Thursday, September 27, 2012


For someone who does not drink, I have been to a few breweries (Anheuser-Busch, Coors, and Miller) as well as distilleries (Jack Daniels, Jim Bean and Wild Turkey) more than an average drinker.  I enjoy learning about how products are manufactured and am facisnated with the operation of assembly lines.  During our recent road trip to Kentucky, I had a great time learning about the whisky legacy and how master distillers created their signature brand of bourbon.  There are six distilleries listed in the promotional brochure of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  We only had time to visit two - Jim Bean and Wild Turkey.    
Inside these giant gilos (above) are simple ingredients of wheat, corn and malted barley, add pure iron-free limestone spring water . . . mixed together in the tanks,   

produces 30,000 gallons in each tank - that is a lot of whisky to help drown a person' sorrow :)

42,000 gallons of beer well would help take away any pains or heartbreaks.  In the tasting room, I took a small sip of the bourbon and my upper lip stung for an hour!  I bought a small bag of Bourbon Praline pecans.  Even though the pecans had only natural bourbon flavor, I almost got drunk just eating a few - haa haa

Kentucky's finest bourbons aged in traditional white oak barrels from Michigan.  We were told that the minimum for the whisky aging process is 4 years.  Unlike people, whisky increases its value as it ages.  A 14-year old bottle costs about $50.  I hope my neighbors did not see that lately I have been spending time in the aisle of liquors at the supermarket!  Not sure if anyone would believe me when I tell them the reason I know so much about America's official native spirit only from touring the distilleries. 
I am starting a new category called "The Real Turkey" and this week's biggest turkey goes to the one that pandering to the women with big mouth and narrow views while our national security and world peace is being threaten.  The other turkeys are the replacement refs and the Seahawks.  Even if you are not football fans, you probably heard about the Packers v. Seahawks game on Monday night and the bizarre ending with the wrong call by replacement officials.  The worst thing was even after the replay clearly showed that the Seahawks never had full possession of the ball, the officials still confirmed that the call on the field stand.  When were the rules changed to putting your arms around the player who is holding the ball as full possession for the touchdown?  In my book, it was unsportmanship for the Seahawks to celebrate a victory that they knew they have gotten due to errors made by the refs.  Wasn't it like accepting the Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing and knowing full well that you have not earned it?   

Monday, September 24, 2012


"I am so hungry I could eat a whole chicken", I proclaimed as my husband pulled into the parking lot.  I was ready to jump out of the car, rush into the restaurant and order the biggest chicken they had.  "There is no restaurant here, it is only a gas station", CP said.  We got back on the road looking for a real chicken.  Lesson learned - things are not always what they seem to be.  The next time we passed by a gas station with a chicken in front, we won't assume that there is a restaurant there.  You know what they say about being fooled twice that you only have yourselves to blame.  If you allow the man to fool you again with his empty promises, then don't cry when things keep getting worse.  And don't blame the other person either if you choose to believe in the man in an empty suit with no leadership skills, incompetent, only good at dancing/talking and performing imcomplete magic acts.
Here is Benjamin (below) having a great time at Wild Turkey distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY.  After having a taste of Wild Turkey Bourbon, well known for its signature 101 proof, Benjamin mistaken the turkey barrel (above) for a horse and proceeded to ride out of town!
This is a real wild turkey we saw along the road while leaving the park at Mammoth Cave.  Sometimes things are not as clear as they are and most people could not tell what is real and what is fantansy or just a bad magic act!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


As you could see, Benjamin had a great time (big smile) when he accompanied us on our Labor Day weekend, a short 3-day (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) road trip to Old Kentucky Home.  We left St. Louis on Saturday, Sept. 1st at 8:31 after filling up the gas tank on the Mustang.  Gas price was $3.87 for mid-grade.  (The T-bird must have premium and that is another reason why we take the Pony instead.)  We took breaks for a quick breakfast, at rest stops, and continued driving until 14:07 and decided that it was time for lunch in Round Hill, Kentucky.  We got to Mammoth Cave in Cave City, KY around 15:31.   The rain started just as we were walking down into the cave.  It was an interesting tour but I might have been "over-caved" (is there such a word?) because we just saw Ruby Falls (inside a cave) in Tennessee in July.   After Mammoth Cave, we continued on and beddown in Louisville, KY at 21:52.  (We planned to stay at the Wigwam Motel #2 in Cave City, KY but that did not happen.  It was a long story so I will have to explain in another post.) 
Next day (Sunday, Sept. 2nd) we attended 0900 Mass at St. Ritas Church in Louisville, KY.  It was sunny when we left the church but became cloudy by the time we got to Jim Bean in Clermont, KY.    While waiting for the tour to start at noon, we sat in the rocking chairs on the front porch of the historic home where three generations of the Beams lived way back when.  On display inside the house were family photos and heirlooms.  By the time we walked over to Warehouse D, the oldest rack house built by Jim Beam after prohibition, the rain were pouring so hard that we were stucked inside with nothing to do except looking at Kentucky's finest bourbon aging in 20,000 oak barrels!     
We were cold and hungry by the time we drove into Bardstown, KY.  USA Today and Rand McNalley named Bardstown one of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in America.  Bardstown was also mentioned in the book, "1,000 Places to See Before You Die".  Well, we did not see much because the rain was pouring.  We could not find a restaurant that was open along 3rd Street in the beautiful downtown Bardstown because it was 1300 hour on a Sunday and a holiday.  Someone might have taken a picture of me with rain dripping down begging "Sweet Mama" to let me in at Mammy's Kitchen!  We finally found a restaurant that was open for lunch, across from My Old Kentucky Home State Park.  Next stop was Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY.  (to be continued)   

Saturday, September 22, 2012


It was hard to imagine what it would be like to live in this French Renaissance Chateau, a structure of 250-room Biltmore House, the extensive garden and everything surrounding the 8,000 acre estate, and it was a home of just one family, George W. Vanderbilt.  We were not allowed to take photos or any recording device, inside the "house".  It is currently more like a museum and most of the rooms are small compared to the modern standards (no walk-in closets or whirlpool/giant bathtub).  We spent the whole day there (Thursday, July 5th) and only saw a portion of this manificent estate.  The self-guided with audio tour included four floors and the basement took 2+ hours.  Admission for the house and garden is $55-60 per adult.  Add $15-25 per person for behind the scenes and rooftop tour.  It just occurs to me why a poor person like me spend my hard-earned money to see a rich man's house.  Perhaps for historical purpose or so that I could boast about it.  No, I do not hate rich people.  If I had a choice of being born into a wealthy family, I would definitely take that option.  I respect individuals who build their business, willing to take risks and create the wealth for their family.  I definitely don't want the government to take from those who have more and give to me simply because I have less.   Just because I am poor does not give me the right to take from someone else.  Redistribution of wealth did not work in Viet Nam or any other Communist controlled government.  I agree that in America, not everything is fair and equal when it comes to wealth and social class, but what is the definition of fairness and who gets to decide?  If my neighbor says that I have more than he does, should I be willing to give him what he needs?  (I think I am pushing a hot button here - this might be the only way for me to get  a few comments from the readers - haa haa.)          

During the Gilded Age, Asheville was called Paris of the South.  The modern Asheville still has all the art and culture with stunning downtown architecture such as the Art Deco S and W Building and my favorite, the Basilica of St. Lawrence.  (The next day, Friday July 6th, we attended the morning Mass there.)  There are plenty of things to do in downtown Asheville, spending time in antiques shops and art galleries while waiting for your table at one of the many fine dining options or you could enjoy people watching while sitting on the benches in Pack Square.  (QQ, you might like a shop called Asheville Recycles selling footstools made out of wooden Dr. Pepper crates or patio chairs constructed out of rebar and flat metal). 
From our home to yours - only in our wildest dreams - haa haa

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Our wedding anniversary is in mid-June, so we usually have a low-key celebration with dinner at a nice restaurant (where the waiter keeps watch and immediately picks up the wrapper as soon as we finished eating the crackers, then proceed to clean the crumb off the table with a tiny comb he keeps in the front pocket of his vest).   The first time we were at this restaurant, I looked around the dining room to see all the paintings and also checking if there were any "movers and shakers of St. Louis", each time I conducted my "surveillance", the waiter kept coming over asking what I needed.  So I learned not to look around nor making any eye contact with the servers.  My husband always sends me flowers (well, except one year but we won't talk about that) for the special occasion.  We would give each other little gifts and then do something special when we go on our annual July 4th road trip.  This year, my husband rented a caboose (like the one in the photo below) for a ride on the Great Smoky Mountain Train Ride.  We had the whole caboose with lunch, drinks and snacks just for the two of us, instead of being in the other cab with the masses - haa haa!
The modern Bryson City is a premier spot for many outdoor activities.  The Nantahala River offers lot of fun to those wanting to raft, kayak, hike (along the Appalachian Trail to Wesser Bald - 2.8 miles or a little harder and longer 12-mile to Cheoah Bald), mountain bike (you could try riding out-and-back the hilly 18.5 mile of paved road to the Road to Nowhere) or trout fishing.  It might be one of those fish stories but we were told that a lucky person caught a 30-inch brown trout and a 24-inch rainbow trout and all he did was dropping his fishing rod in the river! 
From the comfort of our caboose, we enjoyed the view through the Nantahala Gorge (the Cherokee called it "Land of the Midday Sun"), and watched the rafters crowded on the river.  We stopped at a campground for a break and only when we dipped out feet in the river that we realized that the water was so cold, probably in the lower 50s.  I wondered how the kids could be playing in the river and not turning blue! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012


The Cherokees "Red Fire People" called this area Shaconage or Place of Blue Smoke.  On Friday, July 6th, after the train ride, we drove thru town, passing so many gift shops (we stopped by a store named Spirit of the Wolf), each claim to have authentic Cherokee handicrafts, along the main busy road, filled with tourists, on their way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  At the end of town, we saw Natives who dressed in traditional headgears and clothing(we wonder how they did not faint from wearing layers of clothes in such warm weather) setting up outlets of woodcarvings, baskets, beadwork, pottery and woven goods.  There are other activities in Cherokee including a casino, horseback riding, a place for the kids to learn about history of a Cherokee village in the 1750s and also the Mountain Farm Museum showing how mountain settlers lived way back when.  There is an outdoor drama that recounts the story of European people coming to North Carolina in 1540, then forced the Natives from the land.  Their forced removal in 1830s to Oklahoma is known as the Trail of Tears.    
Bus Boy (, this sign is for you :)   
There were about a dozen or more of these sculptures on display along the main road.  Each with a different design and a story about the struggle and strength of Native Americans.  The temperature was in the upper 90s and we were tired from driving all day, so I did not get out of the car and only take photos when we slowed down or stopped at traffic lights.  The above turned out real nice when no other car blocking the view. 

Monday, September 10, 2012


It is true that there's always a light at the end of the tunnel.  However, I once heard a comedian made a comment, "When you see the light at the end of the tunnel, make sure it is not the headlights from a coming freight train".  It was supposed to be a joke but it is not funny because it happens in real life when you thought the end of a stormy journey was coming but then you came to a dead end road.
OK, you probably say, "Why so down, TOTA?  It is not like you to be in such hopeless, helpless and discouraged mood."  Well, even the strongest person suffers moments of weakness.  I understand that feeling sorry for myself will not help the situation.  It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.  But what happens when you don't have a candle and your only match is soaking wet!
It would be no use asking Rhett Butler what I should do since I already know what he would be saying, "Frankly, TOTA I don't give a damn!".  Perhaps I will try to think of tomorrow, because as Ms. Scarlett said, "After all, tomorrow is another day!"  And if the light at the end of the tunnel coming from a train, I will just hobo to wherever it takes me! 

Sunday, September 09, 2012


I immediately thought of the hymn On Eagle Wings (composed by Michael Joncas) when I saw this sculpture near the observation point at Lookout Mountain.  "And he will raise you up on eagle's wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of his hand".  It is a popular hymn especially at funerals.  I always get emotional listening to the singing because I thought of God's love and how my own parents (and as with most parents) providing the protection and always willing to make sacrifice for the children's well-being.  
"The snare of the fowler will never capture you, and famine will bring you no fear, under his wings your refugee, his faithfulness your shield."  QQ noticed my husband's collection of eagles on display around our house during his recent visit.  We saw eagle sitting on the tree but never lucky enough to see one in flight, not even when we were in Alaska.  Others kept showing me pictures of an eagle swooping down, plucking a fish out of water (fitting for the expression "eagle eye") and with the catch securely in its claws, flying back to its nest, high up above the tree.  I once heard someone said, "You can't fly like an eagle if you are among turkeys".  Not sure what that means because if you are an eagle, why hang around with turkeys?  It sounds like making excuses for your own failure, blaming it on someone else instead of taking responsibilities for your own success.
"For to his angels he's given a command to guard you in all of your ways; up on their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone."
This whimsical mushroom (above) and the fairytale looking gazebo (below) gave Rock City a bit of storybook garden since it would be boring just looking at giant rock formation.

Saturday, September 08, 2012


After two days of strong wind, thunderstorm and heavy rain, it was sunny and comfortable on Friday morning, but then thunderstorm came again early yesterday evening.  The forecast for the weekend will be pleasant temperature in the mid 70s.  Today was beautiful - sunny and no humidity.  There are many activities around town including the Missouri Route 66 Annual Motor Tour and the Polish Falcon Festival.  It was lot of fun driving the T-bird across the Chain of Rocks Bridge.  It was a special arrangement because normally only pedestrians and bikes would be allowed access onto the bridge.  We crossed the bridge a few times during the annual Eagle Day and Route 66 Festival.  After the Chain of Rocks, we went to the Polish Falcon Festival for lunch (pierogies, kielbasa and galumpki) and polka dancing afterward :)
These are photos from our July (2012) road trip.  After a visit to Atlanta (spent quality time with my sister CH), we drove to Stone Mountain State Park (approx. 16 miles from Atlanta).  We had breakfast at Stone Mountain Inn where the hostess greeted us with a heavy German accent and the young lady who brought us orange juice told the guests at the next table that she was an exchange student from Ireland.  We have encountered many international workers being employed at places such as Yellowstone, Grand Caynon, or Branson (Missouri) to fill these temporary seasonal positions.   
After breakfast, we took the tram ride up to the top of the mountain.  We walked around the summit, the view was great but we did not have time to learn more about the geology and ecology of the mountain.  It costs $9 for a roundtrip to ride the Skyride but is free if you would rather walk the 1-mile trail.  There is a visitor center on the summit that includes a gift shop, snacks, drinks and very accomodating restrooms.      
The Cherokee Indians called the mountain "Thenefthofkee" or bald mountain.  Granite from Stone Mountain was used in many well-known constructions such as the Panama Canal, Arlington Memorial Bridge, the tunnel from Detroit to Canada and even the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan.  The neoclassical carving depicts Confederate leaders president Jefferson David, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson galloping on horseback, is the world's largest piece of sculpture at 90 feet high and 190 feet wide.  Gutzon Borglum, whose famous work at Mount Rushmore, started the carving on the mountain in 1923 but abandoned the project because of technical problems and rifts with the sponsors.  The memorial was completed in 1970 after it became part of Georgia State Park.  Since we were at Mount Rushmore, we could say that we saw one completed and half-done work by Mr. Borglum :)     


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