Sunday, August 14, 2016

Being Neigh-borly...

Kentucky Horse Park
...and on that note...

July 15, 2016

I think that slamming doors in a hotel is ignorant. So is filling your cooler with ice at 10 p.m. when you have a reasonable expectation that the rooms on either side of the ice room may possibly be trying to sleep. 

On that note, "ignorant" is also locating the ice room near sleeping rooms! 

Anyway. That being said, today was Lexington, KY. Lexington is beautiful and the area we were in was truly horse country. The shale dry-fit walls were amazing and we could easily have spent more time here. We headed out after breakfast to the Kentucky Horse Park. 

Mind you, Kid #2 said that he "wasn't a fan" of horses. Not specifically a dislike or fear, but as he said, "I have a healthy respect for something that weighs nearly 2000 pounds and has a mind of its own." OK. I can live with that. He promised me a slew of horse jokes and groan-worthy puns, but a funny thing happened on the way through the stables...

Be a Bono
Every. Single. Horse. Loved him. Seriously, I doubted my "horse mojo" with him around, because they flocked to him and ignored me. I think he might be a convert now. 

We took the trolley ride, visited a number of barns and actually got to pet easily a dozen horses. INCLUDING 2 - TWO - KENTUCKY DERBY WINNERS! (as a post-script, a friend went to the Horse Park 2 weeks after we did, and was not allowed to pet the Derby winners...I guess it's up to the grooms and how the horses feel that day)

Royal - unashamed...
Funny Cide and Be A Bono were out with handlers and we were allowed to get up close to them. We also got to pet the miniature horses (who cuddled up to The Kid with alacrity), the draft horses (finally, a horse or two taller than he is!) and two Marwari horses. These are very rare; there are about 20 of them in the US and 4 of them live at Kentucky Horse Park. 

We also touched the noses of a Lippizaner, Morgan, Percheron, Chincoteague Pony and a Saddlebred.

A Paint Horse
So what capped The Kid's conversion was an incident in The Big Barn (aside from his obvious change of heart when they all snuggled up to him...). We saw a stall door open and Royal, a huge black Percheron. He was drinking from one of those 5-gallon "pickle bucket" buckets and we asked his groom if we could pet him; she said, "Wait till I get done here, so I can be next to him." Ok - fair point. 

Well. Royal apparently didn't like the water. In a move which I couldn't have filmed unless the camera had been trained on him, he picked the bucket up by the lip and flipped it over his head. 

Pony before he bolted
Here's some context: There was easily FIFTY POUNDS of water in that bucket. His groom shook her finger at him and said, "Oh, ROYAL, you stinker!" I cracked up and looked at The Kid, saying, "Did you SEE that??" He was laughing so hard that he was leaning up against another stall. "I cannot BELIEVE he did that," he said. "Wow - now I know why they call it a 'horse laugh' -- he's grinning like he knew EXACTLY what he was doing," he said. Of course he knew what he was doing! 

Left: Morgan; Right: brown Marwari
On the way around, because now he wanted to see EVERY barn we could see, we stopped at the farrier's (blacksmith's) shop. We found, through conversation, that the blacksmith was from Lemont! and that The Kid knows his family from Providence Catholic High School! Small world... He did see the power of a peeved horse, however. The Chincoteague Pony was getting his hooves trimmed but one of the gardeners let loose with a weed whacker right outside the shop. The pony pulled the rope right off the wall and nearly took the blacksmith down as he tried to bolt. It was an experience, to be sure. 

Another draft horse
During our time in the park we saw the Man O War statue and The Kid commented on how "sturdy" Man O War was compared to the higher-strung more delicate thoroughbreds were lately. And the "stride display" they had was very interesting. They had three poles spaced a certain distance apart, and they represented John Henry, Man O War and Secretariat. John Henry's stride was 22'... Man O War's stride was 24'... and Secretariat's stride was 28' --- twenty-eight feet. And the average horse does this "stride" about 2,000 times in one race. 
Man O War

The last thing, before I forget. It's kind of priceless. We went into one of the rooms where they had examples of the different styles of riding: Western and English. They were on those 25-cent mechanical horses, but they were fully tacked-out, not just a molded saddle like the old-fashioned kiddie rides. 

So The Kid gets onto the Western style horse and tries to settle in. He grimaces, and says, "Now I know why the cowboys were grumpy...How DID they get comfortable??" I cracked up; he thought English was more comfortable, till he got into THAT saddle. I showed him how to settle in and he's still not confident that "the man-parts" don't get bashed a bit when the horse starts moving! 

Stopped at Limestone Blue in downtown Lexington on our way out of town. Tried to see a church - but it was locked up. The waitress at Limestone was making goo-goo eyes at my kid... and he knew it. And she KNEW he knew it!

I had the weirdest sandwich: grilled cheese. "What?" you say... Well, let's put it this way: whole-grain bread, grainy mustard, brie, grilled Brussels Sprouts and raspberry jam. Yep. 

It was delicious. 

On the way back to Illinois - Tuscola overnight then home - we realized:

  1. Mostly all farm-to-table restaurants on the trip.
  2. No churches this time.
  3. Only 1 cemetery.
Tuscola rolls the sidewalks up at 5 p.m. Not even a decent restaurant open, so we actually had milkshakes for dinner; we were ready to be home.

July 16, 2016... Home. Tired. Still friends... 

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Rain, Rain - Go AWAY!

July 14: A driving day. 

In driving rain. Seriously, vicious driving rain. Three states and three severe thunderstorms, to the point where we were driving down the highway at about 35 mph, with windshield wipers at max, and the safety flashers on. The wind was blowing us sideways and the thunder was shaking the truck. 

Soooooooo - Mammoth Cave was out. We got rained out. We left Batesville, MS at 7:30 a.m. and we got to Mammoth Cave close to 2 p.m. The last tours commence around 1:30 so that even though the storms were abating, we missed the chance to go into the caves. 

We weren't happy, but we were lucky that the rain came on a driving day, instead of a touring day. 

We skipped lunch to get to Mammoth, and having done that and realized that it was a no-go, we consoled ourselves with a recommendation from a friend: Red State BBQ. 

Seriously - it's a shack off the main highway in Lexington, KY and it's in front of a trailer park. I couldn't make it up. 

Red State is worth the wait! Delicious, and we got to sign the wall. The place is pretty low-slung, so The Kid actually got to sign the CEILING! Best. Baked beans. Ever. 


The Kid had a 3-meat blend, with coleslaw and baked beans. 

I had a Pulled Pork with coleslaw on it and mac & cheese. They had 3 kinds of sauce you could add - a spicy one that was kind of North Carolina style, a Memphis style and a mustard style. Of course, we dabbed a bit of each on separate bites to see which we preferred. The meat was tender and delicious - melt-in-mouth kind of meat. The baked beans were decadent. The coleslaw on the sandwich was just the right balance with carrots, red cabbage and a mayo-based dressing. 

The mac & cheese was - oddly enough - almost like my grandmother made. I was starving, but honestly it was just enough food. 

The hotel is ok. Well, honestly, meh...It's old. And huge, kind of like a capital "E" in shape with different wings. It's also a conference center, so there was a lot going on. I didn't hit the hot tub, because it was too far away. I will commend the desk staff for being incredibly friendly and gracious. 

I took a couple of walks up and down the halls to work out the kinks. I was a bit stiff from the nervousness I felt driving through the horrible weather. Should I have let The Kid drive? Probably. But I'm not sure he would have wanted to. 

Spent time recovering from our drive in; tomorrow is the Kentucky Horse Park. We're thinking about perhaps finding a Civil War cemetery before we head to Tuscola. The trip is winding down a bit, and that drive took a lot out of both of us.