Category Archives: kentucky

Mammoth Cave: Watch out for that dinosaur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and a Tyrannosaurus Rex the color of Cheetos is threatening to pluck our Honda CRV right off the highway and throw it over the fence that surrounds Dinosaur World. This is how we know we’ve reached Cave City, a town half way between Louisville, Kentucky and Nashville, Tennessee. We speed past the plastic brontosaurus and teradafcyls and safely make our way to Mammoth Cave which, we are informed, does not actually house live mammoths. We buy tickets anyway and descend into the dark, cool cave.

 

 

My brother moved to Louisville a few years ago after a post-Katrina stint at the Grand Canyon. He and his partner work at the best restaurant in Louisville; Chris is the kitchen manager, Ruben is the dining room manager. We started a tradition of Thanksgiving at their house (hello, professional chef) and now we make the drive up there every year. This year, after a deliciously languorous six course meal, hours spent watching The Goldbergs and RuPaul’s Drag Race and eight bottles of wine split between four people (don’t judge…okay judge), we opted for a little post-Turkey Day outdoor activity and made the hour and a half drive to Mammoth Cave National Park.

Mammoth Cave is the world’s longest known cave system with over 400 miles explored and counting. In its colorful history it was a salt mine, a tourist attraction with slave-guided tours, a short lived tuberculosis hospital and in the 1920s the locals incited a cave war for tourist dollars. Mammoth Cave was deemed a national park in 1941 and today there are a slew of tours ranging from a casual stroll to serious spelunking.

Since our underground escapades were spur of the moment, we were only able to book the self-guided tour, which took about 30 minutes. Interpretative rangers were stationed throughout the cave to answer questions and make sure visitors didn’t stray off the paved pathway. Aboveground, there are several miles of nature trails and a visitor center with an interactive cave museum that touches on both the natural and human history of Mammoth Cave. I wish we could have seen Frozen Niagra or the Ruins of Karnak but all of the tours were sold out.

Cave City itself is a curious place. There are lots of roadside attractions including kayaking, putt putt and other caves, however most of the amusement parks were shuttered when we went. Some looked closed for the season, others looked abandoned. Guntown Mountain is supposedly slated for a comeback, so hopefully it will be open next year; I’m particularly interested in the Haunted Hotel. Regardless, I’m looking forward to exploring this area more next Thanksgiving, with or without a hard hat.

The People I Know: Christopher and Ruben

Christopher Lorio

 

I’m kicking off the first “People I Know” post of 2016 with the fam. Thomas and I started a new tradition of visiting my brother and his partner in Louisville for Thanksgiving every year. My brother is a professional cook, so this is one tradition we are highly motivated to keep alive. This year we brought the dogs with us to met their cousins for the first time. Four dogs and four humans in a two bedroom apartment could have been a disaster, but the long weekend was fun and everyone — humans and dogs alike– got along. We feasted on a six course T-Day meal, drank entirely too much wine, caught Ben De la Creme perform at Play the following night, and ate at some of the best restaurants and bars in town.

 

HOW WE MET:

Well, Chris is my brother. He’s two years younger than me. Ruben is Chris’s partner. He’s originally from Texas. We all met when we worked as waiters at a fine dining restaurant in the French Quarter circa 2000-2003. I got the job first, then Chris got hired shortly after I did. Thomas came next, then Ruben. Everyone hated working in that restaurant, yet any time we get together we can’t help but reminisce about how much fun we had.

 

WHAT THEY DO:

Chris and Ruben hold the positions of kitchen manager and dining room manager, respectively, at Decca, arguably the best restaurant in Louisville. Chris has wanted to cook professionally for years, so I’m really that he went after his dream. Prior to Decca he worked at an organic bakery in Louisville and prepared steak and stew dinners for weary hikers at Phantom Ranch. Ruben is the consummate industry professional; he’s worked as a manager at some of the best restaurants in New Orleans, the Grand Canyon, and now Louisville.

 

WHO THEY ARE TO ME:

I never fully understood the concept of “family is everything” until after Hurricane Katrina. Up until August 2005 my entire family lived in New Orleans, so I saw everyone on a fairly regular basis. After the storm Chris and Ruben moved to the Grand Canyon (Ruben worked for years at the Grand Canyon prior to moving to New Orleans) and Thomas and I decided to move to Phoenix, Arizona, a relatively short four hour drive away. The rest of my family stayed in New Orleans, so I only saw my “mom ‘n dem” once a year at the most. Currently my sister lives in Texas, so we don’t get a chance to be in the same room together more than once every two years or so. It wasn’t until we were scattered across the country that I realized how precious family time truly is.

 

 

Photo: That’s Chris on the left and Ruben on the right with Hambone and Spartacus, their beagles.

Last moments of freedom

Lake Pontchartrain’s shallow waters resemble ocean waves on windy days. 

First King Cake of the season and my personal favorite:
Traditional from Haydel’s Bakery thanks to my Driftwood Features Editor. 

Chandelier at the Roosevelt Hotel. I’ve got a lot more on my Tumblr. 

I don’t always straighten my hair but when I do, it looks nice for about twenty minutes. 

I’m enjoying my last few days of freedom before going back to school on Monday. My winter break has been all extra long dog walks, sleeping in, sewing, spending time with family over Christmas, and catching up on Netflix and reading. I’m definitely in for a jarring first day back.

Lately I’ve been reflecting on the progress I’ve made since I returned to school in 2013. At first I was self conscious; being a 30 something college student can invoke a tail between the legs feeling at times. It wasn’t until last semester, when I became Editor-in-Chief of the student newspaper, that I said to myself, “You know what, #$%! it” and decided to embrace where I am at this moment in my life.
I’m hard on myself. I don’t sit back and revel in the small victories. As Jay Z put it, I’m always “On to the next one.” In 2015 I’m making a concerted effort to enjoy my remaining semesters as an undergrad. I might not drive a luxury vehicle, pop bottles in a hot tub every night, or have written a best selling book, but my work continues to be published in respectable magazines, I’ve got a Honda that just won’t quit (most writers probably drive sensible cars anyway), and damn it, the kiddie pool I bought this summer was the best purchase I’ve made in recent memory. 

At El Camino in Louisville, KY. If you go keep your menu away from the fire pit!

Copper & Kings brandy distillery in Louisville. I went on a tour when I visited my brother over Thanksgiving.

One of my favorite art installations at Exhibit Be. I found this one particularly lovely and haunting. 
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