The rain continued to come day on Friday morning. The plan was to pack up and drive all day until we reached home. Vacation was just about over for us. This was our last day on the road.
After showers and packing up, we went down to load up the car one last time. Pulling out of the garage, we got out onto the streets of Memphis. I headed south before I realized that I really wanted to go north to get across the bridge to West Memphis. The navi saved us and got us out to the expressway without going too much out of the way. Thanks, Navi.
Traffic was a little heavy. The rain was light so it wasn’t causing things to slow down much. The road curved to the west and led us over the river. A white Ford Escape in the left lane was driving well under the speed limit. The driver was talking on the phone. I bet he had no idea he was causing a traffic jam as everyone was trying to get around him.
We stopped in the West Memphis service plaza to grab breakfast. My thinking was that we ate well here and make it down the road a good ways before we need to stop for a meal. The restaurant we picked had a breakfast buffet with just about everything you could want. Sylvia, our waitress, got Rich a couple of eggs over easy. She also brought a full coffee pot to the table. We could fill our cups as we liked. After eating, I filled the travel mug from the pot. This was convenient.
Rick and I went through the shop to look around while waiting for Rich to make a stop. Halfway through my round, I realized I had forgotten the travel mug on the table. I hurried back to the restaurant just as Sylvia came out looking for me. I thanked her profusely since Rich would have been unhappy not to have coffee for the trip back.
Back in the car, we headed into Arkansas with the rest of the northbound traffic. It was pretty much uneventful. The flood waters stopped a few miles north of Memphis. I pulled into the Missouri Welcome Center after driving for a couple of hours. It was time for Rich to take over. I took a nap. With my sinus unhappy from the wind and dust in New Orleans, I needed to rest.
About 2:00 PM, Rich decided the car needed gas and he was empty as well. I’m not even sure where we were. We found a gas station and a Hardee’s next door. As we waited for our food, a group of guys were finishing up and I heard one of them say, “I haven’t seen a Hardee’s around in a while.” The manager asked where he was from. The guys answered, “Illinois.” I swear that he pronounced all of the letters in the name. Do people from the state actually say it that way? I know Southerners tend to say it that way. I thought it was very funny.
We got back on the road and headed toward home again. Somewhere around Champaign, we pulled into a rest area to take a break. In the rest room, a group of 10 to 12 year old girls huddled in front of the door and hand dryers. What do you call a group of girls like that? I was thinking a gaggle. I’m sure there is a good name that fits. When I looked it up, the closest was a bevy of ladies. Naw, that doesn’t work.
Rick took the wheel and got us a little further up the road. I got to sit in the back seat and read. I always love when I can read from here. I snuggled in and got comfy. Before I knew it, it was a couple of hours later and Rick was pulling into the last rest area before hitting the Chicago area. As he was pulling, three buses were pulling into the truck lanes. One bus was pulling into the car parking. We parked ourselves and made a break for the bathrooms to beat the worst of the crowd. I made to be third in line, even though I can’t run.
Getting back out of the bathroom proved to be more of a challenge than getting in. I had to wind my way through girls standing in the hallway to get to the sink. At the door, I had to almost shout excuse me at the top of lungs to get out again. The girls in line wouldn’t part ways to get through. Did they really think I was trying to cut line to go again? There were kids standing everywhere in the rest area lobby. Why were they all standing around in here? It’s nice outside. Go out there and walk around!
In the car, it was my turn to drive us to the house. Traffic was tight and rush hour was going to make it tighter. A fender bender on the eastbound side of I-80 was causing traffic to be slow on the westbound. I’m always amazed that rubbernecking causes so much trouble. There was no blood. Once past the accident, the traffic picked up and moved down the road.
It was getting pretty dark by the time we got into the Schaumburg area. Rich was planning to stop for chicken in Palatine. I really had a taste for hot and sour soup. Since I was getting this anyway, it was decided to come on in to home and get food from there. We arrived home about 7:00. Yes, we had made it. The guys picked out food while I started to unpack the car. The order was called in and everything was brought into the living room. There was time to get everything into its own place later.
The guys went after the food while I settled into my chair and took a lot of deep breaths. Home always feels so good. One more Zurek Family Vacation in the books and ready to be written about in a blog.
Today, we are on the move again. We woke up to dry skies, but the clouds were very low. It’s probably good we are leaving NOLA today. We start our first leg back to the real world and home. After packing up, Rich went down to the lobby for coffee so that he would be prepared for the drive. We would stop and grab something to eat on the way out of NOLA.
I called down to get our car brought around by the valet and to have someone bring up a cart to help us get all of this stuff downstairs. I thought it would be easier to tip someone. I am on vacation, you know. The young man knocked on the door and even had his own doorstop. That’s good planning. We got everything to the door and he loaded it up for us.
Rich had not returned, so Rick and I headed to the lobby to try and catch him. No luck though, because we missed him somewhere. Rick sent a text to join us in the lobby. A couple of minutes later, Rich appeared with phone and coffee in hands. He said he got to the room and saw the guy taking the cart to the service elevator. He figured we were already downstairs.
I thanked the ladies at the front desk for helping us around the French Quarter during our stay. They had the best information and always willing to help me figure out how to do something. The Courtyard was the best place. We had a wonderful stay with them.
Down in the garage, our car was ready and waiting. The valet was giving me instructions for getting out of town and back on the road toward Memphis. Our luggage showed up and I packed the car with my usual expertise. Time to wave good-bye and creep out into rush hour traffic in New Orleans.
We got lucky and traffic was clear. We headed west on Dauphine St and followed the Navi to I-55 going west. We had gotten on the other side of Lake Ponchetrain when the first rain drops started hitting the car. It was only sprinkles at this point. So we made it out of town before it got wet. Now that was great planning.
We stopped up the road for gas and something to eat. That would take us into Clarksdale. The rain got a little heavier as we were getting around the Tennessee border. Then it really broke loose as we got off the interstate and onto the minor highway. There were times when it was a little hard to see. In some places, we hydroplaned somewhat where water just couldn’t run off.
As we moved north, the evidence of flooding was getting more and more. In several locations, the fields looked like good sized lakes just standing with water. A couple of places had water running from one field across the road to another field. It was a single lane of traffic at these points. Luckily, it wasn’t trying to sweep any vehicles with it.
We got into Clarksdale at the crossroads. The viaduct on 61 was closed because of high water. We snaked our way through the neighborhoods. At one point, the train was blocking the tracks because it was stopped for water. We got around it all and back over to 61. Across the Sunflower River, we found that Hick’s BBQ was still open.
We had just an hour before they closed for the day. We ordered half a dozen tamales, rib tips, BBQ pork sandwiches with fried okra and baked beans. Rich and I had been trying for a couple of years to catch Hick’s open so we could eat the best tamales in the world. The guy behind the counter laughed when I said that. However, it is true. These were some of the best hot tamales that I’ve had. We’ll have to stop by and try them again.
We got back to the crossroads and headed north for Memphis. I tried to stop for gas outside of Clarksdale, but apparently the pumps and computer system was down. With the storms and rain, it appears that things have been down off and on all day. I opted to get gas further up in the delta.
We’d be spending the night in Memphis and hopefully get to see some blues at Run Boogie Blues Hall. Rick can check out the act on stage next door at Rum Boogie, if he wanted. I knew Rick also wanted to go by the Gibson Factory. He wasn’t interested in the tour so much as the guitars on display and the fact that you could play them. I think we had a full day for our one night there.
We got within 10 miles of Memphis when a sign said the road was closed. Apparently, the high water here had the road closed to traffic. We got on an east-west highway to get around the block. This took us out of our way by some miles, but it was better than nothing. This road took us back over to I-55 so we could head up to Memphis. The road was drier here, but there were still some places with standing water.
The exit off to the interstate ran down into some of the industrial areas. At one point, we were detoured again because of high water. This wound us around through some of the older neighborhoods and right by Gus’ World Famous Chicken. We turned on Union and right down to the hotel. We were across from The Peabody. I tell myself I’m going to stay over there someday, but today was not that day.
We got checked and ready to walk to Beale St. Somehow, Rick talked his Dad into going over to Lansky’s first. When I caught up to them, they were standing by waiting for the famous Peabody ducks to go up to their penthouse for the night. I pulled them along to the Lansky store to shop instead.
Once inside the shop, the colors and textures are wonderful. I find it hard not to run around and touch everything. Rich started looking through shirts and hats. Nothing was standing out for him. Rick saw shirts he liked, but he figured he would never really wear. One of the salesmen asked about our day. I explained we had stopped by to look. Rich then found the perfect shirt. It was a black camp shirt with guitar picks and a fret board on the front. On the back was a full guitar and the words, “Home of Rock and Roll” in bright colors. It was beautiful and it was in Rich’s size. Out came the credit card and Rich purchased it.
I ran the shirt back over to the hotel while the guys walked down to the Gibson Factory. By the time I came back down to the street, it was starting to rain. I had left my rain jacket upstairs guessing that the rain was over for the night. If you have to decide something, I figured I’d go for warm. Darn, I got that wrong.
I didn’t see the guys when I got to Gibson. Inside the door, I looked around. A young lady who worked there asked if she could help. I explained I let my kids come down where and I couldn’t find them. Rick walked from behind one of the racks about then. I told her I found one of them. She laughed. Rick sat down and started to play a Les Paul that he had admired. Price tags here are to be admired, but not paid either. Rich sat down on a couch and waited as Rick and I walked around and around the guitars. It is an impressive place with lots of guitars just hanging around. After buying a new guitar strap that says Gibson, Rick was ready for me to drag him out of the store.
We walked back down to Beale Street, but no one was playing any live music yet. That would be around 8:00. We checked on the schedule for a couple of places and getting the names of groups who would be playing. We walked down toward the Handy Park to check out some places. Across the street, Dyer’s was open. Rick decided he was hungry again. We went in for burgers and beers.
Back out on the street, we wondered up Beale Street toward B.B. King’s place and then around the block back to the hotel for a rest. The rain had pretty much quit and it was getting a little bit chilly. We’d rest our feet and then head back down to Beale for the 8:00 shows.
Live music started up at 8:00 PM on Beale Street. We left the hotel just after the guitars started. The rain was coming down slow and steady. The five minute walk up to Beale Street didn’t soak us through. We got to the door for the Blues Hall Juke Joint with the music coming through the door. The doorman checked our IDs and stamped our hands. Luckily, the bar is free to enter. We stepped inside and the music surrounded us.
We took over one of the high-topped tables and shucked the raincoats. Rich stepped up to the bar and got us three bourbon high balls. Well, they were actually Canadian whiskey high balls since that’s all they had. The Blues Masters were on stage. I wouldn’t say they were exactly blues. They were playing mostly R&B and Soul. They weren’t bad though. We heard three or four songs.
The crowd was ebbing and flowing around us. People would move between the Juke Joint and Rum Boogie Café through the adjoining door. A large group of guys and girls came in at one point and tried to find seating together. They ended up at a table behind us and a table right up front. They didn’t stay too long before they picked up their Big Ass Beers and moved back out to the street. I assume they were looking for a specific type of music and hadn’t found it yet.
The band brought up their singer after the first few songs. Her name was Queen Anne. To my ears, it sounds strange to name your child with a title as their name. She had a nice voice. Unfortunately, the lead guitarist was also the sound guy. To hear Queen Anne over the band, he cranked her mic up over the other sounds. This meant the sound now made your ears bleed.
We hung out for a couple of songs and finished our drinks. It was time to go while we could still hear. I would prefer to hear more music. I asked the guys to walk through Rum Boogie Café in hopes that the band there was still on stage. I wasn’t having any luck though. No one was on stage and the lights were dark.
On the street, we could hear music blaring from several locations all at once. The rain was coming down harder. Maybe it was time to call it quits for the night. We were planning to be on the road early tomorrow. It would be a long day as we planned to drive on home for the 8 and more hours.
The street was dark with the rain coming down. In a couple of spots, we had to skirt puddles to keep our feet dry. We debated crossing the street at Peabody Place against the light because there was no traffic coming down the one-way street. At the last minute, the pedestrian light changed in our favor.
We joked about melting before we could get back to the hotel. Good thing none of us were that sweet. As we passed the Peabody Hotel, Rick told me we’d be home now if I had just made reservations there. I told him I would have, if he were paying. We crossed the street and entered our warm and dry hotel.
The night in Memphis didn’t work out as well as I had planned, but we did manage to do a couple of things we wanted. Rick got to play guitars at Gibson. Rich shopped at Lansky’s. We got to see the Peabody ducks walk to the elevator. The live music was short, but enough to remember.
Happy Birthday, Rick. Today is my son’s 22nd birthday. On this day 22 years ago, he woke me up from a sound sleep to take care of some important business. He arrived about 4 weeks early and has been dragging his heels about things ever since.
We weren’t in any hurry today either. I didn’t have that much planned. I did want to do a trip to Cemetery #1, but it turned out to be $25 a person. It wasn’t that important to me. We saw the cemetery on the way in. So the first plan was to find breakfast. Checking the lobby meant something expensive and maybe not that good. We headed to the street to find a restaurant.
Can you believe that not that many places serve breakfast in the French Quarter? I made the executive decision to go to a little place that sounded interesting. Unfortunately, it had been replaced with a Vietnamese restaurant that wasn’t open. We backtracked a bit to Café Beignet and got coffee for Rich. He’s not really human until that first cup goes in. We found a table on the patio and got gospel songs from a homeless man. He was very good and sang “Amazing Grace,” which is one of my favorites.
Rich had a sparrow take an untimely accident on him. It wasn’t too bad and he could clean himself up. From here, I got money and we headed down to the river. I wanted to check out Jackson Brewery for lunch before going over to the French Market. I talked to the bartender for a bit and we decided to come back there.
Down the shore a bit, we entered into the French Market. The first half was a market for foods and food stands. The smells were wonderful. We stopped to try some pralines. Rich got rum, Rick got peanut butter, and I got original. They were delicious. We should have had breakfast here!
Further down, the flea market took over. Most of this was handicraft items being sold by individuals. I looked at the jewelry, but it was really good quality. I decided I could make any of that. There were leather goods and wood carvings. A few people had artwork or photographs that were interesting.
I circled back around to find the guys had gotten water and Rich a second cup of coffee. Since the coffee was still hot, we moved to the park to watch the people and talk. People watching can be quite fulfilling here in the Big Easy. There are so many different things going on at the same time.
We headed down to Jackson Brewery for lunch. Inside, we had choices to make. I would stay downstairs at the main bar, but Rich decided to sit upstairs and have a view of the Mississippi River. Rick decided not to drink quite yet. Rich had a pomegranate beer while I had the Canebrake IPA. I ordered the shrimp and grits. Rich got the alligator jambalaya and Rick got the Chignon du latté (milk pork) po’boy. The food was so wonderful. We ate and watched the world go by outside and basketball for the ACC play inside.
After lunch, I was trying to find a t-shirt for New Orleans, but not having any luck. The guys found theirs earlier this morning. We headed up St. Peter St to Bourbon St. First stop here was to the Tropical Island to try a Hand Grenade. Louie from work said that we had to do it. OK, we were game. A couple at the bar acted like they had already had several. They were excited to have someone come in and order. The taste is fruity, but with a bitter after flavor that was almost like an artificial sweetener. It wasn’t that great. However, it was pretty potent. Rick managed to lob the grenades from our drinks into the overhead basket.
While sitting at the bar, a couple of people came in and ordered shark attacks. The bartenders would sound the siren and ring the bells. A drink was set on the bar and a plastic shark was put into turning the drink completely red. It was a nice gimmick, but not one that I would try to drink for. As it was, I couldn’t finish the drink I had. We slipped out and I deposited my cup in the trash. The guys kept their souvenir glasses and headed back to the hotel. We tried it, Louie.
I was still on the hunt for a t-shirt. I had seen a large shop on Bourbon St that I wanted to check out. The guys left me to shop and headed to the hotel. I walked around the shop, but nothing looked like what I wanted. If anything came close, it was not in my size. I might have to go home without a shirt to commemorate my visit.
At the hotel, I got on the elevator with a family of 5 from Texas. I know they were from Texas because the Mom, Dad, and the eldest son said it about 5 times between the two floors. I made my way through the sprawling hallways back to the room. It’s funny. The hotel seems to be built between three different buildings, which requires you to make random turns to get way to our room. It’s nice because it is us and one other room back here. Now that I know the way, it’s not too hard anymore. Learning the intricate turns was a little difficult at first.
Rich is napping. Rick is messing around some online game stuff. I’m writing up today’s blog. All of this is while we rest before taking off again. We are headed to Lafayette Square for Wednesdays on the Square. Tab Benoit and the N’Wahing Johnnies are playing. There are supposed to be food booths to buy all different kinds of foods. I’m hoping there are different kind of drinks as well. We thought we’d listen to some New Orleans blues and enjoy some time in the park. I’ll let you know how that went when we return.
So sad. We got our chairs and walked down to the park. There was no concert about to start. There were no food trucks parked waiting for people to order up food and drink. We talked to a couple of people sitting around the fountain there. Apparently, they came in and tried to set up. The wind was pretty strong so they packed it up again and sent everyone home. No concert tonight. Darn. So we packed our chairs back to the hotel.
After resting our feet for a bit, we went out to look for food and music. We already figured out that the best places to be were not on Bourbon St. Heading down Dauphine St., the first place was a martini bar that didn’t really have much food. So we had one drink and moved on. Rick did try a Stinger and really liked it. The band was OK. I didn’t care for the singer’s style, but the sound was OK. We left and headed down Iberville to a small bar the guys thought was pretty cool last night. The music didn’t start until 8:00.
In the meantime, we needed food before we could really carry on. Between them, the guys decided to try the Vietnamese restaurant from this morning’s adventure. It sounded good to me. Rich got Pho while Rick and I got different rice dishes. It was all pretty darn good. The place was really small and was filling up around us. We got enough food to be able to enjoy the evening and it was tasty.
We headed down to Decatur St. to see what was happening at Big Mama’s Blues Lounge. It was comedy night and not what we were looking for. We moved on to the jazz bar down the street. Unfortunately, the first act had finished up and the next group didn’t even show up. That’s OK because there was some pretty good blues music playing, the night was warm, and the bar was all opened up. It was a great night to be out and about in New Orleans.
Around 8:00, we picked up and moved on to Iberville and the 21st Amendment Bar. This place was tiny. There were three or four tables and the bar itself. The menu was mostly whiskey drinks, but there were some interesting mixes. I saw the Day of Death Chocolate Stout and that was my drink. Rich got the Bull in a China Shop and Rick did the peach shandy, which was surprisingly good. Shine Diehl was playing with a group of string musicians. It was kind of folk, Jazz, and ragtime with maybe a hint of old Jewish sound. It was different. Shine had this kind of donkey braying sort of laugh that he did after every song. All in all, it was pretty good though.
We finished up our drinks and the band took a break. Time for us to make a break for it also. We were all tired from walking around town. Believe it or not, we walked somewhere in the neighborhood of 18,000 steps for the day. So for all the eating and drinking, we also walked it off. Not a bad vacation.
Tomorrow is supposed to rain here and it has been raining cats and dogs in Memphis. Not sure what we will find when we head normal tomorrow. Hopefully, we can get into Memphis and back out again on Friday. I’d really like to hear more music and get to see a bit of the Beale Street areas. Wish us luck.
Today, we had a bit of a slow start. After breakfast at the hotel, we headed south to Avery Island. For Rick, we were doing a tour of the Tabasco plant. He so loves this stuff. I do believe he puts it on just about everything he eats. Rich had been in the area almost 30 years ago while working for Motorola on a Louisiana system. He highly recommended the Jungle Gardens on the island. So we were off to tour and wonder around.
I stopped in the New Iberia tourist information office once we got off the highway. The man there gave me a lot of ideas for things to see and do. He said that that the azaleas were in full bloom so the gardens would be full of blooms. I love azaleas!
Down the road, we got into the swamps and crossed the bridge into Avery Island. The brick buildings were ageless and had been standing for quite a while. Walking up to the ticket office, I noticed the Tabasco sign and had to have a picture of the guys in front of it. It was perfect.
In the museum, we went through all of the exhibits that told us the story of Tabasco. Pretty amazing that one guy started something because he lost his job. He knew pepper sauce and figured why not. It has been a family business for many generations now. The tour goes from the nursery where you see the different types of pepper plants, to the cooperage, to the mashing, to mixing and fermenting, and then on to bottling. The line we watched was bottling garlic Tabasco for the Chinese market. They are in just about every country of the world!
After the tour, we stopped by the Country Store to see what souvenirs were available. Rick picked up a shirt and some sauce he couldn’t normally get. We sampled the different sauces and some of the products made at the plant. I most certainly don’t have the taste buds for the hot stuff.
We ambled down the road to the Jungle Gardens. Rick ran in for a map and then we made our way down to the first stop. This is bayou country back here. With that, we came looking for gators. Most of the ones we could spot were small. We got a lot of great pictures.
The road led around through the Southern oaks hanging with Spanish moss and blooming trees and bushes. We walked several trails. There was a lot of timber bamboo growing in groves in the garden. The estate uses it for railing and for bedding on the The Rookery for the storks. We saw one of the oldest know trees in the state. The Survey Tree was a large, overgrown tree back in 1810 when one of the settlers used it as a marker. It was a rather larger and pretty heavily damaged tree as we looked it over.
One trail led back to a Buddha set up in a temple on a small rise. The plaque says that the statue was pillaged from a temple in China when the Chinese Empire fell. The rebel general scavenged the statue and sent it to New York to be sold. A friend of the McIlhenney family told them about it and it was purchased and brought to Louisiana where it has resided since. I’m surprised that it was not required to be returned to China. It is beautiful and the hilltop is peaceful over the lagoon.
We took lots of pictures and walked all of the trails that we could. We had plans to go to Gator Cove for lunch. Rich wanted to do a crawfish boil. Unfortunately, the Cove was closed and wouldn’t be open until 5:00. Dinner it is then.
We stopped by the Blue Dog Café and had another round of seafood. Rich had the crawfish enchilada. Rick went for the crawfish pasta and I had gulf shrimp with more of the corn macque chow. There was dirty rice with boudin sausage. I love that stuff. The flavor is so wonderful.
After our late lunch, we went over to the Acadian Village. This is a collection of homes and businesses from around the area with ties to the Acadian people. The lady in the country store was wonderful to talk to. Her father grew up with the Acadian version of French. She said her mother was Cajun (non-Acadian) and learned to speak French to communicate within the family group.
The houses all have history and each one is devoted to some aspect of life within the Acadian settlement. There were lots of things to see and look at. The village is arranged around its own version of a bayou. It was nice to walk through and take our time. Stopping into the offices, Rick and I went through the local art gallery. I even had a conversation with one of the artists as she volunteers there. She was so interesting. From her speech and word choices, she was definitely Acadian. It was bonus to talk with her about her art.
One the way back to the hotel to rest, Rich decided he had to have some of the local coffee to take back home. I haven’t had any yet, that I know of, to judge if it was worth the trip to find some or not. We passed a grocery and stopped in to see what we could find. There were a couple of types in whole bean. This was good enough for Rich.
Now we are back at the hotel resting up and waiting for dinner time. Then it’s off to Gator Cove to enjoy a crawfish boil and probably get some of the BBQ to go with it. More to come later.
Okay, I’m back. The road outside of our hotel turned out to be a main road for everyone in Lafayette. We turned the other direction and hoped that the Navi would come up with better directions. It did. We took a left and followed the road to the next road going east. This road turned out to be directly across from the frontage road where I needed to go for the restaurant. That was cool.
We drove down the hill and around the back of the building. Hurrahs went up as the Open light was lit. Time to get some crawfish boil. I did stop the guys from going right in. We just had to take a picture with the front doors. The gators and crawfish were so cool.
Inside, the young lady at the podium had a great accent. We heard y’all a bunch of times. We got seated and ordered drinks. When she returned we had figured out the order we wanted. Then she threw a wrench into the order. Do you want 3 lbs. or 5 lbs.? That was the question. Rich made the decision for 5 lbs of crawfish, some sausage, corn, and potatoes. We ordered boudin and pepperjack cheese as an appetizer.
The appetizer came as eggrolls filled with goodness. I so love boudin sausage. It has such flavor without a lot of burn. I do see that it is different from each person that you order it from. Our waitress returned soon with a big black container. When the lid came off, it was full of red bugs topped with corn and potatoes. This was the moment for pictures before we delved in and learned the skills to twist the tail and pull out the sweet meat.
I had our waitress show me on one of the bugs first and show me how it was expertly done. She deftly twisted the tail. It came away easily with the outer shell attached. Peeling off the shell, the tail was exposed and ready for dipping. The dip was more like Russian dressing, but you could add hot sauce or horseradish.
We began digging into dinner. Pretty soon, 5 lbs of bugs was down to just a couple. Rick and I had reached the end. I still wanted dessert. Rich took care of the leftovers. At the back of the room where sinks where you could scrub up and remove the seasoning. It didn’t really burn the skin much, but the lips were on fire a bit. It was highly recommended that the guys wash up good before going to the bathroom.
By the time I got back to the table, the dessert tray had come and gone. I heard there were great things on it though. The waitress came back with the tray and it was scrumptious. I ordered the strawberry and dark chocolate cheesecake. Rich got the bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Rick got the Butterfinger cake. Yes, it was all heavenly.
Time to pay the bill. I just had to get t-shirts from the place first. The guys got gray shirts that say Got Crawfish on the front with the Gator Cove logo on the back. They were really nice. We talked to the owner for a bit. I guess all of the good seafood was being shipped to the Northeast since Sandy to meet demands and good money. That was sad. I guess they had seen better days with all of the restaurants that had opened in the area. This was type of place that I really look for when I go to an area. It has atmosphere and great food.
Well, dinner was over and we were so full. It was time to head back to the hotel and settle in. I can finish this blog and post it along with pictures from the day. It was definitely a great day on vacation. Tomorrow, we head to New Orleans for a couple of days.
Vacation came early this year. Rick had his spring break start on March 4. I decided that March might be a great time to go and check out Louisiana. As long as I was paying, Rick was up for joining us. Sure, why not. Besides, his 22nd birthday would be during that week. It’ll be like old times again.
Rich had his first distiller’s conference from March 1 through 3 for his new employer, Whiskey Resources. Not exactly the best planning, but he could use the week to rest and recover. Vacation planning went into full on mode in December and all reservations were made by January.
Rick arrived home on March 4. He had finished up midterms the day before. He managed to sneak in the door without my notice. Sascha was right on it though. Poor baby, she hobbled to the door so fast to greet him. I ran to join her. My babies were both at home.
As a side note, Sascha started to hobble on Tuesday pretty bad. I was thinking she had bruised her paw somehow on the ice and snow. By Wednesday, it wasn’t any better. Being the worried mom I am, I took her off to the vet that afternoon. After a big hit to my wallet with x-rays, visit, and meds, the diagnosis was a broken toe. Yep, she had cracked it lengthwise down the second metacarpal. No wonder it hurt so badly. On the x-ray, it was pretty swollen. The vet insisted on bed rest. I told him that was next to impossible. At least, she was going to the kennel for vacation and would be limited to what she could do.
Rich came in on Friday afternoon. He was still pretty excited from the conference. He had met so many people, tried so many distilled liquors, and had so much free stuff. He also had the beginnings of a cold. Darn! This is no time to get sick. He chattered away about his time with the distillers and I listened with lots of patience. It was great to see him get so excited about this aspect of his new job.
We were all winding down that evening as we packed and got things ready for leaving on Saturday morning. Rich still had to keg his Husky Paws beer before we could leave. He got up and got moving without much prodding. As he was moving the beer from fermenter to keg, Rick and I took Sascha to the kennel. Everyone had to make over her paw. As usual, she didn’t plan to stay, but could make a quick enough getaway. We said good-bye and got in one last set of hugs.
Back at the house, Rich was finishing up. Rick and I began to pack the car. Wow, it was almost 11 o’clock by the time we were ready. Breakfast was next. I should say brunch, right? We stopped into Island Café to get something good to hold us over until dinner that evening. I had a plan.
It was almost noon by the time we got on the road. Traffic was fair and we made good time out to the highway. From there, speed was good and we were sailing along. If you have driven in Chicago, you know it is mandatory 70 miles per hour out there. I follow that run to keep from being run over. Pretty soon, we were on 57 and heading south.
The trip was going well so far. The temperature was hovering around 40, but I could blue skies up ahead of us. Rich had checked his phone for weather and reported 65 in Cairo. No way! Warm weather was close at hand for us. Just about Mount Vernon, we could see the line of clouds that outline the boundary between cold and warm. Suddenly, sunshine was all around us. The car was registering an amazing 55. Vacation had truly begun.
I had been trying to visit a BBQ place in Southern Illinois for the longest time. Today was the day we would stop and try it out. The restaurant is called 17th Street BBQ. The main restaurant is way off the highway, but they had a satellite open in Marion, which was right off the interstate. We made it there about 5:00 and just ahead of a crowd.
We got seated and reviewed the menu. Tracy, our waitress, made a suggestion to get Mike Championship Platter, which came with a little bit of everything they had. We added several sides to that and were all set. The food arrived. Oh my gosh! This was definitely some of the best BBQ I have tasted. I do believe that Rich still makes the best, this ranked right up there. We ate until we could eat no more.
It was back on the road. We had a couple of more hours until we could stop for the night. Blytheville, Arkansas was the destination. This was the halfway point for our trip. By 6:00 PM, it was getting pretty dark. I saw deer hanging by the side of the road and worried that I was going to have to dodge one of these things in the dark.
Luck was with us. We had no suicidal deer, traffic was quiet, and we managed to drive in the warm night to our resting place. That evening, Rick and I hung out in the hot tub talking while Rich rested comfortably with his box of Kleenex. Vacation is good.
The next morning, it was breakfast at Perkins and then out on the road. We made a stop by Walgreen’s for more cold supplies. Memphis was relatively quiet. Sunday mornings must be a good time to circle the city. We’ll be back on Thursday though.
We headed south and skirted the Delta for now. The road took us down to Jackson, Mississippi. We did manage to get Rick to pronounce it like the locals: Missippi. I was amazed to find that traffic was running pretty fast today. I was pushing the upper limits of 75 to 77 while a lot of cars and trucks were blowing by us pretty quickly. What is this the autobahn?
Rick took over and drove for a bit. He was nervous, but probably with good cause. He had to manage not to hit the group of black kids crossing the highway at one point. Then there was the guy who was halfway up an exit ramp and slammed on the brakes so he could do a U turn and cross the grassy shoulder to get back on the highway just to try it again at the next exit. Rick did manage to avoid all of this and get to the Louisiana Welcome Center in one piece.
From there, I drove to Lafayette. That’s not without issues though. We got to I-10 and the world went crazy around us. Everyone started driving 90 miles an hour. To keep from being injured, I felt obliged to join them. I swear that the roadway automatically turned into the Daytona 500 and the vehicles all had decals of some sort on them. I was actually keeping up in the race for a bit, but was getting left behind pretty quickly. We raced on until just west of Baton Rouge when all of the participants seemed to melt away. I didn’t realize that NASCAR was invented in Louisiana!
We got off the interstate and onto the main road leading into Lafayette. Once again, it became a race track. The speed limit was 40, but I swear everyone around was going 60 through town. I was trying to keep up to prevent getting run over. The turn for our hotel came and it led to a nice, calm street. After several turns, we found the inviting lights of our hotel.
Inside, we talked to the clerk about the area. He was quite humorous and had a lot of jokes to tell. I asked for a recommendation on a restaurant. Being Sunday, I figured most things would be closed and I was right. He gave a coupon for Prejean’s, which I had looked at. He assured us the Cajun food would be great. We unpacked and headed out
This took us back out to the main road and the race was on again. I even got passed by a sheriff’s car racing with someone else. I guess it was just is the normal mode around here. We made it up the road and off the expressway to Prejean’s. Luckily, it wasn’t too busy. The hostess tried to seat us directly in front of the Cajun band that was playing. I asked to be seated at least one table back. It was hard enough to hear and talk.
Scotty was our waiter. He took our order without writing any of it down. We had gator bites to start. Rich got duck and andouille sausage gumbo while Rick had chicken and sausage gumbo. It came with rice on the side and a nice yeast garlic roll. I had the crab cakes with corn macque chow and rice pudding. Rich got crawfish etouffee. Rick ordered the seafood Alfred with crawfish, shrimp, crab, and some other seafood offerings. I tasted it all just to be sure. It was all so wonderful. We had no room for dessert was the only regret.
Back out to the car and get gas in this out of the way location. Then it was back to the race track and a fast run down to Kaliste Saloom Rd. Even the semis were trying to drive the route at 60. It was impressive. I wonder if it is better during the week.
Well, that’s the first couple of days of vacation. Tomorrow, we are touring the Tabasco Factory at Avery Island. From there, we plan to see a plantation, if I can find one that is open on Mondays. The Acadian Village is closed so there went that plan. Still, there is good food to be had out here and we plan to find some more. Where is that crawfish boil?
Second leg of our journey began early today. We got moving around 6:00 so we could be on the road by 7:30. Sounds early, but we had some big plans for the day. The road was still pretty open with little traffic. In South Dakota, the speed limit is 75. This suits me fine. I love to drive fast. Rich stuck right at 75 without upping the control a nudge or two.
Rich started out the morning shift. This allowed me to work on my right arm a bit before the temperature got above the 84 mark. There was a motive for Rich driving early though. That would come later in the day.
At Chamberlain, we prepared for the big drop. If you haven’t gone 90 through South Dakota and gotten to the Missouri River, you’ve missed this opportunity. It is one of my favorite things about this drive. When you reach the town of Chamberlain, the road drops a way to the Missouri. The hill is long and just falls forever. Going west is the most fun. Today, we filmed going down the hill using Rich’s new camera. The video was awesome.
After that, we made our way steadily across South Dakota with a goal in mind. We were stopping for lunch at Firehouse Brewing Company in Rapid City. We found this place on a vacation back in the 90s. It was so good back then and we hoped it hadn’t changed. We arrived in town about 12:30 and made our way into downtown. Firehouse is located in the old firehouse station in downtown. They converted it into a very nice brewpub. The beers have always been enjoyable.
We came around the corner and discovered that Firehouse had almost taken over the entire block where they sit. There is now Firehouse Winery two doors down. In between the brewery and winery is the merchandise store. We got right in at the brewpub and got seated. Rich already had his beer order ready. One Smoke Jumper Stout, please. Me? I’m having beer, but with root in front of the name. They make a great root beer also.
We started off with gorgonzola ale soup followed up with sandwiches. I had the Proud Turkey and Rich had the bison brisket done Carolina style. Both were great. Rich followed up with the Chukkura Pale Ale as his second beer. I think the Smoke Jumper was still his favorite. Mine, too!
We took pictures outside before moving over to the merchandise store. We had to pick up a shirt for someone on Rich’s bowling team. Arnie loves Firehouse also. I saw a second shirt that I could resist. It’ll be a surprise for someone.
Taking the picture out front, I realized they had a new logo and it fits. They says: Firehouse, the restaurant with the unfair advantage. So true.
After stopping off to pick up some items, we hit the road again. This time, we were headed to Buffalo, Wyoming for the night. We’ve been through this area before. Our first time was our honeymoon as we headed to Yellowstone National Park the back way. It’s a beautiful drive, but it does take a while.
Somewhere outside of Devil’s Tower, the temp hit 100! It was a scorcher. Rich was looking north off and on and could finally make out Devil’s Tower in the distance. It’s like the largest thing out there. We visited there a long time ago. I think Rick (Andy back then) was about 3. Rich remembers it well as the time that Andy was driving his mother nuts. It’s one of those stories we tell Rick all the time.
Rich was checking his phone from time to time. He says he was just confirming that he was out of cell coverage, in case someone was trying to call him. Since it was Saturday, I didn’t think anyone would be looking for him, but me. Rich said he told the guys at work that he would be out of coverage during the day. His exact statement to them was: Bears don’t need cell coverage. True. But if they had coverage, they didn’t have opposing thumbs and couldn’t answer it anyway!
We made it to Buffalo in good time. That’s about when we remembered the time change. We had crossed over into the Mountain Time Zone back in Chamberlain. We had gained an hour. We got to our hotel and checked in. At the door of our assigned room, we ran into a snag. The card wouldn’t open the door. Rich went down to the desk to retry the cards. Nope, still didn’t work. I took them back down and the clerk decided the battery in the door lock was dead. He assigned another room for us.
Luckily, those keys worked. We settled in and went through the literature about town. We decided to eat at the Winchester Steakhouse. This was because it was close, but also because it had great reviews for their steaks. When in Wyoming, you have to eat steak. And it was all true. Rich ordered a rib eye. It was cooked perfectly and tasted like the great Wild West.
After dinner, we decided to look around town since it was early. Buffalo isn’t that large a town. I soon had us on the road up toward the Big Horn Mts. This was the road we took into Yellowstone. Up in the initial mountains, we came to the Big Horn National Forest. We stopped at a couple of overlooks and read some plaques. Different sections of the rock along the road had been dated and new signs showed the age and era for each section. The oldest was Pre-Cambrian and dated about 3 billion years old. The youngest sign was labeled for 500 to 600 million years old. It was just a baby.
Along the road, we were seeing black tail deer having their evening meal. We missed the first couple. I did manage to stop for one and Rich took some pictures. Poor guy was eyeing Rich with a lot of suspicion.
We got some shots of the tallest peaks in the Big Horn range. Most of these were in the 12,000 feet range. And there was plenty of snow on top of them. Bet it was really cold up there.
When we had left the steakhouse, it was 90. At the first overlook in the forest, it was running about 76. We turned off the air and rolled down the windows. By the time we got to the end of our drive to turn around, it was running about 71.
We drove out in the forest for about an hour. At Crazy Woman Creek, we turned onto a dirty road to check out the backcountry a bit. The road was rutted and pretty rugged. As we drove, we saw these incredibly blue birds. It was like a bird right out of a Walt Disney film. The summer flowers were blooming everywhere.
The road took us right to the creek. Since we could see how deep the creek was, we decided the adventure would end there. We got some pictures of the exposed granite faces on the hills around. As we were taking pictures, someone came driving from the other side of the creek. We watched them cross and it didn’t see too deep. Oh well, time was getting late and we decided to head back to town.
We stopped to bother the deer and view one more overlook comparing the mountain peaks. On the way back down the mountain, we stopped for the outcrops of really old rock. We have pictures of the signs to prove someone thought the rocks were really old. These things were around before cells came in anything but single celled.
Back in town, we headed to the hotel to settle in for the night. I’m writing this blog and Rich gave up and went to sleep. Well, it guess it’s time to call it quits for another day. East Glacier Park is the destination tomorrow!
Luckily, the alarm went off this morning. Otherwise, I would have slept through the time to leave. Sascha finished the job by demanding to go out and look for squirrels. I got moving and took my shower. From there, it was time to finish packing. Rich got moving, too. Wow, even Rick got up. Just in time to put him to work.
Sascha took one look at suitcases on their way to the car and started dancing. Then the barking started. She never barks! I think she has forgotten all about motion sickness in the car. She just loves to go. Rick had to put her in the house since she wouldn’t shut up. I was afraid she would wake the neighbors.
We got the car packed. Everything found its place in the back or in the back seat. Only later did I realize we forgot to pack the travel cooler. Or maybe Rich didn’t bring it up so I wouldn’t try to shove it in. The new Subaru just doesn’t seem to have the same room as the Honda CRV. I miss my CRV.
I gave Rick a hug and a kiss. I tried to give Sascha a hug, but she was too excited and barking to get near. I managed to get a pet or two in though. We got into the car and headed out for the great Western states.
First stop was for breakfast. We got up to Richmond and stopped at the American Café. I love this little place. Food is always good. We got coffee and Rich took the wheel for the first leg. This gives me a good few hours to work on the right arm out of the window. Once the temp gets too warm, I have to roll up the window and give in to the air.
For those who aren’t aware of it, we have road rules for the car when we take trips. Over the years, we have devised a set of rules to create peace and harmony between the passengers.
Driver rules. Driver gets to pick the music. If you don’t like, bring your own music and headphones.
Windows down until temp hits 84. Then air conditioning can be applied.
Driver gets the first slot in the center console for beverages and other items.
Passenger is designated navigator and better not screw it up.
We only ran into traffic just outside of Janesville, WI. There appeared to be the remnants of a chain reaction accident with about 8 cars involved. The single lane traffic was gawking at the cars and multiple police officers. There was no blood. So why did we have to crawl at 10 miles per hour?
As we passed through several exits, Rich voiced a puzzle that he saw forming. Is it a requirement that all Wisconsin exits have to have at least one cheese haus? I thought about and watching the next couple of exists. Apparently, they do. And it is correct to say cheese haus.
Construction was minimal and didn’t slow us down much. We played with the new EyeSight feature in the car. This is an adaptive cruise control feature that looks for obstructions and controls the speed of the car for you. Rich loved it. I hate, but I like the cruise control. So I guess I’ll live with it.
Here’s how it works. You set the cruise control. You can determine the length of the distance between you and the obstacle in front of you. Rich goes for maximum at 3 bars on the graphic. I got for minimum at 1 bar. When you drive up to an obstacle, the car regulates the speed so that you don’t approach too quickly and keeps you the distance you want from a car or truck. So you come up on a car at 70 MPH and that car is only doing 60 MPH. Your car throttles back your speed to match the car in front of you. Once you go around, it speeds back up to 70 MPH. It won’t let you get closer to the car in front of you based on the distance you set.
Sounds cool, but if you don’t pay attention, you can find yourself going 60 MPH for a while. You also can’t apply more gas, because your car totally ignores you. It forces you to pass to regain speed. I hate a car that’s smarter than I am. Of course, I can see where this going. A car that drives itself to the location you designated. Can I take a nap until we get there?
We made it across the great state of Minnesota without incident. Rich had to have his 2:00 coffee. About 2:00, we were in the middle of nowhere. Every exit was blank and the signs indicates that you had to travel 10 miles north or south to find the town. Finally, we saw signs of life pretty close to the interstate. We found the tiny town of St Charles that was close by. We drove through town and found the Coffee Cabin open. It was fairly busy, too. Rich ordered coffee and I took a short break. I came out to find that he had ordered a sandwich also. No harm. I was driving from here on out today. The place was decorated in log furniture and plaques about cowboys and cowgirls. Funny thing was, this place was located on Route 14. This is the same Route 14 that runs just south of us at home and we take to work every day. We need Coffee Cabin on our Route 14.
Back on the road, we continued to listen to blues music and ride with the windows down. The temp never got over 82. Lucky me. Now I was working on the left arm. We’ve been down this stretch of road several times. One of my favorite town names through here is Blue Earth.
Without anything interesting happening, we made it to our destination for the evening. We stopped in Brandon, South Dakota, which is just short of Sioux Falls. The location was perfect for easy off and on with food available. We got checked in and went down to Tailgater’s for dinner. Rich got the Land and Lake. This was a steak and walleye. Turned out to be so-so. I found that surprising for South Dakota. We’ve had some really good steaks here. Well, on the way back, we’ll have to hit the cowboy bar in Mitchell then for good food.
So I finished typing up the blog du jour. I’m going to stretch out, relax, and read before it’s time to get some shut eye. Hope tomorrow goes as well as today.
We are headed for a stop at Rapid City to eat at Firehouse Brewing. This is one great stop that we never miss. Guaranteed good food there. Rich will drive in the morning so he can enjoy a couple of beers. I’ll have beers, too, but they’ll have root at the beginning of the name.
Rich and I took off to head to Kentucky for the weekend. For several years, Rich has been asking to go on the Kentucky Dinner Train. This is the weekend that he gets to go. We invited Alex and Kelli to go with us.
We were coming back from visiting down in Kentucky and had stopped in to the Jim Beam Distillery to do a tour. While walking back to the car, the Kentucky Dinner Training went down the track. Rich started asking if we could go on the train. Now maybe 10 or so years later, I finally made plans to take the train through the countryside.
On Friday, we got out Chicago without much trouble. As we got down into Indiana, the construction started to get in our way. I got a call from Aunt telling me that people were reporting issues getting south on 65 headed into Louisville. Then the weather started to get bad. Rain was setting in with lightning and thunder.
We got off of 65 at Carothersville and followed 31 South. We got around the traffic issues on 65 and jumped back on the expressway at Henryville, hometown of Harlan Sanders. From there we did pretty well until Clarksville. After that, it was all downhill. The traffic through Louisville was crawling at 20 miles per hour.
South off Louisville, it came to a grinding halt. According to the traffic map, there was an accident several miles down the road. Luckily, we could grab the last exit out of the Louisville area. Even that took a little while to move. We finally got on 31E headed to Bardstown. The rain poured down on us in buckets. After probably a good two hours after we should have arrived, we reached our cottage in town. Alex and Kelli had arrived ahead of us and they came by to meet us for dinner.
Margaret, the lady I had rented the house from, came out in the rain to run my credit card and make sure things were OK for us. Apparently, the area is in a drought and hadn’t seen rain for a few weeks. They were actually glad to see it fall, but not wash them away.
We were a couple of blocks from the square. I had made reservations at Talbott’s Tavern on the square. Turns out, you really didn’t need reservations. It was very quiet up there. But this is an historical landmark and I really wanted to eat there. Talbott’s opened in 1790s as the first stagecoach stop on the west side of the Allegany Mountains. This place would have been opening up as my relatives came into Kentucky.
Our waitress was very friendly. She noticed Kelli 31 bag and they had conversations all through dinner about the bags. It didn’t get us any discounts, but she got a nice tip. I had country fried steak. Kelli got the fried chicken. Rich and Alex had the burgoo and hot brown. All of the food was wonderful.
Needless to say, Rich and Alex were enjoying the bourbons and beers. I got the Kentucky Tea with bourbon and peach schnapps. Kelli decided to stick with the diet Coke. After dinner, we moved over to the bar for music and drinks. The entertainment was quite good. However, Kelli and I skipped out to look at the shops and walk through the square. At one point, we found ourselves at the Farmer’s Market listening to a group of local kids in a show. All of these were Junior High and High School ages singing doo wop and 60s soul. They were all very good. Can’t image where they could be in a few more years.
Circling back around to Talbot’s, we got the guys to leave willingly. We took pictures under the sign and down by the old jail, which is now a bed and breakfast. Yes, the jail doors are still in place. We walked back to the cottage and sat around talking for a while. Yawning much later, we decided on our plans for the next day and said good night.
On Saturday morning, we walked up town for breakfast at Mammy’s. Country ham, biscuit gravy and pancakes were all wonderful. Back at the cottage, we gathered our stuff to head out to Maker’s Mark for a tour. This distillery is tucked back in the hills around Loretto, KY. It was so beautiful back in there. Of course, you see a bunch of rickhouses, which is a building for storing whiskey barrels, as you are driving in. Alex keeps singing “Brickhouse” by The Commodores and changing the words to rickhouse.
We got a spot to park fairly close and walked to the former distiller’s house to purchase our tickets. The house is very nicely decorated with lots of mementos of the Samuels’ family that own Maker’s Mark.
In the living room, there was a large basket on the coffee table. There was a ball of fur lying in the bottom of it. Turns out, the fur was a live cat that just happened to be napping in the basket. No amount of noise or camera flashes seemed to disturb the cat from its slumber.
You were directed to the kitchen for bourbon flavored coffee or other beverages. The kitchen was pale blue and red straight out of the 50s along with a chrome table and set of chairs. Kelli fell in love with it right away. I think she is planning a remodel of her own kitchen now.
We wandered around outside for a while, until our tour was called. Mindy was our guide for the next hour or so around the facility. One of her comments stayed with me:
Not happy? Have a shot and forget about it. So true.
The tour was informative and ended with a tasting of Maker’s Mark products. At one point, the guide tells you to stick your finger in the mess fermenting in a beer well. Alex was way ahead of her. Rich was right behind him and had dripped some on his shirt. I accused him of trying to steal the recipe.
Being the DD, I don’t taste the samples. Rich and Alex split them. Kelli was game and tried them, but bourbon isn’t her first choice. Good job, Kelli. Somehow, the tours at each of the distilleries are a little different and you learn a little more about the process at each place.
After the tour, we went to the gift shop to purchase items. Alex opted to buy a bottle and apply his own red plastic to the top. We have pictures to prove he did it himself. He did it perfectly the first time. He said it was because he had plenty of practice hefting the bottle all the time.
We were on our way back into Bardstown then. I kept moving toward the line as the road curved and wound its way around the hills. This caused the Eyesight feature to ding at me. Alex liked that I called it Auto Nag. He started adding his own words to help out. “You’re over the line, Donnie.” I wasn’t familiar with that one. Turns out, it’s from “The Big Lebowski.” I told him I didn’t need help. His response was, “I’m from the Union and I’m here to help.” Kelli said that was up for interpretation.
We stopped in at the Civil War Museum for the Western Front. This museum covers local area residents who were in the war and some a little farther out. There were a couple of Hoosiers shown in the displays. I’ve never seen so many complete outfits in one place. Many people had family heirlooms for their ancestors.
Below the museum was a village structured from the 1790s. The log buildings were pretty cool. There were businesses and homes alike. A group of re-enactors were on hand to show off weapons and talk about the lifestyle. The rough weave of the clothing was pretty interesting.
Time to mosey on back to town. We parked at our cottage and walked up to get Rich some caffeine. Kelli and I looked in some stores along the way. I loved a t-shirt that said: “Time to drink a beer and dance on the tailgate.” I just couldn’t spend the money for it though. I might have to put Mindy’s comment on a shirt though.
So the day was pretty muggy and hot. It’s almost 90. We settled in for a bit at the cottage before we went our separate ways to prepare for dinner. Another shower was in order to cool down and clean up. Dress code for the train is a minimum of business casual. I decided on a dress to keep the cool going.
We met Alex and Kelli at the train in downtown Bardstown. The group for the evening was quite a bit larger than I had thought. We had a group all the way from Ohio who come out every year. This was their weekend. The crowd was old and young alike with us middlins.
Boarding the train, we found our table in the middle of the car. The windows were wide and very clear. This would provide a great view as we moved through the countryside. At the desk, they provided a card to tell you the sights to look for. These ranged from rickhouses for specific distilleries, a safe house for the Jesse James gang, train stations, and a trestle bridge that we would be crossing.
The train got started promptly at 5:30. That is give or take a few minutes. Nothing is quick in Kentucky. Dotty was our server for the evening. Rich and Alex ordered up beers and bourbon. Kelli and I ordered a champagne drink called a Chocolate Covered Strawberry. Chocolate is drizzled over a martini glass and then champagne with strawberry liquor is mixed. It was wonderful.
We had trouble on the way out finding some of the locations from the card. However, the countryside was green and beautiful. Children and adults along the way were waving at the train. We returned the favor. At one point, an older man had a steam engine running and blew the whistle for us as we passed. I figure this is his Friday, Saturday, and Sunday entertainment.
On the way back, we were able to find most of the landmarks and they were pretty clear. We just happened to be looking in the wrong directions at the wrong time. See, timing is everything. The trip back was faster than the trip leaving. Dotty explained that they had to get people back to Bardstown to view “The Stephen Foster Story” play. No thanks.
Dinner was wonderful. The flavors were great. I had chicken cordon bleu while everyone else has prime rib. We had a cheese plate and meatball appetizer plate. Alex and Kelli shared the Chocolate Train for dessert. Rich and I had the fruit cobbler. I was stuffed.
Once we got back to town, we decided to look around some more. We went back St Joseph Cathedral, but the doors were locked. This is the first American proto cathedral west of the Allegany Mountains. I think it was finished around 1816. For the time period, it was quite something. The bishop in charge is one that is pretty famous in the area, even up into Louisville.
Our next stop was the Rickhouse. Yeah, I know, another rickhouse. This one is a restaurant and lounge. We saw some signs for it, but it took a little bit to hunt it down. It was in the cellar of a building on the back of the cathedral. It might have been the wine cellar for the church at one time. We made our way in and found the bar. Unfortunately, we never knew the bartender’s name. Everyone only called him the bartender. We had a nice conversation with him as we sat at the bar and had more beer. These guys don’t drink a little bit, do they?
From there, we went back to the cottage to hang out for a while. We were all pretty tired from the heat and the walking. Being stuffed from dinner didn’t help either. Pretty soon, we were calling it a night. Kelli and Alex headed to their hotel. Rich and I settled in for sleep. That didn’t come too soon though. We had some trouble drifting off and talked for a bit. Soon, there was a beagle baying over someone’s stereo that seemed to go ballistic from nowhere. A retaliation from someone else’s stereo ensued and that poor beagle howled some more. Then quiet settled over us all. Ah, sleep.
Sunday morning came bright and not quite so hot. Rich and I packed up and headed up to Pat’s Diner for breakfast. It was good fare, but Mammy’s was definitely the best. We hit the road to head for home. The trip was so much faster without the rain, traffic, and accidents. We jumped off the track to go through my hometown and head by the cemetery to say hey and leave flowers. Back on the road, traffic continued to be good without much stopping.
We met my cousins, Karen and Jim, and their families north of Indy for lunch. Ben picked out a brewpub where the guys could enjoy themselves while the women folk talked. The food was really good. Funny, but we all ordered the same thing: pork tenderloin sandwiches! The waitress left a whole lot to be desired and didn’t keep up with us very well, even though she had hardly any customers. She made sure to add her 20% to the tab since we probably wouldn’t have done that.
After lunch and getting caught up, Rich and I headed home. We finally made it back with few things to mention. The weather was a little nicer at home than where we had been. The humidity and temp were less, but still more than I wanted to handle. It is nice to be home and get a greeting from Sascha. She was happier to see Rich than me though.
We had a great time and Rich can mark the Kentucky Dinner Train off his bucket list. Thanks for joining us, Kelli and Alex.
It was a gorgeous day out there today. We continue to try and keep up our hiking. And today was made for a good hike. We enjoy hiking a lot and it’s healthy. While over vacation, we decided to try and keep up with some long walks and hikes. Rich and I lost about 10 lbs a piece over vacation on our hikes. Seems like a good thing to keep up with.
Originally, it was going to be the three musketeers. Then Rick got a better offer to go and have lunch with some of his friends. We always tell him to be social, if possible. After breakfast, we dropped Rick off at the house and gathered our camelbaks for the hike. Since we didn’t know if dogs were welcomed on the trails, we left Sascha behind.
Last week, we went to Volo Bog and wished we had packed the baks. We had water bottles, but a little more would have been helpful. The baks give us somewhere to stow jackets when it warms up. It’s also nice to take a sip as you walk when you need it. I’d say it was one of the best investments we made in equipment.
Glacial Park is about 20 minutes north of us. This is an example of what the glaciers did in the area as they pushed south. All the rock, dirt, and debris were pushed out in front of the moving mass of ice. At the park, there is an excellent example of a kame, which is the large hill of debris just in front of the glacier. At the back of the park, you can climb Camelback kame and overlook the valley on both sides.
The area was a homestead for farmers who settled here in the early 1800s. Their original house, barns, and other outbuildings are still standing on the property. The park invites you to walk the trails during the good weather along with horseback riding. During the winter, the trails allow you to snowmobile or cross country ski.
Today, we were walking the trails. We started out at the main barn and just above the amphitheater. We headed to the kame first. The climb up the hill is relative easy. We came across a set of grandparents out with their grandkids. The kids were young enough to make the hike seem hard.
From the top of kame, you can look west and look out over the Nippersink valley. The Nippersink Creek winds its way gently through the grassy meadows. The Prairie Path runs through the valley as it runs north to Wisconsin. The valley was green and lush at this time of year. The trees have hardly started to change and the grasses are still very green.
Walking along the top of the kame, the path is wide and pounded down. The gravel kicks up easily in the dirt. The path is cut through the tall grasses and ground cover. Sumacs grow in places and their leaves are red and shiny.
The other side of the hill is steep and very gravelly. Rich slips a couple of times going down. I’m overly cautious because I don’t want to land on my face. I side step down to prevent having an accident. My legs burn again. Going down is so hard on the upper thighs. Downhill is my least favorite way to go on a hill or mountain.
We continue on the trail. At one of the overlooks with a bench, we come on an older couple with their dogs. Yes, we did see the sign that told us it was okay to have your dogs on the trail. One of the dogs was blond and small. The other was most definitely a beagle, that didn’t bay. I stop to pet both dogs and talk to their owners.
Back on the trail, we head down the Coyote Loop. This adds another .75 miles to the 1.5 miles on the Deer Path trail we are on. Just a good stretch of the legs. We circle around to the outer edge of the park on the south and can see the farm land adjacent to the park. We walk over the rolling hills and through the oak grove.
At the end of the Coyote Loop, we come out at the parking lot. From here, we jump to the Kettle Bog trail. This trail lets you walk a boardwalk through the actual bog. It starts out easily and you can see the path, but it quickly it overgrown and just a single path through the tall grasses and other growth related to a bog. The ground squishes and the boardwalks are floating above a bed of mosses.
We head back down the Bog trail through the tall grasses. I look down at my feet and see a small snake just at the toe of my right shoe. I screech to a halt and almost throw my shoulder out of the socket. The snake is fast and darts into the tall grass before I get a good look at it. I assume it is a garter snake with its dark brown scales and yellow pinstripes.
Rich totally missed seeing the snake slither away from him. Now we see them leaving the trail pretty quickly ahead of us. They all seem to be out sunning themselves on this nice day. We see one snake that is over 12 inches long. This must be a very healthy population.
One more hill stands before us as we head to the end of the trail. This hill takes up back to the top of the kames. We inch our way up slowly. With sore legs, it is a little harder than when we started out. We make it to the top and over to the amphitheater. The parking lot is just ahead.
We unpack our gear and stretch our legs before climbing into the car. We have one stop at the store before heading home. Rich is making Coq au Vin for dinner today. A nice warm and cozy meal just tops off the day.
That day came. Time to leave our cabin hanging on the mountain. We had a great week in the Smoky Mountains, but we have to return home to make money to pay for it all. Why does everything cost money?
We wake up early and start moving around the place. We packed the night before, so it’s a matter of getting things into the car. Then we clean up after ourselves. One last time, we look out at the mountains from our porch. I know I’ll miss this.
We lock up the cabin and drive down the mountain. We head toward Pigeon Forge for breakfast. The Log Cabin Pancake House is highly recommended for its country ham and gravy breakfast. Rich gets that and I just get the standard bacon and eggs. Oh yeah, I get the grits too. I am in the south, you know.
With both our tanks and the car’s tank full, it is time to make our way out of town and up the road to Louisville. We get to Dollywood Blvd and turn right. We get out to Veteran’s Blvd. This is a new road that gets you out of town without having to go down the main drag. Now why didn’t we hear about this last Saturday when we came into town! At least it didn’t take us an hour to get out this time.
We drive to I-75 and head north. The drive is pretty and the traffic isn’t too bad. We get to Rt 150 in Livingston, KY and head over to Bardstown. Oh yeah, it’s time to do another distillery on the Bourbon Trail. The drive is beautiful through a very rural part of Kentucky. We go through Perryville and so want to stop and see the Civil War battlefield. But time is short. We move on to our destination.
Just outside of Bardstown, we go to the Heaven Hill Distillery. We arrive just in time for one of the Deluxe Tour. This is a walking tour. That’s great. After hours in the car, walking is a nice change of pace. We walk out of the Bourbon Heritage Center and across the road to the Y barrel house. We hear the spiel about barrels, bourbon, and bottling. The barrel house smells so good. All the wood, time, and bourbon just create the right aroma.
We wonder through the ricks of barrels. We get to smell the bourbon still in an actual barrel while it sits in the rick. The line of the tour snakes past and everyone walks away with a smile on their faces. At the end of the tour in the barrel house, we see a line of trophy barrel that represent high points in production. The latest addition is the one millionth barrel. It joins others in the front rick and will continue to be joined by others while production continues.
Outside the barrel, Alan (our tour guide) points out the collection of large and small barrels that make up a comical figure. He calls the figure Bucky the bucking barrel bull. The sign beside him says, “No bull, just bourbon.” Bucky doesn’t look like a character, but he is supposed to be one.
We head back to the Heritage Center and conclude the tour. No, wait, we have to do the tasting! We go into Parker Beam Tasting Barrel. Parker is the current distiller and his son, Craig, is the assistant distiller. That is Beam you see on the end of their name. Beam as in Jim Beam. When you are one of five sons, you sometimes have to go out and find a real job somewhere else. Fortunately, it was just right down the road from home.
The bar in the Tasting Barrel is a full circle and we sit in pub chairs at the bar. Each place is set with two snifters. Yeah, they only let us taste two of the several brands they produce. However, they are the top end of the products. Evan Williams Single Barrel is in one snifter while the other holds Elijah Craig 12 Year.
Alan takes us through a short class on drinking and enjoying bourbon. I take a small sip on the Evan Williams Single Barrel. It’s not bad. I’m the DD so I don’t really drink anything. I pass my snifters over to Rich to finish up. The guy sitting next to me leans out to see me push the snifters to Rich. I think he was a little bit jealous that Rich was getting extra.
We complete our tour and purchases at the store. We drive through Bardstown to get back to I-65. I look around to see where we should stay when we come back to complete Rich’s Bourbon Trail passport. He has three more distilleries to visit to say he did them all. We already did Jim Beam some years back, but that was before Rich had his passport.
We stop for gas before getting on the highway. Rich comes out from getting coffee shaking his head. The clerk tried to rip him off for $2. That is crazy. We head down the road and back to the Marriot in downtown Louisville. I pull into the garage and we get out to gather our stuff. Rich almost screams that he lost his phone. I think maybe he just drops it and it fell into the back. We tear the car apart with no luck.
We check in and go up to our room. I get the number for the gas station and call to see if he left it there. No phone was turned in. Stealing a phone doesn’t work these days. There are locked up and the cards are impossible to get service on for a programmed phone. Rich worries about it and goes down to check the car again. No luck though.
I take a shower and hear Rich says he’s going down to check the car one more time. Poor guy. I hear him return in triumph. He had forgotten to look under the car next to ours. There it was. Now he could relax. Time for dinner.
We walk down to Main Street to check out the restaurants in the buildings that held the bars where I used to hang out. Patrick O’Shea’s is an Irish bar right next to where my favorite bar was. We sit near the door and have beers and food. It’s pretty good. I get to have a Bourbon Barrel Stout from Bluegrass Brewing Company. It is wonderful and very easy to drink.
After dinner, I was to look around the building. We talk to the hostess who explains about the renovations. It took about 4 years and a lot of money. This building used to house one of the first bars I snuck into at an early age. I didn’t sneak in to drink, but to dance. That’s all we really wanted to do. I have some good memories along Main Street. The building is beautiful. Lots of open space, wood, and brick. These buildings were built in the 1800s and have seen their share of hard times.
It’s time to wander down to Fourth Street. The street is picked up for the season. The stage is gone and the outdoor bars are gone. The restaurants still have their sidewalk tables and their doors open. It’s nice out here.
Rich wants to go down to the Seelbach Hotel and check out the bar again. This is one of the locations we hit back on our Urban Bourbon Trail days. The bar is nice, but not what Rich expected. He wants to check it out and see if it really wasn’t that fancy. It’s not. There are a few people there sitting along the wide bar.
Back out on the street, we turn toward the hotel. We walk by the Visitor’s Bureau with their sign showing the 5 acceptable pronunciations for Louisville. Rich takes my picture with it. Now it’s time to hit Blu. Blu is the bar at the Marriott. This is one of the big reasons to stay here again. We take a seat at the bar. Looking at the menu, I quickly spot a possible drink for me, Kentucky Peach Tea. It is sweet tea, peach schnaps, and bourbon. Rich orders a bourbon neat with a side of ice.
We sit back and watch the football game that is on the TV overhead. It’s quiet and we sip our drinks in pure contentment. If you have to end vacation, this is one way to do it. We talk to the bartender about the toppers on the Blanton’s bottle. Apparently, there are 7 different toppers showing a jockey in different poses in the act of winning a race. Each one represents a different letter that spells out Blanton. The last N is the victory sign overhead. Cool, but to collect them all requires a lot of money.
We continue our wandering and go upstairs. It’s time for bed and I’m sure I’ll sleep well tonight.
The next morning, we check out and head to breakfast. We drive up the highway to my hometown and find a booth at the Waffle House. It’s busy. The staff at the grill are talking loud, laughing and shouting orders. It’s fun to listen and watch everyone. I know I look around at the faces and wonder if I know anyone. It’s been so long since I’ve seen anyone here.
On the road again, we hit rain when we get close to Chicago. It’s on to home and into the arms (or paws) of the one’s we love. Rich goes in the door and Sascha comes into the kitchen. She looks at Rich and then does a double take. She can’t believe it’s her daddy. She dances and is very excited. It’s good to be home again.