Thursday, February 23, 2012

Federal Grove (Auburn, KY)

Bike:  KTM Super Duke R
Route:  Google Maps

75 degrees in February? No rain? Gotta ride...

I first visited Federal Grove a couple years ago when they held their first Maple Syrup Festival. Having family in Stowe, VT, I grew up appreciating good Maple Syrup and for most of my life I've been enjoying the stuff from Vermont. That all changed when I first visited Federal Grove. Located about halfway between Bowling Green and Russellville, they are known to be the Southern-most producers of Maple Syrup. I think their product compares favorably with anything from the North East or Michigan, so I no longer buy syrup online or beg relatives to send me a package...

Putting last year's syrup to use last Winter.

The Blythe family has been operating Federal Grove as a Bed & Breakfast for the last twenty years or so, and the property has a neat history that dates back another 200 years to General Jonathan Clark's 10,000-acre land grant (Jonathan was the older brother of William Clark from the famed Lewis & Clark team). These days they're tapping 600 - 900 trees on 65 acres to produce the syrup, and some years are better than others. 

I kinda freaked out back in December when I thought I missed the festival, so I gave them a call. And they reminded me that they plan the Festival for the coldest part of the year -- the end of February. Unfortunately for them, the end of February wasn't so cold this year! The festival is scheduled for Friday & Saturday, but the weather was so nice today that I had to visit a day early. Of course, I'll come back over the weekend for pancakes.

The Parkway. I don't like it anymore than you do, especially on this windy day.

OK, so I broke Rule #2 for the first time on a motorcycle. But I had a good reason -- I wanted to skip around to the other side of Bowling Green to ride my favorite loop from the BG Rocket Club days of the mid '90s. Good roads, good times, and good memories. Federal Grove is located right in the middle of the loop, and just a couple miles off course. It's not everyday in February that I get to combine my favorite roads with my favorite foods... and motorcycles!

This is where the fun part of The Loop started back in the day. And it's still the same today, although I've been here more for kayaking trips than motorcycle trips lately.
FLASHBACK:  Same spot. I don't remember being in the front of the pack very often, but there I am with the trusty old Red, White, & Blue Honda. She had a bad habit of catching on fire, but I loved her. I wish I kept her.

This bridge was always a good spot to stop and rest and make sure we hadn't lost anybody. Unfortunately, we did sometimes lose somebody.
FLASHBACK:  Still in front! It must have been a great day. Wish I remembered it...
FLASHBACK:  the CBRs sure were popular...

This is where I screwed up The Loop. I shoulda taken a right here, but things look different after 15 years! I'm sure these houses weren't here back in the day...
Running off track means more time on the four-lane.
I'm visiting a day early. And the sign is up a day early.
Here we are...
This is where I learned that if you drop your camera on the ground, you can get a nice shot of the sky... sometimes with your butt in the way.

Federal Grove.
Beautiful Kentucky property on a beautiful February day.
Callie the Calico is FG's version of Porky Pig's Pound Hound.
The main Dining Room.
The bedrooms are upstairs.
I don't know much about B&B's, but these rooms seem big. And the beds are high. Thankfully, the beds have steps...

Back downstairs there are more dining tables.

I'm not sure if these tables are always here, but I'm sure they'll be used during the Maple Syrup Festival!
Best Meatloaf ever?  Best Meatloaf ever!
(Sorry, Mom!)
Bumble Berry Cobbler. It's like sugar, but sweeter.

VERDICT:  This was my first visit for lunch, and it was well worth the trip. We have great restaurants in town, but nothing can compare to the authentic ambiance of this place. I've enjoyed the pancake breakfast during the first two Maple Syrup Festivals, and I've really enjoyed the family-style dinners when I've had a chance to visit over the last couple years. I'm pretty sure the pancake breakfast is only available during the festival weekend, unless you're spending the night. And I'm 100% sure that you'll want to spend the night if you ever visit for dinner -- you'll want to crawl up the stairs and claim a bed after dessert. When they say "All You Can Eat", they mean it! For the price, you can't beat the quality of their breakfast (when you can get it) or their lunch or dinner.  A meal here is more than just a meal.

I've recently been engaged in an on-going conversation with a friend who is looking for a good place to grab a meal and show an out-of-town guest a good Kentucky experience. I can't imagine a better place to experience proper Kentucky hospitality and superb country cooking. If you ask me, Federal Grove is as Kentucky as it gets. And I mean that in a good way...

For me, the experience is even better when I avoid 68-80 as much as possible -- on the way up, the way back, or both!

Hmmm... what's this thing do?
iPhone + Instagram > GoPro.

I can't believe I just now figured this out.  From now on, all posts shall feature at least one Instagram pic...

Turn Signal.
Back on track... back on The Loop!
Shaker Tavern.
Shaker Tavern.

Red water. Red Barn.

I've really come to appreciate Simpson County over the past year -- there is a lot of beautiful farmland and nice roads.

FLASHBACK:  Pitstop.

Still in Simpson County.
Gold City, KY.
FLASHBACK:  Gold City, KY.
Wheelie Hill.
Wheelie Hill II.

Headin' home, just before the school kids.


UPDATE (2/25/12):  Federal Grove Maple Syrup Festival III.
Bike Van:  Honda Odyssey

Back on the parkway with most of the family, and with pancakes in mind. We've seen some snow and sleet in the past 48 hours, so at least it feels like winter again.

The Maple Syrup Festival sure brings the Minivans & SUVs out.
All-You-Can-Eat Pancake Breakfast. Larry David approves!
Because the sausage is so good, they don't even offer bacon.
For real.
Little Man loves rocking chairs.
The Vendor/Crafts Tent.
Outside the Sugarhouse, Trenton Forge Blacksmithing draws a crowd.
Instagram. Blacksmith.
Inside the Sugarhouse is Lee. He makes syrup...
...and we buy syrup!
The tame winter did decrease production in a big way, so visit soon if you want any.
Headin' home, with syrup... in disguise.