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Kentucky Derby and Mammoth Caves – Travel Writing

Hi all, again I’ve had a hard time with the balancing act between collecting pictures, notes and stories and posting them. Been driving a lot over the past few days. Here’s a quite long entry with notes from leg through Kentucky, photos and video soon hopefully. Feel free to cherry pick.

Cinco de Mayo – eventful night

Beautiful day. Am still tired though from another – literally – frozen night and only reason I came to Indianapolis is to get a picture of the Motor Speedway (sorry, not proud of it, truth).

Eat grilled salmon, squash, asparagus at posh-ish café near central library, which was closed. Am waiting for a business call that doesn’t come in. Feels like waste of time, although food was good.

But not waste of time: waitress tells me about house of a former Grand Dragon, in the 1920s-1930s, whom her dad knew (grew up in same neighborhood, not by affinity).

Don’t know Grand Dragon? Look it up! K had told me about this the previous day, and figured it would be an essential element to get a picture of, in addition to track.

Also got to meet Paris R. Great guy, I mean it, I hope the rendition will do him justice, though I already know people will be quick to judge the wrong way.

Get a picture of the historic house where little girls and others were tortured. The current owner is mowing his lawn with a tractor mower. He lets me take pictures, but there’s a look in his eyes. He of course must know the house’s past, and it’s of repute for haunted house fans. I wonder if he has any connection?

Drive out to track. Walk miles to get to northern end of it for 180degree view, which I need for the big project. In a way, only reason I’m here.

Evening time, start driving out south, after having long debated whether to stay for Saturday’s balloon show (won’t see Indy 500, Memorial weekend).

Would turn out to be the right decision, although that night was eventful.

Since I don’t feel like spending another night in a city, and thanks to the weather finally warming up (and especially drying up), I am hoping to find a place near camping grounds or within green surroundings. Ideally by a lake.

But, driven by greed to cover some mileage, I drive past dark, and end up quite close to Louisville, by Deam Lake. I follow the GPS lent to me by a friend (and which I usually avoid using, except for these kinds of circumstances) and navigate myself close to the lake. It finally shows up (we’re talking about an old-school GPS) and I pride myself on my dead reckoning skills…

Within two thirds of a mile, nearing, nearing. I’m driving on a small road, through fields. Then suddenly the lake disappears from the GPS, and I’m driving on a tiny road through woods. Some isolated private property.

Well, this is nice enough. And there’s little chance anybody notices? It’s already pretty late.


A car (one of the only two properties nearby) drives by. Then back.

I’m slightly concerned but not enough to drive off.

I’m awoken an hour and half later by an Indiana cop. Fortunately, I explain rather coherently, despite my drowsiness, the mishap. My exotic driver’s license convinces him I’m up to no bad. He points out I’m on the other end of Deam Lake, with no direct access to it. He gives me some convoluted (or so it seemed) indications how to get there, get back on the freeway, etc.

I end up crossing the bridge and into Louisville.

Spend night in lot of gas station at Jeffersonville, after checking with managers that it’s alright with them.

May 6th – Louisville

“You’re cute as a button, hun.”

“and the Kentucky girls are the prettiest you’ll see.”

“I’ve noticed.” Why is that?

Visitor Center’s Suzie, ‘old hippie’ she says, still remnants of past beauty, but especially, such vigor and friendliness! Gets very emphatic about tomorrow’s Derby.

I know I’m repeating myself (say this about people in every town) but it’s the truth, it only gets better:

1)    Smiliest and friendliest, most genuine people I’ve seen so far. (This will remain my view, at least for the people I meet in streets or shops, but my stay at the Derby the next day would bring some nuance to this view.)

2)    Prettiest girls, almost peculiarly so, what happened in the last 100 miles?

Eat sub at Jimmy John’s, wrapped in seconds.

“Work like you don’t need the money.”

“Love like you’ve never been hurt.”

“Dance like nobody’s watching.”

Adding to the almost strange of proportion of attractive girls (whiskey? For whom? – other more conspiratorial / morally repressible explanations? I have my ideas but dare not share them here or quite yet) I noticed yesterday at 4th street live that an immense majority of Caucasians had blue / blue-grey / blue-green eyes.

Walked, enjoyed taking very few pictures, day of ‘rest’ (after spending another hacked night, awoken in the woods near deam lake by a cop, then sleeping from 3 to 6:30 in the lot of a gas station in Jeffersonville, after a quick dip into Louisville, ablaze with cinco de mayo fever, drunk shirtless boys, drunk belles in hells, the unnervingly ceaseless horn of trains and roars of motorbikes (a very unpleasant first impression, trying to find a peaceful place in the poorer neighborhoods of the city, from which I prudently drove away after fifteen minutes amidst the midnight bustle – an unpleasant first impression which was to be overturned the next morning).

Got to read in the sun, watch 4th street live, and go to concert on Riverside (name of band?) Good country music, but also the slightly deranging (not because of its occurrence, rather because of its thoughtless foundations) appeal to patriotism, defense of NRA, to people’s drunken instincts. Not all the crowd was crazy about these political interludes.

May 7th – Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby – Russel, from Elizabethtown, who traveled to HI in the past, comes here with his entire family. The ‘young ones’ are asleep in a tent by 2pm, don’t yet know how to pace themselves.

“Stop thinking about how to put your makeup on and instead start thinking about how to avoid ending in Hell.” – the evangelists parading at the entrance of Churchill Downs.

“Who are these freaks? Where do they come form?”

“From Alabama.” Two Kentucky girls who think a lot about their makeup.

People here, perhaps contrarily to preconception, are skinny: girls especially (guys not so much, but few could be called fat.)

Genetics? Socio-economics (after all, these observations mostly based on 4th street live and the Derby, not true of the entire city…)? Diet? Hard to believe…

Eat burger at bar east of KFC Yum Center! (yeah, haven’t mentioned that, but Colonel Sanders is a hero, along with Mohammed Ali).

May 8

Still in free public parking lot

Walk in city

Where I enjoy first restful nights in car

Must leave Monday morning by 7am

Eat Turf burger at Joe’s Crab Shack.

May 9-10 – nothing, coffee house

Spend literally entire day at Heine Brother’s coffee house, working on video / pictures / notes from Detroit and Midwest.

10th: First ‘outdoors shower’ – only upper body actually. Till now, apart from shower in Cincinnati, had to rely on facewash in public restrooms.

Drove this morning to near southwest grill, where I knew there were sprinkle foutains. Unfortunately these were shutoff in the morning (or maybe during the week). So had to lather water from drinking faucet, along with soap and towel. Still better than nothing, felt refreshed, especially now that the weather has become warm / muggy today. A few pushups, slow start to a morning / daily physical routine I want to work on. We’ll see tomorrow.

Will be driving to Fort Knox now, hope to catch at least a picture, am sick of sitting in front of this screen, although I’ve enjoyed the atmosphere of the coffee house.

Met someone from Kuwait yesterday (who heard me, second time it happens, say I was from Kuwait after I said HI). Soccer fan and sophomore at the university here.

Diet: ate two cookies and a banana during my twelve hours of work at the coffeehouse, felt exhausted at end of day, found a Walgreen’s and bought some bread, turkey and fake cheese, along with sauces I have to make sandwich. Also found a heating plate and AC inverter (finally), will have to see if heating plate works with it, but this should mark the beginning of a healthier and cheaper diet.

May 11th – Nature!

I think today was, undoubtedly, my favorite day as of yet. Ah, the transcending beauties of Nature (my outdoor self)! Their replenishing, better yet, revitalizing energy! Kentucky’s motto holds true, this state and land have thus far taken good care of me.

Left Louisville yesterday afternoon after second day at the coffee house (slept in quiet side street nearby) less productive unfortunately, down I-65 yawning, then West on 44?

Came upon an unsuspected ‘mountain’ – ah, the joys of a fretful, underpowered and worrisome ride! First taste of tasteful hillside and sinuosities, but was in no mood to push it, very close to getting bit by a giant red wasp (unlike, in size, any I’ve seen in Europe).

Then South on 33W, hoping to get a must-have picture of Fort Knox. Again, some beautiful and hilly roads (roads, I hear the towns are rather slummy, was to notice in fact) through West Point and its adjacent parks and campgrounds.

Was politely but firmly U-turned at the gates of Fort Knox, looped around a few times to get at least some symbolic and lousy shots of the structure, snipers on roof (spy planes and satellites must have some nice footage of the suspicious white minivan).

Bought canned food at Lion Foods, outskirts of Elizabethtown, let myself be tempted by Asian buffet (had been craving it for a while, probably a month and half since I last had Asian food). Quick effect (the mischievous Chinese? Or the cheap turkey sandwiches I’d been eating?)

Started reading book I found at Heine, meant to sleep in this typical no-town, one street burb America, parked by gas station to read by light. Was told by tattooed and smoky lady to get out. Left the hole gladly. So much the better.

South, meant to make it to Mammoth Cave but was tired and stopped at rest area by exit 58 (after Indiana incident I now think I know better than to drive through dark and park places I’m not sure of). Not pretty but effective. And turned out to be good. Why? Let me come to this day.

Woke up. Did pushups, a few stretches (tomorrow morning, after pictures, plan on jogging through trails). Went to next exit, a travel stop, was shocked to learn about $9 fee per shower (again a well-bodied grumpy lady). Walked out with a coffee.

Ah, Mammoth Cave National Park…

Again, some splendid scenery as I entered the park… then some wild turkeys of… huh… appetizing dimensions, right on the side of the road. Drove a bit and came to ferry, the operator was in the middle of the river on the immobile platform (think of the Green river Ferry as a mobile bridge onto which cars get on to cross). Must be lonely.

“Anywhere upstream where I could take a dip? Rinse off?” I shout at him.

“Why, right there, long as no cars come through.”

It’s still pretty early. Of course, cars start flowing by. I park in the nearby lot, walk through the soil to a patch slightly upstream from the ferry, for my first ‘natural shower.’ More of a rinse off, but got to shampoo. Spring water at that particular point, still pretty cold (didn’t full dip, rather lather). Felt great!

Walked bare foot through the wet mud (the unusually heavy rain of the past season has left the banks swampy). Insects, leaves… lovely.

Then spent morning talking to Danny, on the back and forth ferry. He had struck a positive first impression, and I felt in a brilliant mood after the river rinse, and I figured someone who worked that kind of job couldn’t be bad people: couldn’t possibly have been more right – though assumption was loose.

Won’t bother here to go in details of conversation, but after two-three hours I was burning up in the half shade, inching the chair he had offered closer to his cabin till the sun was straight overhead. Asked him 2-3 questions on video, and it says it all.

“I’m just an old country guy,” at end of interview. Oh no, Danny, not so.

World would be a better place if there were more of you.

He went to China to train workers who took his factory job – got paid $500 / day to do so, compared to 35 cents / hour the workers made there. But there was no bitterness in him, unlike other factory colleagues who jeered him for going there.

“It’s not their fault.” (speaking of the Chinese workers)

“Maybe they’re just jealous.” (speaking of his former colleagues.)

Now: “Tough job, eh?” We laugh.

Talk about city folk who don’t know value, just want secondary home they won’t even use (I’m the one saying these things actually), live in gated communities nearby other people ‘like them.’ I rail a bit, but Danny doesn’t overplay it, he’s just plain too good.

Tells a funny story of a friend who would buy property near rich folk and trash it, throwing beer cans and so on, till the neighbors would buy him out and he would net a healthy profit.

Apparently he possesses a fantastic collection of artefacts and arrowheads.

We talk about oil prices, which shot up 30 cents to over $4 since yesterday, due to Mississippi flooding.

Mention Osama, though not by name, as well as the disastrous weather this year.

Doesn’t strike as heavy drinker, but starts shift at 2pm tomorrow, has cookout tonight (won’t go and bother him despite good-natured invitation). He’ll go for a few beers (Milwaukee), maybe a shot or two of whiskey (Wesley’s? what was the name?)

Also meet Chester. Other good guy.

Biker with huge beard from Maine initially and who bought some camp grounds here 20 years ago when he was stationed at West Point comes and talks a bit. When he leaves, Danny notices he has a pistol tucked in the back of his jeans.

Spend rest of day chilling, I drive a bit, then sit on the camp grounds and read, write. Paint over a canvas based on last night’s end dream vision.

I’m amazed by the camping amenities: a sinuous graveled and tarred road swerves through the woods, serving well allotted camping spots, each with its emplacement for a car or trailer, as well as a grill and metal rim to protect the fire from the wind, a stone picnic table and pre-chopped firewood… there are even public restrooms in a bungalow nearby, with motion-sensored faucets!

A few minutes away, a convenience store, $2 showers with hot water, and so on…

Only later do I learn there is a 17$ / night fee, which I hadn’t suspected and am not crazy about considering I’m not about to camp or use any of the amenities. Of course there’s a price to pay for all this… This my America!

The ranger lady nicely points out that her shift ends now, and they won’t be checking till tomorrow morning.

Have supper with three brave Danish girls on the fifth week of a two-month road-trip, they’ve been coming all the way from California. They tell me the camping amenities are quite unique. Good: I’ll be foraging into the ‘real wilderness’ as I go on.

May 12th

Left campground at dawn. Took pictures near Jesse James horse ranch. Drove back to Mammoth (lack of coffee: looped around once before finding way back). Parked, napped a bit.

10:15, awoke, went for jog. Didn’t last long, to be expected. Hardest is to get started. Walked most the time. Returned after about two hours (kept it short, partly because hadn’t taken water, partly because don’t like to leave car in roasting sun with equipment.)

Must make notes on butterflies, moths, flies and bees mini-ecospheres around puddles of nutrients.

Took a real shower, first since Cincinnati, second since Toronto. Felt great of course. 2$. Still laugh at the thought of the one at the travel stop.

Missed a tour I meant to do. Did the New Entrance Tour. Morrisson (spelling?) a tough, business savvy, and not too borderline illegal soul it seems.

Storm has come in. Ate fish filet sandwich at hotel restaurant (only meal today, apart from some bread and granola bars).

Floods southwest. Will leave tomorrow to Nashville.

“God gave Texas oil and Kentucky caves, but he should’ve stuck to just the one Mammoth Cave.”

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Hi, I’m ooa revo. I like to create using different media including Film, Photos, Writing, Animation, Videos, Drawings, Painting, Poetry, newer media such as XR/AR/VR/360, and more! Many stories and work on OOAworld are inspired by world travels, as well as a Movie / Documentary asking people I met along the road: "What's your philosophy in life?" Follow the adventure on OOAworld and social media or by signing up to email updates!