Friday, September 7, 2012

The Big City II (Lexington, KY)

Bike:  KTM Super Duke R
Route:  Google Maps (shows all stops, not just the bike route)

It's that time of year again.  Just like last year's trip to Louisville, the NFL season is kicking off and my wife has an out-of-town work conference.  This year it's in Lexington and I'm still completely unwilling to spend two days and nights at home alone with a toddler.  So we went with her.  Again.  Unfortunately, Bubba's school duties prevented him from joining us.  Again.  And I couldn't get my own Mom to come along for support again, but I could crash my brother's house!

The Louisville trip broke a few rules, most notably the unwritten Ride a Motorcycle rule.  This trip featured a lot more horsepower, followed all three rules, and knocked several places off my to-visit list.  While the drive between Bowling Green and Lexington is usually a pretty boring 2-1/2 hour interstate/parkway affair, there's actually a lot to see and do in between here and there if you get off the highways.  Here in Bourbon Country, the most obvious destinations are the bourbon distilleries featured on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

So, this year's plan was a bit more ambitious than last year's:
  1. Leave BG early enough to hit all the Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries and get my passport stamped in one day while avoiding I-65 & the Bluegrass Parkway.
  2. Eat good in Lexington.
  3. Don't lose Little Man while Momma is at work.
  4. Don't break stuff in Juice's house.
  5. Take a different route home, hopefully through Greensburg where I can try again to get the Slaw Burger, Fries, and bottle of Ski that eluded me last year.

Being unfamiliar with most of the towns I would travel through, I asked BBQ author, TV host, and general expert on all things cool about Kentucky -- Dr. Wes Berry -- if he could recommend any particular establishments to visit along my route.  That inquiry resulted in several ideas that were paired down to two bonus goals:
  1. Visit the soda fountain at Hurst Discount Drugs in Bardstown for a milkshake.
  2. Visit Sarah's Corner Cafe in Lexington for BBQ ribs.

FLASHBACK:  This was my longest bike trip since Pasadena-to-Vegas via Death Valley in '04.
TIP:  Never ride a motorcycle to a bachelor party weekend 250 miles away from home, because that means you have to ride a motorcycle 250 miles back home after a bachelor party weekend.  That is not good, and it might lead to an unplanned stay at Arne's Royal Hawaiian Motel, which is most definitely never good.  I'm pretty sure airplanes were invented to prevent this scenario.

Bike Route.

The most challenging part of this plan was getting to Bardstown in time to start the Bourbon Trail without using the interstate.  I got a late start -- almost too late -- but it was a much more enjoyable journey than traveling I-65's Death Alley.  One of these days they'll fix that road, and I'll still avoid it on a bike.

I left a bit late, but still before the kids started school over there.
That's a first.

It even looks early.

Barren River Lake.

Glasgow, KY.

My self-portrait at the Hardyville Fire Department & Community Center didn't turn out so well.

Hardyville, KY.

Buffalo, KY.

Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park.

New Haven, KY.

Bardstown, KY.

Hurst Discount Drugs sits right on Court Square, which is actually a circle.

Bourbon Capital of the World.
Host of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival next week.
Recently voted "Most Beautiful Small Town in America"

Hurst Discount Drugs.

Old-school Soda Fountain.

BLT & Chocolate Shake.

VERDICT (Hurst Discount Drugs):  I was in a hurry so I didn't stay long, but it was the perfect place to grab a quick lunch and I can't recall having a better milkshake.  Bardstown truly is a beautiful small town and a few minutes spent at the soda fountain feels like a step back in time.  This was my first visit to the area and I'll certainly stop here the next time I'm in the neighborhood.  Hopefully I can bring the family next time and hang out a bit longer.

Heading to Jim Beam... The Bourbon Trail starts now.

The next six hours were spent riding from Clermont to Lexington to visit the six seven distilleries on the Bourbon Trail.  For more photos of the distilleries and the beautiful Kentucky countryside, click here:  The Kentucky Bourbon Trail in One Day.

Jim Beam American Stillhouse.
Clermont, KY.
11:45 AM.

Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center.
Bardstown, KY.
12:47 PM.

Maker's Mark Distillery.
Loretto, KY.
1:37 PM.

Four Roses Visitors Center.
Lawrenceburg, KY.
3:14 PM.

Wild Turkey Visitors Center.
Lawrenceburg, KY.
4:00 PM.

Woodford Reserve.
Versailles, KY.
4:46 PM.

Town Branch Bourbon Distillery.
Lexington, KY.
5:46 PM.

NOTE:  Town Branch isn't officially a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail until next month.

University of Kentucky.
I'd been racing the storm for the last hour or so, and this is where it caught me.


It's amazing how wet you can get riding just one mile in a storm.

For some reason they thought this was funny.

After drying off and borrowing some clothes, Juice & I went to El Rancho Tapatio to grab some dinner for everybody.  Being close to his house, it's convenient, and it's also one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in Kentucky.  Next door is their market and bakery, the likes of which I haven't seen since living in Southern California.  More about this place down below...

El Rancho Tapatio Market, Bakery, and Restuarant.

Chimichanga (to go).

Momma and Little Man showed up in time for dinner and then they crashed.

The plan for Day Two was pretty simple -- drop Momma off at work, get some breakfast, get some lunch, get Little Man a nap, and make dinner.  That was the plan, anyway.

Morning boot check.  Still wet?  Guess we'll take the van...

It's breakfast time after dropping Momma off.
Doodles is located downtown near the Transylvania campus.

Mmmmmm... Coffee.

Tara's Tasty Hash for me & Bacon for Little Man.

His first self-portrait!

Dude!  You forgot the eco-friendly to-go box with your leftovers!

VERDICT (Doodles):  Nobody recommended a good breakfast spot and we almost ended up at Denny's, but I'm really glad we stumbled upon this place and I hereby recommend Doodles to my friends in Lexington.  This small building looks like it could have been a garage in a previous life, and the huge windows make it feel bright and roomy inside.  I don't know much about coffee, but I think they have enough options to keep most people happy.  It seemed a bit pricey at first; however, the food was excellent and I don't mind spending an extra dollar or two for a fresh meal cooked to order with local ingredients.  They call it comfort food with a conscience, and the corned beef hash was a lot better than anything I've made at home.  It looks like they only do lunch & breakfast and they have a different menu on weekends.  They also feature seasonal specials on a daily basis.

After playing at the house for a couple hours we set out for an early pre-nap BBQ lunch.
And that's when he pulled the fake nap move, so I turned around...

...and since he was not actually napping, we went shopping for some camera memory.

Then to the UK Arboretum.

All this walking should guarantee a nap back at the house.

Well, that didn't work.  After a few more hours of non-napping, I figured we might as well do some grocery shopping for dinner.

Good Foods Market & Cafe.

I don't know why his pants are down, but I'm sure it's his fault and not mine.   They're his pants.

The produce section is pretty cool because everything is labeled conventional, local, or organic.

My favorite part of the store was the Herb & Spice section where you can measure out exactly how much of each spice you need...

...and of course that's easier to do when you aren't using one hand to hold up a sleeping two-year-old.

VERDICT (Good Foods Market & Cafe):  Because of the ill-timed nap I didn't get to see the whole store, but I'm sure I would shop here a lot if I lived close by.  I've heard the cafe section with the hot buffet and salad bar is impressive, and I was bummed to miss it.  Next time.  We did get some good produce, herbs, spices, and fresh-never-frozen fish for dinner...

Dinner:  Broiled Tilapia & Summer Pepper Corn w/ Bacon.

Time to watch some football!

The plan for Day Three was pretty simple:  Get BBQ ribs... for breakfast.  It might sound weird, but if you like ribs as much as I do, then you listen when The Kentucky Barbecue Book's author tells you that Sarah's prepares some of the best ribs anywhere.  Since Momma is just working a half-day and Little Man fake-napped our lunch plans away yesterday, that means BBQ for breakfast today.

It's early.

Sarah's Corner Cafe.

Gotta love seeing (and smelling) a smoker in action at 8:15 AM!

Sarah's is named after Ralph & LD's dog.
Sarah was not present, but this cute little cat was there to greet us.

Sarah's is like part restaurant & part convenience store.

Sampler Platter + Bacon & Winchester's own [diet] Ale-8-One.
They say it feeds two, and it was definitely more than enough for the two of us!

Ooooooh is right!
The best meal of the week deserves two pictures.

Sarah's started filling up with people ordering the more conventional breakast items while we were there.

VERDICT (Sarah's Corner Cafe):  This is my kind of BBQ joint!  The ribs, pulled pork, and beef brisket were all perfectly smoked in the Western Kentucky fashion that I love.  I've heard the house sauce is really good, and its color caught my attention -- it's more orange than the bright or dark red sauces I'm used to around here.  But after the food arrived I forgot to try it.  Doh!  The potato salad, slaw, and especially the BBQ beans were good.  I tried to sneak a few peeks at the breakfast menu items being ordered by other customers that morning, and it does indeed look like a good place for a non-BBQ breakfast, too.

LD & Ralph are very friendly and they make you feel right at home as soon as you walk in.  My brother hadn't been here in several months, but he told me that Ralph remembers everybody who stops by, and sure enough they remembered Juice and the guys from work that he stops in with.  Speaking of Juice, he was the big winner on this day as our breakfast leftovers ended up in his fridge for dinner.

[UPDATE (10/16/12):  According to their Facebook page, Sarah's is closed for a few days after someone drove a car through the wall to steal some cigarettes.  Nice.  Hopefully they'll re-open soon and be better than ever!]

In addition to the naptime failure yesterday, I also got an F in UK Arboretum 101.  Apparently there is a special area set aside for kids that I didn't know about, so we went back to the Arboretum after breakfast hoping to rectify both Thursday failures on Friday.  The Kentucky Childrens Garden is pretty neat.  There are several interactive displays, several opportunities for the kids to get wet, and several staffers willing to show you around and point out the butterflies, caterpillars, and other things kids dig.



Looks like he has an idea.

Good idea!

Well, that did the trick.  He was asleep before we picked Momma up from work.  On the bright side, that means an easier drive back to BG for them.  Unfortunately, it means I'm eating lunch by myself on the way out of town...

He's out.

The bike dried off just fine.
The boots, jacket, helmet, gloves?  Not so much.

Back to El Rancho Tapatio for more authentic Mexican cuisine.

One of my favorite things about this place is the five different salsas/sauces they serve with chips.
The Habanero sauce is something special, but use it sparingly!

FLASHBACK:  Little Man was here with Juice some 18 months ago.
This may have been his first Mexican restaurant?

FLASHBACK:  Another Chips & Salsas pic.

Mexican Chicken Tacos.

VERDICT (El Rancho Tapatio):  Like I said above, this is one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in the state.  With the market and bakery next door, I'm sure I'd spend a lot of time in this building if I lived close by.  The menu is robust, the prices are reasonable, the service is fast & friendly, and I love the different sauces and salsas they serve with the chips.  Put it this way -- I chose to eat lunch here on my way out of town rather than getting a wood-fired pizza just down the road, and I love wood-fired pizza!

Nicholasville Road sucks.
If you're heading toward Nicholasville, it sucks for a long time.

R.J. Corman.
He owns all the railroads, or something like that.

Kentucky River.

Kings Mill Marina on Herrington Lake.

Downtown Danville
Unfortunately, I was cruising through Danville a day too early.  Tomorrow the Kentucky State BBQ Festival kicks off.  I doubt it's a coincidence that the BBQ Festival is held the weekend before the Bourbon Festival starts in Bardstown, but either way it's great timing for a someone who wants to spend a few days experiencing the best of Kentucky!

Danville, KY.

I know Wes & crew are around here somewhere to film a Go Local segment about the festival.
I'll post the video when it becomes available.

Danville is also home to Centre College, which is getting ready to host the Vice Presidential Debate.
Look, even the fire hydrants are patriotic.



Perryville, KY.

Perryville's Historic Merchants Row.

Lebanon, KY.

Look, honey.  It's the cool guy on a bike who passes everybody in the shoulder at each red light and then runs 5 under the speed limit to hold everybody up.  Isn't he cute?

A challenge.

Either the coolest cop I saw all week, or just a cop with more important things to do...

Campbellsville, KY.

Lotta big trucks in C-ville.

Construction underway on Campbellsville University's new Friends & Alumni Park.

Historic Greensburg, KY.

Greensburg Public Square.

It didn't look open, and it was supposed to close an hour ago...

...but it was open!

Slawburger, Fries, and a bottle can of Ski!

Darlene & Helen.

VERDICT (Dumas Walker):  They love having out-of-town visitors and everybody should stop by at least once.  For more about this place and its story, click here:  Dumas Walker (Greensburg, KY).

Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop. Stop.

Edmonton, KY.

Glasgow, KY.

Barren River Lake.

Scottsville, KY.

The Dorit truck.

Headin' home...

Good job, girl.

Everybody was happy to get home and see Bubba!
Little Man was probably the happiest. 


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