Mint Juleps and Mud Wrestling!
Trip Start Apr 30, 2010
52Trip End Sep 05, 2010
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Where I stayed
Parking lot of the Louisville Exposition Centre and Fairgrounds
Arrival and Preparation
We found the Expo Centre, where the parking for the Derby was, and then decided that we would go find some groceries and maybe a beverage or two for Derby enjoyment before parking for the night since you couldn't go back in if you left. These tasks proved more challenging, people's directions were pretty hard to understand between the Kentucky accents, local dialect, and generally confusing descriptions - not city people used to helping out tourists, surprisingly.
We finally got sorted and went to park and set up in the lot. We paid $6 for a spot in a huge lot at the Expo Centre, around the corner they had RV-land set up with about a hundred RVs. For $50 you could park there and have water access and plug in, and have access to the showers etc but we didn't need any of that except the showers (which were unlocked - no problems!) so we went for the $6 accommodations. We napped for an hour or so, made sandwiches, had a few beers, packed the cooler, filled our flask with rum (I know Ger - not Jamie) and we were set. I put on a sundress, my wellies (good call, Sarah!), my big hat and foul weather jacket and we hopped on our bikes to go.
Derby Time - Props to Dave Crane for the Great Idea!
The Derby was such a spectacle! Even the walk (they made us park our bikes a few blocks away) to the gates was hilarious. There were bible-thumping fundamentalists lining the road to the gates, shouting at us through megaphones that yes, we could save our souls if we join them now and leave these sinners behind! Small children were holding placards that read 'Ye must be born again', 'Someday you will stand before God' and a few with remarks about homosexuals, Catholics, and Jews that I wouldn't dare write fully in an post...
Once we got past the swarms of tailgaters, cops on horseback, and fundamentalists, the actual entry was very well organized. We had our tickets ready and we asked some locals for tips on the best technique to get our little flask in - no question, in your bra, we were told. So, that became my job since Matt apparently wasn't wearing a bra that day (what a hippie). In fact, security was far more concerned with our cameras and made us open them up, turn them on and show them photos/footage. They glanced at our cooler, sniffed our OJ, and didn't check our pockets or anything at all.
Inside the infield was insane - everything from fabulous ladies in huge hats, cocktails dresses and sky-high heels accompanied by suave clean-cut men in seersucker suits to girls and guys in bathing suits only mud-wrestling in a foot of slop, the whites of their eyes the only body parts not coated in mud.
The Greatest Two Minutes in Sport
As the post time neared, the excitement mounted. The anthem was sung - we belted out along with the crowd - and the horses were announced. We found a spot right next the fence on a stretch where the horses would go by twice and had a really good view - as good as it gets in the infield we were told. It was cool to hear the traditional trumpet that signalled the impending start, and the announcer calling 'They're Off!' at the gun. The race was exciting even though we had no idea which horse was ours. The crowd cheered wildly and was frantic as the race went on - we did know that Lookin' at Lucky, the favourite, was falling way behind. In the end, Super Saver won and the horses we all bet on - we put money on Lucky, and Dublin for my parents, I had picked Awesome Act and Matt Noble's Promise - all trailed well back. Oh well.
Afterwards, we continued to wander and chat, and we made sandwiches from our cooler. Thankfully, the sun was out at that point and it was actually really warm and lovely. We were still hungry even after our lunch and wanted to get somewhere a bit less crazy since the streets were pretty boisterous and crowded at that point. We walked a few blocks and managed to squeeze into a pub - lineups were long and the local bars were just allowing people to keep right on tailgating in their parking lots! But we grabbed a spot and had some fish and chips and a pint. The waitress initially seemed skeptical about our Quebec IDs even though she actually looked about 16.
RVs, Camp Fires and Big Screen TVs
Finally we headed back to the parking lot and roamed around the RV site for a bit. A lot of people had portable fire pits and had campfires going, and full kitchen and BBQ setups. One guy had a big screen TV and was watching the Canucks/Blackhawks game (he was from Chicago) People were going downtown, which was apparently nuts and we found out today had some celebrities out and about, but we were tired so we just chatted with people, had a beer or two and went to bed fairly early.
The van is actually super comfortable and the curtains were great, though we were woken up by a vicious storm at about 5am. The thunder cracks were so loud, and the wind whipped about so that the van shook a bit. The rain pelted down for a couple of hours and the grass on the side of the lot had several inches of accumulation. We finally got up at about 10 when the rain had stopped and headed over the use the RV site's showers - a hot shower felt really good!
What to do next?
Now we're in downtown Louisville at a coffee shop hiding from the rain that has started again and are trying to decide what to for the next day or so. The original plan was to go hiking and camping in the Smokies, but there are flood warnings all over the place so we might go to Nashville instead and catch some country music there instead. Indoor activities like music and beer drinking might be more enjoyable than hiking in thunderstorms!