Sunday, May 6, 2012

Day Four: Kentucky Derby with a Big Win

When we originally planned this trip, we thought we would wake up early Saturday morning, get to the Derby around 6:00am, and be the first in line at 8:00. After spending the day at the Oaks, we changed our strategy. Instead we slept in, the girls swam a little, and we arrived at Churchill around 1:00.

After walking through the entrance gate, we proceeded down the tunnel that took us under the track, on to the infield. On that short journey, while pushing our way through the crowds, Annelies said, “Any kid that spends a day here will need at least a year’s worth of weekly therapy!” Yesterday we counted four kids at the Oaks. Today we counted two, Annelies and Paradis, and they were stars wherever we went. The guy below asked to get a picture of them. He thought we were weird; he was wearing a taco suit (it was Cinco De Mayo)!

Today our goal was to find a seat near the racetrack (done!), bet on every race (done!), and stay put (done!). The crowds in the grandstand area the day before were crazy, so our plan was to avoid it. We talked through all the races, wrote down our bets, and Scott and Annelies placed them in one shot. We weren’t planning on standing in line again. It was super, super, super hot and the crowds in the infield were enough.

But after race #10 we learned Scott picked the Exacta, winning $403.16 on a $4 bet! Woot woot! We were pumped. Annelies and I returned to the Waging Window and cashed in our winning ticket. We were up $316.The girls were feeling lucky.

As 6:24 drew near, the crowds around us got thicker and thicker. We were definitely a group of misfits; I was knitting, Paradis and Annelies were under the age of 21, and Scott was sober. Men would say, “Can I get a picture of you, I’m confident I’ll never see another women knitting at the Derby!”

Annelies started giving out advice; how to calculate odds, ways to pick a good jockey, and the strategy of betting on long shots.

The excitement in the crowd was electrifying as we waited for the race to start. We watched the horses exit the starting gate on a large screen, and soon after saw them flying by us at unbelievable speeds. Everyone around us was talking about their bets, trying to figure out if they had won. We felt fortunate horse #11 didn't win, as the guy behind us said he would strip naked if he crossed the finish line first. Here is a photo I took of the winning horse as he was warming up in front of us … #19, I’ll Have Another.

Overall the day was a ton of fun. We won a little money, survived the ‘cultural’ experience of the Derby, Paradis checked an item off her Bucket List, had a 13th birthday she will never forget, and Scott and I got bit by the ‘Derby Bug’. We all agreed, if we didn't have a laundry list of places we want to visit, we would come back.

We are now on our drive home. This will be my last entry, as we will arrive late tonight and need to return to the real world tomorrow. For all my 'statistic' fans, I'm sorry but I didn't keep up with receipts on this trip and won't be publishing final stats. Next trip, I promise. Thanks again for following us. We will see you at Canterbury!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Day Four: Happy Birthday, The Oaks and a Little Rain

The day started with Scott, Annelies and I waking Paradis up to a lovely rendition of Happy Birthday and cake. A tradition in our family. She was excited. I can hardly believe my little girl is 13. Have I said that yet?

We packed up, said good-bye to the horses, and drove into Louisville for the Kentucky Oaks. It was so fun to see everyone dressed up. I was amazed at all the fancy outfits and hats. The hats. I couldn't believe the hats! When we first looked at getting tickets to the Derby, the only seats that were available cost $350 each, so Scott and I decided to expose the girls to some 'culture' and get general admission tickets for only $40. General admission is located in the infield of the track, and means you get no seat, you don't see a single horse, and you hang around people that drink a lot of alcohol. Therefore we weren't wearing hats!
It was crowded and hot. Very crowded ... and very hot. I counted five kids at the Oaks, two of them being mine. Let's just say this isn't a 'family friendly' event. Annelies gets anxious in large crowds, so she calmed her mind by counting cigarette butts on the ground as we walked. From the gift shop to the infield she counted 529. Way more cigarette butts than kids!

But we wiggled our way to the Waging Kiosks, made some bets, and watched the race on the overhead screens. Betting was the best part of the day. We all raced individually on the big Oaks race and Annelies and Paradis bet on a couple others.
An hour before the big race, scheduled for 5:45pm, people started walking around saying, "A thunderstorm is coming." We all looked at each other, and packed up quickly. We almost made it to the parking lot when it started to rain. It was there that Paradis' got a free sample of her favorite drink. Monster.

We drove to our hotel, just south of Louisville, and caught the final race on TV. The Oaks was won by Believe You Can with 10-1 odds, and ridden by Rosie Napravnik the first female jockey to ever win the Kentucky Oaks. Exciting. We spent $31 on bets, and won $4.30. We didn't think that was bad. We later heard they evacuated the infield due to rain; we were glad we didn't leave at the same time as the other 112,000 spectators!

At the hotel the girls hit the pool without hesitation.

Paradis selected Colton's Steak House for dinner. Scott secretly told the hostess it was her birthday when we arrived and ordered an ice cream. As the waitstaff began ringing the bell and singing Happy Birthday, Paradis joined in with the clapping until she realized it was for her! You should have seen her face. It was priceless! It was a good day ... Happy Birthday Paradis!

I'm skipping the statistics today, because I'm behind on entering in our spreadsheet. They don't let you bring your laptop into Churchill Downs on Oaks day. Can you believe it??!!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Day Three: Churchill Downs, The Betting Bug and Saddlin’ Up

I didn’t write yesterday, but Day Two wasn’t all that exciting. We finished our drive to Kentucky and ate at a fabulous Mexican restaurant in Versailles, a beautiful town of 7,000 right in the heart of horse country. The farm we are staying at is absolutely gorgeous. I found this place after sending out tons of emails to every horse person I could find in the area, asking if anyone had a place for us to stay on a farm. I knew Paradis would love it. Here is the view from the balcony I talked about … it is breathtaking (and doesn’t smell like horse poop).

Thursday we drove to Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. I had reserved the last two seats of a Backside Tour, and we planned to let Paradis and Annelies go alone. But as they boarded the van, I was able to convince the Tour Guide the four of us could condense into the size of two adults, so we all saw the barns and track up close! I have to say that tour got our hearts pumping so fast, we all got ‘Kentucky Derby Fever’.

We spent a good hour walking through the barns and spending most of our time simply watching the horses warm up on the track. Everyone knows I’m no ‘animal lover’, but these horses are beautiful. I could have watched them all day. I've spent many hours around horses, but none of them have looked like this. They are smaller than what I was expecting and just amazing. We saw several Derby and Oaks contenders, which got us pumped. Our tour guide grew up on the ‘other side of town’, without a lot of money, but his family owned a box at Churchill Downs. He was 50 years old, and hadn't missed a Derby since he was 16 when he squeezed in under the fence. That was the year Secretariat won. His brain was so filled with Derby statistics the four of us were entranced. And that is when we all got The Betting Bug.  

I’ve come to learn that the Derby is more about the betting, than about horses. The owners and their money are the topic of conversation at the track, not the type of horse feed. I’m sure many of you are saying, “Ah … yah!” After the tour, we visited the Kentucky Derby Museum. The award winning movie brought tears to my eyes (if you've read my blog before, you know that isn't hard) and it was so fun to read about the Derby from the perspective of the Jockeys, Trainers and Owners. But most of the time you could find us at the Wager Window, where we bet on pre-recorded races. All for free.

It was fun betting, and yelling for the horses on the TV screen. Annelies got hooked! She didn't want to leave. When you don't spend money, it is easy to get carried away. We talked so much about mathematical odds that Scott and I would like to think the girls got their math lesson for the day, which helps with the guilt of missing three days of school!

But the excitement didn't stop there. We were able to pull Annelies away from the Wager Window just in time to meet Penny Chenery and Ron Turcotte, the owner and jockey of Secretariat. We all know the horse from the recent Disney movie, but reality is Secretariat was an amazing horse that still holds the record for fastest Derby time. I think Paradis almost peed her pants. She thanked us over and over again for purchasing a ridiculously high priced 8x10 of Ron, so he could sign it. Well worth it. She was gleaming.

Scott met a woman at the Museum, who gave him four box tickets to the race later that day. We felt luck was on our side, so we headed over to the track. We ran into our Tour Guide, at the Wager Window of course, and asked for an ‘insider’s suggestion’ on getting our hands on some dirt from the track for my collection jars. He walked us to a prime spot, and Annelies reached her hand under the rail and grabbed a hand full!
We were running short on time, but got in one bet before the race started. Paradis wanted to get back to the farm and ride. We didn't win our bet, but here is the email Annelies sent my mom on the drive back, “Now I'm addicted to gambling it's so much fun. When I'm 21 years I asked my mom if I can go to Vagus. Have you ever ben to Vagus?” Grandma Roz loves to gamble, and Annelies was looking for a partner! We had lunch at Chipotle (our favorite) and made it back to the farm around 3:30 to get in a ride.

They both had a good time, and Paradis was in heaven. It was a great day in Kentucky …

Day Three: 326 miles (1,067 total); $69.45 on gas ($130.84 total); 1 state (4 total); $292.95 Lodging ($357.94 total); $95.35 Souvenirs ($95.35 total); $150 Tourist Traps ($150 total); $0 Redbox  ($9 total); 0 fights (0 total); 0 injuries (0 total)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Day One: Lots of Driving

Sorry to say Day One wasn't very exciting. Picked Annelies up from school at 3:00, drove to the airport to rent our van, stopped at my sister's to park our vehicle, made a quick stop at McDonald's for dinner and wifi so we could jailbreak Scott's phone for MyWi (forgot to do it before we left), and headed south for 741 miles. We stopped a couple times for bathroom breaks and gas, but other than that our goal was to put some miles behind us. 

We ended at Davenport, Iowa for good nights rest. Accomplished. 

Today (Wednesday) Paradis said, "Why haven't we stopped for any state signs yet?" Sounds like she misses them. I may fake a state stop as we continue on our drive.

Day One: 741 miles (741 total); $51.70 on gas ($51.70 total); 2 states (2 total); $64.99 Lodging ($64.99 total); $0 Souvenirs ($0 total); $0 Tourist Traps ($0 total); $4 Redbox  ($4 total); 0 fights (0 total); 0 injuries (0 total)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Back On The Road: Kentucky Derby 2012

We are back on the road my friends. To celebrate Paradis turning 13, we are heading to Kentucky for a week filled with horses. We will start our adventure at River Mountain Farm, where we will stay Wednesday and Thursday night. Both girls will take a couple riding lessons and simply enjoy the animals. Our room has a balcony overlooking the pasture; Paradis will be in heaven waking up to the sweet smell of horses, her favorite scent in the world (personally I think it smells like horse poop, I guess we differ a little there). Friday morning we will drive to Louisville where we will attend the Kentucky Oaks, the third largest horse race in the country. Saturday we will check an item off Paradis' bucket list by attending the Kentucky Derby, where we will witness "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports"!

We have rented a 'sweet' Chrysler Town & Country to make our ride more enjoyable. It includes everything we all love; Scott gets his satellite radio, Annelies has a built-in DVD player, Paradis gets split seats so she doesn't have to touch anyone, and I have a 110V power plug-in for all my gadgets.

We left our screwdriver at home, as there won't be any junk yard stops on this trip. We have already visited all the states, so no illegal pull-offs to get State Sign Photos. But I'm sure we will find some adventures along the way.

Here is the birthday girl, 'plugged-in' to Pandora while simultaneously watching Annelies' movie. Friday she will officially become a teenager. All I can say is, "Where does the time go my friends?"