Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lexington, Jasminka, Burek oh my...Day 4

After getting to bed at 3:00 in the morning the night before, we were happy to grab a granola bar from the motel office before we hit the road for Bourbon country again.  On our way out there, we saw a huge flea market on the side of the road and decided to pull over to check it out.  After all, it claimed that it was the most awesome flea market in the world.  I mean, Sheri and I have seen enough episodes of Fixer Upper with Joanna Gaines to know that some of the best finds and treasures come from flea markets.  We got laughing about how cheap I was to just pay for a carry on and how we'd most definitely need huge suitcases on our way back to carry all the neat things we'd surely find. We looked for the entrance with anticipation knowing we were back in flea market country, the land of antiques.  What in the world would be find?

 Let's just takes a certain breed to have the slightest appreciation for the most awesome flea market in the world.  We walked past every booth like you do drive bys in your car on a Saturday morning when you're yard selling and there's a single table on the drive way with dumb glasses, old yucky candles, and gross hard water stained fish bowls.  It was kind of like that.  But hey, what do I know?  I live where there's an indoor swap meet that attracts a breed of it's own.  I think we'll stick with our thrift stores.  Moral of the story.  Run.  Run fast and don't stop when someone claims to be the most awesome in the world.  

It wasn't on our bucket list, but it was very deserving to have a big fat CHECK next to it.  

We showed up to Jim Beam with just a couple minutes to spare so we drove down a little road next to it and saw...cardinals!!  Yay.  There were several right there flying in the shrub on either side of the car, so Sheri and I would pass the camera back and forth to each other trying to get pictures.  It was pretty funny.  

See a cardinal.  CHECK

We got back to the distillery ready for our tour and climbed on the bus.  We rode the bus for I think one minute where we were let off.  Okay.  We walked into the building and for the first time in my life I had to get creative with the way I breathe.  Oh my stinkiness!  The yeasty smell was so bad.  I'm proud to say that I discovered that I could breathe with my mouth.  I never knew that.  It was amazing.  We walked through a huge building for about forty five minutes seeing and learning the process of bourbon making.  We were patient though, knowing our drive through the rolling hills dotted with huge black barns would be coming up.  We loaded up onto the bus and we were off.  Really.  We were dropped off where we started and were told to enjoy the rest of our tour.  Say what?  The rest of the tour would be the taste testing which we of course no showed and we left feeling slightly frustrated that we had made such an effort to return only to breathe through our noses for forty minutes and act delighted every time we heard another little tidbit of bourbon trivia.  But hey, we can say we've been, seen, and learned all there is about Jim Beam bourbon.  I mean, it's really important to know that kind of stuff.  

We had asked people the day before where we should go eat out there.  We headed to Bardstown for a highly recommended lunch at I don't even know.  Here's a picture.  It was cute when we walked in.  But what in the world?  I got something like the best grilled cheese in the world.  Seriously?  Had I not learned my lesson already?  Cheap white bread, slice of fake cheese, slice of pepper jack and tomato.  Gag.  Then there's Sheri's bourbon burger.  Hahaha.  It was as though it had been dunked in bourbon after the grill.  It was gross.  I'm sorry.  Nothing was picture worthy except for the cute sign as we went in.

Half an hour away from Bardstown we found the Mount Zion covered bridge.  It's one of thirteen remaining covered bridges in Kentucky and is actually the longest in the state.  It wasn't a beautiful bridge by any means, but I loved the length of it, and how when driving down a country road it just seemed to appear right in front of us.  It's almost like treasure hunting.

 Find a covered bridge.  CHECK

Down that same country road was a really neat root cellar.

We then headed out for horse country around Lexington.  I don't really know Lexington other than horse farms so that's all we had on our list for the rest of the day.  We had an address for Calumet Farm and Sheri had "pinned" a castle on Pinterest the night before.  The picket fences and rolling hills were just as beautiful as I had remembered.  Farms as far as you could see.  It was beautiful.

 And then on our left out of the middle of nowhere was the castle.  We laughed and laughed how we just happened onto the castle and how it truly was a castle.

See the Lexington Castle.  CHECK

While following the GPS to Calumet Farms, I was looking to the left and it looked like there was a jockey bouncing up and down.  I told Sheri, "Hey, there's a jockey!  He's riding a horse!  I wonder if that's a race track he's on."  Um duh.  Next thing I know I see a sign that says something about Keeneland.  Then I remembered what Keeneland was and realized that we were next to the track where the Kentucky Oaks is held.  Oh my heavens.  We found the Kentucky Oaks race track.

We whipped around and drove into the parking lot and asked an usher if there was a horse race we could watch.  He said, "yes". Oh my heavens, I was so stinkin' excited.  Would we really be able to watch a horse race while in Kentucky and at the second most famous track?  We were giddy (I always am, and Sheri plays along.  lol)  While driving in the parking lot we couldn't help but laugh when we saw these signs.

We got up to the ticket counter and asked how much it cost to watch a race.  $5.

By now you should know that I'm giggling all the way into the stadium with disbelief at what a cool thing that had just happened.  Sheri on the other hand felt a little out of place.  Well, a lot out of place actually.  We've never felt like such hicks in our lives.  There we were on race day in our tourist clothes.  Everyone else had dresses, hats, fancy purses and heels, and the men.  Oh the men looked like they were straight from an Oxford Fraternity party.  It was all very English with funky colored ties, bow ties, sports jackets, printed shirts, and so much style.  Were we really in Kentucky?  Were we so out of it?  All horse races are this fancy?  Does horse racing really have this kind of dress etiquette?  It was really fun to see and I loved all the men's fun outfits they had put together but we felt kind of weird.  We found out that it was actually opening day there at the track and that certain sororities and fraternities from UK were having a party with their parents that day.  Even still.

 It was standing room only which was fine for us since it had never been on our list of things to see or do.  Then the bugle guy came out and played.  It was so neat to be right there and it really hit that we were at the horse track and we were going to see a horse race.

 Then came the horses.

And they're off!  Of course we're watching on the huge screen until they came all the way around and into our little window of the track.  People were cheering and laughing and clapping.  There Sheri and I were just two little moms from across the country happy to be there.  We didn't even know who was racing, or even watch the ending.  It was such a fun surprise to complete our Kentucky horse experience.

 Find Keeneland Race Track out of nowhere and go to a race.  CHECK

 Just down from the track was Calumet Farms with more rolling hills, white picket fences, white barns with red trim, green roofs and horses out in the fields.

 Just after seeing the farm I got a phone call from my friend Jasminka that I had been trying to contact since the day I had arrived in Kentucky.  She was now back in town and I could see her that night!  I was ecstatic.  I had just gotten to the point where I figured I wouldn't see her, that I might not ever see her.  I told her that I would be back in Louisville a couple hours later and that I would love it if we could make Burek together.  Oh my heavens.  That was the last thing that I absolutely had to have on this trip and I was going to have it.  We started to make our way back to Louisville but went through Frankfort on the way back.  The capitol building was beautiful and grand.   The streets leading up to the building were lined with neat homes of course, and well maintained yards.  It was a beautiful capitol city.

 When we got back to the motel Sheri decided that she would let me have my time with Jasminka so I went by myself.  It was the first time that I went somewhere without any directions or help and it felt so good to know where I was and where I was going.  I loved this mural on the wall of the off ramp.

 When I pulled up to Jasminka's house, she and her husband were outside ready to greet me.  Oh my heavens.  We both quickly threw our arms around each other and cried.

We hadn't seen each other or even communicated at all for 18 years since the day I had driven away.  She was in my armsagain.  She could speak English now.  She remembered me and my name and how I had been her first and best friend.  Her yard was beautiful and her home was just as lovely.  It was the sweetest reunion.  We went into her home and sat and visited for awhile.  I was so happy to see that she was okay.  I had left her behind with her not knowing English, a refugee of one year from Bosnia.  She now spoke English beautifully.  She and her husband were US citizens.  Both of her boys had graduated from college.  She had just retired and then told me something that made me burst into tears.  In just two days they would be putting their house on the market and would be returning to Bosnia.  {I'm having one of those times where I'm laying on the desk sobbing.}

I had left my address book in my motel room two days after leaving Kentucky 18 years ago.  I lost all of my contacts including Jasminka.  I couldn't remember how to spell her last name.  I had wondered for years how she was doing, if she had learned to speak English, if she had made new friends, if she had returned to Bosnia or moved somewhere else, or if she was even still living.  It wasn't until a week before I left for Kentucky that I had made contact with her.  So, to be reunited with her again, before she was to return to her beloved Bosnia, was more than I could have ever asked for.  I knew instantly that that is why I had the impression out of nowhere to return to Louisville when I did.  The Lord knew I needed to see her and know she was okay.  I was able to tell her the story of her Burek and how it had been a miracle, almost manna from Heaven for us when we moved away.  I loved that I had the opportunity to tell her that.  That I could tell her face to face without a language barrier.  Then, we went to the kitchen and made Burek again.

 It was just as I had rememberd all those years ago.  I loved watching her hand in the bowl as she mixed the dough.  I loved watching how she rolled out the dough with her dowel, and used the cloth on the table.  The dough was almost magic in the way that it just spread so easily across the table as she would pull her hand underneath from the center out.  It was an art and I was fortunate enough to witness it.  I tried to take several mental notes of all things I could improve on to make my Burek just like hers.  And then I got to eat it.  It was amazing.  Truly amazing.

 While sitting there eating my burek and another treat she had made, (because she makes everything from scratch) I so enjoyed my time with them.  She got to face time each of my kids and D.  I loved that they got to see and hear one of my dearest friends.  She invited me to come visit her in Bosnia.  I loved seeing how cute she and her husband were with each other.  It made me so happy.

We hugged and hugged and cried some more as I got up to leave.  We were so grateful that we got to see each other again.  It was difficult leaving her again, but I no longer needed to worry about her anymore.  I was happy for her and her husband.  With her boys both gone from Louisville, they could now return to their native country that they are so proud of.  They have an amazing work ethic, they still have their big home, they can afford to retire there and it is safe again.  I was so grateful for one of the biggest tender mercies I had ever received and it being the sixth tender mercy of my trip.  I couldn't wait to get back to Sheri and tell her about my experience.  I left Jasminka's with an invitation to visit and stay with her in Bosnia, a bag of the treats she had made, and several burek to take with me.  I pulled away feeling like my cup runneth over.  Til we meet again my dear sweet friends.  I love you. 

See Jasminka.  CHECK
Make Burek with Jasminka.  CHECK

I didn't get back to the motel until around 11:00.  I was so worried about Sheri because we were going to go find dinner somewhere and I had been gone longer than expected.  But she was still awake when I returned and waltzed in saying, "Dinner is served" waving the grocery bag full of burek and treats.  I told her all about the time with Jasminka, her moving back to Bosnia, making burek together and how I have so much practicing to do with my burek.  Sheri loved the burek and we're going to be making that together soon.  

It had been such a good day.  What kind of seemed like a bummer of a morning, turned into one surprise after another and ending with practically a miracle.  I was so grateful.  I had done so much on the trip.  I had seen so many things, and visited with friends, seen my old Kentucky home through different eyes, received tender mercy after tender mercy, and I was happy.  I was truly happy and at peace.  I would be leaving Louisville the next day.  I remember the last time I had a last nights sleep there, I could hardly sleep.  I didn't want to leave.  I wasn't ready to leave.  But I went to sleep quickly this time knowing I was going home where I was supposed to be.  Louisville was a special place.  It had changed me all those years ago, and it had changed me once again.  Just one more thing to do now.  Visit my old First ward. 

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