Adventures in the Villa


Abraham Lincoln

2019-04-29 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Bardstown, KY; Abraham Lincoln and Makers Mark! – Day #5

We set out this morning to see Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace.


Between 1909 and 1911 this farm was purchased and the log cabin where Lincoln was born was secured.  A nationwide fundraising drive was instituted and this memorial was built over the site of the original cabin.


Inside the memorial is the cabin…


It was the first “Lincoln Memorial”, predating the one in Washington, DC, by more than 10 years.

Several years later scientific dating was done on the logs, and they were determined to be from 1840; this is not the real original cabin where Lincoln was born.  The National Park Service now calls it the “Symbolic Cabin”.

Real or not, it was a moving place…

We then moved on to someplace not quite so historic…


We did the usual tour – definition of Bourbon, the grains used in Makers Mark (about 70% corn, plus wheat and malted barley).  They made a big deal about not using rye; when MM was started in 1953 most “bourbons” were rye whiskey.  (Bourbon has been legally defined as being at least 50% corn since 1964…)  We saw the mash cookers, the fermenting tanks, the column stills where the whiskey is distilled, and the pot still where it is distilled again…


The mash is fermented in cypress wood tanks – like giant hot tubs…


Other interesting factoids:

-MM is one of only a few distillers to use live yeast in the fermenting process

-When their first 5 year aged bourbon was released in 1958 it was the first “Premium” bourbon

-Barrels in the barrel houses (warehouses) are rotated after three years – 7th floor to 1st floor, 6th floor to 2nd floor, etc.  And vice versa.

-The Barrel Houses are painted dark brown (almost black) to disguise the mold that grows everywhere around aging bourbon, as the evaporating liquid settles on the metal siding and provides a food source for the mold; the mold is harmless to just about everyone, but is unsightly and is a mess to clean…

-Average age when bottled is 6 1/2 years, but it is all done by tasting, not by age

-When they have 346 barrels ready to bottle they blend all the barrels to match the signature taste profile

-For over 50 years they made only one product – Makers Mark Straight Bourbon Whisky

-Today they also make a cask-strength bourbon; “46”, a super premium bourbon (more on this in a minute); and “Private Select” bourbon, a special, custom made version of 46  made specifically for certain bars, restaurants, and high-end liquor stores.

-Every bottle is hand-dipped in red wax

Next we went into the “46 cellar”…


This is where MM 46 is made via a special aging process… It is kept at 50 degrees because they have found that this aging process works best at the cooler temperature.

When a barrel is tasted and is deemed worthy of being made into 46 it is pulled out of the barrel house and brought here.  The top of the barrel is removed and 10 French oak staves are inserted into the bourbon.  The top is put back on and the bourbon is aged another 9 weeks…


The result is a super-premium bourbon with extra spicy notes from the French Oak…  The name comes from the selection of the staves.  Over 100 combinations of staves were tried, with different chars, different edges, different lengths.  After extensive testing and tasting, combination #46 was deemed to be the best.

We then learned that super-good customers (bars, restaurants, liquor stores) have the opportunity to make their own version of MM46 – Private Select.  They come here and select different combinations of staves, tasting the results until they get just the taste they want.  Thereafter they can order this special recipe again and again to sell exclusively in their place of business.  In the 10 years or so I have been ordering and buying Makers Mark I have never run into one of these special custom bottles…

But we were now ready for the tasting…


We tasted six glasses:  MM White (un-aged whiskey), MM (regular), Cask strength (111 proof), MM46, and a Private Select made for the tasting room, and not available in any store…  Also, in honor of the Kentucky Derby this week we also tasted MM Mint Julep – all mixed and ready to pour over ice…


My opinion?

MM White (un-aged whiskey):  Terrible!

MM (regular):  Always one of my favorites as a every day sipping bourbon

Cask strength (111 proof):  A little too rough for my taste

MM46:  Spectacular; a very special treat, very complex, and a joy to drink

Private Select: Also spectacular, very smooth, very nice finish

MM Mint Julep:  Terrible – tasted like mint mouthwash or toothpaste

We were able to buy a few souvenir bottles…  I had to have a bottle of Private Select…


And then we went to lunch…

The evening we had another GAM… And we had some quiet time…


And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2017-09-17 Westbound; Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Needles, Wildlife, and Pigtail Bridges…

Today is the day for Mt. Rushmore!

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 03

We began the day with a temperature of 34 degrees at the campground.  However, the day warmed up nicely…

We set off to see Mt. Rushmore – the Presidential Memorial.  We got more than we bargained for!

We drove towards Mt. Rushmore via the Needles Highway.  We saw (and drove through) spectacular rock formations:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 07 Needles

2017-09-17 Black Hills 06 Needles

And when I say “drove through”, I mean through tunnels:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 05 Needles Tunnel 1

2017-09-17 Black Hills 05 Needles Tunnel 2

2017-09-17 Black Hills 05 Needles Tunnel 4

Tiny tunnels!  No Villas allowed on these roads!

2017-09-17 Black Hills 07 Needles Tunnel 1

2017-09-17 Black Hills 07 Needles Tunnel 2

There were a few viewpoints along the way that offered distant views of the monument:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 05

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 08

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore, a batholith in the Black Hills in Keystone, South Dakota. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum created the sculpture’s design and oversaw the project’s execution from 1927 to 1941 with the help of his son, Lincoln Borglum, and Chief Carver Luigi del Bianco. Mount Rushmore features 60-foot tall sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents: George Washington (1732–1799), Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), and Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865).  The memorial park covers over 1,278 acres and is 5,725 feet above sea level.

South Dakota historian Doane Robinson is credited with conceiving the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills region of South Dakota in order to promote tourism in the region.  Robinson’s initial idea was to sculpt the Needles; however, Gutzon Borglum rejected the Needles because of the poor quality of the granite and strong opposition from Native American groups.  They settled on Mount Rushmore, which also has the advantage of facing southeast for maximum sun exposure.  Borglum decided the sculpture should have broad appeal and chose the four presidents because of their roles in preserving the Republic and expanding its territory.

Construction on the memorial began in 1927, and the presidents’ faces were completed between 1934 and 1939. Upon Gutzon Borglum’s death in March 1941, his son Lincoln Borglum took over as leader of the construction project.  Each president was originally to be depicted from head to waist.  Lack of funding forced construction to end in late October 1941.

Mount Rushmore has become an iconic symbol of the United States, and it has appeared in works of fiction, as well as being discussed or depicted in other popular works.  It attracts over two million visitors annually.  (I think they were all here today… see below…)

After Needles we found the Ironwood Highway.  It is famous for the Pigtail Bridges – wooden (logs) bridges that spiral the road upwards to meet a tunnel, then offer spectacular views after you drive through the tunnels:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 01

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 02

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 05

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 06

And then the payoff at the end of the tunnel:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 11 Pigtail Tunnel 07

It is quite the dramatic scene!

We drove on to the memorial itself.  Then we waited for over an hour, in a mile long traffic jamb of cars trying to get into the parking structure.  (PS to the National Park Service:  You need to get this figured out!  I would hate to be here in the summer when the park is busy!)

We opted not to park; we did have some fine views of the monument:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 04

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 01

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 02

When we finally were able to drive around the traffic jam we saw something that I had not known about:  Washington’s profile:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 15

This was not intentional on the part of the sculptor; he originally had Jefferson placed here, but after they had done some preliminary rough blasting, they found that the rock was not suitable; they blasted off the preliminary work, and this remained.

Just for fun:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 21 Mt Rushmore 15a

Also, if you look closely, you can see some people climbing on the monument***:

2017-09-17 North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_(28)

After seeing the monument we took a break and met my cousin and his wife (Chuck and Joan Canaan) for lunch; they live here in Rapid City, SD:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 99 Canaan

Then, back to the Black Hills we went.  This time to see its counterpoint, the Crazy Horse Memorial:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 41 Crazy Horse

The Crazy Horse Memorial is a mountain monument under construction on privately held land in the Black Hills, in South Dakota. It will depict the Oglala Lakota warrior, Crazy Horse, riding a horse and pointing into the distance.

The memorial was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, a Lakota elder, to be sculpted by Korczak Ziolkowski.  It is operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization.

The memorial master plan includes the mountain carving monument, an Indian Museum of North America, and a Native American Cultural Center.  The monument is being carved out of Thunderhead Mountain, on land considered sacred by some Oglala Lakota, between Custer and Hill City, roughly 17 miles from Mount Rushmore.  The sculpture’s final dimensions are planned to be 641 feet wide and 563 feet high.  The head of Crazy Horse will be 87 feet high; by comparison, the heads of the four U.S. Presidents at Mount Rushmore are each 60 feet high.

The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is far from completion.  In fact, it appears that nothing has been done in years.  If it is ever completed, it may become the world’s largest sculpture.  I say, If…

At the base of the mountain is a huge complex containing western native american art, memorabilia, and trinkets, basically a giant gift shop.  The sculptor died in 1982, and his wife died in 2014.  Their 10 children have taken over the foundation.

Friends had told us this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity.  We thought the whole thing was a giant waste of time.  It appears to me that if they had spent half as much effort on completing the memorial as they did on building a giant gift shop for selling trinkets, they would have made more progress.  At this point it appears that it will never be finished…

So, after our disappointment at the Crazy Horse Memorial, we headed into Custer State Park, and drove the Wildlife Loop.  We saw beautiful outcroppings and wildlife…


2017-09-17 Black Hills 08 Needles Deer 01

2017-09-17 Black Hills 08 Needles Deer 02


2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 04 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 09 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 08 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 07 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 06 Bison

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 05 Bison

Wild Donkeys:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 32 Custer Wildlife 02 Donkey

2017-09-17 Black Hills 32 Custer Wildlife 01 Donkey

They were very friendly:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 32 Custer Wildlife 03 Donkey

And rock outcroppings:

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 03a

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 03

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 02

2017-09-17 Black Hills 31 Custer Wildlife 01

We finally returned to the Villa, exhausted.  Happy hours ensued and an enjoyable time was had by all…































*** The monument was famously used as the location of the climactic chase scene in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1959 movie North by Northwest.














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