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.