We rolled into Louisville, KY on Wed. afternoon and made our way to the KOA in Shepherdsville, about 18 miles south of Churchill Downs. We booked this site back in October to ensure we had a place to stay for the big event. We had a few days to get organized and get chores done before we met up with the Shull’s on Friday, including getting the MDX in for a much needed service and new brakes.
Friday was the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs, kind of a preview to the Derby with a “pink” theme for breast cancer awareness. Mike & I headed to the track around 12:30; Becky & Charles were driving down from Cincinnati. Charles had a business meeting in Louisville, then they were meeting us at CD. Our tickets for the day were general admission/infield which is typically a pretty crazy atmosphere with lots of college kids and plenty o’drinking. There is no seating, so many people bring blankets and camp chairs and stake out an area. Since we were only going to be there a half-day, we decided against chairs and opted to just walk around and explore. I had read that the site lines to the track were very limited from the infield, but surprisingly we could see the horses and track from a number of vantage points. We felt like this was a great intro for us to get our feet wet, learn the betting and take in the atmosphere. They had a special drink for the Oaks, the Lily. It was Grey Goose vodka and cranberry garnished with a blackberry and served in a stemless souvenir wine glass. Right up my alley! Of course, the Mint Juleps were also available and we all partook in those as well. I didn’t like them as much as the Lily, but as Beck told me, “Bourbon is an acquired taste.” Not sure I have acquired it quite yet. We ended up staying at the track until the very last race and I actually came out ahead on my betting for the day (I pick the horses based on their name, very scientific). We stopped at the grocery store on the way back to the MoHo and BBQ’d steaks complemented by a tasty salad, potatoes and spectacular wine! The Shull’s stayed with us in the MoHo because hotels were a bit overpriced for the weekend. So glad they did as it gave us quality time to hang out, catch up and for them to experience the MoHo way of life!
On Saturday, we had a leisurely morning over coffee and breakfast, then the preparations began! Beck & I donned our dresses and hats and Charles & Mike got their bow ties tied (with a little help from YouTube). Mimosa’s in hand and we were off to the Kentucky Derby! We scoped out parking the day before for only $10, just a few blocks from the track complete with golf cart service right to the front gate! Not bad for rookies. Originally we had infield tickets for Saturday, but decided to buck up and get Clubhouse Seats. It was a good choice and we ended up having a 6-seat box all to ourselves, nice to have the extra space. It was a glorious, sunny day in the mid 70’s. The best weather they have seen for the Kentucky Derby in years! First order of business was to get our Julep’s and place our first bet. We arrived in time for Race 6 (the Derby was Race 11), so we had plenty of day ahead of us. There was about 45 minutes between races and an hour and a half before the Derby Race. We felt like we fit in pretty well, but there were definitely some bigger, more elaborate hats than ours. The day couldn’t have been better and was a perfect mix of sitting in our seats, walking around, people watching, drinking Juleps, smoking cigars, betting and getting into the whole atmosphere and experience of it. Becky was the big winner for the day and California Chrome took home the roses! One of the coolest moments for me was the quiet anticipation of the crowd right before the gates opened and the announcer said “and they’re off.” 150,000 people together witnessing the most exciting 2 minutes in sports! As soon as that race was over, the crowds started clearing out pretty quickly. We stayed for another race and let it empty out a bit. We all agreed that for first timers, we did it up pretty darn good. Having Beck & Charles there really made the experience for us. It really wouldn’t have been the same without them. What a memory we will all share! We headed downtown for dinner at a cool spot called Marketplace (delicious!) and got back to the MoHo around midnight exhausted from our big day. Kentucky Derby. Check.
We all slept in the next morning then headed out to a great spot for brunch called Harvest. We drove around a bit and explored, then it was time for them to head back up to Cincinnati for their flight home. Sad to say goodbye, but I think we were all still on a high from such a fantastic day. Mike & I ran some errands then headed back to the MoHo for a relaxing evening. The next day was my bday, Cinco de Mayo. I slept in, Mike made me breakfast in bed and I caught up on some bad TV. We drove downtown in search of a Mexican restaurant and Margarita. On a Monday after Derby Weekend, a bit harder than we thought. Found a neat area called 4th Street Live, but no Mexican joints that were open. Had a few Corona’s, then headed back toward the MoHo Park and found the perfect place just a mile from the park – go figure. One jumbo strawberry margarita then back to the MoHo for a campfire. A very relaxing bday, but it did feel a bit weird not to be home with friends & family. I definitely felt the love from afar though via phone calls, texts, emails and FB.