After ten days in Tennessee, Kim and I made the short hop to northern Kentucky. We spent five days at the Kentucky Horse Park Campground on the outskirts of Lexington. We loved it!

What makes the Lexington area so special. Well, I think there are a number of things that drew us to the area:

  • The rolling green grassy hills. Lexington isn’t nearly as wooded as the places we’ve visited over the last six months. Believe it or not, Savannah’s swamps and marshes actually contain tons of trees. And the first few stops on our trips — Asheville, Pigeon Forge, Nashville — were also wooded. Lexington has trees, but mostly it’s wide-open pasture-land. It made for a nice change of pace.
  • Horse culture. Kim has loved horses since she was a little girl. I used to be afraid of them — I had a bad experience when I was young — but by watching through Kim’s eyes, I’m learning to like them too. Lexington is the horse capital of the country (and the world?), so Kim was in seventh heaven.
  • Bourbon. I like whisky. While I prefer Scotch whisky, I can appreciate a good bourbon. Lexington (and nearby Louisville) produces vast quantities of the stuff, and there are lots of whisky-related things to do and see.
  • Low cost of living. It was fun for me (as a financial writer) to see how cheap things are in Lexington. We could enjoy a nice meal for a fraction of what we’re used to. Plus, I had a lot of fun using the Redfin app on my phone to look at home prices as we drove around. Homes are cheap here!
  • Location, location, location. Like Cincinnati (which is only ninety minutes away), Lexington enjoys a terrific location. It’s near enough to the Great Lakes (and cities like Chicago), within a day’s drive of the eastern seaboard, and also serves as a gateway to the South. If there’s a central hub for the eastern United States, Lexington could be it.

As always, we visited with friends while we were in Kentucky. We ate lunch with my friend Tash, with whom I worked at the family box factory back in the 1990s. It was great to see her. Plus, our friend Amy drove down from Cincinnati to spend a day with us. We had a lot of fun with her.

While drinking beer with Amy at the awesome West Sixth Brewery (which Kim and I visited three times in five days), I posed a nagging question. “Is Lexington really in the South?” I asked. “I mean, it’s just ninety minutes from Cincinnati, which clearly is part of the Midwest.”

Amy laughed. “Yes, it’s really part of the South,” Amy said. “So is Louisville. I know we’re really close to Ohio and Indiana, but trust me: the culture here is vastly different. The change occurs about half an hour south of Cincy.” (A few days later, when Kim and I drove west to Missouri, we saw why this might be the case. The Ohio River and the surrounding foothills create a natural barrier between Kentucky and its northern neighbors.)

For our fourth anniversary as a couple, Kim and I visited Keeneland, one of the most popular race tracks in the United States. I’d never seen live horse racing before, so this was a new experience for me.


Niether one of us really enjoys gambling, but we decided to make small wagers on each race. We’re glad we did. It added to the fun. I gave myself a budget of fifty bucks, which allowed me to make ten $5 bets over the course of nine races. I ended the day with $53, which means I earned a six-percent return in four hours. Maybe I should switch from index funds to horse racing?

As a whisky fan, I was eager to visit the local bourbon distilleries. While we had fun sampling the local wares, we learned that whisky tasting isn’t quite as fun as wine tasting. We’ve done a lot of wine tasting over the past four years, and we’re familiar with how that works: walk up to the counter and sample various selections. That not how whisky tasting works.

Bourbon Tasting

With whisky tasting, you have to take a tour first. Then you’re given three or four samples of specific products. Each distillery produces a wide range of whiskies for various markets, but they’re not about to share the bourbon they market in Japan, for instance. No matter. We still enjoyed seeing the process.

After five nights in Lexington, it was time to move on. On a quiet Sunday morning, we hitched up the Mini Cooper and drove west to St. Louis.


Ten Days in Tennessee

by jdroth on 12 April 2016 · 0 comments

After resuming our cross-country roadtrip with a stay in Asheville, North Carolina, Kim and I made the beautiful drive along Highway 25 across the Appalachians to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

Why Pigeon Forge? Two reasons. First, it’s home to Dollywood, the Dolly Parton theme park. Kim is a huge Dolly fan and was eager to see this homage to the place where she grew up. Second, Pigeon Forge is close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the southern extent of the Appalachian Mountains.


We weren’t quite prepared for what we found in Pigeon Forge. It’s one of three smallish cities — including Sevierville to the north and Gatlinburg to the south — that have merged into one long entertainment strip filled with go-kart tracks, mini-golf courses, and similar attractions. It reminded us very much of Wisconsin Dells. (It’s like “Las Vegas for kids”.) As a result traffic along highway 441 through these three towns is thick and slow.

Fortunately, our RV park was a few miles out of town in the quiet countryside of the Smoky foothills. When the crowds got to be too much, we could retreat to the motorhome for some quiet meditation.

Kim and I enjoyed our day at Dollywood. This theme park was more robust than I had expected; there are plenty of rides and other things to do, even for adults. Plus, the food prices were reasonable (unusual for a theme park).

We started our visit by wandering through the Dolly Parton museum, which was more entertaining and informative than I had expected. It was fun to see the actual “coat of many colors” that Parton sung about (along with the original hand-written lyrics to the song):

Coat of Many Colors

It was also fun to see that the average age of visitors to Dollywood skewed older than other theme parks. There were plenty of kids, sure, but there were also many senior citizens.

Kim and I spent two days driving through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On the first, we wound our way to Cades Cove, a small valley in the heart of the mountains. Once home to several dozen homesteading families, this area has now been preserved to show how folks lived 100 or 150 years ago. Scattered throughout the valley are mills, churches, and old log cabins.

Cabin in Cades Cove

On our second day in the park, we drove up the mountains to Cherokee, North Carolina to visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. On our drive back down to Pigeon Forge, we stopped to do the steep hike up to Clingman’s Done, which offers a panoramic vista of the surrounding mountains. (Apparently, on a clear day you can see into seven states!)

Clingman's Dome

After a few days in eastern Tennessee, we moved on to the state’s most famous city: Nashville, the home of country music.

Walking through downtown Nashville, live music is everywhere. It pours out of every building. You can learn more about it in places like the Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of fame. If you want to really absorb the experience, you can step into bars like Tootsie’s, where several bands play at the same time — all day long.

Tootsie's in Nashville

And, of course, you can take in the country legends by visiting the Grand Ole Opry. While we were there, one of my favorite modern artists — Erich Church — was playing a show. We debated buying tickets, but they were going for several hundred dollars each on the after-market, so we opted against it. The show we saw at the Opry was disappointing, I’m sorry to say. That’s okay, though, because we enjoyed the other show we saw at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville.

The Ryman Auditorium

While in Nashville, I had a chance to meet with several people. First, Kim and I enjoyed a delicious supper at the home of Travis and Jessica. (Travis is a long-time reader of my money blogs.) Next, I met my colleague Dan Morris for breakfast. Finally, I met a cousin for breakfast as he was passing through town.

Cousin Henry
Apparently the Mini Cooper gene runs in my family

We enjoyed Nashville except one notable downside. The city has some of the worst traffic we’ve encountered on this trip. Nashville drivers are terrible — and they know it. (When I complained to folks who lived there, they simply sighed and agreed with me.) They drive too fast. They don’t allow others to change lanes or merge. And, most baffling, they constantly drift from lane to lane for no apparent reason. On one ten-mile freeway drive from downtown to the RV park, we counted more than a dozen cars that drifted into other lanes. (I suspect this is due to cell phone use. Nashville has many, many billboards asking folks not to use cell phones while driving.) So far, Savannah holds the top spot for worst drivers we’ve seen on our trip, but Nashville made a strong case that its drivers are in fact worse.

Aside from Nashville drivers, Kim and I enjoyed our time in Tennessee. We finished our stay with a quick jaunt into central Kentucky to visit the awesome Mammoth Cave National Park. Then, after ten days in the Volunteer State, we packed up and headed north to Lexington…


Homeward Bound!

April 2, 2016

Note: Although I suspect most of you know by now, I want to point out that I’ve launched Money Boss, a new blog about “advanced personal finance”. It feels great to be writing about money again! After six months of rest in Savannah, Georgia, Kim and I have resumed our road trip across the United […]

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Exploring the Sunshine State: Fifteen Days, Five Cities, and 1900 Miles through Florida

March 8, 2016

Kim and I were burned out on RV travel when we stopped in Savannah last autumn. We needed a break. And because we both had work projects in mind — Kim wanted to launch an online store and I wanted to start Money Boss, my new blog about personal finance — we figured a six-month […]

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Touring the Deep South: Charleston, Savannah, and St. Augustine

December 15, 2015

Although Kim and I have paused our cross-country roadtrip to winter in Savannah, we haven’t stopped exploring the U.S. While in the South, we want to do our best to learn about the region. Plus, we’ve scheduled upcoming trips to New York City and southern Florida. Most of our trips are close to “home”. We’ve […]

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Searching the Southeast for a Temporary Home

September 29, 2015

It’s been more than a month now since Kim and I began to feel road-weary. To add to the fatigue, we spent a week in Charlotte, North Carolina for Fincon, the annual conference for all things financial. Then we spent a week driving all over the Southeast in the Mini Cooper, searching for a place […]

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A Slight Change of Plans

September 5, 2015

“I’m going to be honest with you,” Kim said the other day. “I’m tired. I love our life on the road, but I’m ready to take a break. I want to pick a place and stay put for a while.” I could tell she was reluctant to say this. Our year-long RV trip is a […]

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Niagara Falls and Northwestern New York

August 31, 2015

After two weeks in Ohio, Kim and I were pleased to move on to new territory. We leaped across the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and set up camp near Niagara Falls, New York. Kim had never visited New York before this trip. And although I’d been to New York City a couple of times, I […]

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Roller Coasters and Rock and Roll in Cleveland, Ohio

August 26, 2015

After a few days exploring West Virginia, Kim and I drove north to Cleveland, Ohio, on the shore of Lake Erie. Kim and I passed an entire week in and around Cleveland. There was lots we wanted to do — but mostly we stayed home. Why? A couple of reasons: First, lately we’ve both been […]

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Wandering through West Virginia

August 19, 2015

Between southern Ohio and northern Ohio, Kim and I found the time to spend a couple of nights in wonderful West Virginia. Seriously, this state is gorgeous. It’s easy to see why John Denver called it “almost heaven”. At the start of this trip, we were blown away by the beauty of Arizona. Since then, […]

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