Whew! My new Prius shocked me after the debacle with the last car in that it has actually survived the first few days of camping and traveling before hunkering down for the work week. I’ve surprised myself too on how quickly I’ve adapted to this nomadic way of living after firmly planting on my couch in pandemic-related isolation for (checks calendar) oh, seven months. Arg.

I wasn’t entirely sure on where this trip would take me, only that I couldn’t bear the cold any longer and wanted to see a bunch of landmarks and national parks. And what better place for this than the Southwest? So I dropped a bunch of pins on a map and figured I’d end up there somehow.

On my first day of travel, I drove west and south across Pennsylvania landing myself in Maryland and then West Virginia. I had intentions of visiting America’s newest national park at New River Gorge. Because I left late in the day, I made it to the park when it was dark, and caught some sleep in order to see the park in all its glory the following morning.

As an aside, I had worried prior to my trip about being warm in frigid temperatures at night and was happy to find that my wool socks and down blanket made it so I actually woke up in the middle of the night absolutely sweating. Awesome!

The view did not disappoint. I woke up early, feeling refreshed, and was treated to a gentle rain and lazy foggy clouds floating across the gorge.

I deliberated on what my next move would be and thankfully thought to visit the website for the next big stop I had hoped to make, Mammoth Cave National Park. Due to the pandemic, I had to book a self guided tour on the website, and the last one was in six hours’ time. I quickly mapped out my drive: six hours. Could I make it?? I worriedly began hurrying out of the park, resolving to speed in the rain, until I realized that the westward time change would work in my favor, and I could grab a bite to eat with some time to spare. Whew!

A long drive ahead of me, I settled into an audiobook and contemplative silence.

I finally made it to Mammoth Cave with just a few minutes to spare. After being treated to locals’ accents a few times, I practically ran down the slope into the cave, excited to be seeing something that wasn’t highways.

The walk in into the cave was beautiful , and I feel this was magnified by the rain: soft, lush moss coated everything, and gentle dripping sounds trickled into the cave entrance.

Further in, the cave was cool, dim, and silent, permeated only by the sounds of footsteps and soft chatter of the other folks in the vicinity. Sparse lighting was set up to illuminate the cave’s natural features.

It took about an hour to walk the ~mile of paths in the cave. Not too shabby. I then drove about two hours south to Nashville, Tennessee, to shower at a local gym and grab some grub.

I’m so glad gyms are open again. Having a hot shower is such a luxury.

I hit up the local tourist trap, the Loveless Café, for dinner. I had visited here years ago when seeing a close friend from college. The biscuits did not disappoint. I chose to get a country fried steak because why not, a friend had ranted and raved about them, and I was in Nashville! So I went for it.

Ugh, disgusting, gross, never again.