Hello everyone, I hope you’re having a great week out there wherever you are. It’s been a chilly, rainy week of catching up with old friends for me. The weather has gone from hot and sunny to cold and rainy and has finally leveled out a bit to somewhere in between this week. I’ve spent most of the week in Louisville and really enjoyed it there. It was a cool city with a lot to offer and a lot more on the way. I’ve had some good food, sipped some wonderful bourbons, and slept inside for 6 days in a row. I haven’t done a lot of work or a lot of travelling this week, but it’s been a fun one and great to catch up with my friends.
When last we met, I was off for one last day in Kentucky’s capital city of Frankfort. It was another busy and interesting day this lovely city. I started the day with a visit to their local history museum: The Capital City Museum. It was a really interesting little museum packed with local artifacts that told the history of the city from its origins to present day. The people working there were really friendly and I enjoyed talking with them before, during and after my visit.
From there, I headed off to the Buffalo Trace distillery, just outside of downtown. I signed up for the National Historic Landmark tour which only runs once a day and I was really excited about it. From the time I arrived on their property and bounced over an unpainted speed bump with no sign pointing it out, until I bounced out over the same speed bump on the way out (albeit much slower), I was really disappointed with my experience there. I must start by saying the tour was completely free, and I did get to sample two bourbons and their bourbon cream in the process, but the rest of it was a bust. Our tour guide was very friendly and seemed knowledgeable, but the tour was just a ramble through the property without a beginning or an end. I guess several people on the tour had already done the basic tour, so we got minimal background information. The distillery was dirty and loud, and I really didn’t enjoy my time there at all. I think the goal of bringing people in for a tour of your business is to make them more likely to buy your products. If anything, I left Bourbon Trace less likely to buy their products because drinking their bourbon (which I enjoy) will bring back bad memories of this boring and poorly run tour. There were hundreds of people there at the time of my visit, which was midday on a Thursday. There is too much potential in those numbers to not have someone with serious knowledge of tourism on their staff. I considered taking their standard tour when mine was done, assuming it must be better, but then I thought better of it and headed off down the road instead.
From there, I went up to Frankfort Cemetery to visit the grave of frontier legend Daniel Boone. Boone died in Missouri in 1813, but he was re-interred in Frankfort Cemetery in 1845. Or was he? You know the old joke about who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb? Well the question may not be a joke in this instance. Apparently, they may have brought the wrong body back with them to Frankfort, a mystery which remains one to this day. It was still a beautiful site, overlooking the Kentucky River and the State Capitol. You can read more on the controversy in this New York Times article HERE. I also really liked the war memorial in this cemetery which pays tribute to those who died in each of our country’s wars. Each war has its own marker and a flagpole with the historic flag of the United States from the time of that war. As both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried there, both flags are flown above the marker for the Civil War. The flag of the Confederacy (the original one, not the crossed battle flag) flies below the American flag. I think this shows respect for those who died and the cause they died for, without controversy. So far, I am impressed with how Kentucky is walking this line and would expect nothing less than well thought through displays at this point.
From there, I stopped at the Cliffside Diner for their amazing Cliffside Burger, which was really tasty, before making my way on to Louisville. When I got there, I headed over to my old friend Dean’s house in Jeffersontown. Dean and I are both members of the western American historical society E. Clampus Vitus and he’s also a childhood friend of one of my friends and coworkers from my tour leading days. The night I arrived, he and I headed out to a place called the Recbar. Recbar was full of old video games and pinball machines from our childhood which brought back a lot of fond memories of my youth in the arcade out at Montgomery Mall. I loved playing these games and especially one of my old favorites - Tapper. In a very different time, this was a video game where you got to be the bartender and serve beer to drunken patrons making their way down the bar. It’s a classic. Dean also introduced me to Weller, his favorite bourbon, and we may have had more than one. He has recently opened a BMW Motorcycle Shop, and i enjoyed hearing about his early successes. We talked back and forth about each others’ projects, and I really enjoyed his input. We chatted and drank bourbon and then he showed me some pointers for playing Skee Ball, a game I never thought there was much skill or strategy in. He had me throwing personal record games all night!
The next day started a little late for me, but I headed down into Louisville to do some exploring on my own. My first stop was at the beautiful Cave Hill Cemetery, the final resting place of many prominent Kentuckians including Colonel Sanders and Muhammad Ali. Also buried there is Revolutionary War hero and founder of Louisville, George Rogers Clark, who was also the big brother of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. It was a beautiful cemetery to drive and walk through and I hope to have more pictures from that day up soon.
From there I headed downtown to The Brown Hotel for lunch. I decided on two Kentucky classics: a mint julep and a hot brown. The mint julep is a cocktail made with bourbon, simple syrup and mint. The hot brown, created at the Brown Hotel, is an open faced turkey sandwich garnished with tomatoes and bacon and then smothered in mornay sauce and baked. The hot brown was created in 1926 and is an iconic Kentucky dish. It was great to taste the original there at the Brown Hotel and it was delicious.
After lunch, I needed to do some walking, so I headed off towards Main Street. I wandered by the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory, home of the World’s Biggest Baseball Bat. I stopped by the main downtown visitors center for some maps and brochures and then headed on to the Muhammad Ali Center. This was a cool place to learn about this world famous Louisville kid who grew up to be one of the greatest boxers of all time. He used his fame to travel the world and spread the message of peace and love. While I thought this museum could have been laid out better, I enjoyed my visit there and learning a lot more about Ali.
That night, Dean and his girlfriend cooked me up a real feast on their grill. They cooked up steak and shrimp and corn on the cob and a loaded baked potato and the whole thing was amazing and better than almost any meal I’ve had on my whole trip. We talked late into the night again and had a good time eating and drinking and chatting and laughing.
Saturday I went and explored beautiful Old Louisville. It is a wonderful old Victorian neighborhood full of lovely old houses. I had a great time wandering among them and taking lots of photos. There was a neighborhood blues festival going on not far away, so I enjoyed a beer and some great music as well. When I left there, I headed over to Hillcrest Avenue in eastern Louisville to photograph their extensive Halloween decorations which I will publish soon. I wanted to head out to the Pumpkin Walk in Iroquois Park that evening, but it was just too crowded when I got there so I headed back and got a great night’s sleep instead.
Sunday I enjoyed a visit to the Evan Williams Experience downtown. This was a really great tour and a sharp contrast to my experience at Buffalo Trace. Our tour was well planned out and paced and while I understand this is a storefront for tourism and isn’t their main distillery, it was immaculate and pleasant throughout. Our tour guide was wonderful and made me really want to buy their bourbon. We ended with a tasting of some of their older bourbons in a beautiful wood tasting room. It was a great experience.
Monday I said my goodbyes to Dean and headed over to meet another old friend, Beau. Beau and I had trained together way back in 2000 when I started guiding tours for Trek America. He worked with us for a few years and we ran into each other from time to time, but haven’t really seen each other in about 15 years. It was awesome to spend a couple of nights with him and catch up on all that’s happened in that time. It’s amazing how much can happen, both good and bad, in 15 years. We went for some great meals, enjoyed some more wonderful bourbon (my first taste of Pappy Van Winkel), and told our stories both old and new. He helped me brainstorm about some of my projects and gave me some great ideas and things to follow up on. If there has been one real highlight of this journey, it has been catching up with people like Dean and Beau who I haven’t seen in a long time.
Today, I made my way out of Louisville. I got myself back in the gym after a long weekend of debauchery, which was probably a good thing. Then I headed out to Simpsonville to visit Claudia Sanders Dinner House. Claudia Sanders was the wife of Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken. This restaurant is the only place in the world that can serve the Colonel’s original recipe chicken without the KFC brand. It’s a nice place for a sit down meal, and certainly a part of Kentucky heritage.
After lunch I headed down here to Bardstown, where I am writing to you from today. It’s been a busy week, so there won’t be much other than this in this week’s newsletter, but I have lots of photos in the editing process which I promise to get out to you soon. Over the next couple of days, I hope to catch up on my work and check out some of the museums and distilleries here in Bardstown before heading off towards Elizabethtown and Owensboro. I’m hoping the weather will even out a bit and I can start catching some fall color photos as well. My spirit feels refreshed from spending a few nights with friends and off the road. I got some great ideas to try and get rolling with and I’m looking forward to giving them a go. It’s never too late to catch up with some old friends, and I’ve been glad to have done so every time I have on this trip. This week you should get together with someone you haven’t seen in a while. You’ll be glad you did.
Until next week then, thank you, as always, for reading.