Thursday, August 2, 2012

Inner Space Caverns: Georgetown, TX

About 10 years ago, I had some reward points with the Holiday Inn chain and decided to use them to take my mom and kids to Georgetown.  My girls still talk about this like it was the best vacation we ever went on (to be fair, we didn't go on many).  This always surprises me since this "vacation" was an overnight stay at the Holiday Inn Express with all of us in one room.  We had lunch with some friends in town and shopped a little downtown.  Mom and the girls tried on and purchased red hats after seeing a bunch of women from the Red Hat Society. This just goes to show that the best memories don't have to involve lots of money and Disney characters.

We also took the kids to the Inner Space Caverns.  So for a trip down memory lane, I stop here before going to my hotel in Georgetown.  

I arrive in time for the next to the last tour of the day.  

Instead of falling into the cavern like many of his kin, this mammoth got stuck in the wall.

They have a large gift shop inside and I consider buying one of these rocks...until I see the "Made in Brazil" label on this one.  The others have the label on the back.

I did end up buying some colored crystals - purple - and a bag of round balls that are magnets for my granddaughter.  I also bought her a "fossil and rock collection" box.  When I gave them to her upon my return, she spent a couple of hours arranging and rearranging her trophies in my bed while we watched Finding Nemo together.

Headed down into the cave.  I am the anchorman (anchorwoman? anchorperson?) on this tour.  See that woman in front of me in the white shirt and jeans?  She will cause me problems along the way.

It is pushing 100 degrees outside and I am ready to be inside where it is supposed to be around 72.  It is cooler but the humidity is so high that it negates the lower temperature.

First stop is a photo op.  Our guide takes a picture of each group in front of a green screen.  When the tour is over, they will sell you a photo that appears to have been taken in the cavern by modern Photoshop miracle. Why don't they just take a picture of you in the cavern?

I hang back and don't have my picture taken.  Having 25 people look at me while I have my photo taken alone is not something I want to do.  I wouldn't buy the photo anyway.

As the tour begins, the group begins to string out and those of us at the end (the woman in the white shirt and her husband, their two young adult kids, another couple and their two much younger kids) get left behind several times.  

The guide - Chip?  Chad? - tries to wait on us to catch up but these people won't move in so I have no idea what he is saying.  This continues the whole tour, I hear very little of what he says.  

The blue light in the distance means the cave goes on for a long way in that direction.  The light is always blue but sometimes appears pink or purple due to some reason I couldn't hear.

The young boy in front of me expresses a concern.  "Mama, are there bats in here?"  Mama doesn't know.  "Mister, Mister!  Are there bats in here?"  Yes, there are.  Because of this, they prefer you don't use your camera flash in certain areas so you don't disturb the sleeping bats.

"Soda Straw" ceiling.  "Mister, Mister!  Are you SURE the bats are sleeping?"

Our guide warns us that to conserve the cave he has to turn the lights off behind us.  This means there are a few times that me and my "group" at the back are plunged into darkness.  He asks the entire group if we want to see how dark it is with the lights off.  

It is really dark.  It is at this point that the woman in front of me turns around and snaps a photo in my direction.  With the flash.  I am blind now.

She continues to do this the rest of the tour.  After that first time, I am more prepared and with the lights on, once my vision begins to return, I can see her turn.  I close my eyes.  She doesn't understand (or doesn't care) that this is a problem for those behind her - which is only me.

We are getting further behind.  She stops to take pictures of everything.  I mean everything.  At one point she is taking a picture of one of the light fixtures.  "Look at this formation, honey."  He looks.  I want to tell them, that isn't a formation, it is the man-made camouflage used to hide the light fixture.  

"Look, honey! Cave paintings!"  The guide explains that some students from a local university painted them.  So disappointing.

There are about 7 animals painted on the wall.  We must stop so she can take pictures of each of them.  Also, since her daughter (like me) is using the iPhone camera, she needs more light.  They work out a system where mom causes her flash to go off just as the photo is taken.  This is an imperfect system so synchronization sometimes takes multiple flashes.

The guide tells two "fairy tales" along the way using cave formations as characters and scene like a castle, a princess, a shark and piece of bacon.  These are the same stories that were told over 10 years ago when I came with my kids.

A small pool.  I took this photo with no extra light and no flash.  
With my iPhone.

We have seen one teeny-tiny bat, a big disappointment to the boy.  "Get over it," his dad wisely (rudely) advises.  When we reach the end and have to begin retracing our path back to the entrance, the guide asks us to keep up this time.  After all, we have seen everything we are going past and we will be passing other tours (keep to the left!) along the way back.

We don't keep up.  We (she) takes more photos.  I estimate she has taken around 10,000 pictures.

Why didn't I just go around them?  Not as easy as it sounds.  The path is narrow and other tours are going on at the same time.  Both families frequently take up the whole path so I resigned myself to the back pretty early on.

Top-side I find a storm rapidly approaching.  I get to the car just as the torrential downpour begins.  I wouldn't have made it if I had stopped to buy the overpriced photo I didn't let them take.

Time to find something to eat and hit the hotel.  This will prove much harder than expected.

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