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.