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Thursday, August 6, 2015


When Leslie and I landed in Nashville last Wednesday we had four reservations: the hotel for our first two nights in Nashville, rental car for a week, hotel for Saturday and our plane tickets home ten days hence. So we had four of our nine nights, transportation and getting home covered. Our second night in Louisville, a decision to stay made after we checked into The Brown Hotel, I put in the map where the distilleries are that I wanted to visit, but no concrete plans as to which ones in which days. At dinner we talk about what we want to see the next day, as we drove around each day we would get an idea of where we may stay the night and usually would start calling hotels about 5:00 to see where there might be a room.

Spontaneity on a road trip has many upsides, like going to dinner, setting a ballpark and deciding to have dinner there instead. Or like our day in Wednesday.

Tuesday night we were discussing where to go on Wednesday. We had a reservation for Thursday night in Nashville that we made last Friday morning as we were checking out, but no plans on where to go on Wednesday. I was looking at the map and thinking about driving further east into Virginia and the Appalachians, then circling south and west toward Chattanooga. Leslie asked what I wanted to see or do and my reply was I pretty much just wanted to see the area.

"What about Indianapolis?" she asked, "have you ever heard of 'Funky Bones'?" I had not, so I Googled "funky bones" as she explained the art work to be and that it was featured in a book and movie the girls like, "The Fault in our Stars."

I looked at the map and noticed that a route from Lexington to Indianapolis to Nashville can include a trip to Cincinnati. As we continued to talk about Indianapolis, I was on my phone. The app specifically. "Are you looking to see if the Reds are in town?"

"They are, St. Louis is in town."
"Let's go."

We back tracked a little bit on Wednesday morning, heading back into Lexington near where we had been Tuesday when we finished our Bourbon Trail at Town Branch. At the Lexington Visitors Bureau we showed them our "passports" fully stamped and were given t-shirts saying we completed the Bourbon Trail. Leaving the tourist office we pointed our Chevy Malibu rental north.

About three hours and two hundred miles later we pulled into the parking lot of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and asked where we go to see Funky Bones. Abutting the IMA is the 100 Acres Park, donated to exhibit sculptures and installations, including Funky Bones.

The park is a combination of open fields, woods and a big pond or small lake, with paths winding around. We spent almost an hour taking pictures of Funky Bones and walking around the park.

Back in the car it was around 2:00 and we started to head to Cincinnati, about two hours and just over 100 miles away. We took surface streets across Indy, the IMA is on the western part of the city, driving by the Indianapolis Speedway and finding an old drive-in for lunch. The sign for the Mug n' Bun is Indy's oldest drive-in and they make their own root beer. I went for the foot-long with cheese and "sauce" (beanless chili) and the delicious root beer, Leslie went for the Mug n' Bun special, a bacon cheeseburger on toast. There is a reason they've been around since the 1930's.

On our drive to Cincinnati we found a room at the Radison in Covington, which is in Kentucky right across the bridge from Cinch and the Great American Ballpark, home of the Reds. A bonus feature we discovered when we got there was the free shuttle to and from the game.

Great American Ballpark is great. It sits on the edge of downtown and the Ohio River. While on the green minute shuttle ride across the river to the ballpark I procured two seats about 15 rows of the field down the left field line on We were dropped off by the hotel shuttle about 6:15 for the 7:15 start about two blocks from the stadium. The streets were packed with Reds and Cardinal fans, bars and restaurants were also jammed, a very festive atmosphere as we headed into the park.

We had one of our favorite meals for the second time in the trip, beers, peanuts, and dogs. In this case a bratwurst with sauerkraut for Leslie and a hot sausage for me. We had a great time, leaving the 3-3 fans in the 11th, catching the shuttle back to the hotel and seeing the 13th and final inning in the hotel bar. The bar closes at 11:00 and we showed up about 11:15, the bartender stayed open so the seven or eight of us there could watch the end of the game, "because you don't get this channel in your room."

A great day as a result of having no plans tying us down to a schedule.

Today's pics are out of order, but I'm too frustrated dealing with my Kindle to try and deal with putting in order.

One of the entrances to Great American Ballpark

Statue of my all time favorite, number 5, Johnny Bench

Using old nickname for the Queen City to sell sausages

First she finds a bourbon vending machine....

The best seat in any ballpark is next to this pretty lady

 Leslie at Funky Bones

Internationally Famous

Locally Famous

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mission accomplished

Around 5:30 this evening, 2:30 in California, Leslie and I completed the official Kentucky Bourbon Trail as defined by the Kentucky Distillers' Association. Visiting the nine distilleries on the trail and getting our "passport" at each. From Sunday through Tuesday we visited eleven distilleries and has tastings at ten. So you don't think we are driving around all whiskeyed up, each tasting is no more than an ounce and it is at least an hour between tastings, often more than two.

The beginning of the end of the trail began early this morning at an "off-trail" (a distillery not part of the nine on the list from the USA) at Buffalo Trace, which distills some of the best bourbons on the market, including the most sought after, and expensive, Pappy van Winkler, as well as one of my favorites, Blanton's.

The tour at Buffalo Trace was excellent. We learned that whether you have a good tour and/or tasting or not is very dependent on the guide. Jeff at Buffalo Trace was excellent giving us some very good information on the history of the area and on the Buffalo Trace distillery and its products. For instance the bottle of Col. Taylor Tornado Survivor bourbon I received as a gift some years back that enjoyed every drop of us now selling for up to one thousand dollars or more.

It was neat to see the Blanton's single barrel being hand bottled and labeled. As well learning that the horse and hockey on the bottle's cork has eight different styles. Each of the eight versions has a letter on it and if you get all eight you can spell B-L-A-N-T-O-N-S. One more twist to the cork topper is that is you line them up it the horse is running a race with the first one being the horse standing still, the next one breaking from the gate, etc. Fantastic tasting as well, alas no Pappy notes below.

Next up was Woodford, about twenty minutes away through some beautiful horse farm country. One of the highlights of this trip has been the journey through the Kentucky countryside. Rolling hills, twisty roads, immersed in woodlands then breaking into open fields. At one point today I commented that when we return around 2018 to buy bottles made from the barrel with my name on it at Maker's Mark that I hope my buying window includes the end of September/early October so we can see this country in fall foliage colors. (Regarding my barrel at Maker's Mark, if you go to their website and sign up to be an ambassador they will put your name on a barrel. In about seven years our so when your barrel of ready to be bottled they will notify you and you have a the ninth window to buy bottles from your barrel--and you have to buy them at the distillery in Loretto.)

We had a great experience at Woodford, another one of my favorites. Instead of the standard tour and/or tasting we signed up for a food paring. No one else signed up so it was just Leslie and I with our guide, who looked a lot like George W Bush. We went out on the patio and set out on a barrel had was a full shot of Woodford Select Reserve and a plate with very small piece each of parmesan cheese, dried cranberry, orange, dark chocolate and a tiny bit of sorghum molasses. Also on the table was "flavor wheel" and W talked about the ingredients in bourbon and how foods being out different flavors in the bourbon, much like food does with wine. A great experience reading the small bites and then taking tiny sips of the Woodford.

From Woodford we had another lovely half hour drive to Wild Turkey. We cheated a bit on our Bourbon Trail passport as we had it stamped but didn't tour or taste. I asked what was being poured in the tasting room and there was nothing I either wanted to taste or had not tasted before.

We took off towards Four Roses stopping in the way for lunch at a local chain we had seen a few of the last two days, Huddle House. Think of Denny 's in the space of a Waffle House or old Taco Bell. We try very hard to not eat fast food on our trips, this was somewhat compromise, not really fast food but not real fresh either. (For Sharon, smoked sausage melt for me, chicken sandwich for Les.)

Four Roses is a good looking place, but the tour and tasting were like their standard bourbon, not that great. Tasting notes below.

It was just after four when we left and our final stop was Town Branch Distillery in Lexington, a half hour away and closing at 5:00. Town Branch is interesting because it is part of Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company. In Louisville I had a few Kentcky Ales from Alltech and it was very good so I was intrigued to try their whiskey.

We got the too late for the tour, I wanted to go to great about the layout and how they operate as a better brewer and distiller. They did however let us join the final tour group at their tasting. No beers but some really good whiskey, notes below.

Finding a nearby Best Western we checked in and found a really good roadhouse for dinner. Pretty slow to get our food but with the wait. Smoked meat combo for me with excellent smojed meatloaf, pulled pork and brisket, Leslie went for the brisket sandwich.

At dinner we discussed our plan for Wednesday since we are back in Nashville Thursday night and flying home Friday. I was thinking pudding further east and south. Leslie asked, "how far is Indianapolis? Google 'funky bones'." Indianapolis is just a few hours away, Cincinnati is en route and the Reds are hosting the Cardinals. There are storms going through the region which may impact some of the planning. We'll see what happens.

Stay tuned.


I've been asked about good values, hard to quantify but once we get back I will try to put together a list of bad values and then what seems to deserve to be in certain price ranges.


Wheatley vodka: yes we had a distillery sneak in a what vodka. I'm not a vodka drinker, Leslie is, but this was really, really good. Incredibly smooth, distilled ten times, perfect for drinking straight in a martini, wouldn't waste it with a mixer.

White Dog: like other distillers Buffalo Trace pulls its "white" off the still before the barrel, cuts the proof and bottles it. Unlike what we tried at other distilleries Buffalo Trace White Dog is pretty tasty and without a burn. A very good cocktail bar, or for your friends telling them you have some 'shine.

Eagle Rare 10 Year: very good, especially for the price range. Smooth, very good flavor, can serve as your base bourbon for mixing, sipping, cooking.

Bourbon Cream: think Bailey's but bourbon. Very good, we tried a small amount with an outstanding root beer and it was very good.


See above, we just tried the Woodford Select Reserve, which is an excellent bourbon, triple distilled so very smooth, one we usually have on hand as one of our premium bourbons in the home bar.


Yellow Label: no reason to buy this. At the tasting they even said, "this is your everyday bourbon..." trying to compete with Jack, Jim Beam, etc. Spend a few more bucks and get something that tastes a little better even if just using for mixing.

Small Batch: Another dud, not much different than the yellow label so not worth the extra money.

Single Barrel: Now we have a good bourbon. The one we tasted at the distillery was good, no burn, pleasant to drink. I received a birthday bottle from my brother that is also pretty good. Four Roses uses a different recipe for its single barrel, they should use it for Yellow Label and Small Batch.

TOWN BRANCH: Newer outfit that fits as far west as Texas in current distribution.

Sparse Lyon Reserve Single Malt: Another tasting that is not a bourbon, and since distilled in Kentucky it cannot be called "scotch". With the Scottish and Irish heritage in Kentucky and the bourbon history it is surprising no one else does a single malt. These guys do and it is good, I'd put it in my bar is we could get it California.

Town Branch Straight Bourbon: strong rye effect and finish for me, smooth, good for sipping or mixing with the flavor profile.

Town Branch Rye: Excellent flavor, very smooth, another rye that has me becoming a fan.

Bluegrass Sundown: an interesting drink. Liquid that you put a few tablespoons into a glass, add boiling water and it makes a coffee flavored drink, top with cream. Tastes good, don't think I'd buy it.

Blanton bottles being corked, sealed, labelled

Blanton's going into the bottle

Pre food and bourbon tasting at Woodford

 The Town Branch tasting area next to stills

Combination beer bar and liquor store in Lexington

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

It's all about the mash

Monday found us waking up on the Bourbon Trail in Bardstown. Our itinerary was nearby Heaven Hill, (the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience to be exact) and then Maker's Mark, then heading towards Frankfort.

Having been through How-we-make-bourbon tours at Evan Williams and Bulleit, my interest was less in looking at stills and more in tasting. Our experience is that all the tours give you a little history, explain the process from making the mash and that the percentage mix of grains will determine flavor, and if it is a bourbon or not, explain the distilling process, and then barreling. 

As well the five rules that must be followed if you are making bourbon in the United States:

1) The grain mixture must be at least 51% corn

2) It cannot be distilled to more than 160 proof (80% alcohol)

3) Must be aged in new, charred oak barrels

4) Enter the barrel for aging at no more than 125 proof

5) Be bottled at 80 proof or higher.

No flavor, coloring or other additives can be made to the process and be called straight bourbon. There can be some variations, one of which I'll discuss below.

We arrived at Heaven Hill close to its 10:00 opening and asked the Man at the desk if we had to take the tour or just taste. We had to take the tour. There were two tours available, the one hour regular tour for $12 or the half hour "connoisseurs" tour for $20. The connoisseurs tour had three labels I have never tried, and may never again so we sprang for the more expensive tour. 

We had impeccable timing, "there's Kathleen with a group ready to enter the tasting room, if you all don't mind missing the history go join them..."

Kathleen warmly welcomed us to the group. Kathleen led us into the private tasting room and we proceed to try one bourbon that did not belong in the room and three that were fantastic, my notes below.

Leaving Heaven Hill for Maker's Mark, about thirty minutes away, we saw a sign less than a mile down the road for Willett Distillery and we quickly swung off the road. Arriving in the gift store I inquired if we had to take the tour to taste. "No, and here comes a group now, just had up to the tasting room." Impeccable timing.

We tried two excellent bourbon and a great rye (for a rye the mash must contain at least 51% rye). We all were poured their Pot Still Reserve bourbon and then got to choose one of their other labels. Since I had Noah 's Mill before (one of my all time favorites), and we have a bottle of Rowan's Creek in the bar at home, I chose the Pure Kentucky and Leslie chose their 2 Year Rye; notes below.

When we set up the trip my primary destination distillery was Maker's Mark. Maker's was my entry bourbon and was my Dad's preferred drink later in life. When we put his ashes in San Francisco Bay we all had a shot of Maker's and dropped our shot glasses into the Bar with him (biodegradable shot glasses). Since he passed away I've put a bit of Dad in different water ways of places that had meaning for him. I wanted to honor him at the home of the place that provided him with a relaxing drink in the evening to enjoy with family, friends or just alone.

The Maker's tour was a very good one. Our timing was bad as they were shut down for spring cleaning (a lot of distilleries shut production in August evidently so the best doesn't kill their yeast), but we saw the vats, aging warehouse, etc. The tasting was interesting as we were given the "white", the distilled whiskey before it enters the barrel.

By now it is 3:00 and we need lunch. I see the town Lebanon on the map and since we can head that way too get to Frankfort we went looking for lunch. As much would have it at a stop light a restaurant had a sign, "Pork Tenderloin Sandwich $5.99." We parked and entered Hennings were I had the pork tenderloin sandwich, asking them to add come slaw and Leslie went for the BLT. Getting my sandwich I remembered that pork tenderloin is not what it would be at home. Here, like most of the South and Midwest it is a fried pork cutlet. Yes, it was very good!

Taking county roads from Lebanon we arrived in Frankfort around 6:00. Doing research we discovered slim pickings for dinner options outside national chains so on the recommendation of the desk man at the Best Western we went across the street to Cattleman's, a local chain, and had decent steak and potato with pretty good salad bar.

Our tastings:

Larceny: trying to compete with Maker's Mark and missing the Mark. Much better bourbon in the price range and cheaper. Did not belong in the room.

Heaven Hill Select Stock 11Year: This bourbon is finished in cognac barrels. It is a bourbon because it aged in card charred New oak, but finished in the cognac barrels. 124.4 proof. My first note is simply, "WOW!" Fantastic flavor and very smooth. Cost is $146 a bottle so unless a gift it won't be in my bar for a long time.

William Heavenhill Small Batch Bottled in Bond: a bit more affordable at $125 a bottle but still out of my range. As you would expect a wonderful flavor, very smooth with a nice finish.

Elijah Craig Aged 23 Years: Kathleen asked each couple to pick their favorite and who would guess Leslie and I would choose the $249 bottle? Can taste the rye (14% I think) on the finish, if you get a chance to try this one say "Yes please!"


Pot Still Reserve: A wonderful bourbon hitting all the right taste bottons, would be a very enjoyable drink to sip for an evening.

2 Year Old Rye: given how young it is it is very smooth, this one made Leslie declare, "I like ryes."

Pure Kentucky: not quite Noah 's Mill, but a great bourbon that matches up with anything in the price range, and beats most at $35 or so.

Maker's Mark:

White: cut to about 140 proof, it was surprisingly smooth, if you get this you do so for mixing

Maker's Mark: we all know what it is, a good bourbon. Mix it, cook with it, sip it, very useful to have on hand. It is our "bottom shelf" and sites is job well.

Maker's 46: A bit sweeter than Maker's Mark, but not worth the hype and marketing.

Cask Strength: Maker's trying to expand its offerings, the proof on this can vary depending on the proof coming out of the barrel. Ours  at the tasting was 113.3 proof. Definitely need a bit of water to cut it. My notes, "not as good as other premiums, not worth price above regular Maker's."

 Our line up at Heaven Hill, the bottle on the
right did not belong

 Tour and tasting guide Kathleen taking
pictures of guests with their favorite bottle

 Leslie and I with Elijah Craig 23 Year Old

Maker's Mark is very picturesque

Honoring Dad

Leslie discovers the Griswold's were visiting Maker's
in their Family Truckster

Sunday, August 2, 2015

On the Trail

We couldn't say goodbye to Louisville without making two more stops on our way out of town.

The Stitzel-Weller Distillery barrels the Bulleit brand (not a misspelling, though I acknowledge I have frequent words misspelled) bourbons and ryes. On the Southside of Louisville they have the "Bulleit Bourbon Experience" on the grounds of the Old Fitzgerald distillery, which shut down in the early '90s. There is a still there now that is producing experimental recipes and a warehouse aging barrels. It was an okay tour, going in the aging warehouse was neat, smelled great.

In the tasting room we tried: the signature Bulleit Bourbon orange label (you can tell they use more rye than other distillers, a good non-premium bourbon), the Bulleit Rye green label (tasty, Leslie liked it a lot and things it will make a good Manhattan, a good quality whiskey at a pretty good price) and the Bulleit 10 Year Bourbon (over 91 proof, nice caramel, a bit of water have me the mellow I needed with the higher proof).

From Bulleit we headed about fifteen minutes down the road to an interesting place that abuts the University of Louisville. A place called Churchill Downs. We took a brief tour of the place, were given a lot of history of the track and the Kentucky Derby, saw a great movie and looked at some exhibits. It was set up pretty well and I'm sure for house racing enthusiasts it is for them what Cooperstown (or the Louisville Slugger plant) is to me.

Our next destination was south on the I-65 to the town of Clermont, home to Jim Beam. On the way we found a small sandwich so on the edge of the UK campus. (For Sharon: really good chicken salad on Texas Toast for me, egg, lox, capers on sea salt bagel for Leslie.)

Jim Beam sells more bourbon than anyone else. The have several brands they make, some of which are the excellent, among them Booker's, Knob Creek, Baker 's.

This tasting will be hard to top. They give you a card with a small chip, each card is good for two half ounce pours. In the tasting room are two stands with four sides. In each of the side are four bottles, at the top of each bottle is a little spigot then in the top of the stand is a place to put in your card. You put in your card and above each of the four bottles a little panel lights up. You put you shot glass under the spigot of the bottle you want to try, press the button above that bottle and your shot is poured into your glass. See the picture of Leslie belle to get an idea of the bourbon vending machine.

What was really great about it was they had all their premium brands, along with the lesser levels and all the flavored crap, I mean brands. So we could try Bookers, Knob Creek Rye, Bakers and Jim Beam White Label Single Barrel since between Leslie and I we had four tastes. We bypassed Hayden 's because it's in my bar. I am interested to see if other distilleries provide us tastes of such premium brands.

Tasting notes: Bookers, excellent, if you can spend the money but it and you will be rewarded with a very smooth and flavorful bourbon. Knob Creek Rye, I really liked it, Leslie liked the Bulleit Rye better, I think I like this a bit more--could be because I had an excellent bourbon before I tasted it. Bakers, like the Booker's very smooth with great flavor. Jim Beam White Label Single Barrel, a lot better than their mass produced product, very good to drink.

On the property was a small shack selling some barbecue and other items, one of which was Graeter's ice cream from Cincinnati. We've been fortunate to have Graeter's before, it is one of the best anywhere (one year for Leslie's birthday I had four pints delivered). We had a chip with half peach and half boubon chip (with chunks of chocolate and pecans). Mmmmm.

By now it was about 4:30 and no time to sample any where else do we drive a short distance into Bardstown. The Welcome to Bardstown sign claims it to be the bourbon capital of the world as well as being voted most beautiful small town in America. From what we've seen hard to dispute either.

Dinner was a southern supper at Kurtz. They've been around since 1937, used to be kitchen and dining room on the ground floor and family living on the second floor. Great dinner, Leslie had skillet fried chicken, white meat with mashed potatoes and gravy. I had the Kentucky Combination, also a quarter chicken fried (dark meat), with fried Virginia ham. We shared a delicious biscuit pudding with a bourbon raisin sauce. I asked for a beer with dinner but they can't serve alcohol on Sundays. Unless it is in the bourbon raisin sauce.....

One of the aging warehouses at Bulleit

The inside of the aging warehouse smells so good

Leslie a little happier after our Bulleit tasting

Leslie demonstrates the bourbon vending machine at Jim Beam

So creamy and delicious


Seems our dog has a side business we didn't know about....

Batter Up!

If you ever stay at The Brown Hotel, I recommend you spend a bit more and stay in a Club Level room. This allows you use of the Club Room for breakfast in the morning and in the evening beer, wine and hors d'sources (didn't look it up, his how's my spelling?). Very relaxing and great chance to meet folks from around the country.

From the Club Room on Saturday morning we put on our walking shoes and headed towards the Ohio River, which is parallel by Main Street in downtown Louisville. The walk took us past some great older buildingsand it was very clean, though pretty empty at 10ish.

Turning west on Main we arrived at our destination about a mile from our hotel. (Sidebar, seems all of our walks on this trip have been about a mile, though unlike Nashville, Louisville is pretty flat. End sidebar.)

The Hillerich & Bradsby factory and museum.

Baseball fans know this is the home of the famed Louisville Slugger bat manufacturer, the preferred bat of many major league players for close to one hundred years.

Fantastic place, almost like the Baseball Hall of Fame. The short tour showed how bats used to be made and how they are made today. While place smelled like sawdust, which I liked. One of my favorite things was the wall that was covered with the signatures, burned into wood just like on the bats, of every major leaguer who has had a signature Louisville Slugger (below my Dad's hero and one of mine). 

 Whether you are a baseball fan or not I recommend a cost.

A few blocks to the east of the bat factory and museum is the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience. Heaven Hill, owner of the Evan Williams brand, has built a Disney like tour using interactive videos and short tour to give the history of Evan Williams, first licensed distiller in Kentucky, which was pretty good. The pay off is the small tasting at the end where we received three samples, about one-quarter ounce each. Of the three we sampled one, the Evan Williams biggest brand, was not good, one, the single barrel was pretty good, and the third, Larceny was okay--not great--to my tastes.

Hoofing back to the hotel we stopped for some lunch (soup and salad, because my sister likes to know). We relaxed in the room and plotted our stategery for the Bourbon Trail and dinner options. 

One more cocktail in the bar eavesdropping on the many different wedding parties starting at The Brown, then up to the Club Room for some bites and beer for me and wine for Leslie refreshed.

We got the car out of the garage with the intent to head up river to eat at a fish type place on a creek that does into the Ohio. On our way up the interstate going along the river we saw Louisville Slugger Field and a game was in progress. We quickly pulled off the freeway and found out way into the park where the Louisville Bats were hosting the Toledo Mudhens (M*A*S*H fans will recall that the Mudhens are the team of Col Klinger).

I had the bologna stack (Bologna cooked on the grill with grilled onions on white bread), growing up on fried and barbecued Bolognese I couldn't pass it up. Leslie had a really good hot dog. A few beers, a beautiful night, and the Bats win a well pitched game 1-0.

A night cap in the bar with a piece of the famous Derby Pie and our day was full and complete.

Sunday we see Churchill Downs and start bourbon tasting in earnest.

The huge bat outside Louisville Slugger 

 My hero growing up

 Dad's hero

Along Main Street the Walk of Fame, bat and engraved
home plate of many proficient players who used Louisville Sluggers

Our tasting flight at Evan Williams

A great night at the ballpark

I just like how the flag is backlit, 
bridge over Ohio River to Indiana in background

Derby Pie

The Brown Hotel is very old, lobby phone

Saturday, August 1, 2015

American Lion and the Hot Brown

Nashville was a lot of fun, but time to move on. We had reservations at the iconic Brown Hotel in Louisville and on the way wanted to stop by General Andrew Jackson's home, The Hermitage (we learned Jackson preferred to be called General rather than President, even when in office).

Also on Friday we picked up our chariot for the road trip, a Chevy Malibu. I know it's hard, but don't get jealous.

The Hermitage is about twenty minutes outside of downtown Nashville and the grounds consist of about 90% of the original grounds of his farm. After going through the exhibit hall with separate spaces for his career as a general and as a politician we toured the main house. The exhibits were great and very informational. Reading why and how he entered politics, reluctantly and to break Washington of the too cozy relationships between the nation's elected leaders and the monied interests dictating policies and laws, I thought it sounds a bit familiar to today, without the reluctant part.

The main house has been carefully restored and most of the original wall coverings and furnishings are intact. Outside are his wife Rachel's gardens and cemetery for family and tomb for Andrew and Rachel. We walked around for a bit then grabbed a bite in the restaurant (a tasty slow cooked pork with slaw sandwich for me and grilled chicken with Dijonaise sandwich for Leslie) then pointed the Malibu towards Louisville, about three hours away up the I-65.

I had heard about The Brown Hotel from an associate. Well not so much about the hotel as the "Hot Brown," more about that later. Her description of the Hot Brown caused me to make a reservation. When we entered the second floor lobby I felt like I had teleported back many decades. Marble, paneled ceilings, period furniture, it is beautiful. As we checked in for our night I immediately asked about staying one more night, so we are here until Sunday.

After some refreshments in the Club Room to wash away the road dust we went to the lobby bar for cocktails and dinner (the dining room and reduced bar menu are both available in the bar).

We are in Kentucky. The bar whiskey menu has fifty-seven bourbons and about twenty additional whiskeys and ryes (Leslie might have rolled her eyes when I proudly commented I thought I had eleven from the list in the bar at home). Pre-dinner Manhattan and Old Fashion were quite tasty, more so due to the setting and my companion.

I needed no menu ordering, I was having the famous Hot Brown, Leslie went for the open faced steak sandwich with a fried egg on top.

About the Hot Brown. On top of Texas Toast roasted turkey is piled, Mornay sauce is poured over the top and then two pieces of bacon are added, two tomato quarters are added and the dish is put under the broiler.

Let me give you a moment.

If you are ever within one hundred miles....get a Hot Brown.

Today we'll explore Louisville and report back to you.

 General Andrew and Rachel Jackson's tomb in The Hermitage garden
Honoring Jackson's service in the American Revolutionary War, he was 13 when he joined the militia and later was captured and held as prisoner of war

Honoring his service in the War of 1812 which have him national prominence

The Hermitage gardens has an abundance of butterflies

Leslie overlooking the lobby bar of The Brown Hotel

Manhattan backed by an Old Fashion

The Hot Brown

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Commodore and the Man in Black

A rather slow start to our day, most likely due to the two hour time difference from home and nothing to do with consuming Budweisers until after midnight. Yes, most likely the time change.

After finally getting in some shape to explore a bit of Nashville, courtesy of coffee and waffles at the sumptuous Best Western breakfast buffet, and some income producing work for both of us, Leslie and I headed out. The high heat and humidity had dissipated and with a cool breeze we walked to Vanderbilt University. There were two reasons for the visit, one I just wanted to see it, and two Vandy has sent some introductory marketing pieces to our oldest last year. Our timing was perfect, just as we walked into the admissions office a presentation was starting for a large group of parents and high school students interested in attending Vandy.

Sitting there listening to the very good and enthusiastic presentation I kept thinking about how in a couple of years we'll have a high school senior going through the application process and the amount of decisionsto be made between them and now. Such as what direction she wants to go. Small stuff like that.

Fun facts, a student a few years ago counted the squirrels on campus. The squirrel to student ratio is 3:1, we weren't sure if that is 3:1 undergraduates, or 3:1 undergrads and graduate students. So there are either about 18,000 or 33,000 squirrels. The stat was provided as a way of telling us that Vanderbilt is a national arboretum and has on campus every tree known in the state. You can even take a tree tour.

Next on our list was the Country Music Hall of Fame. But first lunch. In our walk to Vandy we passed a couple of establishments, including side-by-side bars called "Winners" and "Losers", one of which caught my eye, The Slider House. Fantastic. We each had two sliders, Leslie having a traditional burger with bacon and caramelized onions, and a hot chicken**, I also had a hot chicken and the Bay of Pigs, the pigs being smoked pork and country ham. **hot chicken is a Nashville thing, the hot spicy seasoning is added to the batter or coating before frying, delicious.

After walking back to the hotel to stop off our bag of Vandy material we Ubered to the Country Music Hall of Fame. We got there at 3:30, it closed at 5:00, so we browsed the gift shop and bookstore until 4:00 to get discounted tickets.

With only an hour we had to use some strategery, and decided our first exhibit would be one in Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. I'm not a music a music afficianado, I don't remember who sings what songs, can't remember lyric (though have no issues making them up which sometimes makes the girls say I'm weird...) so the learning experience was very appreciated.

The exhibit on Dylan and Cash was fascinating. The two are credited with causing Nashville to be labelled Music City. Cash for his take-it-or-leave-it demand when negotiating for his television show that it be filmed at the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, and Dylan for not only recording in Nashville but using local musicians and giving them credit on his albums. Dylan was a guest on Cash's first show and the two became close friends. Whether you like country music or not I highly recommend a visit to the Country Hall of Fame--and a trip to Nashviille.

For dinner we Ubered to Elliston Place Soda Shop, the oldest restaurant in Nashville in the same location. Stepping in was like stepping back several decades in time. I had to have a milkshake--which was about a two and a half size serving, to accompany my slaw dog and Leslie had the fried catfish filets. On the way back to the hotel we walked to Winners for some whiskey and then took a Joy Ride cart to another bar a block from the hotel for one more sip before hitting the sack.

One thing about Nashville, we enjoyed walking about but if you are planning on it be ready for hills; not quite as extreme as San Francisco but quite a few none the less.

I'm writing this from the beautiful Brown Hotel in Louisville, details on that journey tomorrow.

Smoky's Bandit at Country Music Hall of Fame

Cornelius "The Commodore" Vanderbilt

Don't tell Leslie but we are going here for lunch when we return to Nashville at the end of our trip
Elliston Place Soda Shop, timeless

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Music City

Last summer I felt something missing. The prior three summers Leslie and I had driven to Minnesota to pick the girls up from camp. Engaging in the Great American Roadtrip each summer, taking different routes to and from Minnesota, seeing some beautiful parts of our wonderful country.

Last summer however the girls flew home from Camp Birchwood, and instead of driving across half the USA Leslie and I drove up to San Luis Obispo where we meandered around the Central Coast for several days. When we got home Leslie said, "well there's your road trip."

To which I replied, "it was about four thousand miles short..."

With camp and school schedules, plus the girls not wanting to be gone for five weeks, we are again not driving to Minnesota. I spent most of the winter cajoling, bargaining, bribing to no avail, the girls were against a week in the car driving home--I even suggested we drive them there. No Dad!

Not wanting another summer without a substantial roadie Leslie suggested we take off and have our own road trip. When I enthusiastically agreed I asked where she wanted to go.

"Let's do a bourbon tour."

How much do I love this woman? She's stuck with me for almost twenty-one years and comes up with a vacation that entails riding in a car with me for days as I search out one whiskey distillery after another, with the occaisional barbecue joint thrown in from time to time (okay day to day).

After hugging her and professing my undying love, I hit the internet to research flights and routes.

All of which resulted in my typing this on my Kindle sitting in room 312 of the Best Western Plus Music Row in Nashville. A bit bleary eyed and slow of thought following our night carousing on Honky Tonk Row last evening.

Living up to its moniker "Music City", the Honky Tonk Row area of Nashville is door to door bars and restaurants with live music. Walking almost the length of Broadway, the main street, we crossed to walk back up the other side in search of a place for dinner when I looked to the end of the block and saw a neon sign with a neon chicken spinning on top.

"That's where we are going for dinner."


"The place with the spinning chicken?"

"What? What 'spinning chicken' ?"

"There, the 'Acme' sign with the chicken spinning on top."

"Oh, okay."

The Acme Seed & Feed was packed, a pretty good band was playing on the stage and when we entered we were handed a menu card and told, "order there and then find your own seat, it is communal seating."

After ordering (beer braised pork tacos for Leslie and beef brisket sandwich for me) Leslie grabbed two spots at the bar where we remained for a couple of hours enjoying our dinners and several local brews from the taps while listening to the band.

At one point I was ready to explore more of the Row but Leslie said she wanted another cold beer before going out in the heat and humidity--it was 90+ when we landed at 5:30 and by 9:00 had not cooled off much and the sticky was still hanging around, so much so that when we left Acme S&F my glasses fogged going from the a/c to the heat outside.

We meandered back up Broadway, bought some postcards, listening to the music coming out of door after door. We were walking past a boot store and Leslie pulled up, "buy one pair get two free.." and wandered inside.

The place smelled great, floor to ceiling leather boots in all sizes for men and women. Leslie began touching, she's a tactile shopper, and commenting on what boots would look good on the girls, how Blaire now is about the same size as she is, trying  on a few pairs. I looked around the store and said, "you notice there are two men looking at boots and about 15 women?"

Must be the two free pair of boots.

We left bootless.

A few doors down I heard a pretty good band and we walked into the Whiskey Bent Saloon. As soon as we grabbed a couple of beers the bad stopped playing and began breaking down. Ten o'clock and time for the next band to take the stage. After a few cover songs by the new band that consisted of three guys looking like good ole country boys and their dad on drums a tall guy takes the stage looking like a white rapper with hat backward, sleeveless t-shirt, big cross on a necklace, chunky large watch on one wrist and bracelet on the other. He starts to sing and he has a great country voice. It was Michael Scott who has recorded a few records, sung with several bigger country names and was a great entertainer.

After a few more beers, perhaps a few too many, we left around midnight I think. We hopped into what amounted to a extra seating golf cart for a ride back to the hotel where the driver said the cost was only a tip. It is a great system to keep the drunks off the road in Nashville as they have several of these "Joy Ride" carts in operation.

What a great introduction to the Music City.

Unlike LAX only one trash can, not 4 different recycling options

Welcome to Music City

Honky Tonk Row

It was the spinning chicken that lured me in like the Lorelei

You know you are in the south when the add over the urinal is for accessorize your pick up 

Michael Scott and his boys at the Whiskey Bent Saloon

When was the last time anyone saw one of these in California? $8 a pack?