Kentucky and the Bourbon Trail

Days 45 & 46: Thursday, June 13 & Friday, June 14, 2013
Start: Burlington, KY
End: Sevierville, TN
Miles Driven Today: 331
Total Miles: 8,078

We were all set to leave on Thursday. We had a great time with the old “gang” from Kentucky. Tom and I were ready to hit the Bourbon Trail. And then a text from Heather came in late on Wednesday night. “Want to meet us for lunch at Skyline tomorrow?”

Hell yes!!!

So, we decided to do lunch with Heather and her daughter. And if we did that, we wouldn’t get to our destination until pretty late. SO that meant staying another night at Minda’s. Minda, being the gracious hostess that she is, let us camp out for another night. We made the best of it with a great lunch and visit with Heather and a nice pot of Coq au Vin and more Graeter’s ice cream for dinner. We know how to live!

Skyline Chili

Chowing at Skyline Chili

The dogs were really comfy and happy at the Michels’ house. They made themselves very comfortable and were peacefully co-existing with the resident dog, Sparky.

Jasmine and Juliet made themselves comfortable

Jasmine and Juliet made themselves comfortable

Alas, all good things do come to an end. And given that Minda’s daughter is having a horde of teen-age girls over for a sleep-over tonight…hm…just in time! (Just kidding, Grace!!!) So, off we went in search of the Bourbon Trail.

Instead of taking the highway all the way to Frankfort, we decided to get off the Interstate and take some back roads. We went through small towns like Owenton, KY and were able to finally take some snapshots of a few of the barns on the Kentucky Quilt Trail.

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

Barn quilt on the Kentucky Quilt Trail

We made it to Frankfort in less than two hours and hit our ‘priority’ stop–Buffalo Trace Distillery. Tom had been sipping on Buffalo Trace each time we visited the Michels family…so we had to stop there! We picked up a few choice items…given our wild Bison encounters, we are loving the furry beasts (and Tom is loving the bourbon!). I tasted a bit of the Bourbon Cream and had to have some to take home. YUM!

Tom's new favorite bourbon--Buffalo Trace!

Tom’s new favorite bourbon–Buffalo Trace!

Pre- or post-tasting? You decide.

Pre- or post-tasting? You decide.

MMMM...bourbon! The Bourbon Cream is the BEST!

MMMM…bourbon! The Bourbon Cream is the BEST!

Our next and final stop was Wild Turkey. We picked up a turkey call and a great bourbon barrel coat rack. Alas, at both Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey, we couldn’t take the distillery tours even though our timing was good. The day was way too hot to leave the pups in the car for any length of time. We knew that this could be a problem…but we still enjoyed both distilleries!

Wild Turkey Distillery

Wild Turkey Distillery

Tom riding the Wild Turkey!

Tom riding the Wild Turkey! Pre- or post-tasting? You decide!

Back on the back roads. One of the reasons we stopped at Wild Turkey was to see the S-shaped bridge near the distillery. We couldn’t get a good shot of the bridge, but it was pretty darn cool!

S bridge right past the WIld Turkey Distillery

S bridge right past the WIld Turkey Distillery

We also opted to go through Daniel Boone National Forest instead (again) of the Interstate to really enjoy the scenic byways and hills of Kentucky.

Beautiful road past Daniel Boone National Forest

Beautiful road past Daniel Boone National Forest

That route put us through Cumberland Gap on our way to Tennessee. We picked up salads from Cracker Barrel (yes, SALADS…healthy food!) and had a picnic in the park.

Picnic at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park

Picnic at Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. Who says Cracker Barrel can’t do ‘healthy’ food? 🙂

Tunnel through Cumberland Gap

Tunnel through Cumberland Gap

Hello Tennessee! Thanks for the Welcome!

Hello Tennessee! Thanks for the Welcome!

One of today's open roads. Beautiful Tennesse hills.

One of today’s open roads. Beautiful Tennesse hills.

Then it was off to our stop for the night, Sevierville, Tennessee. Sevierville is outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We’re going to visit Gatlinburg, the Smokies and hit the Blue Ridge Parkway tomorrow, so this just sets us up for our next adventure. We’re settled in for the night and are looking forward to tomorrow’s sightseeing. We’ll end up in Asheville, North Carolina tomorrow night. From there, we’ll head up the Blue Ridge Parkway to its Northern End. I’m really looking forward to the Smokies and the Appalachian Mountains!

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My Old Kentucky Home

Day 43 & 44: June 11 & 12
Start: Louisville, KY
End: Burlington, KY
Miles Driven: 94
Total Miles: 7,747

Yesterday's open road

Yesterday’s open road

We’re back in Northern Kentucky visiting the Michels family and other friends. It’s nice that we were able to swing through again and see more of my old friends! Who says you can’t go home again?

We have said that the dogs have changed on this trip. They are more easy-going and tolerant and MUCH less skittish. All of this has been readily apparent during this visit with the Michels.

Jasmine is much more accepting of people, and Sam has a new friend.

Sam and his new best friend

Sam and his new best friend

A changed dog

A changed dog

What's on TV?

What’s on TV?

The pups have some spiffy new bandannas…of course, they advertise my VERY favorite ice cream. The best of both worlds!

Graeter's Ice Cream Doggie Bandana!

Graeter’s Ice Cream Doggie Bandana!

Juliet is also pretty darn content. And sleepy. 🙂

Juliet's life is so rough

Juliet’s life is so rough (NOT)

Minda held a happy hour last night. It was great to see old friends and just hang out in the kitchen to talk. Of course, French Martinis were involved!

Tammy and Heather

Tammy and Heather

Heather and her husband Tom

Heather and her husband Tom

Pete

Pete

Minda, Grace and Sparky

Minda, Grace and Sparky

Tom is tired of the paparazzi

Tom is tired of the paparazzi

We’re actually staying another night so we can hang a bit longer and have lunch with Heather today. Then it’s off on the Bourbon Trail!

Cross-Country Sprint

Days 41 & 42: June 9 & 10
Start: Colorado Springs, CO
Via: Kansas City, MO
States Visited: Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky
End: Louisville, KY
Miles Driven: 1,081
Total Miles: 7,653

Apparently, silence isn’t golden. There has been some concern that we’ve fallen off the face of the earth since we haven’t posted in a couple of days.

With the motoring we’ve been doing, there hasn’t been much to report. We sprinted across the country over two days to get to Kentucky. We’re spending a few days here before hitting the Bourbon Trail, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

We stopped in Louisville to have a short respite before moving on. Thanks to the HUGE number of hotel nights, we already earned a free night in the Drury; in fact, we earned a lovely suite! It just so happens that a former Firetide colleague, Shelly Swift, moved to Louisville about five years ago. So I looked her up and we went out for drinks at Mojito’s. YUM!

To make our sprint as short as possible, we (unfortunately) ran the Interstate to get here. That’s why there’s a severe lack of pictures. Billboards, exit signs, pasture lands. However, you’ll find the most interesting pictures below, PLUS a plethora of dog pictures. Joe was expecting them.

CANDY!

CANDY! Tom knows that I cannot resist CANDY!

Filler up!

Filler up!

Crossing the...um...which river is this?

Crossing the…um…which river is this?

Jasmine loves the Drury Inn & Suites

Jasmine loves the Drury Inn & Suites

Playful pups

Playful pups

Tickle me Juliet!

Tickle me Juliet!

OOOF! That's the SPOT!

OOOF! That’s the SPOT!

A content pup

A content pup. Traveling with dogs is so great!

Did you say DINNER?

Did you say DINNER?

A scratch is all it takes to make this girl happy

A scratch is all it takes to make this girl happy

Shawnee National Forest

Day 10: Wednesday, May 5, 2013
Start: Evansville, IN
End: Poplar Bluff, MO
Miles Driven Today: 267
Total Miles: 1,689

Today was another four-state trek. We went from Indiana, back into Kentucky, over to Illinois and finally into Missouri.

We started out in Evansville, Indiana after a good night’s sleep and a nice (free) breakfast at the hotel. We immediately headed for Kentucky to take the Ohio River Scenic Byway and then crossed over into Illinois at the Shawneetown Bridge. On our way to the bridge, we were amazed at the huge farms with what we guessed were these enormous grain conveyor belts. These contraptions crossed many miles of farmland. I wonder if it’s more economical to run the grain across the farms on these belts than to use dump trucks.

Grain Conveyor

We saw miles of this. We think it is a grain conveyor belt.

Spring is in full bloom around here. The sunny day seemed to coax the flowers into an explosion of color; bright yellow mustard flowers contrasted with the green hay fields and the dark tilled earth that was waiting for the new crop to arrive. We were pleased with our route; it couldn’t have been prettier.

Flowers

We saw bursts of bright yellow across the area in these fields of mustard flowers

We soon crossed over into Southern Illinois and into the Shawnee National Forest. Right after we crossed over into Illinois, we encountered Old Shawneetown. Aside from the mobile homes, there was an old ghost town (Shawneetown Bank Historic District) with old buildings that seemed to have some recent life in them (neon signs were not the rage way back when…). But today, it’s deserted and the area is sad. We quickly moved on and wound our way through the forest.

Shawneetown Bridge

Shawneetown Bridge across the Ohio River

Illinois State Line

Welcome to Illinois – Across the Shawneetown Bridge

The drive was, once again, quiet and lovely. While the area is a national forest, it also includes a number of small Illinois towns. We stopped at Cave-In-Rock (and the Cave-In-Rock State Park) for a short rest, and saw yet another commuter ferry that traversed the Ohio River. The park itself was not very large, but it included a nice waterfront view of the Ohio and shady picnic spots to enjoy the day. We stretched our legs and then ventured on.

We were going to try cross over into Missouri and take in some of the Mark Twain National Forest and the Ozarks, but we were getting a bit road weary. I fired up my trusty TripAdvisor to start looking for a place to stay, and we settled on a Drury Hotel in Poplar Bluff, MO. From here, we’ll have a short drive to the Mark Twain Forest and our chosen route.

I do have to say that I’m impressed with the Drury. It is a very pet-friendly hotel chain (NO additional fee) that offers both a free happy hour AND hot dinner buffet as well as a free breakfast buffet and free wi-fi. I think we’ll be staying at more Drury Hotels during this trip, but tomorrow night’s stay is a special selection! You’ll have to check back and find out what we have planned!

Pig-mobile

Pig-mobile!

Crossing the Mississippi

Crossing the Mississippi

Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge

Bill Emerson Memoria Bridge, Cape Girardeau, MO

Missouri State Line

Welcome to Missouri

It’s great to see that Jasmine has finally recovered from her stomach problems and is starting to bond more with Juliet. The girls are often snuggling together in the back seat, and both are looking out to see the sights whenever we stop.

Travel Buddies

Jasmine and Juliet are becoming travel buddies!

Ohio River Scenic Byway

Day 8 (May 6)
Start: Burlington, KY
End: Corydon, IN
Miles Driven Today: 159
Total Miles: 1,265

Today was a light travel day. I woke up with a raging head cold. It’s not conducive to making decisions or navigating in uncharted territory. Regardless, we did have a lovely, scenic travel day.

We started out taking the Anderson Ferry across the Ohio River. In operation since 1871, the Anderson Ferry operates 364 days a year, taking commuters across the river–and states–from Hebron, KY to Cincinnati, OH. I had never been across it, so we thought we’d give it a try. We drove down a windy junglescape of trees and foliage and arrived at a little landing where five cars were already waiting in line for the ferry. A few minutes later, we were on board and under way. Our fare was a whopping $5, and the ferryman noted our ‘killer’ animals on board. The water was murky, most likely due to the storms that had just passed the night before. But the ride was surprisingly smooth.

Anderson Ferry Cincinnati

Boarding the Anderson Ferry

Ohio River

Ferrying across the Ohio River

What was really cool, aside from the ride, was our location on the GPS as we were crossing. 🙂

Crossing the Ohio River

GPS view of our trip across the Ohio River

Once across, we immediately hit Route 50, the Ohio River Scenic Byway. This drive goes across a number of routes–Route 50 in Ohio, Route 56, 156, and Route 62 in Indiana. We drove through the Ohio and Indiana countryside, wheeling through small towns like Patriot and Florence and finally stopping in Corydon, Indiana. We chose Corydon due to its proximity to the Marengo Caves in Marengo, In. We’ll visit in the morning and then head over to the Hoosier National Forest. We might head over to French Lick, IN (home of Larry Bird)…but that’s a decision we’ll make tomorrow. That’s how we roll!

Indiana State Line

Indiana State Line

Amazon.com

Tom suggested that I stop and say hello to the Amazon.com people, since I’m such a good customer!

Chillaxin'

Chillaxin’ after a long day

Sunday Sunday

Day 7 (May 5)
Visited: Burlington, KY
Miles Driven: None

Today was a care-free day of down time and good conversation. We started off with a light brunch at Panera Bread with Minda, Pete, Sam and Grace and then we headed back to the house for a quiet day at home. Grace and I worked on a cool craft, we hung around the house and snuggled with the dogs.

In early afternoon, Heather Dorning and her son Jason came for a visit. Heather is another of the “gang” of friends I made here in the late 80’s, and it had been over 17 years since I had last visited Northern Kentucky. I got to meet Jason for the first time today. He has her goofy sense of humor…lucky kid.

Heather and Jason

Heather and Jason

What’s really great about good friendships is that they just seem to pick up where they left off. Minda, Heather and I spent a couple of hours gabbing away like no time had gone by. It was so good to sit and laugh about the past…and today.

We had two more Cincinnati traditions to experience–Montgomery Inn Ribs and Graeter’s Ice Cream. This restaurant has THE best ribs. The sauce is a sweet and tangy vinegar-based sauce, and the baby back ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender. We all pigged out on ribs and Saratoga Chips (home-made potato chips with ribs sauce for dipping) and topped it off with some Graeter’s ice cream (Raspberry Chocolate Chip is my favorite). We’re now sitting around, watching the tube and letting dinner settle in our stomachs.

And of course, Samuel is now smitten with Jasmine. I think he would be happy if I ‘forgot’ to take Jasmine with me. Sorry Sam. 🙂

Tomorrow, we leave for parts unknown. We now begin the “no reservations” leg of our journey! We’ll decide on a daily basis how far we’re going and how long we’re staying. No agenda. No hurry. No worries!

Samuel and Jasmine

Jasmine makes a friend

Jasmine and Samuel

Sam wants to dog-nap Jasmine!

Derby Day

Day 6 (May 4)
Visited: Villa Hills and Burlington, KY
Miles Driven: 28

Today was a day to visit with old friends and to enjoy Kentucky and Cincinnati traditions–Goetta, Skyline Chili and Derby Day!

We’re staying with the Michels family. I lived in Northern Kentucky when I first graduated from college, and I met and became fast friends with a group of really great people…people who made this my home and made me a part of their families. We’re staying with one of that group of friends, Minda and Pete Michels, their children, twins Sam and Grace, and their dog Sparky.

After we arrived, we decided that frosty beverages were in order. I made my French martinis and Tom had his usual Jack Daniels. I got Minda to try the French martinis, and we stayed up until the wee hours, catching up on our lives and drinking way too much. Tom and Pete quit around midnight; Minda and I…not so soon!

We began Derby day with a low-cal (NOT) breakfast of Goetta, eggs and rolls. Goetta is a local, scrapple-like product that’s created with some grain (steel-cut oats, buckwheat groats or the like), pork and seasonings. It’s boiled, formed into a loaf-like structure, sliced and fried. And it’s GOOD. But it’s not exactly healthy. Oh well!

After breakfast, Tom and I went to visit with Nancy Egan and Barbara Wilson, two of the Moms of my extended family. It was really heartening to see both Nancy and Barbara. They both welcomed me into their families with open arms and made this a home for me. We had very nice visits…it was really great to see them both.

Skyline Chili

Yum! A Cincinnati tradition! I like the 3 Way.

In between our visits, I initiated Tom into a Cincinnati tradition–Skyline Chili. Cincinnati chili is…different. The meat sauce isn’t spiced like a traditional bowl of red; instead, you can taste cinnamon and other ‘odd’ flavors that you wouldn’t think of in chili. It’s served in different ‘ways’, but traditional is over spaghetti with cheese (3 Way), onions (4 Way) and beans (5 Way). Tom loved it enough to finish my dish.

After the visits, it was time for the main event–the Kentucky Derby! Minda threw a Derby Day party. I made more French Martinis, Pete broke out the Buffalo Trace bourbon, and we were good to go! Yummy Tortilla Soup, Not-Too-Bad-For-You-Ham-Sammies and Really-Bad-For-You-Desserts were on the menu. Grace put together a Derby contest. We each put in $2 for each horse (picked randomly) and the Win, Place and Show winners shared the pot. Orb, Minda’s horse, blew away the field at the end. Minda, our hostess, was the big money winner. Fixed? Hm…I don’t know! Given that Minda’s mother won the Place and her son won the Show prizes…hm…suspicious! LOL!

We had a great time catching up, eating and drinking, and just enjoying the company of good friends. And being in Kentucky for Derby Day…a completely unplanned event, but definitely a bonus!

Tom and Margaret Donnelly

Say CHEESE!

Jeff Sizemore

Smilin’ Jeff

Winners' Cups

A shot of the Winners’ Cups prior to the race

On Your Mark...

On your mark…get set…Post time!

Sparky

Sparky wants Tortilla Soup too!

Kate

Kate (Pete’s mom) is egging on her horse!

Minda and Sparky

Minda and Sparky rootin’ for Orb!

Jeff and Marty

Jeff and Marty Sizemore

Smile BB

BB doesn’t like to have her picture taken. I think she’s beautiful!

Grace and Sparky

Grace and Sparky