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Archive for the ‘Lexington’ Category

We have a (hopefully) pretty good post coming soon on the James Island County Park Christmas Lights, which will probably be the least negative group of paragraphs I have ever strung together in my life.

For now, I’m slightly hunkered down in Lexington, Kentucky with the mongrel, having departed our fair Holy City a day earlier than anticipated due to an impending deluge of freezing rain. Suz is manning the fort in Charleston, probably happy to be devoid of constant basketball games on TV and tumbleweeds of golden retriever hair traveling wispily along the floor like a scene out of some sort of more sinister Midwestern Dust Bowl.

So, in absence of anything of substance, here’s a photo of our dog with her moose.

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Since Saturday was a “cold” 58 degrees and I had deprived Suzanne of her requisite film experiences for the past few months (the last film we saw in the theater was Night at the Museum 2, if that tells you anything), we ventured to Citadel 16 to take in Secretariat, Disney’s account of that most famous of thoroughbreds.  If you don’t know who Secretariat was and what he accomplished, please kindly punch yourself in the throat.

Moving away from the Bluegrass has definitely increased my fondness for the culture of horse racing and, although predictably cheesy at parts, the film satisfied that bit of me that yearns to experience this integral portion of my Kentucky-dom more often.  Plus, the part of Secretariat’s trainer, Lucien Laurin, is played by the wondrously weird John Malkovich, who I always enjoy for his effortless, intimately conversational delivery of lines that makes it seem like his scenes are being caught by candid camera.

In the spirit of Secretariat, and since Keeneland strangely served as the backdrop for the climactic Belmont Park race in the film, here are a few more photographs from our late-October trip to Keeneland.

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Keeneland Race Course, Lexington, KY

It had been almost three years since I had made it to a fall meet at Keeneland Race Course, one of the most beautiful thoroughbred tracks in the country that many will recognize for its prominent setting roles in Seabiscuit and Secretariat, and to a lesser extent, Dreamer.

Show of hands:  who here actually Dreamer?  Two people?  That’s what I thought.

Keeneland is America’s bucolic thoroughbred track.  A long lunch at Wallace Station prevented us from too much tailgating, as most of our friends were inside the structure when we arrived, but we were able to enjoy a frosty beverage at the final turn for one race and snapped some pretty decent photographs.

October weekends in the Kentucky fall can sometimes come with a double whammy of fun on certain Saturdays when the crisp air beckons a home football game as well as Keeneland’s fall meet.  The weekend we were in Lexington, it was a triple whammy:  Big Blue Madness harkened in the college basketball season best time of the year on Friday, a day before the football Cats took down South Carolina on the gridiron and two days before a lovely afternoon with friends at a Bluegrass icon.

Can I go back, please?

*As a side note, uber-klutz Suzanne busted her computer, rendering many Keeneland photos unrecoverable for the short term.  A new computer is forthcoming into her wobbly-handed clutches, meaning more photos from the track may be in store soon.

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There’s nothing quite like a fall drive through the countryside of Kentucky (unless, of course, a countryside drive through the Green Mountains of Vermont in autumn) and we didn’t hesitate to get our fill during the trip. Rolling hills, forested river bottoms of changing maples and oaks, and quaint churches graced our many meanders through Western Kentucky and the Bluegrass Region near Lexington, the appropriate-for-the-occasion music of Horse Feathers jangling their gothic folk mustily through the non-inputted speakers on my Iphone (I had forgotten the necessary audio cords, yet the effect of a lack in great amplification of sound actually added to the experience).

If you ever find yourself amidst the hallowed grounds of bourbon and thoroughbreds, do yourself a service and take a drive out Old Frankfort Pike and its appendage lane, Pisgah Pike, for some of the most jaw-droppingly spectacular examples of the term ‘horse country’ you will find on this planet. First-time travelers, I have found, are invariably left nearly speechless with surprise at the beauty along these thoroughfares, as any preconception and idealistic imagery of the lands Secretariat and Man-o-War once tromped come startlingly and breathtakingly into focus as visual truths.

Then you get hungry and you drive a little further down Old Frankfort Pike to Wallace Station, a newfound favorite haunt on trips back home due partially to the drive one happily partakes in to get there as well as the opportunity to embarrassingly and viciously destroy a Santa Anita Club, topped with a delicious spicy chipotle mayo that I would purchase by the gallon to drink by itself. Seriously.  Guy Fieri dubbed the Big Brown burger one of his Top 5 burgers in the country also, in case you wanted to get the image of me sloppily massacring a sandwich out of your mind.

The deli is a good 25 minutes outside of Lexington for most residents, if not more, but the crowds are a testament to its worthiness. Situated on a small “outparcel” (in the original intent of the term) within a picturesque rural setting a couple of miles from the charming old railroad and Three Chimneys Farm -residing town of Midway, Wallace Station is a perfect eatery accent for a day of travel through the Bluegrass.  In autumn, everything about it is just augmented.

Tomorrow, look out for photographs of Keeneland Racecourse, impressive even by Sooz standards, which will conclude the Kentucky trip portion of our broadcast.  We’ll then delve straight into the Halloween spirit of the Holy City leading up to the holiday this Sunday.  We will also consider creating a blog specifically for our frequent random adventures to spare you from non-Charlestonian posts, although we more than highly recommend a visit to these other locations.

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After this post, I promise that we will return to roaming the Holy City of the South instead of waltzing through distilleries, strolling through horse parks, and meandering through rows of peach trees at Boyd Orchards.  The latter, located, you guessed it, near Lexington, Kentucky, is a pastoral paradise of nature’s bounty.  

In the past, I would frequently talk about the endeavors or purchases I would undertake if I were to ever win the lottery, discussion points that existed somewhere within the spectrum of fantastical to asinine.  Well, I have a new focus in regards to this sure-to-happen lottery win: upon hitting the jackpot, I will approach the owner of this orchard in hopes of purchasing and further maintaining its operations.  The only change I will make is repainting the “No Adults Allowed” sign on the kiddie hay slide to read “No Kids Allowed…HAHAHAHAH!” However, if I was already the owner of this Bluegrass treasure, there is no way I could accept even the steepest offer possible for this land.  Some things have no correlation to monetary value, and Boyd Orchards falls within that category.

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Is there anything manlier than a tall glass of bourbon on the rocks?

Bare-knuckled lion fighting, shooting guns at stuff, building stuff then shooting guns at said stuff, Budweiser, and grilling meat not withstanding, lounging around in a solid oak-laden room in a Don Draper-from-Mad Men suit sipping on an 8-year old Woodford Reserve is my idea of some good man time.

Thus was the impetus for our plan to take Jon out to the Woodford Reserve Distillery, located in the heart of the beautiful horse country of Woodford County, KY, for one last gasp before his plunge into that black abyss of marriage (kidding, Jenna, kidding).  Problem was, Jon decided not to tag along on his own outing on the premise of ‘too many things to do’, which normally on a wedding day means ‘I’m nervous.’  His absence didn’t deter a big group of us from making the trip, however, and the tour of the grounds was nothing short of spectacular.

Let me explain for a moment a crucial bit of information:  all bourbon is whisky but not all whisky is bourbon.  Whisky can only be bourbon if it meets three criteria:  1) it is distilled within the United States; 2) it must be comprised of 51%-79% corn; 3) it must be aged in an oaken barrel.  A fourth criteria, in my opinion, is that the bourbon should be distilled within the confines of the Bluegrass region.  I mean, don’t you want your bourbon to be born in the cradle of its existence?  Woodford Reserve is popularly revered as the standard in the bourbon industry for both the quality of its batches and the methods that forge them as well as the quality of its grounds, which are impeccably maintained and elegantly shown off to visitors.  It’s worth the nominal $5 entrance fee, especially considering each visitor is given a sample glass of bourbon following the tour, so you can stand around, you know, feeling like a man.  Or a classy lady, I guess.

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I bet you didn’t know that Lexington, Kentucky is largely considered to be the Horse Capital of the World.

Oh, you did?

Well then, I bet you know that Lexington will soon be hosting the 2010 World Equestrian Games and this is a very big deal.

Oh, you didn’t?  Me neither, at least on the latter portion.  However, I soon learned (as in, I read multiple articles and was sarcastically educated by numerous friends) that the 2010 WEG is probably the single most important event in the past decade or more for a region that is already renowned for the Kentucky Derby, crisp fall days spent at Keeneland, Seabiscuit, and other equine-related icons.  The event, which will open on September 25th at the Kentucky Horse Park, will bring in fans and participants from all over the globe to spectate eight different events.  The Games are anticipated to make a somewhere in the ballpark of $167 million economic impact on the Bluegrass Region and its surrounding 75-100 mile radius, which I am sure will see some residual impacts in the form of accommodation/dining tax revenues.

To get into the unbridled spirit (see what I did there?) of this event, Suzanne and I spent our first day in the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park, a truly magical place for all things “horse” that I had only been to previously to view Christmas lights.  The park consists of acres upon acres of stables, museums, training facilities, and demonstration areas.  In our short visit, we were able to see numerous participants training for the Games, take in the wonderful new outdoor arena built specifically for the event, and get an up-close-and-personal view of my favorite thoroughbred of all-time, Cigar, grandson of the great Northern Dancer whose streak of 16 wins in a row in the mid-90’s captivated me in a way no other horse has before or since.  It was definitely the highlight of my trip.  For Suzanne, I think the entire experience was a highlight, as she snapped over 250 photographs, some of which are accompanying this post.

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