A Travellerspoint blog

Mammoth Cave National Park

12-14 August 2016

sunny 88 °F

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Technically the trip started on 11 August but that was after a day of work and all we did was drive the RV to Diamond Cave Resort and RV Park and have a little dinner on the grill. We were lucky enough to have friends Chris and Donna Boily meet us there that night.
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The next morning after some eggs and coffee to get us going we did a little hike on the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail. We saw a few critters to include this tiny frog and a turtle. We also managed to get even smaller critters called chiggers all over our ankles :(
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The main attraction at the park is Mammoth Cave which is the longest cave system in the world. Our group had tickets for the Domes and Dripstones tour which was marginal in my opinion. The tour starts with a bus ride down to the entrance of the cave where they inform us that each step down to the cave cost $300!! After that the line was so long getting down in to the cave that by the time we got to an open area where the guide would tell us a bit about the cave he was already half way through his talk. Most of the cave was very narrow without many formations. Lastly we are informed that we can go an optional 49 steps down and 49 steps back up to actually see a few formations from a very small viewing area.
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After that I was hungry again so it was back to the RV for some dinner on the grill. Curt cooked us up some steaks with baked potato and corn on the cob. Amazing!!! We spent the rest of the night enjoying being outside and chatting.
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On Saturday it was threatening rain a bit but the group decided to go for the canoe ride anyway. Mammoth Cave Canoes and Kayaks cost $50/canoe for a half day which takes about 3-4 hours. The guide drove us and our canoes to the start of the 7.5 mile route and put us in the water. There wasn't much movement in the water so a fair amount of paddling was required. A few rain showers hit us but nothing big and we were able to cool off a bit thanks to the rain. The sun was also not super hot which we were thankful for. A quick stop on one of the islands was long enough for Chris to pick up some chiggers he got to enjoy the rest of the afternoon :)
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By the time the trip was done lunch had been missed so a refueling was in order. A mexican restaurant was not far away so we had drinks, chips and queso/salsa and desserts to hold us over. For dinner Curt again filled us up with hamburgers, baked beans and fries. We sat around talking and trying to ignore that we had to go home tomorrow.
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Our last morning came with the usual sadness of a trip being over but we dispelled that by having breakfast at Cracker Barrel before pulling out.

Posted by ErinDriver 16:26 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Natchez Trace Parkway from Nashville, TN to Natchez, MS

22-25 July 2016

rain 90 °F

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Four days and 1071 total miles got us from Clarksville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi. The goal was to ride the Natchez Trace which starts in Nashville so we had an extra 50 miles each way just to get to it. The Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444 mile (we only found 442 mile markers) scenic highway that winds through Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. It was used as a pathway in the 1700 and 1800’s when travelers were moving westward and also as a trade route for selling goods. Now it is a highway marketed for recreation with multiple historic sites along the way. The speed limit is 50 mph and commercial traffic is not allowed. It is perfect for motorcycles and bicycles.
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Day one for us was from Clarksville, TN to Tupelo, MS. We got a late start because I worked in the ED until 0200 and it took us 1.5 hours to get to the trace in order to avoid highways. We had a quick gas station lunch and were hearing thunder and watching clouds roll in so figured we should move on. As luck would have it the second we got on the trace is started to rain. So about 4 miles in to 444 we were stopping to put on rain gear. The day only got worse after that but we did have a brief period where it looked like the day would turn out beautiful so we stopped in Shady Grove, TN. The country store was definitely memorable. A sign was posted on the bathroom that asked us to please pay for our items before going in. We found out later it is because people would take their beer in to the bathroom and drink it. The tip jar also had a message on not to steal the tips – it requested that if people needed it that bad just to ask for it. We decided we probably shouldn’t leave our motorcycles unattended too long in this town. We hit another rain shower which wasn’t bad but not far down the road we got caught in pouring rain that kept us from even seeing the road in front of us.
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We had to stop in Waynesboro at the welcome center to change clothes and devise a plan. The intel we got was that the weather should pass in another hour so we were told to have dinner at Meme’s and then we should be able to continue.
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It was a worthwhile suggestion as the food was all brown but delicious. The chicken strips were hand dipped and hush puppies home made.
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Our plan held out and we made it the remaining two hours to tupelo without getting any more wet. We were at the best western next to chili’s so we celebrated our successful day with drinks and queso dip.
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Before we were ready it was time to wake up and start riding again. Yesterday took us much longer than we thought so we didn’t want to get too late a start. BW has breakfast in house so we fueled up and were on the road by 0830. The Tupelo to Natchez portion of the trace is my favorite with a segment that overlooks the water.
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We made a stop at the Reservoir overlook and some locals suggested we get lunch in Clinton at Frogshead Grill. The recommendation turned out to be spot on with a neat atmosphere and tasty food. I got a shrimp po boy and fries and loved it.
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I wanted to make a stop today at Emerald Mound which is the second largest temple mound in the US used from 1300-1600 by Mississippians which were descendents of the Natchez Indians.
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This was only about 10 miles from Natchez so we stopped for a photo at the 1 mile marker and then found our B&B called the Burn. I may have a new favorite. Right off when we arrived we were taken to our room and had a chocolate chip cookie and water. A short while later we were given a tour of the house and wine tasting. We learned that the first owners were Scottish and the original property had a creek. Burn is Scottish for creek which is where the property got its name.
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We spent some time relaxing in the pool on the property before walking to Fat Mamma’s. We have been there for margaritas every time we have come to Natchez and we love it there. The gringo pie is a plate with tamales covered in chili and best enjoyed on their outside patio. This time we share our table with a Belgian music teacher who is on a 7 week tour of the United States!
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The best part about staying at a B&B is the second B. Breakfast at the Burn was no exception. We had great conversation with another couple from Baton Rouge and enjoy a plate of baked French toast with eggs and bacon. Our luck from yesterday expires as we look out the window at the end of breakfast and see the rain coming down pretty steady. The weather report says the storms are confined to the local area so we put on our rain gear again and take off. That proved to be true and we rode to Clinton for gas and Krispy Kreme without being too wet. In Kosciusko we take another break at El Rodeo Mexican restaurant for lunch. The beauty of this trip is that the only things to worry about are where you will get gas next and where you will eat next! I already knew I wanted to try the Neon Pig in Tupelo because it supposedly has the best burgers in the states. Sadly it was closed but we made the most of it by hitting the movies to see The Secret Life of Pets. The Thai Garden was just across a parking lot from the Best Western but closing 10 minutes after we arrived. The restaurant looked adorable inside and they were nice enough to fix us a plate of pad thai before they closed.
Way too soon our last day arrives and we get gas, breakfast and a quick tour of the birthplace of Elvis. I couldn’t leave Tupelo and not see where Elvis spent his first 13 years. The place gives free tickets to the military so we also saved $17 each! With your ticket you get to walk through his 2 bedroom house decorated with period furniture.
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You also get to take your photo with a sculpture of Elvis when he was 13 which is when his family moved from Tupelo to Memphis.
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They have on display the church he went to when he was a boy, his chapel built later by his recording studio, his outhouse and a small museum and gift shop. It didn’t take long to see but I was glad I didn’t pass it up.
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We stopped several times today at historical sites – Colberts Ferry which now has a bridge but at one time was crossed by ferry.
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On Highway 13 we got gas, pizza and a lottery ticket so I might never have to work again. No such luck. We walked down to Jackson Falls which didn’t turn out to have much of a falls and stopped for a photo of the double arch bridge mostly obscured by foliage.
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The last Kodak moment was at mile 442 (the last one we could find). We arrived safely home around 1800 with sore butts but glad we did it.
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Posted by ErinDriver 09:17 Archived in USA Comments (0)

RC Cola and Moon Pie 10 miler

18 June 2016

semi-overcast 85 °F

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Bell Buckle, Tennessee hosts an RC Cola and Moon Pie Festival every year and part of those celebrations is a 10 miler. Lucky for us we had cloud cover for much of the route over A LOT of rolling hills. But the finish was spot on with popsicles and moon pies among the usual bananas and water. The town is small with only 500 people but has an adorable main strip with several antique shops.
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Posted by ErinDriver 12:38 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Hillbilly Half Marathon, Leiper's Fork, Tennessee

4 June 2016

rain 80 °F

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It seemed only natural to do the hillbilly half marathon while living in Tennessee and I convinced my friend Staci to do it with me! I have to say it was one of the most scenic and beautiful runs I have ever done. It was through the rolling hills just outside of Nashville which is home to the famous and rich as well as hill billies. After the rest we went to the bakery in town called Sugar and the person we presume to be the owner was telling us that Tim McGraw and a house nearby, Carrie Underwood is building a house and Justin Timberlake bought a huge chunk of land right behind their shop.
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Sadly we were about the only runners dressed up as hillbillies but I guess some thought us very brave to run in denim. Most of the water stops had some pretty interesting costumes though.
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Not until I was at mile 12 did I notice the wording on the water bags warning me to drink at my own risk!!!
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The finish had some excellent cookies, peaches and photo opportunities with General Lee!
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Posted by ErinDriver 11:40 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Oakland Cemetary

30 May 2016

sunny 80 °F

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The day when I have to say goodbye to my beautiful white porch has come and with reluctance I go in to eat breakfast. I am cheered immediately when I see the eggs again at breakfast. Today was the most filling breakfast with cake like blueberry pancakes.
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The drive back to Atlanta is a smooth one on this Memorial Day and it seems fitting that our last stop on the GWTW trail is the Oakland Cemetery. It sometimes seems more like a garden with 8,000 people buried in it than a cemetery. It also seems odd to get photos of the grave markers with the skyline in the background.
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We wonder among the headstones for awhile before finding the visitors center and then wonder even longer trying to find Margaret Mitchells headstone. Ironically enough we missed it because we were looking at the three plots with the Rice name on right next to hers. It is not very substantial and the main name is Marsh for her husband John Marsh.
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Because of our huge breakfast we weren’t hungry so I dropped mom off at her hotel and headed out of Atlanta hoping to avoid the afternoon holiday traffic.
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Posted by ErinDriver 13:32 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Largest Antique Mall in World

29 May 2016

sunny 80 °F

The initial thought today was that after breakfast we would be hanging around the porch or pool relaxing. We thought this all through the Greek yogurt trifle, yummy eggs and biscuits and gravy that was served.
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But on departure from the dining room I asked the two men that worked there what to do on a Sunday here and he mentioned the world’s largest antique mall, Ian Henderson’s that is only a couple towns over. So we scoured the place for hours looking for treasures. It was HUGE with tons of cool stuff if only we had a moving van!
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The guys had also mentioned the southern buffet they like to eat at in Social Circle after antique shopping. It’s called the Blue Willow Inn and at 1500 it was still packed to the gills. For $22 you got all the Southern comfort food you could handle.
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Tired but not beaten we dragged our way through the Antiques and Stuff in Covington before driving back to the Twelve Oaks for a restful last evening.

Posted by ErinDriver 18:06 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The home of Gone With the Wind

28 May 2016

sunny 80 °F

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What a packed full day we had today. From bright and early walking around the grounds of twelve oaks and checking out the neighbors. I am in love with the house next door which incidentally is on the market for 1.475 million :)
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Breakfast was tasty with a cup full of eggs mixed with havarti cheese and chives followed by stuffed French toast and a sausage. This would fortify us for a long day of touring which started with an approximately 50 minute drive to Jonesboro for the Road to Tara Museum. Jonesboro claims to be the home of Gone with the Wind because Margaret Mitchell would spend her summers here and many of the characters and events in the book were based off people she knew and their life events.
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The Road to Tara Museum is beautifully displayed and my favorite of the three we have visited. It starts with a brief portion about the battle of Jonesboro which happened all throughout the town.
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The GWTW portion has reproductions of many of the costumes and the actual pantalets worn by Vivien Leigh.
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They display for the different languages the book came in was also the most well put together.
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These are theater seats from the Loew's theater that showed the premier of the movie. It has since burnt down. I do wonder why the seats look slightly different at each museum we go to.
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They also have a decent display showing spoofs on the movie that have come out.
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The women that work at the Visitors center/museum also sold us on a tour of Jonesboro with GWTW focus.
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At 1300, after a snickers bar for lunch, we boarded this bus for the 1 hour, 15 minute tour. For the most part we observed from the bus window while the announcer told stories related to Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind and how many of her stories and characters came about. Jonesboro is where her grandfather lived and it is believed he is the inspiration for Pa, their house for Tara and his stories her information on the Civil War. She comments that she grew up listening to Civil War stories but didn’t realize the south didn’t win until she was ten. We do get to disembark at the Confederate Cemetery where there are 1000 mostly unmarked graves. The cannonballs on top of the arch were actually used in the battle.
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We also got out at the old jail which houses many town artifacts now including old ledgers.
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After this tour was completed we hightailed it to Stately Oaks Plantation, built in 1839, it was likely one of the inspirations for Tara.
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There was no picture taking allowed inside but tour guide did a marvelous job pointing out all kinds of trinkets from the time period. She was also dressed in period costume including seven layers of undergarments. Many things were explained to include the courting candle, salt, sugar, tear collector, hair collector, pickle container, celery container, bug catcher and how the kids were identified in photos. Boys and girls were both clothed in dresses to make it easier for potty training so sex was identified by how the hair was combed. Girls had their hair parted in the middle and boys on the side. They house also has a well set up one room school house, well house, outhouse, tenent room and cook kitchen.
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Tired and hungry we headed back to Covington just in time for the nibbling hour at Twelve Oaks. My favorite thing is sitting on their porch with cheese, crackers and wine.

It was only an appetizer so we walked to town for dinner at the Mystic Grill, famous on the show the Vampire Diaries. I have never watched it but the hamburger and beer was excellent and we were stuffed. But not too full for more ice cream from Scoops before our ghost tour.
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Covington Ghost Tours was different than any I have ever been on, and I do love a ghost tour. In this day and age there is actually an app called ghost hunting app and it is to tell you when you are in the presence of excess energy as well as randomly list words. Between the group the hope is to string together something of meaning. For 2 hours we walked around town with a story at nearly every building. Sadly no spirits, orbs, ghosts or goblins were seen despite a walk through the cemetery in the dark. Although according to our app we may have been in the presence of Abigail, Jack, cupcakes or a doctor. Here is one of the photos we were to inspect when we got home for orbs, objects or people. Do you see anything?
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At the visitors center there is a sign for Mystic Falls, Virginia which is the town that Covington plays in the Vampire Diaries.
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Posted by ErinDriver 17:47 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Gone with the Wind Tour

27 May 2016

sunny

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Last night Mom flew in from Pennsylvania and I drove from Tennessee to meet at the Best Western by the airport. For some reason we spent the night in a handicapped room which even had its own doorbell. We did some planning and then settled in to get some sleep before hitting the Gone with the Wind Trail in the morning.
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After a typical Best Western breakfast we drove about 30 minutes to Marietta, Georgia and the Scarlett on the Square, Gone with the Wind Museum. The building was constructed around 1875 and is a former cotton warehouse and carriage stable. The museum is actually a privately owned collection of Dr. Christopher Sullivan from Akron, Ohio. The small museum is full of memorabilia in all languages, even Russian and Chinese. Even though the book has been in print for 70 years it still sells 250,000 copies a year. There are many representations of the book in all languages here.
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The spotlight though is on the Bengaline Gown. It is the original honeymoon gown worn by Vivien Leigh in the movie. The dress was in this ecru shade so it would appear white on the Technicolor film reels.
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After making our way through the gift shop we returned to midtown Atlanta for lunch at Mary Mac’s Tea House. It is a fabulous institution for southern cooking and one of the only places in the world that I wrote down my order. I enjoyed the shrimp and cheese grits with sweet potato casserole and macaroni and cheese while mom got chicken pot pie. As first timers to the restaurant we also got a sample of the pot likker which was excellent. I topped it off with some strawberry shortcake to keep my energy up for our next museum.
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Not far from the restaurant is the Margaret Mitchell House. It was previously an apartment building which she dubbed “the dump”. It was abandoned for 10 years before the Benz Company paid for the renovations. In exchange they wanted to use it during the Olympics. However it was damaged by an arsonist and they were not able to have it in working order by the games. The company still paid for the renovations and never asked for anything else in exchange. Here they have a guided tour through the small apartment and you can see where she wrote most of Gone with the Wind. She had broken her ankle and back then that meant you had to stay home for a few months. So to keep busy she started a novel. She never thought it was any good and couldn’t believe how huge it became. There are displays here on the opening night in Atlanta where 30,000 people gathered to try to see the stars as they entered.
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After this we headed 30 more minutes east to Covington, Georgia and the site of our bed and breakfast, twelve Oaks. It is a massive antebellum manor and little did I know our room was up two flights of stairs. It is adorable though with a TV and DVD player for watching Gone with the Wind.
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The B&B has a nibbling hour with free wine, cheese and crackers and we passed a wonderful hour on the white rocking chairs on the porch. The main square is only 0.3 miles away so we walked in to town to Your Pie for pizza. It is a chipotle for pizza and it seemed kind of silly to get only cheese pizza but it was still delicious. Conveniently there is an ice cream place called Scoops two doors down and we packed on another pound before walking back to the B&B.
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Posted by ErinDriver 18:49 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Grand Ole Opry Military Appreciation Night

24 May 2016

sunny 73 °F

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Probably one of the best performances I have had the pleasure of enjoying was at the Grand Ole Opry tonight. For Memorial Day the Opry was celebrating the military. The performers all had patriotic songs to include the Gatlin Brothers, Mark Wills, Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels Band and Trace Adkins. It was brought to a beautiful close with Lee Greenwood's song God Bless the USA.
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But the true stars of the show were the MusiCorps Wounded Warrior Band. A double amputee who is normally the drum player was filling in as the singer and really crushed it!! Mark Wills and Trace Adkins came out to complete the last song with them and the whole place was on their feet. It was quite an emotional show and we realized just how much country music supports the military!

Posted by ErinDriver 21:24 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Curt's Birthday on the Bourbon Trail

1 May 2016

sunny

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By Sunday, Curt’s Birthday, he wasn't feeling well so got up only long enough to have this picture taken with his breakfast.
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He went back to sleep and I went on a photography shoot of the llamas and Maple Hill Manor.
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Luckily he was back on the horse for our tour of the Makers Mark Distillery. It is a more popular tour it seems and we were lucky to arrive early. It’s kind of out in the middle of nowhere and we were on one way roads for some of the way it seemed.
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Incredibly, Curt went to get some coffee and when I turned around I hear him saying to this man “ Hey, didn’t you run in Antarctica?”. We actually ran in to a couple that was on the Antarctica tour at the same time in 2012!! Small world.
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We have now been to three of the distilleries on the bourbon trail and each tour has some different element. In this one you got to dip your finger in a vat of yeast and water!
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The gift shop was also crazy because the Pharoah Horse that one the Triple crown had a bottle come out and collectors were lined up to get their bottle. We still made time for Curt to hand dip our bottle before we made our way out of there.
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Posted by ErinDriver 08:18 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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