Spring Planting, 2016.

I think “Old Man Winter” is finally gone for the year, at least I hope so. We have been frost-free here in central Kentucky for about the last 2 weeks, so I decided it was time to plant.  I spent the last few days planting 7 small container gardens.  A few years ago I planted a large vegetable garden “in the open” and half-way through the Summer, just as the plants were starting to look great… hungry deer descended. Thinking they were at the Golden Corral Buffet, they chowed-down on the tender plants.  I scrambled to protect the remaining veggies and threw-up chicken fencing and barbed-wire as fast as I could.  After that experience, I realized that the only plants that are going to survive on my property are the ones protected with fencing. I’ve built 7 planters, all protected with fencing over the last few years.  Even though deer hoof prints are in the dirt all around the planters, the plants remain safe.  It’s amazing how much food you can produce in a relatively small space.  The property I own with my brother was a dairy pasture years ago and the soil is extremely rich, so with the right amount of sun and rain everything I’ve planted does great!  It’s really quite satisfying to… as they say… “Reap what you sow.”  One advantage to growing your own garden is you know where your food comes from and how it was prepared!  Not to mention, freshness!  Nothing like picking a head of cabbage at 9:00 am and eating it at noon!  Now that’s fresh!  I recently bought a pressure canner and this Fall I will preserve as much of my harvest as I can!

Below are a few pictures of the planters!

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Three of my planters, tomatoes, peppers and squash.

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Deer-proofed planters.

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Another planter I made last year with radishes and beets.

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This was my first fenced-in planter I built 3 years ago. This year it holds cabbage and onions.

Below, I tried something new this year.  I saw this idea on a homesteading website.  It’s an over the door shoe organizer turned into tomato planter.  I have it suspended from a fisheye hook attached to a pergola I built.  I can raise and lower it as necessary, to keep it safe from  deer, I raise it out of reach and when I need to water the plants I can lower it.  I’m anxious to see how it works!

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The over the door shoe organizer now serving as an above the ground planter for tomatoes.

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I can raise and lower this planter as necessary. Up high out of the reach of hungry deer and lower to water!

 

 

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Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew… a la Solar Oven

It’s no secret, I like to eat!  The good thing for me is that I’m not afraid to try new and exotic dishes whenever I travel!  Since I’m traveling in the US now, it makes sense that I learn to cook some of the dishes I really enjoy that are often difficult, if not impossible, to find in small town America.  With the internet and You Tube available anywhere your smart-phone has reception, it’s pretty easy to learn how to make just about any dish imaginable, as long as you can find the necessary ingredients!

Let me first make a *disclaimer,*… I do not claim to be a formally trained executive chef!  But I’m not afraid to try my hand at preparing dishes that some may consider “a bridge too far” while vehicle camping or Overlanding!  Let’s face it… just because you are car-camping or RVing doesn’t mean you have to eat hotdogs and hamburgers everyday!  A friend who happens to be a really great cook once told me, “if you can read and have an imagination, then you can learn to cook.”  I will take it one step further… if you can watch a video and have an imagination, then you can learn to cook!  A few years ago I traveled to Morocco and Greece, two countries that know how to make great lamb dishes.  It was at that time I really fell in love with lamb… the cooked kind mind you!  Since I love Lamb and spice… I decided to try my hand at a Moroccan-style lamb stew today for a late lunch!  I headed to the local Whole Foods Market and had the butcher section-up a pound of lamb shank for me.  I also picked up a few of the spices I was missing and headed back to my campsite.  Today’s meal was prepared completely outdoors with the use of a single burner butane stove (ChefMaster brand, $20) and a folding solar oven (SunFlair brand $90).

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The ChefMaster Butane one burner stove and the SunFlair Solar Oven.

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By adding a simple piece of metal grate to your stove you will be able to cook with a tin cup or canteen cup.

I’ve blogged quite a bit about solar cooking over the last few years.  If you are interested in learning more about solar cooking, just type in the word “solar” in my blog’s search window and other solar cooking post will appear.

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All the ingredients needed to make a Moroccan Style Lamb Stew.

The ingredients for the Moroccan-Style Lamb Stew are,

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 pound of cubed lamb shank.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 small onion

1 small tomato or small can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 can garbanzo beans

2 cups chicken broth

1 generous sprig of cilantro

To prepare, take the first 6 ingredients listed above and combine in a pot.  Stir in the olive oil and add the cubed lamb.  Sauté on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.

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Browning the lamb before cooking in the solar oven helps the meat remain moist as you slow cook it.

The browning of the lamb before you place it in the solar oven helps seal in moisture as it slow cooks.

Next, chop your onion and add the rest of the ingredients listed above to the pot, then place the covered pot in the solar oven.  Depending on where you are and the time of year… your solar oven cooking temperature will differ slightly.  Today I cooked the stew for 2 hours at a temperature between 225 and 250 degrees f.  Remember, you will need to adjust the angle of your solar oven every 30 minuets or so to keep it best aligned with the suns rays.

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All the ingredients, ready to go into the solar oven.

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The SunFlair Solar Oven can be used just about anywhere! Today’s Lamb Stew was cooked for 2 hours at 250 degrees f.

I know some of you are saying… “Geez, that’s too complicated with too may ingredients.”  Truth is, all the spices listed above can be found in the small 1/2 oz size containers for less than a few dollars each and the only ingredients requiring refrigeration are the lamb, onion, tomato and cilantro.  It takes minimal prep-time and the results are well worth the effort.  The stew was incredible, the lamb was very moist and the dish had just the right amount of spice kick to it!  The recipe above made enough to serve two people!

So next time you are Car-Camping, RVing or Overlanding, break-out your smart-phone, search for a dish you like on You Tube, pick up the ingredients, turn on your imagination and try your hand at cooking a new dish, you might just surprise yourself and bring out your inner-chef!

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The finished lamb stew ready for consumption.

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The stew was delicious, with just the right amount of kick to it!

 

 

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Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken.

Solar Oven Roasted, Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken (aka, Cornish Hen).

My latest adventure in Solar Cooking took place today in the Prescott National Forest.  It was a beautiful sunny day, high of about 85… perfect weather to try a new dish in the Solar Oven!  I made what I’m calling “Garlic-Sriracha Sauce Mini-Chicken.”  The mini-chicken is more commonly referred to as a cornish hen!  Cornish hen is probably the cutest little edible bird on the planet.  If I wasn’t so hungry, I might not have eaten the handsome-bird!  To be completely honest, I would have preferred to cook a chicken, but since I was cooking for one, I didn’t want to make too much food and worry about leftovers.  I picked-up my little frozen-featherless-dinner guest for only $2.78 at a supermarket in Prescott Valley and placed him in my cooler with ice.  I then headed off to the Prescott National Forest, a 30 minute drive away.  The little guy was frozen solid when I bought him and he probably would have lasted 3 to 4 days in the cooler, but since I cooked him a few hours later, I’m not sure how long he would have lasted.

The ingredients for today’s dish were really quite simple, a small can of Salsa Casera, Sriracha Sauce, a 16 oz Mini-Chicken (aka Cornish Hen), garlic paste and a lime.

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The Garlic-Sriracha Sauce Mini-Chicken ingredients.

I quartered the Mini-Chicken, placed him in the silicon pot, added the salsa, sriracha sauce and garlic.

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The mini-chicken quartered and sauce added, before cooking.

I then set-up the SunFlair Solar Oven and placed the pot on the cooking rack.

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The SunFlair set-up and cooking.

After about 30 minutes the oven reached 220 degrees, I continued to cook the dish for a total of 3 hours.  I cooked a little longer than normal because the bird was still frozen solid when I started.  I squeezed one small lime into the pot after cooking and before eating.  It came out perfect, the meat fell off the bone!  The combination of the spicy sriracha sauce and the lime gave the dish an incredibly delicious flavor!  This is one dish I will definitely make again!  Nobody needs to limit themselves to hot dogs and dehydrated mac and cheese when camping, with a little imagination… tasty, simple meals are certainly an option!

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The Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken ready to be consumed!

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The Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken ready to be consumed!

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The Garlic-Sriracha Mini-Chicken ready to be consumed!

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Solar Cooking in Suburbia.

Anyone who has followed the blog knows that I love to cook with solar!  You really can cook with solar just about anywhere, all you need of course is the sun!  Many people believe you can only cook with solar in a rural setting?  Today’s post will demonstrate that with only a few square feet of space and the power of the sun, you can easily cook in an urban environment as well!  In fact, in some cases an urban environment actually helps when cooking with solar because you can often place the solar oven next to a wall which helps heat the oven more quickly.  Additionally, in an urban environment, the wind is often less of a factor because the many buildings block breezes which can lower the oven’s temperature. I have even cooked in a parking lot with a solar oven on the roof-rack of my truck.  As long as you get the oven temperature above about 165 degrees fahrenheit, you can cook almost any dish using solar, much like you would in a crockpot, that is to say…. slowly.  Many people new to solar cooking worry too much about exact temperature control when cooking different dishes.  They also worry that the solar oven will not get hot enough.  I suppose if you were trained at “Le Cordon Bleu” cooking school, then your instructor would be absolutely mortified if he learned you cooked your rack of lamb at too low of a temperature.  But for me, slow cooking most dishes is appropriate.

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The SunFlair Solar Oven in an Urban Environment.

Today, in uptown San Diego, I cooked my version of a Brazilian fish stew dish called “moqueca.”  I guess since I’ve been watching the World Cup Soccer Tournament for the last few weeks… it got me thinking about some of the delicious dishes I ate when I lived in Brazil!  Moqueca is basically a white fish stew with shrimp, coconut milk and tomato sauce.

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The main ingredients for Braziilan Moqueca.

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The Moqueca ingredients before going into the Solar Oven.

There are many different moqueca recipes on the internet, so I won’t list all of my ingredients.   The one variation I made was to use crab meat instead of shrimp.  The “Sunflair” solar cooker reached 225 degrees in about 30 minutes in the sun.  I only repositioned the oven once, in order to maximize the sun’s rays and after about 2 hours of cook time… the stew was ready!  Moqueca is typically served over a bed of rice!  Today’s solar-cooked “Moqueca” was absolutely delicious!

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The SunFlair Solar Oven up close.

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The temperature gauge, reached over 225 degrees fahrenheit.

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The final product, Brazilian Moqueca!

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Farmer’s Markets Are Just Cool!

When I travel, I always like to visit the local markets, bazaars, souks or whatever they call the place where people come together to sell “things.” Fruits, vegetables, textiles, jewelry, pottery and prepared foods are just some of the ‘things’ you will find at a local market!  In many countries, market-day is truly a ‘social’ event!  Visiting with other shoppers and vendors is just as important as buying goods!  We in America are often in a hurry when we shop… we rarely take time to greet other shoppers, much-less have a conversation with a vendor!  I think many people will agree, one place in America where we can experience a more relaxed, slow-paced, fun shopping experience is at local ‘Farmer’s Markets.’  Fortunately, here in San Diego there are a few great Farmer’s Market, or like the one in Hillcrest is called an “Open Air Bazaar.”  Call it what you wish, but a market by any other name is still just as cool.  The Hillcrest ‘Bazaar’ has grown significantly since my last visit 2 years ago.  Today there were at least a thousand shoppers and well over a hundred vendors.  Selling everything from sea-urchins to soap and smoothies to silk-scarves.  The Bazaar is held near the DMV Office in Hillcrest every Sunday from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM… year round!  If you like to people-watch, sample great ethnic food from all over the world and listen to live music, spend a few hours one Sunday at the Hillcrest Open Air Bazaar!

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Fresh Veggies at the Hillcrest Bazaar!

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There are at least 1/2 a dozen flower vendors.

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Fresh Herbs a plenty.

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The Hot Bananas Jazz Group at the Hillcrest Bazaar.

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The Free Trolly stops at the Bazaar.

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Ever tried Sea-Urchins?

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Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs… AKA JOY.

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A Samosa at the Bazaar, very tasty.

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Fresh Garlic to go!

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Food from all corners of the globe!

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The Grill-Man.

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Welcome to the New Blog!

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The Blogger at the Spreckels Organ Pavillion, June of 2014.

I’m currently in the process of moving my blog from Blogger to WordPress. If you are reading this post, that’s great, it means you’ve found the new address, www.pocketfullofwanderlust.com Please Bookmark the new blog address for your next visit.  After I move all content to the WordPress Blog, I will no longer update the old Blogger Blog! All future content will be on the WordPress site. Why did I make the move to WordPress? The short answer….WordPress is more user-friendly and offers more flexibility and ease of use!  In the future, I plan to add all types of media, to include videos, photographs and maps. My Blog recently passed the “100,000 page view” mark and I sincerely appreciate my readers taking the time to visit the site! -Thanks, Andrew

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Overland Expo 2014 and Navajo Nachos.

Last weekend I attended the Overland Expo 2014 at Mormon Lake, Arizona, just 30 minutes south-east of Flagstaff.  It was my second time attending the Overland Expo in the last 3 years.  For anyone not familiar with Overland Expo, it’s basically where people of all walks of life and from all parts of the globe gather for 3 days to celebrate all forms of overland-vehicular travel.  Participants arrive in just about every vehicle imaginable, from 500 thousand dollar MadMax looking live-in vehicles to jeeps, trucks, motorcycles and everything in between.  The Expo hosts classes on all aspects of vehicular travel from how to fix a flat tire, to cooking on the road or how to negotiate challenging obstacles properly in your vehicle.  Vendors also have the opportunity to show-off and sell their latest equipment and vehicles.  So in a nutshell, if it has anything to do with overland-vehicles, travel and people who like to venture off the beaten-path, then it was probably at the Overland Expo last weekend!  I tent-cot camped in the pasture with about 900 of my closest friends and their vehicles.  The Expo opens a large cattle pasture for attendees to overnight.  I have no idea how many vehicles camped there but it was probably close to 1000!  The weather was dry and windy, translating into lots of dust in your face, your food and in your vehicles!  Despite the daily sandblasting, it was still an awesome weekend!
I met some of my friends there and made new ones over the 3 day event!  It was kind-of-like a “Woodstock” for overland-vehicle lovers, minus the drugs and nudity…. darn!  I participated in some great classes, with particular interest in the motorcycle ones in order to prepare for a possible trip through the Americas starting in the next 12 months!  The only down-side to the entire weekend was when I ate the dreaded “Navajo Nachos” for the first time!  What are “Navajo Nachos” you ask…. well they are a large piece of “Fry Bread,” covered with refried beans, ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato of course.  They tasted great but after about an hour, I felt like I had swallowed a helium-ballon!  I could have squeezed about a cup of oil out of the “Fry Bread,” which may have contributed to the “bloated” feeling.  As you can imagine, the best way to pass the “bloated” feeling is to…. well…. let the methane escape…. and boy did I….. I was afraid my tent-cot was going to float away like the Goodyear Blimp!  Lucky for me, I had strapped the cot down to my vehicle running board because of the high winds and I was safety-strapped to the ground and suffered no unintentional flights!
All joking aside, the best part of the Overland Expo was meeting so many great people, eager to offer their expertise in overland vehicular travel, regardless of your level of experience….
It was just the motivation a guy needs when contemplating a 6000 mile motorcycle ride south of the border!
My Tacoma with Tent-Cot and Kelty Carport.
Breakfast of Overlanders must include BACON!
The cot – awning set-up.
An Earth-Roamer.
A few GXVs ready to road trip!
An Earth Roamer negotiating the obstacle course.
A nice innovative truck cap.
Lots of motorcycles attended!
A new GXV ready for a new owner,
A Sportsmobile.
An XP Camper.
An Earth Cruiser.

 

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Cambodian Statues and a Corned Beef Sandwich.

A Cambodian Statue at the Cleveland Art Museum.

Last weekend my younger brother’s family and I visited my mother in Cleveland for Easter Weekend.  We were fortunate that the great Snow-God, Nanook of the North, decided to give us a break…. the weather was really nice all weekend!  I know that after the epic Winter Cleveland experienced during the 2013 – 2014 season, no one will be disappointed if Nanook takes a break from now until next December.  My brother in Michigan said it was perhaps the worst Winter season he can remember!

Everyone enjoyed a wonderful visit, Mom is doing great!  Over the weekend, I met-up with some old friends and even participated in a 2 day orgy…eating-orgy that is!
Cake, peeps, chocolate-eggs and candy-corn all helped facilitate the orgy!
If only I had better self-control when it comes to food…. oh well… lucky for me there are only a few holidays a year when I participate in an eating-orgy!

On my way out of Cleveland, I visited the Cleveland Art Museum for a few hours.  The 320 million dollar, multi-year renovation project was recently completed, with the opening of a wing of the museum dedicated to Asian Art.  The last time I visited, in December of 2013, the Asian Wing had not yet been completed.  I was very excited to learn that the museum was open and I could finally see the finished project.  In one word, the end result is… IMPRESSIVE!  As I have said before, the Cleveland Art Museum is among the best museums in the world!  For me, the two best qualities of the new Museum are, the ease of navigation and the abundance of natural light.  In many museums around the world, one needs at least a good map or maybe even a GPS to navigate the various collections!  Not at the Cleveland Art Museum, all rooms flow easily around a massive, glass ceiling atrium.  The glass-windowed additions around the atrium, allow for plenty of natural light and give many of the rooms a much larger feel.  When you visit Cleveland, make sure you spend a day at the Art Museum, you will not be disappointed!            

Slyman’s Corned-Beef Sandwich in Cleveland, Ohio.

After a few hours of wandering the halls of the Cleveland Art Museum, and in particular, the newly opened Asian Wing, what better food to eat than a Corned Beef sandwich from Slyman’s on E 31st and St Claire.  Who needs tofu, miso soup or a bento-box when a mouth-watering corned beef sandwich is available!  No seriously, if you like “carne” in any of its many flavors you will certainly love Slyman’s corned beef!  One sandwich is plenty big enough for 2 people, but since I was alone this time, I felt it was my duty to eat the whole sandwich minus the dill-pickle!  I couldn’t imagine leaving any of the sandwich on the plate, eating it all was a duty I gladly accepted!  Let the orgy continue!

Slymans Restaurant on 31st and St Clair in Cleveland, Ohio.
The new Atrium at the Cleveland Art Museum.
Cleveland Art Museum, 2014.
Works of Art at the newly opened Asian Wing of the Cleveland Art Museum.
Works of Art at the Cleveland Art Museum.

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Ova Easy Eggs, Wonderful Food for the Wanderer.

I like to find great food for the Wanderer (Traveler).  I know that with refrigeration, one can “wander” with almost anything you have in your kitchen at home.  Many vehicle travelers have 12 volt refrigerators and coolers making food choices on the road almost endless.  Even though I too have a cooler and a 12 volt refrigerator, I think the best “Wanderer-Food” is food that does not require refrigeration and has a descent shelf-life!  I recently found something that I think most travelers will enjoy, Ova Easy Egg Crystals!  They are real eggs in powder form and when you add a little water, they do everything regular eggs in the shell do.  It doesn’t get much easier than that!  Place a few tablespoons of Ova Easy Egg powder in a bowl, add water as per the instructions on the package, whip them and cook as you would regular eggs.  At first, I was reluctant to try them, as a kid I remember drinking powered milk once in a while, when mom ran out of regular milk.  My brothers and I were not big fans of powered milk so when I saw powered eggs, I didn’t have high expectations!  
I must admit, Ova Easy Eggs are very tasty!  I really can’t tell the difference between Ova Easy Eggs and real eggs when I scramble them and add a little hot sauce!  They taste great, are lightweight and easy to pack, have a descent shelf-life, are very easy to prepare and best of all…. you will never worry again about cracked eggs after a 50 mile drive over washboard trails in your 4×4! 

Ova Easy Egg Crystals in the package
Ova Easy Egg Crystals dry
Ova Easy Egg Crystals with water added
Ova Easy Egg Crystals cooked in the microwave!  A simple, tasty meal for the Wanderer.


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Rode My Horse to a Tavern.

For the last few weeks the Big-Old-Mare (aka my Honda XR650L motorcycle) has been chomping at the bit to go for a ride.  She has been cooped-up in the barn since mid-November, when I rode her for the last time.  Even though we are almost in April, and Spring officially arrived last week, it seems “Old Man Winter” is not quite ready to release his grip on central Kentucky just yet. Yesterday morning it was 17 degrees when I went outside at about 7 am, too cold for my “first” Spring-ride of the year.  Today looked a-whole-lot better at 36 degrees at about 8 am, so I dressed for a ride, wool shirt, neck-gator, helmet, gloves and a riding jacket.  I filled the horse up with a few gallons of fresh fuel and hit the road.  By 8:30 am, the mercury had edged up a degree to 37.  From Lawrenceburg, I headed west on Hwy 62 in the direction of Bardstown, home of the world famous “Makers Mark” bourbon distillery.  After riding about 5 miles at 55 mph in 37 degree weather, my hands were sufficiently frozen that I couldn’t feel them or my twig and berries who were well on their way to the land of frozen appendages…so I decided it was time to let discretion rule!  I turned-back and headed home for a few hours to wait for the day to warm up some.  At a little after 11:00 am, it was in the mid-40s so the B.O.M and I again headed west to Bardstown!  Much better, what a difference a few degrees made, it had warmed up enough so I could actually feel my hands for the entire 50 mile ride to Bardstown.  Our destination was the 18th century Old Talbott Tavern.  Built in 1779, Old Talbott Tavern is the oldest stagecoach stop still in operation.  Even though the stagecoach no longer stops there, the Tavern still functions today as a restaurant and hotel.  Notable guests at the Tavern have included Daniel Boone, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Jesse James and even George Patton, to name just a few!  It’s reported that the Tavern, situated right next door to the old county jail, is even haunted.  Fortunately, during my lunch I did’t encounter any ghosts, just a friendly waitress and a great sandwich!
The Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky
The Old Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky
The old bar at the Old Talbott Tavern
The old jail in Bardstown, Kentucky…now a Bed and Breakfast.
The iron gate of the old jail
The original manufacturer’s emblem on the jail’s gate
Log School House in downtown Bardstown, Kentucky
Downtown Bardstown, Kentucky
The downtown Bardstown, Kentucky historical marker.

 
Today’s ride was a great “first” ride of the year!  It gave me and the “Big Old Mare” a chance to stretch our muscles and see some new sights close to our own backyard.  I know I’ve said it before and I will probably say it again, short duration, local get-aways can be just as much fun as cross-country or overseas trips for sure!  I’m glad I got a ride in today because as I type this post it’s raining pretty hard and the weather forecast for the next few days looks pretty grim… heavy rain and possibly some snow on Saturday… wow… the weather this season has been really crazy!  I hope it warms up soon, I have many more adventures in mind!   

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