1984 Bike Tour: Day 18 – That fragrance of home cookin’ is all bourbon

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Wednesday, May 30, 1984
Harrodsburg to Hodgenville, Ky.
92 miles

Locater map

I’m reprinting the day-to-day journal entries of a bike tour my friend and I took in 1984. More about the 1984 TransAmerica Tour

Gene’s Journal

We thought nothing could smell sweeter than the good country air of the Kentucky bluegrass country, until we left Bardstown.

We had just finished a unsatisfying lunch at a shopping center deli in the hometown of  composer Stephen Foster (My Old Kentucky Home), when we caught the fragrance of good home cooking in the air. Bruce said, wherever it’s coming from, “that’s where we should have eaten.”

We rode on a half-mile and saw the entrance sign for the Heaven Hills Distillery, the source of the fragrance. If we could have “eaten” there, our trip would have ended, no doubt. What we smelled cooking must have been sour mash. We merely cycled past huge warehouses full of booze.

(A fire in 1996 swept through those Heaven Hills warehouses creating huge fireballs and a “river of fire” as the burning bourbon flowed out into the streets. Bardstown is also home to the Museum of Whisky History.)

It was chilly again in the morning when we left Harrodsburg. We chatted amiably with the guest house manager; he didn’t seem to be the gruff old fart from the previous evening. I guess he was happy enough that we were leaving without destroying the room. Bruce said it might be like the schoolteachers who try to keep order by not smiling until Christmas.

On the way to Bardstown, we witnessed a partial solar eclipse. I noticed the dabbled shade on the road looked different, and small crescents appeared between the leafy shadows. Bruce thought I was crazy, until he confirmed it in a newspaper in Bardstown. Then he thought I was a scientific genius.

Easier terrain

The temperature warmed to the 50s in the afternoon, and we kept pedaling. We were very comfortable in the rolling terrain and didn’t want to stop. We paused at White City and Leafdale, and each time decided to keep going.

We eventually reached the Cruise Inn motel/campground not far from the Lincoln birthplace in Hodgenville. The desolate campground was ankle-deep in lush, wet grass. After homemade spaghetti, we walked across the street for pie at Joel Ray’s Restaurant, right next door to Joel Ray’s Lincoln Jamboree. Joel Ray must be a some kind of performer, but the music hall was closed tonight.

We lamented that we end up in dry counties every night and haven’t had a beer since Wytheville. Bruce does carry a flask containing Kahlua, which we use to spike a cup of coffee right after dinner.

Headline: May 30, 1984 — Bomb explodes in rebel leader Eden Pastora headquarters in Nicaragua …

Bruce’s Journal

We are camped at the “Cruise Inn” just across from Abe Lincoln’s birthplace here in Hodgensville, Ky. We came 90 miles today through rolling farmland, an eclipse, a Trappist monk order and a distillery. [Talk about your basic slice of life!]

The ride was great despite cool weather early and cloudy skies.

We got out of the Parkview and on the road by 7:30. The manager ended up being a nice old lonesome man. We saw him at the pool hall that night and then at the chicken place across the street for breakfast. His initial bluster was an act, no doubt, honed from years of dealing with derelicts. He wished us a safe trip.

At any rate, about 11:30, just before we got to Bardstown, I believe, Bis says to me that something is wrong with the shadows on the ground, trees and ourselves. I paid little attention.

We had been crossing many ridges and I thought he was a little punchy. This happens, and we both accept it. About 10 minutes later he said it again and I looked at the tree shadows on the road. They were a little skewed, but I was busy trying to get up a hill.

An eclipse or hallucination?

Bis suggested there might be an eclipse, but the sky was clear and the sun was out. I suggested he was crazy. Later, at lunch, we were looking at a paper and sure enough, there was a lunar eclipse. The moon passed in front of the sun. Bis swears he knew nothing about it. [It was then I realized how smart he was, and how dense I was.]

This happened at lunch–a sandwich shop next to the Wal-Mart across from the home which inspired Stephen Foster’s famous “The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home…”

Anyway, I ordered a tuna sandwich and Bis ordered chicken salad. They put so little tuna between the bread I honestly thought they had forgotten to add it.

Just after lunch, we were coming up a moderate hill when I began smelling something good, like soup. Like potato soup. I said to Bis that something smelled really good. The minute we crested the hill we saw the signs for “Heaven Hill,” distillers of the best Kentucky bourbons (according to them). [Bis’ sense of the natural world is much more developed than mine, but I’m always good for sniffing out a little liquor.]

Dry counties

The funny thing was, here in Kentucky many counties are dry, thanks to the Southern Baptists and other teetotalers–not all but many. Every day, Bis and I ride through “wet” counties, but it never fails that when we land for the evening there’s not a beer in sight. Lately, we have acquired a considerable thirst, too. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I fear what will happen when we hit our first beer joint down the road.

Today was our best day yet, I think; certainly mileage-wise, but in other ways as well. Everything seemed to come together. Put another way, there were no hitches: no flats, no bad food, big hills, bad weather. It was just right, and the scenery was pleasant, and different from what we have seen in the rest of the state.

We are coming out of the “knobs,” as one woman put it, and into the horsey bluegrass country. It’s amazing to watch the land unfold–from the severe jagged peaks of the Appalachians to the rolling foothills and now the river basin bluegrass. Kentucky is definitely a nice state.

Tomorrow we will visit the Lincoln birthplace in the morning. I hope it’s not hokey…


Day 19 — “Abe born here, honestly”

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