Basketball, horses and bourbon

Published 7:53 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Kentucky is widely known for three things: basketball, horses and bourbon. A three-day trip to Lexington this past weekend with some friends, reinforced that this reputation is well deserved. The primary purpose of our visit was to attend an Eagles concert at Rupp Arena in Lexington. Of course, this facility is best known as the home of University of Kentucky basketball.

It is sometimes hard for a typical SEC football fan to think about how popular basketball is in parts of the United States. Nowhere is that more true than in the heart of Big Blue country. The many championship banners hanging from the rafters of Rupp Arena are a testament to just how successful the Wildcats have been over the years.

Obviously I was aware that the state is also the home of the Kentucky Derby. I was also mindful of the many horse farms surrounding Lexington. I have to admit, however, that I did not realize just how big that industry is in the area.

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Flying into Lexington early Friday morning, I was amazed at the numbers of large homes you could see from the air spread across large acreages. The lawns all seemed to be perfectly mowed, with the lines from the mowers crisscrossing the land. Later, while driving through the same area, I realized those massive homes were actually horse barns and the lawns were pastures, perfectly manicured and surrounded by stone or wood fences.

A visit to the Kentucky Horse Park let us see just how magnificent there large animals really are. Different breeds were being trained in different categories for different competitions. We saw some former Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes Champions that live a life of luxury after being put out to pasture, so to speak.

The horse country of Kentucky is truly one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen. Rolling hills covered with bluegrass stretched for as far as the eye could see. Roads and driveways were lined with mature trees that let you know these people had been doing this a long time.

Most entrances were adorned with large stone columns and ornate gates. The homes usually sat too far back from the road for you to actually see. I learned that this is a sport and business for those who already have money; lots of it.

A visit to the Woodford Distillery taught me a lot that I didn’t know about Bourbon. Distilling began on this site before the end of the Revolutionary War. The current building was constructed in 1838. It is the oldest of the nine distilleries in Kentucky. Their current product of “Woodford Reserve” is used to make mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby priced at $1,000 per drink.

Ironically, the horses and the bourbon are both located in this area for the same reason. The water is filtered through the heavy limestone rock in the area until it is pure, full of minerals but void of iron. This particular combination helps foster strong bones for the thoroughbred horses and is a component of the unique taste of the area’s bourbon.

As for the reason for our visit, the Eagles were truly amazing. The band’s first album was made the summer before my senior year in high school. They sold more albums while I was in college than any other band in the world, and hit their peak my senior year and shortly after with the release of the album Hotel California.

For almost three hours, I sang the words of songs I have not sung in decades. Anyone my age would know the words to their five No. 1 singles, Best of my Love, One of These Nights, New Kid in Town, Hotel California & Heartache Tonight. However, the list went on and on bringing back great memories of a wonderful time in my life.

All in all, a trip to Lexington, Kentucky is worth anyone’s time and effort. Combine it with good music and good friends and it goes right to the top of the charts.