Check out our new Interactive Route Map (button in menu above) and you will see we have almost closed the loop on our nearly year-long trip around North America. We set out on this more ambitious trip after a month in the Smokies followed by three months chasing the sun and birds in Florida., Read More
After traveling 22,000 miles, no matter how much we loved each day of our trip, it was fantastic to get home! We walked around each room in amazement, so much living space. Thank you all our blog readers for your lovely comments, it was great to read your reactions to the places we stayed, and your beautiful comments about Colin’s photos. We’ve included a selection from the 3,000 photos posted, of what we think are the best (see below).
What else is one supposed to do in Kentucky if not sample some Kentucky bourbon and visit some of the worlds most famous thoroughbred horses? We did both.
Named after the area where buffalo used to cross the Kentucky river, the distillery is located West of Lexington Kentucky and has a reputation for producing some of the finest bourbon in the world. Bourbon is a type of whiskey made from corn and gets its unique taste from the charred oak barrels which hold the whiskey during the aging process. Given the 35 degree day and blustering winds, we were thinking about doing some ‘sipping’ before we embarked on the tour but that was not to be. We learned about the history of the distillery, toured original factory buildings and saw the making of whiskey, aging in oak barrels, and packaging of the different ‘proof’ values. We observed employees working on a single barrel batch (most expensive) which was being hand bottled and packaged. At the end of the tour, shots of different bourbons were presented and we were able to belly up to the bar and have a taste. Cheryl went for a sweet blend of bourbon and cream (not a surprise), while Colin went for some samples of the genuine article.
We stayed three nights at the campground adjacent to and owned by the Horse Park. The Horse Park itself covers an extensive area consisting of: stables and paddocks where famous horses and breeds are kept and exercised, a very comprehensive ‘Museum of the Horse’, and a number of show rings and arenas where some of the world’s most famous equine events are held. We found the Museum to be of the highest quality, tracing the history of the relationship between man and horse from cave paintings to modern day thoroughbred racing and breeding. We could have spent more time there. The park provides ‘retirement living space’ for some of the most famous thoroughbred racehorses in the US and we were able to get up close to them in the ‘Hall of Champions’ where we also heard about their individual successful racing careers.
We watched a display of different horse breeds at the ‘Breeding Barn’ and display ring where we had an opportunity to meet the different breeds and talk to their riders. We were able to watch a pair of magnificent Clydesdales being prepared for pulling a visitors’ trolly around the park, as well as learning about the role of horses in policing at the police horse barn. We loved getting to see and touch these beautiful animals. It was a thrill for both of us who were raised in non-agrarian circumstances: Los Angeles (Cheryl) and Whitley Bay (Colin).
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Kentucky Horse Park
With our minds set on returning home a little earlier than planned (after hearing tales of an early Spring at home), we headed due North towards Huntsville, Alabama, stopping at two State Parks on the way. Chewacla SP looks like a mountain biker’s dream with many miles of bike trails through the woods, alongside the river, and a couple of ‘jump’ courses for the brave. Cheaha SP, further North, is situated on top of the Appalachian mountain range, the highest point in Alabama and gave us some wonderful views from the lodge, despite the weather.
Huntsville, Alabama was a planned visit to a musician friend of Colin’s, ‘Chips’ and his wife Lynn Lanier. Chips is a Northumbrian Smallpipes player like Colin and so we had a great time sharing stories, playing music, and even getting in Cheryl’s need for her fur fix with their two springer spaniels El and Gracie. Below the thumbnail image gallery is a music video with recordings of Chips, Cheryl, and Colin. Take a nice glass of wine or two before you hear them. We’ll sound a lot better. Thanks to Chips and Lynn for our comfortable 3 day layover filled with music and good times.
In Atlanta, Georgia, we visited Cheryl’s cousin Amy Gabel and her husband Tom Coyle. They were kind enough to show us much of Atlanta as well as feeding us delicious meals, as Tom is a gourmet cook. Amy and Cheryl spent most of the time reminiscing about their family memories – laughing and enjoying their time together. Thanks Amy and Tom for hosting us for 3 days! It was super!
Movie of Northumbrian Smallpipes and flute: Colin (solo); Colin & Cheryl; Chips, Colin & Cheryl
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Travel Through Alabama and Georgia
When I heard we could go to a wolf preserve in Chipley, FL on our way to Alabama, I lost my mind in excitement to take part in this adventure. The non-profit Seacrest Wolf Preserve‘s goal is to create greater awareness of this keystone species and the contributions they make to their natural eco-systems. Funny rules were stated on their website about what we could wear, what we could and couldn’t bring, and the fact that we were going to be sitting on the ground as wolves walked around us.
Finally the day arrived and we lined up to sign our liability waiver. Not long after that, we were escorted into the first of several compounds which were associated with different packs. We selected a log for a seat, and sure enough, it was a great pick for getting noticed by the wolves. The 6 trainers each had a bag of raw meat that they used to tempt the wolves in different directions, to walk among our group of 60 people. Not 10 minutes had passed and I was stroking the top of the wolf’s back, his soft underside, and giving a thorough scratch to his chest and head. I was rewarded with kisses (muzzle greetings) on my cheek and chin! Oh was I in heaven! Later when we were able to stand in front of several wolves to be photographed, Colin was also greeted with a full face-lick. It was already an astounding day and we were just getting started.
Lead by our tour guide, one of the more interesting things we did as a group, was being encouraged to howl. Within a few minutes, the different packs joined us, and then we were silent as they continued for several more minutes. To hear 34 wolves howling in a natural environment was surreal (hear the audio file below the photo gallery).
We visited two more compounds / different environments that included a stream and pond from which the wolves drank and swam and a deeply forested area where we saw a particular pack’s den.
In addition to the Gray, Arctic, and British Columbian wolves, there were peacocks, raccoons, fox, and skunk, which we could feed and stroke. No one got sprayed by the skunk, but a lot of people were too nervous to go near them!
We had booked a campsite at the Wolf Preserve, and little did we know that we’d be the only campers and have a concert of wolf music during the night and morning light. When the howling began after all the other people had left the preserve, there we were, alone and hearing those musical voices, and getting such a kick out of being in their midst.
We were not allowed to take our digital cameras or iPhones with us into the wolf enclosures; although disposable film cameras were allowed. Photography tours started at $650 for 1/2 day, so although disappointed that we were not able to get in on a VIP tour, our $25 pp entrance fee felt like a bargain of excellent value.
Our pictures of the wolves with our throw-away cameras were okay, but not up to Colin’s standard. Therefore, the banner you see above was created by me from pictures from the Seacrest website.
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Seacrest Wolf Preserve, Florida