Generation Z. Cruising in an RV.: OLA:Riding Kentucky's Unbridled Spirit Part 2

Sunday, October 2, 2011

OLA:Riding Kentucky's Unbridled Spirit Part 2

giant chairs used as obstacles in horse shows at the Park
Made in Kentucky!  I didn’t realize this would be a theme of a post as we made our day trips through the cities of Louisville, Lexington, and Bowling Green, Kentucky. We discovered that the state is home to several great products.  Not surprising for a state whose slogan is Kentucky’s Unbridled Spirit!

the winner of the Arabian National Show
posing for his family picture
at the Covered Arena of the Kentucky Horse Park
Kentucky’s most famous product is the thoroughbred, a horse breed, considered "hot-blooded" and known for their agility, speed and spirit. These beautiful animals were developed in 17th and 18th-century England. All modern thoroughbreds can trace their pedigrees to three imported Oriental stallions. In turn, they were imported into North America starting in 1730. They were all over the horse farms in Lexington, Kentucky, the horse capital of the world. The city is also home to the famous Kentucky Horse Park where you see the most beautiful show horses, the fastest race champions, or the best trained for dressage. I gasped at the majestic Arabians who were part of the National Arabian Show at the Covered Arena.

Cigar!
Then I was so pleased to meet Cigar, the horse known as the leading moneymaker in racing history in 19 wins, 16 of them consecutive in 1995-6, at the Hall of Champions. At the entrance to the Park is the inspiring memorial to Man o’ War, who won 20 of 21 starts, sired 65 stakes champions, and is known for having the longest stride (28 ft, Secretariat’s was 25 ft.)! On the other side of the entrance is Secretariat, the first US Triple Crown champion in 1973 after 29 years, including the Kentucky Derby where his time of 1:59 still stands unbeaten today. When he died it was found out that his heart is 22 pounds, almost 3 times larger than an average horse. What inspiring beauties!
Memorial to Man o' War

white warehouses in Heavenly Hill
On the road to Lexington through the famous Bluegrass Parkway, we spotted the Bourbon Trail. It leads to the bourbon making district and to the town of Bardstown, Kentucky where the annual Bourbon Festival is held every second weekend of September. But we ran out of time so Bill toured the Makers Mark Distillery and visited the Heavenly Hill Bourbon Heritage Center another day. Distinct black (for Makers’ Mark) and white (for Heavenly Hill) buildings that you see from the highway are actually bourbon warehouses. 95% of all bourbon is produced in Kentucky. The name bourbon, which is derived from an area known as Old Bourbon which was named after the French House of Bourbon, is reserved for whiskey produced in the United States (like scotch whisky for Scotland). In practice, almost all bourbons marketed today are made from more than two-thirds corn and have been aged at least four years.
vats of sour mash (corn, barley, and red wheat) at the Makers' Mark distillery

5-story Louisville Sligger in front of the museum/factory
The favorite sport of most Americans is baseball and the best bat comes from Kentucky. The Louisville Slugger has sold more than 100M in 120 years, making it the most popular bat brand in baseball history. 60% of all Major League players currently use the Louisville Slugger.  It all started when 17-year-old Bud Hillerich, whose father owned a woodworking shop in Louisville, Kentucky,  watched  Kentucky’s major league team Eclipse’s game one afternoon in 1884. The team’s star, Pete Browning, was mired in a hitting slump and broke his bat. Bud invited Pete over to the shop where he handcrafted a new bat from a long slab of wood with the star by his side, giving advice.  The next day, Browning got three hits with it and the rest is baseball history.

A 5-story bat stands in front of the Museum and Factory in Louisville, Kentucky. We had a hard time getting all that bat into a photo! An artful extension is the Walk of Fame featuring 50 baseball greats like Joe Dimaggio, Lou Gehrig, and Babe Ruth who are enshrined with bronze casts of the Louisville slugger model bat each used.

corvettes awaiting delivery ceremonies at the museum
We were also surprised to find out that the Corvette, the distinctive American sports car, is made in Bowling Green, Kentucky!   Not that we will ever be able to afford one ($55-130,000 list price)! Now in its 6th, the next generation is expected to hit the market in 2012. The car is named after the type of small, maneuverable warships called corvette. The GM plant, highly focused on quality, currently produces 8 Corvettes an hour  At any one time there are over 400 such cars in the plant (I loved the yellow ones), The National Corvette Museum featuring 80 dream models through the years lies just across the street.

photo mural of The Colonel on a Louisville building
About a year before the corvette was introduced, the household byword in fried chicken, KFC, was born.  Colonel Sanders first served his fried chicken in 1930 in the midst of the Great Depression at a gas station he owned in North Corbin, Kentucky. The dining area, named Sanders Court & CafĂ©, became so successful.. However, when Interstate 75 bypassed the town of Corbin, he sold the business and traveled across the US, selling his chicken recipe. Together with Pete Harman in South Salt Lake, Utah they opened the first "Kentucky Fried Chicken" outlet in 1952.

Great products are borne out of the spirit of hardworking people. They in turn were inspired by the examples of great men. Part 3 will be about the Kentuckians who kept Kentucky’s unbridled spirit alive!