It seems most people feel they have to travel long distances and spend a lot of money to see something new or interesting. If that’s true, maybe they haven’t noticed all the out of state license plates in their own neighborhood?


Having spent a week roaming through the mountains in Virginia, we returned home with a few days left on the vacation schedule. After pondering whether to spend that time mowing lawns, raking leaves, and house cleaning, we decided to let Mother Nature take care of the yard (after all, she made the mess), leave the dust bunnies to grow into a size large enough to remove with a rake and make a short trip into our southern neighboring state for a few days. We realized that Hoosiers tend to make jokes about Kentuckians and that driving a bright red sports car with Indiana plates into their territory might be risky, we decided to take the chance. It could prove more exciting than an average African safari.

Our goal was Bardstown and a return to The Old Talbott Tavern and Inn, an historical site we had visited some years ago. Established as a way stop for travelers in the late 18th century, it has been visited by a number of past historical and notorious characters, some of which are best known for their abilities as train robbers. The area is also the site of the production of some of the more popular brands of the reason Carrie Nation went on her rampages with a Bible in one hand an a hatchet in the other.

Avoiding interstates, where a small red car is cannon fodder for pickup trucks and 18 wheelers, we opted for the roads less traveled where the fall scenery could be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace. That is, if they had been a little straighter. Of course, driving a little car that supposedly handles well in the twisties, I couldn’t resist having a little fun. Swooping out of one sharp curve into another, I pretended to be a seasoned Formula 1 driver, racing ahead of the pack, a steely glare in my eyes while I pushed the envelope of control and tire adhesion. On the other hand, Judy had an entirely different outlook on the situation. While her right hand clamped in a death grip to the passenger side grab bar, she used the other one to illustrate the size of the fist she could make and her intentions to use it if the situation didn’t change, and soon. When she yelled something about cashing in my life insurance policy, one way or another, above the roar of the wind, I reluctantly gave up hopes of competing at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix.

Arriving at Bardstown in mid-afternoon, we fought our way through the traffic and urban sprawl that had grown around the town since our last visit and decided to check on accommodations at The Old Talbott etc. The nice lady behind the counter quoted their room rates.

"How much?"

"Uh, look ma’am, we don’t want to buy the joint. We’re only interested in spending the night."

She graciously assisted us in finding a suite in the Parkside Inn for only half the cost. Sometimes it pays to whine.

The following day we toured the Heaven Hill distilleries where our tour guide led the group through one of the seven-story high aging buildings. With 41 such buildings, each containing 20,000 barrels of bourbon, Carrie Nation could have spent her entire retirement years swinging an axe while never finishing the job. A new visitors center gave the history of local distilling and the methods used to turn grain into an overnight stay in jail. I tried to memorize the construction of an early still for producing liquids for medicinal purposes of course, but abandoned the idea when Judy informed me that no bail money would be forthcoming, especially from her.

The next morning we drove south to Trappist, Ky., and the Abby of Gethsemani. Established in 1848 by the Order of Trappist Cistercians, it’s impressive structures are located in the remote serenity of mountains (actually, very big hills) that during the fall delight the visitor with a tapestry of colorful scenery. Totally self sufficient, the monks produce, package and sell various cheeses, fruitcakes and fudges through regional retail outlets and exchanges with other Abbys, worldwide. For two hours we followed their example while we wandered the grounds and cast off the hustle and bustle of the outside world. Computer problems became temporarily insignificant.

After a brief trip to New Haven and its Kentucky Railway Museum, we returned to Bardstown and a visit to the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. From moonshiners to modern production techniques, it’s a fascinating history of the product that is now the economic mainstay of the area. Now, I know how "a still on the hill" works. Just don’t tell Judy.

Homeward bound, we pulled of the road north of Lexington, Ky., to put down the top on the car in the unseasonably warm weather. Finding a large nail in the road, I tossed it into the weeds, congratulating myself in saving some poor soul from a flat tire. Again, I attacked the winding roads while Judy hung on and threatened me. The next morning, a flat tire showed the mate to the nail I had tossed in the weeds sticking out of the tread. All I could think of as I removed the tire for repair was the old saying, "The Lord helps them what helps themselves."

Now ain’t that something.

Watch for Dan Graves’ column Wednesdays in the Rushville Republican. Add a comment at

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