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We never know where the next turn will take us. A week after my travel to California, the entire country was shut down due to Covid-19. On the plane ride home, a lady sat next to me with a mask on and said she did not want to catch anything prior to visiting her relatives. Now we are all wearing masks to go out in public. Who would have thought the bank would want to have customers wear a mask to enter the building?
I received an email from BetterUp! the coaching service that my company employed as I was transitioning from working to retirement. I have previously written about my photo shoot and that fun experience. This time, I was asked to speak on a panel to discuss my experiences with coaching for one of their conferences.
Of course I went. It was a chance to visit with family and connect with some old friends, including my coach Rob, and I was excited to make several new friends including my fellow panelists.
I knew this conference would be different from other I attended. The head of the company began on Monday night by insisting we refrain from shaking hands and just bumping elbows.
Monday, I was able to go to lunch with my youngest and spend some time prior to the conference kick off.
At the conference, I met the other speakers in the morning to go over our parts. What a great group of people. I was pleased to be included in the group. Our BetterUp! representative was Damian Vaughn, a former NFL player. What a supper nice guy to have as a moderator and facilitator for our part of the program.
The Claremont Club and Spa Berkeley we were staying at for the conference was really a treat. I loved the view from the room overlooking the bay.
When I say the hotel was top notch, the California primary election was on Tuesday and Michael Bloomberg who was a candidate (and is a billionaire) was staying at our hotel.
As part of my running program, I was out of town and missed the group run, so I took the opportunity to run into the campus at UC Berkley. The campus was full of students , but I was not the only older man running through campus. I assume the others were local residents or professors. The hotel had a running route that you can listen to while it gives directions and points out some of the features on campus which was a fun way to run around town.
I got to have Leslie Odom, Jr. sign a copy of his book “Failing Up” back stage after hearing him speak and sing for us. He is super guy and easy to speak with. I was happy BetterUp had him at the end of the program. It was well worth sticking around to hear him speak and sing. I recently had the chance (thank you Disney + and the Berns) to see Hamilton with Leslie playing Burr. It put it all together for me. The book was good; one of my kids also read it and enjoyed it. Take a chance and read it too.
Rob (my BetterUp! coach) took me for a hike to the Siesta Valley Recreation Area near the hotel and near where he grew up. We had a great view of San Francisco and walk around the area.
Take opportunities when you can. I did not know that a week after my return home, St. Patrick ’s Day, would be the day we would go into what I would call seclusion and the travel industry would be shutting down for a while.
I enjoy speaking with others about my experiences, like all of us; it is nice to have others care.
Hiring a coach to assist you in life is a good deal; it really makes a difference. A coach will get you to where you are going faster and on target. My journey in retirement is richer because I was coachable. I hope you are coachable as well.
No bike riding on this trip. I will get the bike out of the basement in the spring.
I enjoyed our travels last year to Bardstown so much that I suggested that we all travel to Louisville as a group. Like at the office, when you make a suggestion, you often have to carry out the implementation. At first I thought just the guys would want to go.
We soon found out that the entire group was interested in traveling to Louisville. Some in our group, including me, had been before and even had kids attend the University. This was a first-time visit for some of the group. I had not put together a travel itinerary for a group of friends before, so I went to some blog posts and pulled out a few ideas. It turned out wonderful. It was not as hard as I thought, and my friends all helped with some suggestions of their own.
We began our tour of Louisville by getting one of the rare treats, a bourbon milk shake from Royal’s Hot Chicken. The place was packed near noon and we could see why; the chicken delicious and so were the milkshakes. I had a smooth tasting, cold milk shake that hit the spot with my hot chicken tenders. I was interested that they put a test tube filled with bourbon in the glass along with a spoon and a big straw. This allowed me and the others with the bourbon shooter to add the bourbon as we went. The bourbon in the milkshake was a good combination and one I will look for again.
After a satisfying lunch we had tickets to Angel’s Envy Distillery, a few short blocks away from Royal’s.
We were impressed with Angel’s Envy and the tour. They have their own unique take on emptying the bourbon into other spirit containers, including port wine barrels. The distillery was clean and, for an old factory, amazingly modern. The distillery has done a good job in laying out their process.
Taking risks and being bold was a good combination for the taste in my opinion and the opinion of others. We did enjoy the tour guide, the general tour and the product. I found the flavor enhanced by the re-barreling process that is unique for them.
After a wonderful dinner out at Jack Fry’s, where the service was great for our party of 8 and we enjoyed very good cooking and a piano player setting the mood, we went to our B&B to dream about our next day’s tour. We enjoyed the charm and warmth provided at the DuPont Mansion B&B in Louisville. We were able to sit in the parlor and chat or play games. The breakfasts were very tasty as were the cookies when we got back at night.
Since we had a large group, I was interested in allowing us to explore the city as well as see the sights together and on our own, depending on what we liked to do. Some of us purchased the Museum Center (six in one) tickets. I thought it was a great value. Our group made it to these sites: Frazier History Museum, Louisville Slugger Museum, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Muhammad Ali Center, and Peerless Distilling Co.
I spent the most time in the Frazier History Museum; they were showing a bourbon exhibit with the history and shaping of bourbon in America, especially Kentucky.
Being a baseball fan, we noticed several improvements at the Louisville Slugger museum over our last visit about 5 years earlier. The tour was on point and ran us through their bat making facility, starting with the forest and the trees and how they work on growing and identifying trees.
The Slugger Museum did a good job of explaining the process of bat making and letting us feel the product in various stages. I am still in awe of holding a major league bat that could be used in a game (I hope so!) later this year.
Several in our group went to the Muhammad Ali Center and were impressed by the presentation in the museum and the life story and values of this great fighter. This is a stop we will need to go back to and experience. We foolishly thought that we could do a museum in about 30 minutes and then we were drawn into the stories setup inside and spent longer at each stop.
The surprising stop for me was the Peerless Distilling Company. It does not look like much from the outside and is in an old building.
The product was very good and we came away from our tour with a favorable impression of their product and the way this craft maker distills their bourbon. We enjoyed the tour and our tour guide. Peerless uses a sweet mash and they would not share the mash percentages, the corn, rye or wheat, unlike other tours we have been on before.
Peerless takes pride in their heritage as an old line (placed in barrels beginning in 1889) Kentucky distilling company. They have modeled their bottle and the re-start of this distillery on the original distilling company. The history was a good story and made the tour worthwhile to hear.
The distilling process and the inside of the building is clean and new in appearance. We did not find a rundown bottler but an up to date modern facility with a good product to sell.
We were unable to tour the Even Williams shop, although we stopped in for a visit to the gift shop. Several in our group knew what they liked and found it in the shop.
Our second dinner out at RYEs was a bigger party for us, with 10 at the table we had the best waitress and service. The food was delicious and I would say you should try it out for yourself. A long time ago, I waited on tables and discovered that big parties like a group of 10 friends, was a big pain to wait on. No one is ready and then everyone is ready. This restaurant must do a great job training their staff because we had no hassles and excellent service.
On our way out of town, the day after Leap Day, we visited the historic Brown Hotel, a landmark in Louisville.
The hotel is known for their grand style and inventing a unique Kentucky dish called the Hot Brown. I thought I had had hot brown before that day, and I now know that it was a poor imitation of the real thing.
Everyone at the table ordered the hot brown and we all loved it!
This is a hotel that properly prides itself on service and satisfaction. We were happy with the meal, our service and the ambiance. We were visiting on a Sunday and the place was packed. We had the feeling that we were special, just because we showed up and enjoyed a hearty meal.
After the hot brown at the Brown Hotel, we needed a walk. We had planned a walk to Indiana on the Big 4 Bridge over the Ohio River. We picked the perfect day, the sun was out and the weather was a hint of early spring.
On the first of February I ran the “Frozen 5k” and my son and his friends ran the “Frozen 10k.” This event is put on by our local minor league ice hockey team, the Cincinnati Cyclones. They were kind enough to open their arena prior to the race for us to stay warm and get ready for the event.
It was cold (about 36 degrees when we started) in the morning, not as cold as it could be with the historic average of 23 on February 1 in Cincinnati. My running group suggested that we sign up for several races or running events to get use to running in large events. The run was sold out with about 2,200 runners.
This was my best run (I finished in 32 minutes and 2 seconds), as I ran the whole 5k instead of my unusual running and walking and then running some more. I managed to finish faster than my son and his friends and was able to see them cross the finish line. Yes—they ran twice as far as I did and I am twice their age.
Always plan ahead. A plan can change, but as we saw with Evan Williams, we do not always get to visit a place without planning ahead for a limited tour.
Take advantage of the local opportunities. We could have gone almost anywhere with our group. A quick ride down the road was like being a world away.
No bike riding on this trip. I will get the bike out of the basement in the spring.
Before Christmas, I was able to watch the New England Patriots with Tom Brady as quarterback playing the Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati. I shared that I thought it may be the last time we see Tom Brady in person in a Patriots uniform and as events unfolded, we were correct. I thought he would retire.
My son joined me for a “fun run” in Northern Kentucky put on by the Arthritis Foundation. The Jingle Bell 5k Run was fun and a challenge (for me). My son ran with me the whole time giving me moral support and slowing down his pace for mine. One of the pictures he took while running backwards.
After a Christmas Eve church service we had a lovely Christmas day dinner in downtown Cincinnati, complete with a walk around town with wonderful December weather.
On Boxing Day I flew to California to enjoy the continued nice weather and live out my desire to spend time with family and friends. Our youngest lives in San Jose and we had a great visit. Besides spending time together, watching the MSU Spartans win a bowl game on TV and seeing the latest Star Wars movie, just spending time together was the highlight. We also had a day in San Francisco where we toured Golden Gate Park, visiting the California Academy of Sciences and enjoying the wonderful late December day. We ended up at Ghiradelli Square for some ice cream and good memories.
Just being together is enough. Listening and respect is also good. I love all our kids!
I did get in my running preparation while visiting prior to joining the running club for the Flying Pig half marathon I plan to run virtually in May of 2020. No bike riding on this adventure.
You already know that I am not a runner. Happy Thanksgiving and let’s run a 5K race in Colorado Springs almost a mile higher in elevation than where I live. I can see why the Olympic athletes train here, once they are acclimated.
This was not our first family visit to Colorado Springs, just the first time visiting when it snowed in the city. We were fortunate to have a day without snow and had a nice time in Acacia Park and walking downtown Colorado Springs.
Here are a few before and after views from our condo (Airbnb) before and after the snow:
I have stayed at my home for many years now, avoiding traveling at Thanksgiving. When my kids were younger, I sometimes took the family to the in-laws or my parents. They have also come to join the six of us at our home. More often, we stayed at home for Thanksgiving. We have several years of Thanksgiving memories where we hosted local “orphans” or were hosted by other “orphans” who did not have other family in the area.
This year we traveled to Colorado Springs to visit and celebrate Thanksgiving. As I am older, so are the kids. They are now in the position that I was when I stayed at home. Thanksgiving happens over a few short days. My excuse for not traveling at Thanksgiving the limited time and because of the limited time frame many travel during the few days of this holiday. We stepped up as mature adults and enjoyed the travels to the kids, including bringing one with us.
The retirement benefit is leaving the weekend prior and leaving after the holiday rush. Even on Sunday traveling by airplane was already busy. We were prepared for the lines and the hassle of Thanksgiving holiday fun. It was an easy experience traveling and the airlines and airports were well staffed and handled the crowds with ease. We also made it into Colorado before a big snowstorm and left after the next high wind and snow could hit. We had an enjoyable week of travel to and from Colorado.
We were happy that our kids invited one of their friends to join our holiday meal. It is good to welcome the “orphans” to the Thanksgiving dinner and keep the tradition and we hope someone did the same for our one kid who couldn’t make it to Colorado.
We had the pleasure of taking one of our kids who flew in for Thanksgiving to the Garden of the Gods. It was beautiful all covered in snow.
If you have not been to the Garden of the Gods, you are really missing out.
This was my first time seeing it in the snow; I appreciated the snow and the red rock combination.
One of my kids suggested, in August, that we all sign up for a family 5k run. I believe her words were “No one listens to me, so why now?” So, we all signed up as (much to their dismay) a team for the Colorado Springs 5k Turkey Trot.
We received a message the night prior to the run advising us that the road conditions were less than ideal and we should be prepared for cold weather and ice on the road.
We did have cold weather (about 21 degrees Fahrenheit when we began) and ice, slush and snow was on the ground. It was also a little foggy when we began.
The crowd was just about half of the runners who signed up for the event, or about 2400. I am happy to say that I did finish and stayed upright on the ice and snow the whole time.
My time to finish was less than 36 minutes, about 10 minutes slower than the two oldest kids who ran.
Altitude is real and takes your breath away when you are participating in the family 5k. Okay, I only managed to “run” a quarter mile before walking, much sooner than my normal 1 mile before I have to walk. I did manage to finish 1077 of 2409. The training I did was okay, but I was unable to train for altitude. The reward is the same; I was not going to win, even my own age group, so finishing the event was the key. No matter what place, I completed the race.
Traveling is good to do when you visit with family. We did sit and enjoy the company of our kids. Spending the holiday with family was all it was supposed to be, including snowball fights on a walk around the neighborhood and a wishbone pull after Thanksgiving dinner. I am so happy to have spent the time with the kids.
Our day trip to Denver was cancelled when they received over a foot of snow. We had planned a fun adventure but were able to spend the day preparing for Thanksgiving and playing games. I learned how to play Catan. We also managed to get in a Euchre tournament and play some bridge.
Bring Kentucky holiday cheer; it is great for an unexpected snow day.
Looking at the Garden on the Gods through the eyes of a first time visitor enhanced the hike in the snow. A first time visitor brings wonder and a lot of appreciation when this magnificent garden is first viewed.
Everyone thinks of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. We enjoyed a tour of Ft. Carson Army Base. We were surprised how large the base actually is. It does make sense for tank training. We heard the bugle call reveille each morning from the fort at 6:30 AM from our place; it was a good reminder of some other things that are going on in the world.
No bike riding; too much snow, and we did not have easy access to bikes.
Before leaving for our Thanksgiving feast, we walked a few miles in our local Arboretum. The trees even after the leaves have fallen present themselves with a beauty and wonder. We liked the Larch and did not recall seeing the yellow needles on our prior visit.
Now that the long bike rides and triathlon are over, relaxing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sounded like a good time.
When we booked our cabin and planned the trip we were unaware that October is one of the busiest times for the park. We also did not know that this was the busiest National Park. One of the benefits of retirement travel is going during the week. We were surprised at all of the people gathered in the park and Gatlinburg. I guess Columbus Day is a popular time for schools to take a break; we visiting the week prior to the break. We thought traffic and the number of tourist picked up as we got closer to the holiday weekend.
One of the downsides was that parking to hike was at a premium. However, like a good restaurant that is always full, we found that the experience and scenery were worth the hassle. Traffic in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge was also heavy as we went through town. We have been to the park before. This time we were happy not to see any bears as we were hiking
We had a cabin away from town and up a hill so we could enjoy breakfast and linger a little out the front porch. The cabin had large windows and offered a great view of the mountains. We did see the “smoke” in the mountains in the morning that looked inviting.
Our afternoon hikes were good. We had spent most of our previous time in the southern part of the park (Cades Cove), so we hiked in the middle of the park this time.
We noticed that the signage on the hiking trails in the park was lacking or had been removed though too much use, but it was easy to find our way as several other hikers were on the trails with us.
We enjoyed the hikes and the views. It was great to have some hand holds as we went up and down near the edge on the hikes.
The National Park Service has done a good job keeping the trails in good condition given all of the traffic on them we encountered except for the signs while on the trail.
There are plenty of hikes we have not yet taken in the park. We will have to come back and enjoy some of them on our next visit. Now we know to schedule the visit outside of October.
The colors had not yet come out to the park. We did see some of the trees turning early here and there. The week after our visit was probably a peak time for fall colors. We enjoyed the lush green views and left the pretty colors for the visitors for the following week.
We purposely went back home on the back roads from the Smoky Mountains National Park (which is in parts of Tennessee and North Carolina) so we could stop at the three state Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
The weather on the Saturday when we arrived in Kentucky was cooler than it was in Tennessee as we were leaving. Our first stop in Cumberland Gap was at the only visitor center. This is a large park and it was important to know that there is only one visitor center.
We were happy talk with a couple making apple butter over an open fire and dressed in period costumes. It looked like hard work. They assured us that the taste was worth the work on the open fire. We liked the warmth of the open fire.
We were immediately stuck by how few visitors were at this park, just a few miles (85 or so) up the road from the Smoky Mountains. The ranger we spoke to at Cumberland Gap indicated that over 11 million visitors go to the Smoky Mountains and about 1 million visit Cumberland Gap. We really enjoyed hiking in Cumberland Gap with well-marked trails and easy parking.
We took the tri-state trail and hiked up and stood in the three separate states at the same time (Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia). It was interesting to see the contour of the land and to know that many western settlers had journeyed across the mountains where we were hiking.
When looking at the road into the gap we wondered how much harder the mountain pass must be, as this was not an easy climb. We do not have wagons with all of our possessions and have no real idea of the hardship.
The Civil War had a lot going on in Cumberland; we enjoyed the side spots where we could see evidence of the forts and the places where some of the troops moved through. It did make sense that the troops came by and through the gap in the struggle to move across the country.
I recommend driving up the road to the pinnacle overlook, although it twists a whole lot. At one point you can see the road next to you as the road almost doubles back on itself.
The paved paths along the viewing area made the walk out to the view easily assessable. Unfortunately, the view was one where we could see the clouds as the weather was not in our favor. We caught glimpses of the surrounding area and will look forward to coming back for a better view in the future.
We can get to the Smoky Mountain National park in about 5 hours. We should plan to go before or after the peak times for the park, staying away from October (Columbus Day for example) and school vacation week in the spring.
Both Cumberland Gap and Smoky Mountain National Parks do not require admission fees.
Cumberland Gap has hundreds of miles of hikes available. We are thinking about spending more time visiting this park in the future.
We enjoyed two dinner shows and would have liked to have gone for another. We were amazed at the horse handling skills demonstrated during the show at the Dolly Parton’s stampede and the Hatfield & McCoy Dinner Feud. The dinners out were fun and since it gets dark in October so early we had to leave the trails earlier than we would have during the summer.
Our preference was the Dinner Feud. It was a little smaller theater and we had a lively and interactive server. We found that we liked the food better at the Hatfield’s than the Stampede. The musicians for the Stampede put on a great show prior to the dinner and gave an amazing performance. Of course, the horse-riding feats were exciting to watch and they were well executed. We appreciated the good clean family entertainment at both shows.
We did not come for the town, so Gatlinburg was lost on us. A sea of people walking up and down the main street near the Park was interesting to see. I believe we would have enjoyed the walking in town had we been staying in Gatlinburg.
No bike riding in the mountains where the roads are narrow and winding. From the Cades Cove camp grounds areas you can go biking a few times per week. As we have seen bears in this area, we did not think we should tempt fate by riding bikes near the bears. It might be fun…with a group.
I was able to convince a few friends into visiting the well preserved Civil War battlefield in Perryville, Kentucky. This is a Kentucky state historical site. The battle was a dramatic and short (less than 6 hours) fight for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. As a border state between the North and South, Kentucky declared neutrality. So of course both the North and South invaded with the desire to use Kentucky as a base to defeat the other side.
The North and South forces met in Perryville with the resulting battle costly for both sides. The information provided by the state park was that more soldiers died in the short hours of this battle than at Gettysburg. They are speaking of the death rate per hour of battle and not of the overall number who died in the battle.
The Perryville site does a good job of presenting how the Confederate Army pushed the Union Army and, if they had stayed, would have been able to claim a victory. At the end of the day, the Confederates left the field and moved out of the state to Tennessee. So, this was a technical Union victory. When you are on site and see the movement of troops, you can better understand the results.
Before we made it to Perryville, the group of guys I was traveling with decided we could go to Buffalo Trace Distillery. This is a 200 year old continually operating distillery; of course continually operating for 200 years takes some talent as most distilleries were shut down for prohibition. Buffalo Trace was open as it was able to supply medicinal bourbon during prohibition. This is a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and on the way to the battlefield (kind of).
We arrived early in the morning and were able to take one of the free tours. You need to plan a few months in advance for the scheduled longer tours and, being guys, we planned a few days in advance to go and did not have the longer tour. The free tour was a very good tour. The tour had us walking the beautiful grounds. We were able to see a short film, ask questions and go into a rick house complete with a secret entrance. We were able to see the bottle filling and labeling as well. At the end of the free tour, we were able to taste test the product. As a result, or it could have been planned, our group purchased a few bottles of Buffalo Trace products at the gift shop.State Capital. This is a wonderful building with interesting statues in the rotunda of both Abraham Lincoln (dominating the center) and Jefferson Davis (much smaller and off to one side). Both were born in Kentucky, about 100 miles away from each other. If you know history, we were heading to a Civil War battlefield, and these two were in charge during the battle.
Everything is better with bourbon here in Kentucky. We visited the Kentucky Knows Coffee Shop in Frankfort. We had a good time talking with Tony, the owner of the store. And yes, we also purchased coffee beans.
You can read about history and then walk the fields to see the hills and sweeping fields of fire. Even reading the markers and then walking the grounds sharpened how we took in the scope of that effort by both sides. I am a proponent of being on site. Thank you for the preservation of this historical battlefield.
Travel with friends and explore what they want to explore. One in our group had heard of the bourbon coffee shop. It was a fun place to explore.
Support the local businesses, helping them and yourself. I am so happy we made a stop at the distillery and visited the capital building. We are not alone and need to continue to explore.
No biking was done on this trip.
I have found out that when I do not have a goal, I am not motivated to ride or walk or do any other activity. I was encouraged to spend more time locally this summer to participate in a few local bike rides. Training to participate in organized rides takes practice on the local roads. Where I live we have a lot of hills, and since I was going to participate in Kentucky rides, I needed to practice on our local roads. As a result, I have enjoyed rediscovering some of the local rides that I ignored for the last few years.
The local challenge:
This year, a buddy of mine, David, who retired when I did, purchased a bike; together we went on several rides. It was great fun riding with him on the local roads.
Another friend of mine was looking for a riding partner for a few century rides. Mike took the Kentucky Century challenge and wanted a riding buddy. I looked at joining the Kentucky Challenge and decided against four century rides. Much to my surprise, I ended up riding three of the four century rides with Mike as well as training on some of the local roads. I also managed a few 50 mile rides on my own and with friends. I think I should have signed up for all four.
Additional encouragement to stay local was received when one of my sons challenged me to compete in a local triathlon.
As a result of my goals for riding this summer, I spent more time around the area than I did outside of our local area.
Favorite local rides:
Have you ever been to Rabbit Hash, Kentucky? I used to go about once a week in the summer a few years ago. It makes for a great stop when you are on a local bike ride. We have seen the original general store, the burned down general store, and now the re-built general store.
Big Bone Lick State Park to Rabbit Hash. This is a favorite ride for me and my wife. Many of the Boone County rides end up or begin at or ride by Big Bone Lick State Park.
We often ride from Big Bone to Rabbit Hash (about 10 miles out) with the variations open to go up the evil twins (both category 4 climbs) or a single category 4 climb or just to ride along the river without climbing to get to Rabbit Hash. We like to go early in the morning as motorcycles come to Rabbit Hash as a destination in the afternoon and evening.
As a side note, Strava recognizes the size of the climb in the results. A category 4 is a big climb (okay—it is hard on a bike!) with category 1 being a harder, steeper climb. This categorization of hill climbs started with the Tour De France; the category 4 climb is the lowest level they count. I am not sure I have been on a category 3 climb. Probably just as well.
The “no brainer.” This is a sponsored ride on Monday evenings along the Ohio River on KY Route 8. It is a no brainer in that as you leave the parking lot, turn right. When the road ends, you turn around and head back. This is a great beginning ride, and David and I did a few “short” 10 out and back rides to get a feel for road riding. The ride is fairly flat and does not have too much traffic. The views of the Ohio River are wonderful.
Harrison’s Tomb. William Henry Harrison’s tomb is in Cincinnati. He migrated to Ohio and became a senator prior to being elected president. He has an impressive tomb and has a regular procession of visitors to the tomb. The ride is a great route along the Ohio River, heading west toward the power plant and ending (if you ride the hill!) with a great view from the bluffs overlooking Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio. I appreciated learning about the ride from my bike mentor Chuck.
My triathlon-challenging son and I rode this ride—had a great day and enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately, he rode just as fast as I did, so I was determined to train a little harder on the bike ride for the triathlon.
Ride from the Boone County Arboretum. Our ride from the Arboretum avoids the big climbs and starts with a big downhill. The first time I went in 2019 with Mike and David it poured rain on us the entire second half of the ride, all the way up the hill on Big Bone Road (a category 4 climb). Even in the pouring rain, we had a good time. My bike riding mentors took me on the easier ride several times. I returned the favor for David and took the path away from the evil twins (two back to back category 4 climbs), riding on Riddles Run Road, taking a left on 338 or Beaver Road and then up Big Bone Road where we can climb just one category 4 hill before heading back to the Arboretum. This 17-mile loop is a great challenge for any rider. I know that to see if I am ready for the upcoming challenges, once a year I need to ride over the evil twins. I managed to get in a solo ride and accomplished riding up all three of the category 4 hills in one ride. Fun but exhausting.
Loveland Bike tail—Ohio & Erie. This is the rail bike trail in Cincinnati with a paved rail trail all the way to Cleveland. My wife and I have spent many fun rides on this trail with a stop in Loveland to enjoy a meal or ice cream. David and I spent our retirement anniversary (2 years) doing a 50-mile ride on this trail to celebrate.
- Enjoy the local rides
- Go out and exercise and have some fun with friends while you are out
- Join others or use their knowledge to explore some good routes.
I did participate in three century rides with my friends this season. I previously wrote about the Horsey Hundred ride over Memorial weekend.
My friend Mike signed up for the Kentucky Century Challenge and I joined him for three of the four required rides. I could have signed up and received a jersey for completing the challenge as well. Maybe next year. I enjoyed our time outside on the century rides.
The best one of the seasons was the last; likely I was in the best shape for that ride. The Limestone Challenge was a beautiful ride and very well supported. It made a difference that it was cool and overcast all day. One of my favorite segments was a switchback climb where we could see the riders ahead of us climbing up as we were climbing into the valley preparing to climb.
This was a big climbing ride and featured two category 4 climbs. This is why I practice on our local category 4 climbs, including the evil twins. The distance rode was 100.27 miles (had to get to the start) and elevation of over 6,100.
The other century ride we did was two weeks before the Limestone Challenge out of West Lafayette, IN , the Wabash River Ride.
We had another perfect day for a century ride in the summer. It was great weather for a long day on the bike. This ride was well supported and much smaller than the other two century rides we participated with. We rode 101.3 miles and climbed over 3,650 feet.
At the end of the ride we were looking for the hills that the organizers said were coming up. The day was cool to start, which is always great. We did cross a covered bridge and enjoyed the views of the river from the banks.
I am not a fan of pickles, and Mike and I both thought it was funny that at the Wabash and Limestone rides they offered riders pickle juice. Maybe I will try it some other time.
Time to get away from winter.
What better than a group bike ride from Miami to Key West to avoid the snow and cold? Last January, we went to Florida after the New Year to get away, and it was cold! This year, farther south, we found the weather not just sunny, but also warm. Our ride was expertly organized by Charleston Bicycle Tours. It was fun for both of us, and it was like summer all day and night on the Keys.
Bonnie, a fellow traveler, put a video together of the ride. It summarized well our travels, with the exception of our not seeing the park at Dry Tortugas on the last day. Enjoy: https://youtu.be/iNhEnM1tvBw
Our first ride was about 24 miles and went from Coral Gables to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the end of Key Biscayne. We were happy to walk up the 112 steps to the top of the light house at the park. The ranger was good to only allow a few people to go up and down at a time as it was narrow on the circular steps.
Our first key was Key Biscayne. In order to bike the Keys, our tour centered three rides from Marathon Key. So, after our lunch in Miami we were driven with the bikes to Marathon Key for our first of three rides from the middle of the Keys. We did enjoy the Florida tradition of viewing the sunset each night as we stayed in the area.
Our stay on Marathon Key was well done. We were driven out and rode 40 miles back to our hotel.
We started near the big stone crab and enjoyed the views along the way. Despite me and another rider having two flat tires on the ride, we still had a great time. It helped that instead of changing the tire, I was given a different bike. I rode three that day.
The pictures do not do justice to color of the water.
It was great to ride the bike path and not just along the side of the road. We were pleased that several miles were on the path along the road between the Keys. It was enjoyable when we had some shade on the bike path. As you know, trees create shade along path but also sometimes break up the path making it harder to ride. We also rode along the road.
My favorite bridges were the ones with a separate bridge for the bikers. I believe they are locally called fishing bridges, and we saw plenty of people fishing from the bridges, including a lot of pelicans perched on the bridges hoping to get to the catch before the fishing line did.
We enjoyed riding on both sides of the road as the path changed sides periodically.
As the journey got close to Key West (the end of the road for our travels) we occasionally were riding against traffic. For me, this was the first time since I was a young child that I was riding opposite the traffic and it was really a different experience for me. I guess I am used to riding along the same side as traffic. The best part of our direction, regardless of the side of the road we were riding on, was that the wind, which was strong for most of the ride, was generally at our back. The few times we rode into the wind it was a different experience.
A ride on Big Pine Key and to No Name Key was fun. We liked the dollar bills all over the No Name Pub. We learned that the pub is on Big Pine Key and not on the key called No Name. We also had the opportunity to visit the Florida Keys Wildlife Society. We saw one Key deer on our ride and learned a whole lot more about them and other wildlife at the visitors’ center. One of the things we noticed is that the Key deer are smaller than other deer. As a group, we came up with the saying, “In Texas everything is bigger and on the Keys it is smaller.” I just watched the deer and did not get a picture of the deer.
A few lessons learned.
- The sun will find anyplace you did not properly apply sunscreen prior to the ride.
- Stop and re-apply sunscreen during the ride.
- Snacks and water make for great combinations on a long ride. The ocean breeze is great at your back.
The Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House. We really thought this was a good museum to visit and was a good representation of Key West. The museum was a recommendation from our guide. The building alone was fun and interesting. The many exhibits were well done and we thought Guy Harvey Sketches of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” that went up the main staircase and was great to read and see come to life. The museum has a Civil War exhibit about the Keys, the railway and the impact of the railway on the Keys. Outside of the museum they had several life-like works of art that we at first took for people.
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory was a great end to the day of biking around Key West. The trees in the conservatory were alive with all the butterflies. It was amazing to see so many in one place at one time. When we walked in, we could only say wow at the beauty. Well worth the admissions price to visit. We were surprised by the two pink flamingos walking around oblivious to us and the butterflies. They were a good addition to the butterflies.
The Key West Hemingway house and Museum was good to see, although we just passed by to look and did not stop in. Hemingway apparently put Key West back on the map and was the number one tourist attraction for many years.
Mile Marker Zero on US 1 and Southernmost Point were highlights of the journey. We had told others of our pending trip and the Southernmost Point was mentioned by them frequently. It was fun to have our picture taken here. Everyone in line for the point was polite, and several people waiting took pictures for others who were ahead of them. It was great to see people getting along. The Mile Marker Zero on US 1 was not as popular, judging by the lack of a crowd at the marker compared to the line we waited in at 8:30 in the morning at the Southernmost Point marker.
We also saw roosters everywhere in Key West. They are apparently a thing in Key West and protected as well by local law and custom. Some of our fellow travelers could hear the rooster call early in the morning; we were glad they were not outside of our room.
We took a side trip on our non-bike afternoon to kayak in the Atlantic and through several mangroves. The Blue Planet Kayak company rented us a couple of kayaks and gave us a map to explore. We are sorry we could not make the timing on their tours. We really enjoyed paddling through the mangrove and we even saw what we knew were crabs that looked like spiders climbing the trees. While we were out on the water we heard before we saw fighter planes from the near by Naval base.
Riding across the 7 mile bridge, twice, was fun. The first time was going across to Big Pine Key, and the next day we rode across again on our 50 mile ride to Key West. The side for bikes was wide and I was able to get up to a pretty good speed on the bridge with the wind at my back. I did miss my bike clips and the dropped handle bars when a big truck passed. Seeing trees grow out of the railroad bridge that is no longer in use and the color of the water was surprising. This is the longest bridge I have ridden on, although not the tallest.
Sunset cruise was the right introduction to Key West on our first night at the end of the longest day of riding (50miles).
We had our end of the week sunset dinner on Sunset Key at the Latitudes restaurant. It was a wonderful sunset and we all enjoyed the delicious dinner with our friends from the week of bike riding.
The paintings on the waterfront brewery were really interesting to look at. We thought we were at an aquarium and were surprised that a brewery would undertake such a great art project. Next time we are in town we will have to take a brewery tour.
Key Lime Pie contest –after dinner on our last night we had a key lime pie judging contest. I think all our friends at home would have enjoyed it. My choice for the number one pie came in second place. They were all good and we had fun.
A ride is better with friends. Thank you to all who rode with us; you were great company and help on the ride and during the week.
Key West was an interesting and tourist friendly town and we had a good time exploring. It was better as a group at night as a lot of people are on the streets. I am glad our guide knew the way to go.
We had some really good dining experiences along the way. I did not take pictures of the meals. We really liked the tapas, a bunch of small dishes that the group shared. That was delicious!
The view from the last night’s dinner overlooking the beach with the palm trees and the open air was not just a good meal but also a good experience.
We biked over 150 miles during the week. Our longest ride was 50 miles in one day. We did not break any speed records; our goal was to enjoy the surroundings, and we did.
On the road again! A trip on the Kentucky Bourbon trail showed us that sampling the product is enjoyable. We began our tour at Maker’s Mark Distillery and then went to Bardstown, Kentucky, where we stayed at the Bourbon Manor. The Bourbon Manor is a well decorated Bed and Breakfast and our hosts treated us very well. This was the first time I had traveled with a group of adults. It was a blast! Thank you Lisa and Eric! You did a great job planning and setting the group up for fun.
The food at the Bourbon manor was delicious, and their apple desert for breakfast was as good as advertised. Sitting around in the evening with friends was wonderful. Another favorite place to eat was the Rickhouse Restaurant in Bardstown. Although finding it was tricky in the dark, the steaks were worth the visit.
We all strolled around Bardstown and were entertained by the lively arts and small businesses along the main street. The snowmen outside of the art show led us to spend some time inside experiencing the local art. It was very interesting to see the spinning wheel display and see how good several of the area artists are at painting.
We even ran into Smith’s CPA firm, which was funny as one of our friends is a retired CPA named Smith. Of course we had to get a photo of Smith & Company CPA at the shop. It is great to be retired and see a thriving town of hard working people.
Oh, the weather outside is frightful! We were happy to be taking a distillery tour as the weather turned colder. It snowed while we were touring the Maker’s Mark Distillery. This was an agreeable, light and fluffy snow that only stuck to the grass and did not come down when we were driving.
At Maker’s Mark we had a delightful tour of the facility—the grounds are very pretty. We liked the bridge over Whisky Creek. In addition to the tour, our group signed up to learn how to make mixed drinks, of course with Maker’s Mark. We are not going to make a bourbon bottle chandelier but we liked the one at the restaurant at Maker’s Mark.
After the tour and the snow, the highlight for many of us was dipping our own bottle of Maker’s Mark in the red wax. This is the symbol of Maker’s Mark; we were happy to try to get the most drips on our bottle of bourbon. I think Julie from our group managed the most drips on her bottle.
We learned a lot about distilling and storing the bourbon. For example, the US Congress recognized the popularity of bourbon when, in 1964, when they designated bourbon as a “distinctive product” of the United States. Both chambers passed the Senate’s version of the concurrent resolution, which ensured that bourbon was made exclusively in the United States. The act indicated that bourbon must be at least 51% corn, distilled no more than 160 proof, aged in new white oak barrels that have been charred inside and age for no less than two years, although more than four is better. Bourbon must be stored at no more than 125 proof and bottled no less than 80 proof. Most bourbon (95%) is made in Kentucky, although it does not have to be made in Kentucky, just the United States.
In addition to the Maker’s Mark tour, we visited Heaven Hill, Willett and Woodford Reserve distilleries on our trip. Each one was different and they all had a good story to tell. The bourbon trail in Kentucky is an excellent tour. We could have seen several more distilleries, but even retired travelers have limited time.
One of the fun facts we learned on the trail is that there are today in Kentucky two barrels of bourbon for every person living in Kentucky. That is a lot of bourbon!
My Old Kentucky Home, you know the state song of Kentucky? Well, we had a terrific tour of the historic home located in Bardstown. Yes, this is the historic house that Stephen Foster wrote the song about. The house was all decorated for Christmas and our lively guide even sang the state song for us all. Some of us (not me) joined in for some of the words. No photography was allowed inside, but it was a fun tour!
A few lessons learned.
The story of bourbon is one of reinvention. After prohibition, many entrepreneurs took a gamble on bourbon. With the slow aging process it does not produce revenue for several years. It does produce for the state of Kentucky and the federal government tax revenue every year.
Traveling in a group is entertaining. We will do another trip with friends in the future. We are so thankful for our friends. We had more fun than we could have imagined on the trip.
We all enjoyed the experience of mixing drinks. We are looking forward to our next get together to see if we remember what we learned in our mixing class at Maker’s Mark.
- Visit to an abbey—the fudge was great. They even had bourbon balls.
- Viewing the historic Kentucky distilleries was fascinating. We learned something new in each one and the bourbon tasted different as well. My favorite distilleries were the Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve.
- The press was at the Heaven Hill location as they announced the expansion of their visitor’s center to three times the current size. Of course the tour talked about their rick house fire although it was not prominent at the visitor’s center.
- We were very impressed with the current center and will look forward to the expansion when we visit the next time.
The bourbon trail was not a biking trip. I am sure we will get a biking trip in again in 2019. Even the bike at the Bourbon Manor had some snow. It was cold during our visit in November.