Day 8 – Kentucky exploration

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Our first experience with Cathy and Harry Gunn was in 1998 when I met Cathy at SITE in Washington DC and, knowing that she worked at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, asked for advice about seeing the Grand Canyon when Majella and I would be in the USA later that year. Soon after I arrived home from SITE I had an email from Cathy explaining that NAU commencement would be on the weekend we were planning to be in Flagstaff, making accommodation in motels difficult. She offered for us to stay with them instead. We enjoyed their hospitality and much appreciated Harry’s services as driver and travel guide around Flagstaff and to the Grand Canyon. When we were at Purdue in 2001-2002 they were in Illinois and we managed to catch up a few times including for a visit and tour in their home area near Springfield. Today was another opportunity to enjoy a day out in their company with Harry as guide and nothing for us to do but relax and enjoy the experience.

We hit the road just after 10:00 am with Harry at the wheel and headed west along the highway toward Lexington. The countryside changed gradually as we drove from the rougher hill country of Morehead toward the more gently undulating area around Lexington. There were more crops in evidence, including some tobacco, and we began to see horse farms and signs about bluegrass country.

Harry skirted Lexington and headed for the Kentucky Horse Park. Once inside he drove around the park, exploring the areas used for various equestrian activities. There were groups of people in various areas engaged in different activities with horses and a large number of horse trailers, many of those quite large and apparently intended to accommodate people as well as horses. The park was host to the world championships for equestrian events a couple of years ago. It supports all manner of horses including work horses as well as thoroughbreds and pony club style activity.

From the horse park we went in search of lunch. Harry drove first to the small town of Midway but the restaurant he had in mind there was already crowded and more people were arriving as we pulled up. It promised to be a long wait so we drove on to Versailles where Ricardo’s Grill and Pub operates in an old railway building. We had a short wait for a table and then sat down to lunch. On the way Cathy had told us about the Kentucky Hot Brown. That sounded too heavy to me for lunch but Majella had to try it and struggled to near complete eating it. I settled for a chicken salad which was lighter but still very substantial and more than enough for lunch.

We drove on from there through more horse country, marveling at the stable buildings that were fancier and obviously more expensive than many houses. Fences, grounds, and buildings were all top class and very well kept. Evidently there is a lot of money associated with horses in Kentucky.

The highlight of the day was a visit to Woodford Reserve Distillery complete with tour of the distillery and tasting of the bourbon and chocolate bourbon balls afterward. The distillery has an interesting history and claims to go a little further than its competitors in the effort to ensure a consistently high quality product. We had to add a bottle of Woodford Reserve to our luggage.

We drove back through more horse farms, with more amazing stables and other facilities. On the outskirts of Lexington we stopped to visit Keeneland racecourse. Fortunately we just missed the sales that had finished just before we arrived so we did not acquire a horse.

From there we headed to Hall’s on the River near Boonesborough for dinner. They offered a challenge to eat a Hot Brown 2.5 times the normal size within an hour. None of us was up for that and our waiter admitted that the shirt he was wearing was promotional not his reward for meeting the challenge which he doubted he could. He was young and looked lean and hungry. None of us could match that. I had the pulled pork sandwich with fries. Majella went for soup and salad. The salad was larger than she could manage and the soup was beer cheese soup which was interesting but probably too much cheese on top of her hot brown for lunch.

Distance covered was about 320 km but we did not have to drive any of it. That added to the pleasure of a very enjoyable day in fine company. We look forward to entertaining Cathy and Harry when their plans to visit us next year come to fruition.