I love early summer in Kentucky. Dodging the intense heat and humidity that can plague the commonwealth, I got cool mornings, glowing afternoons, and soft evenings that seemed to go on forever, dusk extending until after 9 pm.
Kentucky without Keeneland or the Derby lends itself to leisure: long visits with friends, unhurried meals, time to explore, the chance – imagine! – to see something other than the racetrack.
Which is not to say that this trip didn’t involve plenty of equine activities: Churchill Downs for the Grade 3 Debutante, won by longshot Flashy Lassie; a morning at Mill Ridge Farm; an afternoon at Darby Dan, hearing about Roberto’s Ribot’s notoriously bad behavior…so bad, according to our guide, that it prevented him from returning to Italy, as decreed in the terms of the original stud deal; a long conversation about training horses, past and present, with John Gaver III.
No hot browns on this visit, unless you count the hot brown pizza I had one night (and I don’t); or bread pudding, perhaps the greatest disappointment of the trip. I visited one restaurant to which I’ll never return (a downtown sandwich place), and one that I will, frequently and with alacrity (Windy Corner, and next time I’ll get there early enough on Tuesday to snag an order of shrimp and grits before they run out). I spent some serious quality time at the Liquor Barn.
And so on Wednesday morning, after nearly a week of satisfying work and play, I packed up the little green Golf, anticipating the joy of a solitary road trip under azure skies and through verdant mountains.
And those joys lasted about five hours before coming to a grinding, melancholy end in Weston, West Virginia, where my faithful Volkswagen was pulled up and vanned off.
She had given me 10 years and nearly 120,000 miles, and I had planned to retire her late this summer or early in the fall. But she had other ideas – or at least her transmission did – and so I made my way back to Brooklyn without her, leaving her in the kind hands of the Clarksburg, WV, VW dealer (hey, at least I got a palindrome out of it).
And I must stop and emphatically give thanks to the tow truck driver who transported us from Weston to Clarksburg, and to the very good folks at Star Motor Company in Clarksburg, who welcomed this stranded driver and her undriveable vehicle into their shop; offered a quick diagnosis and estimate, along with thoughtful and sensitive advice; and helped me make arrangements for both the rest of the journey home and the remains of my VW’s days.
A largely urban creature, she spent most of her life on the streets of Brooklyn. I think that I’d prefer not to count up the number of hours we spent driving around looking for parking, and instead focus on the mileage that we accumulated on our many adventures.
In our 10 years together she took me to hockey games in Ottawa, Toronto, and Sunrise, Florida, and to tennis matches in Toronto, Montreal, Key Biscayne, Washington, D.C., and Flushing Meadows.
Together we went to Saratoga, Aqueduct, and Belmont; Tampa Bay Downs and Gulfstream Park; Colonial Downs, Pimlico, and Laurel; Suffolk Downs, Delaware Park, Philadelphia Park, Monmouth, and Woodbine; Keeneland and Churchill Downs. She’s been to more racetracks than most humans I know, and she was supposed to take me to Finger Lakes in a couple of weeks.
Nearly a decade of loyalty, fun and reliability shouldn’t be rewarded with abandonment in West Virginia, but maybe a breakdown on the road is exactly the right ending for the inveterate road tripper.
I’m not terribly sentimental, but I’ll admit that when I realized that I probably wouldn’t see her again, my eyes welled. Ten years is a long time, and I’m going to miss the little green Golf. Farewell, my road buddy, and thanks.
12 thoughts on “Home from Kentucky, and the end of the road”
A wonderful tribute to your faithful traveling companion 🙂
The Liquor Barns are great.
Curious to read your comments about Finger Lakes, a slot parlor.
I’m glad you had time to expand your vistas in KY. Sorry about the VW, but I’m glad you had helpful Samaritans. Will you be here for Keeneland fall racing?
I wish I could’ve provided some nice little tribute to my first car – my 1980 Chevette. Alas, the last I heard, it was running on lawn mower oil and the engine caught fire down in Mexico …
Teresa – If you ever get a chance to go back I highly recommend Wallace Station for sandwiches. Not very far from Ashford Stud.
I’m going to guess that you were in Lexington that this sandwich place was named after a racehorse???
Egad! Finger Lakes in a couple of weeks… You’re not going to miss Opening Day at Saratoga, are you?
If you go to Finger Lakes make sure and say hello to race caller Tony Calo, he is a hoot.
Thanks for all the comments, folks, and thanks, Linda, for those nice words.
Becky, I did get a lovely morning in the library, too…sorry to have missed you. I hope to be there in October, but nothing definite yet.
LJK: The Liquor Barn in Hamburg is a required pilgrimage every time. Love the place.
Sue, mine was a 1980 Dodge Omni. I think she imprinted me with a love for hatchbacks forever.
Bill, I had lunch at Wallace Station one day…my second visit there. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen more ham on a sandwich than I did there.
It wasn’t, Alex…are you thinking of somewhere in particular?
Marshall…you know better than that!
Thanks for the tip, Robert.
Now I’m hungry for a hot brown from Ramsey’s, bread pudding from Keeneland, a Turkey Rachel from Wallace Station and bourbon from anywhere LOL. I think I need to move….
As one who has also spent many many hours in the car I totally understand your feelings…my first was a 1975 Mustang that caught fire on the side of the road about 2 AM when I was in college…..
Hi Teresa, Welcome home! The mention of Ribot always gets my attention. He was special and one of a kind with an incredibly fierce disposition that no one wanted to insure him, for his return to Italy. As a champion, Italian laws prevented him from being sold. So, here he remained. Federico Tesio was a genius and, his breeding has stood the test of time.
I love these two accounts from roughly fifty years ago.
The first article, which didn’t transfer cleanly, is titled “The Search For A Superhorse.” It’s dated December 10, 1956. If one enters Ribot in the Search box and scroll back to the 10th level, one can read what I had intended.