Touristy Tuesday: Louisville, KY

I initially intended the Race for 50 States blog to take shape as race recaps, running updates, and pretty much all things related to my quest to see all 50 states from the view of a finish line. Since starting to blog, I’ve been doing a lot more running around the country and these Touristy Tuesday blogs have been a great way to chronicle those adventures.

This half of the job though has involved quite a bit more racing about, including a stint of traveling that involved seven different beds in seven days. (Let’s just say, I know how to pack these days!) While hopping from city to city should just give me more material for these Touristy Tuesday posts, I’ve gotten a little lax and I’m due an update!

Back in March Eliot and I loaded up the company car and headed to Louisville, Kentucky. Hurray! 10 weeks into my new half in the Midwest and this was the first new city to me. While in the Southwest almost everywhere Abe and I went was new, and while I’ve certainly had a slew of fresh adventures, none of the destinations up until this point have been uncharted territory.

After a drive the should have taken just four hours, but ended up an eight hour trek, Eliot and I finally pulled into our hotel in Louisville. It had been a day marked by Chicago traffic, hiding out in the back of the “bun” to take a conference call, a gas stop turned parade in a small town, and a crawl across the Kentucky state line during rush hour.

I try to get my picture at every state sign, but these bridge borders never work out. Traffic was so slow I just popped out the bun roof!

I try to get my picture at every state sign, but these bridge borders never work out. Traffic was so slow I just popped out the bun roof!

Exhausted and just ready for bed, Eliot and I started loading up the luggage cart. If there is one time that the peppy Hotdogger persona isn’t totally on, it’s after a long drive day. With only a few weeks left though, I’ve been committed to singing that jingle as many times as consumers want and finishing strong. So when we were swarmed at our hotel first thing I made my famous puns as I threw Eliot our suitcases and duffle bags.

As we finally made our way toward the hotel I saw one of the guys we were talking to head to his truck. It was wrapped in a giant Italian flag and said Steve-O’s Italian Kitchen on the back. I jokingly called out, “Hey Steve-O, ya making us dinner tonight? We could use a break from hot dogs!” Well, as it turned out, Steve-O was making dinner!


We drove out to Buckner, KY, population 2,000, where Steve-O’s was the hottest restaurant in “town.” Not only was the food amazing (he let us try ALL of his different desserts, even cutting the pie into slim slices for me) but he was terrific.


You could tell Steve-O was just a really nice guy and all his customers knew and loved him. There is definitely something to be said for small-town America! Even though we were clearly there with the Wienermobile, with hot dogs on every article of clothing Eliot and I had on, no one came up to us while we were eating and Steve-O implored us to just kick back and relax. What a great start to our time in Louisville!


The rest of our first week in Louisville had its ups and downs. There was a state park half a mile from the hotel with a fitness loop, so I thought I would be able to get some good runs in. Unfortunately I was hit with the flu the second day in town. Again?! I took it easy after that so I would be ship-shape for spring break. We watched a LOT of Food Network on our off days that week.


Even though it was low key, Eliot and I still managed to get out and see the Louisville Slugger museum downtown. (I know, I know – where is the photo of the Wienermobile next to the giant baseball bat? How did we miss that!) Eliot is a baseball aficionado and while I love games as an excuse to eat brats I’ve never been that passionate about the sport. Since being partners I’ve gotten my share of history though, from the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City (you’d know about that if I ever blogged) to this!


The museum itself was really neat. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I love seeing how stuff is made! All of their bats are made in that factory, which I think is pretty cool. Our tour guide was hilarious and hit a few home runs with his puns. Eliot and I were the only ones to laugh, and knowing the pain of a pun met with silence, I made sure to chuckle extra loud.

The tour ended and we got our mini slugger bats. That was good for me. Eliot actually had one personalized and I felt bad we didn’t have a ball that I could toss to him so he could put it to the test right away! There was also a small lego exhibit, with recreations of Wrigley Field and Miller Park. Wrigley is definitely my home stadium (ya know – because I’m SUCH a Cubs fan – haha, not really) and actually being a huge Brewer’s fan, Eliot loved the recreation of Miller Park. Not only were those awesome because they’re huge, life-like replicas of landmarks made entirely of Legos, but they also were littered with things to find, like Waldo, the Simpons, and the car from the Blues Brothers – which was obviously in the Wrigley Field display. I was a little disappointed they didn’t hide Ferris Bueller in the Chicago scene too!


If Louisville is known first for their bats, this spring they are known second for basketball. We were in town at the peak of March Madness, which was really fun to experience. The city slowly started to become more and more covered in University of Louisville Cardinal red as the teams progressed. Our first week in town we did a morning show interview and it happened to work out that the Women’s Basketball Coach, Jeff Walz did his interview in the Wienermobile as well. Talk about a great guy. We nick-named him Jumbo Dog Jeff and Eliot and I decided we were Louisville fans until the end.

Click here to see that interview + plus another awkward interview with Deli Eliot & Cookout Kelly. 

Of course, we ended up leaving town at 6 p.m. on Saturday – the night of the Men’s Championship Game, but as we cross Kentucky and Indiana on our way to St. Louis I had Eliot checking the score left and right. It was almost like we were there … almost!

Our time in Louisville was split up, with a week off for our spring break. (I know, rough life, right?) I returned to Louisville a few days early to do the Run the Bluegrass half marathon in Lexington. While it is always fun to explore a city with your teammate, I honestly love solo adventuring just as much!

Easter Sunday I decided to check off a few things that I’ve been wanting to do lately. I had been running in the state park, but knew that the area had quite a few gorgeous parks perfect for hiking. Not wanting to end up stranded and lost in the woods alone, I looked up a local hiking group on the site (If you haven’t heard of it, check it out – it’s a great way to meet people with similar interests and not really have to plan anything yourself – just show up!)

Louisville Hike

The hike was wonderful! We did about 4-5 miles through Jefferson Memorial Forrest, which was a good stretch for my legs after the hilly half marathon the day before. I was really impressed to hear that Louisville is currently connecting all of these different parks with a 100 mile hiking/equestrian trail. The group was really diverse and it was a fun way to spend the afternoon, get outdoors, and get a little muddy.


But it was Easter and I’m just as much a fan of getting dressed up and wearing pastels as anyone else. After spending winter bundled up in extra layers and boots I was craving a day to feel feminine again, even if it was just for dinner on my own. I mean, why not!


I drove into downtown Louisville and had dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory. (I would have loved something more local, but most places were closed for Easter.) Since it was a holiday and not too busy I scored a seat in the train car, which I’m not even embarrassed to admit was pretty fun. After that I headed to the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts to see this musical I had been hoping to see.


The musical was called “Urinetown.” Ok, Ok, let me at least provide you with the show description before you start judging my taste. “In an attempt to regulate water consumption, Urinetown has outlawed the use of private toilets. The citizenry must use public, pay-per-use amenities owned and operated by Urine Good Company, a malevolent corporation run by the corrupt Caldwell B. Cladwell.”

I figured it would be pretty funny and I was right. It was a small theater, 100 seats and only 25 were filled, which made for a very intimate experience. As much as I love big Broadway performances, I like local theater just as much because you can tell how much fun the performers are having!

While I’m not particularly religious, I do get into the Easter spirit, even beyond wearing pastels. Since I made it into town before Eliot, and I knew he would be driving back in the middle of the night, I thought it would be fun to have a surprise waiting for him – Easter eggs! I created a make-shift Easter egg hunt for him, hiding eggs in the microwave, on the soap holder, and behind the blinds.


He brought back an Easter surprise for me too, homemade snacky-snacks courtesy of his mom Carol. Yummo!


On our next off day we decided to go underground ziplining. We had seen billboards advertising this place on that long drive into Louisville the week before. Billboard attractions are always hit or miss. The berry picking in Bakersfield that Abe and I did on a drive day – totally worth it. (Side note: I was so tan back then.) Little America, the nicest bathrooms in Wyoming – not so much. Leery, I looked into underground ziplining online and was met with rave reviews on TripAdvisor.


It turned out to be awesome! They squeezed us in (I think something about a giant hot dog being parked out front helped) and we headed out to the cave. You might think, as we naturally did, that this place would be somewhere remote. Nope! There were signs that boasted, “You are now under K-Mart!” and “You are now under the interstate!” This cave is literally right below the Louisville Zoo!


Ziplining was a blast. It was a lot of hurry-up-and-wait with all the hooking and unhooking of our 12 year old companions. (We landed a spot on the tour with a gaggle of middle school girls on spring break. I felt like I fit right in, Eliot didn’t share that sense of comfort unfortunately.) Even while we were waiting for our turns, the tour guides were hilarious and it was so much fun to watch these pre-teen girls running around.


The last zipline is a very steep, racing zipline course. Eliot and I are both competitive by nature and the only skill this took was being the first to jump off the platform. Being the wuss I am, it took me a half a second longer than Eliot and he glided into a first place finish.


That was it for Louisville. I never did get my big fancy Derby hat that was on my bucketlist for the city and we didn’t make it out to Churchill Downs. I’m OK with that though, because I would LOVE to go back to Louisville. Honestly, I think it’s a city I could easily live in. Very outdoorsy, yet also cosmopolitan, and the people and the weather are great! I never envisioned myself turning into a Kentucky girl, but who knows – I think I’d look pretty good for Derby each year!


Touristy Tuesday: Claremont, CA Edition

This week we reluctantly left Monterey and headed back to the LA area! The drive down had it’s highs and lows, as in – low on gas and high on stress.

After the six hour drive, Abe and I checked into the hotel. As Mitch Hedberg would say, “I can’t tell you what hotel I’m staying at… but there are two trees involved.” I booked the hotel in Claremont, CA which is where my friend Aaron from my Mizzou days lives. I knew it was a cute area with a lot to do, and as an added bonus it turned out Aaron only lived about a mile away from the hotel!

Our first night in town Abe and I met up with Aaron for dinner. We went downtown to Claremont Village to a local place called Eureka Burger. They both tried the beer samplers, but I went with a local white wine. We all had early bedtimes that night though (Aaron being in med school and all) so we called it a night after dinner.

On our first day off Abe and I were determined to have a Ferris-Bueller style day, only the LA version. The La Brea Tar Pits, Hollywood, Sunset Blvd., the sign, were all on our to-do list. To start the day we met up with Kevin, another friend of Abe’s from the military. Kevin was also playing tourist for the day and was seeing a lot of the sights for the first time as well.

After picking up Kevin in the company car we took off to the La Brea Tar Pits. I felt like I had done my homework, having watched the movie Volcano at least somewhat recently!

I was a little disappointed when neither Tommy Lee Jones nor Don Cheadle were there to greet us with news of an impending geological disaster, but it was still very cool!

The geology nerd in me loved it! The tar pits are actually asphalt and on cool days they’re not even viscous! Our tour guide Jesse was an absolute doll and I wish I had time to ask him where he went to school and what he studied that led him to the Tar Pits. He was outshined though by these two middle school boys who knew an impressive amount about geology and spent the entire tour WOWing all of the adults!

From the La Brea Tar Pits we moved on to your more traditional LA experience – Hollywood Boulevard! Having already been to Hollywood several times, consistently pretty disappointed, my hopes weren’t too high. Well let me tell you, when you’re driving a 27′ long hot dog it’s a lot more fun!

At the Walk of Fame in Hollywood – Foreshadowing of things to come this week!

We also grabbed some equally enormous slices of pizza while on the strip.

This pizza this came from is 28″ in diameter!

With the promise of a shiny dime to whoever saw the Hollywood sign first, we set off to find it. What’s weird is that it’s surprisingly difficult to see around Hollywood! We looked up the best place to take pictures of the sign at, and sure enough, we ended up getting some good ones!

That night Kevin and Abe hit the town, while I hit the sack. I had hopes for a big run in the morning and felt I had already had my fill of dates with celebrities for the year! You would think exercising such good judgment would have scored me some good karma points, but that next day was when the company car spent the morning parked along the freeway.

Thursday we were off to Torrance, California for the town’s 100th Birthday and classic car show. With the company car still in the shop we joked that she also had a birthday this week – her 76th birthday, and at that age everyone needs a little TLC. However, Penske called us at the event and we were able to pick up the Wienermobile and surprise everyone at the event.

Even with the company car in attendance, she still may have been one-upped by some even cooler cars and drivers.

Friday night I headed back down to Claremont Village with Aaron. Before we went out for the night, I stopped by his house and formally met Mr. Bittles, his cat. While the cat was a new addition to the Chambers’ household, I recognized a few familiar items from his college days. Including some scandalous coasters I may have jokingly made one Friday Crafternoon and the infamous OPEN sign.

It was a high class evening with drinks at the Hip Kitty Jazz and Fondue Bar. The Band – Big Papa and the TCB – was incredible! You might actually recognize some of their work – they do the song in the Papa John’s commercial.

I stuck with white wine for the fondue, but switched to my new favorite – Black Russians – later in the night. I meant to be in bed by 10:00, but between the music and the good conversation that just wasn’t going to happen. I love catching up with Aaron when I’m in LA because we always have so much fun together and pretty much have an identical sense of quirky and sarcastic humor.

On our final night in Claremont I convinced Abe to do something I had been wanting to do since we arrived – go see the Music Man at the Claremont Dinner Theater, which was next door to our hotel.

I absolutely adore musicals. I mean, one summer in Kansas City I saw the entire summer lineup of broadway shows at the Starlight Theater. If that’s not enough, my iTunes is pretty much a show choir soundtrack. Being an Iowa girl, I especially love The Music Man! It’s so whimsical and charming, with such good tunes, that it will never get old. After talking Abe into going, he convinced his friend Duane to come with us – I guess misery loves company!

We all had a blast though! The dinner portion was, admittedly, just alright – your typical banquet chicken/beef/veggie + starch options. The drinks and cast were phenomenal! We caught the show on its very last evening performance and you could tell the cast was really putting their all into it. Everyone from Music Man Harold Hill to little Winthrop was outstanding!

I had one more stop in the area before I could call the week a success though. My friend Michelle from Mizzou, who I have known since the first day of freshman year, had moved back home to China my senior year and I hadn’t seen her in about 15 months. She since has returned but transferred to Cal State – San Bernadino – right in the area! Monday we managed to get together for lunch and catch up!

This last week in Claremont has been really great – the perfect mix of adventure and playing tourist, but also getting together with college friends.

Up next: Simi Valley, California. It’s just the first day of the new week and I already know the next edition of Touristy Tuesday is going to be awesome! But as always – any recommendations for what to do, where to eat, or people to meet in Simi Valley?