Our annual visit to see my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece, brought us to Lexington, Kentucky this year. Last year he accepted a position at the University of Kentucky as a professor of micro biology. To be honest I don’t know exactly what he does, but in conversations with him I’ve picked up that he gets to play with swabs and petri dishes in an effort to grow and study cultures, and discover cures for diseases (sounds really cool but its way over my head). He and his wife have an adorable daughter, who will be three in December. Their daughter, our niece, is absolutely a gas to be around and is full of energy, songs, and funny laughs. This year marked the first year that my wife and I were making the trip with a child of our own, so needless to say I was concerned with how the 500 mile drive would go with a two month old baby on board. Our daughter Lillian is not the biggest fan of her car seat so I was dreading the 8-10 hours in the car. Even a 30 minute ride in the car can seem like an eternity when she has one of her infamous melt downs. Before we actually had our daughter, so many parents gave us oodles of “advice”, some of which went a little like this:
“Babies love the car ride; it puts them to sleep every time. Just put them in the car seat, drive around the block a few times, and just like that…Lights out!”
This couldn’t be farther from the truth, at least for Lillian. I am sure some of you new parents out there can relate. Countless other couples with children giving you the low down on what to expect, how to remedy this and that, and how great their baby was, we get it your kid is or was perfect. Thanks for the advice *gives the thumbs up* our baby seems to defy the odds, and plays by her own rule book. My guess is most kids do too. You know what? My wife and I are ok with that, we have a healthy, happy baby and we love her to pieces.
Ok back to the story (easily distracted when discussing our new bundle of joy), Lillian seems to do ok when moving in the car, but if we have to stop or slow down, which happens quite often while driving, she becomes upset/ frustrated and the waterworks start. Driving with ear plugs seemed like a dumb idea until little Lillian came into my life. Let’s just say I don’t do well with crying, especially a crying wife and or baby. I could probably write a few stand alone blog posts on all of the unsolicited advice we received, which really didn’t fit the bill for our little one. As I said before she defiantly is writing her own rule book. I have come to learn that every child is unique and reacts to things differently, period. Thanks anyway guys; you know who you are. (No hard feelings).
It turns out we made some pretty good time on our way down to Lexington, approximately nine hours in the car, with minimal stoppage. Lillian did surprisingly well, much better than expected, with tantrums a plenty but quickly calmed by mom in the back seat. Once we arrived, all of us were really hungry, and we decided to check out a favorite restaurant called The Pub in Lexington. Seems to only be a few of these around (random states), but they have some amazing food and fantastic beer selection. My choice was the London broil which was delicious; several adult beverages also accompanied my entre. After dinner we returned to the house we were staying at for some relaxation and conversation with the family we seldom see. Bedtime care early, it was a long day.
Friday morning came and I was really looking forward to the ride I had planned. Thanks to a tweet I put out requesting some ride suggestions around Lexington about a week earlier, I had several options from local Twitter folks that ride in the area. I am really amazed at how useful Twitter can be for travelers and really demonstrates how tightly the online community works to help each other. After careful consideration the ride suggestion I chose to do was a scenic route through miles and miles of pristine horse farms.
The above picture is a great example of the views from my ride; this happened to be one of the flatter sections but trust me there were hills, and plenty of them. The ride took me through some of the nicest farms I have ever seen, light years above the run down cow farms I am used to seeing in Wisconsin. These Lexington farms must have each been hundreds of acres large all encompassed by these beautiful black fences, that seem to stretch on as far as the eye can see. Every driveway is gated with immaculate ironwork gates keeping out any would be creepers and or race horse paparazzi. One of the properties I rode by had over fifteen entrances to the multiple homes and horse barns scattered about it. They were definitely all for the same property as they all contained the same ironwork and brass insignias on the stone supporting each gate. It’s really incredible how serious some people are about horses.
I saw an army of uniformed grounds keepers (all of which look to be from south of the border) maintaining the miles and miles fence line by weed whacking, grass cutting, and generally keeping these properties uber manicured. They literally were trimming around each fence post and from the lack of black paint at the bottom of each post it is clear that this process is completed on the regular. From my observations along the ride, the barns on these farms are as nice as or nicer than some of the high end modern homes I have seen back in Wisconsin. The barns actually look like model homes themselves, and are clearly heated and air conditioned. Let’s just say these racing horses have it good, really good.
I continued on my ride through the country side, impressed as can be with the quality of the roads, all of which seemed to have been recently resurfaced. It was like riding on glass, so smooth and effortless, unless a hill was involved. The roads did lack one thing however; a shoulder or somewhere a cyclist could feel safe away from passing cars. These narrow country roads were definitely not designed with cyclists in mind. On a positive note there were hardly any cars encountered but several passing pickup trucks with horses in tow were a frequent sight.
A couple hours in to my “Tour De Lexington” now, and I am concerned that my loop has not completed just yet. From what I can tell from my simple turn by turn paper directions and the miles on my odometer I should be returning to my car sometime soon. I ride on for a bit longer, something is not right – I must have missed a turn. I was lost. Lost on Kentucky back roads, with no traffic, and not seeing anyone who looks as if they can speak English. I start to worry a bit. I have my phone with me but would my wife even be able to drive out to find me? I keep riding for a bit longer hoping to find a gas station or some form of commerce to stop and get my bearings. Nothing. However, now enter Lawrence.
Off in the distance another cyclist, coming towards me, slowly, but toward me none the less. Perhaps he knows these roads? Perhaps he has a map? We finally meet up, his name was Lawrence. Lawrence, oh how can I describe Lawrence? Let me start with his bike. I could hear it from about 100 ft away, the creaking and moaning of a chain that hasn’t seen any lubrication in years. Upon closer inspection he was riding a vintage hybrid bike that had been around for while based on the faded paint and rusty parts. In my mind I was shocked someone would have the courage to take a bike in this condition out into the middle of nowhere, but Lawrence sure did. How he did not have a mechanical failure is beyond me but that’s not the point here. Did he have a map, could he help me?
We’re getting there, but let me describe Lawrence the man for you first. He was an elderly gentleman, very tall and lanky. Unshaven and teeth that could kill a wild animal – they were all over the place. One characteristic was the most memorable however; the smell. I don’t know if Lawrence’s riding clothes had been washed in as many years as he owned his bike. The stink of hot sweat and body odor just radiated from this man; mind you it was about 90 degrees outside and he had obviously been riding for a long time. I stopped, he stopped, and we discussed the fact that I might be lost. I took out the turn by turn directions I had printed the night before, now smudged from being taken in and out of my back jersey pocket. At this point they were useless and not really usable, but from what I gathered I should have finished my loop by now. Lawrence gave me a stern lecture about how he always carries a map, and that I should too because of situations like this. He took out his map for me, unfolded it, and we reviewed the back roads of Lexington. Thank god the map was laminated or the perspiration that saturated Lawrence’s clothing would have mad a mess of that paper map.
After reviewing the map with him it was clear that I did in fact miss a turn, the one that would pop be back out over by my car, instead took me the opposite way where I met our man Lawrence. I guess he was right, a map would have helped. We rode the remainder of the way back to my car together, as he filled the time with knowledge about horse farms, and Kentucky back roads. I learned random things such as the black fencing that lines the horse farms costs $10,000 a mile. For the next 30 minutes I guess you could say we bonded. When he wasn’t talking all I could hear was the squeaking from his neglected bicycle. Finally I finished my loop and we pulled into the parking lot where my car was.
He again discussed the importance for carrying a map at all times when riding. I agreed that it is something I should have thought of, and thanked him for helping me to get back to my car. Then it came, something I had been dreading the entire time we were talking on the ride to the car. Out came Lawrence’s hand covered in a biking glove completely saturated in years of sweat and stink. At his point I couldn’t avoid it, after all he did help me get back to my car. I reluctantly shook his hand, and with his grasp it was like a sponge releasing its contents onto my skin. I again thanked him, holding back the urge to gag right then, and he rode off into the distance. As my water bottles were empty having drank them both on the ride, I needed something to get Lawrence’s left over’s off of my hand. It was one of the grossest things I have ever smelled. I popped open the trunk of my car and found a half full diet Mt. Dew bottle. I poured it all over my hand in an attempt to wash off the sweaty remnants left behind by Lawrence’s handshake. It worked somewhat, but I was not fully satisfied until I had a shower back at my brother in laws house. What a ride.
Upon returning back to my brother in laws, I was advised that our baby Lillian needed to go to be seen by a doctor as she was having cold like symptoms. As she is only 2 months old her doctor back home said we needed to have her seen as colds in young babies can turn bad fast. My wife was unable to find an urgent care locally so our only choice was to take Lillian to the ER at the University of Lexington. So that’s how we spent our afternoon, a few hours waiting in the ER so our little one could be seen by a barrage of nurses and doctors. In the end we received some saline drops for her nose and some instruction on how to use the bulb syringe to suck out the congestion from her little nose. They entire time we were in there Lillian loved the hospital bed, as she put on a show smiling and laughing for all the nurses that saw her. She was certainly not acting sick, but I am glad we got things checked out. One things for sure, I am not looking forward to the out of network insurance bill we will be getting from this visit. Below is one of the many pictures we took of Lillian while she entertained the hospital staff.
They next day we went to an art Festival at Woodland Park in Lexington. This was definitely one of the largest art shows I have been to. We walked the grounds looking at unique selections from different local artists; people watching was also in full swing. Art shows tend to bring out some interesting characters. No I did not see Lawrence there. After a few hours of walking the grounds the only art my wife and I bought was a hand crafted funnel cake made in the mid century modern carnival truck (my attempt at art humor). It was delicious. Staying on the food theme we also went to another favorite Lexington restaurant for dinner that evening. We went to Ramsey’s Diner, a local restaurant known for its generous portions of down home, stick to your ribs, southern cooking. Trust me, everything you order is amazing.
Sunday now, and just as fast as the trip started it came to an end. We packed up the car and started on the journey back to Wisconsin. The drive home we faced even more of a challenge with Lillian, now being sick her crabbiness reached new heights. It seemed like she would not stay quiet for more than 30 minutes between outbursts and meltdowns. My wife Heather spent the entire drive in the back seat with Lillian trying to comfort the baby the best that she could. That fact that my wife maintained her composure through over nine hours of driving, much of which was filled with Lillian crying and fussing, was a feat in itself. I believe she should have earned saint hood for her efforts of caring and comforting another human being yesterday on our drive home. We finally made it back sometime after 9pm, completing one of the most challenging car rides we have ever faced. Unfavorable car rides with screaming babies aside, it was a great weekend filled with new memories for our family, and a few headaches for us parents.
What a great weekend! Well, at least for my family it was, as we were lucky enough to avoid most of the damage from the #brewcityflood on Thursday. I say “most” of the damage because we again had some issues with the skylight in our kitchen. It seems as if whenever we get apocalyptic rain storms it leaks in the corners. Never fun, seeing as it softens up the drywall around the skylight, which will yet a gain need to be redone. One day I’ll get around to replacing the darn thing but not really wanting to spend the money to do so. Despite the minor damage we encountered, my thoughts and heart go out to all of those who sustained significant losses.
Anyways back to the real reason I wanted to write this post. Saturday I had a great ride from Waukesha into Wales and back. It was a great hour and a half ride, solid pace, and I felt really good the entire time! At first I thought it was going to rain, but the clouds broke about thirty minutes in and made way for sunny blue skies. Could not have asked for better riding weather.
Fast forward to later Saturday afternoon… Heather and I (baby Lillian in tow) went into Milwaukee to watch the Downer Classic Pro 1/2 criterium. We always look forward to this race as the crowds are fun, and the racing is intense. This year was our first year attending as parents, and we did not know how Lillian would do in the heat and with all those people around. Good news for us, as the weather was much cooler downtown and the crowds were very light. I cannot ever remember attendance being so poor for this event. Perhaps many were dealing with damage from flooding. The race course was also impacted from the rain, as several pot holes and dips in the road formed. The race was even restarted a few times due to significant crashes.
As attendance was so low this year, we were actually able to grab a table at Cafe Hollander on Downer. This was awesome, seeing as in years past you needed a reservation a day ahead of time for an outdoor table on race day. Another win for us! Right from the table we were able to enjoy the entire race, eat a great meal, and enjoy some delicious beer. I enjoyed a few New Belgium Fat Tires (a personal favorite), and was able to sample a beer from Unibroue Brewery called Trois Pistoles. A really heavy beer but extremely tasty, I will definitely order one next time. Sun almost set, dinner through, beers drank, race over, it was time for us to journey home. Babies first Downer Classic Criterium was a success!
Sunday morning I was able to enjoy another great ride. I embarked on one of my infamous rides, Le Tour De Delafield (see ride page above for route details). Let’s just say I had the legs this morning, as I felt great! You could not ask for a more perfect day to ride. A HUGE thank you to my wife for letting me escape from daddy duty the last two days so I could enjoy some time on the bike. This afternoon I was able to return the favor and watch the baby for a bit so she could get out and run with our dogs for an hour or so. She is looking forward to getting back into running and cycling after a long hiatus (le pregnancy).
Sunday evening was also enjoyable, as we headed out to Waukesha County Fair. First festival with baby Lillian, glad it was a small one. She actually slept the whole time in the baby bjorn. Bonding time for daddy, as I got to carry her the whole time. We made a few laps of the grounds, enjoyed some traditional fair foods, people watched a bit, and headed home.
All in all it was a wonderful weekend in the saddle and with the family. I am already looking forward to the next one!