Monday, May 09, 2011

Kentucky Times Day 1

My buddy Jim and I drove over to Kentucky on Friday, May 6. The main reason for our trip was to witness the grandeur of the Kentucky Derby, but the other days we were in Louisville were eventful as well. We agreed the night before that we needed to leave early (which to us meant 10 am) but for reasons I won't get into we didn't leave until noon. From St. Louis, Louisville is about 4 hours away.

When we got close to Expo Five, the camp site where we had made a reservation, it became apparent that the neighborhood was very... colorful. Liquor stores, strip clubs, and adult entertainment shops vied for control of the main drag. Apparently Kentucky is one of those states where grocery stores can't sell hard alcohol, so there were way more liquor stores than are usual. Most of them had drive-thru's as well.

Many of the little places had funny names. The sky was a bit overcast, but luckily this strip club is "open rain or shine". This place sparked a short conversation between the two of us over the correct spelling of "thoroughbred". I'm a nerd, I know.

Because we arrived a bit tardy, we couldn't get a tent spot on the grass, and instead got a spot on "the beach". I could tell by the way the campsite greeters were referring to it that it wasn't such a great place. It could as well be called "the quick sand pit" or "tent stakes won't help you".

Jim enjoying life on "the beach". Our Walmart tents were both so gross after the rain that we threw them away.

Expo Five is like part campsite, part bar and venue, part flea market.

The stuff they were selling was pretty random. Like wedding cake toppers and cowboy boots in the same stall random.

Here was the little venue bar. They called it the Expo Dome, but it reminded me of one of those military surplus buildings.

Once we were settled we headed to downtown Louisville, hoping for a change of scenery.

The dome topped AEGON Center is the most distinctive building in the Louisville skyline.

Busy putting the Louis in Louisville.

While driving around looking for parking, we just happened to pass by the Brown Hotel and popped in. The streets of downtown Louisville were heavily populated with the well dressed, and the hotel seemed a bit on the fancy side. Jim and I were in t-shirts and were both half expecting ourselves to be stopped by the top-hatted doormen. Luckily the hotel was kind enough to overlook our clothing long enough to take our money. The hotel is famous for a local specialty, the Hot Brown. So, of course, I had one.

The menu describes the dish as: "Roasted Turkey Breast on Toast Points, Sauce Mornay, Parmesan Cheese, Tomatoes and Bacon, Baked to Perfection!" It was really good. It reminded me of a upscale version of a horseshoe.

We apparently made a good impression on our bartender, who gave us a couple free drinks on the house. Being in Kentucky we naturally asked for the most expensive bourbons they had. I also had my first Kentucky-made mint julep at the hotel.

For dessert it was Derby Pie. It's like a chocolate version of pecan pie.

I was just trying to be funny and make a little small talk, so I asked our bartender if he had any hot horse tips for me. He got really serious and lowered his voice as he spoke. He told us something like "bet on the 2nd horse in the 3rd race, and bet 5 across the board". He even added some of that classic "it's a sure thing" sort of crap you always hear in the movies. Now I've never bet on a horse before, so I hadn't the slightest idea what "across the board" even meant. Now that I have had my expensive education on the subject, it means that you bet on a particular horse 3 times: one on it making 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Plus if the horse wins, you get the winnings from all three. And the five was five dollars on each. Long story short, that horse didn't even make it to 3rd place, and my beloved 15 dollars now belongs to someone else. But hey, that's a low price for a memorable story.

After a bit of strolling we arrived at Fourth Street Live!, a little outdoor entertainment complex. They had a ton of bars and restaurants and what have you. This isn't really my type of place. It all looked pretty cool, but I like off the beaten path, and I like local culture when I travel. Hard Rock Cafe and T.G.I. Friday's are neither of those things. We lingered a bit to listen to a free Bare Naked Ladies concert that was in progress, but then returned to the camp site. We were hitting the race track in the morning, and surviving the Kentucky Derby requires a good night's sleep.

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