Since we got to Rob and Bill’s place late the night before, we were in no rush to leave. We had a wonderful quiche/omelet breakfast before heading out to explore Louisville. There isn’t too much I know about Louisville other than it’s the home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs, and of Louisville sluggers. Kristie and I decided that we’ve seen enough bats on this trip (even if they are different types of bats), so we were off to the Downs to see some horses.
Horse racing is not really something that interests me very much, but it is the type of thing that will pique my interest if I know a horse has a chance to win the Triple Crown at the Kentucky Derby. I guess I like to see history get made, or better yet, not get made. Being a NY Jets fan, I’m used to being disappointed with my team falling short of the prize so I get some enjoyment out of other teams, or in this case horses, coming up a little short. I like the idea of records lasting for decades because it always gives that feeling every year of “will this be the year the streak is broken?” When American Pharoah won the Triple Crown this year, breaking the steak after nearly 40 years, I wasn’t excited. It was just a blip on my newsfeed. But now when the next potential Triple Crown winner comes along, I’m probably not even going to care since it was the threat of a 40 year old record being broken that was drawing me in. The threat of a 1 year old record just isn’t as exciting.
The museum at the Downs was pretty straightforward. They had a lot of interactive displays including one where you can create your own jockey outfit with absurd design and colors. My favorite part of the museum was a section where they talked about the tradition of people smuggling booze into the event. There was a video of one guy who hid a bottle of whiskey in a loaf of bread. I thought this was a strange one-off anecdote but when we went on the actual tour, the tour guide mentioned stories about how people would bury bottles of liquor in the ground months before the Kentucky Derby. The guide explained how it was treated like a game to see who would be successful with their smuggling. All this talk of booze got me in the mood for a mint julep, a proper southern drink. Kristie and I had lunch at the café where I was able to get my hands on a traditional mint julep. I was honestly surprised I liked it as much as I did since I’m not a big bourbon fan.
Despite not being a big bourbon fan, we felt it would be sacrilege to visit Kentucky without visiting a bourbon distillery from the bourbon trail. Lucky for us, Woodford Reserve, home of the bourbon Pit called “God’s drink”, was on the way to West Virginia. When we arrived, we were immediately put on a bus for the tour. This distillery was much smaller than Jack Daniel’s which made for a more intimate tour. There were two parts of the tour I really liked. The first was the “rail system” they have created to transport the barrels of bourbon. It literally is two rails that they roll the barrels down to go between stations. The other part of the tour worth mentioning is that unlike the Jack Daniels tour, they walk you through the storage house for the barrels. The smell of the bourbon mixed with the charred wood barrels was amazing. The last stop of the tour was the tasting room where they pour you a bit of the Woodford Reserve as well as the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked and teach you how to do a proper tasting.
The original plan for the evening was to drive to backcountry West Virginia to camp overnight but since we had the unexpected stop at the distillery, our time was short. Instead, we stopped in Charleston, West Virginia for dinner and got a hotel at the Red Roof Inn for the night. I have to say though; we were completely spoiled by Pit and his hotel choices. Our room at the Red Roof Inn had a lingering smoke smell and the smoke detector had a plastic bag covering it which pretty much confirmed someone had been smoking in it previously. The price was fairly cheap so it wasn’t all bad.