Life is an Open Road
R2S: Road to Somewhere

Tail of the Dragon – Day 2

Tail of the Dragon - Day 2
Last Resort RV Park Cabins

Last Resort RV Park Cabins

Day two of our Tail of the Dragon trip had us departing the Last Resort RV Campground in Nashville, Indiana the morning of June 14th. The Hob Nob Corner Restaurant was recommended by the attendant at the park office as the preferred local breakfast stop. As we chatted with her during the checkout process, I eventually had her in tears as she listened to me complain about Dan turning on the space heater on a mid-summer night. Oh sure, it was pretty funny if you weren’t the one suffering on the top bunk in that sauna of a cabin, but I digress. She ended up confirming the place to go for breakfast, so we saddled up and headed out.

Downtown Nashville is a quaint little artist town: an obvious tourist attraction. There were a lot of people out and about that morning, including shoppers, bicyclists and other folks. We grabbed a table for six, ordered breakfast, and then planned our route for the rest of the afternoon. We asked our waitress what she thought the best road out of town was heading southward. We specifically told her that we were looking for “motorcycle roads,” meaning those roads that have twisty curves, rolling hills and enjoyable scenery. We had two choices: Indiana SR 135 which hugged the East side of Brown County State Park, or SR 446 that cuts through the western edge of the park and over part of Lake Monroe, which is Indiana’s largest reservoir. I knew we would eventually pick up SR 135 South of the park, but didn’t know if SR 446 was a worthwhile ride. Either route would work in reality, we just wanted the best one. The waitress insisted that SR 446 was a beautifully paved road and that we would enjoy it. We took her word for it and headed out. Only later would it hit me that she didn’t really grasp what we meant by “motorcycle roads.”

Rob Washing His Bike

Rob Washing His Bike

So, we gassed up, gave Rob a chance to clean the mud off his bike, and then headed South on 446. The road was nicely paved just as the waitress had told us. However, the road was relatively flat, there weren’t many curves and it wasn’t all that scenic for my tastes.

The U.S. route system has changed over the years, but one bit of knowledge that I retained from my high school geography class is that even-numbered routes generally represent East-West routes and odd-numbered routes generally represent North-South routes. Indiana SR 446 is one of those anomalies where it is an even-numbered route, yet it runs North–South.  Although my grades may not have clearly reflected this at the time, I did end up retaining tidbits of useless knowledge here and there. Then again, maybe that only applies to interstates, and I didn’t learn anything special after all.

We came upon a detour sign for SR 135 at the intersection of SR 446 and Route 58. I pulled over and tried to persuade the group that the detour route was the way we needed to go. Again, our main goals is to always seek adventure and this road we were on was not cutting it for me personally in the adventure department. There were no objections, so I led the group eastward on Route 58 back towards SR135.

Nature Calls

About 15 minutes into the road, Pete pulled alongside me at a stop sign, indicating that he had to make a “pit stop” soon. He said the onions that he had that morning in his omelet were not sitting well with him. I acknowledged the urgency and told him that we could make the first stop we saw. But, the reality was that we were out in the country and likely wouldn’t see anything until we came upon SR 135. He nodded his head, and we motored onward.

We got stuck behind another one of those Harley trikes that you are seeing more and more of these days. I don’t have a problem with trikes, but what I’ve found is that they are mostly owned by people who don’t have very good motoring skills. When you’re on two wheels, it’s natural to approach a corner at a slightly lower speed and then accelerate as you turn through it. Obviously, a trike is a different beast and it seems most trike riders enter a curve slowly and then proceed to ride slowly. This can be aggravating when you’re stuck behind them for miles upon miles on a curvy road that has no passing lanes. I don’t mind when other riders ride at slower speeds, but when you can’t acknowledge the fact that you’re riding below the posted speed limit and that you are being tailed by a group of six riders, you need to brush up on rider etiquette. Again, I digress.

About ten miles up the road are so, I peered into my rearview mirror only to see Pete pulling off the side of the road and jumping over the guardrail. Having the “leave no man behind” mentality, we all pulled over a few hundred yards up the road to figure out what was going on. I looked back only to see Pete’s Harley on the side of the road with Pete nowhere in sight. It was obvious to me that nature had called and that she wasn’t waiting around on Pete’s next pit stop. She was unleashing a fury and she wasn’t taking no for an answer.

I immediately began to laugh as I pulled a U-turn headed back to where Pete had pulled off. I looked over the guardrail and saw the top of Pete’s little black helmet peeping out of the top of the brush on the side of the road. I just had to snap a picture of it because it was such a sight to see. We make a habit of capturing moments like this. By the time Dave and Dan pulled over, we were laughing our asses off. Next we hear Pete yelling to Dave to get him a spare clean pair of jeans that he had packed in his luggage. Our jaws dropped.

It turns out that it was a bit slippery off the side of the road were Pete had ventured. When he dropped his pants to relieve the pressure, he went plop on the side of the ravine right down into the mud….and possibly something else. When I questioned Pete whether he “fell into it,” his response was simply “maybe” complemented with a little smirk. Oh my God did we have a laugh. We immediately named Pete, Clown of the Day for Day 2. He also donned the more affectionate name of “Poopy.”

Picturesque Indiana

Picturesque Indiana

Pete took it all in stride as he knew there was no backing out were hiding from the reality or gravity of the situation. Unfortunately, Pete had no idea how much ribbing he would be taking the next few days from us all. I remarked several times that I would’ve punched myself in the face if I were the one on the receiving end of the mockery.

Dan threw some baby wipes over to Pete so that he could take care of business. Meanwhile, Dan opened his trunk and cracked open a couple of beers leftover from the previous evening to share among the group to celebrate the moment. Here we were in the middle of nowhere sharing a beer and a few laughs on the side of the road. This is what we were all were looking forward to, and it was happening right before our eyes. Life is good.

Our Third State

We eventually came upon the intersection of SR 135 and then headed South. This part of Indiana is mostly unremarkable. However, Southern Indiana contains one of the richest deposits of top-quality limestone found anywhere on earth. Many famous buildings around the United States are built with Indiana limestone, including New York City’s Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, the Pentagon, the U.S. Treasury, Washington National Cathedral, as well as 14 other state capitols around our nation.

In addition, Indiana limestone was used extensively in rebuilding Chicago after the Great Chicago Fire. Ironically, we learned from locals the previous year that the lumbering community of Manistee, Michigan went up in flames the same day as the Great Chicago Fire in what became known as The Great Michigan Fire. That area provided much of the lumber needed to rebuild Chicago after the fire.

Entering into our third state, Kentucky, we crossed the Ohio River. The Ohio River is 981 miles long, starting at the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and ending in Cairo, Illinois, where it flows into the Mississippi River. The river borders six states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. We were crossing a bridge that connected two of those six states.

Kentucky was the 15th state to join the Union. And although it seems almost every state claims Abraham Lincoln, he was actually born in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Indiana claims his childhood and Illinois claims his adulthood when he practiced law. Kentucky also claims another famous folk hero who is widely known for his exploration of Kentucky, Daniel Boone. Only later in this trip would we realize another connection with Daniel Boone down in Tennessee.

Kentucky Bourbon

Aside from its heroes, Kentucky is probably best known for its production of Bourbon whiskey. Bourbon is a type of American whiskey has been distilled in the Kentucky area since the 18th century. Much like the German brewing laws for beer, bourbon also has its own distilling laws.

By that law, bourbon must be:

  • Produced in the USA
  • Made of a grain of at least 51% corn
  • Distilled at less than 160 proof (80% ABV)
  • No additives allowed (except water to reduce proof where necessary)
  • Aged in new, charred white oak barrels
  • Aged for a minimum of two years (known as “Straight” bourbon)

In 1964, under President Lyndon Johnson’s administration, Congress declared bourbon “America’s Native Spirit.” What makes Bourbon special, is that it is a barrel-aged distilled spirit made primarily from corn. Bourbon is aged in charred American oak barrels. The more corn used in the distilling process, the sweeter the whiskey.

In addition, the caramelized sugars in the charred wood give bourbon its distinct color and flavor that has become known for. Later in the trip we would learn the difference between Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, but for now our interest was piqued by Kentucky bourbon.

Late last century, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour which gives visitors a firsthand look at the art and science of crafting Bourbon. The Jim Beam American Distillery is probably one of the most popular stops along the trail. Other distilleries include Four Roses, Heaven Hill, Makers Mark, Wild Turkey, Woodford Reserve and Evan Williams. If we had time, we hit them all. However, we were short on time and also riding motorcycles.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that drinking whiskey and riding motorcycles is a very, very bad combination. Aside from an occasional thirst quenching beer during lunch, we all were pretty intent on saving our socializing for the evening after we were finished riding for the day.

Thank God for Bourbon!

An interesting aspect about “the South” is that there are a number of dry counties, cities, towns or townships that prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages. The irony is that both Kentucky and Tennessee are known for their production of whiskey and bourbon. The rationale of maintaining prohibition at the local level is often religious in nature, as many Protestant Christian denominations forbid the consumption of alcohol by their followers. But, if you look at the roots of distilling whiskey and bourbon, you will find that several Christian ministers have been credited with the distilling of corn mash.

Elijah Craig was a Baptist preacher who is often credited with the invention of bourbon whiskey. Jim Beam claims this as part of their “humble beginnings” (http://www.jimbeam.com/american-still-life/the-dawn-of-bourbon-whiskey) and Heaven Hill distillery bears the name of Elijah Craig on their premium bourbon. We would also learn later in our trip that Jack Daniel’s himself learned his distilling secrets from the Reverend Dan Call. I wonder how many modern-day Christians realize the humble beginnings of distilling and the role that Christians played in making it a reality.

Another interesting tidbit I learned prior to our trip was the objections to the whole concept of dry counties and the effectiveness of those laws. Several studies who that dry counties who a higher rate of DUI-related crashes because people have to drive farther to get their alcohol. It’s as if the lessons of prohibition are completely ignored by moral majority who seem to think they know what’s best for everyone.

The Jim Beam Distillery

Meandering into Kentucky brought us to the first town of Brandenburg, where we discovered Little Dave’s Roadhouse in an advertisement for a $10 lunch. Lunch included a raffle for a set of brand-new motorcycle tires. We asked if they would ship the tires to the Chicago area should we win, and they obliged. I’m pretty sure they trashed our raffle tickets as soon as we left. With full bellies, we saddled up, waited on Pete, and then headed out towards Bardstown, Kentucky.

Dan set the course on his new Harley-Davidson GPS unit. He says that by default the unit will take more scenic and motorcycle-friendly roads. I wasn’t sure how well it would do that, but technology is constantly getting better. It turns out that this particular route was a pleasant surprise as it took us a different way than what we had in mind. Dan led us on a nice, twisty, scenic road and we ultimately found ourselves right near the Jim Beam Distillery.

Jim Beam is the number one selling Kentucky bourbon. Aside from the interruption of Prohibition, Jim Beam bourbon has been made here since 1795 using the same bourbon making process for seven generations of master distillers. When we arrived there, it was too late for a tour, but we were able to check out the grounds, read a little about the history and tour the gift shop.

The grounds of the distillery are well kept and very appealing. We sat on rocking chairs just outside the Jim Beam sweet shop and began to search for accommodations that evening. A quick search on Google led us to the White Acres Campground just West of Bardstown. I told the lady on the phone that we wanted a cabin (or cabins) that would sleep six grown men. She said she could accommodate, so we decided to check it out.

When we arrived there an old man eventually came out of the house on premise to greet us. I decided to ride back and inspect the cabins prior to booking them. The old man and I hopped in his golf cart and headed back towards the cabins. As soon as we stepped onto the front porch of the first cabin, a massive black spider jumped on my back. The old man’s reflexes were pretty impressive, and he quickly swatted that nasty thing off my shoulder. For the most part I am not afraid of spiders, but having one jump on you unexpectedly is not exactly a pleasant feeling. I proceeded to open the door of the first cabin and saw a single queen size bed and a loft up above.

I’m not sure what the lady was thinking, but I knew this would not work for us as I had no desire to spoon with another man. There were no other options for cabins in the area, so we decided to head into Bardstown and find accommodations there.

Bardstown: Bourbon Capital of the World

Bardstown is known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. It was first settled by European Americans in 1780 and is the second oldest city in Kentucky. Several distilleries operate in and around the Bardstown area, including Jim Beam, Heaven Hill and Maker’s Mark. Although we saw it, we did not have time to stop at the Old Talbott Tavern located just off the roundabout that circles the Courthouse Square in the center of Bardstown.

The tavern was built in 1779 and is a big part of the Bardstown’s history. Several notable Americans have been known to have passed through the tavern’s doors, including Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln. Supposedly, some bullet holes in a wall upstairs came from the barrel of Jesse James’ gun.

The Minimalist Packer

The Minimalist Packer

We happened upon the Bardstown Parkview Motel where we got three rooms and access to their outdoor swimming pool. Dan and I did a quick beverage run using his GPS. This time the results weren’t quite as impressive as it took us in the middle of a residential area when we were looking for a liquor store. Neither of us wanted to knock on the doors and ask for beer, so we circled back and headed to town to find an alternative.

Dan and I treated the boys to a small bottle of Woodford Reserve that we would later enjoy sipping on while relaxing around the pool. On the way back to the hotel, Dan and I saw a sign for bourbon tasting at the Kentucky Bourbon House. We immediately decided it was not only an obligation, but a duty to check it out and report back to the other boys. It was a cool little pub with an outdoor area out back where some other motorcyclists were hanging. We chatted with the owner inside and checked out the tasting menu. The prices were a little too steep for our liking, so we decided to take a brochure and head back to the hotel for some swimming and relaxation.

A few of us took a quick dip in the pool to cool down and then we broke the tax seal on the Woodford Reserve. After the pool had closed for the evening, we continued to sit outside where we were eventually joined by some locals. It turns out it was a couple of cousins and their spouses who were being intentional about to see each other more often as they grew older.

We struck up a conversation with them quite easily. And since her limited tables, we had them join our circle and entered into various discussions. After a while, Dave suggested that I go upstairs and get my “little flask.” I repeated, “oh, my little flask?” He responded with a reinforced, “Go get your little flask with the Captain Morgan’s Private Stock rum in it.” I quipped, “I’ll just run upstairs and get my little flask, and I’ll be right back.”

When I returned with the massive flask that measures about 9″ x 12″ and holds approximately 1 L or more of rum, everyone burst out laughing. This would be the second night in a row where I got some mileage out of that little flask of mine.

A Parting Gift

We eventually winded down as it was approaching midnight, and we did not want to sleep in too late the next morning. So we said our goodbyes and headed upstairs to our rooms to hit the sack.

A Parting Gift

A Parting Gift

The next morning, Randy, who is our early riser, was sitting out on the bench in front of the hotel when Willie, the husband of one of the cousins that we had met the previous night, stopped by to drop off two bottles of bourbon – from his personal inventory – as a gift. He just wanted to share some local culture with our group.

It is the friendships like this that you strike up so easily when you’re traveling that we all enjoy. It makes you realize that people are generally good no matter where you are in the world. Day two was not behind us, and we are now embarking on day three.

States Covered:

  • Indiana
  • Kentucky

Key Attractions:

  • Nashville, Indiana
  • Jim Beam Distillery
  • Bardstown, Kentucky

Mileage:

  • Miles Covered: 201
  • Odometer: 7,604 through 7,805

Road to Somewhere

Road to Somewhere motorcycle blog is the personal journal of Christopher J. Vezeau. I am a writer and a rider.