In many places, life is governed by stressful, pell-mell routines. Rush-hour traffic, get it done yesterday, I need that on my desk by five - now move, move, move! No wonder there always seems to be an underlying need to escape. That's why many of us ride. Out there, somewhere down the road, maybe, just maybe, we'll find that special place where time streams more slowly from hidden springs.
Fields of corn, rye, barley, and wheat rise from the Kentucky soil. Throughout summer the crops mature and showers fall, trickling down to the water table. Along its way back to the surface, flowing through subterranean limestone formations, the stream is purified and stripped of bitter-tasting iron. To a master distiller in these parts, around the small city of Bards-town, this water, the grains, and time comprise the major ingredients that create many a tippler's drink of choice: bourbon whiskey.
Through an Act of Congress in 1964, Kentucky Bourbon was established as America's Official Native Spirit. With the exception of Scotch perhaps, there's probably no other distillate as inextricably linked to a particular locale. In no specific order, when one thinks of Kentucky, the mind turns up images of thoroughbreds, rippling bluegrass, and those amber libations poured from bottles bearing the names of Jim Beam, Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, and other patient Kentucky gentlemen.
Day 1: Narrow Lanes
A beautiful September morning greets Florian Neuhauser, RoadRUNNER's Customer Service Manager, and me as we fire up our bikes (he's riding a Triumph Tiger and I, a Honda 599). We head out of Bardstown, generally meandering down a laid-back, warm-up route east. The tempo increases in pleasant curves once we turn south on Route 55, where the narrow two-lane begins to offer just enough challenge to keep us on our toes. In and out of trees, we sweep across low, rolling land planted with corn and tobacco. The early fall weather is just right for riding, and the farming scene soon changes to roads lined with tidy post-and-rail fences retaining beautiful, robust horses that lazily graze on the mineral-rich grass.
Out of nowhere, zipping over the Route 68 bridge spanning the slow-moving Kentucky River, we're tossed into a tight mixture of curves before we have a chance to enjoy a view of the steep limestone cliffs above the placid water. The pavement catapults us from the river valley and has the Tiger and the 599 swinging to and fro like a country fiddler's bow. Florian and I are all grins when we take a break at the top of the hill.
Finding Route 169 out of Nicholasville, we quickly plummet into another section near the Kentucky River, where a small paddlewheel ferryboat is chugging our way to give us a lift to the other side. Keeping the traffic moving here since 1785, the Valley View Ferry is the oldest continuously operated business in the state, and the ride across is free thanks to federal and state grants.
Down the road, we stop at Woody's Restaurant and Bar in Richmond, the home of Eastern Kentucky University, and after, turn west for an afternoon filled with relaxing scenery, empty roads, and fun curves on the return to Bardstown.
Once back in our lodgings at the Best Western General Nelson, we head straight for the pool. And while we're taking our ease in the fading rays, our good friend and colleague Paul Cook arrives from Florida, having just driven some 900 miles to join us for the next two days of riding.