Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Not All Who Wander Are Lost
July, 2016 - Beaver Dam, WI

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Downtown Louisville

Yesterday we spent several hours exploring downtown Louisville. We found a parking lot next to the river under the highway for $3 for the entire day. What a great deal for a downtown area. Our first stop was the Louisville Slugger museum and factory tour.  Sometimes it pays to get older. October is BOGO for seniors, so we both got in for $13. Outside of the building is a 120 foot replica of Babe Ruth's Louisville Slugger bat.

We enjoyed the tour, museum and movie and learned lots of information about bat making. Picture taking was not allowed on the tour. At the end of the tour, each person was given a Louisville Slugger mini bat.

J. Frederick Hillerich started a woodworking business in Louisville in 1856 making butter churns, bedposts and other wood items. In 1884 his son Bud made a bat for professional baseball player Pete Browning who was known as The Louisville Slugger. His father was reluctant to change the business to bat making, but when butter churn use declined, the business became focused on bat making.

Today the company produces 1.8 wooden bats per year, including the mini bats. To accomplish this 40,000 ash and maple trees are cut down each year in New York and Pennsylvania. New trees are planted and the forests are kept healthy.  Big league players use between 100 and 120 bats each per year at an average cost of $90 per bat.

The company has a secret patented guided boring machine that produces the maximum number of billets per log. The billets are dried and then shaped into bats. It used to be done by hand and took 30 minutes per bat. It is now done by machine and takes 30 seconds per bat.

The finishing of the bats is still pretty much done by hand including the branding and painting process. I never realized how many colors and finishes bats can have. Professional players are very particular about their bats.

There was a special exhibit at the museum by Ripley's Believe it or Not. This is the smallest street legal car. It's only 54 inches long and 40 inches wide, weighing 175 pounds. A 6' 6" person can fit inside, yet it can fit in a standard size elevator.

How about this toothpick replica of Yankee Stadium made with 125,000 toothpicks and lots of Elmer's glue.

And, being a woodworking company, they had to make the world's largest vampire stake for Halloween.

Over 8,000 professional players have signed contracts with the company. Their names are displayed on the Wall of Fame.

Just down the street from the bat museum is a 30 foot David statue unveiled in 2012 by the 21c Museum Hotel. There were several other sculptures in the area. It was quite a surprise to see this large David in Louisville rather than Florence, Italy.

Our next stop was the Bluegrass Brewing Co. for some craft beers. Kevin had the sampler with seven flavors.

I had read about a special dessert in Louisville called Derby Pie and made by Kern's Bakery. It was on the menu at the brewery, so I had to order it. It's kind of like pecan pie only with walnuts instead of pecans. They served it with chocolate and caramel sauce and vanilla bean ice cream. It was DELICIOUS!!! I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting.

We wandered around some more and stopped at the visitor center. They had some interesting exhibits including one about KFC and Colonel Sanders. He led an interesting life and didn't start franchising KFC until he was 65 years old. He died in 1980 at the age of 90. He is the only non-governor whose body was laid in state at the state capitol. What a great success story.

Louisville is on the Ohio River. We explored Waterfront Park which is a beautifully landscaped area next to the river with sculptures and water features. I was impressed with what a great job the city has done in revitalizing their downtown area and how clean it was.

The arena is called the KFC Yum! Center. I didn't know that Yum! is the name of the corporation that owns Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell. I just thought it meant KFC was yummy.

We had dinner at Gordon Biersch. A Mint Julep was on my list of things to try in Louisville. It was okay, but not something I would order again.

Our last activity for the day was a free ghost walking tour sponsored by the visitor center. A nice lady took us on an hour tour and told a few ghost stories about buildings in the area. It was not the best walking tour we've ever been on, but I guess you get what you paid for.

We ended up walking 7.5 miles and very much enjoying our exploration of downtown Louisville.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Kentucky State Capitol

One of the activities we've been enjoying since becoming full time RVers has been visiting state capitols. We don't go out of our way, but if one should be along our route or near our destination, we definitely plan a visit. We think we've been to about ten so far. It was a very rainy day yesterday so a good day for an indoor activity.

The Kentucky State Capitol building in Frankfort was completed in 1909. This was definitely one of the nicer ones we've seen. The building and grounds are impressive and it has the rotunda which always makes a capitol so impressive.

The top of the dome is 180 feet above you and has lights that change colors, which was kind of cool considering there are no stained glass windows.

The main corridor is 300 feet long and is lined with 36 one piece columns made of Vermont granite. It was an impressive site.

On the main floor under the rotunda there are several statues and murals. The largest statue in the center is of Abraham Lincoln who was born in Kentucky, but only lived there the first seven years of his life.

One of the other statues is of Jefferson Davis who was also born in Kentucky a year before Lincoln. He was the only president of the Confederacy. I found it interesting that both of these men born in Kentucky were technically president in the United States at the same time.

The State Reception Room was very ornately decorated. The opposing mirrors make it look like the chandelier goes on into infinity.

The Supreme Court Room is paneled with Honduran mahogany. This makes it the most valuable room in the capitol since wood from the rain forest can no longer be harvested.

We also saw the senate and representatives chambers. Near the entrance for visitors is this huge needlepoint tapestry with a block for each of the 120 counties of Kentucky.

On the grounds of the capitol is this floral clock erected in 1961. It's 34 ft. across and is planted with thousands of plants which are changed seasonally. I saw a gorgeous picture of it at Christmastime planted with poinsettias.

We next went to the Frankfort cemetery to see one of the graves of Daniel and Rebecca Boone. We normally don't visit cemeteries, but this story intrigued me. The Boones died in Missouri and were originally buried there. About 25 years after Daniel died, his family agreed to have both of their remains moved to Kentucky. It seems Missouri didn't keep their promise to raise an appropriate memorial at the gravesite, and Frankfort promised they would do so.

The strange part of the story comes into play when the bodies were exhumed. Some people believe Daniel was buried at the foot of Rebecca rather than next to her and some of the wrong bones were taken. Also, after 25 years only some of the larger bones remained intact. So, they are now buried in two places. Seriously! Just let the dead rest in peace!!

Our last stop of the day was the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I had read about this unusual memorial and wanted to see it. The names of all Kentuckians killed in Vietnam are engraved in granite below a huge stainless steel sundial. It is designed so that on the anniversary of each soldier's death, the point of the dial's shadow actually touches the veteran's name. Soldier's missing in action are also engraved in a separate section since there is no known date of their death.

It's hard to see because it was wet, but there are names and dates engraved in the granite.
I can imagine on a sunny day, this is an amazing site to behold.

This is the view from the memorial of the capitol building. Frankfort sits in a valley. I bet its a beautiful view on a clear day.

On the road outside of the campground is a Jim Beam Old Grand-Dad distillery plant. I was surprised how big it is. I've never heard of Old Grand-Dad whiskey; but, according to Wikipedia, its one of the ten best-selling straight whiskeys.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington

Yesterday we visited the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. I had read about the park on the blog of our friends Merikay and Craig. They had visited in September, and it sounded like a great place to learn about and experience all things horses. The park was opened in 1978 and is owned by the State of Kentucky. So many tourists were coming to the Lexington area to see the horse farms, so the state decided to open this park. Lexington is known as the Horse Capitol of the World.

Admission was $18 per adult plus $5 for parking. We started at the visitor's center where a less than enthusiastic employee sold us our tickets. We walked through their very large International Museum of the Horse which is actually part of the Smithsonian. There was a massive amount of information about horses from all over the world starting back to prehistoric times. We spent about an hour in the museum.

Next, we went to the trolley stop for the horse drawn trolley tour. It was a short tour around the park pointing out some points of interest. The trolley was pulled by two Belgian draft horses. They were a beautiful pair.

 There were several events scheduled throughout the day. Our next stop was at the Hall of Champions Presentation. The park has several championship horses in its care. Most of them are held in trust by the park for their owners. Below is Go For Gin who won the Kentucky Derby in 1994. Four of the horses were brought out and an employee told us lots of facts about each of them. We also saw a video of each horse winning races.

This guy is Funny Cide, and he won the Kentucky Derby in 2003.

We went to the Draft Horse Demonstration where we learned about different types of draft horses and were shown how they are harnessed. Our next stop was the Groom and Shine demonstration in the Kids' Barn where we were shown how to brush a pony. I didn't know that ponies were a category of horse. They have to be below a certain size (I forgot what it is). I always thought ponies were young horses, but I learned I was wrong.

The employee at the Kids' Barn told us lots of facts about horses. Most interesting, was about how race horses are bred after they retire from racing. It's a very complicated process with many people in attendance documenting the entire event. No privacy for those horses.

The last show we saw was the Breeds Barn Show. Six different horses were brought out one at a time and trotted around the ring while a narrator told us all about them. Lots of information, but I don't remember most of it.

This horse is from India and has unique ears. I don't remember his breed.

This is a Morgan breed.

This is an American Saddlebred. The rider was dressed as Rebecca Boone, Daniel's wife.

This rider was dressed as Annie Oakley.

We also walked through several other barns and exhibits. The park hosts many horse related events year round in its arenas including dressage, jumping and polo. Unfortunately for us, not much was going on yesterday. We did see a few riders training in the Dressage Complex.

This bug was on a fence post; not sure what it is, but I thought it was cool looking.

There are several large horse statues throughout the park. This globe sculpture made out of horse shoes caught my eye. The continents are attached using thick silver wire.

Included in our admission were tickets for the Showplace for Saddlebreds Museum on the other side of the parking lot. We did a quick tour of that museum. By that time, we were pretty much on overload of horse information.

We spent about six hours at the park and enjoyed our visit. It would have been more exciting if there were some actual horse riding events taking place. We are here in the off season, and I think that's why there wasn't much activity. We are not big horse lovers, but I can imagine someone who is really into horses would have really loved this park.  You could most definitely spend the entire day here if you took in all the shows and there were other events taking place. The nice thing is that the ticket is good for two consecutive days, but we saw enough in one day.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kentucky Derby Museum and More

Last Monday we left Paducah and drove to Elkhorn Campground in Frankfort, Kentucky. We're here for a week to explore the Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort areas.

Yesterday we visited the Kentucky Derby Museum on the grounds of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Admission was $15 which included a thirty minute guided tour of the grounds, an excellent eight minute movie, and two floors of museum exhibits.

The Churchill Downs facility is much bigger than I expected. Our tour guide Bob was full of interesting information. The first derby was held in 1875. The race has been run for 142 consecutive years starting the year before Custer's Last Stand.  The original track was founded in 1873 by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr, the grandson of William Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark duo. He originally leased 80 acres of land from his uncles, Henry and John Churchill.

Names of the winning horses are displayed all along the buildings. Only three year old thoroughbreds are allowed to race each year with a field of a maximum of twenty horses. Therefore, a horse can only race once in its lifetime. Each year about 44,000 thoroughbreds are born in the world, so the top twenty are certainly an elite group.

Winners of the triple crown are in gold lettering with a crown. Only twelve horses have won the triple crown. Secretariat won the triple crown in 1973 and still holds the record winning time for each of the three races of the triple crown. When he died an autopsy was done, and it was found that his heart was three times larger than the average thoroughbred.

We saw the paddock area and the tunnel where the horses enter the track. The grandstands only hold about 55,000 spectators. Attendance has been around 170,000 the last few years. All of those extra people are spread around the grounds and in the infield area, where they stand the entire time.

There are actually fourteen races on derby day. The Kentucky Derby is the 12th race of the day. I can't imagine being jammed into that place for an entire day with all those people.  The track is 75% sand, and is a one mile oval, but the race is 1.25 miles long. So, the horses actually start .25 mile before the finish line and the portable starting gates are quickly moved out of the way as the winner will be thundering past in less than two minutes. The white pole in the picture below is the finish line.

There are over 1,200 betting windows as well as betting machines throughout the facility. We heard several estimates, but it sounds like at this track only, nearly $200 million dollars is bet on Kentucky Derby race day with about $25 million going just to the derby itself. All of these bets are cash only. Can you imagine the security needed for all of that money!!

The winner of the derby in 2016 was Nyquist. This statue is in the courtyard painted in the colors of the silks the jockey wore.

The movie in the museum was on a brand new state of the art 360 degree screen, the largest in the world. It was very informative and well done.

We saw lots of exhibits in the museum. One showed many of the hats worn by spectators. I thought this one was funny as it represents everything Kentucky from the Colonel to the bourbon to the roses to the horse on top. It had won a people's choice award.

We had our picture taken by a statue of Nyquist. The garland of roses presented to the owner of the winning horse has 564 roses. It is made by the Kroger floral department.

The average jockey is between 5'2" and 5'4" tall and weights 115 pounds. The jockey plus his saddle can not weigh over 126 pounds. They are weighed before the race and again after the race. If they lost weight during the race, they are disqualified.

This is done due to cheating in the past. It seems some jockeys would put lead pellets under their saddles and throw them out at the back side of the track where officials couldn't see them. Our guide suggested that's where the phrase "get the lead out" originated. The saddles are amazingly small.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Churchill Downs, and would recommend it if you are in the Louisville area. We continued our day south to see how close we could get to Fort Knox.  It's about 30 minutes south of Louisville on Hwy. 31W. Here's the view from along the highway.

We saw a sign for a visitor center and drove in. It turns out the center was for people who want to visit the Army base which Fort Knox is built on. Below is the view from the side.

I saw a documentary on the History Channel about Fort Knox last winter. The show was done in the 1960s and was the last time any film crew was allowed inside. It was very interesting. Did you know that during WWII, England sent the crown jewels by ship to Fort Knox to have them protected from the Nazis.

Another 30 minutes south of Fort Knox is the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park. We might as well go there, too. Lincoln's father bought a 300 acre farm in Kentucky for $200. Abraham Lincoln was born there in a small log cabin on February 12, 1809. There was a land dispute and the Lincolns had to move to another farm. They then moved to Indiana when Abe was seven years old. He never lived in Kentucky again.

A group of businessmen and citizens established the Lincoln Farm Association to raise money to preserve Lincoln's birthplace and establish a memorial in 1906 near the time of the 100th anniversary of the president's birth. They raised $350,000 from 100,000 citizens to build a memorial to house Abe's birth cabin. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1909, and President Taft dedicated the marble and granite memorial in 1911.

There are 56 granite steps leading up to the memorial, one for each year of Lincoln's life. I was amazed at the size of this memorial in rural Kentucky. It was originally thought the cabin at this spot was the original cabin Abe was born in. It has since been established that it is not, but the cabin inside the memorial is a symbol of the cabin he was born in. It's size is 16 x 18 feet, which makes it a bit smaller than our RV.

So, our loop of a trip yesterday was almost 200 miles total. We saw a lot and really enjoyed the day. Stay tuned for more sightseeing in the days to come.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Kentucky Dam

Yesterday was forecast to be a warm sunny day, so we decided to take a drive to the Land Between the Lakes area about 25 miles from Paducah. The Woodlands Trace National Scenic Byway runs through the middle of the land between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley.

On the way, we saw a sign for the Kentucky Dam Visitor Center and decided to take a look. It turns out that after the great flood of 1937, the government decided to dam the Tennessee River in this area to control the continued devastating flooding. Creation of the dam formed Kentucky Lake. The Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River nearby created Lake Barkley. The 170,000 acre narrow strip of land between these two man made lakes formed The Land Between the Lakes recreation area. I never realized these lakes were man made. It makes sense as both of them are long and narrow, not the typical lakes we're used to seeing.

Kentucky dam was completed in 1948 and is the longest dam of nine on the Tennessee River. Creation of the dam and reservoir involved the purchase of over 300,000 acres of land and displacing 2,600 families.

A large platform was built at the bottom of the hill in the lake for fishing. We also saw quite a few fishing boats near the dam. Must be a good place to catch fish.

After visiting the dam, we continued to the scenic byway road. The Land Between the Lakes area has several places to visit including a 1850's living history farm, elk and bison prairie, planetarium and nature center. Each of these places has an entrance fee of $5 per adult. We weren't interested enough in any of them to pay the fee.

We did find a hiking trail through the woods to stretch our legs for a bit. It was just like hiking in the woods in many other places we've been, but a nice day to be outside and get some exercise.

We also stopped at Patti's Settlement in the town of Grand Rivers near the entrance of the Land Between the Lakes. It's an 1880's replica settlement. The buildings are very close together with lots of trees and foliage between them, so it was actually pretty hard to see what the buildings looked like other than the porches of each one. Lots of gift shops and restaurants; a typical tourist attraction. There was a nice gazebo where weddings are held. Miss Patti's Restaurant is famous for their two inch pork chop with special sauce; but at $24.99 per plate, we passed.

Fall foliage is just starting in this area. I think in a week or two the drive between the lakes would have been much prettier. It's pretty much just a wooded drive, so not really that much to see. There is plenty of primitive camping and boating opportunities; so if that's what you enjoy, it is probably a great place.

There are also some state parks in the area with many recreation opportunities. Back in 1990, we stayed in a very nice lodge at Lake Barkley State Park and played golf on their 18 hole golf course.

Today is a day of rest and football watching. Tomorrow we drive to Frankfort, Kentucky. We're there for a week and will be exploring Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort from that location.

Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!