Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bardstown & My Old Kentucky Home

This post was post-dated to reflect the actual day of the visit. Poor internet connectivity made it impossible to post it in a timely manner!
We toured My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown, KY. It was named from the song of the same name. Stephen Foster who wrote the song was a frequent visitor to this mansion. The home belonged to Judge Rowan. It is obvious from the lyrics of the song that Foster enjoyed his visits here.
This statue shows Stephen Foster with his flute. Although most of us associate Foster with piano, a piano is not easy to travel with so he carried a flute to try out his tunes.

The guide was very informative and added a lot of detail to the tour.
The grave of Judge Rowan is a prominent feature of the family cemetery on the grounds.
The Rowan mansion originally had three full floors, but a fire destroyed the third floor and when it was rebuilt they only made a loft where the third floor had been. The two bottom floors had thirteen foot ceilings. On the outside several red stars are located at the top of each floor. Through these stars large threaded rods pass from one side of the house to the other. These rods are positioned on all sides. A nut is used at the end of each rod to tighten up the house. It must be done a couple of times a year. If this is not done then the brick walls could fall outward and collapse.
Russ and Tom check out the New Carriage House while John and Gayla are seen in the foreground.
Several carriages are on display inside the carriage house.
This is the Old Carriage House. When it was built it was the talk of the community. People couldn't believe anyone would build such a strange carriage house. The New Carriage House was built to end the local gossip. It is now used as a place for outdoor gatherings such as weddings.
This beautiful old Magnolia was near the New Carriage House. We all commented about the odd shape of this Magnolia.
Touring My Old Kentucky Home State Park left us all quite hungry. We went to the soda fountain at the Hurst Drug Store on the town square on the recommendation of the clerk at the gift shop at the park. It was great advice! They serve old fashioned hamburgers and make milk shakes from scratch like they used to do.
"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so I would have told you. I go prepare a place for you. And if I go prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am , there you may be also." John 14: 2-3

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't Trust Your GPS / Bardstown, KY

Before leaving Kentucky Horse Park we typed in WalMart for a quick trip. We were led through country and suburban roads for several miles before crossing I-75 and being led around the block to a Sam's Club. We then typed in WalMart and found one a couple of miles away. On the way back we were routed down I-75 and back to the park that was less than a mile off I-75. Why didn't the GPS lead us down I-75 to begin with.

While traveling to Bardstown we traveled through beautiful rolling hills in the Kentucky countryside.

Some people have spent a lot of money to impress others with their homes!

Historic Bardstown, KY has a unique courthouse encircled with a round-about in the center of town. The town is known for the Rowan manson about which Stephen Foster wrote "My Old Kentucky Home" and Bourban whiskey.

On the lawn of the courthouse is a motorcycle made of barrels.

After arriving on Tuesday our group decided to check out one of the local distilleries since we are in the Bourbon Capital of the World. Six couples in two trucks set out to visit Maker's Mark distillery near Bardstown, KY. After the address was entered in the GPS of each truck, the two groups were led on a "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" type route down narrow country roads until we arrived at the distillery. We were sure to get good directions for the return trip to the campground.

Notice the bottle shapes cut into the shutters.

These vats contain the cooked liquid containing ground corn, red winter wheat and barley. Yeast has been added to the liquid to start the fermentation. This sour mash is allowed to ferment for three days. The vats are twelve feet across and twelve feet deep.

Ron listens as the tour guide explains how the sour mass is filtered and run through a double distilation process. Notice the two copper distillery tanks.
Finished Bourbon is bottled after aging in white oak barrels for several years.

Maker's Mark adds their distinctive trademark by sealing each bottle with red sealing wax by hand.
The guide explains how the raw whiskey is aged in barrels by storing, rotating, and testing.

White oak barrels are charred inside to give the raw, white whisky the charcteristic color and taste of Bourbon as it ages.
These barrels are aging in the rows called ricks. After several years of aging and testing the Bourbon is becomes a finished product and is bottled.
Our friend, John, is dipping his bottle to put on the unique seal at Maker's Mark gift shop.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kentucky Horse Park

We traveled to Kentucky Horse Park which is just north of Lexington, KY on Sunday. There were six of us HitchHikers traveling together. When we got there we found that at least two other rigs from our tour were already there. This is a state park that deals with the history of horses and the roll they have played in America. Some highlights of the park are the Parade of Breeds, Hall of Champions, International Museum of the Horse, and the American Saddlebred Museum. The park is site of many horse competitions and is now getting ready for Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games of 2010.
Double fenced pastures are everywhere. The double fences are used to keep stallions where they belong. All fences have rounded corners so that horses cannot get hurt in a corner.

The vast expanse of fenced pastures gives the park a tranquil atmosphere.

Everywhere you look are fenced pastures.
The Big Barn is 476 feet long and 75 feet wide. Talk about big!
The Parade of Breeds displayed a variety of beautiful horses each representing their breed. A Thoroughbred

An American Painted Horse



This small horse is an Arabian.

This huge horse is a Friesian draft horse.

Barb is dwarfed by Harley, the huge Friesian.

"His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his delight in the legs of a man;
the Lord delights in those who fear him,
who puts their hope in his unfailing love."
Psalm 147: 10-11

On the road again! Today we are traveling to Bardstown, KY.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Renfro Valley, Tennessee - Home of Kentucky Music

We arrived in Renfro Valley near Mt. Vernon, KY on Thursday. We couldn't post the blog until today because the local WiFi was too weak and we couldn't hardly get enough bars on the air card to download email in the valley. We had to wait until we got to Lexington where we had better Internet connectivity.
Renfro Valley is the home of Kentucky Country Music. For seventy years now country musicians have come here to perform. It was a real treat to listen to extremely talented musicians pay tribute to not only country music, but all different genres of music.
The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame is located nearby. This hall of fame is well worth the time to visit. It honors Kentucky singers, song writers, performers and others who made significant contributions to music. Names such as Loretta Lynn, Dottie Rambo, John Michael Montgomery, Ricky Skaggs, and the Everly Brothers are just a few inductees to the hall of fame.
Renfro Valley is set up like an old timey village with many historic buildings that are located here or were brought in for display. There is a chapel and old school house located near the parking lot followed by numerous shops and the New Barn where big name performers come for concerts.
The Old Barn hosts shows several nights a week and often two shows a night on weekends. It is the current location of the Barn Dance that has been held here continuously now for seventy years. All four of the shows we attended were top notch with a variety of performers and types of music. It was truely enjoyable.
The bus above belongs to Ronnie Milsap who was in Renfro Valley for a concert in the New Barn.

Many of the buildings appear to have been here for decades. The Administrative building houses the offices for Renfro Valley.
This old mill takes you back to a time when things were done much differently.

Off to the east of the Mill and the Old Barn is BitterSweet Village. This village of old cabins house displays of frontier living.
Visiting the village is like taking a step back in time.

The general store, cobbler's shop, broom shop, farrier's shop, woodwright's shop, loom house and the doctor's home have informative displays.
The spring-pole lathe was operated by foot power. The bent over pole overhead pulled a cord wrapped around the lathe back up after the woodwright pressed down with his foot.
This display shows how large logs were squared into timbers using a crosscut saw. One worker pulled from above and another pulled from below.
The Loom House displays several looms that show how yarn was made into cloth.
Sunday morning was time for the Gathering. This performance turns attention toward spiritual matters. Members of the audience were invited to form a choir on stage. Several of us joined this choir as we sang some old hymns. A nondenominational service was held shortly after.
"I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me."
Psalm 13:6
Thus ended our Smokey Mountain tour and its twenty-two HitchHiker fifth wheels headed off. At least seven of those campers have come up to Lexington, KY to the Kentucky Horse Park.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pigeon Forge, TN & Smoky Mountain National Park

We arrived Sunday here at Pigeon Forge, TN. The tour of the Smokies began on Monday with registration, orientation, and dinner with a show at Shindigs. The buffet was great and we even had a country western singer that entertained while we ate. The show highlighted music of Tennessee. A featured entertainer was eighteen years old and was the best singer we've ever seen that impersonated Elvis. The show was very good.
Tuesday was a free day and we went to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park with six other couples. We took an eleven mile loop tour of Cades Cove. The tour feaures buildings of the community that was first settled around 1820. John Oliver bought the place above in 1826 and he built the log home shortly after.
The house is well preserved and shows how the settlers of the day lived. The doors were small in an effort to conserve heat in the winters. The rocks in the chimney were held together with mud mortar. Mud was also used to fill the Chinks or cracks between the logs.

One look towards the valley from the back porch makes it clear why John Oliver chose this location for his homestead. What a beautiful view!
The graveyard behind the Primitive Baptist Church has some graves that have been there for over a century. This church was established in 1827 with a log building. The building above replaced the original building in 1887. While we were there park employees were digging a grave for a person that had lived in Cades Cove as a child. The funeral would be the next day.
While sitting and enjoying the cozy solid wood interior of the church, we felt compelled to sing some hymns. We started with "Amazing Grace". There is something about the wooden construction that made he music sound so good! Some other visitors insisted that we sing several more old hymns.
Just a few miles down the road was the Methodist Church that was built in 115 days for $115.
The church was established in the 1820s but was replaced by the building above in 1902. Of course we had to sing a few hymns here also, so we started off with "I'll Fly Away".
Elijah Oliver, son of John Oliver, built a much more elaborate log home. It had several rooms and even has a "stranger room" added to the front porch to accommodate overnight visitors.
This spring house was used to keep food items such as milk and butter in the cool spring water. It was also used to "pipe" water into the house through a series of connected logs with grooves cut in their top sides. Some of these logs can be seen in the foreground in front of the structure.
This slab door on the side of one of the out buildings has wooden hinges on the right side. Pieces of wood at the top and bottom of the door are in the shape of eyes. A dowel attached to the back side of the door passes through the centers of the eyes to form a hinge.
The Gregg-Cable house was built in 1879 by Leason Gregg on land he bought from John Cable who had built the nearby mill.
John Cable built this mill in 1870. The water-powered mill was used as both a grist mill and sawmill. It is still used today to grind both corn and wheat.

This unique cantilever barn has an overhanging area that provides shelter for both livestock and farm equipment. We might as well have traveled by wagon as it took us all day to travel the whole eleven-mile loop. It was a very interesting tour which helped us understand how early settlers survived by subsistance farming.
Today we went to DollyWood. Although it rained off and on there were plenty of shows to take shelter. The shows were all top notch and we even took time to ride some roller coasters when the rain let off. We all had a good time despite the rain!