Spring Break: Horses, Bourbon, and the End of the Wilderness Road


Several months ago, I realized that the 10th anniversary of my father’s passing was this May. While I had visited the small cemetery south of Louisville to see where he was buried, I never saw his headstone. Chad and I wondered if we should spend a long weekend in the area. At this point you must be thinking, “Touring cemeteries, what a fun filled vacation!” To be honest, I had the same thought and wondered if we should postpone the trip. Then I researched all the interesting activities to do in Kentucky. We ended up planning the following long weekend:

Shepherdsville, Kentucky, is home to the longest go-cart track in America. This was the perfect place to start our adventure! Chad and George raced the Indy style carts while MK and I were quite content with the slower versions.

Many indoor activities were available, too. While all the latest video games were available, Chad and I enjoyed a Centipede tournament and showed our kids some of the other “old school” video games from our youth.

Later, we headed further south to visit Dad’s grave. He is buried in one of the oldest cemeteries west of the Alleghenies. Donning my teacher’s cap, I attempted to explain the value of wandering a cemetery for historical purposes, examining common local names, noting Civil War, WWI, WWII, and other soldiers, wondering what the oldest, illegible stones had etched in them, etc. We even found an oddly placed stone near a tree. Some time was spent guessing the age of the tree. Perhaps it was planted when the individual passed in 1859.

Next, we toured Maker’s Mark Distillery. Even though we aren’t bourbon fans, Chad and I enjoyed the tour, learning about the special water in the area, the owner’s passion for making a smooth bourbon, and his wife’s wisdom in marketing, a perfect combination for a product enjoyed around the world.

While waiting for the tour to start, we sampled bourbon flavored coffee. I was examining the map, looking at all the other stops on the Bourbon Trail, and an older man came up to me and offered assistance finding our next location. I was informed later that it was the owner of the company on his daily walk around the distillery.

After leaving Maker’s Mark, we drove to Bardstown and toured the Bourbon Heritage Center. I loved reading about Daniel Boone (a favorite historical figure). The museum did a fantastic job combining the grit, courage, and wisdom of the early explorer and frontiersman and how settling “Caintuck” was possible because of Boone’s Wilderness Road and that popular drink. Bourbon wasn’t just a spirit to be enjoyed, it was currency, a vital part of Kentucky’s economic system.

If you want to tour the nine stops on the Bourbon Trail, plan on spending at least 90 minutes at each location. You must pay for a tour if you want a tasting. We asked if we could just pay for a tasting at a second location, but apparently the process is not similar to the wine industry.

On our final day, we visited Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. MK and I love horses! In fact, Dad and I attended the Rolex 3-Day Event at Kentucky Horse Park in the late 80s. Some of my fondest memories were seeing John Henry, the famous race horse, and listening to Dad complain endlessly how cross country jumping was cruel to the horses.

Here we toured the International Museum of the Horse, wandered the many barns, watched the Breed presentation (see the Chincoteague pony below) and watched two different events at the park: A Hunter/Jumper Competition and The USMGA Mounted Games.

Just as Bourbon helped settle this great state, so did these beautiful animals who carried their owners across the Wilderness Road, offering a chance for a better life. While our vacations are not the usual destinations to tropical climates, I hope our kids look back on our semi-educational adventures fondly.


1 Comment

  1. So glad you finally got down to see your dad’s headstone. It sounds like it was a great get-away even if it was just a long weekend (and educational). My poor kids spent their entire spring break at home (in the snow!). They did get to come to work with me one day (not sure why, but they always look forward to the opportunity to spend the day at work with me). We also took in a mid-week matinee as a family. This was a pretty big deal since we probably don’t make it to the theater more than once a year. Thank you for sharing your KY experience!

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