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Saturday 31 March 2007

The Louisville Kite Festival

Yet another week of stunning weather. The forecast was for it to start raining Friday night and continue to rain all weekend. Well, I thought, at least I’ll get a lot of indoor chores done. The flapper on the toilet in the master bathroom gave up the ghost, and it’s an old style that’s hard to find a replacement for. I also needed to put up some more shelves in the downstairs storage and bicycle room, so that we could put up all the junk lying around on the floor there.

However, before that, I decided to make the most of the weather that was left. So Friday I snuck out on my lunch hour for a bike ride around the parks. I hadn’t been out riding since January, and woo-wee – those hills let you know that you are out of practice. I’d been jogging on the treadmills at the gym two or three times a week, and I thought that would keep me in the shape I needed, but apparently the leg muscles you use on the bicycle are just a little bit different. A good workout, though, and I got to see some more springtime scenery.

And by Saturday morning, it was becoming pretty clear that it wasn’t going to rain that day.

Hmmm. What to do on another pretty day? I logged on and checked my email. I thought I might try flying my kite. I had heard that Sawyer state park might have a place suitable for kite flying, so I went to their website. It said they also have an off-leash dog park, so I wanted to check that out, too. I click another button and discovered that the Louisville Kite Festival was going on right then at Sawyer park! Grabbed my kite, hopped in the truck, and headed over there. Got there and had no idea where anything was. No problem – just parked the truck and looked up in the sky. Walked over to where all the kites were coming from, and I was surprised to see a number of middle-aged guys like me flying their kites. One club came from Lexington, and they had many nice kites. They told me that if I wanted to talk to some really serious kite fliers, I should go talk to those people who came all the way from Cincinnati. So I went over to talk with them. I complemented them on one particularly unusual kite that they had. One of the ladies told me that it was designed by a Japanese kite master, and the day after he won a championship in Japan with it he FedEx-ed the pattern over to her so that she could make one. Uh, I thought – these people correspond with Japanese kite masters – I was way over my head here. I went back to the guys from Lexington, and spent a pleasant afternoon flying until I had to get back and cook dinner. I figured that if CVH had to work all day, she wouldn’t be too happy about coming home hungry and there not being any dinner because I had been out flying kites.

Categories: News from Louisville

Sunday 25 March 2007

The Falls of the Ohio

When CVH said that she wanted to go out for lunch today, I said that after lunch I wanted to go to Indiana to see the Falls of the Ohio, an Indiana state park at the falls of the Ohio River, where there are significant fossil beds. She agreed to go along. The museum there had a wide range of exhibits on everything from legendary Welshmen who supposedly came to the area three hundred years before Columbus only to be wiped out by Indians, to geological exhibits, marine fossils, woolly mammoth tusks, information on the dams and locks, steamboats, what the Indians ate, the Lewis and Clark expedition - pretty much everything that has happened in the Louisville area in the last three hundred and fifty million years or so. Clarksville and Jeffersonville, the two towns directly across the river from Louisville, were named after Gen. Clark and Thomas Jefferson, respectively. Apparently, Jefferson submitted a layout for the town; it didn’t get used, but they named the town after him anyway. After we toured the museum, we walked down to the river. You could see the dam and the river water coursing powerfully over the rocks and rapids there, but we also discovered that spring is not the best time to visit the fossil beds. The river is high, and the fossil beds were completely submerged. We did see some pretty birds, got a good view of the Louisville skyline, and now know when to come back and visit next time.

We got home, and I fired up the propane deep fryer that I got CVH for Christmas. We had purchased some ready-to-fry shrimp from a local frozen food guy (he stops by in his pickup with the freezer in the back every three or four months) and we wanted to try them out. I set up the burner in the fenced back yard (there are three small boys who live next door, and I wouldn’t want to be party to a tragedy caused by their curiosity), heated up the oil, and dropped those shrimps in for two minutes. They were delicious! Don’t think I could have done better myself, and it was a whole lot easier. We munched on those while watching the latest episode of “Kentucky Life” (I think I’ve mentioned this TV show before); they featured a candy store in downtown Louisville that his been in the same family since 1921 and has been making chocolate Easter bunnies for as long. CVH and I had talked earlier in the day how we should be patronizing local businesses whenever possible (like the little Chinese restaurant and the produce market and the Feeder’s Supply), so I guess I know where my chocolate bunny is coming from this year.

Categories: News from Louisville

Saturday 24 March 2007

The Bernheim (again), George Rogers Clark's burial, and Hogzilla.

We had spectacular weather this weekend! The spring here is much nicer than in northern Indiana, where I grew up. There, it didn’t get warm enough to enjoy spring until the rainy part had already set in. However, here in Louisville, we’re enjoying a few weeks of great weather before the rains come.

Friday night, CVH and I went out to eat at a new Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood. She got the curried chicken, which was very good. I liked the hot and sour soup. It’s just a little hole in the wall, designed for take out more than anything else (they only have three small tables), but you can see what’s going on in the kitchen, and make sure that your food is clean.

When I got up Saturday morning, I could see that it was going to be a stellar day. I decided that I’d return to the Bernheim forest (which I told you about last week) for some hiking. CVH’s stomach was bothering her a little, and she has trouble keeping up with me on the trails, so I though this would work out nicely. I got to see more of the forest, including the arboreta where they’ve planted many different species of hollies and conifers. I was also able to hike along a small creek bed and see the limestone outcroppings which are so common and pretty here. The trees are just thinking about budding, and certainly haven’t leafed out, so you can see a long way in the forest.

About noon, though, I got a call from CVH on my portable phone; she was lonely, and wanted me to come back to town and take her out to lunch.

I came back, picked up her up, and we went to eat. After lunch, we went to one of the local produce markets and got some fresh vegetables as well as another jar of the absolutely wonderful marinara sauce that we had picked up at the Kentucky crafts fair that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. This is the best stuff out of a jar that I’ve ever had, and it stands up to almost every fresh red sauce that I’ve ever had, too. Only drawback is that it is expensive. Funny how that seems to work.

After the grocery run, we took a trip to Locust Grove, a historic site owned by the City of Louisville. It’s the house and remains of the estate of the sister of George Rogers Clark. General Clark was a Revolutionary War hero (he got us the Northwest Territory) and the older brother of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The house where General Clark died is there, along with other buildings full of historic artifacts. The docent told us that Gen. Clark was the first person buried in the family cemetery (which we could see outside the window). She then told us that there’s no one buried in the cemetery anymore, as when they sold that part of the plantation, the new owners did not want a cemetery in their front yard, and asked that it be moved.

“Ah,” I said, “That’s why the General is buried at the Cave Hill cemetery.”

“Not really,” the docent replied; “That’s true for the other family members, but the General had already been disinterred and moved there. See, the legislature had started a Heroes Cemetery there in Frankfort, and they wanted the General to rest in it. Louisville didn’t care for this idea; Clark had founded Louisville in 1787, and had died in Louisville, and the city fathers wanted him to stay here. So they put him in Cave Hill with enough pomp and circumstance to make it impossible to move him again.”

“Politics!” I said to CVH, “You have to keep your eye on those guys in Frankfort all the time. They’re always trying to pull something like that.” The docent agreed. I thanked her for the tour, saying that I’m always interested in information about George Rogers Clark; I went to elementary school in Indiana, and they really stressed General Clark. It was pretty much Washington, Lincoln, and George Rogers Clark (although I don’t remember the teachers ever mentioning that he founded Louisville). The docent said Yes, and that the Indiana schools still do that. She said she gets a lot of schoolchildren through here, and that she could always tell when they were from Indiana, as they knew about General Clark, but unfortunately, the kids from the Louisville public schools had no idea who he was (the docent was a retired Louisville public school teacher).

After dinner, we watched some TV; the National Geographic Channel had a special on about “Hogzilla”, that monstrous eight-foot long wild pig that was shot in Georgia a couple of years ago. The scientists on the show said that since Hogzilla was seven years old when killed, there were almost certainly offspring of his in the woods. They also mentioned that wild hogs have spread as far north as Indiana. I turned to CVH and deadpanned “I’m never going back to the Bernheim.”

Categories: News from Louisville

Saturday 17 March 2007

The Bernheim Forest and the Heaven Hill Distillery

Well, we had quite a day yesterday, at least CVH and I and the dog did (the cat has been a bit off his feed lately). The day dawned bright and clear, if a little chilly (twenty-eight degrees). We decided that with such a nice day, we’d take a road trip. Since we’d be on the road all day, we also decided to drop off the dog at doggie day care, where she could play with her friends, as well as get a bath and a nail trim. She always looks forward to a ride in the truck now, thinking that she’s going to the pet resort for a play date.

We then headed on down a rather narrow and winding road (Bardstown Road) to Bardstown (where else?). Bardstown is a small town in the center of Kentucky’s bourbon region, popular with distilleries because of the delicious limestone filtered water that is pumped up there. We parked in the historic downtown where there are many early twentieth century buildings with various little shops, restaurants and the like. We went into a little consignment shop and got some very nice clothes for GC1 and then poked around in some rather more expensive furniture and antique shops; didn’t buy anything there. A stop at the visitor center in the middle of downtown gave us some ideas for other things to do that afternoon. After looking over what was nearby, we decided to visit “My Old Kentucky Home”, the one of the Stephen Foster song.

It has been lovingly maintained by the state since they got it from the family in 1923. It had recently undergone a renovation of the carpets and wallpapers, and they were startling in their degree of color and pattern; they’re all extremely bold; shame they didn’t allow you to take pictures inside. It’s a big, stunning mansion built by a prosperous businessman and lawyer in the days after the revolutionary war, but you can see why the family gave it to the state: who would ever buy a beautiful three-story mansion with no gas, no electricity, no indoor plumbing, and an outdoor kitchen in 1923? The guide was able to answer one of my questions: what was Stephen Foster doing in Kentucky in the first place? Turns out that he was a cousin and came to visit for about a month, during which time he wrote the song that became so popular. So I guess we did better than “Swanee River”; he never even visited Florida. We bought a print of My Old Kentucky Home, and we’ll be hanging it over the fireplace in Our New Kentucky Home.

We left My Old Kentucky Home and headed down the road about two miles to the Heaven Hill distillery. Turns out that you can’t go much more than two miles in this part of Kentucky without running into a distillery. They love to get visitors at Heaven Hill, and we stopped at the big visitors center there to see the exhibits and watch a movie (did you know the paper straw was invented so that Kentucky Derby fans could sip their mint juleps?). Then a guide took us over to one of the barrel warehouses.

Before we stepped in, the guide told us that there would be an aroma in the warehouse, as about five percent of the whisky in the barrels evaporates each year; in the warehouse, we’d smell “the angel’s share”. And boy, did it smell wonderful in there! The warehouse was a seven story all wood structure filled with tens of thousands of barrels.

All the five hundred pound barrels are rolled in and out with hand trucks; they don’t use forklifts. We also learned that the finest bourbon comes from the barrels on floors five, six, and seven, due to the weather conditions. It was quite a place to tour, and afterward, we got to sit down at their private bar and sip some of the bourbon. And not the cheap stuff, either; they gave us sips of the $47-bottle stuff and it was darn tasty, I must say. I got some wonderfully strong and delicious mustard made with their bourbon at the gift shop (at all attractions you “exit through the gift shop”).

Well we were on a roll now, but the afternoon was getting on, and we had to get back to the kennel before six-thirty to pick up Becky. We drove down a scenic byway with lots of hills and trees and rock outcroppings to the Bernheim forest. This is a privately held forest open to the public (for a small fee). Apparently, the founder bought up a whole bunch of farmland and denuded forest south of Louisville for the purpose of restoring the hardwoods there. In the fifty years or so since, it has certainly come back beautifully, and now they hold all kinds of classes and nature studies. They even have a fourteen-mile woodland hike over the hills that I’m thinking I will try to accomplish by the end of the year. It takes a good seven hours. However, yesterday we just walked one of the short trails, called the “Bent Twig” trail. I asked CVH “Surely you can handle the Bent Twig trail, can’t you?” and she replied with an unkind remark.

We wrapped up our visit to the Bernheim forest by driving around their lake, and headed back to Louisville. Picked up Becky; she was in a really good mood after playing with the other dogs, even though they had given her a bath. Then we grabbed some Popeye’s fried chicken, came home, watched TV, and declared it a nice day.

Categories: News from Louisville

Thursday 08 March 2007

The Kentucky Arts and Crafts Festival

This weekend, CVH and I attended a Kentucky crafts festival. I must admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to it, but CVH dragged me off, and we ended up having a nice time. Like the other art and craft festival that we went to last fall, it was a juried affair – they didn’t let just anyone in. In Houston, you tended to have a lot of booths advertising chiropractic services and the like wherever you went. But these were all real Kentucky craftsmen (well, it did appear that a couple of Tennesseans snuck in, but that’s ok). There were Kentucky bands playing bluegrass music, and Kentucky authors selling their books about Kentucky. CVH bought a couple of Kentucky-related books, and I bought a children’s book for GC1 that was ostensibly written by a dachshund. The neat thing about that one was that I got to meet the dachshund (a real dog), and got an autograph “paw print” on the book. But the best part of the festival was the food aisle. There were all sorts of delicious Kentucky sauces and cheeses and candies and other foodstuffs; we ended up buying several jars of absolutely delicious things, and have already been chowing down on them this week. For dinner one night, I took some fancy cornmeal, mixed it with this rich organic chicken stock, and topped it with a sauce made from local pork sausage and a local marinara. I tell you, I could make money with that one!
Took Becky to doggie day care again today; it had been a while since she had gone, due to the stomach flu that she had. The handlers said she had a great time, and that she plays constantly; they don’t know where that dog gets so much energy. I will have to say that when I went to pick her up, she was the prettiest dog in the whole yard!