Last week I was on vacation in Bowling Green, Kentucky with my family. We were planning on a nice day “outside”, but then we awoke to rain – a ridiculous amount of it. So what do you do in Central Kentucky when it’s raining cats and dogs? You go caving. At least that’s what the girl at the desk of our hotel suggested. We’d already seen the “Diamond Caverns” the day before, but there was another cave that I’d wanted to check out since I’d first learned about it a few days previous: the “Lost River Cave”. Caves are cool, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t the cave that drew me to this place. It was the boats. I’ve been in the boat business for almost 15 years. My wife and I have worked in almost all areas of boat tours, but we’ve never handled anything that literally goes underground. The Lost River Cave is a cave tour where you get to ride a boat in a river that flows underground. It’s a “young cave” so there aren’t huge stalactites hanging from the ceiling, but the place really is amazing. Our guide Ryan Stidham was terrific. I’ve spent a long time concentrating on what makes a good gondolier and this guy gave a great tour. Sure, he wasn’t rowing on the back of a boat built in Venice out of eight different kinds of wood, but he was great. He gave a funny, yet informative tour, knew all there was to know about the waterway, and handled the boat like a pro. I’m sure that if he ever wanted to, he could do well in the gondola business. The boats they use in the cave are aluminum, and powered by a trolling motor. Many gondolas in America are strictly rowed but there are several that run on trolling motors. The Lost River Cave operation pushes their boats around using Motor Guide equipment. The interesting modification they’ve made is that the trollers they use are reversed. My guess is that they put a higher priority on having the ability to reverse out of a situation. It’s a unique scenario: no crosswinds, no vaporetti or big yachts plowing through, just a boat, with a dozen people on it and a driver who gives an interesting tour. Oh, and yes, there were a few bats hanging from the ceiling, but nobody got pooped on.
Thanks to Rho Lansden and Annie Holt for providing the above image.