Got To Be A Caveman

Andy At Crystal Grottoes Caverns
So this was an awesome caveman experience.



We had seen a sign a number of weeks ago from the highway for Crystal Grottoes Caverns.



Today, we decided to try it out, and made the trip to Boonsboro!



I wasn’t expecting much, since I had heard a lot about Luray Caverns in Virginia, but never anything about this one in Maryland. 



Well we were really pleasantly surprised.



Half an hour tour underground through a literal maze of caves filled with the densest formation of stalactites (hanging from the ceiling) and stalagmites (springing from the floor). 



These things grow only like a centimeter every 150 years, so when we saw literally countless that were meters long, we were really looking at thousands of years history. 



Incredibly, these beautiful mineral rock formations come into being from water seeping through the limestone a drop at a time, and we saw rocks sparkling with crystals, and in shapes ranging from hands to turtles and much more. 



The guide even showed us a special place (almost like a chamber) where a number of couples had gotten married down there…sort of an appropriate place to tie the knot ever so tight in those caves. 



It was also nice that we had our own tour guide for this thing, and that made this all the more interesting to ask questions and really get to see everything. 



At one point, the guide suddenly shut the electricity in the caves, and we were left in complete and utter darkness…it was so surreal and sort of scary, but peaceful to be in a complete void. 



The guide explained that if you were down in the blackness for 6 or 7 months, you would actually go blind from not using your eyes whatsoever. 



Overall, it’s sort of a oxymoron, but we just felt so alive down there…breathing this super pure and clean oxygen (no real carbon dioxide down there, because basically nothing grows there) and the cave is this marvelous perfect 54 degrees all year round.



The owner is third generation and you can tell that he truly loves owning this precious jewel of a cavern, and he meticulously cares for it and continues to expand and improve the spectacle. 



However, from a business perspective, I definitely don’t think he has took advantage or capitalized on this priceless property.



There were basically no concessions (except that you could buy some samples of the rock from a single display case under the front counter), and there was no cross-selling of t-shirts, pins, posters, hay rides, animal petting, hiking, boating, or food stands!



We took some (as in like 20) brochures from the owner on the way out to give out at Rebecca’s school (especially, since she is taking Environmental Science this year), but this guy otherwise doesn’t seem to even advertise. 



This place was a hidden underground gem…50 feet down underground, but no Starbucks. 😉

A Trip To The Science Museum

Purple_lobster

We went to the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science—it was quite impressive.

Outside, where you enter, there is a huge clock -tower contraption with overhead slides and rolling balls, and water turning wheels on the side—it’s a “what is it” (exactly) moment and you know you’re there. 

We hit the space exhibits first—I entered a simulator for a jet fighter cockpit, managed to take off with relative ease, but soon crashed, flipping it upside down—oops a little too much thrust.

The NASA exhibits were cool such as the MARS rover and colony mockups. And the Styrofoam wings that you can put on in a wind chamber and see how aerodynamically you are (or are not) was fun. 

Next up was the medical exhibits—we put together a puzzle of full body x-rays (“the shin bones connected to the…”), maneuvered a Da Vinci surgical robot arms, and zapped tumor cells with a mock laser.  

Oddly placed but interesting was the Gecko exhibit—with different colorful species hanging upside down and sideways with their suction cup feet. Couldn’t help thinking, which of them had been selling car insurance on those always-on Geico commercials or maybe this is the place they send them when they don’t perform on cue? 

Going through the exhibit on levers and pulleys, I used between 1-6 pulleys to lift a large stack of cinderblocks—and for the fewer pulleys, I thought good thing I had some Wheaties in the morning for breakfast, so I wouldn’t be embarrassed pulling on the ropes. 

The minerals, gems, fossils, corals, and dinosaur displays were somewhat meager, but were nicely laid out and a decent representation to get the idea.  

There was also an Imax theatre with a 3-D movie and those crazy glasses you have to wear to watch these—but the cartoon playing wasn’t the action and adventure I was looking for. 

One of the exhibits’ I enjoyed the most was the fish—of all types—some favorites were a huge purple-like lobster, the playful otters, the bobbing water turtles and many others.

We also stood inside a mammoth replica of a shark and took turns hanging out of its mouth—and feeling what it was like to be Jonah and the whale.

There was also a weather news station, where you get to playact newscaster, and we used the TV cameras and tele-prompters to give updates of everything from hail storms to wild fires—now, I know how they always seem to know jusst what to say and when–so perfectly. 

Another cool display had to do with sustainability and the environment—with a robot sitting in the middle of piles of trash and recyclables—not sure why he was there though—was he trying to decide what to recycle and reuse?

I don’t believe that I saw anything significant on alternative energy or on general computers and the Internet—and if there wasn’t anything particualr on these, I would definitely like to see them added.

Overall, good job Ft. Lauderdale—worth the trip—and thank you for spreading a love of science with all. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)