I Went to see the Kentucky Derby, but was Captivated by Lookout Mountain, TN 
TAKING A BREAK
I JUST GOT BACK FROM THE KENTUCKY DERBY and thought I would slip this in, between some other hubs I am almost done with. While the point of the trip was to see the Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY, and the Kentucky Derby race on May 4, 2013, that turned out to be the also-ran of the trip. Before getting into the details and pictures, let me give a quick synopsis.
My wife and I left on April 30, 2013, the day after our seventh wedding anniversary, for Chattanooga, TN to see the sights for our anniversary the day before. Our plan ended up being to:
- see Ruby Falls at Lookout Mountain that evening,
- then Rock City and the Incline Railway the next morning before
- driving up to Bardstown, KY where we met with Mary's (my wife) sister and brother (Bob), along with their spouses, and another couple who were the parents of the brand new wife of the Bob's son; got that? Also there, meeting us, were relatives of Bob's who live in Louisville and graciously provided us the tickets to Churchill Downs.
- On Thursday, May 2, we went to Churchill Downs to look around and attend the races.
- Friday was a down day and
- on Saturday, May 4, we went to the Lexington/Kentucky Room at the Keenesland Racetrack in Lexington, KY to watch the Derby on TV from the comfort of a dining room complete with buffet.
- Finally, on Sunday, we all left and Mary and I were going to spend more time in Chattanooga before heading home on Tuesday.
Unfortunately, it didn't work out quite that way.
APRIL 30, 2013 - CHATTANOOGA, TN
WE ARRIVED AT THE COMFORT INN AND SUITES, LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, Chattanooga, TN in time to catch one of the last tours into the Ruby Falls Caverns on Lookout Mountain; that part of the plan worked out fine, thank you. We almost didn't stay at the Comfort Inn because the TripAdvisor.com reviews ran from very good to very poor; my review will be average. Nevertheless, it was suitable and it was only for one night.
I have been is several caverns throughout my life and Ruby Falls is one of the best, overall. It is about 3/4-mile of walking along more or less level, well-lit pathways which ends at a 145' underground water fall which is beautifully lit. The tour offers views of almost all of the various types of rock formations from the well-known stalagmites and stalactites, to flowstones and helictites. I will leave the detailed description to the Ruby Falls web site but will say it was well worth the price of admission, around $18.00. (If you are into zip-lining, they added that attraction as well.
Following this, we had an excellent dinner at a local BBQ where I was introduced to deep-fried Oreo cookies, all the rage, apparently. Well, all I will say is Mary really liked them.
MAY 1, 2013 - CHATTANOOGA, TN and BARDSTOWN, KY
YOU MIGHT NOTICE THE DEARTH OF PICTURES from our trip into Ruby Falls Caverns. Well, that is because of the result from a knock on the door the next morning when the hotel manager announced my car had been broken into that night!! So, downstairs I went to meet with one Chattanooga's finest, Officer Justice, who took me down the row of cars to display the marvelous work of the vandals. It turned out to be a two-fer, my passenger window was laying all over the pavement co-mingled with the driver's window of the much newer car next to mine.
They were probably after my GPS, which I normally put on the floor when travelling, but walked off with much more; I don't know what they got from the other car. The only thing I lost was my GPS, the Sirius/XM radio was still in place (just as it was the last time my GPS vanished). Mary, however, did not fare as well. Along with the camera, which had the Ruby Falls pictures on it, they took her suitcase and several large bottles of hooch she was bringing to the party in Bardstown; the booze, by the way, was in a 31 Tote bag worth about $40.
What they didn't take was a battery starter; binoculars, which they had removed from a different bag. and two Vera Bradley bags, one of which contained one of a woman's most prized possessions, her shoes; and her Derby hats. In the suitcase, of course, were all of her clothes, except for the change she took to the room with her, and her Derby dress; that was in my garment bag which I took to the room. (I was roundly chided on the trip for not having the foresight to pack my own change of clothing in order to save hauling everything to the room, btw.)
We had purchased tickets for the Incline Railroad and Rock City attractions along with the Ruby Falls which we had intended to use today. Needless to say, we didn't. Instead, I got my window fixed and we drove on to Bardstown, getting in 8 PM to meet up with everyone else.
MAY 2, 2013 - CHURCHILL DOWNS
BOB WAS THE PLANNER OF THIS WHOLE AFFAIR. He and his wife have been coming to Bardstown for years to see the races AND to sample the bourbon from all of the distilleries in the area. Several years ago, he talked Mary's sister and her husband to tag along, and this year Bob bamboozled us into the trip as well; I am glad he did. Part of their tradition was a visit to his friends house in Louisville where the wife prepared sausage biscuits, a Derby dessert, strawberries while her husband served the ubiquitous bourbon b on to before traveling on to Churchill Downs.
As I mentioned earlier, we planned to see Churchill Downs early, to avoid the Derby crowds, and view the actual Derby from a safe distance. This is what we did today; and we almost avoided the traffic. It basically had a clear shot to the track until we turned on to the street in front of the Downs from where we would enter the parking lot; it took 20 minutes to cover that 1/4 mile!
CHURCHILL DOWN'S BY A NOVICEClick thumbnail to view full-size
I WAS NOT IMPRESSED
EXCEPT FOR THE DOWN'S HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE. Sorry, but that is just me.
To be honest, Churchill Downs is not that impressive from the front, so I waited to get inside to be in awe. What I found didn't knock me out of my socks, but was nevertheless extremely interesting. After going through the ticket styles, we pushed out to a rather cavernous ground floor. To the left was the actual outdoors and the paddock area. From there you can see some of the architecture Churchill Downs is famous for, e.g. the spires. To the right is a massive betting area for all of those who don't have seats.
Going back inside, you go up an escalator to next floor where we can get to the box seats. Taking my seat, I looked out to see what I could see ... and that was half a racecourse. The other half was hidden by large obstructions, such as the tote boards, center stands facing the back of the course, etc.; all I could see was the last turn and where the horses would finish; bummer.
While the horses remained hidden behind the infield obstructions as they got ready and began to race, I looked around at some of the hats the ladies were wearing, also another staple of the Kentucky Derby.
SOME HATS OF THE DERBYClick thumbnail to view full-size
A SMART MOVE
AFTER A DOWN DAY ON FRIDAY, Mary and the rest went to a distillery, I stayed at the motel and caught up on some work, we caught the Derby at the Keenesland Racetrack in Lexington. No muss, no fuss, and especially, no traffic!
Bob had acquired, at $50 a head, tickets for the Lexington/Kentucky dining room on the 4th level at Keenesland, which faced the track. From our tables, we could watch it rain at Churchill Downs from four different directions; it was simply overcast in Lexington, and the storm line remained between Louisville and Lexington until after the races were over.
The lunch buffet was superb and having the betting booths right nearby was the greatest. much better than the mob I faced at Churchill Downs, but then I probably couldn't afford similar accommodations there anyway. From the dining room windows, I had a view of the full track, too bad there were no horses running on it; they were only on the TVs.
This venue is the way to do it and we will do it this way again next year. If you want to see the Derby, I recommend you try the same thing.
A WORD ABOUT BARDSTOWN
I WANT TO GO BACK TO KENTUCKY NEXT YEAR simply to spend some time in Bardstown. I found it to be a quaint little city with a lot of history. (Let's not forget the betting either, I should have it all figured out by then, lol.) Further, there is a reasonably good chance my forefathers passed this way from South Carolina to Golconda, IL where my part of the Belford clan established its roots at the turn of the Nineteenth Century.
We didn't have time to look around very much, so I don't have any pictures, but I did provide a link above. The group celebrated our racing loses with dinner in a couple of nice period restaurants, the Kurtz restaurant, and The Old Talbott Tavern, est. 1779. Below are pictures of some of the Talbott's guests that have dined or stayed there (it is a hotel, as well) over the years; these were printed in its menu and that by itself makes me want to come back.
What interests most people, however, is knowing that Bardstown is the hub of Kentucky distilleries. There are a dozen or more scattered around, from the Barton's 1792 distillery which is right in town, to Jim Beam, Maker's Mark, Heaven's Hill, etc. There also many pubs and taverns that carry well over 100 different bourbons for you to sample as well as the Kentucky Bourbon House, presided over by Col. Michael Masters, who will be more than happy to share his wealth of bourbon knowledge.
FAMOUS VISITORS TO THE OLD TALBOTT TAVERNClick thumbnail to view full-size
BACK TO LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN, TN
OUR PLAN HAD BEEN TO STOP in Chattanooga, TN after leaving Bardstown, KY for a little more sightseeing. Initially, it was to see the aquarium, river walk, Delta Queen, and such before spending the next day looking around outside of Chattanooga. Instead, because of being sidetracked to the auto glass shop, we completed our tour of Rock City and the Incline Railway, followed by visiting downtown Chattanooga the next day. Sadly, alas, that wasn't to be either.
It was raining a bit when we left Bardstown and was predicted to rain in Chattanooga for the next two days, so we decided to play it by ear. It actually cleared up for a while by the time we got there and gave us the opportunity to see Rock City and stay dry at the same time. We even began the trip down on the Incline Railway under dry skies, but on the return trip back up Lookout Mountain, it began to rain; then it began to pour. It was 30 minutes before I could get to the car to bring it close in for Mary to get in. Mary and I decided we had had enough and headed home rather than chance more rain on Monday.
As I said earlier, Rock City is a "must see" if you can manage it. My pictures do not do it justice by any stretch. As for the Incline Railway, it is a take-it-or-leave-it affair.
ROCK CITY and LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN INCLINE RAILROAD, TNClick thumbnail to view full-size
LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN INCLINE RAILROADClick thumbnail to view full-size
MUCH MORE TO SEE AND DO AT LOOKOUT MOUNTAIN
BESIDES RUBY FALLS, ROCK CITY, AND THE INCLINE RAILROAD, there are several more things to do on Lookout Mountain such as Point Park and simply exploring. Lookout Mountain is probably as important to the outcome of the Civil War as Gettysburg was in that with the Confederate defeat their in the Battles of Chattanooga and Missionary Ridge in 1863, the way was opened for General Sherman's famous March to the Sea which split the South in two.
Points Park contains a museum with an interactive map and a show, for you Civil War buffs, covering the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga; Chickamauga is famous for two things, being one of the largest Union defeats in the Civil War as well as being the second bloodiest, next to Gettysburg, with around 40,000 casualties.
Besides Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga and the surrounding area holds many wonderful attractions, enough so, we plan to bring our grandsons (and their parents I suppose) to spend a week.
LOOKOUT MOUNTAINClick thumbnail to view full-size
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