Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ELC's Whiskey and Chocolate Tour

This is Part One of Two Parts of the Second Part of Rhode Trip. Don’t try to keep up—just go with it.

The majority of our driving occurred on Interstates. Not always great Interstates, but Interstates. The trip from Central and East Texas to Arkansas? Fairly uneventful. Okay. I’m just guessing on that statement. I was asleep. We stopped in Texarkana for lunch at a Subway. Can’t go wrong with Subway, right? Well, this one was freezing cold. Even hot-natured Hubby was shivering. We ate fast.

We do love Arkansas. Hot Springs. Little Rock (where Hubby was born and lived for the first six years of his life). Lake Catherine State Park. All superb. Eureka Springs—an amazing little Town in the Arkansas Hills full of charming shops and scrumptious restaurants. My favourite shop? Wilson & Wilson Folk Art Co. Delightful! Find Blakeley Wilson at http://www.wilsonandwilsonfolkartshoponline.com/. Our favourite restaurant? Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse. Mouth-watering incredible. Arkansas = Awesome.

We basically flew (just a word—there was no actual speeding going on, Sillies) through Little Rock and headed to Memphis—another fantastic town in a magnificent state we’ve had the joy of visiting in years gone by. I was actually the “Official Driver” through Memphis. I was a Rock Star. Yes, yes I was. In traffic. As Hubby checked maps and consulted Nina and gave me unsolicited “tips.” He was supposed to nap, but, naturally, didn’t have time. We agreed we liked the idea of staying in Jackson, Tennessee. Nashville was now out of The Plan—too far away.

We were tres impressed with Jackson. We had a comfortable night at a pretty Holiday Inn Express. The next morning, we decided to throw caution to the wind and go north to Kentucky (instead of east to Virginia—we’d see Virginia when heading home). This would mean we could take a tour of the Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky (how they spell it because they have chutzpah and don't need that unnecessary "e") Distillery, located in Loretto, Kentucky.

Hubby has been a Maker’s Mark aficionado for several years. A good friend enrolled him in their “Ambassador” program—a brilliant marketing tool. And when I say brilliant, what I really mean is GENIUS. Hubby’d been considering a tour since he began planning our trip. Check them out at http://www.makersmark.com/. It’s a clever and entertaining website. And, hey, apply to be an Ambassador—what a hoot!

Even though I only have a glass of wine occasionally—like once a month—pinky swear, I knew a tour could be memorable. OMGosh. Was it ever. And who knew there’s a “Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” featuring six distilleries in the stunning Bluegrass hills? Not us. As we toured Maker’s Mark, Hubby and I made a goal to come back some day to check out all the distilleries. (However, in the event we never get that accomplished, a sweet couple on our tour, who had seen the other five, said Maker’s Mark was, hands down, The Best.)

Hubby hand-dipped this bottle himself!

Who also knew I’d be game when given a “sample” of Maker’s 46 at the end of the tour? It’s a fairly new and smoother, sweeter whiskey. I’m typically not a “straight shot” Drinker Kind O’ Gal. Nope. Not interested. I think it all tastes suspiciously like rubbing alcohol or cough medicine. And I gag. I not only belted that tablespoon, in a tiny shotglass, of 46 down the proverbial hatch, I liked it. I was, frankly, shocked at how much I liked it. They then gave us a sample of their Maker’s Mark Bourbon Chocolates. Thank you—thank you very much. You're a beautiful whisky distillery. They are not just delicious chocolates. They are DIVINE. ALL CAPS.

I can’t imagine why anyone would ever leave Kentucky. Driving to Clarksburg, West Virginia, where we'd decided to stay our second night, my lips were in a permanent “Wow” configuration for hundreds of miles through the Kentucky hills. Although we didn’t have time to go see The Derby grounds (something I’m hellbent on doing—attending The Kentucky Derby itself—not just visiting Churchill Downs), we couldn’t stop commenting on the breathtaking views we were encountering. My idea of Kentucky had developed from watching The Derby for forty years and from the movie Something To Talk About, with Julia Roberts, Dennis Quade, Gena Rowlands, one of Hubby’s, TLC’s and my all-time favourite actors—Robert Duvall, and, of course, one of TLC’s and my all-time favourite actresses—Kyra Sedgwick.

West Virginia? Their sign welcoming visitors, as you cross the border from Kentucky, says: “Wild and Wonderful.” Hmmm. Yes, I can definitely understand the “Wild,” right, Autumn? Unfortunately, Hubby and I only saw WV at dusk and then, gradually, in complete and total darkness. Those lights all over the West Virginia hills were “Wonderful.” Absolutely magical. (At this point, I’d be happy to share I could have some West Virginia in my DNA. It’s a long story I shan't go into now, but it might provide an explanation as to why I’m addicted to Diet Mountain Dews.) One of the most influential people West Virginia has given to Our World? Brad Paisley. I adore him.

The only thing that sticks in my mind about Clarksburg (not that it isn’t a precious town) was seeing a truck in the parking lot of our hotel with a bumper sticker that read:

Yes, As a Matter of Fact, I DO Own the Road.  

I’d love to have one hundred thousand of those stickers. I’d somehow figure out how to pass them out to the cRaZy drivers on the Dallas North Tollway. I also learned this attitude could apply to many, many, many Truckers on our American Roads (not just Ice Road Truckers). Let me assure y’all, if you had any doubts, the trucking industry seems to be healthy and thriving. Hubby and I have never seen so many trucks (especially those “double combos”—mostly UPS and FedEx) in our combined 124 years. (See my upcoming Soapbox on this subject in a couple of weeks.)

Hope y’all will humor me and stay tuned for ELC's Whiskey and Chocolate Tour—Part Two. Coming soon to a website near you...

Faretheewell, Friends...

2 comments:

Autumn said...

Who knew the US had its' own whisky tour? Just like Ireland and Scotland! They, alas, had no chocolates though. I don't know why, God knows, since they use whisky (or Scotch, in Scotland) in
EVERYTHING else on their menus! Mmmmm, chocolate.

The Leightons said...

We had no clue about the Whiskey Tours! Oh, how I wish I could see the Scotland Whiskey Tours. I'd forgive them immediately for not having chocolates. (I'd just take those Marker's Mark delights with me!!!)

Cheers to you, Ms. Autumn!