The day before departure, we stocked up on some provisions that would carry us for the first several days. We also stopped by Beer Run to fill up a couple of growlers for the trip. TK chose the Troeg’s Hoppy Amber and I picked one of my favorites, the Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ pale wheat ale. I also paid a visit to the new Timbercreek Market, a local farm to table butcher shop, and selected two very nice NY strip steaks that were hand-cut especially for us.
We agreed to depart early the next morning from the townhouse where TK had been staying for the month of August. I arrived at approximately 7:00 am and, after the final packing, we were ready to depart by 8:00. TK decided to leave 3 boxes behind, as they took up too much room and arranged to have them shipped out by his friend. TK was feeling a bit under the weather with a persistent dry cough but otherwise in good spirits. The cough was a parting gift from the farewell parties at my stomping ground at St. Maarten Cafe.
Shortly after leaving Charlottesville, I missed the exit for I-64W near Lexington, VA and discovered the error after about 30 min when I began to see signs for Roanoke, VA on I-81W. I was involved in telling a story, something that I did often throughout the expedition. It was not the first time over the years that I had missed this exit and it’s safe to say that it will not be the last. Rather than doubling back, TK fired up the GPS on his phone and assumed the role of Navigator which lasted for the rest of the journey, leaving me to the tasks of piloting the vessel and telling my stories which I hoped he didn’t mind. I didn’t mind. David’s stories would turn out to be both incredibly amusing and amazingly eclectic. He says he worries about running out of stories…. Impossible. In addition to being the Navigator, TK had multiple other roles including keeping me awake, and serving as the scribe to record the events each day in the book that we dubbed the Captain’s log, for obvious reasons. I am indebted to him for this because, without these scribblings, the document that you are now reading would not have been possible.
The first side trip that had been planned for the day was lunch at Hillbilly Hot Dogs located on the bank of the Ohio River in Lesage, WV. It is extremely difficult to adequately describe this place with mere words and thus I recommend studying the photos that we took. When the weenie stand opened about 15 years ago, it was nothing more than an old school bus that had been converted into a hot dog stand. But over the years, various ramshackle additions have been tacked on and a dizzying array of random junk has been piled up all over the place. There are signs painted and graffitied on the walls, tree trunks, and every other conceivable surface with assorted hillbilly sayin’s and there is even a wedding chapel! Besides having a decent weenie, and that is what they call them there, one claim to fame is that they were recently featured on the Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives”. Because of this, they are now World Famous and it is not unusual to have to wait an hour or more to place your order. Thankfully, we were there during the work week and did not have to contend with a line. The specialty of the shack is a monstrous weenie called “The Homewrecker” which is a 15”, 1 lb all beef weenie loaded with jalapenos, sautéed peppers & onions, nacho cheese, habanero, chili sauce, mustard, slaw, lettuce tomato and shredded cheese on a humongous bun.
If you eat it within 12 minutes, you get a free homewrecker t-shirt. The current record holder is a man named Ron Cash Clark. If you beat his record of 2 min 34 sec, you also get the monster weenie for free. TK had decided that he would at least score a free t-shirt and vie for the record himself if at all possible. It was not to be. He said that this was partly due to the abundance of onions that were loaded on it that would surely result in a gastronomical catastrophe, but mostly due to the $19.99 pricetag. Twenty bucks for a hot dog? Really? TK ending up getting a spicy grilled hot dog (yum) with a side order of jalapeno poppers (gross) and I had the West Virginia Dog that had chili, mustard, onions, and slaw on top (yum) with a side of ranch garlic fries with bacon bits (yum). We sat at a picnic table outside with Cali and scarfed down the weenies along with bottled water.
Our bellies sated, we headed off for our next stop, Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY. Buffalo Trace is renowned for its limited release Pappy Van Winkle line of bourbon, but they also make a number of other high quality bourbons under different labels. The distillery was Cali-friendly so she was able to accompany us into the room where we had a private tasting of several of their brands. We tasted the Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, and the Bourbon Cream (sort of like Bailey’s). Both of us liked the Eagle Rare so we bought a bottle of it, along with some oak-aged bitters. As we were departing, the ladies in the gift shop wanted to give Cali a special treat. Unfortunately, they discovered that the dog ahead of Cali was privy to the last pressed corn mash dog biscuit, but due to her lack of comprehension of the English language, she was not overtly disappointed.
Given the fact that we lost about an hour as a result of my missing the exit earlier in the day, and we were still quite some distance from our first campground, we elected to skip a side trip to Louisville, KY
We had planned to visit an eccentric and eclectic roadside attraction called “Jerry’s Junk”. Seriously. It is a local man’s yard filled with assorted junk from everywhere. Not your usual junk, but strange random items that somehow go together, in an almost artistic way. We also planned to stop at the cemetery where Colonel Sanders, of KFC fame, and Charlottesville’s own George Rogers Clark, father of William Rogers Clark, of Lewis & Clark fame, are buried. In addition to siring William, George was one of the principal founders of Louisville.
We continued to press onward and finally reached the Indian-Celina campground in the Hoosier National Forest around 7:30 pm, just in time to get camp set up before dark. The main concern here was the presence of the dreaded pine bark beetle that was killing many of the trees in the forest. We had been warned not to pitch our tents directly underneath large tree limbs in case they were to fall during the night and crush us. Great… Actually, the bigger menace here was the daddy long leg infestation from the arachnid breeding ground in our campsite. Spiders everywhere…. On a more positive note, the campsite was fairly large and had both a picnic table and a fire pit with a grill surface that could be swung into place over the embers. The routine for setting up camp each day involved pitching our tents, unloading needed supplies, pouring a beer, and getting a campfire started. The gathering of firewood and its ultimate ignition were tasks that TK handled exceptionally well. He abhorred the idea of purchasing a neat bundle of firewood, instead opting to trundle off into the far flung woods and drag back impossibly long dead branches that would be fed into the fire throughout the evening. Unaware of the full extent of his pyromaniacal penchants prior to the trip, I brought along fire starter bricks, dryer lint (at his suggestion), and a bottle of lighter fluid, just in case. For the record, I acknowledge my own very well documented pyromaniacal bent but it was a relief to cede that responsibility to someone else on this trip. With beers in hand, and full smiles, we set up camp quickly and began dinner preparations. Dinner this night consisted of the grilled NY strip steaks from TimberCreek Farm and Yukon Gold potatoes that had been roasted with olive oil, sea salt, black pepper and smoked Spanish paprika in a foil pouch over the coals until tender. To accompany the meat and taters, we prepared a simple salad of lettuce, tomato and cucumber drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. We finished the evening with a bourbon by the campfire and then retired to get some rest for the next leg of the journey.