Park guide, Jerry Bransford, took our group down winding steps until we were 250-feet underground. Ranger Jerry is the fifth generation in his family to serve as a cave guide. Mat Bransford, a slave, got the family business going in 1839. It is mind-blowing to wander these labyrinths carved by water and lit by lamps.
We were told that a doctor believed the constant 54 degree temperature would be good for people suffering from tuberculosis. He set ups a hospital in the 1850's (you can see the remains) and un-miraculously, his patients got worse. He too died from the consumptive disease six years later.
When we returned to the surface we met a young steamfitter who spends his free time under the earth. "I like to explore new passageways. Some of them are so narrow I can't turn my head when I crawl", he told us. What's fun for him would be a nightmare for me.
The next day we were zipping out of southern heat and into the Ohio cool. We had a brief stop at Neal Armstrong Space Museum in his hometown, Wampakoneta. I couldn't stop thinking about the words he spoke as he took the first step onto the moon, how he'd be accused of screwing them up, and how, forty years later, new technology proved he had got it right. ( he really did say, "That's one step for a man…").
I sat in a mock-up of Armstrong's Gemini space capsule. There was barely enough room to turn you head in that as well.
[ Related note: If you are one of the twelve people who have not seen the space station commander singing David Bowie's "Space Oddity" while floating in space, google it it now]
We finally reached the land of summer coolness, Michigan. A road sign warned, "Prison area. DO NOT pick up hitch hikers!".
We were still looking for strangers in striped clothing when we arrived in Ann Arbor. Friends took us to one of their favorite places for dinner, "Zingerman's". The colorful roadhouse to totally entertaining. Their menu features all kinds of things including a wide variety of grits. If you want to spice them up there are over 600 different sets of salt & pepper shakers displayed on the walls.
The eatery has many special programs including "Camp Bacon". Go there and you'll learn 26 different ways to chow down on a pig.
HEADING FOR HELL
After dinner we headed to a state park, twenty miles north, to camp. Apparently neither of our GPS's had heard of the place. They led us to a dog park in a town called "Pinkney". At ten pm the place was dead. A 7-11 clerk told us he we might be able to get to the park by taking a left at the next light. When we did, we saw a sign that said, "This way to Hell". It was late, we were tired, so we figured, "What the hell, we'll see if they have camping".
Ten minutes later we were passing through Hell, Michigan, and the road soon led to our park.
Having been where few dare to go, I can report it was not that hot but the mosquitoes? Hellish!