Eclipse, Tennessee and Kentucky, August 2017

Nashville seems to actively repel people who don't like Country Music, so you need to sneak up to it from the behind.

At least that was what I needed to do.

Originally, I had booked a connecting flight from Newark to Nashville, aiming to arrive on Friday afternoon.

And until Newark, everything was fine. The flight was relaxed and arrived on time, even half an hour early. And while I had been worried about the connection time (less than three hours), I was through immigration in five minutes. And even with waiting for the bag, clearing customs, rechecking the bag and going through security again, I was at the departure gate for Nashville about 45 minutes after the plane had touched down.

So far, so good.

But only so far...

The first sign of trouble was that the flight to Nashville was listed with almost three hours delay already. A quick check revealed that it hadn't even taken off from wherever it was coming from (Kansas, I think), so the delay was based on when they thought the plane might be able to leave.

No worries, though. I had nothing else to do on Friday, but the get to Nashville. If I'd arrived a bit late, so what?

And then the flight got cancelled.

There was a big line at the 'customer service' desk already. (The Nashville flight hadn't been the only cancelled flight.) But at least some lady from the airline told us "There's another customer service desk at gate C131 and there's no line there." There was a bit of a run and I made fifth place.

Once I got to the counter, things looked a bit grim. There was one other Nashville flight late in the evening and they could put me on the waiting list, but that would likely to be pointless. I'd be one waiting position 50 or something similar, for a fully booked flight, so only if about half of the people going to Nashville would decide that it's not worth going there, I might have gotten on that plane.


And no free seats on any Nashville flights for the next couple of days.

So the only workable alternative (renting a car and driving all the way from Newark didn't seem sensible) was to go somewhere in or near Tennessee and make my own way from there.

So they got me on a flight to Houston, Texas.

Which isn't that much closer to Nashville, except maybe on an alphabetical list of states.

But there was a flight from Houston to Memphis next morning. And both the flights to Houston and to Memphis had actual seats available (as opposed to a place on a waiting list).

Having gotten the flight tickets, I spent a very hectic 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi time to book a room at the airport hotel in Houston and a rental car in Memphis, so I could drive the 200 miles to Nashville from there.

There only remained the question of the luggage.

As it was marked for Nashville, they needed to find it and re-route it to Memphis.

When I was getting the tickets for Houston/Memphis, they asked for a description of the luggage, so they could find it quicker. (Not that they needed to be quick about it - my original flight was around 4pm, the delayed one was scheduled for around 7pm and cancelled around 5pm. So with the flight to Houston around 10pm, they had some time to look for it.)

And when I went to the gate for the Houston flight, I asked about my luggage and they told me that they had found it. It would be on the flight and was checked through to Memphis, so I didn't need to pick it up in Houston. (Upside: No need to worry. Downside: No shave, no fresh clothes.)

Got to Houston around 1:30 am, was happy that I had gotten a room at the hotel directly at the airport and didn't need to wait for a shuttle bus or anything and went to bed around 2 am.

Short night, though, as I had to check out at 5:30 am to be in time for the flight to Memphis.

That flight was on time and it looked like I was back on schedule.

Except that my luggage didn't show up.

So I waited at the conveyor belt until it was clear that no more luggage was arriving and went to the 'lost baggage claim' counter. Which was unoccupied, with a sign redirecting to the ticket counter.

Which had four people working there, but only one qualified to check for luggage. And a queue of other people missing their luggage.

So it took some time until it was sorted out, especially as an automatic e-mail had arrived notifying people that, unfortunately, their luggage had not been on the flight, but would arrive in Memphis on a later flight.

But when checking at the counter, the first advice was to ignore the mail, since it was misleading (i.e. wrong).

The luggage had actually made it onto the direct flight to Nashville on the previous evening and was already waiting for me at Nashville airport. (So while they were still telling me that the luggage was on the plane to Houston and checked through to Memphis, it had already been in the air on the way to Nashville.)

Good news, but it took me almost an hour to find out.

So off to the rental car company, grabbing the car and onto the highway to Nashville.

I made it to Nashville, but going via Houston and Memphis and then sneaking towards it by car, instead of flying, seems like a somewhat roundabout route.

There was a reason why I wanted to be in Nashville at 2 pm that Saturday.

Titans vs Panthers

I had a ticket for a pre-season football game (Tennessee Titans vs Carolina Panthers) and that had been expensive, so I didn't want to miss the game.

In the end (and after a couple of traffic jams), I made it into the stadium at 2:10 and had a bit of a lucky break, as there had been some kind of speech and honoring some important commissioner, coach, player or whatever, so I was just getting to my seat for the kick-off.

Me in Nashville stadium Me in Nashville stadium

As far as football games go, this was a good one.

The home team scored early and left the first quarter with two touchdowns and a field goal. Not only made the 17:0 lead the local fans happy, it also meant that things were already happening in the first quarter (as opposed to the inefficient back and forth that often happens at first).

Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers
Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers
Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers
Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers Titans vs Panthers Titans Mascot

The next two quarters also had a lot of action, with the Panthers catching up until the score was an even 27:27.

Touchdown fireworks Touchdown fireworks

Then, with only a few minutes to go in the last quarter, the Panthers were starting their run from their own 20 yard line and the Tennessee Titans managed to run up to their quarterback, made him drop the ball and cover it.

So they had a first down right in front of the Panther's end zone and touched down to a 34:27 lead.

There was still enough time for the Panthers to make one more run to equalize the score.

And they made it to within 10 yards of the Titan's end zone and then just lost it, with four incomplete passes. I have no idea what the quarterback was aiming for, but the throws weren't even close to other players of his team.

After that, the Titans only needed to get on their knees to make the 34:27 the final result.

Titans vs Panthers end of game Titans vs Panthers end of game Titans vs Panthers end of game Titans vs Panthers end of game End of game fireworks

Getting to see the game was a close thing. And it's likely that it's the only NFL game I will ever attend, so it's a good thing that it was an interesting game to watch. With lots of action, unexpected turns and a win for the home team.

And a lot of strangeness.

The first thing is - surprisingly few people are watching.

Given the ticket prices, that didn't seem to be too surprising.

But it seems that the reasons is not that people don't have enough money, but that they got too much of it.

I am not quite sure whether I understood the system, but the seats all seem to be sold. It's just that people don't go to see the game.

As I understood it, most of the seats are sold on an annual basis. (The seats in the upper areas seem to be sold by game, but the lower to rings seem to be all seasonal passes.)

So if there's a game going on, the 'owners' of the seat can decide whether they want to make use of it or whether they want to make it available for sale.

And for some reason (not sure why, maybe they have a picture ID to get into the stadium or something), it looks like they can't sell the tickets on eBay or give them to friends. So if they sell them, they need to sell them via an official reseller. And that need to be done at some 'official' price and probably can't be done at the last minute either.

When I bought my ticket, there were one or two available per block, so few were put on sale, but in the section where I was sitting, only about 10% of the seats were taken, possibly even less.

Empty seats in stadium Empty seats in stadium Empty seats in stadium Empty seats in stadium

What, I assume, happens is that someone buys a season ticket, for, presumably, a large amount of money, and, being able to afford this ticket, probably having enough money not to bother with putting unused seats on sale. (Which would also allow them the last minute decision to go to the game after all.)

And since it was 'just' a pre-season game, many decided not to show up.

I have no idea whether that is the way it works (the season ticket web page is somewhat short on details), but it would explain why a seemingly sold out stadium is so empty.

As a result, the audience reactions are somewhat subdued.

While the announcer tried to get the crowd to make some noise and short video clips attempted to elicit some 'battle cries', this hardly ever worked. (Seems like you are supposed to shout 'Ughh, Ughh' on every first down and "Titan Up" on about every other occasion - it's also the only time where the team name seems to be the singular case - looks like someone decided that "Titans Up" might sound too racy...)

Given that most people seem to have season passes and are regular visitors, and those present in the stadium for the game seem to be the more hardcore fans, the mood was relaxed.

They appreciated success of the home team, but there was little emption behind it. It seems hard to imagine US football hooligans. The whole thing had more the general feeling of a family picnic at an outdoor concert venue. Viewers might be moved by the music and appreciate a good performance, but you are unlikely to get Brahms fanatics kicking in the heads of Elgar aficionados.

Another thing that is surprising, especially from a European point of view, is the limited amount of advertisements in the stadium (and much of what there is in the stadium is minor and local stuff).

All the real 'brings lots of revenue' advertisement is in TV ads.

And the venue seems designed not to interfere with that.

If you watch a big EU football (soccer) game, it is full of advertisements. Nowadays the field is surrounded by not one, but often two 'LED perimeter advertising systems'. And not just static ones, but animated banners, which stay animated during the whole game and are distracting from the actual game. Also, the player jerseys are filled with sponsor names and logos.

In US football, the only advertisement in the lower half of the stadium is for the team itself (the only banner around the playing field is a static one with for the Titans), the name of the company that owns the stadium over the player entrances, the name of the drinks provider on the cooling boxes and the name of the computer supplier at the computer station - and that's it.

Hardly a company logo in sight Just Titans logos

Only once you get halfway up the stadium, you have a small row of company logos. And also around the large displays at the end of the field. But except for the name of the company owning the stadium, which has a larger presence, there is not much advertisement in the stadium itself.

But there is lots of 'live' advertisement during game breaks.

During the commercial breaks for TV viewers, there are usually little games or quizzes on the field, with prizes usually sponsored by some local company.

So there was a trivia quiz, where every right answer would get the contestant closer to a large truck tire at the side of the field, where the contestant then had to throw a football through the tire to win a new set of tires for his car.

Playing for a set of tires

Or a race of various product mascots.

Mascot race

A game where a contestant had to catch the Titan's mascot with eyes closed, only to be cheered on with 'hots' and 'colds' by the audience (and, since the audience wasn't really participating, the mascot more or less stepping intentionally in front of the contestant).

Also a flat screen TV for the best 'dance' in the audience, some price for the best uploaded selfie, and similar small things.

So, as far as commercial exploitation of the game was concerned, in the stadium it was all low key.

But it was also unexpected that a lot of it happened on the field itself. So while, technically, the game was still going on (so it wasn't only between quarters), they set up the play area for the throw through the tire or chased the mascot right on the field.

The halftime show was some sort of presentation from junior cheerleader organizations from all over the state, although I missed most of it, as I was walking around the stadium, trying to find a place that sells sunscreen - sitting on the north side of an open stadium during the early afternoon of a sunny day does expose you to a lot of sunshine...

Halftime show Halftime show

Of course, I had packed sunscreen for the trip, but that was still in my luggage at Nashville airport.

At least I hoped it would and nobody would have gotten the bright idea of sending it to Memphis.

My first stop after the game was the lost baggage department at the airport. My luggage was there as promised.

So with about a day delay, I arrived, with my luggage, at the hotel.

Things were back to schedule and I had seen the football game.

There was a neon sign in my hotel room, which seemed to sum it up.

Be happy sign

Nice sunset as well.

Sunset over downtown Nashville Sunset over downtown Nashville

Nice weather next morning as well, even though it wouldn't stay like this for 24 hours.

Good weather over downtown Nashville

I didn't have much planned for that Sunday.

I needed to get from Nashville to White House, a small city about half an hour's drive north.

As I didn't want to do any Country Music related things, I went to a car museum instead.

(It's not easy to find non-Country Music things in Nashville and it's even harder to find anything interesting at all in White House.)

Car museum exhibition space Car museum exhibition space

The museum turned out to be interesting.

It advertises itself as an 'European Car Museum', which made visiting it a bit pointless, as it is easier to see European cars in Europe. (It's like going to the US to visit a 'Bavarian Beergarden'.)

But while most of the car were, indeed, European in origin, the museum was mostly an 'odd cars' museum, so instead of showing off the usual Volkswagens, Saabs, Ferraris, Bentleys, Peugeot and BMWs standard series models, they went for the rare and unusual experiments, sometimes by the larger companies, sometimes by smaller manufacturers who tried to build small series of cars based on cars from larger companies and sometimes by individuals who wanted to design and built their own cars.

Daus Citroen Tissier Car Carrier Volkswagen Rabbit-art car-1981 Citroen DS Ice Racer - 1966

So they had sections on swimming cars (of which the Amphicar is the best known), on one-person cars, on three-wheelers and on aerodynamic 'bullet' cars.

Three wheeled Reliant Regal Morgan F Super- three-wheeler BSA TW33 three wheeler. Peel Trident - three wheeler Tatra T-49 - 1934 - three wheeler
Amphicar Amphicar from behind Amphicar bumper sticker - I brake for fish Chevrolet Corphibian amphibic car Croco amphibic car
Larmar one seater 2CV half width car 2CV half width car Half width car
Dymaxion bullet car McQuay-Norris Streamliner bullet car Davis Divan - three wheeled bullet car

They also had more normal show cars.

Lotus Super Seven S2 - 1965 Lotus Evora S - 2013 Georges Irat - 1938 Subaru 360 FasTrack II- 1980 BMW Isetta 300 - 1958
Toyota Sports 800 - 1967 Vespa 400 - 1958 Citroen Mehari 4x4- 1982 DKW Monza - 1959
Marden E2 125 - 1979 Tatra T-87 Saloon - 1947 DKW Auto Union 1000 - 1958 Panhard-Levassor 6 DS RL

They also had some small planes, boats, motorcycles and two propeller driven ice sleds, one of which I first mistook for a helicopter.

Von Dutch 'Rocket Car' Von Dutch 'Rocket Car' detail Autocanoe - 2005
Tatra-V-855 Aerosled (replica)-1942 Propeller driven sled

Some of the stuff seemed really dumb in retrospect - why would anyone build a canoe with an Aerothrust propeller top? I know about the air boats in Florida, but this seems like a really dangerous construction.

Old Town Yankee with Aerothrust boat Old Town Yankee with Aerothrust boat

Or the 'Hoffman', which has the fuel inlet on the top of the roof, but the tank more or less at the usual place, so there's a funnel for the fuel going through the passenger compartment.

Hoffmann - 1951 Hoffmann - 1951

As even the sign next to the car acknowledges "a lethal cocktail of automotive engineering "don't's"" and "Perhaps this interesting and eccentric vehicle can be used to illustrate the reason why, in this modern day, one has a myriad of safety regulations to content with when building a vehicle.

And the car was literally "eccentric" as it was intentionally asymmetric (look where the front lights are in relation to the grille), which didn't help its driving stability either.

In short - there was lots of strange stuff to look at and it turned out to be much more fun (and interesting) than only looking at historical and modern cool cars.

After spending more time than expected at the museum (but I had nothing to do but driving for half an hour anyway), I went to White House, Tennessee.

The reason for going there was the main reason for the trip - watching an eclipse.

Eclipse phases

(Going to the football game and the museum and the other stuff was incidental. The main reason for the trip was eclipse watching.)

I went with a printout of the eclipse path to a travel agency back in January and asked about travel to anywhere within the path, based on these criteria: hotel room available within path of totality, as close as possible to the center line, airport not than a day's drive away, car rental available and a decent road network available.

The last part was a result from watching the eclipse in Germany in 1999. Originally we planned to watch it in Stuttgart. But it was overcast there, so we took the car, found a gap between the clouds and then tried to follow that, so we could see the sun though the gap during totality, ending up watching the eclipse in Karlsruhe.

So I wanted to avoid a situation where I was stuck on a north-south highway in some remote corner of the US, without the option to travel a couple of miles to the east or west when needed.

As Nashville was the largest city within the eclipse path, it was the best candidate. Easy to reach and a good street network in all directions. The downside - lower chance of clear skies than, for example, Oregon, but still with a decent chance of good weather.

Nashville itself was a bit below the centerline of the eclipse path, but the line was close to White House, easily reachable from Nashville on highway 65, but more important, road 76 runs through White House and stays close to the eclipse path for quite a bit, so it would (ignoring expectable travel jams) give the option to relocate easily.

And there would be more totality as well. In Nashville, there would be 1:55 minutes of darkness, while White House hat 2:39 minutes.

And when you spent a lot of effort to go to see the eclipse, putting in some extra effort for the additional 44 seconds is well worth it.

Which is the reason why I was standing on a baseball field in White House, Tennessee, on August 21st 2017.

I had assumed that I would watch the eclipse from the parking lot of the hotel or one of the fields nearby But White House has a small municipal park with a couple of of playing fields around (two football fields, eight baseball fields, two volleyball and three tennis courts) and it seemed like most people would watch the eclipse from there.

As I wasn't sure how crowded it would be, I went there early (to have the option to go back to the hotel parking lot) and a couple of people were setting up semi-serious equipment on one of the baseball fields. Not quite professional astronomers, but clearly the stuff of interested enthusiasts.

So I asked someone whether I could just set up my gear or whether I needed to ask for permission, get some place assigned or something like that. (There had been some thing on the local web page about limited availability of spots and a $10 fee, but that turned later out to be about making place available on the parking lot for people with camper vans or trailers, who hadn't a hotel reservation and wanted to stay on site overnight.)

The person I spoke to said "just put your stuff somewhere - that's what we did", so I set my camera up on an empty spot nearby.

So I did.

Ready for exlipse watching

It was only about an hour later when I found out that the field had been exclusively booked by the Naperville Astronomical Association.

They had started planning for the event three years ago and decided they would hedge their bets by splitting up and watching the eclipse from three different sites, hoping at least some of their members would have an unobstructed view of the eclipse. And as they didn't know how many people would be watching the event, they reserved viewing spots in these locations.

So, presumably, the first person I had asked assumed that I belonged to the association. And by the time someone asked me who I was and found out that I had nothing to do with any astronomical association, it was clear that there still was lots of place available on the baseball field and they let me stay.

Lots of room left

While the moon crept in front of the sun, there was enough time to take some bird pictures to pass the time.

Some bird of prey above Some bird of prey above

Somebody from the astronomical association also set up a projection telescope, so it was possible to have a look at the sun without digging out the glasses and looking upwards or using the camera.
Note: For some reason the telescope projected upside down, but not left-right reversed, so the moon seems to move in front of the sun a bit differently than shown on my photo series above.

Projected sun Projected sun Projected sun

In the morning, the sky was still cloudless.

Cloudless sky, baseball field, White House, TN

But around noon, some clouds started to drift in and people started watching the sky with more apprehension.

Clouds in the sky, baseball field, White House, TN Clouds in the sky, baseball field, White House, TN

But in the half hour before totality, the clouds went away and we had perfect observation weather again.

Eclipse approaching, clear skies

Around 1:26pm it got quickly darker.

Almost totality Total eclipse of the sun

Solar Eclipse Time!

More by accident than by planning, I underexposed the first couple of pictures I took without a filter, so the light from the corona doesn't wash out other features, and you can see solar flares on some of them.

Eclipse with solar flares visible Eclipse with solar flares visible

The following pictures show more the 'normal' eclipse look.

Solar eclipse 2017 Solar eclipse 2017 Solar eclipse 2017

When I looked at the images afterwards, I noticed that I also captured Mercury on the very left of this picture.

Solar eclipse 2017 with Mercury labeled

Venus was already visible a couple of minutes before totality and Jupiter showed up during totality as well. (Mars should have been visible as well, but I didn't spot it on any of the pictures I took.)

Solar eclipse 2017 with Venus and Jupiter labeled

Something that doesn't show up well on any pictures (as they either try to expose correctly for the corona or the overall sky) is the contrast between the sky and the eclipsed sun.

The sky is a deep, almost purple, blue and the moon is pitch black, creating the impression of a hole in the sky.

So it's definitely worth to step back from the camera and just enjoy the view for 30 seconds or so.

It was a great eclipse experience where everything, in the end, went well and it made the whole trip worthwhile.

One happy eclipse watcher

But it was a close call - the main viewing site in Nashville was in the park outside the Science Center (where I would have been if I had stayed in Nashville and not decided to drive up to White House) and they had a cloud moving in front of the sun - minutes before the eclipse - and weren't able to see anything (except things getting dark).

So I got lucky with the weather and the site and did manage to see my third eclipse (after the 1999 eclipse in Germany and the 2001 in Zambia).

I was pretty much the last to leave the area, since most people had packed up after totality and went home. And with nine hours to drive (for the people from Naperville) and streets likely to be jammed, that made sense. But I was staying in a hotel in White House and had come an even longer way to watch the eclipse, so I wanted to stay to the very end. And I wanted to finish the series of sun pictures to create the composite image of successive phases shown above.

But, essentially, the big show was over.

Not many watchers left

I had one day off before I had to fly home again and I hadn't made any plans for that day.

Part of the reason for not planning anything was Tennessee and, specifically, the Nashville area.

There are various "What to do in Nashville if you don't like Country Music" web pages and they sound desperate. One of them had ten things to do and these included shopping, dining in a restaurant, drinking, barbecue and buying guitar. And also noted that at some music venues they might not play Country Music, but possibly even Blues. Of the ten things to do, there were only three actual tourist attractions and one of them was the "Natchez Trace Parkway", a 444 mile scenic drive.

So if tourist guides can only come up with generic things to do in a city and one of them is a road that takes you hundreds of miles away from the city, then you know you're on a losing streak. (For the record, the other two 'real' tourist attractions were the art museum and a civil war museum. Also for the record, Nashville isn't that bland - the football game and the car museum had nothing to do with Country Music and were more interesting than everything on the list - but I had already been to both.)

And most other interesting things in Tennessee were quite a bit away from Nashville - too far to make a day trip worthwhile.

What I didn't consider was that Kentucky isn't far away (especially if you're already half an hour north of Nashville), so I didn't bother to look up to possibilities there.

But they had a batch of advertisement flyers at the hotel White House and I was leafing through them to find something to do on the next day.

So instead of having a relaxed day off, I was on a racing track in a Corvette, abseiled down a cave entrance and was ferried in a boat on an underground river.

First stop was the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

National Corvette Museum

I have no idea what makes this a 'National' museum - there is no 'International Corvette Museum' and it is also in no way state owned or operated, so it might as well be the 'Corvette Museum'. (Technically, the name seems to derive from the fact that it was built by the 'National Corvette Restorers Society', but that still doesn't explain why 'National' is part of the museum name - for example, their newsletter, for example, was 'The Corvette Restorer'.)

Anyway, I didn't want to visit the museum itself (one car museum per trip is enough) and Corvette isn't even a car manufacturer, but just the name of a series of Chevrolet sports cars - a bit like having a specific "Volkswagen Golf" or "Porsche 911" museum.

Interesting to enthusiasts, but likely not exciting for anyone else.

And the main claim to fame of the museum is not one of their cars, but that a sinkhole opened under the museum in 2014 and a bunch of Corvettes dropped down into it.

Also, they got a couple of Corvettes in their entrance lobby, so I could have a look at some for free.

Most of them, except for the last one shown, were prizes in raffles. With expensive tickets. For the red Corvette, it was $200 per ticket, for the white one it was $150. And there were 1000 tickets available per car - so you put down a fair amount of money for a 1:1000 chance to win that car.

Car in Corvette museum lobby Car in Corvette museum lobby Car in Corvette museum lobby Car in Corvette museum lobby

In any case, I just went to the Corvette Cafe for to have some breakfast.

The Cafe is styled like an early 60's diner - artificially retro, but ok.

Corvette Cafe Corvette Cafe

But I didn't drive up from White House to Bowling Green (both sounding more like code names than actual places) just for having breakfast at an old-style diner. And the trip had something to do with Corvettes - but not much with looking at them from the outside.

On the other side of the highway is the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park which has a 3.2 mile racing track.

National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park Track

You can drive there with your own car (but given that my rental car was a Hyundai Accent with automatic transition, that seemed a bit unexciting and also against the rental contract). Or one of their drivers can take you around the track in a Z06 Corvettes. You don't get to drive the car yourself, but you get more of a 'racing' experience.

Corvette on race track

I didn't quite know what to expect - how much being in a high-powered car on a racing track, driven by someone who, presumably, knows what he's doing, would differ from driving on a normal road.

Despite the various curves in the track, the experience wasn't as extreme as I thought it might be.

You get thrown around a bit at first (you are told to hold onto the grip on the door), but once you know what to expect, you can sit there, take the hand off the car and enjoy.

What is more irritating than the force of going around corners itself, is hitting the curb when going through corners. Mostly because it's a no-no on any normal driving and you always have the impression that something is wrong.

As far as acceleration (or, more correctly, deceleration) goes, the biggest impact is the end of the long straight, were the driver hits the brakes hard and you're thrown forward a bit.

Average speed along the track is supposedly around 100 mph, which doesn't seem much, but it is a track with lots of twist and bends. According to my GPS, we went around the track in 1:21, which means we did on average 81.7 mph (about 131 km/h). Top speed on the straight was 216 km/h (about 135 mph).

Corvette motorsport track Corvette motorsport track Corvette motorsport track

All in all it was a fun ride (even though the pictures seem to tell a different story). And I now know that I don't mind going fast around the corners of a racing track and the G-forces aren't that extreme - information that might come in handy some day.

Me as passenger in Corvette on race track Me as passenger in Corvette on race track Me as passenger in Corvette on race track
Me as passenger in Corvette on race track Me as passenger in Corvette on race track Me as passenger in Corvette on race track

Next stops: Caves.

After being out some time in the direct sunlight on two days (four hours on the football game, another four hours (with 2:39 minutes of darkness) watching the sun), going for some shade seemed like a good idea.

There are lots of caves in southern Kentucky (as the builders of the Corvette museum found out to their surprise). At one of them, the 'Hidden River Cave', you can rappel down in front of the cave entrance.

You can't quite rappel into the cave, as the cave entrance is on the side of the wall and not directly below it, it's not a huge descent (about 25 meters) and it'd not as outdoor-sy as I expected. But it is fun to do nonetheless. And when you are halfway down the rope and the cave entrance opens up beside you, it is impressive.

(About the 'note outdoors' bit: When I looked the place up on the map, I kind of expected that it would be only the ticket office and they would drive you to the cave somewhere, as it is located right in the middle of the town (confusingly named 'Horse Cave'). But the cave entrance is right in the backyard of the ticket place, and you rappel down from the side of main street.)

I was the first in the group to rappel down, as I wanted to go on the cave tour afterwards, so I don't have any pictures of me going down the rope But I had time to take images of the next person.

Rappel at Hidden River Cave Rappel at Hidden River Cave Rappel at Hidden River Cave Rappel at Hidden River Cave At Hidden River Cave entrance

The normal cave tour isn't long (there are much longer 'adventure' tours, where you do a lot of crawling through the more remote parts of the cave, but you need to book these in advance and you also need a change of clothes). But you were encouraged to leave the path, go down to the river or scramble a bit over the rocks for a picture opportunity.

Inside Hidden River Cave Inside Hidden River Cave Inside Hidden River Cave Inside Hidden River Cave

The most unusual aspect (compared to other caves I visited) is that this was a sort of 'industrial' cave. Back in the 19th century, people put in a power generator into the river and also a pump to get water to the surface.

Mechanical junk in cave Mechanical junk in cave Mechanical junk in cave

From the 'Hidden River Cave', I drove back down to the 'Lost River Cave', which isn't far from the race track I had visited earlier. (But I was more interested in rappelling than boating and I didn't know whether I would be able to visit both, so I went to 'Hidden River Cave' first and visited the 'Lost River Cave' on the way back.)

Mostly owl shapes near Lost River Cave

Besides having similar names, both caves share being in located in cities and being used for industrial operations.

In the case of the 'Lost River Cave', they put a water mill in the entrance of the cave for a while, but later put the mill up at road level and left the water wheel in the cave, connecting it to the mill with transmission belts.

Former mill building

They then used the entrance part of the cave as a night club, back in the days before air conditions - after all, caves are cool (figuratively and literally).

Dance floor at cave entrance

The tour itself wasn't as interesting as the one at 'Hidden River Cave'. One short stop at a 'blue hole' (together with a rambling tale how it was once believed to be 'bottomless', even though it is only about five meters deep).

Blue hole near Lost River Cave Blue hole near Lost River Cave

And then onto the boats, a short bit into the cave and then out again.

Boat loading station Boat on underground river Underground river

They also offer kayak tours in the cave, which sound like fun, but for some reason they don't do those in summer time (June, July, August), so I couldn't go on one of those.

In any case - for a 'day off' without any plans, there had already been plenty to do and experience.

All I had to do now was drive back to Nashville, as I was flying home the next morning.

On the way there, I passed the highway exit for White House - in heavy rain with a thunderstorm nearby.

No clear skies at White House highway exit

Given that the eclipse had been on the previous day, I really had been lucky with the clear blue skies I experienced. If the bad weather would have come in a day earlier, it might also have been like this.

And things weren't any better in Nashville, where a big, dark cloud was hanging over the city. I could see lightning strikes from my hotel room most of the evening.

Nashville thunderstorm cloud Nashville lightning strike

The weather next morning was better and my flight to Newark was on time and uncancelled.

I had a bit of time at Newark airport to look at the New York skyline, but not enough time to go there, so I took a picture from afar.

New York from Newark airport

After that, it was a relaxed flight home with a nice 'sunset below the clouds' over the Atlantic.

Sunset below the clouds over the Atlantic

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