-- Saturday morning, Sept. 22, I-30 & I-40, Arkadelphia to Memphis:
I was relatively sure that New Mexico was going to win the "most road construction" award on this trip, but Arkansas has just taken 1st place. I-30 under construction all the way from Texarkana to Arkadelphia last night, in the dark, and then all the way to Little Rock this morning. I-40 from Little Rock to Memphis more of the same. This'll definitely put a cramp in one's travel times, as well as one's brain and brake foot. Yuck.
-- Saturday, Sept. 22, ~11:30 am, Memphis, TN:
I hate all country music by this point of the trip. "Cornbread and Chicken"? Hate it. "PS if this is Austin"? Hate it. "Wanna talk about me"? Hate it. Hate 'em all. I would probably even hate "Giddy Up Go" at this point if I was to hear it, and that's some serious hating. C'mon truckers. Luckily Memphis has a good classical station, which is discovered after only 57 scans past country stations.
One of the semi-truck drivin' b*stards has managed to spectacularly pile up his Big Rig at the big I-40 curve westbound, which naturally requires that his brothers in Big Rigdom slow down the eastbound lanes to gawk and gomm up traffic even more than they usually do. As this is the 3rd highway accident I've observed on this trip, but the first involving a semi, it can reasonably be concluded that 33% of all highway accidents involve these semi-truck b*stards. They are a hazard to the American driving public, fer sure, fer sure, Rubber Duck.
About a mile later, Tennessee State Trooper has one of the b*stards pulled over. Good for you, Trooper! Do it way more often. Go get 'em! The b*stards have been speeding, cutting me off, slowly passing their buddies at 0.000036 mph faster for 15 miles, uphill, tailgating, turning across exits with no concern for oncoming traffic, and otherwise making my life miserable for 50 days and ~12,000 miles so far.
Wish I had a certain Zappa tape right now ...
"Truck driver divorce, it's very sad.
Steel guitars usually weep all over it.
The bold and intelligent masters of the road with their secret language,
and their giant, oversized, mechanical transcontinental hobby horse."
"TRUCK DRIVER DIVORCE! IT'S VERY SAD!"
And I'm sad you're pulled over, too, you pud. Real sad. Hope it doesn't make you late to anywhere. Go get 'em, Trooper! Go go go! They deserve it.
-- Saturday, Sept. 22, ~3:00 pm, Franklin, KY:
There doesn't seem to be a lot of activity at Kentucky Downs as the ChumpMobile pulls in. As it turns out, that's because the racing is over. But the big Internet party tent is still standing, and some Internet corerspondents are still partying. I join in on that part, willingly. And soon did not hate country music or those semi-truck b*stards nearly so bad. Well, country music, anyhow. I could probably stomach another rendition of "PS .. Austin" at this point. Some remaining reprobates headed down to the simulcast center for additional betting, while Jeff and I sat and enjoyed microbrews, catching up, and the beautiful day. At least until Deborah pressed us into service dismantling the party site. So practical. :)
-- Saturday, Sept. 22, evening, Nashville, TN:
Jeff D. sure knows his Nashville dives, that's for sure. The McChump Party joins Jeff and Deborah for a 1st class dinner at a first class dive on the south side of downtown. Then of course there's the need to go fill up the micro-brew growlers at one of the local micro-brew pubs. For some reason in Tennessee this is a clandestine operation, to be carried out away from the normal business area of the restaurant/bar. The jugs have to be filled out back, and the money handed over out back. Yessiree Bob, we must of got us some moonshine for tomorrow!
-- Sunday, Sept. 23, morning, Franklin, KY:
Breakfast at Loretta Lynn's Kitchen. A must, just to enjoy the Loretta Lynn shrine in the lobby, complete with Loretta Lynn mannequin, big hair and all. The food isn't all that great (ham and redeye gravy - too salty), and the place is kind of a dive, and old, and tired, but the shrine is magnificent. And btw, I think Loretta owns Tennessee. About 77 different Loretta attractions off the road the day before, I-40 from Memphis to Nashville.
-- Sunday, Sept. 23, midday, Kentucky Downs:
Parking: Free, in a grassy/gravel lot behind the bleachers by the finish line. Admission: Also free. Program: $2.50, I think. Well, admission nearly free. If you wanted the "free" KD hat giveaway, you had to go down to the simulcast center and pay the $2.00 admission there. Which everyone did. In one side, pay the $2.00, pick up the hat, and then out the other side and back to the bleachers area.
Since I never got around to writing about this track before, I'll provide a bit of description to set the stage.
This is a long, oddly shaped turf-only track, set around a big grass field located between the rest stop on I-65 and US 31W, just over the state line from Tennessee. Exit 2 off the interstate, and then backtrack a bit south along 31W. The facilities are all located on the east side of the track, with a nice simulcast/clubhouse building on the south end, and nice parking lot, and then some rickety bleachers and a rickety judges/announcer's stand located down at the right, by the finish line, in front of the grassy lot. Big paddock area located to the right of this latter, and barns out behind that. Also in this general area is an open-air, covered structure with the betting windows in the center and some TV's hanging on the posts, and a limited number of tables for people if they want to spend the day in this area. Also some restrooms and concessions in this area, both far from fancy. But functional.
The track itself is a unique bird. The stretch runs down from the simulcast building to the bleachers, then makes the 1st turn, on up a hill towards the rest stop, a soft right turn and down into a dip, and then left again around the sweeping 2nd turn back toward the simulcast building. It's a real big sucker too. Binoculars are definitely recommended, as the horses can get a long, long way from wherever you happen to be. No tote in the infield; just grass. And long, long grass on an uneven, barely more than a fenced off part of the field, racecourse.
The feeling one gets is being at a country fair racing event, except on Kentucky Cup day, you're seeing quality horses, riders, and purses. What's more, you can also get real close to all of them. And that's the attraction for a Internet correspondents get-together. Low key, informal, and conducive to having a nice party gathering. Even the jocks joined in the fun. At one point Rick Moss took up a station in the bbq concession stand, and loudly announced to all passersby that one could get all the bbq armadillo and possum they wanted at that particular stand.
The day had brought some good folks to party with. Lots of local friends of hosts Jeff and Deborah, plus a nice representation of other Internet correspondents besides us: Dan P. from St. Louis; Howard S. from the Philly area; Cal J. and family from Chicago; Ron M. also from Chicago; Jan W. from Dallas; and John M. and wife from Connecticut. Sadly, the recent events on the East Coast, as well as work considerations, had changed the plans of a number of people who had originally planned to attend, and we surely missed them.
Where KY Downs is located happens to be a dry county. The solution to this is to set up a party tent out in the parking lot behind the bleachers, and confine your illegal activities to there. No one seems to notice. Plus the tent makes a great, relatively quiet area for friends to gather and swap stories, away from the other 200 or so racegoers in the general bleachers vicinity, and soak up some sun and suds.
And suds there were. In addition to the two jugs of moonshine microbrew, there were coolers of various exotic brews that Jeff had brought, a St. Louis specialty that Dan P. had brought along, and a number of items I'd collected up along the way, from Oregon, and Arizona, and Colorado, and Texas, and Louisiana. The brew tasting throughout the day was barely 2nd to the racing.
Good racing, too, even if the fields were a bit decimated from recent years by the new problems with flying. The card consisted of six live races, all carded as part of the greater(?) Turfway program. The first (3rd) and sixth (16th) were turf maiden events with big fields, and offered great wagering, especially with the sixth being a 1-1/2 mi. maiden event. In between those we had the $100k Turf Dash (7 horses), the $100k Ladies Turf (sadly only 5 horses), the $200k KY Cup Mile (7 horses), and the $300k KY Cup Turf (another 7). Maybe you think those little fields would mean non-competitive, but you'd be wrong. Not a single Internet correspondent managed to pick a UPF "best bet" winner on the card. These were tough races.
On the betting front for me personally, I managed to get on top of exactly one race, the maiden first, getting a $10.60 winner and a $56.40 exacta out of the deal. I thought I was on top of the world at that point, and told everyone so. The following races proved the folly of that. Even so, the winnings from the first made it a winning day, as the spare change bankroll increased by a whopping $28.30 in favor of UPF.
The big winner on the day was a friend of Jeff's, who picked up half of a huge super, and then half of a good tri later. All he'd say about his methodology was, "People ignore Robby Albarado. He's the best jock out there." Ignoring him was definitely the wrong thing to do in the Turf Dash, as Robby and Amazon River won it at a huge price (although my personal opinion is that if I'd just paid attention to all Amazon River's recent works that I'd copiously marked I could have safely ignored Robby and just bet the horse), and then took the Mile on Minor Wisdom as well. One of the newbies in the group did get that longshot winner of the Dash, too, with a WPS. When asked how he came up with that horse, he recounted a trip he'd taken down the Amazon river some years previously.
Pah! PP's - who needs them?
Unfortunately, even on beautiful Fall days in Kentucky, race cards eventually come to and end, and this was no exception. Friends and Internet correspondents slipped away, to home, or hotels, or airports, and the party tent again came down when Deborah eventually took charge. The McChump Party returned to its Nashville digs in the dark.
Thanks once again, Jeff and Deborah, for putting on a great event and making all your friends so welcome. Hope to see you, and many other Internet Correspondents, at Kentucky Downs again next year.
Miles travelled to get to this track: 571
Kentucky Downs Party 2001
Click large image to start full screen slideshow with any captions
Paddock and first turn panorama
Cowboy Jones - Rode the first and second races Saturday
Cowboy Jones - Led all the way and finished 4th
Our host Jeff D.
Dan P. from St. Louis, and our hostess Deborah L.
Deborah's Friend - Dee I.
Howard S from Philly
Jane and John M. from NY
Deborah's yummy horse cookies
Jeff with Nick S. from Pittsburgh
Nick S. and Jeff D.
Jeff's Friends - Tommy R. & Vicki
Paddock Inspection. Jeff, Deborah and friends.
McChump and Dan P.
Deborah's Friends - Susan and Jeff L.
Another Art Photo!
Art Photo horse 4.
janbigw Art Photo! Horse 1
janbigw Art Photo! Horse 2
A 5th janbigw art photo. Hey, I've seen these horses before! Usually after a few brewskis.
Races are over folks!