Caves, Cakes, Corvettes, and... er, Skivvies

Monday, September 26, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

BOWLING GREEN, Kentucky— Even though we have visited each of the 50 states of the U.S., we recently discovered that we had letterboxed in only 26 of them.  So we set a goal to increase our  letterboxing state count.  Not only was Kentucky the nearest unboxed state from Georgia, it was just up the road from Tennessee where we were visiting family.

With the blue grass calling, we headed north on I-65 from Nashville and soon found ourselves in the very interesting city of Bowling Green.  Not only is Bowling Green the third most populous town in the state (behind Louisville and Lexington), the city is headquarters for an amazing diversity of products. 
For example, the first letterbox we searched for featured Captain Underpants, a character from a children's book series.  Where else would he be but near the world headquarters of Fruit of the Loom.  The Fruit of the Loom brand dates back to 1851 in Rhode Island when Robert Knight, a textile mill owner, visited  his friend, Rufus Skeel, a Rhode Island shopkeeper who sold Knight's fabrics.  As a marketing tool, Mr. Skeel's daughter painted images of apples and applied them to the bolts of cloth. When Knight learned that the ones with the apple emblems were the store's best sellers, the labels inspired Mr. Knight's trade name, Fruit of the Loom.
In addition to its claim to underwear fame, Bowling Green is also a mecca for Corvette owners.  Today, that uniquely American sports car is manufactured only in Bowling Green, which also happens to be the home of the National Corvette Museum.  (We liked the museum so much we devoted a separate blog post to it.) In the tradition of the popular public art "parades" (which began with Chicago's parade of cows in 1999), the Bowling Green area hosted a 'Vettetastic Parade several years ago.  Five of the scale model 1957 Corvettes are still on display around town.
Mammoth Cave
With Mammoth Cave National Park 30 miles to the north, it's not surprising that Bowling Green has its own natural wonder.  Lost River Cave and Valley boasts Kentucky's only underground boat tour on an underground river which is claimed to be the world's shortest and deepest.  Local legend tells that back in the 19th century, the infamous Jesse James hid out in Lost River Cave after robbing a bank in nearby Russellville.  We have it on good information that the boat tours were not running during that period.
Duncan Hines cake
Though not robbing banks, Bowling Green's native son Duncan Hines also traveled around quite a bit.  As a traveling salesman, Hines ate in restaurants across America.  At age 55, he and his wife sent a list of 167 recommended restaurants to their friends as a Christmas gift.  It was so popular he published a guide to hotels and motels in 1935.  After being featured in national magazines, his guide grew in popularity, and soon "Recommended by Duncan Hines" became a nationally-recognized seal of approval-- the original Trip Advisor.
Once his name was associated with great dining, it was a small leap to producing food products himself.  Hines began with 250 canned, bottled and boxed products.  Later the company merged with Proctor and Gamble.  Shortly after, Hines introduced the first cake mixes, which were marketed nationwide.  Today the Duncan Hines product line offers more than 80 sweet baked-good mixes and frostings.
As we discovered, Bowling Green was the perfect selection for letterboxing in Kentucky.  Both the convention and visitors bureau and the Corvette museum have endorsed letterboxing by planting some letterboxes of their own for visitors.  Of course, the boxes are placed in areas that are interesting to see, such as the three-span bowstring arch truss bridge over the Barren River.
Barren River Bridge (L) & Hobson Grove (R)
Another box was placed at Riverview at Hobson Grove.  A hilltop home begun in the late 1850s, Riverview's construction was temporarily halted by the Civil War when the families of the husband and wife fought on opposite sides, not an unusual occurrence in this border state. The partially completed home became a munitions magazine during the Confederate occupation of the city during the winter of 1862. Riverview was finally completed by the original owners in 1872 and now serves as a city park and museum.
Warren County Public Library
One of our favorite spots in the city was the Warren County Public Library, where we found a cleverly packaged letterbox that looked like a book, as did some of the furniture in the library.  Before we left, we opened a five-year account at the library for the very reasonable fee of $5.00 per year.  Not only can we visit the library and check out books whenever we wish (which we will probably never do), we can also download as many as 10 audio and e-books at a time from their web site, which we will do quite often.
"Good things happen here," the convention and visitors bureau proclaims about Bowling Green.  We certainly agree.