD Wetherspoon. I mean the graduate market was dire and even when employed you had to be constantly reminded of how good things used to be by management. But really, after the initial panic, jobs came back and restaurants and pubs seemed to do okay. But it was never London that felt the real pinch but places like Chester, Warrington and Red Ruth.

Assumingly the similar of the USA, where a severe drop in standard of living wouldn’t be New York but places out here. Driving back from Yahoo Falls, I noticed an out of business petrol station. A petrol station? No longer in action? That’d normally be quite symbolic, making an apt cover photo for a book entitled The 1970s: A Retrospective Look. It wasn’t the only sign of a once thriving tourist spot falling into a spot of economic decay.

Eagle Falls Resort, a large classic American motel about 2 minutes from the actual Cumberland Falls waterfall, lies derelict and abandoned. After asking about it at the front desk at Du Pont, we’re told it’s been in some state for a few years after going bankrupt and falling into the hands of looters. People around here loot?

Jerry Hoake for Mayor.

Day 3: Sinking holes and heading South #KentuckyTour14

The Caves

At the door to the cave entrance, our dry-witted Ranger announced a few do’s and don’ts.

“And finally, guns are forbidden inside the cave. So if you’ve brought your gun with you, you can’t come in” came John’s sardonic precaution.

mammoth cave, kentucky, bowling greenIt tickled the three of us to great length. But looking around the 60-strong tour group it appears we were the only ones who’d consider bringing a gun to a tourist attraction rather inappropriate.

The caves were pretty goddamn cool, but still as a source of written coverage they can prove hard as inspiration. But it’s more the grand size of these caves that provide the most wonder.

It’s estimated that these caves could stretch in total (i.e. not in a liner direction) to around 200 miles, but in reality they have absolutely no idea how big this range of cave is. One of the park rangers back at the hotel told us that she was on an expedition a few years ago when she stumbled into a large cave that appeared to be lit up with diamond and crystal coated stalagmites. However after going back with the rest of her group, she was unable to relocate it. They’ve been looking for it ever since.

They’re no better placed in finding out the reach of these caves. The soft rock means new caves could be opening up all the time.

About 30 miles down the road in Bowling Green (our next destination) a 40ft wide and 25ft deep sinkhole opened up at the National Corvette Museum, swallowing 8 models. This was just last February, with the last one being fished out only last week.

Bowling Green

As often the case with the human psyche, the day is broken up by food stops. We get to Bowling Green by 3pm to have some lunch. It’s perfectly placed between our starting position this morning and our final destination of Nashville where we’ll be reuniting with Dad, Auntie Mary and Uncle Kev who’ve been travelling south from Washington DC since last Saturday.

Dad (who did this trip last year on the way to Luke and Ellen’s engagement party) describes Bowling Green as “just like the town from Back to the Future”.

He’s got a point. The central square and clock tower could easily have been where we’d expect Marty to come whizzing past us on a hover board. And just like the film, you’d be just as likely to see somebody still using a fax machines in some of the older looking office buildings. The place seems to range very much from the past to the future, with nothing in between.bowling green, back to the future, chaney's ice cream, kentucky

We find a pizzeria called Mellow Mushroom (est. 1974) not too far from the central green. We’re drawn by the pink and turquoise exterior and its psychedelic interior. You can’t move on the backpacking trails of South-East Asia without stumbling on a pizzeria with the words ‘mellow’ and ‘mushroom’ in the title. And often the case you leave unable to walk, coming to terms with the possibility your mind will never return to normal service again.

Though this place was actually more committed to a puritan existence, just with individuals pizzas the size of car tyres and a drinks list dominated by 12-15% alcoholic lagers.

Then on to Cheney’s Ice Cream dairy barn before cracking on to Nashville.

Nashville

Joe and Kate have joined the AirBnB movement and have a nice little house sorted near the Five Points for the weekend. I’m sharing with Dad, Auntie Mary and Uncle Kev. After helping to get Joe and Kate settled, Dad and Kev pull up outside the front lawn and after getting an executive summary of their trip, I jump in to dump my stuff off at the ground floor flat we’ve got over near the German Quarter.

nashville, peace love little donutsThe city skyline gives you the butterflies that only a famous one can seeing for the first time. As I listen, Dad speculates that the dominant AT&T building was used for several Batman films.

I’m not too sure. I mean he’s got a point in that the design certainly does resemble Batman’s helmet. It’s just I don’t ever recall the covert superhero ever needing 33-stories of office space in the middle of a Southern city.

We meet Joe and Kate at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, an aptly suited country music bar on Broadway. Reunited at last!

The next few hours are spent doing exactly what we were advised; let Broadway guide you, and don’t stay in any one place too long.

The older three of our sextet have picked up some new buzzwords since hitting the road last weekend. Dad has been guilty of adopting buzzwords into everyday parlance before, albeit a good solid decade after they’ve first entered the public’s lexicon. But him, Kev and Mary are all at it. It appears with social media, adoption of such language has been exacerbated, as they’ve skipped all the way to ‘Selfie’ and more disturbingly ‘Twerking’. Strange, as neither of them know who and what Miley Cyrus and Instagram are.

Anyways, as long as they remain words and not actions, I’ll be happy this holiday…

Day 2: Ticking all the right boxes #KentuckyTour2014

Breakfast with Mrs C.
lexington, bardstown, waffle house, kentucky, all-americanMrs C is Ellen’s mum. Ellen is the soon to be married fiancé of my soon to be married Brother. Luke and Ellen have yet to arrive from New York, but we get up early to catch Mrs C for breakfast before hitting the road.

She’s already with Joe and Kate in the hotel lobby, who both met her when they visited New York last Christmas.
“Robert, Robert, Robert” she welcomes me in with her cheery southern lilt.

We head to the nearby Waffle House for the all-American breakfast. Even this early in the trip I know the phrase “all-American” will be used as a lazy expression to describe anything that we’re familiar with solely from the world of Hollywood films.

Breakfast with Mrs C is just what we’re after, as she fills us in on the wedding plans and what to expect at the upcoming event of the year.

Given we’ve got suit and shirts which would have little chance of surviving a pre-wedding weekend tour in a suitcase, she’s kindly offered to look after our wedding get-up until we’re back in Lexington in a weeks time.

We head out to Bardstown, a town where time has stopped. Very much like the fictional Castle Rock from Stand By Me. In fact we’ve been overcome with comparing everything to films on this short drive from Lexington. Every passing farm barn is the one from Jeepers Creepers, every white picket fence is from a range of US suburban films. Even the option for “grits” at breakfast stokes memories of My Cousin Vinnie.

We also make an effort to see Fort Knox. It’s an inaccessible security vault, famous for barbed wire fencing and “no photo” signs. Kind of surprising why it’s a tourist attraction at all really? But still we did the 50mile detour, as it apparently featured in a James Bond film none of us had ever seen.

Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace memorial

Next on the hitlist was the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, which is just south of Fort Knox and accessible via Elizbethtown. Here you’ll find a beautiful woodland area centered around a memorial building that encases a hut similar to the one Lincoln was born in.

In 1894, a New Yorker purchased Sinking Spring Farm and moved the log cabin that he believed to be Abraham Lincolns here. He believed that former landowners had initially moved it, and this was the original spot. In the late 1800s it was dismantled and taken on tour by a travelling road show, before ending up in New York where it was deconstructed and left in somebody’s basement. It was then bought back by the Lincoln Farm Association after a huge fundraising mission, with the cabin being scaled down to fit inside the memorial building.

In the latter years, tests proved that it was highly unlikely to be the actual hut of Lincoln, but sod it, don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Kentucky produces the world’s bourbon, the finest racehorses and the most unique countryside. But so far we’ve mainly concentrated on a few old barns, a giant safety deposit box and a reconstruction of a mud hut from a travelling circus.

I just hope that one day somebody will reconstruct a suitably sized version of Edgware Maternity Ward to mark by early beginnings.

Cave City

White picket fences. Rolling green hills. Clock towers. What’s not to love about crazy golf? And where better than Cave City to satisfy this need. It’s home to several courses. People may say “but you can do crazy golf anywhere”. But really, when was the last time you played?

Cave City is a tourism town that sits just outside of the Mammoth Cave National Park. It’s mainly one long road that is flanked by fun-for-all-the-family institutions and fast-food joints. For a bright and sunny day the strip is extremely quiet. There’s supposed to be a Cowboy shoot-out when we arrive but eerily there’s no sign of any existence. Why aren’t the crazy golf courses open? I know it’s a Thursday afternoon, but where else can you play 9-holes with your Grandma in under an hour? And so we look for alternatives, though unsure we really want to step out of the car into this town.

At one end of the road sits Dinosaur World. The other, atop a slight hill, the Haunted House amusement ride. Not sure what 150 life-sized dinosaur models would bring to our trip, we decide to head up towards the house.

Despite the ‘open’ sign, The Haunted House is obviously closed for business. Though perhaps looks scarier than the original designers had ever imagined it, laying here in the afternoon sunshine.

Cave City Kentucky alpine slide Next to it is a chairlift, which has evidently succumbed to rust and a lack of interest. The sign suggests visitors can take this up the mountain where they can then slide back down via a ¼ mile alpine slide. However, while most of the chairlift is in place, there’s no evidence to suggest any fun as been had here in years. The last recorded evidence can be found on this family video footage (c.2008).

After a closer inspection of the Haunted House, I notice a truck from a parking lot further down the hill creeping up towards our car below, the sunlight reflected from his front grill catching my attention. Not keen to get blocked in, we head back down to the car. The drivers keen to know what the hell we’re playing at, but is okay when he sees we’re tourists.

According to him, the main attractions have been through hardship of late. The last owners went bankrupt following dwindling visitor numbers, however he’s optimistic that when summer comes, so will the paying public. He’s owns a small convenience store on the main strip.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Having given up on good organized fun, we pulled out of Cave City and delved into the Mammoth Cave National Park to check-in to our hotel, the Mammoth Cave Hotel. After dumping our bags off just after 6pm, we head to one of the entrances of the nearby caves to do a bit of bat spotting, but are a tad too early.

After dinner at the hotel we head back out to Cave City where we’ve been told, according to one of the local rangers, sit a few decent hotspots for a nightcap. We’d anticipated an all-American tavern complete with pool table, neon Budweiser signs and a big hairy biker grinding his younger biker chick. But what we got was El Mazatlan, a Mexican restaurant chain, one of only two restaurants/bars in Cave City with a liqueur license. Though actually this is no huge surprise given local voters only passed a referendum allowing bars and restaurants to serve alcohol in November 2005. Providing they meet certain criteria, restaurants were able to serve alcohol for the first time in 50 years.

So we decided best to head back and get an early night for the cave tour tomorrow.