For over a year, we have looked forward to exploring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, because, although I really am not a huge bourbon fan, I love the science and history that comes along with distilling, especially in the Kentucky area. When we first drove through the area last June, everything was closed up tight due to COVID, so we were very excited to be back in the area now that everything is open again!
I’d been looking forward to this for a year!
Sadly, I didn’t account for the fact that there are still severe restrictions in place, including reduced hours, reduced number of guests on tours, and advance reservations! Since I did not make reservations prior to heading to Kentucky, we found that NONE of the places we had planned to visit had any availability for tours or tastings at all! As fate would have it we didn’t get to do a single official tasting or tour in Kentucky!! Now THAT was a tragedy! (although we were able to purchase bourbon at several bars along the way, so you don’t have to feel too sorry for us!)
That is one of the downfalls of the type of traveling we are doing. We prefer to have some flexibility to change our minds and go where our fancy takes us, so we are only booking about 30 days out for the most part. That means that we often have more challenges finding great places to stay, and it also can mean getting edged out of some tours we might have hoped to take. For us, the risk is worth the reward of not being too locked into a rigid schedule. We know we can always come back another time.
Even without any bourbon tours, there was still PLENTY to see in the area, and we started off with a tour of Churchill Downs. It was thrilling to see them training some horses on the track, and I could almost imagine myself in the stands wearing one of those really cool hats on Derby Day! Our tour guide, a lifelong Kentuckian, was an amazing storyteller, and after an hour with him, I found myself tearing up almost like a local at the strains of “My Old Kentucky Home.” I highly recommend this place if you’re in town! We had hoped to catch a race while we were in town, but there were none happening this trip.
In the museum, they have a wonderful theater, reminiscent of the CircleVision 360 theater they used to have a Disneyland, (although of course in the shape of an oval, like the racetrack!) They played all kinds of scenes from past races, showed the crowds on Derby Day, and made you really want to be there! We could have spent the whole day in the museum just learning the history of the Derby, but we wanted to see more of the town so we made do with just a morning.
We found another fun dog park bar, this one converted from an auto service center. It’s called PG & J’s Dog Park Bar. They had big roll up doors in the back that opened to the outdoors so the dogs could run in and out at will! The owner was so kind and informative. There’s apparently a huge community of owners all over the country who all share ideas for what has worked for them. I’m telling you, this is a genius idea! Someone needs to do it in Los Angeles.
We wanted to do the Louisville Slugger factory tour, but it was closed on the only day we had available. So we headed south a bit to the Mammoth Cave National Park. They aren’t kidding when they say “mammoth!” Although the national park itself is about 80 square miles, and they’ve mapped over 350 miles of caverns, they STILL haven’t found the end of this cave system, so no one really knows how big it is! They have one section they call the Church because an old time preacher used to do his Sunday services down there. He would lead the congregation down using his lantern, and once they got there, they were pretty much trapped until he decided he was done preaching, because there were no lights to get back out! We had the privilege of hearing one of the docents sing an old Spiritual, and with the acoustics in the cavern, it gave me chills!
Of course we HAD to at least try to taste some bourbon so we stopped by Maker’s Mark to see if we could sneak in on a tour or a tasting, but no luck. They did let us browse the grounds at will, and they had a bar open where you could buy a flight, so we at least got to drink a little, and I got to dip a bottle of my own in the gift shop!
Next we headed to a state park with the crazy name of Big Bone Lick! It was a very rustic park, and the site was extremely unlevel, so it took us over an hour in the rain to get ourselves level and set up. To make matters worse, it was absolutely COVERED in cicadas! There were thousands of them! Not only were they loud, but their decaying bodies stunk to high heaven, and quite honestly I couldn’t wait to get out of there!
They did have a very interesting visitors center and explanation of the name. Apparently it was a salt lick for huge animals such as the Mastodon and the Woooly Mammoth, and those animals had big bones. They also had a bison preserve and we (and Pongo) had fun checking them out!
Fortunately we were only there for 2 nights to visit the Ark and the Creation Museum. I had heard it was a realistic interpretation of the size of the Ark, but it was still a bit of a shock to see just how big it was. BTW, in case anyone is wondering, it’s actually a building built in the shape of the ark, not a ship, so no, it wouldn’t float!
The Ark was impressive, and the grounds of the Creation Museum were lovely. After 2 days, though, I was suffering from information overload. This whole section of time in Kentucky felt like a whirlwind. So much for slowing down. It was definitely time for a rest!
Up next: Chasing Pokemon?