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 Clydesdales 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….