Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Frankfort and Louisville

Well, my day started out much as I had planned. I got out on the road under a light rain and headed towards Louisville. I'm glad I remembered to bring my raincoat from home with me, because it certainly came in useful today.

As I was starting out to Louisville, I came upon the exit to go to Frankfort... and in the spirit of adventure, I decided to take a small detour. That detour to Frankfort turned out being far more interesting than anything I found in Louisville.

My first stop was the Kentucky Capitol building in Frankfort. As the rain continued to come down, I made my way to the ultra high-security building. The ultra-high security included a guard with a metal detector, which I only had to walk through because as I went in the door, I looked over to the side and the guard dude was like "oh, come over here".

I navigated through the crowds of elementary school kids touring the capitol, and found that it was remarkably similar to the Washington State Capitol in Olympia. The notable differences were that it was much more open and welcoming (far less security and closed doors than Olympia), and the House and Senate chambers were way up on the 3rd floor rather than on the main floor, that was rather odd I thought, but maybe that was just me.

After the capitol I dropped over to the Kentucky History Museum in downtown Frankfort. Another outstanding museum, this one very similar to the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma. But I've found myself a bit museumed-out as these all start looking the same after a while. Still interesting stuff. This one also had a special exhibit about flags, and the history of US flags as well as Kentucky flags. That was really interesting.

I almost decided it was time to head to Louisville, then changed my mind and headed to the north edge of Frankfort to visit the Buffalo Trace Distillery. A slightly different distillery tour than yesterday's tour of the Woodford Reserve, and actually still interesting. It's funny how each distillery claims all of the reasons why their bourbon is the best in the world. :) However, I actually did enjoy the Buffalo Trace a bit more than the Woodford Reserve. Does that mean anything? Probably not. The especially interesting part of this distillery was that several of the brands they make there are hand-bottled. This quite literally means that there is an assembly line of folks who fill, label, and package the bourbon. I felt like I walked into an episode of Made in America and that John Ratzenberger was going to walk into the room. Fascinating stuff though, that was probably the most fascinating part of the tour.

Finally time to get out of Frankfort, and I got back on the road to Louisville. My destination? The historic Churchill Downs racetrack, where just 4 days ago the 132nd Kentucky Derby was run. Little did I know that today was also a race day at Churchill, so there were lots of people around. Though I managed to get waved into a parking lot without having to pay, nice man who really didn't care much at the gate. Anyway, went on a "guided tour" of the track, which really consisted of going out and watching a race, which was fun. Then I explored the Kentucky Derby Museum which is on the ground of the track. Another well done, highly-interactive museum which I enjoyed. After a bit, I went back out to the track and decided it wouldn't be right if I didn't place a bet at Churchill Downs when I was there, so I did so. I fully expected to come away with a betting slip "souvenir" of my trip to Churchill Downs, but much to my surprise, my horse came in second, and I won the exacta, netting me a $6.40 profit which caused me to promptly return my souvenir for cash. Oh well, that's where I say "take a picture, it will last longer".

And so ended my day at Churchill Downs. By then it was after 5pm, which means the tourist world shuts down, but I still took the opportunity to drive downtown Louisville, explore a bit of the Ohio River and check out the monumental sky-high Louisville Slugger bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. It looks far more interesting inside the windows than it did from the outside, but I had a action packed day regardless. Headed back to the hotel in Lexington and here I am.

Tomorrow I'm off to Nashville. Plans to stop at yet another distillery, where I will test the famous mantra "seen one, seen them all", followed by a stop at Lincoln's birthplace and such. The rest is a mystery. You never know the mysterous powers of the brown signs along the highways.

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