We left Louisville Kentucky with a plan. Well, not so much a plan as a destination. We knew where we were driving to that first day, and sometimes a one-day plan is enough.
Mammoth Cave National Park was an easy drive from Louisville, giving us time to get there and play a bit in the same day. Once there, we chose to do the shorter general tour, called their Mammoth Passage Tour. Child carrier-type backpacks are not allowed in the caves and the idea of schlepping Madeline around under one arm for more than an hour sounded a bit daunting. She is walking on her own now, but her pace is even slower than a National Park tour guide, if you can imagine that. The tour was interesting and informative, nothing too exciting, but I guess we need to start expecting that from activities suitable for a toddler. After the cave tour and some time at the visitor center, we headed back to the highway for a good meal at a local mexican restaurant and to stage ourselves for the next days travel.
Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. The area caught our eye on the road atlas, and after doing a bit of research it looked like a cool stop that was kinda sorta but not really on our way. We got in to the area later in the day and thought we should just find a place to camp and explore the next day. There are several designating campgrounds, but you are also allowed to camp pretty much anywhere so we took off down a side road in search of "our spot". We ended up seeing quite a bit of the backcountry area. We were never technically "lost" as we always knew how to get back to the paved road, but didn't really know exactly where we were most of the time either. Regardless, we found a nice place to park for the night. Because the park is pretty open minded about where you go and where you camp, the area would be a lot of fun with a tent and a capable four wheel drive. Lots of questionable side roads leading off were tempting, but as we found in Moab, our van has some limitations off the pavement.
As we have mentioned before, part of the reason for this road trip was to find the next great place to live. We had some ideas going into the trip, decided we would not rule out places we had already lived ( a lot longer list for me than for Nicole), and we would try to keep an open mind in general. That said, we both thought that once we left Maine, we wouldn't have to do much looking before we got back to the Southwest. Kentucky surprised us, and we both got a good feeling from the areas we passed through. We didn't spend a lot of time in any place, and didn't get to know the people or the communities, but that is a drawback to doing a quick tour of a lot of places. We added Kentucky to the list of "needs more research", because at this stage our list is mostly about gut feelings.