Travel – Mega Caverns, Louisville, Kentucky

Hello everyone, it’s Jeff again and this time I’m posting about our recent trip to Louisville, Kentucky and a visit to the Louisville Mega Cavern.  (Barbara may be planning on writing a post on the caverns, but I thought I would beat her to it!). The Louisville Mega Cavern offers visitors several adventure opportunities, such as zip lining rope courses, it is a little pricey but alot of fun!!  In this post I will talk about the history of the caverns and the available entertainment.

History of the Mega Caverns in Louisville, KentuckyLouisville-1942-590 The mine was first known as the Louisville Crushed Stone Company in the 1930 which provided construction material for the building of the roads and bridges around the Midwest.  The mine shut down in 1972 100 acres of materials had been removed and the space left about 17 miles of underground space.  It was purchased in 1989 and it became the Louisville Underground, LLC. which was a company designed to provide ultra-safe, ultra-secure storage.

The caverns are huge, over 4 million square feet and the space was used for several purposes such as a dumping ground / recycling center for inorganic materials, a worm farm, a storage facility for the city’s road salt supply, secure temperature controlled storage and my favorite, a huge civil defense shelter!  The caverns were slated to house over 50,000 people should there be a nuclear attack on the United States. The city of Louisville had about 788,000 people at the time it would have only been able to house about 16% of the local population so not everyone was invited.  You needed to be on a secret list which included the governor, soldiers from Fort Knox, important people and supposedly Colonel Sanders of KFC fame!

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More recently the owners decided to stray away from storage and started installing some first class entertainment!  After backfilling some 50-60 feet of the cavern, Louisville Mega Caverns were born.  The attractions include a tram ride, “Mega Quest” – a rope adventure area, “Mega Zip” – underground zip lines and opening soon, “Mega Underground Bike Park”.  The bike park is a great idea in my mind because it will be available year round – weather will never again be a factor!

The Facility

The facility is a big cavern (cavern, not cave as it is man made) that has been partially filled in over time.  It is the largest building in Kentucky and one of the most eco-friendly as the large amount of limestone which provided insulation for keeping the facility at a constant 58 degrees.


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There is a decent parking lot close to the entrance and a small covered area, which I assume is where you meet for the tram rides.  The entrance takes you down a long hall with posted lists on facts for visitors to read and be entertained.  The corridor is made of fairly plain sheetrock with no real embellishments, but it is just getting you to the real entrance.  Before you get there however you pass part of the storage area and some really HUGE fans!  Those really impressed me.  They are probably 15 feet tall!


The entrance to Mega Quest / Mega Zip is quaint, but when you get in the facility is nice.  There is a seating area with tables that will fit a large number of people.  They section parts off for “private” parties.  There is a small gift shop and an area serving snacks and drinks with free refills.  Take advantage of this – “mega questers” will get thirsty with all that strenuous activity.

The staff is very nice and helpful and they operate more like a family business that a corporate machine giving the place a very nice feel.  I’ll talk a little more about the specifics of each attraction as I get there.

Mega Tram

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When we visited Mega Caverns it was winter and the tram was not running, but here is the description stolen shamelessly from their web site:

The Historic Tram Tour will take you on an underground adventure rich in history, geology, mining, recycling, green building technology, and just simply HUGE in scale!

The man-made cavern spans under a number of roadways above and is part of 17 miles of corridors located beneath the city of Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a great tour for all ages—whether you want to learn about science and history or simply want to see what a giant man-made cavern of this magnitude looks like!

You’ll hop on an SUV-pulled tram and be joined by a MEGA Cavern expert who will guide you on your underground adventure. It’s a 60-70 minute tour, strategically lit to enjoy highlights such as:

  • Some Early Cavern Formations
  • A Historic Replica of the Cuban Missile Fallout Bunker
  • A Worm Recycling/Tasting Room
  • Sights and Facts of the Early Mining Operation
  • Hear About our Storm Dog and Pigeon Eating Hawk
  • And More Surprises Wait Around Every Corner!

Mega Quest


Mega Quest was the purpose of our visit.  We thought our daughter would enjoy it.  Our family enjoys exploring caves (see these posts on Wind and Jewel Caves and Mammoth Cave)  I’m guessing the facility was about 9,000 square feet, which would have been impressive in itself, but it was also 20 – 30 feet tall!  It was lit with cool blue, red and green lights.  It felt like the lights kept changing colors, but I am really not sure about that.  You climb around on 76 different challenges with a small zip line on one side of the course.  My daughter and her friend spent three hours there and would have continued had they not been so tired!


I was extremely impressed with the safety measures they have in place.  First, they provide  visitors a helmet and harness, but they go way beyond that.  They have a double hooked, self-managed belay system and seriously train everyone to always keep one hook attached.  The mechanism is also built to prevent both hooks from being detached at the same time.  I felt perfectly safe while my daughter was 30 feet in the air dangling on a thin rope bridge or zipping 100 feet on her own.


They say the course is good for everyone from about 5 to 90, but I think 5 is a bit young and while the course looked fun, I feel it is better geared to the 8 to 18 year old.  Of course I am saying this without actually having been on the course myself.

Mega Zip


My daughter and her friend were going to spend three hours on the Mega Quest ropes so I thought I would try something else.  Mega Cavern also offers underground zip lining.  I had never been zip lining, it was my near my birthday and Barbara encouraged me so I thought “Why not?”.  First, let me say I really enjoyed it.  I was in a group of 9 people, the max is 12 and it took us a good two hours to go through the course.  The guides were experienced, friendly and fun.

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The tour starts in the equipment area.  There you get your gear on and there is a short practice zip line.  As the participant you do nothing, the guides attach all the cables and basically take care of everything.  After the practice line you walk quite a way underground, past the entrance and the soon to be opened Bike Park to the first real zip line.  I believe the first is called the Highway to Hell.  It has fun, campy decorations and it is a fairly long line.  I can’t remember the names of the others but they were quite long, one was some 90 feet in the air and the dual racing at the end was fun.

What I do remember was that after the second or third line we mounted platforms and did not touch the ground until the end.  Those of you who know me might find this odd, but I am afraid of heights.  While we were kept attached to dual guide lines the entire time we were off the ground and were perfectly safe, I struggled with the challenge bridges.  I really only felt safe once I was zipping through the darkness which is the part that scares most other people.  Go figure…

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Bike Park


The latest attraction at Mega Caverns is an underground bike park.  It is an off road track designed by Jeff Perkins and offers 40-plus trail lines covering 320,000 square feet.  The park is now open (it wasn’t when we were there).  Here is the spiel from Mega Caverns:

  • The only UNDERGROUND bike park in the world
  • The largest indoor bike park on the planet!!!
  • No spectators allowed at this time
  • 320,000 square feet
  • 10 stories or 100 feet underground
  • Over 45 trails
  • Bike rental available in April 2015 (not available now)
  • Helmets are required


For the Mega Quest and Zip Lining, probably also for the bikes they offer pictures. They come in two price points – generic and personal.  The personal tag costs $10 and you get unlimited pictures.  The generic tag takes pictures as well, but they cost more at the end.  We purchased the personal tag (which you get to take home), but I was disappointed with the pictures.  There were a couple of stock pictures (see below), but most of the pictures of me and my daughter were blurry, too dark, or of someone else or I was looking away.  I  would recommend sticking with the generic tags and if you get a good picture, pay the price.

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My only complaint, although that is probably too strong a word, with the Mega Caverns is the cost.  The zip lining was $80, the Mega Quest was $40.  My choice on the pictures added another $10 to that.  For the Mega Quest it works out to about $14 an hour which isn’t too bad.  At $40 an hour for the zip line it was somewhat expensive, but I would consider doing it again.  The gift shop has items of decent quality, but of tourist attraction gift shop prices.  The bike park seems to be very reasonably priced.


Mega Caverns is a fun adventure with something for the whole family.  For those who can’t or don’t want to walk there is the tram.  For those more adventurous there is Mega Quest and if old / large enough (you need to be at least 75 lbs) there are the zip lines. The cavern has other events, particularly at Christmas and it is a decent value. Both my daughter and I enjoyed our adventures and we will go back.  Hopefully Barbara will go on the zip lines with us!

Dave Barry’s Birthday

Dave Barry

Hello, Jeff again.  Barbara says I have a weird sense of humor and if that is the case, Dave Barry has one too because I have been following him since his humor column was first syndicated and I love his work! While humor is his claim to fame me, he has written / co-written children’s books, had several of his books made into movies and is a member of a band.

David McAlister Barry was born July 3, 1947 to Reverend David Barry (a Presbyterian minister) and a mother whose name is curiously not mentioned in any source I can find on the internet.  His father died in 1984 and his mother shortly afterwards.  I find this curious because I am convinced Dave cared deeply about his mother as can be heard in his record “Mama” and after she died he wrote about her death in “Lost in America”.  Dave was born in Armonk, New York and went to Wampus Elementary School.  He was voted “Class Clown” at Pleasantville High School and went to Haverford College where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1969. Dave has been married three times, to Ann Shelnutt, Beth Lenox and now Michelle Kaufman and has two children, Rob Barry (1980) and Sophie Barry (2000).

After college he worked for the Daily Local News in West Chester, PA and then as a copy editor for the Associated Press before joining the consulting firm Burger Associates.  He then became the Humor Columnist for the Miami Herald in 1983 and that’s when he became famous for articles like “Exploding Whale” and how to make grapes explode in a microwave.  I can’t find a link to the grape article, but here is a related article about Microwave Grape racing.  I particularly like t-what he says before starting the races:  “My son, Rob, and I held some microwave grape races, after taking the standard precaution of making sure that my wife was not home.”  His description of the Potato Gun still makes me laugh, especially comments like: “…a bazooka-sized device that can shoot a potato several hundred yards at speeds up to 1,000 feet per second. To give you an idea of how fast that is, an ordinary potato, on its own, will rarely travel more than four feet per day, even during the height of mating season.”

Dave became a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1988 for Commentary:

Dave Barry of The Miami Herald

For his consistently effective use of humor as a device for presenting fresh insights into serious concerns.

 He has published many, many books including some of my favorites:

  • Babies and Other Hazards of Sex: How to Make a Tiny Person in Only 9 Months With Tools You Probably Have Around the Home (1984)
  • Claw Your Way to the Top: How to Become the Head of a Major Corporation in Roughly a Week (1986)
  • Dave Barry’s Guide to Marriage and/or Sex (1987)
  • Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989)
  • Dave Barry’s Gift Guide to End All Gift Guides (1994)
  • Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys (1996)
  • Dave Barry’s Book of Bad Songs (1997)
  • Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway: A Vicious and Unprovoked Attack on Our Most Cherished Political Institutions (2001)
  • “My Teenage Son’s Goal in Life is to Make Me Feel 3,500 Years Old” and Other Thoughts On Parenting From Dave Barry (2001)
  • Dave Barry’s Money Secrets (2006)
  • You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About (2014)
  • Dave Barry’s Bad Habits: A 100% Fact-Free Book (1987)
  • Dave Barry is NOT Making This Up (1995)
  • Big Trouble (1999)
  • Peter and the Starcatchers (2004, with Ridley Pearson) series
  • Escape From the Carnivale (2006, with Ridley Pearson)

His book Big Trouble was made into a movie but the release was delayed because of the 9-11 attacks.  Then his Dave Barry Turns 40 and Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits were made into a four season sitcom by CBS which ran 1993 to 1997. The show starred Harry Anderson as Barry and DeLane Matthews as his wife Beth. In an early episode, Barry appeared in a cameo role.  There are rumors that another book written by Barry, Peter and the Starcatchers, will be made into a movie by Disney.

Dave Barry - Rock Bottom Remainders

One thing I did not know about Dave was that he founded a rock band called “Rock Bottom Remainders” composed of other authors including Stephen KingAmy TanRidley PearsonScott TurowMitch AlbomRoy Blount, Jr.Barbara KingsolverMatt Groening, and Barry’s brother Sam, among many others. The band has raised over $2 million for charity and is described by Dave as “not musically skilled, but they are extremely loud.”  You can find a little more detail on the band on Oprah’s site here:

Dave retired in 2005 to spend more time with his family, but still maintains a blog at and writes occasional columns for the Miami Herald including his yearly gift guide and his year-in-review feature. In addition to the Pulitzer, Dave was awarded the Fairfax Price and has a sewage processing plant named after him in East Grand Forks, MN. He also can be hired as a motivational speaker for $20,000 to $30,000 per engagement.  To quote Dave himself “I’m not making this up.”


Jules Verne – The Legacy


Hello, Jeff again.  While Barbara wrote about the life of Jules Verne, I was more interested in his works and the lasting impact they have had.  In Barbara’s post she mentioned the fact that Verne wrote a series titled “Voyages Extraordinaires” which were published between 1863 and 1905. The series of 65 books strove “to outline all the geographical, geological, physical, and astronomical knowledge amassed by modern science and to recount, in an entertaining and picturesque format … the history of the universe.”  In addition, Verne was not interested in writing an encyclopedia.  He wanted to create works of literary merit.

So what was so special about Jules Verne?  First he was one of the first, if not THE first, author to incorporate the exciting scientific discoveries of the time into popular literature creating a new genre – Science Fiction!  Before we go into the details of his stories that eventually became reality, take a minute to think about the time he lived in.  The telephone had not been invented, no cars, no airplanes, no radio, limited knowledge of electricity, medicine was just learning about germs and astronomy was still in its infancy.  Against this background Verne’s imagination, intelligence, choice of friends and ability to research allowed him to envision things many of which weren’t created until long after his death!

So here are a couple of his visions:

  1. Submarine life – Verne’s description of the life aboard the Nautilus in his 1870 book “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, with the exception of the iconic organ played by Captain Nemo, is very close to life on modern-day submarine which have a double hull, use compressed air and are entirely run by electricity.    Many early submarine researchers-inventors such as Simon Lake, an early American industrialist and entrepreneur, credit Verne with inspiring them.  Walt Disney was so taken with the book that he made the 1954 “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” film. This was the only science fiction movie personally directed by Walt and it won two academy awards.(As Barbara mentioned in her post, Jules Verne’s Birthday, it is one of her favorite Jules Verne books and she also likes the Disney film)  Walt Disney - Nautilus
  2. Travel to the Moon –  In his 1865 book “From the Earth to the Moon” Verne predicted weightlessness in space, something that could hardly be imagined at that time.  He also predicted the approximate weight of “projectile” which turned out to be almost the same weight as Apollo 11 and cost of the “projectile” in 1865 dollars was only slightly off from the cost of the Apollo program.  In the book, the spaceship “launched” from Florida with a three man crew and also splashed down in the ocean upon its return to earth using parachutes to slow it’s descent.  All these things happened many years later in the 1960s.   On the way back from his mission to the moon Neil Armstrong said, “A hundred years ago, Jules Verne wrote a book about a voyage to the Moon. His spaceship, Columbia, took off from Florida and landed in the Pacific Ocean after completing a trip to the Moon. It seems appropriate to us to share with you some of the reflections of the crew as the modern-day Columbia completes its rendezvous with the planet Earth and the same Pacific Ocean tomorrow.”
    Jules Verne Projectile      Apollo 11

With 65 works to choose from, there are many, many more predictions including fuel cells, world wars and people addicted to the internet.  This being said, the real legacy of Jules Verne is not his predictions, but how he inspired generation after generation to dream beyond what was considered possible.  Neil Armstrong credited Verne with inspiring the moon missions.  Simon Lake, an early American industrialist and entrepreneur, was inspired by him to create his submarines.  HG Wells was inspired to write several of his own science fiction books.

I really enjoyed reading the books by Jules Verne, my favorite is “Around the World in 80 Days” followed by “The Mysterious Island”.   Many of his works are available for free on the internet as a quick search of “Jules Verne” will reveal.  Try to find one of the later translations as some of the early ones left a large portion of the text out of print and frequently botched is calculations / scientific explanations.

Jules Verne’s vision was extraordinary.  How is yours?  What are your predictions for the next 100 years?

Nichelle Nichols Birthday

Hello again, it’s Jeff here to talk about Nichelle Nichols, who was born on December 28, 1932.  I, like most people, knew Nichelle from her role as Uhura in Star Trek and didn’t think much beyond that.  When Barbara asked me to write a post about Gene Roddenberry I found out through my research that after the network refused to give Nichelle a contract he kept her on at a week to week basis.  In trying to confirm this I ended up doing further research on Nichelle and became fascinated by her life story.  

Nichelle, who’s birth name is Grace Dell Nichols, was born in Robbins Illinois, originally a small town south of Chicago, but now part of the greater Chicago metro area.  The area was first proposed as a suburb of Chicago in the early 1890s and lots were sold to whites at exorbitant prices with the expectation that Chicago would grow that way after the World’s Columbian Exposition, but the city did not grow as anticipated and most of the speculators lost their investments.  In the early 1900s Henry Robbins acquired the land and began marketing it to African Americans.  The town grew and had a population of 300 by 1917 when it was officially incorporated, one of the first towns to be incorporated by African Americans and one of the few towns.  The town supported one of the few airports that allowed African American pilots.  This airport, which was destroyed by a tornado in 1933, was the model for the Tuskegee Airmen.  The town was also a hotspot for African Americans from Chicago supporting green spaces for picnics and an active nightclub scene. By 2010 the population was 5,337 with 96% of the inhabitants African American and it is one of the poorer Chicago suburbs.  This being said, for so small a town, it has produced a number of notable celebrities, including Nichelle, Dwyane Wade, Joe Montgomery, James Loving and Shaun Wiggins.

Nichelle’s was a gifted dancer who started ballet when she was 7.  When she was 14 she auditioned for the Chicago Ballet Academy.  At first the instructor refused to let her audition because “Black people can’t dance ballet.”  After her father insisted that she would be able to audition, she did and was admitted to the dance school.  During this time she also took Afro-Cuban dance lessons and started getting jobs in hotels.  She was discovered by Duke Ellington and started touring with him.  By the end of the tour she was the lead singer and her career kept growing from there.  In the mid 50’s she had earned enough money to move her extended family to Los Angeles where she could focus on her career in television, which lead to Star Trek role and her current fame.

Her role in Star Trek wasn’t what I found so interesting though.  Instead it was her commitment to being a role model that caught my eye.  After the first year of Star Trek she was ready to quit.  The network was treating her as a second class citizen and constantly downgrading her role.  The same week that she told Gene of her intentions she also attended a NAACP fund raiser.  There she met Dr. Martin Luther King who told her:

You have opened a door that must not be allowed to close. I’m sure you have taken a lot of grief, but you changed the face of television forever. You have created a character of dignity and grace and beauty and intelligence. Don’t you see that you’re not just a role model for little black children? You’re more important for people who don’t look like us. For the first time, the world sees us as we should be seen, as equals, as intelligent people–as we should be…Remember, you are not important there in spite of your color. You are important there because of your color.

This changed her mind about quitting and she stayed on the show until it was cancelled, but never stopped being an inspiration to the black community.  In the 70’s she gave a speech criticizing NASA for not selecting women and people of color to the astronaut programs.  NASA challenged her to help with the recruitment effort.  In response she created Women in Motion, a company dedicated to attracting minority candidates to the space program.  While it is hard to say the direct impact she had, the number of applicants jumped from 1,500 to 8,000 during this time and we do know she directly inspired Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, as well as Col. Guion Bluford, Dr. Ronald McNair and Dr. Sally Ride.  She also inspired Charles Bolden who is now the Administrator of  NASA.

Finally, she is a member of the board of Governors of the National Space Society and actively works to get kids interested in Science and Technology, something I really support!  It has been a lot of fun researching Nichelle.  If you have a minute take a look at these short interview clips or check out her autobiography Beyond Uhura – Star Trek and Other Memories.  Maybe some day I will be lucky enough to meet her in person!

Here are some of her works if you don’t already have them:

Jeff Jones

Carl Sagan’s Birthday


As you may have realized by now, Barbara is extremely organized.  As she was going over topics for her blog last month she noticed that November 9th was Carl Sagan’s birthday.  I only know a little about him and begged Barbara to let me write this post so I could get to know more about this American icon.

Carl was born in Brooklyn, NY on November 9th, 1934 and died December 20th, 1996.  By all reports he was an inquisitive child with an interest in space from a very early age.  Key to his early development were a trip to the World’s Fair in 1939 and his parents providing him with both a sense of wonder and skepticism.  His family moved to New Jersey in 1948 and he graduated from Rahway High School in 1951.  He attended the University of Chicago where he earned degrees in physics, astronomy and astrophysics.  While there he also worked with notable scientists such as Gerard Kuiper and Melvin Calvin.  After college he was one of the first groups of Miller Fellows at the University, a fellowship that is only awarded to eight to ten of the most promising scientists each year.

After his 3 year Miller Fellowship he worked at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory before lecturing and researching at Harvard.  When he did not receive tenure at Harvard he went to Cornell University where he became a full professor in 1971 and where he became the director of the Center for Radiophysics and Space Research.


Being one of the brightest minds in the country and passionate about space, Sagan worked with the US Space program from its beginning.  Among his many contributions to the space program were the messages included in the Pioneer and Voyager missions.

NASA_Distinguished_Public_Service_MedalSagan also supported the search for extraterrestrial life, lobbied to get funding for and was on the board of Trustees of the SETI Institute,  an organization where signals from radio telescopes are searched for signs of intelligent life.  You can help with this search by signing up for Seti@home and letting your computer process signals while your computer is sleeping!  He also helped write the message aimed at informing potential aliens about earth sent out by the Arecibo radio telescope on November 16, 1974.  In addition, he “co-founded The Planetary Society, the largest space-interest group in the world, with over 100,000 members in more than 149 countries, and was a member of the SETI Institute Board of Trustees. Sagan served as Chairman of the Division for Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Society, as President of the Planetology Section of the American Geophysical Union, and as Chairman of the Astronomy Section of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).” [Wikipedia]  He won many, many awards and honors over his life including the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, A Pulitzer prize for General Non-Fiction, the Oersted Medal and the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal.

Despite his tremendous scientific and academic achievements, Carl Sagan was best at, and is most known for his ability to popularize complex scientific concepts.  He wrote a number of bestselling books including “Cosmos” and the fiction work “Contact” which was made into a major motion picture.  Cosmos was turned into a 13 part PBS program which was watched by over 500 million people in 60 countries.  This series won both a Peabody award and an Emmy.

I’m glad Barbara let me research and write about Carl.  He is the kind of person the scientific community needs around to help people understand what they do and keep interest in research alive.  I wish I could have gotten to know him in person, but at least we have his books and television programs to inspire us.  Thanks for reading and if you want to help with any scientific research check out Seti@home or the Galaxy Zoo.


Jeff Jones