As the song lyric goes, you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here. The time had come again: everyone else goes home, but I keep on going. If there was one thing that would keep me in place, it would be so I could stop saying quite so many goodbyes.
I said a heartfelt thanks to Davide for riding with me, and felt a pang as he punched Virginia into his GPS. Forget hangovers, rally withdrawal was setting in. Thankfully, Matt and Ali had graciously invited me to stay with them a night in Parkersburg, VW (Ali, CORSette winner of past, and yes, the very same Matt who owned the Stella... incredible depths of graciousness reside within).
It was a short, pleasant ride to their home - a merciful contrast with the usual multi-day rides home from rallies in the past. After some local touring around Marietta, OH, courtesy of Matt, we just hung out in the garage admiring scoots. An early evening for us both.
Matt had mentioned a ride called the "Triple Nickel", the Dragon of Ohio. He didn't need to work until later in the morning the next day, so he could ride it with me and led the way!
|Definitely lessened the rally withdrawal.|
|Thanks so much, Matt!|
It's no Dragon, but it was a lot of fun and very pretty. This is not what I was led to believe Ohio looked like, but I was happy for the ride and riding company.
|Maysville, OH, looks interesting... in a former-glory kind of way? There were some grand old buildings.|
|Awesome sign just before Athens, OH.|
Matt had taken me to some of the native American mounds in their neighborhood. It turns out Serpent Mound, the largest serpent effigy, was right on my route. The day after solstice, I stopped for a break.
|Chatted with a couple RVers, who took this photo.|
|I climbed the little tower to view the length. Serpent says days only get shorter now.|
|Thanks, creepy museum display.|
|Somewhere along Rt 62 to Cynthiana.|
As I got into Kentucky, the bits of scenery and buildings started looking kind of like that episode of X-Files, Home. I figured they won't expect a scoot to be able to make such a speedy getaway though. Some of my favorite roads were the unmarked empty ones. A bit of tree cover, easy curves, so peaceful... nobody told me Kentucky has beautiful riding.
The next few days, I'd be staying with the Giraffe's sister and her husband, Judi and Art, in Lexington, KY. They're such cool low-key people, I completely forgot to take photos. Art is an avid rock climber, and if I had been there over a weekend and didn't have a sprained ankle, I would have loved to go to Red River Gorge with him (he goes every week!). It's on the list for another day. I guess this trip will just have to be all about the bourbon.
|Cycle parking is still a novelty to me.|
|Smells like sour cornflakes.|
The hard hat tour at Buffalo Trace was already full that day, but I stuck around as 1:30pm rolled by and managed to sneak into some cancelled spots. Yay, guess I'm doing some walking/limping anyway!
|Three stories up. Heights shmeights.|
|Tasting the mash.|
|Buffalo Trace tour guide.|
|Made a new friend and bourbon-fan, Stephon. He's been on the road for 9 months visiting all 48 contiguous US states, Couchsurfing most of the way.|
|Fancy buffalo tap...for distiller proof white whiskey. Fire water!|
I've tasted a few whiskeys straight from the still now, but they did a neat thing on this tour. They ask you to put some whiskey from the tap on your hands, rub them together, and cup them around your face. You can smell the corn and malt this way. Also, now you can operate on open wounds, and everything you touch is deliciously corny.
|Still life with pot. Get it?|
|Pretty distillery grounds.|
|Surreal five-storey high silo of fermenting corn water.|
|The master distiller gets to play.|
|Bourbon balls to top off tasting. I wish I could bring some, but I'm afraid they would melt as soon as they left the premises.|
|200 year old buffalo. No touchy.|
I followed Stephon to tour the capital building (oh right, Frankfort is the capital of Kentucky), chatting about our traveling experiences around the US. He's actually going to be in Madison, WI, next month for a Couch Crash...hmm...
|Marble and murals.|
|Wait, is that...a sexy railroad worker?|
Tour no. 2: Town Branch, local to Lexington, because it was a passing thunderstorm and showers kind of day. The tour was a bit odd because it was split into the brewery first, with its tasting, and then the distillery, with its tasting. However, I've now acquired a taste for bourbon barrel aged beer. Probably because it's like bourbon, but wrapped around a beer. For when you want to drink a whole glass of something that tastes like bourbon but isn't a cocktail.
|My favorite was their barrel-aged stout. 8.2% ABV and looks like it'll eat you alive. Heavy beer, big on taste, guess I won't drink too much after all.|
|Hops before they become part of delicious things.|
|Charred new oak barrel display.|
|Feel the heat from the reaction in the mash.|
I poked around Transylvania park for a bit, and chatted with another local, Phil, at Common Ground Coffee, waiting out the rain.
|Feeling beery, I went to West Six after to catch up on blogging. Nice spot, big open warehouse.|
|Street name in Judi and Art's neighborhood made me laugh.|
|Talbott Tavern, Bardstown, KY, the oldest bourbon bar in the United States.|
|Also has a B&B and gift shop.|
|Walk past the gift shop and the restaurant is all stone and wood.|
|Would look great on scoot, but I don't think it's DOT approved.|
A couple guys struck up a conversation over my riding gear at Talbott Tavern, and mentioned they were staying at a great campground down the street. I went to check it out, and it's barely stumbling distance away from the Heaven Hills distilleries. Done and done.
|I just like these words together on anything. "Bourbon Heritage Center." Like a personal "Cellar door."|
|There's a little museum area where you can read about the history of bourbon distillation in America while waiting for your tour to start.|
My tour guide was a fantastic lady, five foot nuthin', who also works as a school bus driver. The way she described her summer, "During the school year they keep me behind the desk 'cause I have to drive the kids, but over summer I can give tours and drink on the job."
|Tour guide said (in best native accent), "Some people, they come through here and see these and say, 'You mus' have a haigh crime rate.' No, that's jus' where we store our bourbon at."|
|It's not unheard of that a storm will rip the roof or exterior off of a warehouse, but the racks themselves will remain in place. Sometimes the sun exposure makes for an especially different bourbon.|
|Do you smell that? The bourbon lost due to evaporation is called the "angel's share".|
|Hey, that's not bourbon...|
|Plumb line between the X-beams.|
Enough touring, on to the tasting! I found a local bar, and befriended the keeper. It may have been only 4pm. I ended up staying and tasting the local spirits until just before dark.
|Dodging my photo!|
|My Old Kentucky Home State Campground. $12/night. Cozy. Comfy. Close to bourbon.|
As I've said before, I'm an urbanite at heart. While I enjoy the sense of self-sufficiency that comes from being able to carry a shelter with me, if the price was the same I would choose four walls, no bugs, and climate control. But hey, sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone. So far, I've learned the depths of my exhaust-and-espresso-fueled urbanity, but I've also picked up a few things that are perhaps unique to exposing yourself to nature. Like scooters and motorcycles (look great on green). Stars, campfires, and company. Bourbon, level ground, and falling into my Thermarest at 10pm.