Sunday, August 31, 2014

Encountering zombies in Kentucky and the Red Yeti in Indiana

This is what greeted me in the Louisville airport
After about 48 hours at home following my trip to Colorado it was time to fire up the truck once again and drive out to the airport. The contrast in locations (as well as the type of race) in comparison to Colorado couldn’t be less stark:  Kentucky is swelteringly hot at 400 feet elevation, and the tiny little BMX bikes look like toys compared to full-sized road bikes. Nevertheless, the athletes are just as serious, and the UCI sends me to all types of events.
Concentration in training
Just like road racing, BMX is very colorful!
After inspecting the facilities and not having other obligations on Friday morning, I spent the rest of the day sightseeing. I had been once before to Louisville, two years ago in the middle of the winter when the temperatures barely made it beyond 20 F, and now I am visiting a sauna! Last time I was housed in the downtown area, but this time around I am on the east side of town, close to the BMX facilities in EP “Tom” Sawyer State Park. But with a rental car one can get anywhere quickly as Louisville has only about 750,000 inhabitants.
The modern walkway to Indiana—the refurbished Big Four Bridge
Enlarge the pic and go back in history
And this is a side view of the Big Four, with the new gentle-slope access ramp
I parked the car at the Waterfront Park, a fairly new master-planned redevelopment of former warehouses and other industrial leftovers. The Big Four Bridge (named after four railroads that converged here) has been refurbished into a pedestrian and non-motorized bridge that links Louisville with Jeffersonville, IN, on the other side of the Ohio river. Commemorative plaques and informational signage tell the story of this late-19th-century relic and its ill-fated early years. The view from the span is well worth the walk. Lucky as I was, the Belle of Louisville, a stern-wheeler that will celebrate its centennial in just a few weeks, steamed by underneath me just when I crossed.
The Belle of Louisville, a 100-year-old stern-wheeler
Churning the waters of the Ohio river
Once on the Indiana side, I walked through the historic center of this small town that was designed by Thomas Jefferson, first Secretary of State, second VP, and third President of the USA. I don't know whether his prominent statue had any influence on the Red Yeti that has lent its name to the eponymous brew pub, but there is a certain similarity.

Thomas Jefferson
The Red Yeti

At the pub I struck up an interesting conversation with two of the management staff of Indianapolis-based Flat 12 Brewing, who happened to be sitting at the bar when I had a refreshing guest-tap IPA. (Red Yeti is not online yet for its own brews.) It was the first of various conversations that I had with locals and not-quite-locals, a trend that had started on Thursday evening when I had visited Cumberland Brewing on Bardstown Road on the other side of the river. More about that later. Joel, the Red Yeti's bartender, didn't quite get the meaning of the Piaget Beer Gauge, but that was OK—he was a happy fella full of fun local lore.

Joel, happily showing off another quarter inch of foam that he has just poured
Upon closer inspection, the fire-engine museum that I had eyed for a potential visit looked like a dud, so I decided to save my $5 entry fee and rather invest it in some Green Flash West Coast IPA, on happy hour at Rocky's Sub Pub, a 30-year-old established waterhole for the locals. The view from here toward Louisville's skyline was so nice that I had to sample a few $3 draught pints. I sure enjoyed my afternoon.
Green Flash West Coast IPA at Rocky's,overlooking the Ohio
Louisville's skyline frames by the I-65 bridge
Once back to the Kentucky side it was time to seek out the Apocalypse—a befitting name for a brewpub in light of what I would see later that evening. I should explain: Before making it to Cumberland Brewing the night before I had stopped by Apocalypse, only to find out that the parking lot with the chainlink fence (but, oddly, some beer benches) was all locked up. So I went on to Cumberland, where an odd-bird cyclist—an IT dude who had gone to a parochial school four blocks away to the right and who lived four blocks away to the left—had told me that Apocalypse is open only on Fridays and Saturdays, from 5 to 11, since the owners own a plumbing business and have to make a living to support their brewing habit. Frank, so the cyclist's name, had a hard time looking me in the eye, and he spoke in quick, almost intelligible bursts of words; his cynicism about riding, the city's efforts at creating bike lanes, the nature of other riders, etc. left me wondering whether he might not be Michael Sparks' brother, for those who know that particular Texas oddity. He was still sore about the fact that his decades-old steel frame had developed a crack and the dealer from whom he had bought the bikes (probably four blocks thata way!) was no longer in business and nobody wanted to honor the frame's warranty....
High-tech signage
Nice name for a "tap-room"
Outside of the (red) fallout shelter—the locals bring kids, dogs, and chairs
Anyhow, off to the Apocalypse it was. Quite frankly, the beer wasn't too memorable, but what does one expect from a bunch of plumbers? However, the atmosphere was that of La Cumbre or the old Il Vicino's taproom in Albuquerque, with a tiny pouring area and a large parking lot with a food wagon that sold pulled-pork sliders, 3 for $5. And I enjoyed the conversation with my new friends, Diane and Wes, who live in Bardstown. In true Kentucky fashion, Diane works for a bourbon distillery, 1792.  Talk turned to local affairs, and that's when I heard for the third time about the Attack of the Zombies that was going to happen by the time night was going to fall, an attack conveniently located in the Bardstown Road area. Never one to miss out on a local festivity, I drove over to the epicenter of the attack. And that's what I saw.
Well before I got to my final GPS coordinates, the streets were full of pedestrians, all streaming into the same direction. Somehow I managed to snag a parking spot and then head-dived into the stunningly gory festivities. It was like a scene out of, well, Attack of the Zombies.

Halloween may have its occasional cleavered skull or an ugly, festering wound, but the make-up skills of these revelers was extraordinary! OMG, you've never seen this much blood and gore! Chainsaws were being revved, and shrieks and low growls were all around me. I talked to one of the mounted cops who were watching the spectacle, and he told me that this event is less than five years old but has grown exponentially. Somebody told me that it has something to do with Elvis' death date, but a quick Google search invalidates that. Maybe it is that on Aug 29 chop suey  was invented in NYC (back in 1896) or that Senator Strom Thurmond ended his 24-hour filibuster against civil rights on that date in 1957, but neither seems too plausible to me. Regardless, this event now draws hundreds of participants and thousands of spectators, and if the trend continues, we'll see more Zombie events all over the US soon. Remember, you read about it here first.

The rest of my stay in Louisville was taken up with the race. Actually, not all of it: On late Saturday evening, after all my official duties outside some airplane-doable paperwork had been satisfied, I once more ventured out, back to the area where the zombies had emerged. I had heard rumors of a very new micro brewery, and after asking a few locals I found the Great Flood, named after the devastating Ohio river inundation of 1937 that left many dead. Few readers do not know about my affinity for beer, especially IPAs, but I better do explain that I get to visit many a brewery, brew pub, and tap room with worthy product. GFBC's Citra IPA ranks up there with some of the very finest in the business, a happy, open, clean-tasting yet oh-so-flowery beer that left me with a huge smile on my face. Oh, how fine, like a lovely maiden!
A nice beer menu at Great Flood Brewing Co.
GFBC's Citra IPA, ranking in my top 15 tap beers ever
Small and clean—you should have seen how they polish their pint glasses!
While sipping my beer (later I also tasted the insanely hopped Warrior IPA, at 97 IBUs in the hop-stoopid range) and eating a portion of beer cheese I had a lovely conversation with an equally lovely bar tendress—one of those lovely maidens, mayhep?—named Alex. A recent college grad with a degree in music, avid rock climber,  Player of various strings, and owner of a Subaru (what else?) she exemplified that young, adventurous spirit that one finds, once in a while, among the upcoming generations. It is refreshing to talk to maidens (but lads, too) like this and see their zest for life and remember what it was like back in one's early twenties. It was a befitting end of the day that ended a quite interesting trip to the Derby City with that strangely pronounced name.
How do YOU pronounce it?

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