All posts by dancordray

We're living the life we both dreamed about. Pursuing life on the road full-time. Come travel with us as we explore the many places around America. "Since I gotta live somewhere, I'l choose to live everywhere." ~~Dan~~

Maiden voyage… The new van.

Today Layla and I took the new van for a maiden voyage.  I wasn’t real sure where we would end up but I just knew I did not want to head west.  Why???  Well this is the start of the Kentucky derby and I didn’t really want to be anywhere around Louisville. So, east it was.  After travelling for a little while I decided to go check out one of my favorite free spots near Morehead, Ky.   Surprised I was to find two of the forest service roads in that part of the Daniel Boone Nat’l Forest closed.  I’m guessing the water was still too high.  Which brings a point, it’s easier (and cheaper) to call the Forest Service and ask questions about an area before just driving there.  So we headed back to Boonesboro State Park where even with the flooding there would still be places to stay.

Back in the day... http://nyx.uky.edu/dips/xt7x696zwx82/data/2008ms016/01/0214/0214.jpg
Back in the day…
http://nyx.uky.edu/dips/xt7x696zwx82/data/2008ms016/01/0214/0214.jpg

When I first moved to Kentucky this is one of the first “beaches” that I could come to and pretend to be near the ocean.  It was a great place for family fun and picnics.  Public restrooms and changing areas, tables lined a very nice covered pavilion.

Pavilion at Boonseboro Beach today
Pavilion at Boonseboro Beach today

Today there are no restrooms, no public bathrooms or changing areas, and no crowds of families playing on the beach.

And NO SWIMMING  signs are the public greetings today.
And NO SWIMMING signs are the public greetings today.
The beach today.
The beach today.
Only a few fishers frequent the beach today
Only a few fishers frequent the beach today

What happened!?!?   Well here’s an excerpt from the local paper…

Jan. 20, 1990  (The Winchester Sun)

For the second consecutive year, the Kentucky River has caused problems at Fort Boonesboro State Park.  The park’s beach was closed after water conditions became unsanitary for the second straight summer.  Heavy flooding also damaged park grounds and buildings.   A local group is working to get a new swimming pool for the park in hopes of increasing its attraction to tourists.

The Kentucky River became sick.  Who’s to blame?  Well that’s a hard question to answer and even harder to fix.  Here’s a report from the “Kentucky River Basin Assessment”…

Overview.

A relatively small number of issues account for most of the problems in the Kentucky River Basin that were documented in the Kentucky Division of Water’s most recent Report to Congress under the Clean Water Act. Water quality issues in the basin include straight pipes, contamination by animal waste, erosion and siltation, alteration of flow, removal of streamside vegetation, and contaminated storm water, as well as some point sources of pollution.

Though this really saddens me there are some great times to be had at the state park.  They have added a wonderful swimming pool with kiddie pool and sprayers, and of course the monument for the original fort is within the state park.

Pool at Boonesboro State Park today.
Pool at Boonesboro State Park today.

Not to mention  Fort Boonesboro with the reenactments and demonstrations is a short drive or hike on a nature trail away.  Fort Boonesboro website.

But what about our voayge??? After a little rest it continues…

I've got to build Layla her own spot.
I’ve got to build Layla her own spot.

Where to I’m not sure yet… but today it will continue.

 

So for now, we’re gonna…

Get out, Be safe , and Go adventure.

On to the Woodford Reserve…. Distillery that is.

Spending a Sunday afternoon touring a historic distillery and sampling the some very nice bourbon.

Cut stone buildings define the character of this distillery.
Cut stone buildings define the character of this distillery.

The tour begin with a ride from the Visitor’s Center down the hill and across the tracks used to roll the barrels to the rickhouse.  The tracks and the barrels come out of the side of the building where they are filled and bunged.

Not a small gauge railroad, tracks are to direct barrels to be aged.
Not a small gauge railroad, tracks are to direct barrels to be aged.

Once inside, I was struck by the rather small size of the interior of the building.  But realizing that this is small batch bourbon at it’s best, that really made sense.

No huge distilling towers here, only the "pot stills" fro the small batch production.
No huge distilling towers here, only the “pot stills” for the small batch production.

An interesting note is these stills were made by copper-smiths in Scotland.   There is another spot on the floor for a future still that will be made this time in America.  And where but the town of whiskey road… Louisville Kentucky.

Forsyth & Sons Coppersmiths in Scotland
Forsyth & Sons Coppersmiths in Scotland

Even the “proof box” had a unique sort of charm matching the large copper stills.  Here is where the whiskey is sampled for proofing before being put in the barrels.  Remember at this point it’s still just whiskey.  It is the aging in the charred oak barrels that does the magic of making bourbon.

View of the proofing box where the whiskey is sampled.
View of the proofing box where the whiskey is sampled.

After the proof is set the whiskey is put into barrels and labelled with the date and batch number.

Remember that whiskey has to be aged to make bourbon.  So the date it went into the barrel is very important.
Remember that whiskey has to be aged to make bourbon. So the date it went into the barrel is very important.

From here the barrels follow those tracks we crossed coming down the hill.  And this is where they end up, the rickhouse.

It's pretty amazing to think that these barrels are going to remain here to mature for years.
It’s pretty amazing to think that these barrels are going to remain here to mature for years.

And the last step after it’s aged to maturity is to put it in bottles that are easier to handle than those big barrels.

Bottling and boxing line.
Bottling and boxing line.

Well the tour ended with an explanation of where this unique bourbon gets that special flavor.   The limestone rich water, the quality grain mix, the fermentation, the distillation, and finally the maturation in the oak barrels.  These five elements combine to make this bourbon.

The five essential elements of Woodford Reserve bourbon.
The five essential elements of Woodford Reserve bourbon.

This wonderful tour was completed with a very nicely done tasting of this fine bourbon.

The perfect end to a perfect tour.
The perfect end to a perfect tour.

 

Where will we go next?  I’m not sure.  I’ve got several projects going at the same time including an upgrade to a larger van to pursue our travels.  So, I guess you’ll have to come back by and see where we end up.

 

Until next…

Get out, Be Safe and Go adventure.

Get away trip to the Gorge

Ok so I couldn’t stay on the Bourbon trail with another trail calling.  Besides, Layla wanted to camp out.

Layla leading the way...
Layla leading the way…

We started hiking in search of a place to stay the night and camp when we came upon a very unusual camp…

Tentsile in the trees, a newer way to camp.
Tentsile in the trees, a newer way to camp.

I’ve seen pictures of these but never one “in the wild”.   I can see some real advantages to this, the greatest being not having to find level ground.  It has a “hatch” in the center for access.

Out the hatch!
Out the hatch!

I apologize for the quality of the video, it was shot with a Nikon CoolPix because I was not carrying any actual video gear.  But I couldn’t pass the opportunity to share this with everyone.

Talking with them about this unique form of shelter was great, but we had to find a place of our own.  It was only a short distance around the trail that I discovered why they choose that spot.

When solo hiking it’s best to not take unnecessary chances, regardless of what you may see on the TV reality shows.  Which those shows are not reality but entertainment.  So, we passed the tentstile camp and continued to where this trail ran out for us.  I didn’t want to take a chance of a tumble down the cliff trying to traverse this edge.

Layla says it's the end of this trail
Layla says it’s the end of this trail

So we backtracked a bit and found a place to stay for the night.  Put up the hammock, laid down the ground cloth, and strung up the tarp for cover.

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

It was cozy and warm and a perfect way to rest from a great day on the trail.

Layla living the good life.
Layla living the good life.

So we crashed for the night.  Yes, Layla does sleep with me in the hammock.  She leads such a hard life.

 

Well maybe next time we’ll be back on the Bourbon Trail, if we don’t get distracted.    😉

 

Get out, Be safe, and go adventure.

See ya soon

 

Back on the trail of Bourbon

Back on the trail and this time in Anderson county near Lawrenceburg Kentucky.

Four Roses near Lawrenceburg Kentucky
Four Roses near Lawrenceburg Kentucky

This tour starts just like the bourbon with the corn.

Receiving area for the grains
Receiving area for the grains
Grains are checked for quality and moisture content
Grains are checked for quality and moisture content

There’s a lot of decision made in this little shack.  A whole truck load of grain could be rejected if it does not measure up.

From there it is sent to the mill to be ground and stored to make the mash.

Here it is ground and stored as meal
Here it is ground and stored as meal

It’s then mixed with the yeast that begins the fermentaion cycle.  They have been using the same yeast recipe since it requires a very small amount of yeast to start.  I guess a little yeast not only leavens the whole loaf but the entire pot.

Where the working yeast is stored
Where the working yeast is stored

And now the magic begins…. fermentation!

Fermentaion vat
Fermentaion vat

And then the process of cooking of the alcohol begins in the stills.

Vertical still
Vertical still

Now just because it says “beer still” don’t be misled.  this is not actually beer but rather one of the first stages of the process.  it will go from here to the doubler and then be placed in the barrels.

Doubler is where the proof is raised once more before being put in the barrels.
Doubler is where the proof is raised once more before being put in the barrels.
Yes the liqour is still clear at this stage
Yes the liqour is still clear at this stage

It’s only after being put in the barrels and taken through the maturation process by aging that bourbon takes on that color and flavoring.  The true magic is in the barrels and how they are charred and how they are stored during aging.

As with all bourbons they must be stored in charred oak barrels for at least two years to be called straight bourbon.

The next stop???  Well for me it will be the Woodford Reserve near Versailles Kentucky.

So until then…. “Get out, Be safe, and go Adventure.”

Matanzas Inlet, in the year of our Lord, Fifteen-hundred sixty-four

DSCN2920
Approaching the tower on the ferry.

My visit begins with a short boat ride to here.

But, this story begins with Phillip II learning that the French have built a fort at the mouth of the large river now called the St Johns.  This is a perfect location for those Protestant reformers that call themselves Huguenots to launch attacks on the treasure fleets returning to Spain. Ft caroline map cropped

Ignoring the protests from the devoutly Catholic Phillip, Jean Ribault sailed from France in May with more than 600 soliders and settlers to resupply the new French fort.  In return Phillip sent an Adm. Pedro Mendendez with 800 people and a mission to establish a settlement and remove the French when he arrived at the mouth of the St Johns river in August.  After giving chase on the sea, the Spanish sailed on to the newly founded post called St. Augustine.big_map1Again in September Jean Ribault suffered another loss this time one including the lives of more than a hundred men. A hurricane had struck that wrecked the ships some where between what is now Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral.  When the survivors reached the shore Menendez informed them of the fall of Fort Caroline and urged their surrender, even with no promise of clemency. He spared only a few professing Catholics and four artisans needed to at St. Augustine.  Two weeks more french survivors reached this inlet and met the same fate as their countrymen, nearly 250 perished.   It is from that time that the inlet became known as Matanzas, the spanish word for slaughters.   The question of Menendez’s actions remains unanswered.  Was he driven to these deeds because food supplies were already low and this was a simple deed of survival? Or, was this a vengeful act motivated by religion?  {Much of this history I found at the site presented by the National Park Service}

Today the Torre de Matanzas (Matanzas Tower) stands quiet, it’s cannons no longer thunder as they did when firing their deadly six and eighteen pound balls.  Instead, the Park Service guides recount the life of of the soldiers stationed at the post.  Matanzas folderThe walls have long since lost their smooth brilliant white and red plaster, colors of the Spanish flag, that announced to all that saw it “this is territory of Spain”.DSCN2935

What remains visible is the coquina blocks hauled from El Piñon, a quarry south of the inlet. DSCN2939 If you look very closely under this Garita (sentry box) you will see a trace of what is now pink remaining from the red plaster that was here in 1742.

The normal garrison for this post was one officer, four infantrymen, and two gunners.  They enlisted men shared quarters right off the gun deck while the officer stayed in the room above.  DSCN2929DSCN2930While the table setting might appear “quaint” by some standards, remember that six men lived and ate together here during the hot and humid Florida summers.

It’s no wonder that the officer had these accommodations…DSCN2931

Battles?   Only one significant engagement with the British not the French.  You see Gov. James Oglethorpe, from the British colony in Georgia, tried to gain advantage of the inlet.  His ships were driven back by the four six-pound and the one eighteen-pound guns firing from the tower.

The view today looking toward the inlet

After the British ships retreated the guns were never again fired in battle.

The American Revolution, a second Treaty of Paris, then finally Spain transferring Florida to the United States in 1821 found the fort  with new owners that would never occupy its’ walls.  The tower soon fell to ruin from the storms, salt air and lack of upkeep.  It became a curiosity to the visitors of the  Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, and Morgans made St. Augustine their winter home.

A Postcard of Fort Matanzas from the 1890s.
A Postcard of Fort Matanzas from the 1890s.

It was these influential guests who convinced the Congress of 1916 to spend $1025 to repair and preserve this structure.  One hundred years ago the decision was made to protect a part of our history dating back to a time twice that.

The next trip to this area will be to Fort Caroline and the trail that leads back through time to that place in our history.  Please do follow the links I’ve included here in the blog. They can unlock some more of the fascinating history of our country.

 

As usual, “Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure”.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

During my travels when I tell people I’m currently living in Kentucky the first thing most often mentioned is bourbon.  Not the bluegrass, nor fast women and beautiful horses…um wait, beautiful horses and fast women…. Oh forget it!  You get the idea, it’s about the bourbon.2055

So began my adventures on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.  Now let me say, while I’m not a t-totaller, bourbon is something I know very little about.  I think it uses corn, as does all good moonshine (that’s another post), as a basis for it’s mash.  And they put it in barrels for a really long time.

In the rickhouse at Stitzel-Weller.
In the rickhouse at Stitzel-Weller.

My first stop was the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller.  This is also where I picked up my bourbon trail passport.  This is a guide and record of the distilleries you visit along the trail.

I’m learning that the Whiskey/Bourbon business is competitive, congenial, secretive (very secretive), complex (legally) and almost fraternal in natural.  You see many of the key players have worked at other distilleries, started their own or advised someone else in making fine liquor.  Yet, they all have to play be the same rules.  Yes, like every other business in America they have rules. In fact Congress voted in place one of these rules in 1897.  The “Bottled-in-Bond” became law actually several years before any FDA rulings were past!  In fact during the Prohibition error, sorry Era (must be the whiskey talking) alcohol could only be sold (legally) with a Dr’s prescription.

For medicinal purposes of course
For medicinal purposes of course (Display at Evan Williams Bourbon Experience)

SO, what is bourbon and how do they make it?  Legally, yes there is a legal definition actually passed by Congress in 1964, It must be…

  • a grain mix of at least 51% corn
  • distilled to no more than 160 proof
  • no coloring or flavoring added
  • aged in new charred oak barrels
  • placed in barrel at no more than 125 proof
  • bottled at no less than 80 proof
  • it may be called “straight” is aged for at least two years
  • if aged less than 4 yrs the age must be on the label
  • AND it can be called “bourbon” only if it’s made in the USA!

WOW, I’m not so sure some foods can meet all those requirements.

My tour began in with a history of the distillery and that’s where I began to appreciate the “bourbon community” of master distillers.

At this particular site there is one of the first vertical stills used in commercial production.  But let’s get on to the good part…

The bourbon is stored in the charred oak barrels in a “rick house” to age.  This aging process is done in an environment that is NOT climate controlled.  Trust me, it was quite cold when I was there this February.  The exposure to the elements is essential to the aging process.  As the barrels heat in the summer months the bourbon passes into the wood of the barrels through the charred wood.  Then in the cooler months it returns in solution bringing with it the natural coloring and the flavoring from the barrel.  Charring the wood causes the wood to carmel and add flavoring to the whiskey. Remember, Congress said “no added coloring or flavoring”?  This is how the bourbon gets it color and flavor.  AND, the longer it stays in the barrel exposed to the elements, the more color and flavor.

Now the Bulleit brand bourbon is all “small batch” bourbon.  This means they select some barrels from the first floor of the rick house and some from the seventh floor and a few in between.  Why?  To create the taste for that particular age of whiskey.  Sorry, now that it’s aged we can call it bourbon, well after it is proofed to be bottled.

A look up into the rick house (Stitzel-Weller distillery)
A look up into the rick house (Stitzel-Weller distillery)

But what about the barrels?  Yes they can begin to leak and need repair.

View of the cooper shop (Stitzel-Weller)
View of the cooper shop (Stitzel-Weller)

The barrels are carefully weighed with the scales to the left and then drained into the stainless steel vats on the right.  Each barrel has a serial number so that the starting weight and the ending weight can be veriefed.  Bourbon out must equal bourbon put back in, remember it is under government oversight.  Once the barrel is drained, hoops knocked down then the repair begins.  The cooper uses cattails to place between the leaking staves.  Cattails do not add flavor and they swell when wet sealing the leak.   Then the barrel is placed back into the rick house with the carefully weighed contents to finish aging.

Demonstrating how cattails are used to seal leaks  (Stitzel-Weller)
Demonstrating how cattails are used to seal leaks (Stitzel-Weller)

Now to the best part, tasting the outcome of all that aging!

Remember how there had to be at least 51% corn in the mash?  Well there can also be whiskey made with rye as the grain of choice.  That’s the rye whiskey you hear about. And these folks make a rye with just a touch of malt to take the edge off.

Which was my favorite?

Well the two year-old bourbon was ok, it didn’t burn the mouth yet gave a good warmth afterward.  And the rye did have a slightly different aftertaste with not as much heat in the mouth.  But, the ten year-old bourbon was definitely a better bourbon.  The taste really was  noticeably different.

I will try and post some more from might visit to Evan Williams distillery in the next couple of days.

Before I go one more picture…

I did not mount rooftop ordinance just for the trip to Louisville…van rofftop guns

No this is not a standoff between the SS Phoenix and enemy trucks!

I posted this picture on a vandweller site I frequent and had several comments.  So I had to go back and look at the picture.  It does kinda look like I gottem’ out gunned.

 

As always,  Get out, Be safe, and Go adventure…

Next time Evan Williams Bourbon Experience.

A trek in the desert with friends

This is the day we get to go see Indian petroglyphs and grinding holes thanks to my friend Charlene.

DSCN2731

Charlene knew the location of this rock house, the petroglyphs, and the grinding holes we would be seeing. She majored in archaeology and was a lot of fun to go exploring with. She lead this expedition crew into the desert.DSCN2745DSCN2732 DSCN2733

Layla led the way into this cave that was quite possibly a shelter for some family.

After a short climb to a place above the shelter…

DSCN2735

DSCN2736We were rewarded with a collection of grinding holes where the Indians would grind their seeds and grains.

DSCN2737Using a round stone in these holes they would break and grind the seeds and grains to make a flour or meal that could then be cooked.   We continued on to a place where messages were left.  Can you understand their meanings?DSCN2755 DSCN2754Here’s a link to a little more information on petroglyphs.  Wkikpedia

Charlene described how the appearance of this section of the desert has changed over a very short time. When the water rushes through the wash it removes soil from the area and deposits the debris it brings from the path it followed.  So the desert landscape is consantly being changed year to year.

Time for a little break before we head back.

DSCN2739I hope you enjoyed our trek.   And once again

Get out, Be safe, Go adventure

Cooking and driving,

As with all trips…  Where do we eat, What do we eat, When do we eat, and in some cases can we AFFORD to eat are questions that always come up.

I decided to post the answer to these questions today because of hearing some of these questions at the RTR in Quartzite.

The easy answer…  Cook your own food as you drive.

My donation to the chili supper was 2lbs of chili meat that was cooked across New Mexico and Arizona.   I did this so that it was ready to go in the pot as soon as I arrived.  Thanks to Peter and others the dinner was a huge hit for more than 75 people attending. DSCN2708

This kicked off the RTR for me personally and the next day when Randy gave such an entertaining and thoughtful invocation quoting Whitman, Thoreau, and of course himself to open one of the morning sessions.

DSCN2716

But what about the cooking?     One of the gadgets I use is the Roadpro 12volt slow cooker.Crock pot roast

This is a SantaFe seasoned roast I picked up at Walmart for about $8.  Well it’s half of one, we had already started eating before I grabbed a picture.  This gave me three meals worth of meat. And it was done when I stopped for the night.spaghetti pot

And another easy meal, cook the spaghetti for about 30-45 minutes and then throw in the Sandwich Makers meatballs and sauce.  Since neither of these require refrigeration this is one of the staple foods that stay in my van.IMAG0904

How about some burritos?IMAG0902 Some tortilla wraps, Sandwhich Makers pulled pork, garlic and herb seasoned butter and some shredded cheese make tasty wraps.  Put these in the lunch-box oven and rotate them turn a side down to be browned.  Here’s a link to the oven… Roadpro Lunch Box Oven

 

Well now you know some of my tricks for meal prep while traveling so as always…

Get out, Be Safe and go adventure.

Until next time, which will be my visit to Montezuma’s Castle, be safe.

 

 

Another Indian flute played this time by my friend Vincent

I just got this MP3 from Vincent and thought I’d share with everybody.

Seems Vincent bought a flute from High Spirits, which is the same company as the one I bought.

However, he is much better than I.

Click on the link at the top or under the blog roll to go to Road Noise to have a listen

Once again I’m still on the road and still trying to catch up more than 4000 miles of travels for Layla and I so be patient we’ll get there.

BBQ, History and Reverence in Kentucky

This weekend is the Kentucky State BBQ Festival in Danville, KY.

Come on Layla get up let’s go….

DSCN1180Snoozin’ go away!

Well she doesn’t yet share my enthusiasm, but she will.

She actually scored big at the festival, almost a full rack of rib bones.

A kind fellow saw her sitting and waiting patiently as I ate some of my food. I guess he missed the part where she got some first, before I ever got a bite. But he gave her a pile of bones from the rack of ribs his family had been eating.

On the way to feed our bellies we passed a sign that said there was an event going on at Camp Nelson. Here’s a brief description and link to the Camp Nelson Historic Site homepage.

Camp Nelson website

Camp Nelson’s Portal To Freedom
Camp Nelson provided the Union Army with over 10,000 African-American soldiers, making it the third largest recruiting and training depot for African Americans in the nation. Many of the black soldiers brought their families with them to Camp Nelson and eventually the army established a refugee camp for these individuals. Thousands of African-Americans came to Camp Nelson and it was here that they gained their freedom. Read more.

Today though we walked back in time to where history was looking at us.

Hilltop Union CampHilltop Union Camp

Just over this rise was the camp of the 12th infantry.

fellows in camp

Now we had arrived after a skirmish and the soldiers were regrouped in camp trying to refresh themselves and develop new strategies. This group, the 12th infantry, was actually up here from Florida where they all live. Although, some of them have ancestors who were raised and fought here at Camp Nelson. Many of the 10,000 black Civil War soldiers brought their families to the refugee camp that was here. At one point in time these families were expelled from the camp and their shanties burnt to prevent their return. This lead to the death of hundreds due to exposure in the winter months. Story of sorrow

The event included actors (people like you and I that love history) in period costume to tell the story to us all. Some of them I actually recognized, well their characters at least.

Abe at Camp Nelson
Abe at Camp Nelson

Others helped to portray what life was like “back in the day.

School at Camp Nelson
School at Camp Nelson

The Site housed a museum with story boards and displays of life in the camp. There were archives and artifacts displayed as well.

camp display

While this close I had to visit the national cemetery at Camp Nelson.

DSCN2258

If you’ve never been to a national cemetery you’ll most likely not understand what I’m about to describe.
” I stand on this hallowed ground, this field of unrealized dreams, so that I may give my respect to those that gave their dreams that I might dream and live free.” ~~ Dan ~~

DSCN2250

Thanks for dropping by, leave us a comment or two so we know you’ve been here with us.

Until next time, Layla and I hope you …

“Get out, be safe, and go adventure”

In just a few days we’ll be headed to Tumbling Creek for the weekend.