Well, we’ve headed south and although we have a month left on our trip, it feels like we’re starting to head home.
The drive to Kentucky was interesting. We started in Indiana, went through Ohio, then back into Indiana again and then finally Kentucky. Boy, does that Interstate wind around and those state boundaries aren’t exactly straight either!
Now that we’re in Kentucky, the terrain has changed a great deal. Instead of flat farmland filled with corn fields, there are lots of hills and the trees are much denser. We even saw tobacco fields today, so we know we’re now in the south. It’s really beautiful here, but not as green as usual, since it’s been very dry. But that also means a lot less humidity, which is fine with me.
Our first stop is Lexington, the Blue Grass area of Kentucky. The horse farms here are magnificent. Many are surrounded by stacked stone walls, which the area is known for. We drove the scenic byway and it was so gorgeous with lots of rolling hill pastures and beautiful horses.
The homes are magnificent and some have huge gates at the entries. One in particular was so beautiful and unique that we took a picture of it. Then that night we watched the DVD, Dreamer, about a family rehabilitating a hurt race horse. In one of the scenes, they go to a farm and Jay and I both realized that the scene was shot at the entry to that beautiful gate we had seen the day before.
We’re staying at Kentucky Horse Park in the campground that is right next to the park. For those of you who are not familiar with Kentucky Horse Park, it’s over 1200 acres dedicated to educating people about horses and honoring horses. Bronze statues of the great race horses, Man O’War and Secretariat are at the park, many famous horses are buried at the park and past racing horse legends that are still living are shown at one of the shows. We saw the great race horse Cigar, who fell $187 short of winning $10 million in his racing career. To say that he’s gorgeous is an understatement.
They also have over 50 different breeds of horses at the park as part of their education program and it was great to see some of them in the breeds show. They even had a Spotted Saddle Horse, which is the breed I last owned and is a smaller registry, so I was surprised to see one in the show. Made me want to get horses again, but then practicality prevailed.
We were lucky enough to be at the park while the National Pony Finals competition was going on. The children that were competing were generally in the age group of 8 to 13 and it was so evident that they had put so much effort into practice and the care of their horses. To get to the national finals takes an unbelievable amount of time and dedication by these children and parents from all over the country.
On Friday, we headed out for a ride to Frankfort, KY, which is the capitol of the state. We stopped at Buffalo Trace Distillery and took a fascinating tour of their bourbon distillery. Buffalo Trace is the oldest and longest running bourbon distillery in Kentucky. They put bourbon out under 14 different labels and have received top awards for their bourbon for many years.
Our tour guide, Freddie, was the 3rd generation in his family to work there. We didn’t know anything about the bourbon making process and it really was interesting. Aside from watching the barrels being opened and drained, we got to see the special bourbons being filled in the bottles and hand labeled. We went into the building where the barrels are stored and it was like a cave with the best single barrel bourbons on the bottom levels where it’s cooler.
After the tour, we got to taste two of the bourbons plus bourbon candy. What a fun and fascinating tour.
Afterwards we headed into town and visited the All Kentucky Store that has crafts made only by people in Kentucky. Then we headed up the street to see Daniel Boone’s grave which is on a hill overlooking the capitol building and the Kentucky River. What a beautiful view.
On Saturday, we headed out to the Thoroughbred Center where they can house up to 1000 horses while they are training to race. We got to see quite a few horses being exercised and running on the track. They only exercise 10 minutes a day but given the amount of energy this consumes, it’s a lot of exercise. Did you know that when a race horse leaves the gate that within 3 strides they can reach their top speed of 40 mph?
These animals are so beautiful and yet so high strung but that’s what can make them winners. Some of the babies have sold for millions when auctioned at the Thoroughbred Center and there’s no guarantee that they will do well, while others sell for much less and could be a Kentucky Derby winner. It’s definitely not a business for those who don’t like risk.
We got a chance to meet with one of the owners while on the tour and we found out we can buy into one of his horses for $3000 and $10 a day. While visiting with him, we also got to meet Bill Arnsparger, a retired NFL coach for the NY Giants and San Diego Chargers. It seems he grew up in the area and retired back there and has an interest in race horses.
On Sunday we drove into downtown Lexington. Although it’s the 2nd largest city in Kentucky, it’s quite a small city. We walked around some and saw the historic downtown including Mary Todd Lincoln’s family home. We also drove to Thoroughbred Park in downtown which has bronze statues of horses including a large group of horses that appear to be racing. The detail on the bronze work was fascinating.
We then drove about 30 miles south of the city to Berea where they have the Kentucky Artisans Center. All the crafts and art work are done by Kentucky artists. We saw so many beautiful pieces there, as well as in the working studios in the historic area of Berea. We also got to see the Boone Tavern downtown.
On our last day, we took a tour of Toyota. The tour lasted about an hour and it was fascinating to see the Camry and the Solara being built. Toyota prides themselves on quality and they only build a car after an order is placed. What a busy place. It seems like a good place to work. They are non-union, have subsidized medical care and a pharmacy at the plant, subsidized child care at the plant and a fitness center on site. When we were leaving the area, the 2nd shift was coming to work. Glad we were outbound! Boy, were the roads clogged. Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any pictures on the tour as cameras, camera phones and even purses were not allowed on the tour. If you’re ever in the Lexington area, this is well worth your time.
Tomorrow, we drive a short distance to Louisville, KY for a few days.