Day 124-125 • July 3-4, 2012 • Hodgenville to Bardstown, KY • 47 miles
The heat wave continued but we managed to combine some quality sightseeing with decent mileage. Illinois may be the Land of Lincoln, but Kentucky makes it very clear whence he came. In Hodgenville we were in striking distance of both Lincoln’s birthplace and his boyhood home. We chose to explore his birthplace because it was on route and a national park, which had visions of another Junior Ranger badge dancing in Zoe’s head. As for the heat: a common comment from locals we met was “I’ve lived here all my life and have never seen heat and drought like this.” The average high temperature for Bardstown in July is 88 degrees and we were on at least day 10 of 100+ degree heat with no sign of it ending. And it wasn’t just Kentucky, if you traced our route backward it was like this all the way to the Colorado front range. I had to chuckle about the drought comments—it still looked shockingly green to me. But the farmers weren’t laughing as they generally don’t irrigate here and some were facing crop failure. Much of the corn was stunted or simply not producing ears.
We followed the Adventure Cycling maps today which had us meandering about on various county back roads. We could have significantly shortened the ride by taking Highway 31E to Bardstown but in this area the back roads looked better. 31E is straighter but still very narrow with a lot of traffic. A few miles from Bardstown we met a local who gave us the skinny on maximizing our tourist time in the Bourbon Capitol of the World. He also described the day in 1997 when much of the Heaven Hill distillery, visible from his house, went up in flame. Here is what 90,000 gallons of Kentucky bourbon looks like as a bomb—keep this in mind, aspiring moonshiners. The Heaven Hill distillery is a short distance from where we camped at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, so we took a tour the next day. It was an excellent tour, though Zoe didn’t appreciate being left out of the tasting. Not that she wanted to taste whiskey, whew!, she just didn’t like being left out. You can smell sweet bourbon all over the countryside around here, and Zoe does not like the smell. The bourbon tour won’t be on her list of highlights for the ride.
Bardstown was the biggest town around so we decided to stay another night to catch some fireworks. At the other end of the park we saw The Stephen Foster Story, an outdoor musical about his life that has been running continuously since 1958, and stayed to watch an excellent fireworks show from our seats. Zoe got caught up in the costumes and pretty dresses from the 1850’s. It was a fun evening but another sweltering night in the tent.