Friday 5 November 2010

Day 70 – Batman vs. The Colonel

We woke up slow this morning after last nights festivities kept us from checking into our hotel until nearly 2am (in hindsight, we should have accepted Oli & Rebecca’s generous offer of a bed for the night!). But we awoke with purpose, drive (and caffeine), so it wasn’t long before we were on the road heading for downtown Louisville and the grave of another important American: Colonel Sanders (Kentuckian, chicken aficionado, secretive recipe handler).

Having gone to more than a few cemeteries on this trip already, we’ve noticed that starting the day in such macabre locations makes it hard to get jazzed up, but pulling into Cave Hill Cemetery, we were hit with a serenity that we hadn’t experienced in most of the other graveyards. It had some of the most beautiful headstones we’d ever seen and it got us thinking: What would we want above us when ‘the show’ ends? Something poetic? Something eye-catching? Joe for one thinks Colonel Sanders, the grand creator of KFC, was on the right track: you can’t go wrong with a bust of your head.
Growing up in the 80’s, we were both aware of the place that this iconic figure held in our memories in terms of advertising. He’s always had an instantly recognizable face; ever present in that clean white suit, Texas-tie and horn-rimmed glasses. He was as much a symbol of our poor childhood diets as Ronald McDonald, or Grimmus. And seeing as Ronald McDonald never dies and Grimmus’ remains were never found after that horrible blizzard in upstate New York…we thought we'd stop and say ‘good day’ to the Man in White. And if we could walk away half as pleased as The Colonel’s grandson next to him, we’d be off to a good start.
Our respects paid, we eagerly drove across town to the main reason we were there: The Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat factory. Having grown up with only two things making up his DNA (movies and baseball [note: scientifically inaccurate]), Joe was keen to get me hooked early on in our relationship. So the fact that we found ourselves next to a 50 foot bat today didn’t really surprise me. What did surprise me though, was how interesting and interactive this factory/museum was.
The museum part of the factory showed us more great artifacts from the history of baseball. They even let Joe (with gloves on) swing a 1961 game-used Mickey Mantle bat that was worth over $250,000. Joe couldn’t believe how different it felt from other bats. He loved every minute of it. But then again, maybe it felt different because he knew if he dropped it, I’d have to leave him there without any monetary compensation of my own for having to sell his butterfingers ass.
They let you look at the items in the museum at your own pace, before taking you onto the working floor of the factory. Now we’ve done our fair share of ‘tours’ on this trip, but this one immediately felt more laid back and fun. The factory has been making bats for Major League Baseball (and the public) since 1884, obviously back then it was quite a set of skills to have to lathe a bat out of a piece of pine – but it was great to see how times have changed. What once took a professional woodworker 20 minutes can now be done by computer in less than 30 seconds. It was amazing to watch. We were shocked to learn that MLB players have over 1,000 different types of bat to choose from!

After the tour ended, we each got a little souvenir bat as a keepsake but we felt that wasn’t quite enough so we decided to get a real souvenir made. And this time, there was nothing little about it. Setting our new bat aside, we made a final stop at the factories batting cages and took a few swings. I did surprisingly well with the softball setting and Joe will tell you he did mildly better with the baseballs. The day winding down, and our lack of sleep starting to catch up, we felt we should walk down the street before leaving Louisville and, you guessed it, have more drinks!
The Breeders Cup horse racing meeting happened to be on in Louisville this weekend and many of Joe’s ex co-workers from London are in town. Even though we were stopping by to say hi to his friend Kathleen in a bar (a goldfish filled one at that!), we felt more comfortable sticking to tea. She was lucky enough to get tickets to the races, but unlucky enough to have a nightmare journey from London (having gotten to town at 4am), so it was a short meet-and-greet, but fun nonetheless.

Every bit of England makes us realize that no matter how far away we may travel, nothing is ever so far away that you can’t hitch a ride with a stranger from Detroit to watch some animals run in a circle. We’ll definitely all have to meet up again and go to the races properly one of these years. You could feel the excitement for the races in the air all over the city. It’s quite unique in America to have that…How very British of them!

So, until tomorrow…

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