Starting toward the South

One of the many perks of my job is that I am able to take time and spend time looking for activities that the average tourist might miss. One of the best examples of that was during my assignment in Kentucky. I am very interested in Civil War history and the south does an exceptional job of keeping that history alive. I took several side trips during the months that I had there. I was stationed at a small hospital in Carrollton, KY, which is halfway between Louisville (once in Kentucky, you learn the proper pronunciation) and Cincinnati.

As a kid, I was able to go to the Kentucky Horse Park with my mother and that was one of the first places I wanted to revisit. It has changed a lot in the 26 years since I had been there, but it still had the same effect on me. I adore horses and any time I do get to spend with them is a total win for me. I toured the museum and met some of the horses that were there. Some horses are also buried on the property and I learned quite a bit about what happens when a race horse retires and the honors given to them upon their death. I even made a friend in a sweet black cat that followed me all over the place.

As a bonus to being in Kentucky, I made a trip (one of several) to Louisville to go to Churchill Downs. I was very fortunate to go about 3 weeks before the Kentucky Derby and I had the tour guide all to myself. I have been to many places in the off-season and can’t recommend it enough! I was able to tour a large part of the facility and the museum. I learned quite a bit about the Derby and other associated horse races. I was actually quite surprised at how much I didn’t know about it.

One of my trips including going to Bardstown, which is the second oldest town in Kentucky. There is a Civil War museum there that concentrates on the fight in the Western Theater. Bardstown is also chock full of old taverns and several places on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail are near there. I visited the Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam distilleries and again, learned a surprising amount about bourbon. For example, due to the weather, production gets shut down for at least part of the summer because the heat will affect the taste. Also, the reason that most bourbon is from the Kentucky and Tennessee region is due to the limestone shelf that gives the water a distinctive flavor. The only problem I encountered was trying to find a place that would serve a Mint Julep, which to me was odd. I was told it was because there wasn’t enough fresh mint available at the time I wanted to try it.

I am friends with another traveler whom I met on my first assignment in Arizona. We have kept in touch and try to see each other at least once a year for a trip. While I was in Kentucky, she was working in Kansas and we decided to meet up for a long weekend in St. Louis. Neither of us had been to the Arch and were both interested. I had been there when I was younger, but at the time I was more interested in seeing the Clydesdales at the Anheuser Busch brewery. We both drove about 5 hours and met up at a hotel that had a beautiful view of the Arch. Interesting thing about St. Louis is that most of the museums have free admission. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we went to the Arch, of course. There is an interesting museum at the base and also a fun old-time country store. There is also a replica of the cars that you ride in to the top. It is a 4-1/2 minute ride, but it challenges even those of us without claustrophobia or height issues. There are five people seated in it and it feels like at any minute it will stop working. However, the view is phenomenal. One of the favorite things I saw from there was Busch Stadium, which we had toured earlier in the day. They allow you to stay at the top as long as you like, but just be forewarned that it is very popular. Seating is not always easy to come by. We were there in mid-March and almost couldn’t get to the top that day, so summer months I’m sure are a total zoo.

The next day, we went over and did a tour of the Anheuser Busch brewery. Even as an adult, I was far more interested in the Clydesdalesstlouis 033 stlouis 155 Abeslugger 022 CDandJIM 070 KYhorsepark 011 than anything else. I have grown to appreciate what goes into brewing beer though.

I went on so many trips during my seven months in Kentucky that this will have to continue in the next post….

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Favorite Players Part II

My second trip to Oregon has been just as filled with activities as the first time I was here. I am now living in the high desert located in central Oregon. It is about 5 hours northwest of Baker City and about 3 hours southeast of Portland. This part of Oregon looks nothing like Baker City does.  There are the mountains, but this reminds me more of Arizona. Bend, which is the biggest city that I am close to (I live in Redmond) reminds me very much of Flagstaff, AZ. I like it here and I don’t think I could ever get sick of looking at the beautiful scenery. Some days, it almost takes my breath away to look at how the sun rises over the snow-capped Cascades Mountains. The terrain has been formed by lots of volcanic and glacial activity. It is truly the work of fire and ice working together.

I was very excited when I first got this assignment because I have a very good friendIMG_3439 IMG_3452 IMG_3521 IMG_3633 IMG_3714 IMG_3818 who lives in Baker City and I knew I would be able to see her. The drive may be 5 hours over there, but it also is undeniably gorgeous. Passing through mountain passes and the John Day Fossil Beds area is beyond words. I was able to visit the fossil beds and a place called Cathedral Rock. Formed by the violent natural history of the area. As part of that, there is a place also called the Painted Hills. They truly are. The colors just run together and form these patterns that have no name. I only went once, but I read that the colors change considerably during the course of the day. I chose a sunny, hot day to explore-make sure you have PLENTY of water to avoid heat stroke. It really is in the middle of nowhere and not close to any place that you can purchase drinks or food. What I can promise is that you will have no regrets in stopping there.

One of the most unforgettable things is the first time I saw Crater Lake.  I equate it to my first breath-taking look at the Grand Canyon.  The expansive terrain of the clear, blue water and the jagged cliffs of the caldera are mesmerizing.  It’s far too  overwhelming to drink it all in without spending some time really looking at things and noticing the details.  I went to the visitor’s center to watch a short film and then decided to take a trolley tour of the 33-mile rim.  The road can get a little hairy and if you want to be able to see everything, I would highly recommend it.  I did also go into the lodge that is lakeside and was told that reservations have to be made at least a year in advance.  There is a boat tour for the lake, but it does require hiking a steep trail, which is not recommended by the park rangers if you have bad knees.  There are plenty of hiking and biking trails as well including part of the Pacific Crest Trail.  I would recommend not to miss this beautiful natural wonder.

This area is rich with outdoor activities and even if that is not something you’re into, the outdoors still begs to be discovered.  Hiking, biking, horseback riding, rock climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding and outdoor festivals are everywhere.  There are many museums including the High Desert Museum, which I thoroughly enjoyed going to.   I visited Lava Lands Visitors Center, drove to the top of Paulina Peak and hiked the Great Obsidian Trail.  The trail winds all through a lava bed and it’s like a landscape out of Star Trek.  The obsidian is shiny and beautiful-a sight you’ll never forget.  There are many hot springs as well to discover.

Oregon has consistently been at the top of list for breweries and this part of the state does its’ fair share to help Oregon stay as a brew friendly place.  I took part in the Bend Brew Fest and also on the Bend Brew Bus.  There are 10 breweries on the Bend Ale Trail-not unlike the Kentucky Bourbon Trail that I have also visited part of.  The cool thing about the bus is that it picks you up at home or hotel to discourage drinking and driving.  They take you to four breweries, where you try whatever sounds good to you.  So far, my favorite brewery is Boneyard-their Diablo Rojo (made with Habanero) brew was just too good to resist and since they don’t bottle or can  their beer, I left with a growler of it.  The coolest thing I thought was that the brewery was built from cast off part of other breweries (13 to be exact) and they opened their doors debt-free.  That’s pretty impressive in my book.

The list of things I have seen and done here probably could keep going on and who knows what I don’t know about to go see.  Part of the to-do list is Smith Rock, where there is hiking, but it mostly caters to rock climbers.  I can assure you that boredom will never be a problem here.