Our most recent trip was not relaxing like a cruise. It involved unpacking a truck load of crap into a hotel room at the end of each long day and packing up and going again the next day. It was worth every bag and cooler we lifted and toted, though.
We toured the countryside in search of scenic country roads, fall foliage, wineries and interesting places (not necessarily in that order..) Our only agenda was the things mentioned above and a general direction of Missouri to Illinois to Kentucky to Virginia to West Virginia and back through Tennessee. The two hard fast rules were no agenda and no fast food. We planned on going as far as we could at whatever pace we wanted in seven days. Most of our meals were sandwiches out of a cooler, although we did eat at a few good "locals" restaurants. We mostly stayed at hotels that served the gross "hot" fast start breakfast every morning. Our original intent was to stay at privately run motels but every time we got close enough to consider one of them.... well, let's just say they looked like they might be booking them by the hour, not the night.
Did you know that Chester, Illinois is the home of Popeye? Neither did we. That is where we ended up the first night out after going to at least 8 wineries (no, we were not drunk... but we sure saw some folks who were!) We stopped in Chester because it was time to stop... When we asked the hotel clerk if there was anything interestiing about Chester, she grinned and told us we were in the town where the creator of Popeye had lived. Now that is what I call a good start to a road trip!
The next day we headed into Kentucky. We toured the Woodford Reserve Distillery at some point. It was very interesting. Of course, we had to buy an expensive bottle of Kentucky Straight Bourbon. I'm not too sure what "special" occasion will justify breaking that bottle open. We stopped at the birth place of Abe Lincoln (yea, I thought it was in Illinois too, but discovered on this trip that he was born outside of Hodgenville, KY. Pretty area. We toured the home of Senator Henry Clay in Lexington and stopped at the Keeneland Race Tracks, hoping to bet on a horse race (would have been a first for all four of us). We should have known something wasn't quite right when we were able to park close to the entrance and walk right in, lol. It was a "dark" day... no races. Amazingly, though, they let visitors just wander around. We were able to walk through the tunnel where the horse enter through and right down onto the track. It was interesting to look at the place from below like that. (I know, I have a wierd sense of what is interesting...)
The few tours mentioned above was the end of any formal site seeing. The rest of our trip was gawking and talking to the personalities we met along the way. And boy did we meet some interesting folks! We stopped at wineries where the wine was made from only apples and cherries - no grapes. The "vintner" was outside stacking wood. We parked our truck close to an old building built kind of like a shed. A lady was walking around and Jim (being Jim...) was making small talk with her. Told her he sure liked sheds like that. She informed him that "shed" was her home... sigh. So much for schmoozing with the locals, huh.
We searched out another winery that was out in the middle of nowhere. We were driving down cow paths, hoping nothing was coming the other way. As we got close there was a sign that said honk for winery... I kid you not! Well we honked, drove on down the path and sure enough eventually someone showed up to serve us. It was a young lady who knew absolutely nothing about wine. She told us that the owner, Charlie, was going through a messy divorce and was at the court house. The more she talked, the more we found out about Charlie (he had a teen, his grape crop hadn't been harvested that year because family hadn't helped like they promised, he was into too many different things, his house needed a lot of work... ) It didn't take long to figure out that this cute little thing was part of the messy divorce (I won't go so far as to say that she was the cause of it - Charlie seemed to come with a lot of baggage). Anyway, when she finally got around to letting us taste the wine, she was pulling out already opened bottles that had been stored in a refrigerator and tasting each wine herself to make sure it was good before she would let us have a taste! What a hoot. We left there with our sides hurting, we were laughing so hard. Poor Charlie...
Then there was the winery where ma and junior shared the vintner status. Nothing was safe. They had dandelion, turnip, ginsing... you name it! When I asked to taste the ginsing wine he poured me a glass and grinned (black teeth and all) and said, "I'll give ya some but you ain't gonna like it..." He was right! Gross! He said he made it because some folks thought it was good for their health. Oh well. Then he pulled out the Rye Whiskey. OMG. That stuff was so smoothe. Yep, we had to buy a bottle of that stuff. And we moved on down the road...
We saw some gorgeous scenery. Especially when we got into Virginia and West Virgina. Some of the prettiest was at the Cumberland Gap, Pinacle Overlook and the New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia. The Appalacian Mountains were just full of Oooh! Ahhhhh! Loooook! The entire trip out we stayed off the Interstate as much as possible. Once we pointed the truck homeward, we got on the interstate and drove. We didn't spend any time in Tennessee. We decided we live close enough that we can do a weekend trip to Memphis. I've always wanted to spend an evening listening to music on Beal Street.
I only took 220 pictures. I'll post a few of the prettier ones. I can still close my eyes and see the patchwork quilts of the mountains. This is a trip I won't soon forget.