Thursday, August 12, 2010

The week in Kentucky.

So, we got to Bowling Green late Friday afternoon and found everyone there in nap mode. We spent the next several days there relaxing, sitting around the house and playing with the kid. That gave me a lot of time to work on all the pictures I'd taken in Tennessee and upload them to FlickR.

There were a few pictures taken in Bowling Green, but most of them ended up like this. I tell ya, little Payton's not camera shy.

Her Nanna though... Witness Protection Program.

Like I said, it was a very relaxing time. Combine that with the heat (inside the house and out) and you're left with very little incentive to exert yourself at all. We did run a few errands though. There was a trip to Kroger's for provisions...

After which we made a trip over to the local liquor establishment, where we found some of that Sweet Carolina, sweet tea flavored vodka that Judy turned us onto. We'd found some Minute Maid lemonade at Kroger's, along with the makings for a big dinner, so Denise was in bidneth!

One thing. Later in the week, when we were in Vine Grove, Denise ran out of Minute Maid. So we went to a stop-n-rob and picked up some Country Time. Eeeeew, bleck! Not cool.. Don't go there.

That same liquor store in Bowling Green is also my sole supplier of George Dickel, Barrel Select. I've never found it anywhere else. While we were there I picked up a new bottle, and I was in bidneth!

Smooth. Very smooth. You see me sweatin' there? Well, apparently Lynn and Dale were havin' an issue with their air conditioner. It was usually in the mid 80s in the house during the day, which sucked balls. But I was maintainin'.

Saturday night, Lynn asked her mom to cook a traditional British dinner. This happens a lot, whenever we visit. It's their equivalent of us tryin' to get my mom to cook home-made peach ice cream and fried chicken, or her famous chicken enchiladas.

For Denise, this means Yorkshire puddings...

And Shepherd's pie. Add some carrots and you've got a meal fit for an English king. It was all wonderful.

After dinner I asked Denise if she wanted to go for a walk. I'd gone outside earlier and it seemed like there was the hint of a cool breeze in the air. It would get us out of the house, on our own, and also give me a chance to smoke a good cigar, which I hadn't been able to do since we were sittin' in Bruno's yard.

Well, the breeze turned out to be a fleeting thing. It was hot out there too, but the walk was fun and exhilarating, and the cigar was wonderful. Maybe it was the humidity, but that ash on my Kuba Kuba just hung on like a trooper.

We slept in Sunday morning, and then Denise whipped up a hearty breakfast, with eggs, bacon, sausage and hash brown taters. It was wonderful.

She had a blast playin' with little Payton as we ate. The rest of the day was spent chillin'. It was a serious adjustment, all this sittin' around, after all the activity in Tennessee. Like I said, I got a lot of picture work done, and a little blogging.

Monday, Denise decided to make a surprise visit up to Vine Grove. We weren't scheduled to go up there until Tuesday, but her youngest grandson was goin' crazy. Little Colin knew I was bringin' him a new airsoft rifle, and he was texting me over and over again, asking when we were gonna bring it.

Also, goin' up on Monday would give us a chance to see her daughter Chantel's boyfriend John and his son, Zack, who wouldn't be there Tuesday. John's a fireman and an EMS guy, and works something like 48 hour shifts. Crazy, but it's a good livin'. When we arrived, Colin took about a minute to ask me about the rifle. I got it out of the trunk and he set to work, pullin' it out of the box and puttin' it together.

On earlier visits, we'd always been pummeled by the family dog, Sadie, when we came in the door. She's a beast, but she doesn't know how big she is and loves to jump up. Plus, if she ever managed to get out of the house, it was always a chore to get her to come back. What's more, they were given a puppy a while back, a female German Shepherd, so we were expecting a double pummeling this time.

Turns out though, after John moved in he set up an electric wire fence around the yard, with shock collars for the dogs. Now the two girls tend to stay on, or as you can see here, under the porch, not wanting to venture anywhere near that wire.

The shepherd, Sarah, has definitely grown up. She was just a puppy the last time we were there. Unlike Sadie, Sarah is a bit more reserved, and less prone to jump up.

As you might imagine, the two dogs love to tussle. It was hilarious to watch, and I got some of it on video. Enjoy.

Like I said, as soon as we got there Colin was busy checkin' out his new gun. After a while I sat down with him and together, we figured the thing out and got it working.

Meanwhile, Colin's older brother Bryce, who's just earned his learners permit, asked his Nanna if she wanted to go for a drive. You can see her there, giving me a humerus, worried goodbye wave. Together, they drove off in the Jeep that her ex-husband, Bryce's grandfather, gave them last year.

In a while, Colin and I were set up. That's my airsoft rifle on the left. His new one is on the right. It took me FOREVER to get the grenade launcher on that thing, but it was cool as hell when it came together.

Next, Colin and I went out to the front yard to test it all out.

Of course, the other neighborhood boys LOVED it too. You can see how proud Colin was. Man, toys sure have gotten cool in the last 40 years.

The next day, as we drove up to Vine Grove from Bowling Green with all our gear, the sky started to cloud over and look ominous. It ended up being cloudy and/or rainy throughout the rest of our stay in Kentucky. At the very last minute, things cleared up and the humidity declined, just in time for us to drive home. It stayed cloudy and rainy just long enough to ruin a planned trip to a local lake, but it didn't ruin our fun.

On Wednesday, Denise and I went out to the CTC office on Ft. Knox. Denise worked at this office for something like 20 years, and still knows a lot of folks out there. While she was there doing school business, I jumped on a computer and checked my email.

We did a drive-by past the Patton Museum there on Ft. Knox, but the place was lookin' kind of anemic. We didn't see very many tanks on display outside, and it had begun to rain again, so we didn't even stop. It turns out the museum is in the process of moving, along with the bases armored forces, to Ft. Benning, Georgia. So, there probably wasn't much there to see anyway. Their web site is pretty cool though, if you're interested.

This late model Sherman was actually cooler than the stuff the Patton folks had, and it was sittin' next to a bank on base. What can I say, Ft. Hood's got 'em beat, big time. But I'm sure they'll have everything together when they finish the move to Ft. Benning next year.

After the CTC office, Denise and I went out to a huge new building that's been built on Ft. Knox for the armies human resources folks. We had a hell of a time getting in there, but we finally did. While we waited for a meeting Denise had scheduled with one of her school contacts, I started to recognize the sergeant behind the front desk. He turned out to be one of my former students from Ft. Hood. He'd taken my class two years earlier. While we were standing there, getting reacquainted, another former student came walking out the door for a smoke break. It was hilarious.

After getting back to the house, we decided to take Denise's grandsons to the mall. Nanna wanted to pick up some new school clothes for the boys. Let's face it Nanna loves to spoil these kids, and the kids know it. In the end, after terrorizing the stores for an hour or so, Denise called her daughter and we all made plans to meet up for dinner at a local Chinese food place.

According to her grandson Bryce, who along with me, is about the only person in this family who enjoys Chinese food, this isn't the best place in town. But it was close and convenient. The four of us got there first, and then we found out that along with Denise's daughter Chantel, her fella John and his crew were also gonna join us for dinner. He was in the middle of his 48 hour shift, so it was cool to see him and meet the guys he works with.

Of course, those who know me can probably guess what I ordered.

I've found in my travels that just about every Chinese food place turns out it's own particular version of General Tso's Chicken, which is just about my favorite thing in the known universe. Well, next to just about anything my mom whips up, this is the stuff!

But they did it VERY differently here at Green Bamboo. They make it with grilled chicken breast strips, rather than breaded and fried dark meat. This is the version that I would usually make at home. When added with store bought sauce, it's pretty good stuff, but it's not as good to me as the traditional, fried version.

Thursday, when John and Chantel were both off from work, and with John's son Zack with us again, the whole tribe was supposed to go to the lake. I was really lookin' forward to that too, but the weather didn't cooperate. So, with my prompting, we decided to set out instead to go spelunking at Mammoth Cave, which is about 45 minutes south of Vine Grove.

When we got there, it turned out we had a few hours to kill before the next tour, so we went to the cafe to eat lunch and then took some time to check out the shops. Then it was time to go out under the awning and wait for our tour to begin. We were scheduled for a two hour "Historical" tour down into the bowels of the earth. It would take us into the old entrance to the cave, and past the parts of the cave that had been visited by paleoindians, mined by slaves for Guano (to make gun powder) and toured since the early 1800s.

By the time the tour was about to start, both Colin and Denise decided they didn't want to go through with it. It was the treat of too many crampt spaces, and the two hour length that did it. So I Gave Denise my car keys and they entertained themselves while we went for our subterranean stroll.

When our tour guide, this munchkin sized park ranger chick, finally showed up, we all began the walk down through the woods to the entrance to the cave. As we got closer to that entrance, the cool air from underground began to hit us. Wow, that was awesome. I started thinkin' about the folks who lived in the era before air conditioning, and what they must have thought as they walked up to this huge hole in the ground for the first time, feeling the constant 56 or 57 degree temperatures.

As we gathered at the entrance, the guide stood up on the wall and got the crowd ready to begin the tour. She told us about some of the challenges we'd face in the next two hours, and that this was our last chance to change our mind. Hell, with that cool air blowin' up around me, I was ready to go.

With that, we started our descent into the earth. I hadn't been in a cave like this in a while, so I was really looking forward to it.

The trip down inside Mammoth Cave was awesome. It's not much of a cave when it comes to amazing stalactites and stalagmites, and beautiful limestone rock formations, but it was still awesome.

I was interested by the history of the place, beginning with early Native Americans, who visited the cave and buried some of their dead there. I was particularly fascinated with the story of Stephen Bishop, a slave in the early 1800s who discovered more of the cave than anyone else. The rangers really did a wonderful job layin' it all out for us. Click here for a run down on some of that history.

When we finally walked back up out of the ground, the above ground heat and humidity hit me and I was dyin'. I wanted to go back down in the cave and live there.

With that, we reconnected with Denise and Colin, piled into the cars and headed back to Vine Grove. We stopped at a McDonalds for dinner, and then headed back to the house.

Friday, Denise and I started to pack our gear and gather everything so I could load the car quickly the next morning. In the evening though, we both got gussied up and drove over to Elizabethtown for a party.

Denise worked with Joan (seated on the right there, with her arm in the air) on Ft. Knox for a long time. She's Irish, but was married to an American Air Force officer and now resides there in Kentucky. Her two brothers (seated at the table with her here) reside in Australia (the guy seated on the left), and Britain (the guy on the right). This was the first time in 40 years that all three had been together at one time, so it was a very special occasion.

The two folks on the left are Colin and Evander. They're Brits, long time friends of Joan and Denise who live and work in the US. Colin and I were introduced a few years ago, and ever since then I've always brought him a good cigar to smoke during our visit. Of course, Evander doesn't really like it, but that just makes it that much more fun for me.

As I said, the visit by Joan's brothers was a special event, and there was gonna be a huge party to celebrate the occasion Saturday night. But we were gonna have to start our drive home Saturday morning. So Joan got these folks together Friday night and we all shared a few pizzas, so Denise could see the guys and we could join in the celebration.

It was a great time, and turned out to be my only opportunity for some porch time during the road trip. It had been too damn humid and sticky to enjoy THE porch, in Harriman, but Joan has a decent, screened in porch on the back of her house. So, as the pizza and beer was being consumed, the guys all retreated to the porch to smoke. It was a two cigar, and maybe a four or five beer evening.

In the end, I handed the keys to Denise and she drove us back to Chantel's place.

After getting there, Denise finished our packing and tried to relax. I sat down with Colin and watched him play X-Box games.

The games on that thing are cool, but they're WAY beyond my skills. I'm still in Asteroids, Galaxiga mode. A fossil! Anyway, who's got time to vegetate on a couch with this sort of thing?

Anyway, the next morning, early, we loaded the car and started our return journey through four states and back to Texas. We knew it was gonna be a long drive, but we had no idea when we left Vine Grove that our return would be so exhausting, and so emotionally draining. I also had no clue how much my life would change when I finally came home.

I'll tell ya about all that in the next post. It'll be a doozy! Cheers.


Mushy said...

Very nice visit it seems. Food and drink looked good too!

FHB said...

It was, all around.

kenneth said...

Your search for great food might be my favorite adventure on the internet (and you find it too.) And your exuberance for life is always a breath of fresh air - like what you experienced on entering Mammoth Cave. Thanks!

BRUNO said...

Damn, dude---I'm worn-out after that trip!

An' I was only readin' it...!!!

FHB said...

Kenneth - Thanks man. I appreciate that. It's my pleasure to tease you with good food. I wasted a lot of time when I was young, livin' like and old man. So now I guess I'm tryin' to catch up, to the extent I can. Keep comin' by and I'll try to keep it fun.

Bruno - Yea, imagine how beat down we were once we got home. And that's when the shit just got goin' (teaser for the next few posts)!