Where the Bluegrass is Greener: A Stopover in Lexington, Kentucky.

Let the records show that this morning, for the first time in history, we got on the road exactly at the time we planned and not a minute later. That time, sadly, was 6:30 am – we had to be in Calhoun, Tennessee, by 2 pm to visit my company’s operations there (being in the neighbourhood and all!). The ride was pleasant and sunny, passing just below Nashville. There was no time to stop in at country legend Loretta Lynn’s dude ranch in Hurricane Hills, but we did take a quick detour through Murfreesboro, the town Riccardo’s family almost moved to when he was a kid. Ah, what might have been!

Memphis at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am.

Memphis at the ungodly hour of 6:30 am.

Murfreesboro Pawn and Gun, where Riccardo might have worked had his parents moved to Tennessee in the early 90s.

Murfreesboro Pawn & Gun, where Riccardo might have worked had his parents moved to Tennessee in the early 90s.

Once work-related stuff was safely out of the way, it was time to get back on the road. Yes! Onward and upward!

The momentum slowed upon our realizing that we hadn’t really established where we’d go next. Our plans had consisted of “somewhere in Kentucky, maybe” – we wanted to hear some banjos and drink some bourbon – but that was really the extent of any discussion. We beseeched our magic GPS to find us a spot nearby with tasty food and fast wifi so we could sit and figure it out. It was probably a tall order for a town of 496, but sure enough, the magic GPS came through, referring us to a place a couple of miles down the road by the amusing name of “Little Old Jenkins”. That sounded pretty good. It turned out to be perfect – just the type of quaint country barbeque restaurant you want to stumble upon whilst road tripping in rural Tennessee. The waitresses were sweet, Hank Williams Sr. was on the wall, and all the other patrons knew each other. And miraculously, one of the waittresses remembered the wifi password. We shared a pile of succulent pulled pork and took a look at the map.

Shotgun shack in Calhoun, Tennessee.

Shotgun shack in Calhoun, Tennessee.

Little Old Jenkins' - the perfect road trip stopover.

Little Old Jenkins’ – the perfect road trip stopover.

BBQ pork on a baked potato.

BBQ pork on a baked potato.

The outhouse at Little Old Jenkins'. Fortunately, pristine indoor restrooms were also available for less adventurous patrons.

The outhouse at Little Old Jenkins’. Fortunately, pristine indoor restrooms were also available for the less adventurous among us.

It had seemed like a fun idea to drop in and see what was happening in Kentucky, but upon closer inspection, all the routes back to Montreal from there seemed kind of annoying. For a while, the best course of action seemed to be to drive seven or so hours to somewhere in Virginia, spend the night, and drive to Washington, DC, for a couple of days – but somehow that didn’t really appeal to us either. After some deliberation we came up with a new plan: drive to Lexington, Kentucky right away (only five hours away!), hang out there for a day, then come home through Detroit and Toronto. Done! Back to the car!

After ten minutes on the road, we stopped for gas and Riccardo realized with some alarm that… he couldn’t find his wallet.

I refused to panic – it had to be somewhere! We scoured my purse, the computer bag, and then the entire car. Nothing. We surmised that it must have gotten left behind at the restaurant, and envisioned Little Old Jenkins maxing out Riccardo’s credit cards and laughing at his driver’s license photo.

Off we went, back to the restaurant, but the waitresses hadn’t seen anything. Uh-oh. It wasn’t in the parking lot of the mill either. In a last-ditch effort, Riccardo checked the trunk one last time and I searched the inside of the car again.

When he came back to his seat with a sheepish look on his face, I knew immediately that the wallet had surfaced in the stupidest possible place – indeed, it had been in his shirt pocket the whole time. We laughed and laughed! I then negotiated an agreement whereby I have promised to bug him about it for no more than one (1) week. (Exceptionally, I will avoid mentioning it tomorrow, as it is his birthday! After that, teasing will resume at the expected rate.)

Karma reared its ugly head when later, while blindly fumbling in the centre console looking for the iPod, I managed to pick up Riccardo’s espresso from the cup holder and then place it back… UPSIDE DOWN. Don’t even ask how; I have no answers.

We arrived in Lexington, “Horse Capital of America”, around midnight last night, having no idea what to expect. I can now tell you that based on what little we’ve seen so far, it’s terrific. The streets we saw were impeccable and lined with beautiful houses. Unlike other towns of similar size, Lexington seems to have a relatively bustling nightlife (there are several universities, so that helps). It has ethnic restaurants, an annual Pride parade and a sizeable gay club recommended most enthusiastically by the young man who checked us into our hotel. While that was certainly tempting, we opted instead for a quick bite at a 24-hour diner called Tolly-Ho.

I actually considered writing a separate post on Tolly-Ho – something like an ode – because it was that great. Despite its obvious coolness, it’s just so unpretentious – as though it knows it’s a diner, but doesn’t need to hit you over the head with that fact. It manages to ooze 50s-style charm and wholesomeness while keeping the James Dean memorabilia to a minimum. The prices are unbelievable (a massive, delicious cheeseburger is $3, and a beer is $2). The staff are all friendly and highly efficient and one gentleman patiently and helpfully answered our series of burger-related questions. A small shop at the back of the diner sells sundry items like toothpaste and Tylenol, which is probably most appreciated by the late-night crowd.  Even the music was perfect (The Doors was blaring when we walked in). Oh, and the burgers were outstanding.

At 1am, the place was surprisingly hopping with groups of sweet-faced teenage boys goofing off, a teacher sitting alone grading papers, couples of all ages, and several clusters of drunk but adorable early-twenty-somethings. One inebriated young lady was thoughtful enough to hold the door open for us, smiling warmly before tottering off in her ill-fitting heels.

What Lexingtonians eat at 1am.

What Lexingtonians eat at 1am.

The delighful Tolly-Ho diner.

The delighful Tolly-Ho diner.

A sweet note on the wall at Tolly-Ho. Are all Lexingtonians this nice?!

A sweet note on the wall at Tolly-Ho. Are all Lexingtonians this nice?!

Now it’s the next morning and we’re ready to conduct further explorations of Lexington. Obviously, we’re hoping to encounter some bluegrass, some bourbon and some thoroughbreds!

In other news, Riccardo now has a Southern accent. It happened gradually, over the last week or so, and I’m not sure he’s planning to keep it. If he starts wearing cowboy boots and talking about buying guns or fireworks, he might require reintegration training when we get back to Montreal.

This place looks great, but I'd rather stock up for my parties here, rather than at a sterile, monopolistic, corrupt provincial liquor commission with extremely limited selection, within designated hours and at exorbitant prices.

This place looks great, but I’d rather stock up for my parties at a sterile, monopolistic, corrupt provincial liquor commission with extremely limited selection, within designated hours and at exorbitant prices.

Bonus musical selection: big hair, velvet voice, and domestic unrest. It’s the fabulous Loretta Lynn.

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2 thoughts on “Where the Bluegrass is Greener: A Stopover in Lexington, Kentucky.

  1. Wishing you a Happy Birthday cuz (don’t want to miss it)….living vicariously threw you guys…..except for the wallet story!! Enjoy and be safe. Liz and the boyz

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