Well, my furlough had to be extended as a “French Furlough,” but I’m back!
Not only was I dealing with a hectic ending to the semester, but faced an immediate (though highly anticipated) flight to Louisville, Kentucky for the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. I wrapped up my last project and turned it in on April 30 and turned around for the flight out at around 6 a.m. on May 1. It was a crazy week leading up to it, but we pulled it off. My wife and I had a great time and all of the time spent in Louisville wasn’t focused exclusively on all the events surrounding the Derby.
Not long after touching down in Louisville, the task to find our way around town was on. A lot of wrong turns were made, but we did eventually find a restaurant and took in a few sites prior to our attendance at the famous 2.5 hour (!) Pegasus Parade (part of Derby Days and one of the largest parades in the U.S.).
Friday was a bit more relaxed. We had debated on whether or not we wanted to go to the Oaks race, but ultimately, our decision not to go seemed the best one, especially considering the downpour of rain in the afternoon. Nonetheless, we made our rounds, starting off in the morning with a short hop across the Ohio River to the Falls of the Ohio site.
Quite an interesting museum at Falls of the Ohio… and I especially enjoyed the story about possible Welsh explorers in the area, many, many years before Columbus was even a thought. On top of that, we found it particularly interesting to read about some of the people with connections to the famous site, including many Virginians (even some from the Shenandoah Valley).
From there, we began our search for a place to eat… and man, did we find it! No, it wasn’t some well-known Louisville establishment, but rather, a chain restaurant – Famous Daves! We had heard about Famous Daves – actually we saw some commercials in which Nascar driver Jeff Gordon sang the praises of the chain. We had also seen one during our visit to Sandusky, Ohio (just outside the famous Cedar Point Amusement Park) last summer, but couldn’t find time to stop (too busy doing the roller-coaster thing). Anyway, darn good food! I highly recommend the BBQ and beef brisket.
Next, after going through some of the brochures we had picked-up from Falls of the Ohio, we decided to make the trip to New Albany to see the Underground Railroad Exhibit at the Carnegie Center for Art and History. I think the thing that tipped-me in that direction was that I wanted to see just how advanced the attraction would be in the way of interaction design. I wasn’t disappointed. It is well-worth the time to make the trip to see this. There were some design features that I think could be improved upon, but you really have to understand the “big picture,” which ultimately goes back to funding. The Center had spent a great deal of time coming up with the funds necessary to get the attraction up and running and a lot of in-kind donations were made from those who actually put the attraction together. The director there, Sally Newkirk, was extremely helpful and fielded a number of questions that I had. All-in-all, I’d give the attraction a solid “A.” I loved the use of color and the flow of information that impacts the visitor with each step. The last part of the feature is an interactive kiosk, at which the visitor sits. It is a touch-screen feature, and permits a visitor to select what he or she wants to see/hear about. Really, I think that the first “chapter” should be enough to make a person want to go onto the second chapter and so on until the end (in all, this would take about an hour at the kiosk). I think the most interesting part of the kiosk is following a slave from Tennessee, who runs away, making his way through Kentucky and into Indiana. Yet, making it across the Ohio (as many know) wasn’t enough to make a slave a free man… That’s about all I’ll say about it as I don’t want to spoil another person’s visit and experience. Just know that it is time well-spent and a great attraction!
Friday was topped-off with a two hour dinner cruise (as if we weren’t full enough from our visit to Famous Daves) on the Ohio aboard the Spirit of Jefferson. Quite a full day!
Saturday, well, that was the Derby, all day. We got to the track around 10 a.m. and were there until after the tenth race (the Derby proper). We didn’t hang around for the 11th and 12th races. Our first time ever at the event, but we had a great time (and didn’t miss out on the tradition of the mint julep). I wagered a little on the races, but it didn’t pay out, but that was ok. The most incredible part of it was that, for the Derby race, the starting gates were moved to within 15 yards of our seats (128A). You have to understand, our seats were trackside – all we had to do was jump over the fence in front of us and we were on the track! Anyway, when the gates were pulled up in front of us, I think the real thrill began. When the horses were in and the gates sprang open, it sent shivers down my spine. Wow, what a time. My wife got a great photo of the horses coming out of the gates. We couldn’t see the finish line, but the race was exciting enough. Sad to say, we didn’t hear about Eight Bells and her fate until after we got back to the hotel.
Let’s see, what else… oh yes, Sunday. To top things off, before our flight on Monday, we headed to Hodgenville, Ky. to see Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace. Pretty neat drive from Louisville to Hodgenville – the same ride that i took 23 years before when I arrived in Louisville and headed to Fort Knox for Army R.O.T.C. Basic Camp. I hadn’t been back to Ky. since then. Anyway, I really enjoyed the scenery on the drive down. Especially thrilled when we crossed into Hardin County, for that is where my g-g-grandmother’s family was from (there and Breckinridge County). Interesting stories about them and I’ll have to tell a few at a later time , and especially in the way that the stories relate to Civil War memory. Two of my g-g-g-grandfather’s brothers were actually in the 27th Kentucky Infantry, US (many men in that regiment had to break through Confederate lines to enlist – really amazing story).
Oh, I almost forgot, we also made our way to Cave Hill Cemetery (was that Sunday? I can’t remember!) and saw Colonel Sanders grave! Also had to drive over to the National Cemetery section and saw the graves of the Union soldiers… and, next to them were the graves of many Confederate soldiers. I have to say, kudos to the SCV and MOS&B of that area. The flag pole that they erected over the Confederate section, well, that was done with class and intelligence. Seriously, I mean that. No, it didn’t have a battleflag or, God forbid, a Confederate Navy Jack. The flag on the pole was a Third National Confederate, as well it should be. In my opinion, that’s a reflection of intelligent remembrance of Confederate soldiers, unlike the hundreds of thousands of bumper stickers I hear that have been produced for “Confederate Heritage and/or History Month,” that bear… what did you expect!?… the Confederate naval jack. But, that’s another blog for another day… and this blog posting is getting wayyyyyy too long.
Bottom line – we just really had a great time in Louisville… and Southern Indiana!