Day 81 (8/20/14): Louisville, KY
Even though we had driven through Louisville (pronounced “Lul-vul” in the South) when we first entered Kentucky, we didn’t actually see much of the city. We decided to go back to Louisville today to get a better look at the downtown area. Our first impression wasn’t great, and initially we weren’t too crazy about downtown Louisville. However, it gradually grew on us, especially when we reached the Historic West Main section. The older buildings, quaint storefronts and brick sidewalks added some charm. We stopped to see the World’s Largest Bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, home of the famous Louisville Slugger bat.
We had met a man at our campground named Ronnie who was a Kentucky native. When we told Ronnie we were going into Louisville, he said we had to try the “Hot Brown” at the historic Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. We figured that would be a nice lunch. However, we were the only ones in the bar area where the dish was being served. That should have been our first clue to forgo the meal, but we were determined to try the “Hot Brown,” a Kentucky specialty that originated in Louisville at the Brown Hotel. The service was unbelievably slow (especially considering that we were the only customers), and the Hot Brown was a hot mess! It was basically a soggy piece of toast below sliced turkey and a few strips of bacon drowned in a gelatinous creamy sauce. I’m nearly gagging as I describe it. The Hot Brown definitely wasn’t our favorite meal of the trip.
On a side note, our new friend Ronnie, a descendent of Daniel Boone’s brother, told us an interesting story about him and his “Pappy” (imagine this story being told in a southern accent). They had stayed in Denver years ago when Ronnie was a boy (probably around 50 years ago). The place they were staying at had screen doors but no air conditioning, so they left the doors to their rooms open at night. Apparently there were holes in the screens though because flies got into the rooms and were buzzing around Ronnie’s head all night keeping him awake. The next morning, he asked his Pappy how he slept. Pappy said he slept great! Ronnie was shocked and asked, “How were you able to sleep? Didn’t the flies keep you awake?” Pappy replied, “No, they didn’t bother me after I bunched them up.” Perplexed, Ronnie asked, “What do you mean you ‘bunched them up’?” Pappy said he took care of the flies by taking a dump in the corner of the room! OMG! Haha!
Day 82 (8/21/14): Frankfort, KY
We had been staying in Frankfort for the past few days but hadn’t really done much exploring in the Capitol of Kentucky. The Buffalo Trace Distillery was located nearby in Frankfort and happens to be a National Historic Landmark. It’s also the world’s most award-winning distillery as well as the oldest continuously operating distillery in America! They offer free tours and tastings, so we decided to take advantage and visit the distillery. The tours are given on the hour, and we arrived shortly before the next tour was starting.
We had the pups with us though, and when we found out that the tour would take about an hour, we knew we couldn’t leave them in the truck that long. We told the folks at the distillery that we’d have to skip the tour due to our furbabies being in the truck, but they said they love dogs and to bring them on the tour! Apparently the tour is dog-friendly (as well as kid-friendly) except when it comes to the Bottling Hall where they hand bottle the bourbon. They said when we reached the Bottling Hall, we could just take turns with one of us staying outside with the dogs while the other one went inside. That worked for us! 🙂
The tour began with a brief video on the history of bourbon and the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Next, we visited a barrel storage room. As soon as we entered the room, the overpowering scent of alcohol smacked us in the face. There were thousands of barrels stacked to the ceiling filled with aging bourbon. I had never known the difference between bourbon and whiskey before. Apparently all bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskeys are bourbons. Confusing, right?
From what I understood of the explanation, bourbon starts out as a clear whiskey but must be aged in a charred wooden barrel for a minimum of two years (that’s how bourbon achieves it’s rich, golden hue). Another interesting fact about making bourbon is that due to the aging process, a good amount of the liquid poured into the barrels is lost because it evaporates and soaks into the wood. This is called “The Angel’s Share.” So if, for example, 50 gallons are originally put into the barrel, only get 30 gallons might come out. Also, no flavoring or coloring can be added to bourbon. The difference with whiskey is that it doesn’t have to be aged, and it can have flavoring and/or coloring added.
After the tour guide explained the bourbon aging process to us, we headed to the Bottling Hall, my favorite part of the tour! This is where the bottles are filled with bourbon and hand sealed, labeled and boxed. We were able to walk down the assembly line and talk to the employees as they each carried out their tasks. The employees were extremely friendly and happy to answer all of our questions. They filled a few extra bottles to show me how the bourbon is poured into them, and they even gave me some bottle toppers when I mentioned that I liked the designs!
Once we were done in the Bottling Hall, we were given free samples of two different alcohols. Bourbon is their specialty, but the Buffalo Trace Distillery manufactures a few other types of alcohol as well, such as vodka. However, since we had never tried bourbon before, and bourbon is what Kentucky is known for, we opted for samples of two different bourbons to compare one to the other. Woooo…they were strong! Once sip, and your lips puckered, then your chest burned…smooth! I don’t think we’ll be taking up bourbon drinking. Haha! After we finished tasting the bourbon, we were also given free samples of their bourbon dessert beverage and a bourbon ball! Score!!! 🙂
A little bourboned-out, we figured it would be a good idea to grab some lunch. We headed to a Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives place in Frankfort called Rick’s White Light Diner. This was the tiniest restaurant I’ve ever been to! With just 3 tables and 8 stools at the counter, we were 2 out of 4 customers there. We ordered the Shrimp Etouffee and the Shrimp Po’ Boy. The servings were overpriced and small, but luckily they both had great flavor.
For dessert, we were debating between the Bourbon Pecan Pie and the the Chess Pie. We had never heard of Chess Pie before, and when we asked the waitress what it was, she said it’s basically just butter, sugar and eggs. Say no more! How can you go wrong with those ingredients? Haha! We decided to try it since it would be something different. When the pie arrived at our table, we understood why the waitress had a hard time describing it. There really isn’t much to it, just a sugary, custard-like filling and crust. Overall, it was pretty tasty, and we’re glad we can say we’ve tried it, but we probably won’t be ordering it again. One and done. Sugar high!
After balancing out the bourbon with some food, we began heading over to Paris, KY to drive more of the Kentucky Scenic Byway route. On the way, we passed through the quaint little town of Georgetown about 15 miles from Lexington. We also came across our dream house! Too bad we didn’t like Lexington more, or we could have lived there! Hopefully we can find a similar house in an area we’d like to live in. As we continued driving, we eventually reached Paris and merged onto the beginning of the Kentucky Scenic Byway heading towards Lexington.
This area of the Byway didn’t seem as scenic as the section we had driven a couple of days ago, but perhaps that was because we had already seen endless green pastures and white fences. Had their charm worn off? Also, the sun had been setting the other day unlike this time when it was fully shining. Regardless, the weather was perfect at 80 degrees with just enough humidity to embrace the skin without feeling heavy. We drove through the countryside with the windows down, soaking in the warm air and sun-drenched landscape.
Day 83 (8/22/14): Frankfort, KY | Nashville, TN
After feeling like we spent a sufficient amount of time in Kentucky, we pressed onward and crossed into Tennessee. We were planning on spending quite a bit of time in the state of Tennessee. We had heard wonderful things about Nashville and were extremely interested in it for our final destination. We also wanted to check out other areas of Tennessee, such as Knoxville since Tennessee is a state with no state income tax. Our visit to Tennessee would begin in Nashville though. We were excited to finally be in the country music capitol of the world also known as Music City!
Justin has always loved country music, whereas I was never a fan and used to be adamantly against it, thinking it was too hokey. However, with influences from many other genres of music, country has come a long way since I was first introduced to it decades ago. Over the years, the new sound of country music has gradually grown on me. Plus, it has a soothing effect on Justin, and it increasingly began to have the same effect on me. While living in the Los Angeles area, Justin would become easily aggravated in traffic. However, I eventually noticed that if he was listening to country music as he drove, he would be in a much more relaxed state.
The next thing I knew, I was listening to country music on my own as I drove through my territory while working as a medical sales rep. I had become so frazzled and burnt out with my hectic work schedule, that the simple, catchy and often slower country tunes relaxed me. The song “Heads Carolina, Tails California” by Jo Dee Messina became the theme song for our upcoming voyage. I then began associating country music with the trip, and it became a symbol of the new, more laid-back lifestyle I was yearning for. Every time I listened to country music prior to leaving on our trip, it allowed me to fast-forward time and daydream that I was already on the road, exploring and taking a break from reality. It’s pretty surreal that we’re now in the country music capital of the world while we’re also deep into our journey.