Day 82 - Churchill Downs - Falls of the Ohio

Trip Start May 30, 2013
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Trip End Aug 30, 2013


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Flag of United States  , Kentucky
Monday, August 19, 2013


We got up early from our RV Park in Indiana and went to the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, KY.  The museum is on the Churchill Downs Property.

Churchill Downs was started by the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr bought land from John and Henry Churchill and started the races in 1875 -- they have been racing the Kentucky Derby every year since [Even through wars and bad economic times].  Clark named the track Churchill Downs after the land owners. Churchill Downs is a National Historic Landmark since 1986.

We took a tour of the grandstand area and got a feel for what the Kentucky Derby day is like - It is highly organized mayhem.  There are about 75,000 grand stand seats [more later] and over 75,000 people in the infield -- standing or siting on the grass watching the race on the Jumbo-trons. We visited the Millionaire boxes, Jockey club and other luxury areas. We were early enough we got to see some of the horses working out -- including packs of 3 or4 horses galloping at full speed - very exciting.  Other horses and riders were around so we got pictures of them.

The infield people are mostly college kids looking to party and get drunk [according to our guide]  - university of Louisville is in walking distance.  The infield ticket is $56 on Derby day.  Some locals and visitors looking for the "Derby" experience also buy infield tickets.

The grandstand tickets start at about $300 but the boxes and sky box tickets run from $1,000 to $20,000 [plus $450 for parking] and they are just about sold out for next year.  The very top level - an individual can not buy a ticket - the management has to invite you to purchase the ticket[s].  [We did not get to tour that area either]

The museum was fantastic.  Its first exhibit is a TV screen about 8' x 16' running the starting of the Kentucky Derby with the horses running straight at you in slow motion.  It is amazing to see the interaction, expressions, colors and the total effort put into the race [by both horses and riders].  The museum presented how a horse is developed into a race horse, the breeders that raise the horses, the jockeys that race the horse, the trainers that develop the horses, the traditions in racing and the star race horses. The museum also had a surround theater that featured a horse from birth to the derby with all the festivities that go along with derby day.

We had lunch at the cafe -- which was moderately priced but it was clear that the Kentucky Derby was all about the high rollers.  All bets are in cash.  On the derby race $15,000,000 was bet; for the 13 raises that day $115,000,000 was bet.  The guide said that if Churchill Downs were open only for the Kentucky Derby - they could shut down the rest of the year and be profitable.

After Churchill Downs some of our campers had earlier suggested that the "Falls of the Oho" just a mile from our RV Park would be a must place to go.  The Ohio River is navigable most of the way to the Mississippi except for a 3 mile stretch of rapids called the falls.  Now a navigation lock, a hydro station and a dam has been constructed.  It is interesting the falls play a  key roll in history. 

Gen George Rogers Clark used to falls to plan his attacks on the British.  William Clark [Lewis and Clark] recruited and trained the corps before starting the expedition from the Falls of the Ohio. President Lincoln wanted Kentucky on the Union side to control the key rail and boat traffic at the falls.

The falls area was covered by a shallow tropical sea and the layers of rock that are exposed contain fossils in vast numbers and variety of species. It is a great place for kids to look for fossils - and find them.

Tomorrow we break camp and head for Dayton, OH to see the Wright Brothers Air Museum.

Note:  On the pics I spelled "Churchill"  incorrectly - the program will not let me go back and fix it -- sorry.
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