Old Kentucky Homes – Day 59

Old Kentucky Homes

Day 59 – May 29, 2003 – Thursday

Rain is no fun at all. Please tell Dolly Parton that we will live without rainbows for a while, because the absence of rain makes sightseeing much better. It was raining when I arrived at the hotel in Lexington last night, and it was raining and ugly again in the morning. It was raining too hard to do anything, so my day did not get started until about 10:30. Due to the weather, I was indoors a lot, so I did a lot of eating. I had three (3) pieces of pie today. The Sansabelt Law of Physics will be working on my waistline if I don’t get out to do some serious walking soon.

The rain did affect my plans for today. A tour of horse farms was out. And no sunbathing.

Kristen and Mike at the Fairfield Inn recommended Rogers Restaurant for pie. I walked in with a man who turned out to be the owner, Chuck Ellinger. Chuck sat down to talk, and we had a nice chat. Very sharp young man! In addition to managing the restaurant, he practices law and is a city councilman. Rogers is like a family place, with the staff and the customers all like family. Chuck introduced me to Margaret, the waitress. Margaret had been with Rogers for 35 years. She even got married there; they removed all the tables and had the ceremony right there. Chuck’s father gave away the bride. Chuck also introduced me to Fay, the pie lady. Everyone just smiled when I asked if they had good pie.

Rogers Restaurant was founded by George Rogers in 1923. He moved to the current location in 1964. Rogers was known for old-fashioned home-cooked meals. In 1974, the Ellingers purchased the restaurant from Mr. Rogers upon his retirement. Like Mr. Rogers, they have emphasized good food, good drink, and good service.

I haven’t had fish in a while, so I had whitefish for lunch, and it was very good. Margaret then brought me a big piece of Butterscotch Pie — hot…right out of the oven. It was really, REALLY good. It will certainly rank with the very best. The restaurant was filled with locals who are obviously regulars there. It was exactly the kind of local restaurant that we want to find on this trip. Chuck suggested that I go to see the “All the Queen’s Horses” exhibit at the Kentucky Horse Park.

It was only sprinkling a little when I left Rogers Restaurant, so I took the scenic drive on Highway 68 to Harrodsburg, Kentucky and back to Lexington. It was a pleasant drive, though as with about anything, it would have been much more beautiful in nice weather. There are a lot of bends and curves as the road passes through tobacco farmland, pastures with dairy cows, horse farms, and the Kentucky River Gorge. We lived in Lexington for two years when I was in college, and I can still recall how taken I was with the beauty of the countryside. The only word for the pastures is lush — the grass just seems greener in Kentucky than it seems elsewhere in the US. The green grass and the zillion miles of black or white wooden plank “horse farm-type” fences make it really beautiful.

Back in the late 60’s, I recall that most of the fences were white. Now most seemed to be black. The white looks bad when the paint starts to crack and peel. Black seems much easier to maintain as the black appears to be a stain rather than a paint and the weathering of the wood blends with the stain color, so there doesn’t appear to be nearly as much maintenance with the black color. I added white plank fences to some ranch property we once owned, and I know first-hand.

Lexington is the horse capital of the world. Here in the heart of the Kentucky Bluegrass country, the world’s finest racing stock is born, raised, and bred. I passed a number of horse farms on this drive and later in the day when I visited the Kentucky Horse Park.

There were a lot of weather-beaten barns along Highway 68. I was told these are mainly tobacco barns where the state’s primary crop is hung to cure.

All of a sudden, the road began descending with sharp turns back and forth. This lasted for maybe two miles with limestone walls along the highway. I realized I was in the Kentucky River Gorge when I hit the bridge over the Kentucky River. The water of the Kentucky River is a deep olive green. I took a photo, but the color did not reproduce as I saw it. There are 300-foot high limestone cliffs along the river — very pretty.

After a short drive along the valley next to the river, the road climbs up…almost mirroring the drive down on the other side of the river. The land on the other side is primarily rolling farmland rather than horse farms. Native limestone fences border much of the road. These mortarless fences were built by Irish stonemasons who came to the area to build roads in the mid-1800’s.

The primary sight to see on this drive is the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. Pleasant Hill is the largest historic community of its kind in America. There are 34 original 19th-century buildings and 2,800 acres of farmland.

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known to the world as the Shakers because of a ritualistic dance, were nineteenth-century America’s largest and best-known communal society. By the 1840’s, 6,000 Shakers lived from Maine to Kentucky. The Shakers chose a peaceful way of life. They were celibate, and they believed in equality of race, sex, and freedom from prejudice. They were practical and innovative people known for their labor-saving inventions, such as the flat broom.

The Shakers came to central Kentucky in 1805 and established Pleasant Hill in a beautiful setting on a high plateau above the Kentucky River. The community was home to as many as 500 residents at one time, but by 1910, only a few Shakers remained, and the village was closed. In 1961, a nonprofit group was formed to preserve its heritage. 34 original buildings were restored and 2,800 acres of farmland were preserved. It’s a very interesting place to see and learn about. For more information, see www.shakervillageky.org.

A man approached me outside the “Dining Room” building and asked about my camera. It was Dave, a farmer from the Missouri Ozarks. When I gave him my card, he read the back (that says we are writing a book about the places we go, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat) and told me I HAD to go inside and eat the Lemon Pie. Though I had just eaten a big lunch and that delicious Butterscotch Pie, he was so enthusiastic that I went inside. I was warned that the pie was REALLY tart, and it was REALLY TART, but it was totally unique and delicious. Nathaniel, my waiter, explained the pie is made by slicing lemons into EXTREMELY thin slices (peel and all). The slices are then soaked in a sugar solution overnight and that and only that is placed inside a crust the next day and baked. It was a Shaker specialty, and I’m really glad Dave sent me in. My mouth may never un-pucker, but it was unique and special.

As often happens at a restaurant, the beads introduced me to a variety of people. A number of the young people gave me big smiles when they saw me. A guy wearing Mardi Gras beads stands out a little more in a Shaker Village than he does most places. Debbie was the first to ask me about the beads. Then the word spread, and I met and distributed beads to Katie, Staci, Tiffany, and Nathaniel. These were really nice folks, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking with them. Staci and I talked about life in the small town of Bergin where she’s from. She said there were just 60 in her high school graduating class. She has been out of Kentucky just once — an airplane trip to California. Her friends make fun of her because she wants to become a school teacher and teach in Bergin. I encouraged her to travel as much as possible, but I told her she’s smart to cherish the many blessings offered by life in a small town. Tiffany was from the booming metropolis of Hazard, Kentucky. She said there’s not a lot there, but it was a nice place to be from. Nathaniel was a character. He was into beads.

On the drive into Harrodsburg, the oldest settlement in Kentucky, I saw several antebellum mansions along the way, lots of pastureland, and groves of walnut and oak trees. Harrodsburg was established in 1775 to protect settlers from hostile Indians. I saw a reproduction of the fort at Old Fort Harrod State Park. The Lincoln Marriage Cabin is also there, where the parents of Abraham Lincoln were married in 1806. I drove back down Highway 68 to return to Lexington because I never found a sign for a different road that I had planned to take back. Someone should be in charge of signs in each area; their job should be to ride around with strangers to the area to hear where signs should be placed.

I drove through downtown Lexington and out to the Kentucky Horse Farm. It’s quite a place. If you love horses, this is horse heaven! There are over 1,000 acres. It has been an active horse farm since the late 18th century, and now it is a preeminent equestrian and show facility.

Man O’ War is buried there, and a beautiful statue sculpted by Herbert Haseltine provides a fitting memorial. Man O’ War won 20 of 21 races and totally dominated during his two years on the track. He sired an amazing 379 foals, 291 of which went on to race. His most famous son, War Admiral, the 1937 Triple Crown winner, is buried near the memorial. What set Man O’ War apart from all other horses was his stride — an incredible 28-feet. Secretariat, for example, had a huge stride, but just 25 feet. If you cover five or ten feet more per stride than every other horse in a race, you should win them all. Man O’ War won all but one — probably had his biorhythms off that day.

There are all types of things to see and do at the Kentucky Horse Park — exhibits, movies, special events, museums of various types, and more. The exhibit Chuck sent me to see was “All the Queen’s Horses.” It is the most comprehensive exhibition ever to explore the role of the horse in British history. Over 450 artifacts and 60 paintings were assembled from 70 museums and private collections. All I could think was how much our dear horse-loving friend, Carolyn Bazzo, would love to see this! I like horses, but I’m not a horse nut. I did own a race horse once (named him Blackjack). I thought he was a docile saddle horse, but I found out the hard way when I took my first ride at our place after buying him. I saddled him up, and he took off at blazing speed headed downhill for an area that I knew had a creek. Bozzie Jane drove up with the kids about the time Blackjack and I went sailing over the creek. She said she had no idea I was such a great rider. Truth is, I was holding on for dear life, and Blackjack was running the show. Except for Junior, I don’t recall much horseback riding since that experience.

On the drive from Lexington to Louisville, I passed through a number of small towns. There wasn’t much that was too noteworthy, though the drive did once again remind me of the kind of towns we passed through on family vacations as children. Nothing in particular — just a feeling.

Signs near Midway indicated that it was historic, so I rolled into town to see a neat little downtown with nice old storefronts. I stopped and bought a Kentucky Christmas ornament from Lynn and her dog Randy. I met Regina at a nearby gas station.

Just driving along, and then I saw a sign with an arrow to the right. Bagdad. All right!!! First Bagdad, Florida; then Bagdad, California; and now — Bagdad, Kentucky. It was just six miles off Highway 60, and I got several nice photos in this sleepy little farm town. As with Florida, I had no idea there was a Bagdad here.

Robert was very patient in providing directions twice to get me to the Fairfield Inn in Louisville. He then went above and beyond the call of duty in helping me with all types of information about places to go. He prepared individual maps. Outstanding customer service — something the Fairfield Inns almost always seem to have. I also met his sidekick, Genevieve. She’s from Montreal. She’s a “white flag girl” — doesn’t support the US position on the war — doesn’t support war of any type. She was very sweet, despite views that probably should have kept her in Montreal.

Dinner was a real treat. I had heard about a local place called Mark’s Feed Store, and Robert wholeheartedly recommended it for dinner. It was built in a building formerly occupied by an old feed store. The decor was nothing special — in a way. It wasn’t a place pretending to look like an old feed store, it really was one. My waitress, Morgan, was a delight. Sat right down with me to ask about the beads and hear the story. She introduced me to the manager, Gary, and we had a nice conversation. I also met Keith, and we exchanged stories as well. Several folks at nearby tables also got into the discussion. The barbeque was excellent, and the fried corn-on-the-cob and onion straws were unique and especially tasty. I was planning to go to another place for pie, but the Buttermilk Pie was enthusiastically recommended, and it was great!

While the food was especially good, the best part of Mark’s was the people. I had about decided that’s the best part of the trip. While it’s great to see all of the various sights, it was meeting and talking with people that was the most fun for me. I was continually reminded that most of us go through our everyday lives without making much of an effort to speak with and get to know the people we happen to run into. Many of my favorite new friends are desk clerks, waitresses, waiters, cooks, ticket sellers, store clerks, and bus drivers. I was reminded again today of how much more fun life is when you “take a minute” and spend a little time speaking with the people you happen to bump into each day.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest, and the full itinerary is shown.


More Information on the Sights Visited Today:
Rogers Restaurant — Lexington Kentucky — Kentucky River Gorge — Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill — Harrodsburg Kentucky — Kentucky Horse Farm — Bagdad Kentucky — Mark’s Feed Store