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.