Kentucky Inspires Me

A few weeks ago, I was reading a fun fashion blog -- Glitter and Gingham -- that's run by a Lexington expat. She'd built an outfit around a fun Kentucky t-shirt, and she started the post out by saying "I have a theory that every Kentuckian is obsessed with Kentucky." Now, Shelby's outfit was adorable, but her idea is what really stuck with me.
Gratz Park, Lexington
Most Kentuckians I know are really into being from Kentucky. We spend a lot of time quoting little factoids about the Commonwealth. And why shouldn't we? We're only home to the prettiest land, the best college basketball teams, the greatest horse race, and bourbon. Any one of these are enough to make us cocky. No wonder most of us are, to borrow the phrase, obsessed
Rupp Arena
Here at HerKentucky, we've been focusing on inspiration lately. The people and places and sights and sounds that inspire us. As we each have posted essays and photos about our sources of inspiration, I've realized how much Kentucky inspires me every day -- from its rich traditions and history to its unique and beautiful scenery.
Downtown Louisville
Whether my love for The Bluegrass State stems from obsession or inspiration, I find that my Kentucky experience colors my writing, my political viewpoint, my approach to cooking and hospitality, and so many other aspects of my daily life. In so many ways, Kentucky inspires me every day.
Haupt Humanities Building, Transylvania
How does Kentucky inspire you?
The Belle of Louisville
{all photos are my own.}

Top Ten Kentucky Geocaches

HerKentucky welcomes our good friend Jessica Lotz for a special guest post about geocaching Kentucky. Jess lives just outside St. Louis, MO with her husband, toddler son, and 5-year old dog, Cooper. After a successful 13 year career in health care administration, Jessica quit her job in November 2011 to answer life's next calling as a stay-at-home mom. Jesssica likes football on Sundays and cruises to just about anywhere. Although she's lived throughout the U.S. courtesy of the Air Force, Kentucky really is her second home. -- HCW

One of the many things I enjoy about HerKentucky is its ability to introduce readers to places, historic or trendy, that we may not have experienced otherwise. Whether through HerKentucky’s 60 Things Project or because of the passion of its contributors, it's not unusual for me to add new places to visit, businesses to support, and adventures to experience to my Kentucky Bucket List on a nearly weekly basis. As an adopted Kentuckian, I appreciate learning about it all.

In that respect, HerKentucky is much like geocaching. Geocaching, an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use GPS enabled devices to find hidden containers or caches, began in 2000 and since then has attracted hundreds of thousands of loyal cachers who have hidden over 1.6 million caches throughout the world. Caches range in size from nano (the size of a screw) to large (ammo box), and can be traditional caches (a physical treasure), virtual (no actual cache, but rather a site you’re visiting, usually for historical purposes), or Earth caches (think Mammoth Cave). Some caches can be located rather quickly (within minutes of arriving at the coordinates) while others can take hours (particularly if hiking/repelling/kayaking is involved).

My Geocaching hobby actually began in Kentucky. While visiting the in-laws over Christmas one year, I stumbled across something regarding geocaching. I started researching it online and within 30 minutes, I had my entire family outside looking for a cache in the park behind my husband’s childhood home. Using my sister-in-law’s iPhone, we quickly found the cache and immediately wanted to see where the next closest one was located. That’s how easy it is to get started.

Since then, geocaching has become a lifestyle for us. We love it because it gets us outside (year round), it's an activity our 2.5 year old son enjoys with us and we usually take care of Mother Earth while we’re at it (a practice known as CITO, or Cache In, Trash Out).

And, just like HerKentucky, it takes us to places we would not have otherwise visited or seen. Honestly, that’s my favorite part about geocaching. While I enjoy the fresh air and spending time with my little family, ultimately what gets me off the couch is knowing that we’re about to visit somewhere beautiful, unique or historically significant. 
Falls of the Ohio in Southern Indiana
Not surprisingly, many fabulous geocaches call Kentucky home. I recently spent some time researching them and compiled a list of 10 which I feel are worth a look:

1)    “Tom Sawyer” Traditional cache. Placed back in 2001, it ranks as Kentucky’s oldest and second most favored cache by those who have found it. Located in E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park in Louisville.  Just as I was about to walk across the stage at my college graduation, someone placed this cache in a park mere minutes from where my future husband lived. Nearly 12 years later, almost 900 people have found this cache! How am I not one of them? This cache is top on my to-do list during my next trip to KY.


2)    “76 Falls” Traditional cache. Placed 10/17/2004. Located about 2.5 hours south of Lexington, on the south side of Lake Cumberland. Requires a hike, but pictures posted by other cachers are absolutely beautiful. Nature at its finest.
The view from 76 Falls geocache location
3)    “Kentucky Floral Clock” Virtual cache. Placed 1/3/2003. Located in Frankfort, KY. From the description: “There are other flower clocks in the world-one in Canada at Niagara Falls, some in Europe, and smaller ones in the United States. Kentucky's is unique because it keeps time over a pool of water instead of resting on a bank of earth. The face of the giant clock is 34 feet across. The planter that holds it weighs 100 tons. Dedicated in 1961, the floral clock was a project of the Commonwealth and the Garden Club of Kentucky. It takes more than 10,000 plants to fill the clock. All are grown in the Commonwealth's own greenhouses near the Capitol. Coins from the pool are used to benefit young people in Kentucky.” Best viewed in the spring and summer.

4)    “Reflections” Virtual cache. Placed 9/19/2002. Located in downtown Louisville. Ranked as the #1 geocache in the state. A very cleverly designed cache which takes you on a brief walking tour of downtown. Using the glass buildings, the cacher must look for reflections to get clues of how to proceed to the next point in the cache. Comments from those who have done this cache: “It was fun identifying the different buildings and making our way to them. We spent a lot of extra time just admiring the architecture and seeing different things in the downtown area” and “What an awesome cache. Had some time before catching our plane back home to Colorado and this was at the top of our list to do. We certainly were NOT disappointed. Fun, fun, fun. Got a nice walking tour of the town and even spotted a place to have lunch. Thanks so much.”

5)    “Gatti Land(ing)” Traditional cache. Placed 12/31/2006. Located in Pikeville, KY. It’s highly rated for its creativity (meaning the cache container or location is pretty cool). Historically, the site of the cache is now a popular pizza joint, but was once home to Valley Airport. Comments by those who have found this cache rave about how creatively designed this cache is....another on the top of my to-do list.
A very creatively hidden (inside a wooden log) geocache found in Florida.

6)    “Cache Across America- Kentucky.” Traditional cache. Placed 8/24/2006 as part of the Cache Across America Series. Located at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. Any geocachers trying to complete the Cache Across America challenge must find this specific cache in order to qualify. This cache has likely been found by more out-of-staters than Kentuckians due to the nature of the cache.


7)    “Holy Overlook”. Traditional cache. Placed 11/21/2005. Located in Wickcliffe, KY (about 30 miles West of Paducah), this site is apparently very beautiful with an incredible view of the Mississippi River. Another highly rated cache. 

8)    “DOWN Town.” Traditional cache. Placed 5/27/2003. Located in Horse Cave, KY (about 80 miles South of Louisville, East of Mommoth Cave). From the description: “The town, which formed around the cave in the mid 1800's, once sustained a thriving tourist trade. Visitors arrived by the train load to see the natural wonder, once billed as the "World's Largest Cave Entrance". By the 1940's, pollution had cut off not only the drinking water but also the streams of tourists the cave attracted. The cave's restoration in 1993 was one of the most remarkable environmental success stories in America and a breath of fresh air for Horse Cave. Today, Horse Cave, Kentucky is a constant reminder of the delicate balance between caves and the sunlit world above.”

9)    “Vampire U- Fact or Fiction” Traditional cache. Placed 9/28/2011. Located in Lexington, KY. For all of the Transylvania Alumni! From the description: “Old Morrison, the only campus building at the time, was completed in 1833, under the supervision of Henry Clay, who both taught law and was a member of Transylvania's Board.”

10)     “Dead Men Don’t Cache” Virtual Cache. Placed 8/12/2012. Located in Lexington, KY. For all of the UK basketball fans. From the description: “The location of this virtual cache is nationally recognized as one of "America's most beautiful arboretums.” If you haven’t visited this grave, can you really call yourself a C-A-T-S fan?

Geocaching can be reduced to a mere hobby where folks use expensive GPS equipment to locate tupperware containers hidden in the woods. While that may be true, the other reality is that it also encourages participants to explore nature, delve into local history, and spurs commerce as people will sometimes drive 2-3 hours off course during a road trip just to snag a specific cache.

Three things are certain in my life: death, taxes and if there’s good weather on the weekend, you’ll find my little family, including our 5 year old dog, Cooper, outside geocaching.
A fellow and his dogs find King Kong's Log cache just south of Louisville. Coop would love this one!

Tradition and Change at Transylvania

Every so often, I hear of a big change at my alma mater. A newspaper article, the alumni magazine, or a piece of gossip from a friend clues me in to something new and different at the old school. Sometimes it's interesting and exciting. Sometimes, it's perplexing. And, more often than not, it just feels a little unsettling. That just isn't how things are supposed to be.

via Transylvania University.
These days, many new and exciting things are happening at the school.  Last spring, Transylvania University welcomed its 25th President, R. Owen Williams, amidst much fanfare. This year's incoming class, the first who'll matriculate fully under the Williams Administration, were recently welcomed (three weeks earlier than we began the school year in the '90s!) with a formal induction ceremony and a commemorative coin.  It's a far cry from our orientation weekend dances and move-in days, that's for sure. Every time I hear of a change, I immediately rehash my findings with my beau with a little disbelief: Can you believe they're doing things that way? It certainly isn't how it was done when we were in school.  

Sometimes, I'm elated to hear of fun little changes to The Transy Way; the UK-TU basketball series is fast becoming a tradition among my friends.  Sometimes, my reaction to the changes comes out of a true desire to learn more. I'm interested to hear the mechanics of the new "August term": How does it impact GPA and tuition rate? How will three weeks of freshman-only classes impact the campus socially and academically? I approached the dramatically abbreviated recruitment plan with trepidation, for some of my fondest college memories involve late-night voting sessions and long hours of planning and practicing those over-the-top rush skits.   And, I suppose, some of my reactions are simply a by-product of my own era. When I heard of the school's quidditch team, I imagine my reaction came across a lot like Dame Maggie Smith's famous Dowager Countess line: "What ... is ... a week-end?" It was simply something so far out of my field of experience that I didn't know what to make of it. The truth is, I just want to believe that things will always be exactly the way I left them. 

I like to believe this is the last moment that Transy made any changes.
 Most of us have built a lot of our self-image around our school years. "I majored in Political Science", "I was a Phi Mu"; these choices stick with us for a lifetime. Our school years were momentous and filled with hope and unlimited potential. For most of us, the worst thing that happened in college was a grad school rejection letter or a bad breakup. We didn't yet know the banal realities of mortgage applications and entry-level jobs. We hadn't yet dealt with true disappointment and loss. We were young and perfect and unformed. High school had been about preparing ourselves to study, and professional school would be about preparing ourselves for real life, but college was about learning how to think and how to be. There's something magical about that, and it's only natural to want to preserve those years in amber, pulling out lovely memories on special occasions.
I spent four years locked in this basement.

From the moment you enter Transylvania's campus, you're immersed in over two centuries of culture and history and tradition.  Everywhere you turn, there's a reminder of famous names of Lexington's past -- the troublesome architect Shryock brothers, the mad genius Constantine Rafinesque, the infamous Belle Brezing.  It's easy to lose yourself in the idea that things have always been the same at old TU.  But, it's simply not true.  My Transy experience is undoubtedly different than John Marshall Harlan's was in the 1850s, or Ned Beatty's in the 1950s.  And, as a friend and fellow alumna recently reminded me, my experience is a good bit different than the current students'.  To be fair, I suppose most Transy kids aren't listening to Nirvana and wearing plaid Abercrombie shirts these days.  And that's a very good thing.

A couple of years ago, I found myself at a wedding reception at Graham Cottage, Transy's alumni house. As the festivities drew to a close, I jokingly texted some Transy girlfriends that I was thinking of crashing some fraternity parties while I was on campus. It was Saturday night, after all. Now, of course I knew that none of the guys on the halls wanted to deal with a thirty-something retired sorority girl busting up in one of their parties. Nor did I think that my palate was exactly up to the bitter, hoppy notes of Natural Light or Milwaukee's Best. (An anthropology thesis could be written on the complexities of each fraternity's choice of crappy beer, but that's another story for another time...) Sitting in Graham Cottage, looking out the window at the dorm-dwellers gearing up for Saturday night, I felt like I was 21 again -- young and carefree and pretty. (OK, probably not as pretty as I thought. See, e.g., Natural Light.) I didn't want to think about the fact that some classmates' dreams came true, while others' didn't. I didn't want to recall that a few folks aren't still with us. It was a convenient fiction to tell myself that the parties were going on just as I remembered. It's simply nicer to believe that things are exactly as I left them.

I (Heart) School

My year begins with the school year. Even when I lived in D.C. and no one in my home went to school, the school year was how I organized time. The beginning of school represents a fresh start. The beginning of school means new clothes and unopened packages of pencils and crisp stacks of paper. The beginning of school represents opportunity - the opportunity to learn something life-changing, to succeed at something new, to finally do things right. 

I love everything about it because I love everything about school. Elementary school was fun. Middle school was hilarious. High school was dramatic, but COLLEGE was the best four years of my life.
That girl on the left has NOT a care in the world.
The guy on the right is now a PROFESSOR,
which makes the girl on the left feel very old indeed.

I know I shouldn’t say that. I truly do love my life now. I have the most amazing husband and the most adorable children and the coolest jobs. But you know what husbands and children and jobs are most of the time? WORK. You know what isn’t WORK? 

COLLEGE.

College is just enough structure and just enough freedom to be the best. thing. EVER. Even the start of school at college is better. My favorite day in the world is Syllabus Day - the first day of class when the professor hands out the syllabus, goes over it quickly, and lets every one go. No homework. No preparation. Just a crisp sheet of paper that tells you everything you’re going to learn over the next few months. Nothing is late yet. You haven’t procrastinated. Everything seems so achievable.  

I celebrated many a Syllabus Day during my four years at Transylvania. I decided to go to Transy because my high school boyfriend was in Lexington and I didn’t want to go to UK. The worst decision-making that luckily led to the best decision of my life. When I look back on my life, my four years at Transylvania were the most transformative.

I learned how to be a good friend. I learned how to be a good liberal. I learned how to write and think and debate. I met my husband, my dearest friends, and mentors that single-handedly changed the course of my life

The best part? All that changing and learning and transforming was so much dang fun. Sure, there was drama. That high school boyfriend cheated on me with a sorority sister. I did not graduate with all the dear friends I had made freshman year due to conflicts and miscommunications. I still vividly remember the torture of writing ONE MORE political philosophy essay for Dr. Dugi after Spring Break. At the time, it seemed like the most difficult task in the entire world. 

Of course, it wasn’t. I knew deep down it wasn’t. By graduation, I already knew how special my time at Transylvania had been. Others whined and complained. They couldn’t graduate fast enough. Not me. I knew this time was special and I didn’t want it to end. 

At graduation, underneath those seemingly perfect cherry trees, I cried like a baby. Sure, I cried for the friends I was leaving and the mentors I was hugging one last time. However, I knew I’d see and talk to all of them again. I cried the hardest for Transylvania and those incredibly special four years I knew I would never get back.

I cried that May because come September I knew another school year would start at Transylvania ... and I would not be there. 

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

Kentucky Places: The Bodley-Bullock House

It just isn't summer in Lexington until you've attended a wedding at the Bodley-Bullock House.
Photo via Junior League of Lexington
The 1814 mansion, with its Federal and Greek Revival details, is located in the heart of Lexington's Gratz Park Neighborhood and is a perennial favorite event space for Lexington brides. 
Gratz Park houses, next door to the Bodley-Bullock.
The Bodley-Bullock House was built for Lexington mayor Thomas Pindell, and was most notably owned by General Thomas Bodley, a War of 1812 hero, and Dr. Waller Bullock, a prominent Lexington physician.   Upon the passing of Dr. Bullock and his wife Minnie, the home was left in trust to Transylvania University and was renovated by the Junior League of Lexington in 1984.  It is used as both the Junior League Headquarters and a rentable event space. The house is similar in architecture and decor to many other Gratz Park-area houses, including the Hunt-Morgan House.
View from the window of Minnie Bullock's bedroom
This weekend, I attended a family wedding at the Bodley-Bullock House.  The dramatic staircase and old-fashioned touches provided an absolutely stunning backdrop.
My gorgeous cousin Amy

I've attended dozens of weddings at the venue. I've put in my share of Junior League meetings and picnics there as well.  It's always been one of those comfortable, friendly houses that just embodies Old Lexington, and it's always been rumored to be just a little bit haunted.  The best houses always are.

Looks like the bride and I inadvertantly disregarded Miss Minnie's wishes. 
I recently ran across an interesting anecdote about the Bodley-Bullock House.  It seems that the late Mrs. Minnie Bullock was not only a community leader, but also a vehement teetotaler.  Apparently, the original terms of her will provided that alcohol could not be consumed in her home, even after her passing.  It seems that this provision was later changed, to Miss Minnie's dismay -- it's said that her ghost has been known to flicker lights and crack tables when she doesn't like the happenings in her home.  Now,  I've had more than my share of celebratory toasts in this venue, so I hope Miss Minnie can forgive me.  Rumor has it that Dr. Bullock wasn't above kidding Miss Minnie about her temperance beliefs; he hung a portrait of the "town drunk", William "King" Solomon, in their home, where it still remains.

The Bodley-Bullock House is a charming example of Lexington's old Downtown.  I so enjoyed Miss Minnie's hospitality this weekend, and I do hope she can look past my bubbly endulgence!

More Favorite Things!

Last week, we asked y'all to list some favorite Kentucky things.  My sorority sister Becca -- an ordained Disciples of Christ minister and Trimble County native -- provided a thoughtful list that I thought I'd share.  Thanks for the beautiful list, Becca!! -- HCW

Cane Ridge Meeting House
1. Transylvania University (of course)


2. The Cane Ridge Meeting house, near Paris Kentucky-- this is the birthplace of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), my denomination. 


3. Mary Ann Saunders Chapel at Lexington Theological Seminary


4. Central Christian Church (seriously has the most beautiful sanctuary)


5. That moment right before the Run for the Roses when everyone sings My Old Kentucky Home. I cry every time.


Calumet Farm
6. The Horse Farms-- 3 chimneys is my favorite, Calumet is my 2nd favorite


7. Bray's Orchards in Bedford Kentucky-- they have THE BEST PEACHES.


8. US 42. This is the oldest highway in the area and was originaly the primary route between Louisville and Cincinnati-- there are so many neat little towns along the way. Bedford, Carollton, and Ghent being my favorites.


9. The Ohio River-- there is NOTHING as beautiful as driving across the rickety old bridge from Madison Indiana to Milton Kentucky and crossing over the river-- It's the last step on my trips back home to Kentucky from Chicago and it's my sign that I'm home.


10. Sweet Tea

Sarah's 20 Things


  1. Patti's Boat Sinker Pie 
  2. The Judds
  3. Wide open Western Kentucky sky
  4. The Kentucky Derby
  5. Kentucky Lake
  6. Leigh's Barbecue
  7. Old Morrison
  8. bell hooks
  9. Bluegrass music
  10. Abraham Lincoln
  11. Transylvania University
  12. Kern's Kitchen Derby Pie...and the fact that they serve it in the cafeteria at Transy.
  13. Loretta Lynn 
  14. Blue Moon of Kentucky...as sung by just about anyone.
  15. Barbara Kingsolver
  16. The Appalachian Mountains
  17. Wendell Berry
  18. Paducah
  19. Grater's ice cream
  20. Kentuckians
~ Sarah Stewart Holland