Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Honeymoon: The Land

Since my visions of typical tropical goings-on mostly included limbo parties and hula dancers and tiki torches, and all of those things tend to show up only in Hawaiian honeymoons, I was pretty open to whatever fun Jamaica would be offering. I suppose I expected gaggles of dreadlocked Rastafarians banging on tinkling oil drums, but I was surprised to find out how much more the resort had to offer.

One of our first evenings on the resort we decided to check out the piano bar, which proved to be arguably our most enjoyable evening experience of the honeymoon. Hosted by a friendly and extremely talented man named Ultimate Chocolate (couldn’t make that up if I tried), we sang along to all kinds of piano hits and even took part in a Name-That-Tune battle of the sexes, which of course the men won. Think group karaoke with a happy Jamaican guy and free drinks for a few hours. How could that be anything but ridiculous fun?

Across from the piano bar was a small casino with slot machines, poker machines, a roulette wheel, and an employee for cashing out and dealing blackjack. Amy and I blew about $30 there in an hour one night in a fit of boredom, leading us to wonder how anyone could gamble on a consistent basis. We had fun, but it was expensive fun, and it was only the start…

One of the more practical daytime activities was a Speak Jamaican class, which informed students on some of the basic rules and common sayings of patois, the unofficial national language of the island. Understand that when I say “class,” I mean a half-hour sit-down with one of our entertainment directors, O’Neill (who was awesome, but not quite awesome enough to get Amy dancing in public. He did try, though, and props to him for that).

Basically, O’Neill scurried through the basics of the slanguage and then told us how to say funny stuff in patois (pa-twah). English is technically the official language of Jamaica, but patois infuses the Queen’s English, some French and Spanish, African dialects from the days that a staggering majority of the inhabitants were slaves, and a little bit Arawak Indian, the original Jamaicans. That’s where the iconic “Yeah, Mon” accent comes from. See? You learned something today.

The only lingo I can remember is “Wagwon?” which means “What’s going on?” and “Irie,” which means “alright.” Everything else just sounded like the people were sucking on a mouthful of marbles and spitting out indigenous gibberish. Fun to listen to, but impossible to speak.

We also took classes that educated us on how to make a hat from a coconut tree leaf, as well as the art of Jamaican jewelry-making (if you walk up or down the seven-mile beach, approximately 2/3 of the merchants are peddling beaded jewelry—cheap to make, easy to sell). After quite a few tribulations I managed to piece together a bitchin’ sombrero, and Amy received a number of genuine compliments on the bracelet she made at the jewelry workshop.

Also, while fumbling through the hat-assembling process, we met a woman from L.A. who’s made appearances on Showtime’s “Californication.” Also, her twin eight-month-old boys take turns playing the new baby on “The Young and the Restless.” So basically Amy and I are now famous via association. I am slightly more famous because I saw her first.

Perhaps the most impressive perk we received was the complimentary couples massage we got as part of the newlywed package. Before you head into the room, there’s a gigantic Zen bath tub you soak in, preparing your body for the magic. Once in the room, you’re asked to get buck naked and slip under a towel the approximate size of a dishrag. Amy and I looked at each other like, “Was she serious?” But we grudgingly obeyed.

My masseuse, Cherry, had magic hands grafted by the gods and fine-tuned by fairies and massage school. I essentially melted into the table as part of deep relaxation until… Hey! That’s my butt! Apparently that’s part of how they do things down there. All I kept thinking the entire time was, “I hope Amy’s getting her butt massaged, too, otherwise this could be a really awkward situation.”

As it turns out, Amy did get her butt massaged. That was part of the routine. I can’t tell you how thankful I was, because I was starting to wonder if I shouldn’t have taken Cherry out to dinner beforehand. Didn’t want to seem rude. Other than some momentary discomfiture, it was the greatest massage I’ve ever gotten in my life. Amy will concur.

So with the details of our experiences on the land and in the water now officially recorded, what does that leave? Only one more thing, ladies and gentlemen: the food. That’s what I’ll talk about tomorrow when I wrap up the honeymoon recap, and trust me, you’re not going to want to read it before lunch.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Honeymoon: The Water

After getting dropped off and shown our rooms, the first thing Amy and I did was make our way for the beach. The cerulean waves lick the white sands with the gentle white shushing of water rolling onto beach, creating the sort of beautiful scene one only experiences while watching a Corona commercial. In short, the water was pretty sexy.

And unlike my first experience with the black, freezing Pacific Ocean earlier this year, the Caribbean Sea was crystal clear and warm like bathwater that’s been sitting and cooling off for an hour. Swimmable water means awesome water activities, and luckily for us the resort offered a bunch of great stuff to do out in the Great Wet Abyss for no extra charge.

The tamest of these ventures was our glass bottom boat tour. Escorted by an extremely knowledgeable Jamaican teen, we glazed over coral reefs, schools of varying fish, and even an old crashed catamaran. In general it was a rather sedate experience, except that on the trip back along the coast we passed some of the other resorts. This is worth mentioning because one of those resorts was Hedonism II, a nude resort. As we cruised by honking our horn and chortling like fifth graders hearing the word “penis” in Sex Ed for the first time, scattered old men stood up to flash us their junk. It was almost enough to make us not eat our free delicious lunch. But just almost; it was a free delicious lunch, after all.

Later in the same day we got a little more personal with the fishes via a snorkeling escapade that ended with mediocre results. Other than a brush with a school of black-and-yellow fish that swam right through me en route to whatever aquatic destination they were heading for, the most we saw was fancy rocks and plants. I was hoping for Spongebob Squarepants, The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, or at least some sharks or stingrays, but to no avail. Just those black-and-yellow fish and a mouth full of saltwater.

One of our earlier aquatic expeditions took us quite a ways away from the resort via catamaran (complete with waterslide and bar) to some sweet Jamaican caves and around some of the most frequented locations for cliff diving. Despite enjoying the cruise very much, Amy and I refrained from participating in either of these activities because even though we loved Jamaica, neither one of us wanted to die there.

The caves, for example, were inhabited a crazy old woman who threw rocks at a large number of our party who braved the stony, watery crevices. I’m not even joking about this. Also, watching the local adolescents back-flip off of seventy foot cliffs didn’t inspire much confidence in us to try that, either. Maybe we’re lame, or maybe we just really understand the concept of risk/reward. Whatever the answer, the whole thing was, at the very least, fun to watch.

I did give the boat’s waterslide the ol’ college try, and even though it was nothing compared to Cedar Point’s Millennium Force, it was the best the catamaran had to offer. Also, the cruise ended right at sunset, so we were out on the water watching the giant orange sun float back behind the horizon as we headed back for port. It was a charming little excursion.

All of this is gumdrops and tricycles compared to parasailing, however. Those who know me well understand my desire to experience flight (and not the American Airlines type of flight—the Superman kind), and this was as close as I’ll probably ever get to that.

Basically, Amy and I were strapped together onto a gigantic parachute, and then the boat we were attached to started driving very fast, lifting us up into the wild blue yonder. Feet dangling 400 feet above the water, we floated and cruised with a bird’s eye view of the western side of the island. If Amy hadn’t been white-knuckled from gripping her harness in anxiety, I would’ve enjoyed it a little more, but even she was glad we did it and admitted to having a nice time.

Moses, the giant Jamaican man who assisted us in this endeavor, was more than happy to take our money, but also genuinely seemed to wish us a good time and a great vacation. Like I said, Jamaican people are awesome.

The water was pretty friendly, too. We could’ve done water skiing, scuba, or kayaking, but most of those exercises would’ve probably caused either welts and bruises or psychological distress, so we passed. Okay, so we’re not exactly Jacque Cousteau, but we definitely enjoyed our time with the water while we had it.

Plus, I really, really suck at water skiing.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Honeymoon: Jamaica

There are a lot of awesome things that go along with getting married: you get to see all of your friends and family together in one place at one time, you get thousands of dollars worth of gifts (ninety percent of which are some sort of small kitchen appliance seemingly sent from an outer space civilization and only practical if you’re an employee for the Food Network), you’re the center of attention for a whole day, and you get to experience a great spiritual and emotional bond with the spouse of your dreams.

All that stuff was great—especially the spiritual/emotional bond stuff—but the most enjoyable part of the whole process undoubtedly was the honeymoon.

I don’t want to make it sound like the wedding itself wasn’t superb, because it really, really was. One of the most superb weddings I’ve ever been to, speaking from an entirely objective standpoint of course. But the honeymoon is the culmination of the whole process. After putting in all that time courting Amy, then stressing over the purchase of the engagement ring (a.k.a. the depletion of my savings account) and the proposal, then spending over a year planning out the wedding itself, it was nice to just get everything done and then go away to relax.

In our case, going away meant flying to the beautiful island of Jamaica, then driving an hour and a half along the coast to Negril where our all-inclusive resort was located. Situated on the western side of the island, Negril is known for its beautiful sunsets over the horizon deep into the Caribbean Sea. I would love to try and describe them for you, but sunsets have been romanticized in just about every combination of flowery cliches the English language can proffer. I’ll just say that they were “neat.” That gets the job done.

The shuttle to Couples Swept Away can only be described as colorful. Although Jamaica is 90% black (that’s an actual number, not a humorous hyperbole), I’m not referring to the country’s dominant ethnicity. I’m referring to the buildings, splashed in all different hues of red and green and yellow, the azure sea glittering like crystals, reflecting the green hills adorned in sweeping fields of tall grass just across the road. Every little town we drove through was like its own living graffiti mural painted from the palette of the Jamaican flag’s green, gold, and black.

Though picturesque and beautiful in its own primitive way, Jamaica is an extremely poor country with merchants literally everywhere pedaling sea grapes, t-shirts, beaded jewelry, and any other sort of homegrown art or food that could be easily and cheaply put together. Even on the resort these peddlers would wander the beaches selling these items or playing reggae or offering any of a variety of expensive watersports options (which we would later take advantage of—more on that in a later entry). It was sort of like dealing with the homeless people in Chicago, except you got the impression these people were trying to make an honest living instead of sleeping on a bench, hoping to get something for nothing. Also, Jamaicans back off when you say “No, thank you.” That’s all it takes to get rid of them. “No, thank you.” Crazy, huh?

Actually, the Jamaican people in general are absolutely wonderful to spend time with. Everyone’s always smiling and retorting every question with “Yeah, mon” (Which isn’t a stereotype; every man, woman, and child on the island actually says this like all the time). The national slogan is “No Problem,” and for the most part there truly were no problems. Even menial workers—people who sweep sidewalks and bus tables—genuinely enjoy what their doing and take a ton of pride in their work. Conversely, I have yet to meet an American person who doesn’t gripe about his/her job at least once a day, even if this person is making over $100,000 a year.

The resort itself stretches over several acres, including a beautiful beach lined with white sands (part of Negril’s seven-mile beach), tons of palm trees and other exotic plants, six restaurants, more bars than you can count (including one that was actually INSIDE a pool—where are these swim-up bars in Illinois?), a spa, all sorts of sports and weight-lifting facilities, a casino, and a night club. There’s probably more, but I can’t remember right now. I’m getting drunk just reminiscing on the fumes of wonderfulness Amy and I left behind in that glorious little island slightly south of Cuba.

The kicker for Couples Swept Away is that it was an all-inclusive resort, meaning you pay the money up front and then enjoy all the above amenities for free once you’re on the property. As a result, I ate more high-quality food and drank more top-shelf liquor in the last ten days than the rest of my entire life combined. There also were a number of great activities, both in the water and on land, that we got to partake in as part of our package. There’s no room to give these things proper due in one winded blog entry, so over the next week or so I’ll be laying out everything Amy and I had a chance to experience, from our amazing adventures on the water to one uber-long extended culinary mouthgasm.

I can’t wait to share the details because this trip was beautiful, like a sunset. Like a really neat sunset.

To be continued…

Monday, July 07, 2008

Road Trip All-Stars Day 4-5: Louisville & Cincinnati

DAY 4

Louisville Slugger Factory

The next morning, riddled with a hangover that was either beer-related, White Castle-related, or some combination of the two, we packed up and headed to Louisville’s infamous baseball bat factory.

Outside the building lies the world’s biggest baseball bat, unofficially a smokestack, that is even larger in person than you’d imagine. Inside is a little gift shop and a few museum-ish displays, including a collection of baseballs signed by presidents that threw out varied first pitches at season openers. On one entire wall, small pieces of wood bearing players’ names spread across the entire surface, some of which dated back to the early 1900s and all of which used the Louisville Slugger as their bat of choice. Kinda gnarly.

There was a tour, too, but it went the way tours usually go. Nothing life-shattering—this guys does this, another guy does that, no photography allowed—the usual. Perhaps the coolest aspect of our experience there was the machine that threw the ball ninety miles per hour like the pros do. You could literally blink and miss that thing coming at you. When I first walked up to it, not knowing what the display was or what it did, the first pitch made me pee in my underwear, just a little bit. Ridiculous.

And I bought a bat with Amy’s and my name burned into it, which made me feel pretty much as cool as a Barry White-flavored ice cube.

Colonel Sanders’ Grave

In general, I consider GPS to be a pretty handy tool, but it only works when the person operating it actually listens to what the damn machine is telling you to do. For example, when you’re looking for a cemetery, and you see the entrance to a cemetery, even though the GPS tells you it’s not for another 0.3 miles, you shouldn’t pull into that cemetery because it’s probably the wrong one.

The one I decided to direct us into first looked like a setting from that old Snick show “Are You Afraid of the Dark.” Most of the tombstones were bowled over or spray-painted, or even just crooked from soil creep. The mausoleum was more a canvas for urban teens wielding cans of spray paint and possessing the amazing creative ability to draw really awesome 3D bubble letters on buildings and trains and semi trucks.

Needless to say, no creator of Kentucky Fried Chicken would be buried in such a dive. So we exited what may have been the worst graveyard of all time and drove 0.3 miles down the street to what seemed to be a country club for corpses. Huge brick walls all around the grounds, tombstones two or three stories high made from pure marble or diamonds, and even a security guard. How many cemeteries have you been to where a security guard keeps watch at the gate?

In any event, he told us exactly how to find the Colonel’s grave, and it was okay. He died a while ago after inventing chicken. Check that attraction off the log. Next stop, please.

Churchill Downs

If we had the time we would’ve gotten the full tour of the country’s most famous race track, but cheap booze and tiny hamburgers forced us into an extra ninety minutes of sleep, and therefore kept us from getting the full Churchill Downs experience. We did, however, wander around the outside a little bit and snap a few pictures of the famous twin spires, but that was about it. It would’ve been cool to get a little more intimate with the facility, but road trips don’t allow time for doing everything. Clearly, visiting the Kentucky Fried Gravesite was more important.

Kaelin’s Restaurant, the Birthplace of the Cheeseburger

Craig threw a fit because he thought this place actually invented the entire cheeseburger, but I had to school him on the truth. Kaelin’s in Louisville didn’t invent the entire cheeseburger; they invented the cheese.

Actually, they didn’t really invent cheese, either. That’s been around since at least the 1860’s—the days of George Washington and Napoleon Bonaparte. No, the thing that put Kaelin’s on the map was their decision to add cheese to the already-popular hamburger. The golden, American slice would melt onto charred and smoked beef patty, dripping into the meat nooks on the top of the burger. Clearly it was a big hit, otherwise that catchy little Big Mac jingle would be totally different:

Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun.

See how lame that is? American fat people just wouldn’t be the same without Kaelin’s clearly essential contribution to burger history. Do you think Craig would’ve complained if we went to the place that decided to add barbecue sauce to the ribs? Absolutely not. This is why I’m like 90% sure Craig is racist against cheeseburgers.

Wild Turkey Distillery

When we first pulled up to the distillery we thought it was a condemned prison. I’m not saying this for the sake of comedy; it’s true. We genuinely thought the buildings where we later found out whiskey was stored to age were old prison buildings.

As for the rest of the neighborhood? Cue “Dueling Banjos.” Sullen trees, crumbling buildings, and hordes of whistling cicadas. At the last the people there were nice—they spoke in a lovely Kentucky drawl and laughed about as loud as anyone I’ve ever met—and the tour was about as hands-on as any alcohol-related exploration we’ve undergone over the years. Despite being way too long and way too hot, we at least got to get up close to the mash tanks and see every nook of the premises. Despite being really, really old it was at least photogenic.

Honestly, the most fun we had while we were there was filming the intro for our road trip video, which was a spoof of those Jack Daniels commercials where the guys work really hard and sweat in sepia tones while saying things like, “We’re real Americans, working hard for a common goal like whiskey or whatever.”

It was awesome. I felt like a bald eagle.

The Great American Ballpark

Officially, this was ballpark number eight for Kyle and I (only 22 to go!), and I’ve got to say I rather enjoyed the experience. The food was pretty good compared to some of the parks I’ve been to, but that’s mostly due to the fact that Skyline Chili was served there. The facilities were great, and we were lucky enough to show up on a night when the park was pretty much packed so we could get a sense of what life at the park is like on a happenin’ evening.

One thing I did notice was that the patronage in Cincinnati was probably the whitest I’ve ever seen. St. Louis is usually pretty packed with white folks, but Cinci may have held a slight edge. Maybe I’m just used to games on the Southside of Chicago, where the fans are a veritable racial rainbow, but I’m not kidding you when I say other than the people on the field, I didn’t see a single person of color in the entire place. We’ve come a long way from Memphis, Tennessee, ladies and gentlemen.

As for the game itself, the away team was the Cardinals, which I have some gear for thanks to my loving Cardinal fan fiancĂ© (soon to be wife, actually), so Craig and I went bonkers rooting for the away team. It was more fun than I even imagined, having people yell “Shut up!” and “Sit down!” from all directions. I absolutely recommend it to any real baseball fan—go see an away game and root like you were at home.

DAY 5

Kings Island Amusement Park

After the great success we had with Cedar Point in the ’05 Trip, we thought we’d hit up another classic Ohio theme park staple by visiting Kings Island. It was, as they say, a huge mistake.

I wouldn’t call this place an “Amusement Park;” I’d call it a “Painful Park of Death of Minor Concussions and Giant Cicadas Everywhere,” because that’s essentially what it was. The big attractions here were the wooden coasters, Beast and Son of Beast, both of which damn near popped my cranium right off of my spine like a dandelion head off the stem. I hate wooden roller coasters the way Gargamel hates the Smurfs.

The park got a few gold stars for effort, especially in regard to a coaster in which you lie down on your back, but for the most part it was us paying $30 a piece for massive headaches and some slight vertigo. Where Cedar Point was like the best coaster experience of my life, Kings Island couldn’t have been much better than childbirth.

Conclusion

Many people have asked me if this will be my final road trip since I’m getting married this summer. My question in return is, what kind of person do you think Amy is? She and I have some vacations of our own planned out, specifically Jamaica this summer for our honeymoon, and then Boston and Italy in the years to come. As long as she and I are doing traveling of our own, she has no problem with Kyle and I escorting a friend or three on a weeklong journey of occasional male idiocy on the back roads of the grand ol’ U-S-of-A.

There’s so much more to see, and these road trips really are becoming a big part of me. It’s one of the best parts of my summers in my opinion. Plus, in my gigantic arrogant head I assume that all of you out there actually enjoy reading these things. So if I do more trips, everybody wins.

Plus, ya know, 22 ball parks to go.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Road Trip All-Stars Day 3: Nashville & Louisville

Johnny Cash’s Grave

By the time we started searching around the cemetery in Hendersonville, Tennessee, the guys started ribbing me for adding so many gravesites to the itinerary. It’s not that I’ve gone all emo and plan on spending the majority of my time around tombstones; it’s just that Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and a lot of really other cool famous dead guys just so happen to live in Tennessee and Kentucky. What’s a feller to do?

After getting so much of the skinny on Cash while in Memphis and Nashville, and after watching “Walk the Line” a couple of years ago, it was cool to see Cash and June Carter buried side by side in a quaint small-town cemetery.

Cooter’s Dukes of Hazzard Museum

Kevin was really the only one old enough to have enjoyed “The Dukes of Hazzard” as a kid, all of understood the iconic nature of that orange “General Lee” El Camino. Cooter’s museum in Nashville just so happened to have one of those cars used from the TV show among their exhibits, which mostly included old toys and costumes.

After snapping some shots with the General Lee, we’d had more than our fair share of white trash television paraphernalia for one day, so we split across the street to explore the burgeoning area surrounding the Grand Ole Opry.

Opryland Hotel

With almost an hour to burn before the Grand Ole Opry tour, we decided to wander around the gigantic Opryland Hotel right next door. Over the course of our travels, we have never seen a luxury lodging facility this ornate and gigantic. Not only is this place a genuine botanical garden, but it also stretches over a mile-and-a-half in length. There wasn’t anything specific to see there, just plants and bridges and stuff, but it kept us entertained and cool on a day when you probably could’ve scrambled eggs on the sidewalk.

The Grand Ole Opry

The only problem with our time-wasting detour is by the time we got in line to buy tickets for the Grand Ole Opry tour, they were completely sold out for the tour we needed. The tellers selling the tickets were pretty shocked because tours hardly ever sell out, but Kyle, Ed, Craig, and Kevin had a nice time harassing me for screwing something up in the extremely meticulous planning of this trip.

See, when it comes to these road trips I spend a few months beforehand planning and organizing to make sure we can fit as much interesting stuff as possible into a day. My travel partners know how important it is to stay on schedule, so they give me crap for being like Danny Tanner from “Full House” because he follows itineraries to the minute.

This wasn’t the first curveball we’d been thrown on this trip, and it came sort of a running joke that whenever something went wrong it was because I hadn’t planned things properly. This is why I hate my friends.

Glow Golf

So what can take the place of touring the worlds most iconic country music venue? How about eighteen holes of black-light miniature golf at a store in the middle of Opryland Mall?

With an hour to burn and nothing else to do before lunch, we grabbed our pink and green putters and knocked glowing balls around in the dark for a little while. The last time I went miniature golfing was on a date with Amy like two years ago, and the last time I went miniature golfing with my homies was like never. Grown men don’t miniature golf together, and they definitely don’t do it in the dark with pink clubs.

It’s no wonder then why five idiots like us would have a great time doing it.

Neely’s BBQ

After golf we all started to get a little hungry, so someone suggested lunch. “Do you have a place planned, Joel?” Craig asked me. “Yes, I do,” I responded. “Is it barbecue again?” “Yup.” “Why do I feel like I’m being punished with meat?”

That’s what she said.

It’s true—we were starting to develop an aversion to ribs, brisket, sweet tea, and cole slaw, but the food was like half the point of taking this trip. No mercy. We were going to eat barbecue again whether we liked it or not.

As it turned out we ended up liking it quite a bit. Other than Cozy Corner, which we still all are convinced is the most delicious BBQ we’ve ever had, Neely’s was the trip’s big runner-up in terms of food. Their hot barbecue sauce was probably the best we had, and their brisket was definitely the most satisfying. Potato salad was top-notch, and the slaw was more than comparable. Cozy Corner’s brisket was a little smokier, which I tend to enjoy, but that’s the only reason I’d still give it the upper hand.

The final standings for barbecue eateries on this trip: Cozy Corner, Neely’s, Pig on Beale, and Jack’s in Nashville a distant fourth. With that out of the way, though, we were ready to tempt our digestive systems with a little variety for the first time in 48 hours.

The Original Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant

And what better way to do that than by shoving fried, breaded chicken skins down our gullets at a local KFC? Normally, with the status of our stuffed bellies, we would’ve found a Salad Hut somewhere or just drank a lot of water, but when you’re visiting the original Kentucky Friend Chicken Restaurant, it’s almost customary to order a piece of Original Recipe.

The only problem was that we were already stuffed to the brim with smoked pork. Kyle, in a desperate attempt to get the full Sanders CafĂ© experience, ordered a single drumstick at the counter, which is something I’ve never seen done before. Knowing how not hungry he was, the little fast food minions fished him the smallest leg they could find in the batch, and the results were some pretty serious questions about little brother’s manhood.

We all ordered something similar—just a piece of chicken and a biscuit—and fiddled around with the KFC accouterments lying around the free museum. For the record, this was our third fast food Graceland, with the first McDonald’s and the first Wendy’s coming into play on road trip number one.

Man O’ War’s Grave

None of us are particularly huge horse racing fans, but when you’re in Kentucky it’s almost too prevalent to ignore. But who would want to? We came to the land of bluegrass to experience the culture, and racing horsies is a big part of that.

When it comes to horses, few were bigger badasses than my good friend Man O’ War, who not only won the Triple Crown in the 1930s but also pimped out his seed to spawn War Admiral, who also won the stinkin’ Triple Crown. So War Admiral and all the rest of Man O’ War’s babies are buried around his gigantic burial area, which is topped off with the most elaborate headstone of any grave any of us had ever seen. Elvis and Johnny Cash had most little resting places; Man O’ War has a life-size statue of himself surrounded by a moat and fountains. What a horse, eh?

8-of-10 Truck Horns

Ed is one of my favorite people in the entire world because he’s constantly full of bad ideas and has the gumption to carry them out. The results are usually a good hearty chuckle, as was the case when the future Dr. Harter decided it would be a good idea to get truckers to honk their horns.

You remember the routine—hang your arm out the window, give the air a couple of imaginary tugs, and keep your fingers crossed that the big bearded guy behind the wheel of the rigger has a good enough humor to entertain you with a toot. Ed’s particular goal on the drive from Lexington to Louisville was to get eight out of ten trucks to honk at him.

At first this proved challenging, as our Horn Doctor started off 1-for-3. He was going to have to get seven in a row if he hoped to remain a real man in society’s eyes. After an incredible three-trucks-in-a-row exhibition which we affectionately nicknamed “The Triple Crown,” Ed wrapped up 8-for-10 comfortably.

The real legend, however, came when Ed gave his best “eight-ball-in-the-side-pocket” face and claimed he’d get truck #11 to honk with only one tug motion for Ed. I’m not kidding you—the kid did it. Absolutely legendary.

Stevie Ray’s Bar

This was a place Kyle had heard of, and we assumed that it would be an awesome bar paying tribute to the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn. Instead, it was about a half-mile walk away from the part of Louisville that felt reasonably safe, and the music provided was an open mic that mostly consisted of artistic hippies strumming angst-riddled emo-blues on an acoustic guitar, wearing doo-rags but no bras. After seeing all the awesome music, Louisville’s big open mic was severely disappointing. It’s easy to see now why Louisville isn’t the birthplace of any awesome music genres like rock and roll or the blues.

On the bright side, brews were like a buck fitty so we got more than our fair share to drink, and the locals were pretty friendly. Kyle even got one to drive him around the city later on that evening while the rest of us dined at the nearest White Castle. Hours and hours away from home, and we choose White Castle as our dinner du jour. Ed ordered one of everything on the menu. It was disgusting.