Kentucky (Days 11-19)

Trip Start Apr 04, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
dads house

Flag of United States  , Kentucky
Thursday, April 15, 2010

             The morning found us too early and the previous night's debauchery had not landed on our heads and bodies like I had expected, so we were in fine shape for yet another day on the road.
         Our first stop of any mention was the little town of Scottsboro, Alabama for a visit to a store called Unclaimed Baggage.  We had first hear of this store on the Discovery Channel and it quickly mad it’s way into the list of must do destinations for our cross country outing.   After leaving the highway and winding our way through town we came to the bustling store that we were both so curious about.  This store has an agreement with the airlines that they will purchase, sight unseen, all of the items that are left by the nations millions of people flying each year.  These are all items that were unclaimed;people had inadequate retention documentation or thing people just left on the plane.  Being someone that has left an item or two behind in the random spots in the past, I was really interested.  The store was huge.  I believe that the front of the store used to be a professional building, the kind where one might find dentists,optometrists, and clinics dealing with all sorts of foot ailments.  The core of the store was, I’m sure a Safeway in a previous incarnation.  Attached to this were a number of Aluminum clad storage building type things.  Two stories tall with exposed insulation on the walls.  There was an annex filled with all the things I had never expected anybody might take, no less leave, on a plane.  Compressors, exercise bike,canoe, 4 0 ton hydraulic jacks…  I found myself thinking about how strange other people must be to be toting these kinds of things with them on their travels. Then I thought of some of the things that Kirstin and I have in the car,out in the parking lots, and some o f the things that will be accompanying Kirstin and I on our flights.  My mind,once again, was a quiet place.  After an hour of bargain hunting we escaped with printer cartridges that would have been a good deal at twice the price, a non-working car inverter, (returned immediately), and a still unopened Haitian music DC.
                We were back on the road once again to our final resting spot for the day, Mammoth Cave National Park.  The drive utilized the remaining time of our 10 hours in the car that day. Upon our arrival we located a perfectly suitable campsite and registered ourselves at the ranger checkpoint, which had already closed, using the afterhours envelope.  We pitched our tent by the light provided with a combination of headlamp and book light and I started my search for some kind of firewood. Historically, looking for firewood at any national park campground is,for me, an exercise in compromise, if not outright futility.  This night was different.  Stacked there, close by our metal ringed fire pit was a small stack of well aged cord wood of different sizes.  It was as if the previous inhabitants of the site had known that unprepared road weary travelers would be the next people staying there and, in preparation, had gone to the ranger station and purchased two additional small and ridiculously overpriced bundles of firewood, just for us.  With the fire started we sat down and enjoyed our dinner of trail mix with rum and coke and without the neon glow of a roadside sign or the chill of the high desert, slept well and warm. 
                After waking up we rode our bikes to the Mammoth Cave tour center where I joined a sub-terranian exploit that was absolutely stunning.  For the water cut twists and turns of Fat Man’s Misery to the expanse of the Great Room, it was all simply spectacular.   Kirstin,having grown up relatively nearby and this being her umpteen trip to Mammoth Cave, opted for a one hour surface tour.  As it turns out the Mammoth Cave system is host to a unique and special grouping of flora and fauna not seen in such co-habitation elsewhere.  Due to the lack of other commitments on the part of their guide and the interest level of Kirstin and the other two women on the tour, the one hour trip took two hours. We met back up and rode back to the campsite, packed up and we were off,driving once again.
                 We didn’t know it then but we had a date with our friend Jim Beam.  At the Kentucky Visitors center on highway 65 we chose to stop by ol’ Jim’s house and check out where he is born.  Neither Kirstin nor I know Jim Beam well but we’ve heard a lot about him.  We toured the Distillery, well not the distillery really, but the old Beam farmhouse, complete with pictures of past and present Jim Beam… people.  We watched a movie that reminded me time and again how great this whiskey is and to the time honored, hard work that goes into every bottle of Jim Beam.  Somehow all of that was lost on me as I exited the Beam farmhouse to look out upon the rolling Kentucky hillsides dotted with a few of the 18 "aging house" where this concoction sites, supposedly in oak  barrels, until its...Well, I  don’t know, until it’s done…again?  Well whatever it does in there, soaking up some charcoal flavors from the inside of the barrels of whatever.  These aging houses were absouletly gianourmous.   I was up next to one and it was about eight stories high and one hundred feet wide on the end and about a football field long.  By doing some quick math, in the ultra precise computer that sits atop my shoulders, I calculated that this one building, one in eighteen, mind you, holds about a bajillion barrels of whiskey.  Ya, somehow, the time honored hard work thing just didn’t hold as much weight as the film had intentioned.  Then it was onto the JB store.  This place, while not stepped in the history that the rest of the place was; it is the place you get to try the stuff.  They did not have a liquor license, interestingly enough, so we were cut off after the two shots administered with the displaying of our plastic Jim Beam bracelets.   We tried JB 12; pretty special, they say,then we tried the JB “Bookers”; very special they say.  Kirstin couldn’t finish hers so I did…yummy.  After some discussion we walked form the store with a bottle of Red Stag, a cherry flavored bourbon that the barkeep told me tastes like cough syrup, really good cough syrup, and, as I was told is delicious with, of all things, orange juice. 
                It was a short drive to Kirstin’s dad’s house in Crestwood, KY., just outside of Louisville.  We arrived in the late afternoon to the greetings of Kirstin’s father Brian and his giant cat buddy.  Brian’s wife Kim showed up soon afterword and Kirstin’s grandparents had come in from Iowa. Later that afternoon we were also joined by her sisters Brianna (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and Laci (Minneapolis) and their girlfriends Ashley and Celina.  The ten of us sat outside for an evening of Kirstin and me opening the virtual mountain of gifts that had been bought for our wedding and then shipped, by our request, to Kentucky.  We were reminded once and again about how blessed we are by so many wonderful people we have in our lives.  We spend the following day either in preparation for, or participating in our wedding open house during which I met so many of the people that I had heard so much about. Brian’s house was full throughout that week with family in from out of town and Kirstin and I stayed at the neighbors house.  Jean and John were wonderful gracious people whose family Kirstin and her sisters had grown up with.  At any rate, their house was a great break from all the action going on over at Brian's house.  During the week there, we went to Thunder over Louisville.  It’s an event that kicks off the two weeks of activities preceding the Kentucky Derby.  Thunder over Louisville is a big deal.  Kirstin’s sisters got down to the “Great Lawn”,where all the action is at 7:00 am to hold the spot for everyone.  There was an air show that lasted all day long and most of the city was there. There were those that came and those who stayed away from the craziness.  I can understand both perspectives completely. On the one hand Thunder over Louisville is a spectacle not to be missed from the booming fireworks display that lasted 45 minutes and choreographed to music, to the mother feeding her two year old mountain dew in a sippy cup;it was definitely a day full of rarely seen sights.  On the other hand I can understand how it is that one could not go to thunder and be content as well.   The half-hour wait to use an overtaxed porta potty or the mass of foot traffic clogging the walkways would be enough to give pause to all but the most passionate of thunder fans.    The fireworks started 28 minutes late, the difference in schedules being made up with overly patriotic country songs and making up stories about why they were running behind.   After the fireworks show, during which we were being showered with pieces of cardboard globes from the shells, we made our way back to the car and sat in the parking space for an hour while traffic cleared enough to allow us our escape. 
                After recovering from thunder over Louisville we spend the next couple of days socializing with family and doing chores about the house in preparation for our departure.  Kirstin’s sisters and their girlfriends had to get back to home and work so they left a few days after thunder.  We spent a day and drove to Indianapolis to visit Kirstin’s great uncle Daryl, and we were greeted with his wonderful hospitality and the inevitable tour about the yard.  It was a joy to have made the trip and after spending a few hours with Daryl I understood why Kirstin wanted to make the trip. With the rooms available, we moved our things into brains house and began making preparations for our departure.  On our trip across the states we had been giving things away to people and eating our way into a slightly more spacious and comfortable car; all of that was over. With the gifts that we had received divided into their respective place sand modes of further travel we still had a decent sized pie of additional items to be squeezed into the little red car.  We did all this said squeezing in one day, it was surprising to me, but it all fit.  With more heartfelt goodbyes we whereon our way.
                We were on our way to Lexington,Kentucky to see Kirstin’s Aunt Carrie.  She lives in North Carolina but was in Kentucky on business and this would be our one chance to see her.  She was staying in a hotel and had meant for us to stay there with her but through some snafu,which had fallen through so instead she put us up in a nearby hotel for the evening.  We met for breakfast the next morning at Cracker barrel and we were off once again headed, in fact, to her house in North Carolina, which was the end of the line for the little red car. 
                I was interested in visiting a Civil War battle field and on our way east we made a stop in Richmond,Kentucky.  I had read in a book about civil war battle sites that tapes were available for loan and they could be played in the car as one drove about the area educating yourself about the battle.  I was sure that the civil war people had stepped up and reformatted to compact disks to be played in today’scars… at the Richmond visitors center we acquired said CD and I was quite looking forward to our self guided car tour. I should have known better… the narrator on the CD was nearly emotionless and the wording was to be, dry and unfulfilling.  The museum was awesome though, staffed by very knowledgeable and passionate volunteers and really explanatory exhibits.  I never know what to expect…
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