Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kentucky, Ohio, Tennesse, Mississippi

May 20-25,2010

Preliminary research: If you will be passing through any large city with a Harrah's casino on Monday-Thursday check the web site ahead of time for 'Hot Deals' where you will find a monthly calender of room rates for the best price on accommodations anywhere. This week our room in The Terrace on the first night at Tunica, Mississippi just outside Memphis was $50 for two queen sized beds.

The day before we set out it had dropped to $30. There are five casinos operating in Tunica. Two years ago our room in the the Verandah had a Jacuzzi in the room rivaling a Caeser's Palace, Las Vegas honeymoon suite, all for just $10 a person.

I like the travel link on the home page. It is possible to browse trips others posted for recommendatios of places to stay, dine. Sightseeing locations are ranked by popularity and have a link to address, phone number, google map. has a map state by state of factories with tours. We decided to visit several in Kentucky: Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory and Maker's Mark distillery in Loretto plus Jungle Jim's Foodie Land unique supermarket in Fairfield, a suburb of Cincinati, Ohio.

Any city that is a tourist destination has its own website. was a good resource. Besides the museum in the railway terminal there was a 1920's gangster walking tour, an observation deck in the art deco Carew Towers building and a conservatory in Eden Park featuring a Japanese butterfly and bonsai exhibit. There are 12 tours including one on segways based at Fountain Square downtown which looks like alot of fun. There are 52 landmarks, 14 wineries and 11 museums if you have the time.

Our parish library has a big audio book department. I selected books on cd to listen to as we drove: Michael Crichton's last book published posthumously in 2009, a true story about real pirates, "Pirate Lattitudes". Set in 1665 Jamaica it recounted an expedition led by Captain Edward Hunter to capture a Spanish galleon, the El Trinidad. There was a great deal of description of every day life. We learned one cure for baldness at that time was to apply a paste of earthworms to the scalp.

"Nuclear Jellyfish" was Tim Dorsey's 10th book, also published in 2009. Dorsey was a former Tampa, Florida newspaper reporter. His work is reminiscent of Elmore Leonard's humorous Florida crime novels. This story featured a character who loves souvenirs, vacation travel, trivia, arcane murder techniques and is a fan of the Lynnard Skynard band.

We rose at 4 am to pack, dropped off Robert's PT Cruiser convertible at the dealership as soon as it opened to get the airconditioner repaired while we were gone. Picked up a fancy Ford Taurus rental by the airport. Thrifty Doillar charged $300 for the week and was $100 cheaper than Enterprise Leasing.

The vehicle was fitted with luxury trim, had sirius radio which we enjoyed until the six month introductory trial subscription ran out midday Sunday in downtown Cincinati.

That car had separate temperature controls for the driver and passenger, a/c vents in the back, a compass in the mirror, very comfortable seats. The door to the gas tank doubled as the gas cap so we didn't have to worry about losing it. It never got less than 30 miles to the gallon for the duration of our trip as well.

We dropped off our dog Jake at our veterinarian, Dr. Phil Thiac's for boarding while we were out of town and drove to Central Louisiana to pick up my mother.

First stop was Joe's Dreyfous restaurant in Livonia just past Baton Rouge and Port Allen on the way to Opelousas. Livonia is off Hwy 190. From there turn left onto LA 77, drive along Bayou Grosse Tete for half a mile. 225-637-2625

There is a bed & breakfast next door in a circa 1850 house. Joe's Dreyfous restaurant building was originally the general store/pharmacy/post office for a bustling farming community before the turn of the last century.

It is now open six days a week for lunch with supper hours from 5-9 pm also on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It has a buffet and is famous for it's gumbo, either seafood or hen sausage, by the cup or a huge bowl that is a meal unto itself.
The building has original wood flors and floor to ceiling wooden pharmacy display cabinets.

Theo Dreyfous came to south Louisiana from Mannheim, Germany in 1877, worked for his relatives, eventually buying the business. Hea also acquired a pharmacy degree; his framed diploma graces one wall.

The restaurant was operated by four generations of the Dreyfous family until it was sold to another couple three years ago. There is a trophy on the bar proclaiming the restaurant champion in a gumbo cook off last year.

Robert ordered the seafood gumbo. I had the hen sausage version. There was an apologetic note tacked to the menu explaining that seafood had gone up as a result of the BP Deep Horizon oil spill that summer but even so seafood is still plentiful here.

Appetizers include fried alligator tail, oysters bienville, crab cakes, boudin balls. Besides the gumbo there is crawfish bisque, etouffee and turtle soup. There is Italian, caeser and fruit salad. All manner of sandwich from cheeseburgers to poboys and steak, chicken dishes, not to mention the huge seafood combo platter.

The bar boasts six kinds of daicquiris with a two for one price special every Thursday. Our neighbors at the next table were a couple of 'ladies of a certain age' who intended to take advantage of the two for one special but found their drinks so delicious they had more rounds so it took advantage of them instead.

Robert had the bread pudding for dessert and I chose the cream brulee. Their bread pudding is orange in color and is the best this side of the bread pudding souffle from Commander's Palace restaurant in New Orleans. The cream brulee was perfect, cool with a crisp broiled sugar crust. All of y'all must go there right now!

The next day we saw the Corvette plant in Bowling Green. 270-745-8019.
Exit 28 off I-65, park in Lot C. Tours begin at 8:30 am, also 11:30, 12:45 and 2 pm. 87 cars are manufactured each day. The Z06 is made by hand. Models made here include the coupe, grand sport coupe, convertible, grand sport convertible. There are 300 hourly and 100 salaried employees, 48 robots with personnel in the body shop. It takes two days to build a car. 10% are sent to dealerships. The rest are already sold. For an additional $500 the purchaser can watch the car while it is being built from start to finnish. The factory photographs every step of the process and presents the new owner with a scrapbook when the car is released at a ceremony in front of the corvette museum next door. Two people collected their new cars while we were there.

Just past Bowling Green on the way to Louisville on I-65 we saw a tourist village with miniature golf, bumper boats and a dinosaur world near the exit for Rock City, Maker's Mark and Jim Beam Distilleries. We vowed to return which we did the following September.

That evening we stayed at the very nice Best Western Dixie Inn, 1735 South Stewart Avenue, Louisville. 502-449-7376

The Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory is downtown on the corner of 8th Street and Main, 800 West Main Street. 502-588-7228. Park your car behind the museum. Admission is around $10

Just down the street at the end of the block going toward the river there is a museum dedicated to boxing legend Mohammed Ali. He got into trouble with the government during the Viet Nam war era because he refused to be inducted
into the military. He said it was white people sending black people to
fight yellow people.

There is a baseball museum and gift shop at the Louisville Slugger plant. An art exhibit was set up in the gift shop through June 2010 on players of the historic Negro baseball league with paintings of greats such as Satchel Paige and Willie Mays.

The factory store sells maple bats for $85, ash bats for $54. If a bat has a signature this is a paid endorsement. There are 3 overlapping shifts from 6 am to 10pm. Our tour guide Don gave a great tour. Even on days when the factory is closed a skeleton crew mans work stations so visitors can see how bats are made. We saw a long time employee demonstrate how a bat is made by hand using callipers for precise measurement. He told us he usually sells peppers he raises in a farmer's market on Saturdays.

Louisvile Slugger has been producing bats since 1884. Before that they made butter churns. Bats are made in different styles. There were bronzed models on display in front of the building along the block for ones used by famous players such as Babe Ruth and Dr. Dot Robinson.

Lunch was nearby at Luigi's Pizza, 712 Main Street. 502-589-0005. Open 7 am-5 pm daily with 11 am-3 pm on Saturdays. Luigi came here from Puglia, Italy in 1996. His restaurant is beautifully decorated by local artists, food is wonderful and got a 5 1/2 out of a 5 star rating by local reviewers.

Our interest was picqued after viewing features on Food channel, Travel channel and a YouTube video about Jungle Jim's Foodie Land, 5440 Dixie Hwy, Fairfield, Ohio. 513-674-6000. Open 7 days a week, 8 am - 10 pm.

Jim Bonamino started selling wtermelons on the side of the road to pay for college in the late 1960's. By 1971 he set up shop on a vacant lot, was thrilled when he was able to acquire camper tops to protect the produce stahls to keep it viable.He was able to buy a closed gas station, lived upstairs over the pernmanent location of his first grocery store. The building was moved to his present location and is now the pharmacy department. 10 acres of store with 16 additonal acres for future development.

After our visit there was a press release announcing his acquisition of property in the next couty with plans to also expand to a third location after the second one is established. If all he did was furnish both of the new ones with decorations from his flagship store there would be plenty to go around.

Robert has been in management in the grocery business for 40 years. It is nothing for him to check a new store and leave within 45 minutes. He thought that would be the case this day but we were in there over six hours. It is one of the 9 Wonders of this continent.

If you visit on Monday-Friday for $5 you get a store tour with generous samples in all departments and a $2 coupon for discount on purchases. This store is part of a shopping center owned by Mr. Bonamino that has a monorail running along the perimeter which he purchased for $2 million dollars from an airport that closed. Shops include Hallmark greeting cards, a pet store and a Cici's pizza. The monrail debarks at a 10,000 square foot two story events center that is available for gala events, receptions, business meetings.

Inside the bulding there is a gardening center, a bank, a travel agency, a barber shop, a restaurant, a pharmacy, a soda fountain/ice cream parlor. There is a fish hatchery for selling live fish from acquariums. 400 live lobsters are sold daily. There is a 25 seat movie theater showing a film on the history of Jim Bonamino's supermarket. Upstairs there is a classroom with complete kitchen. We just missed a session on wine. The liquor department has home brew supplies. There are special lockers with brass nameplates to store fine wines for customers. The wines are very fine. Some are so expensive that you only hear of them and never see them at retail, such as Chateau Petrous from Romani-Conti vineyards, selling for $4,000 a bottle.

Whole boar's head was available in the pork department for $12.99. There was a whole aisle of hot sauce with a fire engine atop the shelves.

There are rooms on one side of the building for foods of each countyr. Most grocery stores have two choices of aple butter. This place has four feet of shelves devoted to it.

We stayed at a very nice Best Western just off Dixie Hwy past the interstate, the Cincinati West Inn, 11967 Chase Plaza, Fairfield Ohio. 513-825-9600

We parked in the 900 block of Vine street and walked to Carew Towers to experience the view from its observation deck. Downtown bustles on weekdays but was now deserted because it was Sunday. The only activity seemed to be a lone prostitute on parade and some drug deals waiting to happen. The public library is downtown and has a separate building for its children's division. It is open 7 days a week.There was an art deco hotel inside Carew Towers that is now part of the Hilton chain.

Union station railway terminal was built in 1931. This was the site of a ballpark for the Cincinati Red Stockings from July 5,1867 to 1870. The park was torn down in 1872. Prior to that at this location John James Audobon taught taxidermy for 6 months in 1819. Five local birds are part of his 'Birds of America" book.

In 1920 George Crab negotiated with 7 railroads using 5 stations to consolidate. The building was opened March 31, 1933 with 50,000 in attendance. It cost $41 million which converts to $430 billion in today's currency. Trains ran until 1992 although it is still an Amtrack station. The first Amtrack out of here was February 27, 1969. The original murals from the station now grace Cincinati airport.

Krohn conservatory is thre greenhouses in Eden Park, a bucolic space on the bank of the river in an upscale Victorian era neighborhood. 513-421-5707.,

Cincinati is a sister city of Hiroshima, Japan. Hiroshima sent cherry trees as a diplomatic gift during the term of President Garfield. After WWII Cincinati sent trees back to Hiroshima to start reforresting it after the war.

Monday we visted a Kroger Mega Mart, concept store Lexington, Kentucky. It had a furniture and home furnishings department. Ball bearings in the shopping cart wheels made it easier to maneuver a loaded cart. This big store had a woman manager. There was a huge organic section. Any aisle with related items normally found in a refrigerated section was installed in a 4 feet refrigerated section in that aisle. Ready to eat Jello pudding is next to the boxed gelatin on the aisle with sugar, flour and spices. Refrigerated dog and cat food is in the pet food aisle with a six pound roll of frozen sausage and chicken available plus Frosty Paws frozen dog desserts. Refrigerated liquid creamers were next to the bagged coffee section.

We stayed in a brand new LaQuinta, the Lexington South/Hamburg, 100 Canebrake Drive, Lexigton, Kentucky. 859-543-1877. It had a gorgeous heated indoor swimming pool.

It was not as easy as we had anticipated to find Maker's Mark distillery after exiting from I-65. We got lost in the middle of nowhere and that was with a gps.
At the end there was a one lane road to the property. If a delivery vehicle was on the path cars in the opposite lane had to hit the ditch. We met a tractor pulling a hay bailer and had to do just that.

Maker's Mark distillery is at 3550 Burksspring Road, Loretto, Kentucky, south of Bardstown, Kentucky. 270-865-2099.

Maker's Mark is a relatively new brand of bourbon, debuting in 1953. It is different from other bourbons because it is not rye based. The formula is 16% soft red wheat, 70% corn and 14% malted barley. There are 80 eployees.

The bourbon ages three years, barrels rotated for two more years. It is bottled at 5 yers 9 months with a maximum of 6 1/2 years. As of July 2010 Maker's 46 is an innovation where at the time it is usualy bottled it is aged an additional 1 1/2 years with French oak barrel staves that have been seared for 46 seconds. This increases the flavor and the proof up to 94.

Fans if Maker's Mark can join the Ambassador Clkub. A liquor salesman enrolled Robert in this club in 2004. Club members have the opportunity at a future date to buy part of a barrel and are notified when it is ready. Robert's barrel is number 264705. We looked it up and found it in warehouse K. 29 others have a share in this barrel.

History of the place: TW Samuels Bourbon was the family business when inherited by William Samuels IV. He joined the armed services during WWII. After the war he sold the company because he did not care for rye based bourbon due to rye imparting an umpleasant bitter quality in his opinion. He tried other lines of work but after a time admitted that what he did best was make whisky. By this time he was married. His wife Margie was instrumental in shaping the look of Maker's Mark. He bought a farm, Star Hill which had a 10 acre spring-fed lake and a failed distillery that went back to 1805, founded by Charles Burke.

Margie's original notebooks are on display in the farmhouse kitchen. Her ideas were to create a Victorian village in the Kentucky foothills. Bottles were modeled after cognac bottles. Bottle cutouts embellish shutters of the outbuildings. Buildings are painted a dark color, Derby Brown to hide mold and to make the red trim stand out.

Today the farmhouse is a museum. Black and white framed pictures of the famly on the wall are animated in various ways to make the viewer think he is hallucinating.

The Sezarac is a cocktail dating back to the early 1800's. By 1859 it was the signature drink of the Sezarac Coffee House in New Orleans. Antoine Peychaud invented it when he mixed cognac with his bitters. This drink originally also used absinthe. Herbsainte can be substituted for absinthe today. After it migrated to the Sezarec Lounge in the Fairmont Hotel they started making it with rye whisky. I thihk it would be better if they used Maker's Mark instead.

3 oz Maker's Mark
3/4 oz simple syrup
dash of Peychaud bitters
Hersainte or absinthe
lemon twist for garnish

Chill an old fashioned glass with ice cubes, set aside.
In another glass muddle simple syrup and bitters
Add Maker's Mark and ice to the glass
Dump the icecubes from the first glass
Rinse that glass with absinthe and dump the absinthe out
Strain the Maker's Mark/bitters/simple syrup into the glass that is
rinsed out,stir
Squeeze lemon twist over drink but do not drop it in the drink when served

That evening we stayed in the Best Western Carriage House,
1936 Hwy 45 By Pass, Jackson, Tennessee 877-574-2464. 877-574-2464

In Jackson there is also a little village comprised of a museum at the home of railway engineer Casey Jones, a gift shop and country style restaurant as well as a motel next to it where you can spend the night in a refurbished caboose.

The last tourist stop was Abraham Lincoln's birthplace, Hodgenville, Kentucky.
It is 110 miles north of Nashville, 12 miles west of Loretto, Kentucky. There is a very sweet town squre with a fountain and statue of Abraham Lincoln. His parent's home place was called Knob Creek Farm. They moved away before he was 3.

Hattie Howard was born in 1886, opened a place catering to people interested in the history of Abraham Lincoln there in 1936.It was sold to the county in April 2001.

Behind the museum there is a big garden with plants tyupical of settlers in the time of Abraham Lincoln's parents. Signs by the plants informed us that chamomille was good for shampoo, rosemary was used for insecticide, sage forfever, soapwart for washing lothes, lemon balm for misquito repellant, dill for colic, mustard for pneumonia and alvender as well as echinea for headach.

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