Tag Archives: Kentucky


I am that person! I always said that if I had a blog, I wouldn’t ignore it. I wouldn’t let it sit for months with out updating it. We it is official, I have ignored GraphiteFree. I could blame it on my schedule or on my crappy laptop or on a host of other reasons. But the simple truth is, I have ignored my blog. I am sorry, blog! I didn’t mean to abandon you for so long. I didn’t mean to not write!

I have had lots to write about! There was the Mid South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis I started writing about. Chris and I stayed at the Peabody where we joined my brother, his family, and my parents. Great weekend, I drank a “Presbyterian” or Jack & Ginger. I had an epic adventure to Atlanta… Gosh I hate Atlanta! However, I do love Chipotle and Pinkberry. I visited with Cameron Drape at the Barn a few times. She called the Barn one night to ask when American Idol aired. Lucky for us it is a seven o’clock show, which kept her away from the Barn until the next day. And I should have written about my Jack Daniel Distillery tours.

Since I have fallen out of grace with my blog, I should update what I am currently doing. The last paragraph told you where I have been. Now, I need to tell you where I am headed, because there is much on the horizon for me. This week will mark my seventh wedding anniversary – Copper. Chris and I will be touring the distilleries of Kentucky. I am sure we will see lots of copper while we are exploring. I will be leaving the Barn for another part time job. I love working at the Barn, but I have had a dream of working as a tour guide for a long time. I am also most there, this week I go to the Jack Daniel Distillery for my audition as a tour guide. That should be an adventure.

This summer I will be back at Aviation Challenge, back with the Raptor and back around the lake. I also told our new Social Media Director I would write a blog post for the Ready Room. So I really do need to get back into the writing mood. I will be going on a Disney Cruise with Tim&Anderson and their bridal posse in July. I will get to make another trip to NYC to see my Yankees in August. It will be a Yankees/Mets tour with Snapper. Even though the Mets play the Braves (I hate Atlanta) the trip will be so much fun.

All in all, I have lots to write about. And I am going to do better at this I promise. I know that only a few people read my blog, but I really don’t want to be the person that starts writing and then abandons the poor thing. I love GraphiteFree. It all started as an exercise to make my writing better and I need to keep it up! GraphiteFree, please forgive me.

PS… Jeff Benton is still a scumbag, but the law suit has been settled!

Blogging for Blog Sake

Lots of GraphiteLast year on November 27th I posted my first blog on Blogger, and I have enjoyed every minute of the adventure. I am not blogging to make money, market a product, give cooking tips, or improve your golf game. I am not a mommy blogger or topical blogger. I am blogging to improve my writing skills. Yes, you read that correctly, I am blogging just for the heck of it. I am not hoping to get a book deal or have fifty-two minutes of fame. I am simply doing it to grow as a person and as a writer.

Growing up I struggled with the English language, and yes, being from the south there is a wise crack there somewhere. I couldn’t spell, didn’t know how to diagram a sentence, nor could I tell you the difference between a preposition and a participle. Despite my struggles I graduated high school and college. In fifth grade I was evaluated for a learning disability. My parents and I learned that I don’t decode words the same way most people do. I see the shape and my brain breaks words down like it would art or a geometry problem. I see shapes not sounds. The examiner told me that a typewriter was in my future. Wow, he couldn’t tell the future but was close, because I got a laptop!

My freshman year at Delta State I had one of the toughest English composition professors, Dr. Sarcone. I was scared to death of her. She kicked my butt, however I didn’t give up. She would tear my papers to shreds and then stomp on them. If only she had used a Dixon Ticonderoga correction pencil I could have found some positive in the class. There was one paper I wrote about living in a small town that she liked. As shocking as that was, I still couldn’t spell and I didn’t read so well, but this small bit of encouragement fueled me not to give up on school.

I sometimes feel like my blog is very “me” centered, like I want to draw attention to myself. This is not my intention, but I do want feedback. I want people to tell me if I have typos or misspelled words in a blog. I would like to know if I make sense to the general public. Looking back on my year of blogging I asked people on Facebook what their favorite blogs were. Facebook is where most people read my digital ramblings. There was no clear cut best blog and it seemed like all I was doing was drawing more attention to myself and butchering the English language. I have narrowed the list down to ten of my favorite blogs. Before I give you my top ten blogs, here are a few fast facts about my year in blogging…

  • I have written 83 blogs. Combine them all together, they account for more writing than I did in all four years of college at Delta State.  Sad, but true.
  • I started blogging on Google’s Blogger, but recently I have switched to WordPress.org using a personal server. I have some regrets to the switch, but the editing flexibility is worth it.
  • I have divided my blogs into seven categories and my favorite category to write about is the Barn. I get to use more creative license with Barn blogs than any other.
  • Facebook pushed more people to my site than any other referral site, almost as much as direct links to graphitefree.com. If you are considering blogging, make sure you have a great network of friends on Facebook.

After those few facts, I am sure you will not be interested in my best blogs to date; however, I will tell you anyhow. You can stop reading; we do still live in a free country! In no particular order here is a few of my favorite ramblings.

Boo in Sleeping BagHouse Guest: I loved writing this sentimental blog, but I knew that I was hooked on my new hobby of blogging when in the middle of the night Salem the cat used me as a pillow. I thought to myself, “This would make a great blog”. I was addicted and I didn’t even know it at the time.

Plumber App: Plumber App was a great way for me to poke fun at my awkwardly ironic life. It was short and to the point, but funny. And it was fun to write.

Barn Gone Wild: I enjoy writing Barn blogs more than any other topic. I started writing my twist on my retail experience in June. I have to be creative with my Barn banter to help protect the identity of those who shop and work at the Barn. And those who know what I am talking about seem to think it is funny stuff.

Dead Bird: This blog give a great description of why my job is one of the coolest jobs on earth. I can walk down a sidewalk, get distracted and meet a moonwalker. Or I can hang out with space shuttle commanders at Otters giving a new meaning to ATO!

Raptor (1997)Piggly Wiggly Flu: A very deep topic, I almost didn’t post it because it may be too heavy for readers, especially on Facebook. I was wrong. A lot of people enjoyed it and was pleased that I wrote it. Keep washing those hands and taking vitamin C!

Ode to the Raptor: I write about camp, a lot! Since I was young all I ever wanted to do was work at a summer camp. From Camp Garaywa, to CRS, and now at Aviation Challenge I love the dynamic educational environment around camps. This blog represents the best in the camp spirit. I love my AC family and that includes the Raptor.

A Jack Daniels Still Bourbon Trail Blogs: I love my adventure blogs, because my first journal was a travel journal. Lookin’ for Adventure, Joe and Jim, Who is Elmer T. Lee? and White Dog were the blogs I wrote while on my Kentucky adventure. I can’t just pick one because I like them all. While I was gone I realize that if I don’t make it with my real job or working at the Barn, I could write for travel magazine.

Benefits to Jack Daniels: Chris made a contact with his current employer while sharing a meal with strangers at Miss Mary Bobo’s in Lynchburg, Tennessee. His move from PwC to Booz Allen Hamilton has forced us to be married… first time in five year of marriage.

Good Okra Hunting: I love my college. Sharing my love for Delta State and the Mississippi Delta is so enjoyable to me. I wrote this blog after a recruiting trip to DSU with Amazon. I got to find new places to eat and catch up with a few professors and friends.

I Think I May Lose My Job: My blog is about my random rambling about my life. When Bill Belichick went for it on fourth down against the Colts I knew I wouldn’t get much done at work the next day. I love Peyton Manning and I love went Boston teams loose!

White Dog

Buffalo Trace, Frankfort KYThis morning I visited Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. If you are not familiar with the name, give them a few years as they have only been producing bourbon under that name since 1999. Before then it was known by George T. Stagg Distillery and the O.F.C. Distillery. Historical record shows that distilling started at that location sometime before 1773. The first commercial distillery and permanent structure was built in 1812 by a Mr. Blanton. During prohibition this distillery was allowed to continue production for medicinal purposes, yeah right. Just like all the other brands of bourbon it was purchased, sold, or changed hands many times. Currently, it is owned by a New Orleans company (isn’t that where all bourbon goes anyway) named Sazerac.

That is a lot of boring facts, sorry. But Buffalo Trace is not a brand or distillery that I knew a lot about. From its history that I learned on the tour I should have known something about this company. It is a large distillery with a great history. It is very industrial in nature. So industrial you think anything could be made or produced at Buffalo Trace. And it kind of is, today they were fermenting sweet mash for vodka. But yes, it is known for its bourbon first and foremost.

Maker’s Mark and Woodford reserve were pretty distilleries found off the beaten path. Buffalo Trace just by the nature of its names is not such a distillery. The name Buffalo Trace is given to the trails and ruts the buffalo used to cross the Kentucky terrain making their way to the plains. Settlers used the buffalo’s trail to find their way into American’s frontier. Bourbon is America’s spirit. I bet you didn’t know we had a spirit. If you look at the history of Kentucky and the survival of commerce, bourbon is a major player.

The neat thing about bourbon is once it comes off the still it is crystal clear. It tastes awful. They call the clear spirit white dog. The white dog goes into a new American oak barrel. Over the next four to twenty-six years it experiences the seasons in a barrel house. The clear liquid ages and matures based on the dark, dank world of a warehouse. When the spirit has finished its adventure it is dark, rich, and flavorful. All the way its care taker is the Master Distiller. He may be the care taker, but the spirit is entrusted to the barrel and a barrel is only as good as the oak stand it was harvested from. Every little detail of whiskey production can play a role or factor. Similar to the aging and maturing process we all go through.

We all come in to this world ready to learn and grow. Some of us are placed into strong enriching families where we grow and gain “flavor.” Some of us are placed in other areas of the barrel house and later will be blended with other barrels to make a fine bottle of whiskey. But we all gain wisdom, color, and character through our own aging and maturing process just like bourbon whiskey experiences during its life. The adventure in life for humans is just like whiskeys adventure. We are influenced by the people we are surrounded with. Our barrel is our friends and family. Whether you are the spirit or the oak, soak up the experience of life.

One last distillery to visit… On my trip home I stopped by Jack Daniels. I had to visit Jack. I felt like I had been cheating on him this week. It was raining cats and dogs. But I had to pick up a bottle or two for tomorrow’s signing. I saw Angie, my favorite tour guide. I spoke to her briefly. The Bourbon Trail was great, I learned a lot, but I am still loyal to Old No. 7. If you ever get a chance to tour the distilleries along the Bourbon Trail, please do. You will learn a lot about yourself and your country! Experience life, don’t stay white dog forever!

Who is Elmer T. Lee?

First off… Happy Birthday Walt!!! You are the greatest big brother ever! I am looking forward to hanging out with you this fall at the Egg Bowl, deer hunting, and the holidays!

Secondly, my goal for today was to hit Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve along the Bourbon Trail. The day started with confusion. I didn’t know what time zone I was in. Eastern or Central, it really didn’t matter, I was lost. I didn’t want to be late so I decided to figure out were I was in the space time continuum on the road. It didn’t take me long to drive from Bardstown to Loretto.

I arrived at Maker’s Mark two hours before the first tour. I walked around the grounds snapping photo’s and then looked at the clock. I called someone at work to pass the next forty-five minutes. First up on the speed dial was the Yankee Girl. We chatted about everything from my broken tub to a Southern Living article on the Bourbon Trail. Based on the article she told me to look up Capital Cellars in Frankfort. And I needed to try to find Elmer T. Lee or Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

Maker's Mark, Loretto KYTen o’clock rolled around and everything opened up at Maker’s Mark. I loved visiting this distillery. It was what I expected. I saw the still, the print shop, the bottling line, and the gift shop. Note of interest, you can dip you own bottle at the gift shop. If you are not familiar with the history of Maker’s Mark it is a story of rebellion. Bill Samuels Sr. sold his father’s bourbon label and burned his family’s 170 year old recipe. Bill Sr. was the sixth Samuel to make whiskey in Kentucky. He started from scratch making bourbon he liked. He went with no rye and replaced it with winter wheat and barley.

Bill Sr. and his wife, Margie, shook up the bourbon world. When they got into the business in the 1950’s women didn’t participate in the trade. Bill Sr. would be responsible for what was inside the bottle and Margie would be responsible for what was on the outside of the bottle. She gave the whiskey its name, perfected the red wax, and created the drink’s trade mark. Seeing the bottling line where every bottle is hand dipped was a true highlight of the day.

When I left the parking lot at Maker’s Mark I kind of got lost. I found myself on a single car rode. I felt like I shouldn’t be on the road. It was like this road was build for someone in particular and I am not that person. I wanted to keep moving forward so I asked the iPhone to help me out. I didn’t have service. Astonishing while I was lost in Nowhereville, Kentucky with no cell service I got a text message from Snapper. So text messaging knew where I was but I didn’t. I did find Versailles and drove by Kim Dickerson’s old school. I stopped in the office of Woodford High School to sign a petition to change the name to Dickerson High.

Woodford Reserve, Versailles KYWoodford Reserve’s tour was worth the five dollars I paid for it. Woodford Reserve traces its roots back to 1797 when Elijah Pepper starting making whiskey in the area. Woodford, just like all modern distilleries, are not owned by their founder’s family. Large companies have gobbled up all the little guys. Woodford is owned by Brown-Forman. We like Brown-Forman. They also own Jack Daniels. Woodford (at the time Labrot & Graham Distillery) was purchased by Brown-Forman around the same time the company acquired Jack Daniels. They would shut down the distillery until 1968 and then sold the property in 1971. In 1994, Brown-Forman was in the market to by a small distillery with a lot of history and they rediscovered their old facility.

Woodford is considered a small batch bourbon whiskey. What is a small batch? They make a well crafted product but not much of it. Compare Woodford’s production of around 125 barrels per week to Jack Daniels’ daily production of more than 2,000. WOW! Here is another fact. Woodford Reserve is the only bourbon to be distilled using three cooper pot stills. Being Brown-Forman’s small batch brand, using a unique way of distilling, and being closely associated with the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup, I would consider Woodford Reserved to be Jack’s rich cousin.

Finishing up in Versailles I drove to Frankfort to look for the Capital Cellar. I was successful and it was just as charming as I envisioned it would be. I was warmly welcomed by one of the associates. She offered me some wine to taste and I couldn’t turn her down. I had a “naked” chardonnay. That means it was not aged in oak barrels but in stainless steel. It was great, very fruity and fresh, crisp and bright.

I also looked for Pappy Van Winkle and Elmer T. Lee. Found both, Pappy was as expensive as Johnny Walker… VETO! Elmer T. Lee was much more reasonable. I picked it up along with two bottles of wine for gifts. The British gentleman behind the cash register told me that Elmer T. Lee was still a live and well. The man also shared with me that Lee frequents their establishment. He is Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller Emeritus and he rejects just as many barrels as his accepts for his label of bourbon. I am glad I picked up the bottle, because that was a neat story.

So far on my adventure I have learned lot of new facts and traveled many back roads. Some roads were too far back! I have ventured into a cave and hand dipped a bottle of Maker’s Mark. I have visited distilleries in full operation and some that were shut down for a few weeks. I also got to see an original still from Jack Daniels. I don’t know if it was original to Jack Daniel himself or if it was a post prohibition still, but still very cool. Most of all I have remembered how much of a nerd I am. I love learning. I love all the little details and facts behind the cave and the bourbon. I am looking forward to coming home, but I look forward to coming back this way shortly.

Joe and Jim

My day started off with a tour of Mammoth Cave. Did you know that Mammoth cave has over 367 miles to venture through, making it the world’s longest known cave system? I would hike three miles of the total with 37 other guests of the national park. The majority of those guests were middle school students. I had driven all the way to Kentucky to be with Victory Christian Academy on their field trip! No worries, I did try selling them a Pathfinder trip to Space Camp.

Park Ranger Joe Duvall, Mammoth Cave KYMy tour was different than most. I went on the Violet City Lantern Tour. I was so excited about going into a cave I brought three flashlights with me on the trip. I wouldn’t need even one of them. We were given an old oil lamp to guide our way through the labyrinth of trails. It was dark and a little scary, but our tour guide, Ranger Joe (that is him in the picture), did a marvelous job teaching us about the role the cave played in fighting off the British in the War of 1812. But that wasn’t the first time it was in habited. More than two thousand years ago Native American’s lived near the surface river and took shelter in the cave at times.

Once my tour guide learned that I worked at Space Camp we shared stories of school groups and presentation styles. I told Ranger Joe about my role at camp training the staff. He wanted feedback from me at the end of the tour. The more I told him stories, the more he told me stories. I stuck to the front of the group with Ranger Joe. That way I could also see where I was going in the dark cave. I really got excited when Ranger Joe told the group about Ronald Reagan’s visit to the cave. Reagan had wanted to visit Mammoth as a youth. So as president he called the park’s superintendent to arrange the visit. Could you imagine taking the president on a tour?

Statue of Brooker Noe at Jim BeamMy next adventure was up to Jim Beam to tour the distillery. Jim Beam touts itself as best selling bourbon in the world. It may sell a lot of bottles, but I was not happy with my visit to Clermont. Unfortunately, the entire Jim Beam facility is under a multi-million dollar renovation. They want it to be the best stop on the Bourbon Trail. I did get to join a tasting. The tasting at Jack Daniels was so much nicer than Jim Beam. Until Jim Beam is finished with their remodeling, I would suggest stopping somewhere else along the trail.

I wasn’t planning on stopping at the Heaven Hill Distillery. However, since I didn’t spend much time at Jim, I made the stop. Heaven Hill produces Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. If you are not familiar with those names, they were early distillers in Kentucky. Elijah Craig and Dan Call had a few things in common, making spirits and preaching. Craig is credited with being the first to age his spirits in charred oak barrels. I learned today he stumbled across the method after his barn burned and he was too cheap to buy new barrels.

Heaven Hill in Bardstown, KYI did learn a lot about bourbon at Heaven Hill, but I was not impressed with what I saw. The only thing I toured was a rick house. I think in Tennessee they are called barrel houses. There isn’t a still on the property. In 1996 there was a massive fire started by lightning and strong winds helped to burn down several buildings. Fourteen percent of its inventory was lost in the fire. The company survived with help from Brown Forman and Jim Beam until Heaven Hill could purchase a new production plant. Currently, the bourbon is made in Louisville then aged and bottled in Bardstown. It works for them, but didn’t make for a good tour. I did learn a lot!

I am tired today. I am a little grumpy that I drove to Clermont just to look at the outside of buildings. But that is part of the adventure! Keep moving forward, don’t complain when you are stuck in traffic, and never pass up a clean rest stop. Those are the rules of the road. I am looking forward to tomorrow. My goal is to visit Maker’s Mark and Woodford Reserve. On a trip to visit Chris’ parents I saw the sign for Woodford and wanted to visit. It was the first distiller I wanted to tour here in the States. Tomorrow, I may get my chance!!!

Lookin for Adventure

This afternoon I left work at three o’clock and turned on the radio. Rather than listening to the talking heads on the radio, I flipped to the oldies station. The Steppenwolf song Born to Be Wild was on. It was the perfect song to start my adventure. “Lookin’ for adventure” is exactly my purpose, my directive… Tah Dah!!!

I stopped for gas, drove north on I-65, listened to Garth Brooks on my iPod, and found Mammoth Cave! Tah Dah!!! Honestly, I didn’t find the cave; I found the visitor’s center. While there, I saw eleven does just grazing on the grass around the parking lot. It was sunset and they were looking at me as if I was going to feed them. Boo looks at me that way around sunset as well. So I felt at home.

I checked into the hotel and found some food. I turned on the TV for a little more adventure. I looked for ESPN, not at this hotel. I looked for Food Network, denied. No Discovery Channel either. I was up a creek. I flipped till I saw a tall black man talking about the space shuttle. Tah Dah, I had stumbled upon NOVA “scienceNOW”. The man talking about the space shuttle was Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and super geek! He was talking about the recent Hubble repair mission.

Images and faces appeared on the television screen that I recognized. See Dr. Tyson and the crew of STS-125 have visited Space Camp. Just like when I picked up a dead bird and meet Harrison Schmitt, I had the privilege of meeting four members of the STS-125 crew and Dr. Tyson. Tah Dah, that sounds like an adventure to me. Add the fact that Story Musgrave, the farm kid hired to fix the Hubble Space Telescope, loves my name, flight suit, and track six!

The point of all this, I don’t have to travel to find adventure. I have found it at Space Camp, Aviation Challenge, and all points in between. My adventure is not just meeting men and women who have ventured into space, but the guys and girls, men and women I work with each day. I am a big kid! I don’t have a whip or a light saber, but I have a brass clip on my belt loop with too many keys and an iPhone in my pocket. I get to know the next generation of leaders at Aviation Challenge and Space Camp, and now I get to run off for a few days. Tah Dah, adventure complete, sort of!