"This house has a vast amount of open land gated at precise points." — @thewalking
Kentucky, hovering on the edge of the Midwest, with a smooth blend of elegance and down-home charm, is an appealing alternative, especially in autumn and spring when the weather is fine. The cavernous Valhalla of hoop dreams, Rupp Arena, where the hometown University of Kentucky Wildcats play basketball. Straight bourbon is aged at least two years in charred-oak barrels and contains no added sugar, flavoring or color. The spirit must contain at least 51 percent corn, ranging up to 79 percent; the other ingredients are rye and/or wheat, malted barley, yeast and water. Woodford Reserve, Kentucky's oldest distillery, triple-distills bourbon in Scottish copper pot stills, displayed for visitors to admire. At the rollicking, two-story restaurant Dudley's on Short, in downtown Lexington, I am shown a bourbon list the size of a small-town phone book. Inside a vintage warehouse, I see - and smell - a small ocean of bourbon, aging in charred white-oak barrels; it is charred oak that gives bourbon its color. Used bourbon barrels are shipped as far afield as Scotland and Ireland and are used to age beer, wine, even Tabasco sauce. The wonderfully intoxicating warehouse aroma, produced by evaporation, is "the angels' share" - a term also used by winemakers. The piece de resistance in the dining room at the Keeneland Race Course is Kentucky bourbon bread pudding, laced with enough bourbon to sedate a horse. Visitors who love to ride can saddle up at a number of commercial stables or at the Kentucky Horse Park, a combination of museum, stables and equestrian showplace visited yearly by some 900,000 people. During the racing season, race fans and nonfans party and mingle and the energy level rises all around the bluegrass region. Home, in different eras, to Confederate Gen. John Hunt Morgan and Nobel Prize-winning scientist Thomas Hunt Morgan, this venerable building showcases period furniture, delicate porcelains and Civil War memorabilia. Guided tours of the 1857 house reveal an elegant dining room, central staircase, comfortable upstairs bedrooms and places where the Great Compromiser - whose passion in life was to preserve the Union - thought and wrote. A fine-dining restaurant installed in an 1840s building, the Holly Hill Inn embraces the foodie gospel of fresh, local and seasonal and showcases executive chef and co-owner Ouita Michel's fresh take on traditional Kentucky favorites. In an intimate, softly lit dining room, as a local trio plays Appalachian tunes on fiddle, bass and guitar, I think to myself: I'm glad I didn't do a drive-by in Kentucky this time.