The hubs and I are big fans of travel experiences; if it's considered a tradition or written about as "must visits" on those MSN slideshows, then chances are good we've probably checked it out. For those of you new to the blog-o, El and I lived outside of Sevilla, Spain for two years (2011-2013) while he was stationed there in the military. Living in Europe gave us easy access to some of the craziest and fantastic traditions that are out there. So far in our young marriage (almost 4 years strong, baby!), we've run with the bulls in Pamplona, gotten some eye fungus from throwing tomatoes at Tomatina, brought garlic into Dracula's castle, and many more that are a bit fuzzy due to the absinthe that usually accompanied them. If you're interested in catching up on our travels, they're all archived on my old blog, linked here.
Since we've been back in the States, we've kept up that "make the most of our time" mindset by checking out all that 'Murica has to offer. One of the traditions that we were able to experience most recently was the Kentucky Derby, thanks to some very good friends that we met under very tragic circumstances. Before you read any further, please take a few minutes to read my post on losing one of my very dear friends, Will Davis. Trust me when I say that it will make this post that much more meaningful.
El and I first met Helen and Tom Davis, Will's parents, when they came to Richmond for a wedding in the summer of 2013. Since we were in DC, it was only an hour drive to meet them for brunch. We had been corresponding with them online for the previous few months, it was wonderful to finally meet them face to face. El and I expressed that we would love to visit them in Louisville, and we all agreed that the most ideal situation would be to check out the Kentucky Derby at some point. Imagine our excitement and surprise when a few months later, we received an email from Helen saying that they had been able to purchase Oaks and Derby tickets for us, Casey and Lee, and Stacey, Will's other close friends. El and I had gone to Romania with Stacey and Will the previous May and had spent time with her at Tomatina in Valencia, so we were already good friends and were excited to see her again. We had heard so much about Casey and Lee though, so it felt like we were already friends. Needless to say, El and I were completely blown away by Helen and Tom's generosity, and I excitedly booked my ticket from DC to Louisville that May. El was already living in Chicago, so he had the option of driving down to Kentucky, definitely preferable to a $600 plane ticket (ugh that was a punch to the boob). Over the next few months, the girls got in touch about hats and dresses, and I picked up a hat at the Eastern Market "flea market" in DC for $40. At the time, I was slightly annoyed that I was spending so much money on a hat, only to be vindicated later at the Derby when I found out that some of the hats I saw cost in the hundreds, and some thousands, of dollars.
I took the Thursday and Friday before the Derby off work and flew from DC to Atlanta and then to Louisville that Thursday afternoon. Our flight from ATL was initially delayed an hour due to the sheer volume of planes on the ground in Louisville. It was annoying to sit in a hot plane on the tarmac for over an hour, especially when we landed in KY and I saw that the "volume" was due to all the rich assholes who brought their private planes to the Derby. Yes, I'm jealous.
When I finally landed in Louisville around 4:30, Stacey was there to pick me up. We went straight to the official Derby parade, called the Pegasus Parade, because Helen was the parade chair for that year. She and Thomas, Will's brother, were busy getting everything ready for the 5pm start, but we were able to meet up with them after the parade had ended. Since Stacey had helped out with the set-up early that morning, she had VIP volunteer access, and we were able to secure a spot on the parade route right by the TV stations and parade judges. There were lots of celebrities from Kentucky in the parade, like Miss America, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor of the Commonwealth, some actor from that now-cancelled show Enlisted (clearly a huge star since I remembered his name...), Miss Kentucky, and a bunch of other hot dudes that the Wave 3 TV emcee was drooling over the entire parade. Although it was a bit windy, and Pegagus's right wing was clipped to its side, it was a great parade and fun to see so many local businesses and people take part in an awesome tradition. Stacey and I had to laugh though at the Korsair (think Shriners) floats that depicted less than PC sights like "Cowboys and Indians" and "The Korsair Oriental Band" that consisted entirely of white dudes. Only in the South! :)
After the parade ended two hours later, Stacey and I helped Helen and Thomas roll up parade banners and clean up the area. Stacey showed me where they had spray painted their initials on the parade route, and Thomas and I cruised around on his golf cart while he explained the different neighborhoods of the city and downtown Louisville. I had only been to the city briefly once before, so it was cool to get a local's perspective on everything. After dropping off the parade golf carts, we all piled into Helen's car and had dinner at a German restaurant right by the Davis's home, the Gasthaus. It's a cute plaza restaurant that is decorated with little German houses inside and makes homemade desserts that you need to order right when you sit down lest they sell out before you're finished eating your main course. I had a jager schnitzel with potato salad, this delicious bread with a yogurt and pickle butter, and a Franziskaner and Irish cream torte to top it all off. El met us at the restaurant after a long traffic-filled drive, and after eating our fill, we followed the Davis's friends Richard and Lena (who reminded me so much of Aunt JoAnn) back to their house where we were to stay. Their house was nestled away in a quiet neighborhood just outside of Louisville, and we were greeted by their 12 year old St. Bernard, Boozer, who, despite his age, was friendly and happy to see new faces. Richard and Lena's house was absolutely adorable, decorated with a lot of Native American artifacts and the feeling of a bed and breakfast. Everything was very cozy, and there was even a little basket of toiletries in the bathroom for us to use. After talking with our hosts for a bit, El and I crashed into a deep sleep.
We woke up at 8:30 the next morning, and true to B&B form, Richard made us eggs, buttered toast (he told us that in the South toast HAS to be buttered...not complaining), eggs, sausage patties, and coffee. We chatted for a bit and found out that Richard served in the Army; it's like military people just find each other. After showering and getting ready, I donned my new cream wedge heels and my sea-foam green dress from H&M, and El and I drove his car to Helen and Tom's. When we got there, we finally met Casey and Lee, Will's best friends from Georgia. We had heard so much about them from Will, and I had spoken to Casey on the phone right after Will's death, so it was a momentous occasion to finally meet and hug them. Casey had a huge smile and looked adorably pregnant in her pink dress; I liked her immediately. Helen had set out her hats in the living room, and we girls felt like kids in a candy store trying them on. Since the Kentucky Oaks is a race of the fillies, it's tradition to wear pink to that race, so I decided upon a large brimmed pink hat with a white bow. It was a bit snug because I have a big noggin, but it looked awesome. Stacey decided upon a vintage looking hat that matched her 1920's style dress perfectly. The weather that day was in the low 60's and cloudy, so Helen packed us bags of blankets in addition to the Derby decorations, paper products, tablecloths, and bags of chips (which Lee and Elliot later demolished).
After taking what seemed like hundreds of pictures to document the day (see above), we all piled into Thomas's SUV to head to Churchill Downs. On the way, we shared Will stories and laughed about his love for high-quality items, like the riding boots he brought with him to Spain the last time he visited. I saw them in our basement and thought for a second that we had invited a dominatrix to stay with us, only to find out that they belonged to our houseguest "son". It felt good to talk about him with the people who knew him best, definitely made me happy.
We had the parking pass for the day, so we were able to valet park at Churchill Downs. We arrived there around noon and breezed through security, something that we did not expect after hearing so much about how tight measures were going to be. They barely looked in our bag, and the high school kids who were working security seemed more interested in checking out the girls in their dresses than they did figuring out if people's cameras had detachable lenses (ours definitely did, but they still let us through). After we entered our section, 111, we immediately bought one of the Oaks Lily drinks, which were served in a souvenir stemless glass. I'm not a huge mixed drink person, but it was super tasty, and I sucked it down faster than I probably should have.
Our outdoor "box" was kind of like a holding pen that was on the first turn of the track (if you're facing the track, it was to the right) in row P, so we had an amazing view. Like I mentioned, the theme of the Oaks is pink, and all money raised that day went to Horses for Hope, an organization that supports ovarian and breast cancer research. The bugler for each race wore a pink jacket, and they had a survivors parade between a few of the races. What I didn't know before going was that there were multiple races each day and that the Oaks, the race of the fillies, would be the second to last race. Why it wasn't the last I have no idea, but who am I to question tradition? From where we were sitting, we had a clear view of the infield, which was surprisingly sparse that day.
After settling into our seats, we walked around the Downs and saw the "Pink Carpet Fashion Show" judged (randomly) by Simon Baker and Carson from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I really didn't understand their choice of winner, as she was wearing just a plain shift dress with this bizarre gold and pink saddlebag thing, and her hat was just a plain band with a Native American style feather in the back. That was it. For being the winner of a fashion show at THE place for hats, it was the most boring hat I saw all weekend. It's like she got it at a flea market or something... And she won a Longines watch for it! Craziness....
After disagreeing with the fashion show, we went to the Paddocks and saw a parade of horses going to post, signaled by the bugle and then followed by the chiming of bells, which was really neat to see. We went to the official Churchill Downs store which was so packed that they were only letting people in once other customers left. While there, we bought a poster print, an ornament, pins and a magnet (because that's what we do). I also saw hats that were selling for hundreds of dollars. Hundreds! It made me feel a lot better about spending 40 bucks on my Eastern Market purchase.
We picked up a carolina bbq sandwich from a food stand (they were also selling cheesecake "kebabs") and Thomas picked us all up some programs. While walking around, and then later while sitting in our box, we started a scavenger hunt for people watching. We checked off girls in orange hats, a guy in a rainbow suit, and a guy wearing a woman's hat. We entertained each other with the scavenger hunt and lots of laughs about people watching and stories, while human interest pieces and awesome music played on the new jumbotron between races. We made our bets at the betting window, and I placed my money unknowingly on Rick Pitino's horse, The Empress of Midway. Homegirl was 50-1 odds, but with the mythological and Chicago connections I just couldn't resist.
Unfortunately for me, the Empress bucked off her jockey right at the gate and was a late scratch. FORtunately, I got my money back, something that probably wouldn't have happened had she raced. There was an air of excitement as the pink-coated bugler called the fillies to post, and everyone stood up to better see when they passed us on the first turn. Everyone was cheering as Rosie the jokey on Untappable smoked the competition, and a "filly on a filly" won the 140th running of the Kentucky Oaks. After the race, we quickly packed up to avoid congestion and made our way to the car. Surprisingly, we didn't hit any traffic and we quickly made it to Helen and Tom's. But not quickly enough for Lee not to catch a few zzz's in the trunk of the car. Being outside all day definitely wiped us all out. I think the Lily drinks also helped...
Helen is without a doubt the hostess with the mostess, and despite having a jam-packed day the day prior as parade Chair, she had an amazing party set up upon our return. She had delicious ham, beef tenderloin, these amazing mashed potatoes, cheeses, asparagus with feta cheese, jumbo strawberries and grapes, rolls, lemon mousse, and her famous Derby pie, which I'm convinced she had the help of angels in the process of its making. It was absolutely DELICIOUS, and I was thrilled when she later shared the recipe on Facebook. Not only was the food amazing, but she had Derby decor EVERYWHERE: placemats, napkins, napkin rings, trays, champagne flutes, horse head statues (but not in a Godfather type way). Everything was so festive, and Helen took the time to explain the hanging photos of her great grandparents, her great-grandfather's invention patent, and her family Bible that was over a hundred years old. Some of the photos were even from the 1850's! It's impressive to see memories so well-preserved. Hell, I'm impressed when I see one of my childhood toys in my parent's house....
After we ate, we were able to meet and talk with family friends like Becky, Pat, their kids, and Joel and Allison, Will's best friends from Louisville. It was so nice talking about Will, and Helen shared some of Will's things with us, including a new book by David McCullough that he had just purchased and didn't get the chance to read. Will and I shared a passion for historical non-fiction, so it was a gift that's right up my alley. Helen and Tom also prepared "bling bags" for each of us, which included a Derby glass, Pegasus pin, 140th Derby print, shirts, napkins, napkin weights with horses on them, a shot glass, and other goodies that were so thoughtfully prepared. We were so touched by their generosity and hosting; even when we tried to clean up, we were told by Tom that no way, "Don't even rinse!" Helen must be like my mom where she has a particular way of cleaning up that works because she knows where everything goes. I can respect that. We also enjoyed continuing to spend more time with Stacey, and to get to know Casey and Lee better. Casey has the sunniest personality, and Lee has a laid-back and funny attitude which allowed him and Elliot to get along really well. He kept claiming that "Elliot was trying to out-man him" by putting in a $60 bet versus Lee's $30 one and by having bourbon on the rocks when Lee had his mixed with ginger ale. Although we enjoyed spending time with everyone, we were exhausted and ended up heading to Richard and Lena's around 10. We crashed when we got there and slept like the dead (although El claims he woke up at 3 wide-awake from the "quiet") until 7 the next morning.
We woke up still pretty sleepy and gave our best attempt to clean up nice and somehow look like we belong in acceptable society. I wore my (as I call it) "fun-backed" purple dress and the infamous $40 flea market hat, and El did his best impression of a "small town southern lawyer" in a light-colored suit with one of Will's shirts to match my dress. When we walked downstairs, Richard gave me a smile and adorably said, "Well ain't you just the one!" Why thank you sir, I didn't even wash my hair, so I'm glad I can still pull off a good look.
At Helen and Tom's, we munched on jumbo muffins and fruit and had a special surprise when the Georgetown Cupcakes that we all chipped in for arrived just as we were about to leave for the Derby. We all wanted to do something to thank Helen, Tom, and Thomas for their hospitality, and nothing says "thank you" like biting into one of those scrumptious G-town cupcakes. They simply are the best.
Everyone was decked out in their finest and looked gorgeous for the occasion; even Lee decided to get in on the hat action and wore a fedora. We took a LOT of group pictures on the yard before piling into the car for the Derby. Since Helen and Tom were going to the Derby that day, they were going to use the parking pass. That left us with the option of parking in Papa John's stadium and taking a shuttle or parking in a neighborhood driveway by the Downs and then walking to our seats. We decided that the most cost and time effective option was to park in the neighborhood, so after we picked up our Panera boxed lunches (you can bring food into CD as long as its in a clear container. All the local businesses know that and make sure to put their boxed lunches in the acceptable receptacles), we found parked for $20 in the backyard of a house at the corner of 4th and Winn (a sign???). It was just behind the new jumbotron and about a 1/2 mile walk to our seats. The gals all thought ahead to bring flip-flops, so our feet would get a brief respite from the blistering pain of high heels. Along the way people driving golf carts, bike rickshaws, and even a minivan offered to give us free rides to the gate. It's really a genius move if you think about it: "Free rides" are certainly going to score you some tips, as long as you pick up the right clientele. If they're going to the infield, chances are they'll take the free ride. But if you spot people all cleaned up like us folk, you'll likely get a few bucks for your trouble. Too bad we fancy ourselves "walking" folk.
We entered the gate at 10:50, when security was still pretty low key, and we made our first stop the ATM right by Millionaire's Row. The line was insanely long, but Casey and I got some great photo opps pretending like we were heading into Millionaire's Row. I asked the guy guarding the entrance to take our picture, and he hesitated a bit before taking my camera. I don't know if he was worried that we were gonna make a break for it while he was distracted, or what. While waiting we also posed with the Longines plastic Derby Horse and cheered on the parade of cadets who were to be enlisted in the Army later that afternoon. They also had the pleasant (unpleasant?) job of guarding the red carpet that day.
The weather had definitely improved from the day before, even though Friday's weather couldn't be complained about. The temperature was low 70's with abundant sunshine, perfect for Derby Day. We made sure to load up on the SPF, because with the various cut-outs on my dress it would've made for some glorious tan lines.
Throughout the day, like at the Oaks, there were races that went on, only this time the bugler now had a red jacket and the infield was absolutely PACKED. Casey and Lee had a friend who was in the infield, and Casey was forbidden by Helen to go in there and visit; with Casey being five months pregnant, the last thing she would need was a stranger's urine or vomit to get on her. And she didn't strike me as someone who was into that. Helen and Tom were with their friends in a box near the finish line, but she came to visit us in our box. She gave us the skinny on the best bathrooms to visit, ones that were clean with hardly any line, and gave us tips for walking around the Downs. We also went to visit them at their box, and they shared a few of their Georgetown Cupcakes with us; now that's the gift that keeps on giving (to your waistline).
As we did the day before, our first drink had to be a traditional one, so we all, with the exception of a very pregnant Casey, bought mint juleps in the commemorative red and black glasses and cheered to all being together on this the 140th running of the Derby. I took one sip, and I knew that it was going to be my last. Now, a traditional mint julep is made with Kentucky bourbon (specifics of which can be found here), ice, mint, and simple syrup. The one that I was drinking, which was sold by the Downs and probably made this way to get people to bet more, was straight icy bourbon. No sweetness or minty-ness at all. It was the kind of drink that puts hair on your chest, and I accidentally (fortuitously?) knocked mine over after just a few sips.
We had some fun groups of people around us, which made for an even more pleasant experience. The group to our right was comprised of older ladies, one of whom was a wise-ass that reminded me of one of my favorite aunts, Sue. There was a nice couple sitting in front of us who really enjoyed talking to Casey and Lee, and tons of groups of young people who clearly had inherited the box tickets from their family members. I almost crapped when I saw that a girl behind us had on MY EXACT SAME FLEA MARKET HAT. Seriously?? Of all the gin joints in the world! Sadly, she left before we could get a picture together to prove that my hat was a legit choice.
It was another fabulous day of people watching, and by people watching I mean hat patrol. There really is no "official" color for Derby day, unless you're supporting a specific horse, so the dresses and hats were a lot more varied than the day before. We saw multi-tiered hats, one with margarita glasses on it, fascinators, headbands like the one I was wearing, large floppy hats, and short, stylish ones that you might see at a royal wedding. The men's fashion also took on an "old world" look, and Stacey commented that the overall "look" of the Derby probably hasn't changed too much in the past 140 years. Men were still wearing seersucker suits, and my favorite look of the day, that of a vest, tie, and a newsboy hat, evoked memories of a time 70 years past. We saw many young guys decked out in multi-colored patch suits and the official Derby pants, which were a light green embroidered with horseshoes. For the most part, everyone was holding a commemorative glass filled with mint juleps, but if you were a real high roller you were carrying around the $1,000 "silver" (aka silver-plated) cup. Now, we folks who are NOT old money got creative with our drinking, such as a certain person in our party who always has the idea was to bring in a plastic flask to mix bourbon with the large lemonades they sell at the track. Since security consisted of kids who were maybe 18 years old, all they did was wave a plastic wand over you, one that wouldn't detect a plastic flask. Genius!
One of my old college roommates and good friends, Jackie, lives in Nashville which is just a two hour drive from Louisville. We had discovered via Facebook that we would both be at the Derby and agreed to meet up. After a wild-goose chase around the paddocks in my three inch DSW shoes, we finally spotted each other by the horse statue. We hadn't seen each other in a few years, and Jackie was newly engaged, so it was fantastic to see her at such an iconic location. She was there with her brothers and their wives, all of whom remembered my infamous turkey leg incident of '03. That one's for another blog. Their seats were in the infield, but they had gotten there early enough to score a good spot to watch the races. They were also pretty dressed up, so I doubt their infield experiences would involve the standard mud and/or nakedness.
After saying our goodbyes, I went back to our box and found that Elliot had bet on a few of the races. I had him picked "Vinceremos" to show, despite like 30-1 odds, because it was close enough in Latin (I know it's Spanish, but still a romance language. But Latin came first, dammit!) to "We will conquer", and I wanted to be nerdy and show my students if it managed to live up to its name. I also had him pick "Wicked Strong" to win, which actually had a fighting chance to do so. At the entrance to our gate, the Downs was giving away free buttons that said "My Derby Horse is...", and you were able to choose the button with your horse name. Yep, I was the only one with Vinceremos. Clearly you should never take me to Vegas. While we ate our Panera lunch, we watched both dirt and turf races. There were 12 races that day, and the Derby was, like the Oaks, the second to last race.
As soon as everyone heard (and now saw thanks to the jumbotron) the bugler calling the Derby horses to post, the entire track was on its feet to see the parade of horses. The Louisville band, in accordance with tradition, played My Old Kentucky Home while the crowd sang along (or in my case ATTEMPTED to sing along). People were visibly excited for the race to begin, and the roar that went up from the crowd when those gates opened was deafening. Everyone screamed the entire time, and I've gotta say, it was pretty incredible when those horses ran past us on that first turn. It was difficult to see the action on the rest of the track, but thanks to the jumbotron (I know I keep mentioning that damn thing, but it was so helpful!) kept us right with the action. We saw California Chrome take a commanding lead and literally run away with a Derby victory. Lee quickly checked his tickets and laughingly cursed the horse "Commanding Curve", the monkey wrench in his betting plans. If that horse hadn't made a Hail Mary surge towards the race's end, he and Casey would've walked away with three grand. They still ended up with close to $200, far better than the rest of us made out. Not a bad day at the track!
After the race, California Chrome and his jockey made a victory lap around the track while being interviewed, and we were able to see the rose garland placed around it and the trophy presentation to the co-owners. The rose garland itself is fascinating, and is made by hand at the local supermarket and contains over 12 dozen red roses, each of which has a little water pod to keep it fresh. They had a whole segment on the garland showing on the screen, and there was a little section devoted to it in our program book. For more information on the tradition and how it's made, check out the Derby's description here.
After the Derby, we waited for traffic to die down a bit before making our walk back to the car. Now THAT'S where the entertainment was happening. We saw lots of drunk people, including an old guy whose friends made him hold onto a stop sign for balance, and saw many a dance party going on in people's lawns. The most entertaining by far was seeing some random white guy in a cowboy hat join a group of black friends who were rocking out to "Shake it Fast" and start booty dancing with them. Not gonna lie, it looked like so much fun that I wanted to join in. If only my ass moved up and down like that cowboy's, and not side to side like this white gal's. #curvygirlproblems
We passed women selling cheap flip-flops, another genius idea from the locals, on the way back to the car. There was absolutely no traffic, and we were in the far left lane that took us right to 264, the highway we needed to take to Helen and Tom's friend Becky's house. We made it to her home, a beautiful house in a quiet neighborhood filled with country estates, in no time and went straight for the food that was set out. Again, there was a fantastic spread and we enjoyed beef, rolls, pizza snacks, macaroni salad, meatballs ("I didn't need those 6 meatballs"-Lee on the ride home), and fried chicken tenders. There was also pecan pie, marshmallow cookies, and a cookie pie set out, and we again ate until we were grossly full. Casey, Stacey, and I talked with Beverly, Becky and her daughter Courtney, while Lee and Elliot played with the kids. Once again it was an incredibly hospitable environment, and everyone was so friendly and nice to talk to. After we ate we were exhausted, so El and I made our way back to Richard and Lena's house. When we got there, they were up watching TV. We politely talked for a bit, despite me feeling sick from all the food I ate and the dog food that was sitting out, and El having to go the bathroom so badly that he had to quickly excuse himself before he made his own pecan pie on their living room floor. It was an incredible day, but we were in need of some hard-core sleep.
We were able to sleep in a bit the next day before having a fabulous brunch at Tom and Helen's. She once again decorated the dining room with Derby decor, and we feasted on egg casserole, homemade biscuits, crispy bacon, and fruit washed down with mimosas. After we stuffed ourselves silly, we piled into the cars, first saw Thomas's incredible new house that's being remodeled, and then headed to the Louisville Zoo.
It was a hot day, but we were able to see the famous Louisville gorilla exhibit, elephants, tigers, camels, polar bears, crocodiles, penguins, and gorgeous lorikeets that the boys fed out of their hands and Casey "fed" with the bobby pins in her hair. While seeing the animals was a lot of fun, our main purpose for visiting the zoo was to see the bench dedicated in Will's name. It is in a perfect location, right by the birds of prey exhibit and facing a "Yield to Aircraft" sign. I know that he would be happy there.
After the zoo, Helen, Tom, Stacey and I said goodbye to Elliot, Casey, and Lee and made our way back to Churchill Downs. My flight wasn't until the afternoon, so we had some time to kill. The Kentucky Derby Museum wasn't open the day of the Derby, so Sunday afternoon was my last chance to visit. The museum was absolutely fascinating and had jockey silks (including one from 1898!), displays for the Triple Crown trophies, facts about what makes a thoroughbred, an exhibit dedicated to horse racing toys, "place your bets" interactive displays, and the wall of winners which lists facts about every Derby winner (Swale was the 1984 winner). Obviously it was too soon for California Chrome to make the wall, but they did have a banner congratulating him upon entering the museum.
After making our way through the museum, we watched a 360 degree film called "The Greatest Race" that chronicles the history of the Derby and Churchill Downs. Outside of the museum are stables that house past Derby winners. "Mine That Bird", the 2009 Derby winner was outside. Hopefully he didn't see the nearby gravestones of past Derby horses, including Dust Commander, one of the horses part of the "Fighting Finish" in 1933. The outside area was also decorated with a statue of Eight Belles, and there was one dedicated to Barbaro in the front of the museum. We did a quick walk through the museum gift shop, which was crowded as hell, before heading to the airport. We all said our goodbyes, and I gave my unending thanks to Helen and Tom for their hospitality.
Before the trip, I was a little bit nervous about going to visit Will's hometown with him not there, like there would be a cloud of sadness or something. I should've known better because Will was far from being a Johnny Raincloud; he was the life of the party and always enjoyed a good laugh. I know that he was watching us and was thrilled that we were all together, having fun, laughing, and most importantly, talking about memories of him. Our trip to Louisville was anything but sad; every second was filled with laughter, memories, great food, and deepening friendships. I know that Will was with us that weekend, most likely wearing his assless chaps and laughing at me getting worked up over spending 40 bucks on a flea market hat...