An all-American vacation

Musings by Katherine, Photos by Greg

This was the final stop before turning around and driving back

Late in August, we set out on a Monday afternoon and drove through the Delta as the sun set over the rice and cotton fields. On through the birthplace of rock and roll and the capital of country music we drove, before turning north and heading for bluegrass country. We stopped there to tour the bourbon trail on Tuesday,Β breathing in the sweet, strong smell of the South. Along narrow country roads under blue Kentucky skies we drove, winding past corn fields and tobacco rows, falling-down barns and million-dollar stables, undulating pastures, thoroughbreds taking shade under trees.

To sit in that rocker and drink bourbon all day is my life goal

By nightfall, we were leaving the Bible Belt behind, driving deep into Appalachia, looking down at the hardscrabble mountain towns of West Virginia and Western Maryland as we climbed. We spent Wednesday unwinding in the suburbs of the nation’s capital, inhaling mom’s crab cakes and rushing to see our siblings.

Cumberland, Maryland is a vast metropolis after driving through West Virginia

We were heading north again Thursday through the sites of the nation’s bloodiest and most pivotal Civil War battles, Antietam and Gettysburg, and the state where our independence was forged. Finally, we reached the part of New York — lush, green, hilly — that isn’t the first picture people conjure when they think of the state.

Napa eat your heart out

We spent a few days touring the wineries, dairies and breweries surrounding the Finger Lakes, enjoying the cool breezes and chuckling when a woman called 90 hot. That Saturday, we went to our friends’ wedding on the edge of a vineyard. Early the next morning, we set out again.

Hey, not all of the vacation revolved around alcohol or food, we spent a whole hour at this park

The trees were starting to change as we left New York and headed back to summer and the South. Through the rust belt, past the three C’s of Ohio: Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati. Then the Bible Belt and the billboards that dot the interstate: Hell is Real… Where will you spend eternity?… World’s Most Awesome Flea Market. Finally, came the familiar flat terrain that signals home is so close.

I did not have time to try their bourbon. Now I have an excuse to return

We drove through eight states — Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio — covering about 2,800 miles in seven days. We were reminded of how big and beautiful our country is, how familiar the places we grew up, went to college, vacationed as children, remain no matter how much they change and how long we’re away. We were forced to recall how bad fast food is and how tedious ticking down the miles along the interstate can be.

Roosters seem to follow us around

We are contemplating one final vacation this year, a trip for my birthday in November. We’re leaning toward driving down to New Orleans or flying out to Oregon to see Portland and tour the Willamette Valley. Something tells me, we’ll be flying.

We’ll be posting more on our trip soon. In the meantime, here’s a guy who helped us while away the hours and made us a bit homesick. (The song starts around a minute and a half, but if you live in Texas don’t skip ahead. Just trust me.)

Pictured above: the harbor in Watkins Glen, New York; the distiller’s home at Jim Beam, Clermont, Kentucky; the view from the Marriott in Cumberland, Maryland; outside the Hazlitt winery, Hector, New York; Watkins Glen State Park, New York; Four Roses distillery, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky; Rooster Run, Kentucky.

About Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide

This blog attempts to collect some of the things I try to create with food and booze. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. My hope is to entertain and maybe help people think a little harder about what they decide to eat and drink.
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85 Responses to An all-American vacation

  1. If you do come to Portland I can give you some great restaurant and winery tips! Sounds like a great vacation!

  2. Mary says:

    Oh definately fly to Oregon! My hometown, it’s beatiful here! And don’t tell anybody I told you but, it doesn’t always rain here. (shhhh) Those were terrific photos and a great narrative to go along!

  3. Oh my gosh I totally know where the “hell is real” billboards are along 71 between Columbus and Cincinnati! (Going the other direction, they’re the 10 commandments) I pass it every time I go to visit friends in the southwest part of our lovely state. Too funny!!! Im glad that’s your major memory of Ohio πŸ˜‰

    • Katherine says:

      That was in Ohio! There were so many billboards here in the South too, trust me. We probably saw that elsewhere. I thought Cincinnati looked really fun, but were just trying to get home by then. It’s 18 hours from upstate NY to here.

  4. ChgoJohn says:

    A Summer road trip through Bourbon Country, no less. Well, either do it right or stay home. Methinks you did it right. Good for you both!

  5. Leah says:

    Lovely. And I must say that sitting in that rocker all day with bourbon sounds like a perfect goal. I’ll do it too.

  6. I love road trips and your pictures are so beautiful…thank you so much for sharing with us ..
    can’t wait for more pictures and stories πŸ™‚

  7. As I know so little about America, your post was totally absorbing. The distances and the range of climate and landscape are breathtaking. I love the waterfall picture, and your description of driving through Kentucky, which hitherto was just a name from the movies.

    • Katherine says:

      Greg went to college not far from there, so for years we’ve had (different) photos of those waterfalls in the house. I recognized them at the wineries. Seeing them was pretty cool when we went to the park.

  8. k.m. says:

    I was wondering if there was a DIFFERENT Cumberland, MD…but then I realized you were comparing it to some *very* small towns!

    Sounds like you had a lovely vacation πŸ™‚

  9. ambrosiana says:

    What a beautiful post with gorgeous pictures and brilliant writing! You really took us through your trip in beautiful America. One of the things I love from the US is to drive through the different states. So fascinating! I am with you on rocking chairs, but with a mojito and music!!

  10. rutheh says:

    Thanks for the wonderful feeling of travel and relaxation, captured in your photography and narrative. All American is right! Are there still counties where they make the liquor but are dry and can’t sell it? I used to live in Hardin Country KY and seem to remember this being the case.
    Good post for the last weekend of the summer.

  11. You came to NY and you didn’t tell me? Well that’s alright lol. I love the photos or your vacay. I definitely need to take a vacay of my own.. even if its to Virginia Beach to relax. Take the vacay later on this year and enjoy yourself. You and Katherine deserve it πŸ™‚

  12. Sounds like a fantastic trip – a little bit of everything on the way! My you covered lots of miles. WeΒ΄re heading to northern Spain next week and weΒ΄ll do lots of km but maybe not quite as many as you. Mind you, Spain is just a little bit smaller that the US πŸ™‚

  13. LOL “they don’t even sell premium gas in Arkansas” Oh my! What a fitting post this Labor Day weekend as we travel or reflect on our summer travels as we kick back, rest and relax. Great pictures…I love seeing some of the same places I know through the eyes of others. Nice connection. Nicely photographed and greatly written! Thank you for sharing.

  14. Looks like such a fun road trip! I love Watkins Glenn!

  15. Kelly says:

    The photo with the rocker tells a thousand tales – I just love it. Great catalogue of your trip guys.

  16. ceciliag says:

    I am fascinated that the Bible Belt with its fantastic signs has such lovely bourbon. That porch looked so inviting and I loved the waterfall. I am voting for new Orleans! Though after driving from Chicago to LA and back last October I full understand why you are voting for a plane! America is so big and SO beautiful. WE will never see enough. thank you Kathryn and Greg. c

  17. Lea Ann says:

    Very nice! Love the photo of the rocker on the porch. I’d love to visit Finger Lakes. We’ve been to Willamette Valley, it’s a wonderful area with a “feel” you’re going to love. And lots of wonderful food. If you don’t eat at Nick’s Cafe in McMinnville, you’re totally crazy. Totally! πŸ™‚

  18. Can’t wait to hear and see more from your trip – the images are wonderful…

    (Greg wrote the captions on the pics, didn’t he? πŸ™‚ )

    • Katherine says:

      How’d you ever guess? I told him he could just put the places under the pictures, but well you know how he loves his captions. My favorite is of course the rooster.

  19. How cool to take us along for the drive. Great trip.
    Have a happy Sunday.
    πŸ™‚ Mandy

  20. Amy says:

    Looks like a fabulous vacation! And what gorgeous pics πŸ™‚

  21. niasunset says:

    WOW! I loved this park and especially number 5 photograph fascinated me. Thank you dear Rufus, with my love, nia

  22. Four Roses Distillery – one county away from us! Although, most people prefer Woodford Reserve – also in the Lawrenceburg area. Sounds like a wonderful trip!

  23. This could be my favorite post of y’alls! Fabulous photos Greg, and Katherine, you drew me in with your writing. We made that drive – or a similar one a few years ago – great vacation. I especially love the photo of the waterfall! My 3 favorite pastimes are cooking, bee keeping and traveling – thanks for taking me on vacation with you in this post.

    • Katherine says:

      Thank you. Greg’s pictures are always amazing. Poor guy, when we had nowhere to eat but Burger King one night….We packed food for the first few meals, but our cooler was only so big!

  24. Judy says:

    Just lovely, looks like you had a great get-away.

  25. Sissi says:

    It’s such a patriotic post and an excellent read! You must have had a wonderful time! I am looking forward to read more. The rocking chair somehow stays in my head… I would love to have one like this (but maybe I should get a house first πŸ˜‰ )

  26. What beautiful photos. That park is breathtaking. Fast food really does bite, pun intended.

  27. nrhatch says:

    Awesome post . . . loved the photos and the commentary. Glad you enjoyed!

  28. Stef says:

    I love that you two blog together – what a great way to engage in a project!

    I also love your ‘life goal’ – it sounds very lovely to me.

    As for Arkansas… that’s the place where my parents have chosen to retire – so I guess they see some pride in it somewhere… πŸ˜‰

  29. TasteFood says:

    Great road trip! I vote Oregon for your birthday.

  30. JamieAnne says:

    Looks like a lovely trip! My husband really likes “She left me for Jesus”, he plays it on his guitar.

  31. peasepudding says:

    Looks like a great trip, I love the photo of the stream and waterfall, my kind of place.

  32. Charles says:

    Aah, I thought I noticed Katherine’s writing as I was reading it – didn’t initially look at the author. Damn, you’re writing is so enticing – makes me just envy being there. Always sounds so whimsical! Great pictures too Greg πŸ™‚

  33. boogie. says:

    what lovely pictures!!! makes me wanna travel now! thanks for sharing your experience!

  34. I can’t believe you guys drove all that way and didn’t stop to see the world’s largest teapot in Chester, WV! Seriously looks like a great trip. Liz and I always enjoying traveling across/around the country and experiencing everything this great land has to offer.

  35. I am hoping to take a few days in the next couple of weeks and travel some of Highway 68 in Ky. while the leaves are so pretty. I love doing the backroads, too, especially in the fall here. That rocking chair on the porch reminded me so much of my inlaws place several years back. Bless their souls. They had a long line of white rockers across their Southern porch. On summer nights they rocked until dark with him drinking bourbon and cranberry juice and she had her sherry. My twin daughters were young and would spend the weekend with them on the farm. They sometimes told me “poor grandmother” she was so tired last night she had to almost crawl up the stairs to bed.

  36. Eva says:

    Looks like a great holiday, Greg. You could have used the rock star bus too!

  37. Great pictures! I love the waterfall and rooster! Looks like a great vacation.

  38. Fawn says:

    Beautiful post. Makes me want to go jump in the car. Then again, I don’t think it would be quite the same with two kiddos in the back seat. I’ll just live vicariously through you all, I guess.

    • katherine says:

      Hey lady! We were ready to ditch the car after seven days. West Virginia and Tennessee, both pretty, but oh boy are they huge! I have no idea how my parents drove six kids south every summer.

  39. spiderpaw says:

    Nice photos for a great story. A nice reminder for those of us who crave traveling abroad that some of the best culture and scenery is in our own back yard. Thanks for sharing.

  40. Kristy says:

    I have that exact same picture of the little waterfalls! We were there about a month before you came through. Did you find any good wineries in NY that you enjoyed? And we too have Oregon on our horizons. We’re thinking epic road trip 2013. πŸ™‚ Great pics and what a fun trip. These are by far my favorite kinds of vacations.

  41. Caroline says:

    Can’t tell you how glad I am that a rooster made it into this post. Even better that his name is Ozzie. If I’m reading that correctly, ha. That photo at the park is seriously stunning. Always nice to have a little break between the delicious food and alcohol. πŸ™‚

  42. spicegirlfla says:

    Breathtaking photo of the waterfull in the park! And all your photos were beautiful! You drove through my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio! I’ve not been home for a few years and reading this just made me very homesick!! Great road trip!!

  43. ....RaeDi says:

    You should write for a travel mag and include the pictures! What a lovely tour and I kinda was able to come along I have been on some of those some routes many times! If you have never been to the great Northwest you will love it! Give us a call….RaeDi

    • Katherine says:

      Thanks, RaeDi. Greg’s pictures are always so amazing. I may not be able to take time off for my birthday and that would mean vacationing in December. We Southern folk couldn’t stomach the great and beautiful Pacific Northwest that late in the year. (OK, Greg could, I’d shiver to death.)

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