Getting touristy with it!
(Note: Most of this was written after the fact, on 5/13.)
Since I hadn’t yet seen very much of the city, I decided last night (Friday night) that today, I would spend the morning visiting tourist attractions. I’m glad I did, too, because the weather was sunny, bright, and perfect, and I had a lot of fun. I got up at the same time as I do on weekdays in order to get on the bus to Churchill Downs (yes, the same one I backed out of taking last Saturday, just earlier in the morning). I took my bike with me, because I knew I would need it later. At that early hour (it was just past 9:00 A.M. when I got there), both the track itself and the neighborhood around it were practically deserted. I was one of about twelve people who were on the first walking tour of the day.
The walking tour of Churchill Downs doesn’t cover very much ground, but it gets you oriented if you’ve never been there before. We started in the main lobby of the museum and walked past the wagering windows, through the garden, and out to the rail around the edge of the track, where we got to see racehorses in training. As it turns out, racehorses are trained by trainers, who are not the jockeys who ride them in the races (although many jockeys begin their careers as trainers). They weren’t going as fast as they do in the races, but it was still neat to watch. We stayed and watched for about ten minutes, then returned to the museum.
One of the things the museum has is a 360-degree movie theater. I was all excited about seeing something in CircleVision (TM), but when I got there, I discovered that it wasn’t CircleVision. It was OvoidVision. The screen was shaped like the racetrack. It still looked really cool, though. There were several 360-degree shots showing what the track looks like at different times of the day on Derby day.
I left (somewhat reluctantly; there were still museum exhibits I hadn’t finished looking at) at about ten minutes to 11 to catch my next bus. It took about 15 minutes to get from my house to the racetrack by bus, and the same amount of time to get from the racetrack to downtown. I followed the sketched map in my pocket to get from the bus stop to my next destination, the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. On the way, I stopped first to look at the river from a park, and then to have lunch at Subway. These was my only departure from the itinerary I had created the previous night. Everything was going exactly according to plan, and I was feeling great, but I was getting hungry, and I knew I’d enjoy the factory tour more if I had lunch first, rather than waiting until afterward, as I’d originally planned.
I enjoyed the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory even more than the Kentucky Derby Museum. You actually do get to go inside the real factory, and see baseball bats being made. The coolest thing in there, in my opinion, was the machine for burning the brand logo onto new baseball bats. It’s over 100 years old, and it still works perfectly. I learned that some major-league players have bats made according to their preferences, with their weight, length, and balance specified very precisely. I’d had no idea that minute variations are as important to the performance of baseball bats as to the performance of reeds in woodwind instruments. And yes, I got my mini souvenir baseball bat. I know it’s dumb, but I feel like my experience of Louisville is that much more complete now that I’ve been to two of its signature tourist attractions. (This feeling is aided by the fact that several of my fellow attendees at the NSCS convention in 2006 went to the Louisville Slugger Museum, but I didn’t.)
After that, I bicycled over to the Episcopal cathedral here in town, which I was very pleased to learn is the oldest house of worship in the entire city. I joined Amy Coultas and the rest of the college crew for a hands-on, interactive activity focusing on the Millennium Development Goals. It was an adaptation of an activity from Camino, a young adult conference held back in September that I missed because I was moving into my dorm that weekend. Most of the activity stations were in the cathedral itself, some at round tables located around the aisles, and one in the chapel. The activities there were to do at the stations included making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless, writing letters to children at an affiliated ministry center in Kenya, and creating collages of positive images of women. At the end, I finally got a ONE Campaign wristband, which I’ve wanted for quite a while, as well as a T-shirt. I helped clean up afterward. It was a very pleasant afternoon with some of my new friends, who are all cool people.
I don’t remember what I did after that; I probably just spent the evening at home. On a side note, while I was out playing tourist, I took my iPod with me and listened to one of the albums I picked out as theme music for my trip to Kentucky: Now Again by the Flatlanders. The other one is Hooray for the Moon by John Dee Graham. They’re both pop-rock albums with a country flavor to them. I like the former better. As a note to myself, I really need to record an Ear Buds segment about these new albums for the Deadpan Podcast.