Heartland Treasures – Kentucky & Ohio

June started off with another location checked off both Terry’s and my bucket list. Since we recently watched I’ll Have Another win the 2012 Derby, we decided to visit the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs, then stayed later to bet on a couple of races that evening at the track.   The upshot is …. the first horse I ever bet on in my life …. to win-place-show WON!  So my $6 bet earned $13.20 !  We sat trackside at the finish line and experienced in person all the sights we had only seen on TV previously.

The following week we worked at one of the historic distilleries near Bardstown, KY, and enjoyed the small town atmosphere the south is so famous for. THIS town is extra special though.

Bardstown, KY – a real treasure

Bardstown, KY was voted by the USA Today Best of The Road Best Small Towns in America: 2012 Most Beautiful and we can see why. Many of the 1700 and 1800’s homes have been restored. Even the old 1700’s cemetery is well cared for. We checked out 2 campgrounds and the My Old Kentucky Home State Park named after Stephen Foster who wrote the Florida state song Way Down Upon The Suwanee River that I grew up listening to as well as the Kentucky state song.

We enjoyed green fried tomatoes at Kurtz’ Restaurant that has been serving travelers since the 1800’s. The owners’ great grand daddy built the home on a ridge to avoid the floods that had destroyed their other home previously. Then the family lived upstairs serving travelers from the downstairs kitchen and 2 small rooms. Now, the granddaughter and her children are still serving hungry travelers after 75 years! We also ate at the Old Talbott Tavern, the longest continuously operating tavern west of the Allegheny mountains.

The highlight of our Bardstown experience was the Heaven Hill distillery tour and trolley tour of downtown. I HIGHLY recommend you take the trolley tour FIRST to familiarize yourself with the town’s must-see stops. We also took the horse-drawn carriage ride at dusk.

In central Ohio we explored Lyme Village – a restored “firelands” 1800’s village. Our tour guide was a 14-year NOT YET high school student who obviously has spent much time learning and researching relative historical facts. His appreciation of and knowledge about the use of antique tools was amazing.  He got so excited telling us he had found his ancestors in many of the record books displayed in the various buildings on display. We shopped at the Pepperidge Farm factory store in Willard, stocking up on VERY FRESH cookies and Goldfish crackers.

Fulltime RVing friends of ours, Nick & Terry Russell who write The Gypsy Journal recommend we visit the Warther Carving Museum when we were near Canton. So in addition to the Pro Football Hall of Fame that was on Terry’s list that’s exactly what we did. Thanks for the tip Nick & Terry!

The intricate carvings of 10,000 pieces of wood assembled into historic trains were fascinating to behold. Descendants of Mooney Warther who made all of the carvings as a HOBBY still operate the museum to this day, which is a feat in itself. We purchased a hand-made knife at the gift shop which includes free lifetime sharpening.  An old-timer we met in the parking lot visiting the museum one more time says when he was boy almost 70 years ago, he used to play and swing in The Warther’s back yard.

In July we returned to Kentucky and met a new friend from our earlier Bardstown visit at a local restaurant before we began work in Lexington.  It was only an hour drive and we gladly drove over via the Bluegrass Parkway. We passed Keeneland Race Track and other beautiful horse farms around Versailles (which the locals pronounce Ver-sails)

We wrapped up the month of July by enjoying two full days at the KY Horse Park which has been on my bucket list since my Mom camped there 10 years ago when she first started RVing.  The KY Horse Park Campground feels like a resort with well-groomed spacious RV sites under beautiful trees, a tennis court, swimming pool and paved golf cart paths – all for $30 a night FHU!

The KHP is HUGE and offered not only the park to enjoy, but two completely different shows happening at the same time.  In the KHP itself there are museums, historic barns, shows and rides all included in the $16pp admission fee. Included is a horse-drawn carriage ride, a show of various breeds, beautiful barns and horses everywhere.

A full day of walking the grounds had us worn out, but we went back on Sunday to take a horse farm bus tour. That was $30pp and well worth it. Our driver is a Lexington native, with extensive connections into the operations side of many historic farms. At Keeneland we fed some of the horses in training peppermint candies, rubbed noses with million-dollar foals and heard about some of the farms that have been purchased by sheiks and multi-billionaires as we passed by on the tree-lined back roads. One of the custom-built barns cost over $750,00 to build and was truly a beauty to behold.

One of the guests on the tour was a gal from Australia who is travelling the USA for the year with her family in an RV. They sold their property development business last year, flew to LA, bought a tow vehicle, travel trailer and GPS system.  They’ve been out west and are now heading east and will finish up in Florida at Christmas.

The most unique feature of the Lexington area are the miles of dry stacked field stone fences that line many of the roadways and pastures. Some are from the early 1700’s when crews were taught how to build them by the Irish emigrants who settled in the area. It’s almost a lost craft now, and they can not be removed, only repaired.

The area between Paris, KY on the east side of Lexington and Louisville, KY with Bardstown in between is simply amazing countryside and one we could easily spend a couple more months exploring. If you love horses and/or beautiful countryside, there aren’t many places in the world that can compare.

Kentucky is a true American Treasure.  Come On Over … they’ll leave the light on for ya !

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5 thoughts on “Heartland Treasures – Kentucky & Ohio

  1. I used to live around the Kentucky area and remember well the beautiful countryside and green pastures. Thanks for another great article.

  2. What a great article. I used to live around the Kentucky area and well remember the beautiful green countryside and pastures. I’ve never been to Bardstown. Life is great isn’t it?

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