Tuesday, October 28, 2008
1,434: southern sojourn 2: louisville, lincoln and leisure
Day two began with buffet breakfast at the hotel. While additional entrees were available for free, the spread was fine by us. The tub of grits on the steam table was a sign that we were departing the Midwest. We also had our first serving of biscuits on the trip, though none of us tested the sausage gravy. The latter is treated as a family joke - Mom always conjures images of people shovelling away giant bowls of white sauce speckled with black pepper and bits of breakfast sausage, twisting her face upon mere mention of the dish. I didn't feel like causing her any pain, so I resisted trying the gravy (I'm indifferent towards sausage gravy, but will sneak a spoonful if it looks fresh).
After checking out, we drove into downtown Louisville. All I expected to see was the world's largest baseball bat, leaning on the Louisville Slugger Museum. Main Street proved to have a few surprises...
The West Main District boasts the second-largest concentration of cast-iron facades in the United States. Like many American downtowns, the strip fell on hard times by the 1970s, when the first renewal efforts began. Efforts to bring the street back to life incorporated museums, boutique hotels, sculptures and stylish street furniture.
We noted Louisville as a place worth future investigation.
And the rest of the time the intersection is a free-for-all!
We stumbled upon this just off I-65 during a brief sojourn along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. We were too early to taste test any of the state's finer drinks, though we briefly wandered the grounds at the Jim Beam distillery.
We also ran into our second incident involving gasoline gift cards. Mom had earned $100 worth of Shell cards at Casino Windsor and saw the trip as the perfect opportunity to use them. Our first attempt was in Huntingdon, Indiana, where a confused clerk wound up only taking $16 off a $25 card for a $30-something fill. You're welcome to figure out the logic behind this, as we couldn't. Attempt number two was at a station near Jim Beam where the clerk hummed and hawed for 10 minutes, totally perplexed by the processing procedure for gift cards.
We paid in cash. Back in the car, we wondered if somebody was playing a joke on us.
Next year marks the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, a celebration the towns near his birthplace are gearing up for. Banners are already up in Hodgenville, a town with a bottomless reservoir of Lincoln tributes.
The town square was rebuilt in the past year, with a new statue of Lincoln as a boy installed opposite a seated adult Honest Abe. The surroundings felt like mid-20th century small town America - I imagined classic cars roaring around the square while well-dressed citizens checked out the storefronts. A side-effect of watching too many old movies or scanning advertisements?
South of Hodgenville is Lincoln's birth site. It wasn't enough to preserve the small log cabin he grew up in; the structure was encased in a classical monument requiring a trek up a lengthy set of steps.
Sarcasm aside, it is an impressive sight.
OK, the outside is impressive. The inside holds the cabin, which is as full of objects as an apartment in between tenants. While trying to be all professional photographer-like, I tested the bouncing ability of my camera. It survived, though the zoom developed a mind of its own.
We wandered south along US 31E for awhile, passing vintage barn ads for attractions several states away. Stopping to take photos proved tricky, due to the lack of a shoulder on the road. This didn't detract from the scenery along the winding routes of both branches of US 31.
Our path never led us to the wonders of Rock City, but it did take us past vintage tourist attractions in Cave City.
It was too early to test out the air-conditioned comfort of a wigwam. Of the seven Wigwam Motels built between 1933 and 1950, Cave City's is one of three survivors. The site was well preserved and fully booked for the evening.
Full photo set
Next: All the way to Memphis - JB