Kentucky: Louisville Sluggers, Mohammed Ali, & Daniel Boone
When I visit a new state or country, I try my best to visit not only the largest city and main attractions, but also some smaller cities and lesser-known attractions. Though my main draw to Kentucky was Louisville, I stopped first in Lexington and enjoyed their weekly Thursday Night Live, a well-attended downtown outdoor party featuring live music and local food. I opted to get my dinner from the hot buffet at the Lexington Cooperative Market (great veg options!), and headed south to the home of a friend in the small town of Richmond. We enjoyed our meals on his front porch, where we watched the sun set over cornfields and ate organic blackberries and cherry tomatoes from his garden. The next day, we headed to Daniel Boone National Forest, where my 67-year-old friend gave me a run for my money as he led me on an obstacle course that required my climbing large rocks, balancing on tree trunks, and leapfrogging across the Red River. He attributes his good health to an organic, vegetarian diet and regular physical activity.
My first stop in Louisville was the much talked about Muhammad Ali Center. Never a fan of boxing, I nearly skipped this attraction but am so glad that I decided to go. While the center certainly did detail Ali's boxing achievements and have a ring and punching bag for guests to try out, much of the museum was dedicated to social justice, civil rights, and the various hurdles that Ali and other blacks and Muslims faced in our country. After four hours in the Ali Center, I headed a few blocks away to the Louisville Slugger Museum, where, as a non-baseball fan, I took a quick spin through the galleries, which also included a small section on women's baseball history, a movie theater, and Ripley's Believe it or Not rooms that included shrunken heads and pictures of Lou Gherig auditioning for the lead role in the Tarzan movie. My highlight of the museum visit was the tour of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory where young, knowledgeable guides explain the bat-making process as guests stand only a few feet from machines that carve, sand, paint, and engrave the world-famous bats. The tour included a miniature Louisville Slugger bat that airport TSA security promptly confiscated. Apparently small bats are prohibited weapons that need to go in checked luggage.
Next up was the 21C Museum Hotel, a hotel/museum and trendy restaurant/bar that had several modern exhibits on display. I was struck by a provocative exhibit of religious buildings made out of guns and ammunition that served as a commentary on violence, persecution, and religion. After spending all of Friday in the museums, I headed to Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park, where crowds gathered on wooden benches to watch The Winter's Tale on an impressive permanent stage. Theater-goers brought picnic baskets from home or purchased meals from several food trucks on site. Though the acting was quite good and I wanted to enjoy the play, I arrived 15 minutes late and had no idea what was going on so I headed home for an early night.
Saturday was spent on a bicycle I borrowed from my host. It was nearly 100 degrees and impossibly humid but I managed to ride 30 miles around Louisville, through well-built parks that boasted bike repair stations but lacked trail signage and led me to at least three dead ends. I biked into southern Indiana via the Big Four Bridge, a decommissioned railroad bridge that is wrapped in a brilliantly colored LED lighting system that activates at twilight. Sunday was spent at a meditation class and perusing the Speed Art Museum, which is free on Sundays. Note that the museum also has a cinema and hosts film events, listed on the museum's calendar. Though I had hoped to visit Mammoth Cave and Lincoln's birthplace in Central Kentucky, my ride fell through so I wound up hitchhiking to Memphis on Monday morning. I'd say that I made the most of 3 days in Louisville.
P.S. For more info on northern Kentucky, see my previous post on Cincinnati, where I biked around Covington and Newport Kentucky, quaint cities along the Ohio River.