Friday, April 30, 2010

Cincinnati etc.

Our campground near Cincinnati was SW of the city, almost on the OH-IN state line, just north of the river.  We came here because grandson Andrew is flying in to play in a soccer showcase.  We're playing the role of soccer parents.  Just happened that the Dodgers were in town to play the Reds, so I took in a game Wednesday night.  Dodgers managed to win the game I saw, but lost two out of three games to the Reds and have continued mostly losing since then. 

The Cincy park, The Great American Ball Park, opened in 2003.  It features some riverboat reminders of the city's history.

Here's Manny Ramirez warming up.  He had a good night, but injured himself and has been out since then.

I started out with a seat two rows from the field down the left field line.  It was the only crowded area in the ballpark - big guy on my left, big gal on my right, group of loud guys behind me.  Also, you had to turn sharply and look over your left shoulder to see the main scoreboard.  So I soon moved, ending up down the right field line after sitting for a while behind the plate until I was asked to show my ticket.  Final score was 14-6. Dodgers scored in eight of nine innings.  Manny was three for four, if I recall correctly.

Next day, Thursday, we drove to the Indianapolis airport - about 100 miles away - to pick up Andrew.  It was early afternoon, so we took a scenic route back to Cincinnati after first stopping for lunch at a Steak and Shake.  This was a treat for Andrew because they have those in Grand Rapids, from whence he moved two years ago, but not in his new home town of Rio Rancho, NM.

We stopped in Madison, IN, just looking around and enjoying some ice cream.  Any fans of Blue Bell ice cream out there?


Way back around 1976 I spent a few days in Madison testifying at a nuclear power plant licensing hearing (on the issue of comparative downtimes for nuclear and coal-fired power plants).    Then, several years ago we all were on a river boat trip organized by Andrew's maternal grandparents (Elizabeth and Allen Anthony, Kentuckians about whom we've written previously in our KY journey) and stopped here in Madison.  We took a picture of the three Hinkle kids in the doorway of a classic house in Madison.  I think it's this one (actually a funeral home), but even if not, close enough.


The soccer games were played in Oxford, OH, about an hour away from our campground.  The purpose of the games was to provide a "showcase" at which more than 100 college soccer coaches came to evaluate prospective players.  It was a cold and rainy weekend, but we were fortunate in that only the first of Andrew's three games was played in the rain, and a light one at that.  The team went 2-1 and Andrew played goalie in the second half of each and did quite well, we thought.


After the Sunday game we drove Andrew back to Indianapolis for his flight home.  We won't see him again until Wednesday, when he flies to Louisville for his brother, Tony's, graduation from Cavalry Scout training at Fort Knox.


Susie and Rob

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Frankfort Wrap

With our tours radiating out from Frankfort, we may have not paid enough attention to Frankfort which, after all, is the state capital.  It's the fourth smallest state capital with a population of 28,000.  (The smallest is Montpelier, VT, population 8000.  Santa Fe's pop. is 62,000.)  Frankfort straddles the Kentucky River, which you've got to admit is a great place for the capital of Kentucky.

I made a trip early Wednesday morning to the city cemetery, primarily to see the grave of Daniel Boone.  After the visit I learned from this website and also the Wikipedia bio of Boone that there is some controversy about whether he is really buried in Frankfort.  He lived his later years in Missouri, died there in 1820 and was buried there.  Kentucky disinterred his and his wife, Rebecca's, remains in 1845 and reburied them in Frankfort - they think.  Some in Missouri claimed they took the wrong bones, but maybe they're just saying that out of spite.  Here's the monument to Mr. and Mrs. Boone.

This site overlooks the Kentucky River valley and downtown Frankfort.  You can see the early morning fog in the valley.

You know the Marine song, ".... to the shores of Tripoli."  Well, the first time the American flag was raised on foreign shore, it was in Tripoli and the marine who planted the flag was Lt. Presley O'Bannon, who is buried in the Frankfort cemetery.  Here's his marker.

I concluded my Frankfort historical mini-tour by going by the old capitol building.

And that wrapped up our Frankfort stay - five days.  We packed up and took a short drive to Cincinnati for a weekend soccer tournament in which grandson, Andrew, is playing.  Here's the traditional crossing a big river picture.


Susie and Rob

Lexington - Kentucky Horse Farm

Tuesday was what you could call the climax of our five days in the Frankfort area.  Our KY and Lexington guidebooks listed some horse farm tours so we signed up for one.  We'd been admiring the farms from the road.  This would get us inside.  The tour we selected left from the Kentucky Horse Park, which is located on the NW edge of Lexington.  Here's a statue at the Horse Park honoring the great Secretariat.

Our van driver/guide was Sean.  He has been involved in various aspects of the horse racing business and was quite knowledgeable.  Our tour, which lasted nearly four hours, started with a short visit to WinStar, a large, very upscale operation.  Sean told us, I think, that Winstar has four of its colts running in this week's Kentucky Derby.  (Update, 4/27: One of their candidates has been withdrawn.)  (Susie thinks it's decadent for people to spend so much money it this way.  She wonders how much money they give to the poor.)  Sean told us about a Sheikh Mohammed, I approximate his name and title, of Dubai who has made a huge investment in KY.  He told the city of Lexington, No, you can't expand your airport because it would disturb my horses. 

Here's a castle we drove by that was built by someone trying to impress his wife.  He bet a friend $100 that he could get his wife to move from England to Kentucky, so he built this castle, but it took him four years and by that time his wife had left him.  Now this is an expensive B&B.

I didn't get any decent WinStar pictures, but here is a photo from the gallery at their website.  The "farm" covers around 2000 acres and has several "barns" like this.

The stallion barn is nicer than my house, for sure, was the line Sean used to describe the barn we visited.

WinStar's star stallion is Distorted Humor (haven't you always wanted to name a race horse?).  His stud fee is $100,000 for a lfsn, which means live foal, stands and nurses.  We saw him in his stall, well-protected.  Here's  a website picture.  Handsome fellow.

Stallions breed 3-5 times a day, for five months a year, more if mares are shipped from the southern hemisphere, so you can see what a moneymaker Distorted Humor is (among his many attributes). 

(The southern hemisphere has a different date for setting a horse's age.  Here it is Jan. 1 - a horse is officially one year old on the first Jan. 1 after its birth, so it's advantageous to be born soon after Jan. 1.  You may know, people have done studies on birth date effects.  For example, youth soccer teams are defined by a player's age on Jan. 1.  Thus, a child born in Jan. is 11 months older than a child born in Dec., but they will be in the same age category and on the same teams.  The older child is generally more developed and more likely to stand out in ability.  The theory is that they tend therefore to get more attention and coaching -- are selected for all-star teams, etc. -- and so top-flight adult soccer players tend to have birthdates early in the year.  Susie notes that the same effect is true of school children.  Ain't statistics interesting?) 

Of course, breeding requires a mare to be in heat, but owners can do things like put a mare "under lights" to trick her body into thinking it's ovulating time.  Incidentally, you can't breed by artificial insemination or it won't be a thoroughbred.

Sean said it would take $100 million to buy Distorted Humor!  What's so special about this horse?  Well, he is one of only three horses in history who sired 20 or more stakes winners in a single year.  (UPDATE: 4/28.  I went down to Churchill Downs for the early morning workouts and picked up the Thoroughbed Daily News.  It had a listing of Leading Sires, year-to-date, and Distorted Humor was rated number 1.  His ninth crop is now running. 
We made a pit stop at a country glitzy/antique-gift shop located in Nonesuch, KY, then had a long and very interesting visit to the Pauls Mill Farm, a more understated and maybe more authentic horse farm.

Pauls Mill Farm is just being developed as a thoroughbred breeding farm (by an experienced breeder who recently moved to this locale -- which is probably 20+ miles from Lexington -- it took about a half-hour to get there via winding backroads; Sean told us that there are around 400 horse farms in a 35 mile radius from Lexington) and in fact the first foal born on the farm under current ownership was born in Jan. this year.  The best known stallion (to me) of the three currently "standing" there is Bellamy Road I remembered the name.  He was owned by George Steinbrenner, won theWood Memorial race as a 3-year old, and was the favorite for the 2005 Kentucky Derby.  He injured a leg in that race and finished out of the money.  He went to stud (or whatever they say) in 2007.  His first crop of 2-yr. olds is now racing, so as an unproven sire his entry-level stud fee is "just" $10,000 lfsn. Here he is.

The staff there was glad to have visitors and spent time telling us about the whole breeding operation.  We even got to see it happen, but no pictures for this family blog.  The handlers do some pretty unusual things to improve the odds of a lfsn, but I'm sure it's all pretty routine for them.  Susie said: Gross.

The above Pauls Mill website has some beautiful pictures of the farm (which I can't seem to be able to copy and paste), so check those out.  Some of my shots:

A group of yearlings:

Mare and very young colt.  The big guy in the red shirt was a very intimate friend of the mare and stallion during the breeding operation.

Sean told us about the economics of fencing.  Black paint costs $6000/mile and has to be redone every seven years; the traditional white paint costs $18,000/ mile and has to be redone every three years.  Hence, black dominates.  I like the look.  The famous Calumet Farm is the classic white.  Here's an internet picture.

Let me tell you about the people on our tour.  I've been stewing on this for several days.  There were two couples from California; they were business partners.  At first meeting, all was pleasant and normal.  Introductory chit-chat: Where are you from?  What brings you to Lexington?  etc. went well.

One of the couples was personal friends of Sean, so they had signed up for his tour.  They also were players/dabblers, we soon gathered, in the racing business.  They owned small shares in a couple of horses, I think.  We really weren't interested in the full story, but it couldn't be avoided.  You could tell that they thought they were pretty big players.  They were going to be going to races at Keeneland and occupying their syndicate's suite.  They were eager to display their knowledge, not loudly, but incessantly.  They engaged in lots of inside-baseball commentary with Sean.  I think they were showing off for their business partners.  Susie got Sean aside and asked if since this couple were monoplizing the conversation was this preventing him from telling the rest of us what he wanted to about the horse business.  He said, No, not a problem, but he understood her concern. Susie still felt that their "performance" was taking away from our tour and the $$$$ we spent on it.  Oh well, it was a great tour nevertheless.

Moreover, they had a daughter, Tracey, who is attending an equine school in Lexington, so she knew horses, too.  We heard a whole lot about Tracey.  (Susie at one point whispered to me, If I hear Tracey mentioned one more time I'm going to strangle someone.).

My favorite travel writer is Paul Theroux.  He often writes about the travelers he meets.  I remember one encounter on a train trip through South America.  This fellow traveler had the habit of noticing and tersely announcing every item of interest just before Theroux noticed it:  mission, team of oxen, mountain, ..., until Theroux was ready to scream.   We had a Theroux-like experience.

I should mention the other group in our party: a mother and four daughters who lived on a farm in upstate NY.  A very nice family group.  They had once owned horses, but no longer.  They had come to Lexington to see a big equestrian show at the end of the week.  Sean said to Mom, You might not want to let your girls see the breeding action.  She said, No problem.  They've seen it all on the farm.

All in all, we enjoyed seeing a working horse farm.  Susie insisted I give Sean a big tip, so there were no hard feelings.

Tomorrow we make the short drive to Cincinnati and prepare for a weekend of soccer.


Susie and Rob

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Six years ago, on our US 60 crossing, we made a day trip to Danville, KY (about 40 miles SE of Frankfort) to attend a brass band festival.  We had been struck then by the charm of Danville, particularly the Centre College campus that was the site of the band festival, then by several blocks of stately old mansions and estates on the highway leading north out of town.  I wanted to see those houses again.

Here are some examples.

They're very attractive, but I've got to admit they're not as exceptional as I thought when I first was here.  First impressions don't always hold up.  Lots of towns have comparable houses and yards -- and we've seen a lot of them on this and other trips.

On the way back to Frankfort, we stopped by a Shaker Village in Pleasant Hil -- highly recommended by folks in Danville, and by Ashley Judd, as I later learned from the website.  Here's a picture from the parking lot. 

Central Kentucky is known for its "legendary rock fences," as this website calls them.  The one shown above at the Shaker Village is probably a modern rendition.  Here's an historic example from the website. 

These fences are "dry" -- no mortar.  They were built first by Irish immigrant stonemasons.  The skill was taught to slaves and these fences are sometimes referred to as "slave fences."  You see miles and miles of them, though probably only a small fraction of the originals still stand.

We checked out the Shaker Village gift shop, but skipped the tour -- it was getting late in the day and we decided we didn't want to pay the admission fee for a short visit.  The Village includes an inn and a restaurant that would make for a pleasant, more leisurely visit.

The next objective on our return trip from Danville to Frankfort was Wilmore, KY.  This is the site of the Asbury Theological Seminary which shares a campus with Asbury CollegeFrancis Asbury was a famous pioneer Methodist Minister and most of the Seminary presidents, since its 1923 establishment, have been Methodists, but the Seminary is nondenominational.  Lyle Reece, who grew up in our church, St. John's, went to school there and is now a minister in our conference, so I became aware of Asbury Seminary at the time he was a student. I think it's fair to say that the Seminary has a more theologically conservative, evangelistic thrust than other Methodist seminaries.

At the time we drove through the campus, I didn't realize the distinction between the college and the seminary -- they're separate institutions (maybe I should research these topics before I blog them, you think?) -- so I just snapped a picture of this nice-looking building on campus. 

And thus another pleasant day of exploring central Kentucky came to a close.


Susie and Rob

Friday, April 23, 2010

Lexington Gardens

I went out Sunday morning, as I did several mornings in Frankfort, driving around the countryside looking for Canon Moments.  Here's a nice Kentucky Home.

Some nice Kentucky Horses:

And a nice Kentucky Barn.

On Sunday we attended the First Methodist Church in Frankfort - a nice, old church in downtown Frankfort. 

The church is leading an effort, called Go Frankfort, to improve life in Frankfort -- building playgrounds, cleaning up vacant property, painting a RR overpass, etc., and we heard an enthusiastic presentation about this year's projects.

Then, looking for more spring flowers, dogwoods and redbuds, we went over to Lexington, about 25 miles east of Frankfort.  Drove US 60 over, admiring the farms, then found our way to the UK Arboretum.

Next, Ashland, the home of Henry Clay

The Clay garden was mostly greenery, not flowery, so no nice flowering trees to show here.  Instead, here, from Wikipedia, is a picture of the man himself.

While I looked around the grounds, Susie texted the kids and also Joyce and Jay Rush, with whom we had crossed paths in NM and Las Vegas several times in Feb. and March.  From NM Jay and Joyce had gone to Tahlequah, OK for a Habitat for Humanity project.  We had talked on the phone, but we didn't connect with them in OK as we swept across the state, Kentucky-bound.  Well, Joyce called Susie and said, Where are you?  Lo and behold, J&J were also in Lexington!  Only a mile or so from Ashland.  Their son, Michael, and family live in Lexington.  They're in the process of moving to NE TN so we hadn't even thought about them possibly being in Lexington, much less about the possibility that J&J were in town.  We went over and had a nice visit. 

Two more days in Frankfort.  Monday we're going to Danville, Tuesday back to Lexington to take a horse farm tour.  Wednesday we move north to Cincinnati and get ready for a weekend of soccer.


Susie and Rob

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Chocolate Festival - Washington

In one burst of advanced planning before we left NM I searched the internet for Kentucky Fairs and Festivals for the weekend of April 17, 18.  I thought there would be many to choose from.  I found two: a hillbilly festival in far SE KY and a Chocolate Festival in NE KY at a town called Washington.  The latter was the closer to Frankfort, only about 85 miles away, so that's where we headed on Saturday, 4/17.

Washington, KY is a nicely preserved colonial-era town, one of the first in Kentucky territory, situated about 50 miles SE of Cincinnati a short distance from the Ohio River.  I don't know that the town is particularly linked to chocolate, but that seems as good a reason as any to set up food and craft booths and attract a crowd to check out the town's antique and gift shops. 

Entertainment was provided by an Elvis impersonator, who led off with Kentucky Rain.  Here's the King:

Susie insisted on a picture of me in front of this sign.

The proprietor of this booth was quite a character, keeping up a running commentary on Elvis and the passing scene.  Here, he is telling Susie, "No pictures, please."

A couple of historic buildings:

The sign says the lady for whom this house was built accused her husband of asking her to live in a jail.  He stuccoed it over, but it was later restored to its original look.

Of further historic interest is a Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum.  Stowe, who lived in Cincinnati, as a young woman came to visit a college classmate in Washington.  While there she saw a slave auction, a scene she memorably incorporated into Uncle Tom's Cabin some 20 years later.  Here's a poster from the time.

The family home she visited is now the Museum.

Returning to Frankfort we looped along the Ohio for a few miles.  Here's an attractive bridge.

And the requisite county courthouse.


Susie and Rob

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Friday we traveled 120 or so miles NE from Cave City to Frankfort.  Took the backroads mostly and made a couple of historical stops.

Abraham Lincoln's birthplace is near Hodgenville.  The memorial there was the first built for him and is at the site of the family cabin.  The memorial is closed for renovation now, girded by construction barriers, so we couldn't go in or get a good exterior shot.  This is a website picture.  Hmm, style seems familiar.

Next we stopped in Bardstown at the My Old Kentucky Home State Park.  This house, the centerpiece of a plantation called Federal Hill, was the family home of the politically prominent Rowan family. 

Stephen Foster, a Pittsburgh boy (that was a surprise - I just assumed he was from the South, but he actually spent very little time there), was a cousin and it is said that his visit here inspired the song.  Wikipedia says some unavoidable skeptical scholars think otherwise. 


We have a nephew named Stephen Collins who is very musically talented, so maybe there's a connection namewise.  I thought it was interesting that the guides emphasized the full name in discussing Foster.

We've seen a lot of houses that would qualify as Old Kentucky Homes.  Here are some.

We got to the Elkhorn Campground in Frankfort in mid-afternoon.  We'll be here five days before moving on to the Cincinnati area for a soccer tournament that grandson Andrew is playing in.  We stayed at the Elkhorn six years ago when we were following US60 westward.  It's a nice park and we're looking forward to some leisurely exploring of the region.

The campground is adjacent to the Elkhorn River.  Here are a couple of pictures - on further reflection.

On Saturday we're off to Washington, KY for a Chocolate Festival -- sweet!


Susie and Rob

Mammoth Cave

Next on our Kentucky agenda, after the Land Between the Lakes, was Mammoth Cave National Park, a drive of about 150 miles from Prizer Point on Lake Barclay; we arrived in early afternoon.  En route we happened upon a Cracker Barrel at lunch time -- Wednesday being a particularly good time for that stop: Susie's favorite - chicken pot pie.  That evening, continuing our Mexi-tucky culinary theme, we had dinner at a Mexican grill near the RV park, and the meal turned out to be quite tasty.  Owner from Acapulco region, so several seafood items on the menu -- I had shrimp in a very good "ranchero" sauce.  However, I'm going to need me some catfish pretty soon.

Thursday I headed into the Park to take a tour (Susie doesn't do caves).  Happened upon this little cemetery in the Park with an interesting name: Abandon hope all ye who enter here?

There are several tours you can take: I opted for the Grand Avenue tour.  This is a 4-mile, 4.5 hr. "Long Walk Through a Whole Lot of Rock," as our guide dubbed it.  Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world with nearly 400 miles of discovered passageways. (Second place is Jewel Cave in SD with 150 miles.)  A passageway is defined as an opening large enough for a human (of reasonable size) to squeeze, crawl, or slither through it.  There are five levels, vertically, of these passageways.  There is another tour available caled the Wild Cave tour.  It covers five miles in 6.5 hrs. and includes a lot of these tight squeezes.  You find your way using helmet lamps, not lighted passageways.

We started with the Cleaveland Avenue passageway, a mile or more of a broad canyon, sort of like a subway tunnel filled with a jumble of rocks.  Lunch break was in an underground dining area called the Snowball Room because of these ceiling formations. 

After lunch we went through Boone Avenue. The passageway here was very narrow, often only shoulder wide, but vertically very high. Kind of like walking through the sort of slot canyons you see in Utah, except there is no sky overhead.

The path onward had a lot of ups and downs as the path passed over areas of fallen rock.  We ended up in an area that included the "Frozen Niagra" formation.  A lot of Mammoth Cave is covered by a impervious sandstone layer, so water has not seeped through it and formed the stalagtites and stalagmites you tend to associate with caves.  The Frozen Niagra area, though, has these formations.  Here are a couple of my pictures from here:

And here's an internet picture of Frozen Niagra:

The story of how the National Park came into being is interesting, as Ranger Rick told us.  In the 1930s different individuals owned separate parts of Mammoth Cave.  Also, there are other caves in the region.  Fierce competition broke out in what became known as the Kentucky Cave War.  Confusing signs were posted: This way to official entrance to Mammoth Cave. This way to shortest route to MC.  (The isgns are still there - confused us on our first drive to the Park.  Now the signs are trying to get you to drive past various roadside attractions along the way.)  Tourists would be intercepted by guys wearing ranger-like uniforms who would direct them to their employer's cave.  Or, tell them that there was an outbreak of some disease like bat fever, so the cave you want to visit is quarantined.  There was also vandalism against the competition's caves.  The good people of KY decided to put a stop to this and to work to establish a National Park that would include all of Mammoth Cave.  The US government couldn't buy up the land, so KY raised money by donations, during the Depression, to buy the land where they could, including the use of eminent domain to force some sales (Wikipedia says there is still lingering bad feelings about that) and put it all together.  The National Park was dedicated in 1941.  There is no fee to drive into the park.  The tours are fee events. 

I considered going back for a shorter tour on Friday, but my feet were still feeling the four-mile after-effects, so I drove the countryside looking for barn pictures.  KY has a lot of barns like this, plain rectangles, unpainted, or black.

Here's a more traditional style:

I liked the flared-out lines of this one:

Some farmland to admire:

In fact, there's a lot of farmland to admire.  We've really been enjoying the pastures, fences, big farmhouses, etc.  Next we're heading for Frankfort and the nearby Lexington horse country.

Until then,


Susie and Rob