05 August 2015

Road Trip Part 3: Cincinnati

Following our Friday morning excitement at Churchill Downs, and a stop for yet another excellent Louisville meal at a place called J. Gumbo's (warning, that link has music that plays automatically. Who does that? This one doesn't.), we began the only 90 minute drive to our hotel in Covington, KY. In case you aren't aware, Covington is directly across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati. We took the elevator up to the 12th floor and were greeted with this view out our hotel room window:

Football stadium on the left, baseball stadium on the right. 
Thank you, Keith, for reserving our room with your Platinum-level reward status. We got a nice one. We unpacked a bit, hung up our fancy clothes so they wouldn't get wrinkled, and had a little time for some rest and relaxation. Driving (or being a passenger in said car) for large chunks of time can be quite tiring as it turns out. Keith & Lois arrived mid-afternoon and we walked across that blue bridge for dinner at the Yard House before yet another baseball game, this time at the major league affiliate of Louisville, the Cincinnati Reds:
They were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates. The people sitting on either side of us were die-hard fans and provided all sorts of interesting commentary.
It was a fun game. We got back to the hotel and Brad & Lily had arrived after a bit of a delay-filled, crazy travel day. We had a few drinks in the hotel bar and relaxed and caught up. While I love my husband, it was nice to have a little break from the one-on-one time of the previous few days.

Saturday morning dawned sunny and clear - OOTNDITHOD, even. Check out the sky over the Union Terminal:

It's still an active train station, but it also houses the Cincinnati Children's Museum and the Museum of Natural History. 
While it was Andy's idea to visit the train station (is anyone surprised?), I was pleasantly surprised by how cool I found it. The main lobby is super pretty and ornate:

We also took an elevator up the tower in the back of the station to see some trains at work. There were some small children there who kept exclaiming "Choo-choo!" Indeed:

Those yellow contraptions are loading containers onto a train. It was pretty fascinating for me, a person who spends her days coordinating container shipments via rail to coastal ports. 
After a bit of train related nerdy-ness, we went back to the hotel and then walked over to a Cincinnati institution for lunch - Skyline Chili. I myself did not take a photo, but here is a pretty excellent one found on the intertubes:

Yes, that's spaghetti noodles topped with chili and shredded cheddar cheese. It's a Cincinnati thing, apparently. 
Neither of us had the signature dish, as we couldn't quite make ourselves get something that involved pasta and chili. Too weird. Instead, Andy had the Coney Bowl and I had a vegetarian burrito with black beans - more details on what those are can be found on the Skyline Chili website linked above. Both were surprisingly good for what amounts to fast food, and both still came with just a stupid amount of cheese piled on top. Not as good as any of the food we ate in Louisville, but still way above my expectations.

Finally, it was time for the whole purpose of this road trip, the wedding of Andy's cousin Josh and his wife Katie. I did not take any photos of the wedding because there were already at least 4 wedding photographers and that seemed like enough. There is a lovely video of the day here, if you are interested. But since you don't actually know these people, maybe not? In any case, my only photo of the night is of the two of us at the reception:

Slightly blurry, but aren't we cute? 
A great time was had by all. We got up early on Sunday - Andy so he could start the drive back with his mom, and me so I could head to the airport with Keith for our flight home. The only driving one way plan of mine was brilliant - I was done with the car, that's for sure! I got home around lunch on Sunday and the cats were pretty ecstatic to see me:

Thanks to my Aunt Tula for being our primary cat-sitter. They were well taken care of.
Andy and his mom returned late Monday afternoon, but not before stopping in Springfield, Illinois to visit all of the Abraham Lincoln sites. I'll have to do that next time.

04 August 2015

Road Trip Part 2: Louisville

After our super fun tour of the IMS, we stopped for some lunch in Indianapolis and then began the relatively short 2 hour drive to Louisville. Wednesday was probably the hottest day of our whole trip so, upon arrival and checking in to our hotel, we opted to stay inside where the AC was nice and cool to avoid the absolute heat of the day. That turned out to be a good call, as a brief but fierce thunderstorm rolled in shortly thereafter. 

However it cleared up nicely around dinner time, leaving us with a much cooler evening for our planned activity, a AAA baseball game at Louisville Slugger Field:

It is a very nice stadium, particularly for the minors. I'd compare it in size to the new St. Paul Saints CHS Field. 
The Louisville Bats are the AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. They have a truly awesome logo, so I purchased a $10 hat as a souvenir:

Who doesn't enjoy a play on words? 
We completed our evening with a late dinner at Harvest Restaurant. It was the first of many restaurants in Louisville to impress me - it's definitely a quality food town. 

Thursday morning dawned much cooler so we were able to go with our original plan. Per Wikipedia...

"Old Louisville is a historic district and neighborhood in central Louisville, Kentucky, USA. It is the third largest such district in the United States, and the largest preservation district featuring almost entirely Victorian architecture. It is also unique in that a majority of its structures are made of brick, and the neighborhood contains the highest concentration of residential homes with stained glass windows in the U.S. Many of the buildings are in the Victorian-era styles of Romanesque, Queen Anne, Italianate, among others; and a large number of blocks have had few or no buildings razed."

Old Louisville has a visitor's center, which we visited first to collect a map and a list of a series of self-guided walking tours. The whole area is something like 48 city blocks, so obviously we weren't going to get to it all. Instead, we took a happy meander through one of the tours and marveled at all the pretty houses. 

One of my favorites among the bunch. Brick and a turret? Sounds good to me!
We then availed ourselves of Louisville's public transportation (EMSA is very good at that sort of thing) and rode a bus across town to check out the Highlands neighborhood. After a leisurely stroll through the lovely (if hilly) Cherokee Park, we had yet another excellent meal at a place called the Gralehaus - Andy had his second meal that included grits, and I had an excellent Kentucky stew of some kind. Yum.

Back to the hotel we went for a bit of an AC refuge and a sit-down. It's hot in Louisville in the middle of the day. Then, on to our afternoon event:

The entrance to the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum. It's not subtle.
The factory/museum combo is located right in downtown Louisville. They would not let us take photos during the actual factory tour, but it was extremely interesting - it takes only 30 seconds to make a baseball bat that is for the general public. The bats for major league players take a bit longer, as the machine is more specialized - a whopping 45 seconds. At the end of the tour, they gave us all a mini bat and I'd say we had a great time.

The following day, we got up for another early start. For a hint, please click on this link and open in a new tab, then come back. Once again, I'll wait...

The main entrance to Churchill Downs. 
There was no actual racing going on at Churchill Downs, as they stop racing in July and August, so our real stop was the Kentucky Derby Museum, where we had signed up for the Barn & Backside tour. We hopped in a van and our tour guide took us over to the area where all 40+ barns are located. It turns out that even when there is not racing going on, there are still 900+ horses being lodged at Churchill downs. We hung out on the backstretch for a while and watched them get in their morning workouts.

A few horses speeding by, with trainers observing from the shade. 
 We then headed back to the museum for our tour of the main track area.

The Twin Spires, a historic landmark.
The main paddock. Those bricks are made out of recycled tires so they are easier on the horses.
The museum itself had all sorts of interesting stuff - you could watch video of every Derby, and they had a whole section for the Triple Crown winners, including American Pharoah. I sat there and watch all three of his races an man, what a horse! From Churchill Downs, we headed out of town for our next stop.

Tomorrow... on to Cincinnati!

03 August 2015

Road Trip Part 1: Indianapolis

EMSA and I have just returned from a somewhat epic road trip to Cincinnati to attend his cousin's wedding. When we heard when and where the wedding was going to be held, it seemed like an excellent opportunity to take our shiny new car for a spin and check out a part of the country that neither of us had really explored in depth. So today, I begin the first of three parts of our travelogue.

We left Minneapolis very early Tuesday morning, racing just ahead of what I understand was a serious rainstorm here at home. We managed to outrun it about halfway across Wisconsin. We split the driving as evenly as possible and, 9.5 to 10 hours later, we arrived at our first destination, Indianapolis. After a bit of a sit down at our hotel, we ventured downtown for some dinner at a Scottish Pub called MacNiven's. If you ever find yourself in downtown Indianapolis, I would definitely recommend it. Try the Scottish Eggs, they're good. After dinner, we wandered around the downtown area a bit. We found some quite interesting stuff.

Indiana's World War monument. EMSA walking up the stairs for scale. 
The monument from the opposite side. It's quite magnificent.
The Scottish Rite Cathedral, directly adjacent to the 3 block park containing the War Memorial.
The Soldiers and Sailors monument, a bit further south downtown. Indiana is not kidding around with the size of their monuments. 
We also wandered over the the state capitol building (spoiler: Minnesota's is nicer) but it was too dark by that point to get a good photo. Still, it was a lovely downtown and genuinely surprising. We returned to our hotel for a good night's sleep before the following day's main event... Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines! Also, open this link in a new tab and come back. I'll wait...

We arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame and Museum a few minutes before they opened 8:00 in the hopes that we could get into the special "Behind the Scenes" tour at 8:30. We were not the only people waiting in front of the doors. Our initiative was rewarded, and we milled around the museum a bit before beginning our tour.

This car was being driven by Arie Luyendyk in 1996 when, during a practice lap, he set the record for the fastest lap ever recorded at Indy. It still stands. 1 lap at an average speed of 237.498 mph.

LOTS of cool old cars, going back to the teens. Most of these cars won the Indy 500.

The car AJ Foyt was driving when he won his first Indy 500 in 1961.
The winner's trophy.

The first stop during our Behind the Scenes tour - the Media Center. It was still set-up for the Brickyard 400 which had taken place a few days before. 

The yard of bricks at the start/finish line. Above my head is the platform they stand on the wave the various flags. 
Our excellent tour guide standing on the victory platform.
I have many, many more photos of all sorts of awesome old cars, way too many to post here. I'll try to get them up in a public album soon so everyone can see them. We really enjoyed the tour. 

Tomorrow, on to Louisville!