My Old Kentucky Home

It’s not Lou-e-ville, it’s Lou-uh-vull.

I found that out very quickly during this weekend’s roadtrip, which took me to Kentucky and Ohio. Four cities + three baseball games + two friends = one happy camper.

Frankfort

One of the best decisions I made all weekend was to avoid major highways on the 340-mile drive from my apartment in Blacksburg to Frankfort, the state capital of Kentucky. No traffic, no exit signs, no monotony. Only gorgeous countryside through the farms, hills, and mountains of southwest Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Charming small towns that have been bypassed since the creation of the Interstate Highway System are delightful to visit. While my time in Pikeville, Mount Sterling, and Georgetown was short, my morning was made by walking around colorful Main Streets, witnessing architecturally stunning county courthouses, and experiencing life quite literally in the slow lane.

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Main Street, Mt. Sterling, KY

My personal quest to visit all 50 state capitol buildings in the United States is going well — I’m at 30 now. I’d been to Frankfort at the end of a spring break roadtrip last year, but it was on the way to my end destination Friday night so I stopped in again. Construction was completed on the current capitol in 1909, and it was done in the Beaux-Arts style that was very common in the US around the turn of the century. The rotunda is dominated by a statue of Abraham Lincoln, who is probably better known as a resident of Illinois but is also claimed by Kentucky, where he spent the first seven years of his life. The Governor’s Mansion is right next door to the capitol, built in the same French Neoclassical style with a beautiful garden out front.

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Interior of the Kentucky State Capitol

Lexington

A scenic drive through horse country took me from Frankfort to Lexington, the home of the University of Kentucky and the second-largest city in the Commonwealth. The campus is sprawling, which is unsurprising given an enrollment that exceeds 30,000 undergraduates and grad students. That large campus and a 100-degree summer afternoon made for some uncomfortable walking — my sweat was sweating. Compared to other major universities I’ve visited lately, UK’s campus was relatively disappointing in terms of its attractiveness and charm. Everybody knows Kentucky for its basketball program, which is a perennial national championship contender, but the fact that Rupp Arena, the world’s largest basketball-specific arena, is (way) off-campus would also have been a turn-off for me as a student.

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Main Building at the University of Kentucky

Lexington itself was not a disappointment, though. A thriving restaurant and bar scene downtown made the dinner hour quite lively, and a few blocks away neighborhoods of elegant Victorian-era homes gave the city some additional character.

I concluded my time in Lexington at a baseball game (of course) where I was on the verge of witnessing history as the Lexington Legends’ starting pitcher had a no-hitter going through the sixth inning. He was pulled for a reliever, though, who promptly served up a long home run to the first Columbia Fireflies hitter he faced. Womp womp.

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Whitaker Bank Ballpark, home of the Lexington Legends

Louisville

No-hitter over, I headed westward to Louisville. This was homebase for Friday and Saturday night, and I was very excited about this portion of my trip. One of the numerous advantages of studying abroad is having friends scattered across the country, and I was graciously hosted by Anna and Katherine, who I had never met in person but had talked to for several years as they are friends of another Anna I studied with during my time in London.

Friday night brought some of the most captivating people-watching I’ve ever done. We first went to a pool party that we’d heard about and knew would be well-attended, but weren’t sure what the crowd would be like. Suffice it to say that if you didn’t have multiple tattoos, you were in the minority. Some interesting bathing suit choices for guys and girls, some fascinating hair styles, and some questionable activities going on in the pool. We left after an hour and got all kinds of fried food at a local bar. Mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders are never a mistake at 1 AM.

Saturday brought more delicious food and drink, which were essential since the heat index and humidity were stratospheric. Higher than Creed in 1999. Higher than Wiz Khalifa and Snoop on a good day. We started off at Silver Dollar, where I got chilaquiles verdes — tortilla chips with salsa verde, queso cotija, over-easy eggs, sour cream, and shredded chicken. Brunch nachos, basically. From there we moved to another neighborhood bar, where a peaches and cream wheat beer and iced sprinkle doughnut were partnered with competitive Candy Land and Scrabble games. A rum-infused blue raspberry slushie was the perfect way to fight off the afternoon heat at Feast, yet another local establishment. We went separate ways Saturday night, as I went to a Louisville Bats game before joining some other new friends at an Irish bar.

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Love blossoming at Silver Dollar

I was impressed with the different neighborhoods in town, particularly the St. James-Belgravia Historic District within Old Louisville and some of the surrounding blocks a short distance off campus from the University of Louisville. Late 19th-century houses that more closely resemble castles and chateaus mark these residential areas, which maintain their pedestrian-friendly traditions (at least during daylight hours) and provide a nice contrast to a downtown currently in the midst of major construction projects, both expansions and renovations.

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St. James Court Fountain

Cincinnati

Sunday morning came quickly, and after not getting to bed until 4 AM I was thankful for a short drive to Cincinnati. It was my first visit to the Queen City, and I got my steps in for the day by walking back and forth across two bridges over the Ohio River that connect Northern Kentucky to Cincinnati.

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The John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge was the longest of its kind when it was completed in 1866

Gushing fountains and flowers of every color fill the riverfront parks on the Ohio side of the river, just outside Great American Ball Park with a great view of the Cincinnati skyline. I was thrilled to go to my first Major League Baseball game this season as the homestanding Reds easily defeated the Miami Marlins in front of over 20,000 fans. What started as a dreary, rainy day improved steadily as the game went on, and I headed back to Virginia under blue skies and warm sunshine.

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Hello, Cincy!
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Reds get the W!

The blog goes international in August! After another quick stop in Ohio — Columbus and Cuyahoga Valley National Park this time — I’ll be Canada-bound. A wedding in Toronto should make for some memorable adventures, eh? Can’t wait to get back on the road!