Monday, February 25, 2013

Wonderful weekend



PAULIE AND SONJA TAKE A SOJOURN

A wonderful weekend celebrating my and my wife's birthday! Mine was the 22nd (Friday) of February and her the 24th (Sunday). We decided to get away for a couple of days and went to check out one of the Kentucky State Resort Parks. We left early Saturday morning, leaving my brother with instructions not to burn the house down, lock the doors and make sure not to leave the water running.

We enjoyed a hearty breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants and off we went. The ride was pleasant...made Lexington in a little over an hour and headed northeast on US 68 towards Blue Licks State Resort Park. All told, the trip took a little over 2 hours...with a gas stop included.

We checked in and the desk clerk started in...giving me a hard time about the Louisville Lacrosse shirt I had on. This is Big Blue Country up here. The restaurant manager joined in and I flatly informed them that if I cancelled the registration, I'd also call my Louisville WBB buddy Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson and let him know why and about the biased employees at this facility. I asked them if they'd like me to take their names. Their attitudes changed immediately. Even got "comped" a free buffet. They assured me they were just kidding around. Quite quickly.

Dickheads.

Anyway, we went to the room and decided to take a hike. They have several trails there and we picked one that was easy to moderate. My knees and I.T. tendon were feeling pretty good, and we did the 2 mile round-trip hike which was pretty easily except for a climb that took us basically straight up to a ridge that overlooked the Licking River. Beautiful view, but even Sonja was tired after that stretch.

The Licking River actually flows from south to north in the stretch we were hiking in. Rivers usually go in the opposite direction. This one loops and cuts a lot...a sign of an older river. Looking for that path of least resistance, like my paper boy does...

We saw evidence of deer tracks, coyote and maybe a raccoon or skunk paw prints. My recognition of the difference between raccoon and skunk paw prints has suffered from lack of usage over the years. Not that I want to track any skunks...

We also drove around the park for awhile after the hike checking out the River Road and actually started out on another trail...but my knee started to lock up on me about a 1/2 mile into it, so we went back to the car.

After showers, we went to dine at the resort dining room. Not bad, the buffet was well-stocked and the beef stew and fried catfish were pretty good. We ate well and with our "buy one, get one free" deal...we left happy and stuffed. I asked one of the servers how far it was to Ohio. They sell a certain beer I like in Ohio. We talked and he informed me that they sold that beer in the Maysville Kroger...a mere 23 miles away.

We decided to make the drive.

BEER AND LOATHING IN MAYSVILLE

The drive to Maysville from Blue Licks State Resort Park on US 68 on a Saturday night can be a flat-out scary thing. We were going speed limit, even pushing 65 mph at times on this 2 lane country road and we got passed at least at half-dozen times by the Busch Brothers or Ricky Bobby. Finally, we hit the bright lights of the big city, though...and looked for Kroger. It is not an easy place to find. We ended up downtown, the historical section of Maysville and went down a cobble road that had several bars and restaurants on it. Ended up going in and had a beverage at a place called the OPERA. The bartender said they didn't have that particular beer (Yuengling) but he knew where Kroger was and also mentioned that the bridge to Ohio was only two blocks away. We finished our beverages and headed for Kroger. We should have gone over the bridge.

This was one big, freaking Kroger! Twice the size of any Kroger I've frequented. The beer aisle was as long as a football field, I swear. All kinds of beer. Plenty of Cincinnati beers, like Christian Moerlin, Burger, Hudepohl and a wide variety of regional beers, but no Yuengling. The clerk had never heard of it (he was only 19, all credit due...) but told us Kroger had a liquor and wine store right next door and they might know about it. Off we went.

The cashier at the liquor store told us that no one in Kentucky sold Yuengling. Some sort of small -batch brewery thingie. He said it would be 2015 before it would be available for purchase in Kentucky, I told him I didn't want to wait that long, but thanked him and left after purchasing a bottle of Ballatore for Sonja. Off to Ohio we were headed.

THEY'RE RAIDING THE MARATHON GAS AND GROCERY!

Back down the hill we went to Maysville and then over the bridge to Aberdeen, Ohio. We spotted a Marathon station soon after we crossed the bridge. A most interesting two lane bridge, lit up like the bridge in Apocalypse Now...without the gunfire and 'Roach'.  We went in, up to the beer doors and there was one six-pack of Yuengling left on the shelf. I hadn't driven all this way for one stinking six-pack of beer, so I asked the clerk if there was any that hadn't been put on the shelves. She went to check. In the meantime, two guys walked in and each grabbed a 12-pack of Natti Light.

Seriously? You live in Ohio, where you can get Yuengling every day if you want and you're rockin' the Natti Light? The cashier starts sliding 12 packs of Yuengling from the cooler floor to the shelf. She stops at four. I open the door and tell her to keep them coming. She tells me that is all they have.

I have bought a store out of beer...well, at least one brand. Reminds me of the time I drank a hotel bar out of Michelob...but that's another story, another time.

I motion for the Natti Light guys to proceed me to the register. They thank me and make their purchase. Sonja and I are hauling Yuengling to the register and she's ringing it up. 54 bottles of Yuengling will last me a pretty long time. I'm giving a 12 pk. to Mondo Vendo, because he's my buddy and likes Yuengling also. Plus he has a daughter getting married this week. He's gonna need it.

So, we get the beer loaded in the trunk and back to the state resort park we go. More Mario Andretti and Speed Racer stuff on the way back. One guy passed me doing well over a 100 mph...I am sure. Sounded like a jet airplane rolling by me. US 68 on a Saturday Night shenanigans. Not for the faint-heated. Finally, back to the resort room. With a bottle of Ballatore and six-pack of Yuengling, a most enjoyable night.

THE BRIDGES OF SEVERAL COUNTIES

I dig old, wooden covered bridges. In this part of Kentucky, there are eight of them. We decided to go check a couple of them out Sunday morning after breakfast. We got a map, poorly designed, that showed the approximate location of them. We found the first two without any trouble, the first one was just a few miles from the resort park and the second one a few more miles down the road. Beautiful, unique structures...not in the best of shape and all but one not designed for vehicle travel anymore...but we were able to walk across them and check them out. I like checking out the different types of support structure and the styles of roofing. These were pretty basic but well built.

What gets me is litter. At each one, down the side of the bodies of water they spanned....people had dumped trash. Old containers, plastic and glass. Deplorable. Seriously, folks?

Finding the third bridge was a bit tougher. We finally pulled into an old general store/gas station and got directions. Sonja did, anyway...guys don't ask for directions, right? She emerged with directions to two bridges and two bottles of Ale Eight One...a local soft drink that tastes like ginger ale. We found both bridges...the best two bridges that we saw. It was getting toward mid-afternoon after seeing the final one, so we decided to head back to Louisville. As luck would have it, we were able to pick up 790 AM and listen to the Louisville vs. Villanova women's basketball game on the drive back. Cards won, too! I enjoy listening to Matt Andrews and Adrienne Johnson call a game. Sonja does, too.

A great weekend! The house was still standing when we got back to Fern Creek and brother was asleep. Plenty of time to relax before the Academy Awards and The Walking Dead came on TV.

Any guesses on how long the Yuengling lasts?


-Paulie





Friday, February 8, 2013

The Road to the Derby


I'm coming out early this year with my Derby horses this year. This is a departure from my normal "wait and see", checking out the prep races, doing mind-numbing stat-checking and reading all the experts' prognostications. The previous strategy hasn't done very well for me over the last several years. I briefly looked at I'll Have Another and dismissed him. Animal Kingdom never entered into my final five. Street Sense, Smarty Jones and Barbaro were horses I liked early on...in recent years, so I'm going back to the old playbook.

Verazzano, GoldenCents and Itsmyluckyday.

There you have it. My top three.

I absolutely love the way Verazzano has won his last two races. A strong stretch runner, which will bode him well at Churchill. The way he crushed a good field at Gulfstream sold me. 20 lengths and was under a hand ride from the 1/8th pole in. If horses were rock stars, this would be Bruce Springsteen. He's the boss, the bomb. I've seen two horses I'll mention who dominated in this fashion early in the 3-yr old campaign that I can remember who left a similiar impression on me. Hansen and Arazi. Neither won the Derby. That's the only thing that worries me. Everything else is all good and he's my top pick.

GoldenCents is impressive as well. Although he looked to fade a bit in his last win as he hit the wire, I attribute that to trainer instructions and the jockey...Kevin Krigger. I hope that Doug O'Neill puts someone on this horse besides "the Krig". He's not one of my favorite riders. A Rick Pitino owned horse, I was in the Gold Room at Churchill Downs when GoldenCents won his last race. So was was Pitino. I asked Rick, after congratulating him on the win, if they were going to stay with K.K. on board. He said yes. I hope it doesn't comeback to bite him.

Itsmyluckyday. A driving win to knock off Shanghai Bobby and setting a track record in the HolyBull Stakes. Showing good foot in the final 1/16th to pull off a big upset. It's  a long, long stretch at Churchill Downs. Speed can fade. I'll never forget my excitement a few years ago when Noble's Promise loomed menacingly at the top of stretch and looked like he was ready to pull past the field. Sadly, he didn't have the finishing kick. A case of a horse that excelled in a mile or shorter, in his prime. Itsmyluckyday seems capable of getting a mile and a quarter. Whether he'll be able to gain on Verazzano or GoldenCents...who knows?

There is a lot of racing to be ran before the first Saturday in May. There will be injuries, up-start contenders, injuries, feel-good stories galore and media hype. Wise guy picks and longshot, upset selections. There always are, there always will be.

My favorite Derby story is from over 30 years ago. I was still living in Indianapolis but planned on returning to Louisville for Derby Week. Ready to hook up with friends and hit Thursday thru Saturday racing at Churchill. Crashing with the parents for a week, the prodigal son returning with a racing form tucked under his arm...driving the worst car ever made...the infamous Chevrolet Chevette. I hit them hard at Churchill that Thursday. Walked out of there over $400 to the good and didn't roll back into the parents' house until the sun was starting to peek over the eastern horizon. A few hours sleep and back at it. An average Friday...maybe broke even, but after expenses and a great night walking the Central Avenue with a few friends and partying until 2 a.m...I came back to the hose down about $100. I slept in and wasn't ready to head to the Churchill Downs infield until almost noon. My mom stopped me as I was headed out the back door. She wanted to give me money for a Derby bet. She has been watching Derby Day coverage and heard that there was a horse named Gato Del Sol running. Translated from Spanish to English, this was Cat of the Sun.

We had a Siamese cat named Lotus who liked to lay on a front window sill on sunny days and soak up the sun. This was Mom's "Sun Cat" I checked the paper. The horse was 20-1. I told her she didn need to give me any money. I'd put $2 to win on it for me...on me. She frowned. She went to her purse and handed me a $10 with instructions to put $5 to win and $5 to place. I promised I would and took off.

I was pretty well lit after a few hours in the infield Derby Day. Ran into a few old frat brothers out there and the Jim Beam was flowing. I was having a rough wagering day and decided to hold off on any further wagering until the Derby race. I got in line to bet it, and the lines were going very, very slow...as they do in the infield on Derby Day. I liked Air Forbes Won in the 1982 Kentucky Derby and planned on betting him $20 across the board. Finally, with precious few minutes left, I reached the teller's window. I placed my wager. I had started to turn and go when I remembered Mom's bet. I checked the money in my pocket. I had a $50 and some loose change. I told the teller to give me $20 to win and $20 to place on Gato Del Sol. I then headed off to the nearest beer stand and the race started while I was in line. I had $200 in my wallet and a buzz on.

Mike Battaglia was calling the race and he's hard to understand to begin with. With a roaring infield crowd, I was catching only bits and pieces of the call. But I did hear Air Forbes Won called throughout the race. Air Forbes Won took the lead at the top of the stretch and I was ecstatic.

Then, fate changed. The words Gato Del Sol started flowing from Battaglia's lips. At the wire, the Sun Cat had outshone them all and had won the Kentucky Derby. Air Forbes Won faded to a dismal 7th.

$44.20 on a $2 win ticket. $19.60 on a $2 place ticket. I had that...10X.

I waited awhile before hitting the window. I calmly remained in line for my beers, got two of them and headed over and sat down in the grass near the restrooms. Watching the scene. Amazed, shocked and bombed. Finally, I went to the window. The teller ran the tickets and smiled broadly.

"Good for you, sir!" she laughed and counted out $638. I slid $38 back at her. I'd been going to her window all day. Always tip those who serve you.

I left then. Rolling with the masses through the tunnel, several blocks to the car and sitting in traffic. Normal post-Derby stuff. When I arrived home that night, after stopping off and "hoisting a few" at a bar where a buddy worked, Mom was still up. I smiled broadly and handed her eight $20 bills...roughly her share of the win.

"How did you do on the race?" she finally asked after her excitement waned.

"I got sunburned, too...ma." I flashed the $600 something left in my wallet.

Good times.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Super Bowl, Super Miss



Super miss, for me. Went to the annual Super Bowl party that I normally go to each year with my wife. Always a good time, good to see good friends. About halftime, though...my stomach started doing backflips and 360 slam dunks. Wasn't from drinking either, as some of you might have guessed. I  had exactly one half of one beer and a shot of tequila. Food? Don't think it was that.

Anyway, managed to make it to the host's bathroom and, well....it got ugly. Made it back to his living room, sat there awhile and the roller coaster started up again. This time, my wife actually had to help me get to the facilities..my stomach was hurting so bad. Another phone call to "Earl" on the big, white phone.

She'd seen enough.

"You're sick" she matter-of-factly told me and I agreed. She hauled me out to the car and drove me home, sticking a plastic garbage bag in my lap. Unfortunately, it was used.

Straight to bed, missed the finish of the game and slept till 8 a.m. the next morning. Had to get up and finish an article for CARDINAL COUPLE. Back to bed, up again at 1:00 p.m. to go to work. A rough night, my stomach dancing like Hari Krishnas' in an airport. Home, back to bed.

Tuesday morning finds me feeling slightly better but still queasy and nauseous. Talked to a buddy this morning who tells me I've got the bug that's going around, Said he had it for 3 days a couple of weeks ago. Says I'll feel better by Wednesday, if it follows the same course as his.

It stinks. I'm surviving on Gatorade, scrambled eggs, chicken soup and toast. Forutnately, it's all stayed in place for the last 14 hours.

I actually won a jackpot for one of the quarters on the Super Bowl board I get on each year. Karen has my money, but honestly...I felt too damn rough to stop by and pick it up last night. Maybe tonight, maybe not. It's not going anywhere and after work today, I think another good night's rest is in order.

Which also stinks, because Tuesday Night is one of my two "TV Evenings". NCIS, NCIS LA and Vegas. We'll see. As of 10:40 a.m., though...Tuesday morning, I wish I had a sick day or two built up.

We nod a sympathetic head when someone tells us of their maladies. When that long, black train rolls around though and hits you squarely in the ass, you realize just exactly what they are going through.

I rarely get sick. This sucks, quite frankly. I'm against it and wish it would go away.

Peace.