Freeway Free in Texas: Georgetown Underground
What do you do on a cold damp day in Georgetown, Texas? Go to a warm damp cave.
Inner Space Cavern is an attraction just outside of Georgetown, discovered back in 1963 when the road smiths were drilling for the supports of the I-35 highway overpass. I tried to imagine the reaction of the road crew when, after drilling through forty feet of limestone, the drill suddenly dropped another thirty feet unimpeded. I also tried to imagine the courage of the drill operator who rode the drill bit down a two-foot-wide shaft into the darkness below, not knowing what might greet him.
What greeted him was a pile of fossilized bat guano, and a spacious room sparkling with salt-encrusted stalagtites and stalagmites. The highway crews decided that thirty feet of granite was deep enough to anchor the pillars supporting the overpass, and the building of Interstate 35 proceeded according to precedent.
There was no obvious entrance to the cavern. The bats had gotten in through a sinkhole that had since filled itself in. But word of the underground palace got out, and within three years an access was created and the cavern was open to the public.
Inner Space Cavern now attracts thousands of visitors annually, and if your youngsters chafe at waiting for your alloted tour time (backlog can be over two hours on a busy weekend), outdoor activities include a small playground, picnic tables, some exotic animals to watch and a zip line.
On last Saturday of spring Break, a whole bunch of other people had the same idea as we did. We bought tickets for the 4:20 tour at 2pm, watched our token teenager shivering on the Sabre tooth zip line (Brrrr! it was a cold March day!), went back to the house for snacks and an hour of March Madness, and then returned to the cavern for a one mile, one and a half hour tour. “There are thirty feet of solid rock above us” assured the guide. Bats had returned to the cavern as soon as it became accessible, and they are treated as an added attraction, with postcards available in the gift shop of and a video extolling the virtues of bats running non-stop in the waiting lobby.
“Don’t worry,” said the guide. “The bats are asleep and probably won’t poop on you.”
If you show up in the morning and are faced with a two hour delay before your tour is called, you could do worse than go for brunch or lunch at BiG (Brookwood in Georgetown) a restaurant/gift shop staffed by “adults with special needs” who cook deliciously and craft lovely items for sale in the adjacent gift shop. The website does not show the brunch menu, but I can vouch for the avocado toast with fruit cup, and my friend’s spinach/mushroom quiche also looked seductive.