Day 10: The Final Day

Bondurant's PharmacyWe had one main purpose in Lexington — to see Bondurant’s Pharmacy, a classic piece of programmatic architecture.  The pharmacy is shaped like a giant mortar and pestle — very cool!  Built in 1974, the pharmacy touted the first drive-thru service of any kind in Lexington.

When we arrived last night, I noticed a couple of references to Man O’War, regarded as one of the greatest thoroughbred horses of all time.  In looking through the tourist information in our hotel, I discovered he is buried at the Kentucky Horse Park, so it was added to the list of stops today.

I mentioned in an earlier post that we had stopped at Churchill Downs when we travelled through Louisville and with Man O’War being added to today’s agenda, perhaps readers have guessed that I enjoy horse racing.  We have a strong horse racing tradition in our family — for decades, my great-uncle, Tommy Ennis, used to paint the weathervane at the Preakness with the Grave of Seattle Slewwinning silks — and Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew has an especially soft spot in our hearts.  It occurred to me that if Man O’War was buried in Lexington, perhaps Seattle Slew was, too, and I was right.  He rests at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, an absolutely breath-taking place featuring rolling hills, white fences, large barns with copulas, and horses roaming the sprawling pastures.  The receptionist at the office was nice enough to give me directions to the grave.  Although I grew up near Virginia horse country, I’ve never seen anything like this.

When we left the farm, we continued to drive through this stunning countryside, seeing several other horse farms on our way to the interstate.  Giant JesusWe wouldn’t get to our next stop for a couple hours.  Just north of Cincinnati, you can see a giant Jesus, His arms oustretched westward toward I-75 and its passing cars.  The 62-foot-high sculpture is part of the Solid Rock Church compound in Monroe, Ohio.  Unfortunately, the best photo op is from the interstate; taking pictures from the church itself will result only in a side view.

From there, it was a straight shot home, where we arrived around 6:30 p.m.  Tired from 10 days on the road, the unpacking will have to wait till tomorrow.  For now, I’m going to lay my head on my own pillow and let the memories of the first road trip of 2010 dance through my head . . .

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Day Nine: Tupelo to Lexington

Elvis BirthplaceOur day started at 9 a.m. with our first stop just minutes from our hotel – the birthplace of Elvis Presley.  I’m not a huge Elvis fan, but since I had seen Graceland, where Elvis is buried, I had always wanted to see where he was born.  The small home, built by Elvis’ father, is located in what is now Elvis Presley Park.  In addition to the home, the small Assembly of God church Elvis attended as a small boy and where he first sang gospel is on the grounds, as is a statue of a 13-year-old Elvis.

Another birthplace was also on our schedule.  After driving a couple hours, we reached Tuscumbia, Ala., where Helen Keller was born.  Once again the map I had printed was poor, but directions to the home, Ivy Lee, were well marked by the municipality.  The house, a typical Southern white clapboard style built in 1820 on 640 acres, is quite lovely and situated on beautiful grounds sprinkled with boxwood, Helen Keller's water pumpmagnolias, honeysuckle, roses and English ivy (from which the estate got its name) – the Keller family must have been well off.  I don’t think there is anyone, regardless of age, who doesn’t know the story of Helen Keller and her discovery of words while holding her hands under the water pump at her home, so it was a bit surreal to actually see the pump in the backyard.  Keller was actually born in a small cottage on the grounds that was used as an office to keep the plantation’s books; eventually, Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan, would live in the cottage.  Also on the grounds are a memorial fountain donated by the Lion’s Club International and a garden area that features gifts bestowed on Keller from countries around the world. 

Wigwam Village #2Our next stop was to see some classic roadside architecture in Cave City, Ky.  Wigwam Villages (or Wigwam Motels) are distinctive landmarks that once dotted the American countryside.  There are now only three: two are along Route 66, in Arizona and California, and one is in Cave City.  If you happened to catch the Pixar movie “Cars,” the Wigwam Motel was prominently featured as the business run by Sally, the blue Porsche.  Seven Wigwam Motels were built between 1936 and the 1950s.  They consist of individual units and even though the motels are named wigwams, the design is more of a teepee.  The motel in Cave City, known as Wigwam Village #2,  was built in 1937 and features 15 units spaced in a semi-circle.  It’s currently under renovation, scheduled to open next week, or we would have been spending the night there.  I did have the opportunity to spend the “night in a teepee” (as the motel sign advertises) in Holbrook, Ariz., on one of my Route 66 travels.

Dinosaur WorldOn our way out of town, we stopped for a photo of the dinosaurs that menace the I-75 exit urging motorists to visit Dinosaur World.  Mammoth Cave is just down the road.

World's Largest CrucifixAs the sun started to set, we arrived in Bardstown, Ky., where our last stop of the day was located.  In the cemetary of St. Thomas Parish is the world’s largest crucifix.  Made of metal, the crucifix is 60-feet high.

We reached our destination, Lexington, Ky., after dark and spent the night in a beautiful Hyatt, where we had a relaxing dinner and then toasted our final night on the road with champagne.

Day Eight, Part Two: Two to Tupelo

About a half hour northeast of New Orleans, we took the Slidell exit and took Rigolets Road to Route 90.  It was here, right before the Rigolets Bridge, that Jayne Mansfield was killed in a car crash in 1967.  It was after midnight and she was heading to a TV engagement in New Orleans following a performance in Biloxi, Miss., when the car she was in ran into the back of and under a slow-moving truck that had been obscured by mosquito fogger being spread by another truck.  All three people in the front seat were killed.  Miraculously, Mansfield’s three children were sleeping in the back seat and survived with only minor injuries.  One of those children is Mariska Hargitay, star of “Law and Order: SVU,” who was 3 at the time.  Contrary to popular belief, Mansfield was not beheaded in the crash – that is the stuff of dark lore.  She did sustain traumatic head injuries and the force of the crash caused her blonde wig to fly off and rest on the dashboard, which most likely led to the myth.

Several hours later we made our next stop in Meridian, Miss., where we went to Rose Hill Cemetary to see the graves of the former king and queen of the American gypsies.  Thousands of gypsies from around the country converged on this small town when queen Kelly Mitchell died in 1915.  Her grave is decorated with beads, a photograph, and other trinkets that pilgrims have left.  Beads also decorate the graves of her husband, the king Emil, and other family members; the cemetary is the final resting place for the Gypsy Royal Family. 

Our final destination for the night was Tupelo, Miss.  We had wanted to get in by 6 p.m. and, in fact, did make it to the city by then, but finding our hotel was another story.  The Courtyard Marriott had provided very poor directions on its Web site; we were supposed to exit onto Route 178 east and then take Route 145 north.  However, there was no Route 178 east and Route 145 north was not marked.  To add insult to injury, the hotel’s logo on the “lodging this exit” sign was located at the wrong exit.  After circling the area twice for 45 minutes, we finally arrived tired and irritated.  It didn’t help matters that we had just missed the free drinks and appetizers served at a manager’s cocktail hour.  We headed to the Outback Steakhouse next door for an attitude adjustment and called it a night.

Day Eight, Part One: Saying Goodbye to NOLA

We had a very pleasant morning – finally no real deadlines to meet – so we slept in and took our time trying to pack all our newly acquired treasures.  I wanted to return a couple items I had bought so I went for a walk around 9:30.  It was such a pleasant morning; the crisp air felt good in the sunlight.  The streets were still wet from the cleaning that had taken place during the night.  The street crews do a phenomenal job – you could never tell that the “party of the year” had just taken place.

I still needed my elusive picture of The Old Absinthe House (see the “Day Six”  post), so I walked the few blocks there and noticed the door was open.  I walked in to see if they were indeed open, which they were, and when I heard Led Zeppelin playing, I figured it was serendipity so I sat for a quick beer and got inside pictures as well.  I made my returns, one of which was at the store named Road Trip that I had praised in an earlier post because of its unusual inventory.  It turned out it was more of an exchange than a refund because I succumbed to temptation and bought a painting I had seen during my first visit – a map of the United States made of state license plates.  Right up my alley! 

Preservation HallWhile I was at the store, I noticed a postcard of Preservation Hall, one of the most famous, if not the most famous, jazz venues in the city (despite its dilapidated appearance) and realized I had not seen it during my visit.  It turns out it was right around the corner, so I made one last photo stop before heading back to the hotel.

When I returned, it was time to leave, so we loaded up the car and said goodbye to New Orleans.