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The Long Tale of the Derby

Okay, enough time has passed and I've procrastinated enough to provide you with a detailed(enough) account of the events of and pertaining to the trip we took to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.

After we arrived in Louisville, we parked in a fantastic spot right on Fourth Street and walked over to "Fourth Street Live!" which is an all-at-once development in downtown Louisville that was planned, assembled, and constructed by the Cordish company in Baltimore. It was kind of eerie seeing all the bars and restaurants, because many of them are also in Kansas City's brand new Power and Light District. But along with some less impressive names like Wendy's and the US Post Office, Fourth Street Live! also had an excellent British-styled beer bar called, simply, The Pub.

Erp, Amber and I sat down in The Pub and enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine and warmth coming through the opened front windows, along with some of their well-poured beers. After we finished there we walked back down the street to the patio at Bluegrass Brewing Company, or BBC as it is locally known. We greedily clutched some beers as we waited for Michael and Liana to arrive, and confirm my status that weekend as a fifth wheel.

After a couple of beers and catching up at the BBC, we all agreed it was time to move on. Prior to leaving Kansas City, I consulted Beerfly, as I always do when I travel, to find a good beer bar in Louisville. The place that seemed to have the best aggregate review was a place called Flanagan's Ale House, which was about a mile from the BBC over on a diagonal street that points away from downtown called Baxter. On the map it looked to be a simple five or six minute trip. Unfortunately though, there was a parade just getting out, so the traffic was horrendous. On top of the fact that we were sitting in parking lot traffic, the police had most of the streets blocked off, specifically designed to direct the thousands of cars back to the highway so they could all go back to their far-flung homes.

So, getting to Flanagan's took over an hour. We literally could have walked faster, there and back, but we were parked on the street, and feeding the meter would have been highly unpleasant from a mile away. When we got reasonably close we kind of threw our hands into the air and just grabbed a curb parking spot and walked the remaining three or four blocks past the stopped cars with drivers agitated as we had been or more.

Flanagan's is a great bar, and they have a lot of beer available in bottles, but the tap selection is pretty austere. We grabbed a table on the back patio, and the other four people lit up all at the same time. I think it's great that they were able to relax, but the smoke got to me after a while. I probably should have said something. We stopped at one more place on the way back, and went back to the hotel for deep sleep and breathe-right strips for me.

Everybody was up and about by about 9am, and helped themselves to free breakfast. Erp and Amber slipped away for some private time in Louisville, leaving me with nothing to do in particular. So, I went with Liana and her mother to find and choose adornments for the hat that she'd be wearing for the derby the next day. It was a hoot. For real, I actually had a good time.

After that, Michael and Liana and I went to the White Castle that was fortuitously located next to our hotel, and ate many many teeny tiny burgers. We retired to the hotel lobby after that, where I taught them how to play Maui. But Maui is really hard to play with only three people. Craig and Amber came back late in the afternoon, and we spread a map out in front of us to decide where to go for leisure time that night. It showed all of Shelby County, Kentucky, which seemed to extend for about ten miles in all directions from Shelbyville. My suggestion was that we just drive the twenty miles to Frankfort and find something downtown. This opinion was brushed off by everyone else though even though nobody would think twice about driving 45 miles to Louisville.

Anyway, we wound up just piling into the rental and driving down the main drag of Shelbyville. We were about to turn around, and Criag was indeed in the process thereof, when we spotted a bar in an unexciting building on the side of the road. We figured it'd be as nice a place as any, and wandered in. Liana lost her footing in a frantic attempt to get inside out of the slightly-drizzling rain. Her tumble was apparently watched in full by the bar's patrons inside. No matter, we thought. It was time for a beer, and possibly some food.

Sergio's, as the place turned out to be called, features about fifteen taps of carefully selected beer, and as of the day of our visit, six hundred and fourteen different bottles of beer. As I always enjoy, Liana, Michael, and Amber for the most part deferred to my judgement for beer selections, and were pleased with the choices I made for them. Sergio himself, a Brazilian immigrant who had to tell us he was not actually from the US, served the beers and was happy to fill us in about any beer-related knowledge he had. The beer was fresh, delicious, and served in chalice-like glasses. When we finished our beers, our bottles were not picked up, much to our confusion. But it allowed for a feeling of accomplishment as the table was quickly and completely covered with dead soldiers.

All payment is made at the register on the way out. Sergio advised us that if we had forgotten the number or nature of the beers we drank, to just bring up our bottles as we paid. So that was why. We made it back to the hotel in time for Letterman and a deep and heavy sleep. I was awakened seven hours later by the sound of the Angry German Kid that I set as the wake-up ringer on my phone. We got hastily dressed, and by 7am we were standing out in the gloom and drizzle, ready to go. Liana's aunt was in a very big hurry to get going, but once we reached them on the highway in front of us, we found that they were driving at ten miles below the limit in open traffic. "Oh well," we thought. "We're on vacation."

We arrived at Churchill Downs about 40 minutes later, and found a free parking spot on the street in a nearby neighborhood. Apparently the folks in the other car were approached by a large man when they parked who offered to "watch their car," for twenty dollars. When they told him that they weren't worried about it, he rebuked them with, "this place is ghetto. Your car isn't safe here." Near where we parked there were lots of piece of the curb that were blocked off with milk crates and garbage cans, so that the local residents could try to charge people to park there. Everybody's trying to make a buck.

The pictures can speak better of the Derby itself, and this entry is getting long, so I'll just say that though it was the first Kentucky Derby I've attended, it certainly won't be the last. It was extremely fun, and the weather cleared completely within an hour of our arrival. We never even got wet. Beautiful women beyond count were all around, dressed better than I'm used to seeing women dress for weddings. The sun became kind of oppressive, though it never got hot out. I lost about $175 in wagers and won about eight dollars. As far as I'm concerned, the 2009 Derby is a go.

1:45 PM, May 8, 2008

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