The weather forecast was ideal for our Day 2 visit to the Kentucky Horse Park. Diamondqueen considered rousing everyone at a reasonably early hour so we could take advantage of the complimentary breakfast at Holiday Inn Express. However, when her alarm went off, she found everyone so socked in and snoring she decided to let us sleep. Consequently, it was after 10 a.m. when we pulled into a Bob Evans just off I-75 en route to the Horse Park.
At first we were taken aback by the Hustler store and the abandoned motel overgrown with weeds nearby. However, there were plenty of nicer motels in the area as well as restaurants, so we overcame our reservations and headed inside.
The plan was to eat hearty so we could skip lunch and focus on our horse-related activities. We all ordered breakfast meals, the Hooligans’ choices based on bacon with a side of bacon. I downed several cups of black coffee with my French toast and sausage links to give me energy to face the day—I rarely drink coffee any more unless traveling, especially with the Hooligans.
We arrived at the horse park in time for Diamondqueen and J.Hooligan to make reservations for the next scheduled riding group. S.Hooligan refused to go riding, so I had to stay behind with her, even though I kind of wanted to ride, too. As Diamondqueen pointed out later, though, I have enough back trouble as it is. What kind of shape I’d be in after 45 minutes on a horse was painful to imagine, assuming I could get on the horse in the first place.
It was a fresh-feeling afternoon with a pleasant breeze, and the sun glistened against the emerald green of the white-fenced pastures. It was very pleasant to sit in the covered shelter near the corral waiting for the horseback riding to commence.
Once all the riders began to line up, I made my way to the fence that separated the corral from the roadway so I could snap photos of the proceedings. If I’d known how long it would take to get the outing organized, I would have stayed in the covered shelter with S.Hooligan. First there was the fitting of helmets to each of the riders, followed by instructions on how to operate a horse. Then the riders lined up on a raised platform and the ride leader chose riders one-by-one and assigned each to his or her horse. This, of course, included helping the rider mount, then adjusting stirrups.
Diamondqueen was paired with her horse first, an enormous old gray with a shaggy mane and wide, muscled rump. (I don’t know my horse breeds; possibly it was a Belgian?) We were concerned about Diamondqueen’s ability to hoist herself into the saddle with one arm since her injured shoulder limited use of her left arm. She did just fine, especially considering the height of her large-hoofed steed.
J.Hooligan was assigned a gray as well, although a much smaller horse than his mother’s. None of us are experienced riders, but J. looked comfortable smiling down at me from the saddle. He murmured to the horse and stroked its neck as everyone waited for the rest of the party to saddle up.
At last the group was mounted and ready to head out. The horses seemed to know exactly what order they should be in, lined up along the fence. The parade crossed the road and clomped along a path into a field and eventually disappeared around a bend.
There was a stay-behind horse that looked as if it wanted some attention. It came over to where I was standing by the fence, and I petted its soft nose sympathetically, wishing I was out on the trail, too. Then I looked away for a second and the dear thing tried to nip me. I gave it a few more pats, then went over to the shelter to wait out the 45-minute ride.
It could have been idyllic sitting there in the fresh breeze, gazing on distant horses in the pastures, but S.Hooligan would have none of it. She started harassing me about nothing in particular just to attract my attention. She continually asked if I’d seen the duck. What duck? The duck from the Duck Song. Oh. This track of conversation was on a kind of loop, interspersed with the usual “Shut it, Fatty!” or “Chester, you suck!” Death threats did nothing to distract her. I was relieved when the first horses appeared returning from the ride.
The journey had been warm in the direct sun. Diamondqueen was pink and J.Hooligan had a bright red swatch across the back of his neck. I realized my own face was stinging slightly. None of us had thought about sunscreen. We gathered ourselves up and headed to another shelter near the ponies where we knew we could get cold drinks out of a vending machine. There they also sold individual photos of the riders on horseback. Diamondqueen purchased one of J. to give to his grandma but declined her own photo, which she deemed unflattering.
Refreshed, we headed to the museum, although the others streaked through the exhibits so rapidly I wondered why we’d bothered. There was a special exhibit on the Arabian horse, though, with electronic stations where kids could answer questions and earn stamps for a personalized scrapbook page they would receive at the end. This interested S.Hooligan, and we went through the display together, taking the quizzes and completing the various steps. At the second-to-last station, the screen chastised us for skipping the first station and directed us to go back and start there. Huh?
Diamondqueen and J.Hooligan hung out near some video modules while S. and I hurried back to the first station to re-start the procedure. A girl and her grandfather were already there, picking out their horses for the activity, so S. had to wait while they fumbled through the process.
We had to wait behind them at every station from then on, a trial since we’d already done everything once, knew the answers to all the quizzes, and wanted to shove the girl and older man out of the way so we could complete their tasks and get them moving. That second-to-last station that tripped us up the first time required a “ride” during which the player had to keep the horse’s pulse at a certain rate as it challenged hills and galloped through valleys. The grandfather had abandoned the activity by now, but the girl gingerly ran her Arabian through the course and broke no speed records.
When we were just about at our breaking point, the girl finished her ride and S. was able to resume her own quest. This time the machine accepted her game card; I helped her with her ride so we could proceed in a timely manner. The final stop had two stations, so we didn’t have to wait on the girl to design her page. S. selected the various elements of her scrapbook page, then we entered Diamondqueen’s e-mail address so the “page” could be sent home. We were high-tailing it out of the museum when the girl was putting the finishing touches on her creation.
We were trying to make the 3:15 show at the Hall of Champions, which was up a hill beyond a bunch of barns. We made it to the covered arena just before the first of the horses was brought out on parade. It was an interesting presentation featuring both thoroughbred and standardbred champions. Before each horse was led into the arena, videos showed that steed winning key races. We saw two Kentucky Derby winners in our presentation, Go for Gin and Funny Cide, the latter of which I remembered well.
On our way back down the hill, we stopped at one of the huge barns to gaze in the stalls at some beautiful creatures. J.Hooligan had been examining the gender of each horse he saw all day, dragging S.Hooligan into it as well. We hustled them out of the barn before their discussions got too graphic. We also stopped at the horse cemetery, which had existed before the horse park was created from one of the Lexington farms.
Our last hurrah was at the souvenir shop. I bought a harness horse necklace for Mom from Diamondqueen and me; the kids got horsey souvenirs. I was about to snatch up a container of bourbon candy when Diamondqueen spotted a box of bourbon cherries. We had seen an ad for the candy maker, but they didn’t seem to have a commercial shop. An expensive treat, but I couldn’t wait for the heavenly combination of bourbon and chocolate. (Cherries sounded good, too.)
At the hotel I indulged in a couple of cherries, then we napped. We all stirred by around 6 o’clock, with S.Hooligan asking about dinner and wheedling to go to the Orange Leaf frozen yogurt store across the street. This was mystifying because she’d never had Orange Leaf yogurt before. I said I’d take her if no one else wanted to go, but we all felt we needed more sustenance than that.
We’d seen a restaurant next door called Zaxby’s. I checked the menu online and found it consisted mostly of chicken fingers. That was fine as J.Hooligan is a connoisseur of chicken fingers and even I can manage them now and then. It sounded good, chicken fingers accompanied by french fries, cole slaw, and Texas toast.
We marched over to the restaurant, which turned out to be strictly fast food, not a sit-down-and-order-from-a-server establishment. We put in our orders, found a table, and waited for our number to be announced. The girl taking our order assured me the Zaxby sauce was “really good,” so I took a chance on it.
When we dug into our meals, the enthusiasm level tanked immediately. J. couldn’t (or wouldn’t) finish his chicken fingers, something that rarely happens. I found the fingers uninteresting and the special sauce inedible. (Diamondqueen and I traded guesses about the ingredients. She suggested ranch dressing. I didn’t pick up that flavor; I simply found it putrid.) The fries excited no one, and my Texas toast just tasted like a thick piece of bread from the toaster, not grilled. I did rather like the cole slaw, but when I tried to pull apart one of the chicken fingers and it squirted at me, I gave up.
Oddly enough, the experience united all four of us in our contempt for Zaxby’s. The Hooligans loudly proclaimed how much they hated the food and wondered how anyone could eat there. They even tried to yell warnings at the drivers headed for the drive-through window, but we shushed them. Obviously the chain is popular, and there was a continuous line of cars heading for the drive-through. Maybe it was our Yankee sense of taste or something.
Orange Leaf frozen yogurt made up for everything, though. We stumbled into the store and gazed around in total confusion. The clerk explained that we could take the little paper cups and try any and all flavors of yogurt from the self-serve spigots. Then we could take a cardboard dish, mix our flavors however we desired and add our own toppings from the buffet, then bring our masterpieces up to the counter and have them weighed (pricing was so much per ounce).
The novelty of the whole thing seemed to enchant the Hooligans. They tried different flavors, although J.Hooligan settled for plain yogurt, no toppings. He rhapsodized about how delicious this froyo was (frozen yogurt) and what a fantastic oasis of delight this was, especially so near to Zaxby’s. The froyo was good. Again, the four of us were united, this time in praise for Orange Leaf. (It turned out we have Orange Leaf yogurt in our area; S.Hooligan knew about it because her teacher had talked about it in class, which apparently influenced her insistence on us trying it.)
At the hotel, while waiting for the elevator, I spotted a sign that noted there would be a guest appreciation event the next night with free food. Then I spotted the line, “Catered by Zaxby’s.” In the elevator, I told the others. They shrieked, and S.Hooligan fell to her knees as if overcome with horror. I’m glad I didn’t mention it while we were still in the lobby.
S.Hooligan and I had another long swim in the chilly pool. We were alone almost the entire time until several young men entered, followed soon after by some young ladies. I suggested it was time to wrap it up and S. agreed.
I had a nightcap of two more bourbon cherries and tried again to blog about the day’s doings; but, as before, the wi-fi was so poor it took five seconds for each letter of the post title to appear as I was keying it in. I gave it up as a lost cause and crocheted while watching some television. Again, J.Hooligan and I were the last to turn out the lights.