Heading north

Trip Start Sep 15, 2012
Trip End Oct 07, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Ohio
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Our odyssey continued in Louisville this morning mainly at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory which was totally worthwhile! Since Mike and I are both big baseball fans, we had been looking forward to this visit and we can happily say that it lived up to expectations. A bonus was that we also enjoyed downtown Louisville. The architecture was very pretty there: early twentieth century as you can see from the pictures.

At the Louisville Slugger Museum you can see almost the entire process by which they make the bats. What's particularly interesting is that prior to 1980, they could only craft twelve bats before lunch and twelve afterwards. They used a lathe and hand carved the bats. I can only imagine how many you would have had to screw up to finally get it right. 

What I learned (which I am sure many more committed fans like my husband are very aware of) is that while there are regulations for major league bats, there is quite a bite of leeway within the guidelines which allow hitters to have very specific preferences for the way their bats are made. So, Louisville Slugger makes bats to hitters' exact specifications. Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia both have their bats made through Louisville. Pedroia's 'billets' or the cylinders of wood that become the bats were marked with a 90 while Youkilis' were marked 85. I imagine that these are the ounces involved which are reduced from 90/85 to the final weight after they are shaved down. 

The machinery at the current Louisville Slugger factory is very impressive. It used to take about 30 minutes to make a single bat and now, with the computerized lathe, it takes 30 seconds. So, given this change, it's possible to see how all of our manufacturing has gone from  a high level of complexity to about 20 people in the entire production line from start to finish. 

It was also interesting to learn that Louisville Slugger has always been an 'environmentally friendly' company in terms of the fact that they replant the trees with four for every one that they cut down. Bats are made out of ash mostly, although sometimes maple, which they harvest from Pennsylvania and New York. It makes sense that if this is where you like your wood to come from, you better replenish it.  (I just learned on Wikipedia that these forests are apparently being threatened by an invasive species of insects that eat ash and that the company has been figuring out other forests to use in the even that theirs become eaten.)

The only thing that was really stupid about the Museum and Factory was that they had a special room for the 'lady' fans (honestly, the tour guide said, 'for all you ladies,') to check out the 'hottest' players. You could even vote on them. Oh boy. So, I was deeply offended as an actual fan of baseball that there is a gender-specific area, having nothing whatever to do with baseball, where I could go. It was sad. Other than that, we both really enjoyed checking out the process and hearing about the preferences of different players. 

Following that, we checked out a few random roadside attractions in Louisville including a plaque at the spot where "Happy Birthday" was first published as an actual song and a giant bat. This successfully completed our mini-tour of Louisville and we subsequently hit the road for Cincinnati, only a short drive away.

I don't know if I noted it earlier, but the trees are changing throughout Kentucky and Ohio. We tried to get some pictures while in the car. This is not always successful, but it is hard to resist the urge to document all of the beautiful colors we can see while we are on the highway.  

Our first stop in Cincinnati was the National (Underground Railroad) Freedom Center. This was a rather strange museum. We were looking forward to it because we both knew the outlines of information about the Underground Railroad and thought it would be pretty fascinating to learn more. The building in which it is housed is very striking and held out promise, but inside it seemed like there was a great deal of empty space. Also there was a lack of general information about the purpose of the museum. We guessed that the museum was avoiding an over-arching narrative about something so complex and diffuse, but it came across as rather disjointed. It didn't help that two of the four exhibits were shut due to water damage (probably from the recent storms!). I dunno though. I think the best part was a video they showed which was a dramatization of one woman's escape from slavery. Mike didn't appreciate it too much because he thought there was too much emphasis on 'saving' the woman (as opposed to her own determination to save herself). Either way, I thought the danger of her journey and the dangers for both her and the members of the underground railroad was worth seeing. The other exhibits were not as good. There was a lot of information, but it seemed oddly arranged. So, we left a little bit unsatisfied. We were bad and skipped a section on modern slavery. Mike was just overloaded and I was unsure why a museum about the Underground Railroad needed to address modern slavery. It's not that I don't think human trafficking and such is important, but it just seems like a different thing altogether.  

After the museum, we walked around downtown Cincinnati and checked out the Reds Stadium along with some of the other sights on the waterfront. It feels like it is having a little revitalization with a new waterfront park. In general, we felt like Cincinnati was a much more attractive and vibrant city than we were expecting. 

For dinner, we went to Skyline Chili which is a well-known local chain. Their version of chili is not really in accordance with more Tex-Mex fare. For anyone familiar with Boston's 'American Chop Suey' it is sort of similar to that except with the addition of beans. They serve it over spaghetti and with a huge helping of shredded cheese over top. We also went to the local ice cream parlor which had some impressive ice cream. Their flavors are very intense. I had Blueberry Pie and Banana Chocolate Chip while Mike ate Peanut Butter Chip and Cinnamon. I didn't love the banana flavor, but the Blueberry Pie was to die for. 

It's hard to believe that we are here in Cincinnati at this point. As with all trips, this one feels both long and short at the same time. We only have two more destinations! Tomorrow it sort of a smorgasbord of fun with potentially Taft's house here in Cincinnati, some photo ops in Columbus, OH, a stop in Ohio's Amish country and finally on to Cleveland! We have two nights in Cleveland and it should be good with a little Ferrante family history mixed in with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.   

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