Why I will never be a T-Mobile customer again: a photo essay

There are few companies I don’t like: United, PEPCO, Chik-Fil-A and T-Mobile.

Why?

United = horrid customer service and stupid fees that change

PEPCO = heads up their collective big-money arses

Chik-fil-A = narrow-minded PR nightmare

T-Mobile = crappy phones, crappy fees and the most epic of all fails ever — no service.

During my cross-country road trip, I had the privilege of learning first hand just how terrible T-Mobile is.

At first, when I had no service, I credited it to the fact that I was driving, oh, through the middle of nowhere Nebraska

TMobile Sucks 2

En route from Nebraska to Illinois.

. Then, when I had no service in the cities, I started to get annoyed.

What’s worse? When I did have service, it wasn’t with T-Mobile so the data I was using was no longer unlimited. When I got a text message en route to Chicago that I had exceeded my data limit for the month, I nearly lost my marbles.

“You claim to have the largest 4G network in the world,” I said as calmly as I could to the customer service agent on the other end of the line. “How is it that throughout my entire road trip I have had little to no service and having to use another network’s internet? I’m driving across the country. What is the point of having a cell phone if you can’t use it?”

So, they did one thing right: they upped my data. Even the agent understood my need for being able to access the Web. “You can’t have no internet when you are driving across America.”

Right.

TMobile Sucks 1

When we were out and about on our dive bar tour in Nebraska

TMobile Sucks 2

Driving home from our night out in Omaha. Awesome.

Tmobile sucks 3

Driving from Nebraska to Illinois … no service, no internet.

Tmobile sucks 4

Thank you, T-Mobile. How am I supposed to have a GPS if I don’t have my internet service I PAY FOR EVERY MONTH?

Tmobile sucks 5

Downtown Chicago and no phone service??

Tmobile sucks 6

Loading and loading and loading and then an internet connection error. In Maryland. Notice I was on AT&T.

Tmobile sucks 7

At a friend’s house in Maryland. And, once again, no service.

Tmobile sucks 8

No internet connection. Maryland. At least I have fleeting bars to make a call.

Tmobile sucks 8

And more. The one good thing? In Thailand, I have DTAC and have not had services issues once. Even in the jungle.

The icing on the cake??

Wonderful T-Mobile slaps me with a $200 cancellation fee when I tell them I am leaving the country for an extended period of time.

My advice? Opt for another carrier, another phone, another anything … or take the risk and see how it goes. I promise you this: if you live in Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia or Maryland, you’re SOL for the most part.

Have you had similar issues with T-Mobile or another service?

 

Americas Blog Illinois Iowa Kentucky Maryland Nebraska Reviews

The daughter of Las Vegas: an interview with Bugsy Siegel’s daughter, Millicent

An interview with the daughter of Bugsy Siegel, Millicent about life with Bugsy and her opinion on Las Vegas

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It was about 66 years ago when Millicent Siegel’s father, Ben “Bugsy” Siegel wrote a letter to his wife addressing his oldest daughter’s smoking habits.“I don’t like the idea of smoking at all, I would point out to her that it is not ladylike at all … Frankly, I hope she wouldn’t continue to smoke, as I dislike the habit in women and when I see her I will tell her just that.”

Decades later, I am sitting in Millicent’s Las Vegas condo as she pulls a drag from her cigarette, it’s neon orange tip glowing as she breathes in the smoke. Millicent, 81, hasn’t been weathered by the dry Las Vegas sun. Rather, she looks vibrant. Her shoulder-length blonde hair skims a peach and white striped shirt, which is paired today with white pants. Her light blue eyes sparkle when her pugs, Priscilla and Porsche, come to the table where we are sitting and chatting.

The letter, which was dated November 28, 1946, was written a mere seven months before her father was killed. Today, the letter can be found on display inside the Tropicana Las Vegas at the Mob Attraction, along with a bounty of other mob-related artifacts, including video footage (only in existence) of Bugsy Siegel the way she remembers him – as a father, not a mobster. And the father of Las Vegas.

An interview with the daughter of Bugsy Siegel, Millicent about life with Bugsy and her opinion on Las Vegas

Millicent Siegel poses with artifacts at The Mob Attraction

When Siegel first arrived to town in the 1940s, Las Vegas was nothing. But, Siegel saw something: opportunity.

“He envisioned Las Vegas to be a Palm Springs type in the desert,” says Millicent. “He wanted shops along [Las Vegas Blvd.]. He said there would be a sidewalk going all the way down into town.”

Thanks to his vision, within a few years, there was.

Growing up Hollywood

Before Siegel brought Palm Springs to Vegas, he and his family lived in Beverly Hills. Millicent’s childhood in the Hollywood town was nothing short of charmed. She was a brownie and took riding lessons with Elizabeth Taylor. Jean Harlow was her godmother.

As a young girl, Harlow would come to the house, put on an apron, and give her a bath. She even met her childhood crush, Cary Grant, face-to-face. At her house.

“When I came home from school, [Grant] was sitting in the room, waiting for my dad to get off the phone or something,” she recalls, smiling. “I thought I would die when I saw him sitting there.”

Then, came Las Vegas.

An interview with the daughter of Bugsy Siegel, Millicent about life with Bugsy and her opinion on Las Vegas

Ben Siegel’s Las Vegas

Las Vegas turned from what Millicent describes as a “hicktown” into something far more glamorous. Hotels lined the main Las Vegas drag, complete with swimming pools in the front, inviting people arriving by car to take a cool dip and break from the arid desert weather.

“There were no high rises,” says Millicent. “The hotels then were more personal, smaller, more comfortable. They didn’t have all of the pool parties … You’d go out for dinner at night and see a show. During the day, you’d spend time at the pool. Or, if you came when it was cool enough, you’d go riding or play golf.”

The vision Siegel had for Las Vegas, all those years ago, has morphed into a different beast entirely today. Now, mega resorts crowd The Strip. The historic properties are blown up to make way for the latest slick building, the hot restaurants, the trendy shops. The pools at the hotels now cater to the 20- something scantily clad partiers willing to throw down hundreds of dollars for the opportunity to sit in a cabana and sip on cocktails from bottles of liquor that have been marked up hundreds of percent.

“My dad would hate what Las Vegas it today,” she says. “What corporations did to Las Vegas was never his vision of this town.”

The town and times Millicent lived in Las Vegas were very different. And, unlike most other’s experiences even during the 40s. That’s what happens when your father owns the hottest hotel in Las Vegas, The Flamingo.

Siegel opened the hotel December 26, 1946 moving his family in during construction. As a teenager, living in a hotel was never dull.

An interview with the daughter of Bugsy Siegel, Millicent about life with Bugsy and her opinion on Las Vegas

Life at The Flamingo

“I was a spoiled brat,” says Millicent. “I mean, here is our hotel. We own a hotel.” Her life at The Flamingo was not without its own, special stories.

“One time, I decided to write post cards,” she begins. “All of the rooms were decorated with all sorts of personal things you would have in your house. On the desk was a crystal ink well. I took out to the pool and was writing these cards. My dad came out and saw me doing this and he had a fit.”

There was one night when Millicent was taken into the counting room of the casino with Chick, the brother of Virginia Hill (Siegel’s girlfriend). “I had a crush on him and I didn’t know what his job was at the hotel. He was in the accounting room at night, so I asked if he could take me in.”

Entering the counting room was like nothing she had ever seen before – stacks and stacks of money. Unlike stories which have been told which depict counters sorting money into piles, one for the hotel, one for them, she never witnessed anything like that. But, she did witness her father’s wrath.

“I stayed until they finished counting, until three or four in the morning,” she says. “Then, we went to breakfast and came back. That’s when my father walked in. He had a shit fit. I don’t think he was bothered that I was in the room, but he was bothered that someone took me in there. Who was I going to tell?”

Perhaps the best story from her time living at the hotel was when her father decided to put a moat in front of the property and import the hotel’s namesake – some flamingos. According to Millicent, there were between six and eight of these birds and, as the days went by, they were “dropping like fleas.”

Millicent recalls: “It was too hot for them. My dad stood out there and said ‘Those goddamn flamingos are dying on me.’ They never lasted very long. It was too hot for them. I think he replaced them once or twice and that was it.”

Today, the hotel which is now owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp., has flamingos on property. However, they are now inside in a climate-controlled garden.

Siegel, who treated the property as his home, could even be found walking through the halls, emptying ashtrays and tidying up.

As the founder of Las Vegas, Siegel took it upon himself to stay abreast of what was going on in town. He would donate money to organizations in need. “The town’s people liked him very much,” says Millicent. “He would go into Las Vegas and people would just come up and talk to him, have lunch with him.”

The creation of “Bugsy”

The famed mobster isn’t how Millicent sees Siegel. Despite Hollywood’s portrayal, his daughter remains steadfast in his role in the mob.

“A lot of stuff they say or still say about my dad wasn’t true or never happened,” she explains. The father Millicent remembers is nothing like Warren Beatty’s portrayal in the film “Bugsy.”

“He was very strict,” she says. “Most of what happened in the movie never happened. It was all a fabrication of what [the filmmakers] either read or surmised or just out and out faked.”

She quickly recounts two such instances in the film – the first depicting their move to LA, the second a birthday party she had. Neither of which were portrayed accurately.

“I would say 80 or 90 percent of the movie is inaccurate,” she says. “It portrayed [Siegel] as a nut.” Which is not even close to how Millicent remembers him.

“He was very strict,” she says. “We used to have to sit at the dinner table and he would ask us what was on the front page of the papers. He knew everything we were doing. He was very interested and on top of everything we did. He was also great fun to be around. He would joke a lot.”

Beatty declined Millicent’s offer to provide him with real-life accounts of her father while making the film.

An interview with the daughter of Bugsy Siegel, Millicent about life with Bugsy and her opinion on Las Vegas

The mobster, the father

Ask Milliecent about her father’s life in the mob, and she sits straight in her chair. After his death, stories began to surface about his life in the mob. “We knew him as a father. He worked some place. I was too young to question it,” she says.

Growing up in the shadow of gangsters didn’t phase Millicent. “We didn’t see these people as notorious, or different from anybody else. It was a whole new picture for me and I didn’t know how to put it. I never believed any of the things anyone has written about [Siegel]. They grew up in prohibition. They were no different than the Kennedys. They were selling the same stuff. They were doing the same thing. They were all extremely smart people.”

It was never easy for his daughter to hear the stories about life in the mob. Millicent has never gotten used to what people have said about her father, or his associates.

“It was hard to hear what people said about the man who would sit at the dinner table and make us tell him the news, or educate us on the way to cut our meat,” she says. “He wanted us to be princesses and the stories we heard didn’t jive with who we saw. I’ve always separated whatever anybody else might say from what I saw and what I felt. It hurt me. After he died, the whole thing just blew up in our faces.”

Even today, decades later,  Millicent simply refuses to believe Siegel played any part in violent acts.

“I truly cannot believe my father would kill anyone. Beat them up, maybe. But, not kill,” she says. “I think it is a misconception.”

One of her last conversations with her father addressed his violent ties to the crime world. Millicent asked about his role in Murder Inc. with Meyer Lansky.

“He told me about not being able to make a living at 12 or 14, 15, 16 years old and not being able to make a living during prohibition,” she says. “I asked him about Murder Inc and he said, ‘You’ve met all of those people. Do they look like killers to you? Have they ever hurt you? Yes, I did [commit crimes], but now I am building a hotel and am 100 percent legitimate. They was my last in-depth conversation with my father.”

Millicent is quick to point out that Siegel, despite the stories of being a murderer, was never arrested for anything other than prohibition. To this day, she maintains he never killed a person.

On Siegel’s death

On June 20, 1947, Siegel was killed.

En route to Las Vegas via train to spend the summer with their father, Millicent and sister did not know what happened until they arrived to town. When the two arrived to town, their mother stood at the depot, waiting for them. The girls couldn’t understand why she was there. But, once they got to their uncle’s house, they were told of his death.

While no one knows the truth behind Siegel’s murder, Millicent has her own opinion.

“It wasn’t a random guy standing in a house, two houses down, that shot him. [Whoever killed him] was paid to do it. Who paid them? I don’t know. I’ve heard [his death] was all over money.”

Rumor has it that Meyer, another mobster and friend of Siegel’s, was the man behind his death. Millicent disagrees.

“If you have our father killed, would you be friendly and take care of his family?” She asks, recounting Meyer’s continued involvement with the bereaved. “Could you sit down to dinner next to me and know that you hired someone to kill my father?”

She isn’t sure exactly why Siegel was killed and questions the motives. “Was it somebody that wanted something in Vegas that he had? Did they want him not to be productive? Because, the hotel never closed. It wasn’t sold for years [after his death]. It’s hard to figure out, but I can’t lose sleep over it. I could never find the answers.”

In fact, no one has found the answers. In California, the case is still open.

Las Vegas, today

It takes nearly no time at all for Millicent to say how she feels about Las Vegas today. She hates it. When asked about what her father would think of it, she is quick in responding.

“He would be appalled,” she sighs, flicking out her cigarette.

Regardless of today’s Las Vegas, Millicent remains forever the doting daughter. “I am very proud of my father’s legacy,” she says. “He had the vision for the glamour … for bringing all of these people here.”

And now, even as the sun sets against the twinkling high-rises on the Las Vegas Strip, Siegel’s legacy can be seen as the throngs of visitors make their way, yard-stick drinks in their hands, en route to the casino in a town Siegel created.

For more on Siegel and this history of Las Vegas, check these out:
Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel: The Gangster, the Flamingo, and the Making of Modern Las Vegas
When the Mob Ran Vegas: Stories of Money, Mayhem and Murder
Bugsy & His Flamingo: The Testimony of Virginia Hill

Americas Blog Nevada

The failure of PEPCO

It’s the perfect summer night to be lulled to sleep by nature.

Outside my window, I can hear light rain drops plunk gently off plump green leaves. Frogs whirring their mating calls.

Except, it’s not a perfect summer night.

It’s the worst night the DC Metro area has had in … as long as anyone can remember.

Mixed with that calm and peace of the summer orchestra is the ear-splitting buzz of a chainsaw, the hum of generators. The fresh smell of rain is replaced by gasoline that hangs thick in the humid June night.

Only a few hours earlier, my parents had warned me we were getting a major storm from Chicago. A derecho (basically a tidal wave of wind and storms that are rare).

A radar look at the derecho storm that hit Maryland

Then, as the sun set and the crickets took over, the wind picked up. Rushing across the landscape at 90 mph, the powerful wind carved a path of destruction. Transformers blew. Thick, old trees were uprooted. Trampolines (yes, trampolines) were tossed into the middle of the street. Like a tornado, but without the quickness.

And, the night sky glowed almost a continuous pale blue from electricity cutting into it.

I was inside for most of it, looking out the window as the lightning splashed across the sky. From my safe confines, I didn’t hear the wind whip outside. I didn’t hear the cracking of branches and the bangs when they hit the ground.

As I drove home after the storm, a graveyard of trees littered the streets. Barely noticeable until on them, oncoming cars would flash their lights in warning.

When I pulled into my neighborhood, I couldn’t even get to my house because a huge portion of tree was splayed across the road.

This storm … it’s serious.

The aftermath of the storm damage in Maryland

The spot my car would have been parked …

Trees broken from the derecho storm damage in Maryland

An old tree, that was one full and towering, is splintered from the extreme wind gusts.

More storm damage from the derecho in Maryland

Nearly an entire tree rests on the ground after the storm.

PEPCO, our power supplier, only manages to supply power back to half of our neighborhood. Within 48 hours after the storm. Us? We aren’t nearly as lucky.

For six days, there is no power. My parents suffer more than I do. I hightail it to friends houses to stay cool and panic about the projects I have to do and the lack of power. There’s little cell service. Internet is down. Cable is down. It’s hot. It’s humid. People are cranky and mean.

The line at McDonald's after the derecho

The only place open for food in a 10-mile radius? McDonald’s. This line took about 45 minutes.

A wine tasting during the power outage at Safeway

A day after the storm, powered by backup generators, Safeway taps into our boredom and a distributor comes in to do a wine sampling.

My neighborhood is one of the last to have power restored.

When it comes on, I feel relieved. Stressed at the amount of work I have to do before I leave America … in five days. But happy to have my house back and time with my family. Home.

Americas Blog Maryland

Coming home

Pulling in to my neighborhood, I can feel my chest tighten.

The trees. When did they get so big? The homes. When did they get so old?

The woods in a Maryland backyard

“Welcome to my house,” I say to Erica as I turn the car off.

Home. We. Are. Home.

I open the bright red door, the same bright red door we’ve had since my childhood and am greeted by my parent’s two dogs.

Then, Mom comes out and wraps her arms around me.

I can feel myself loosen. The  excitement to come back to Maryland, the sad over the end of the road trip, the anticipation of my closeness to being an expat … they all flood through my veins.

I whisper in my mom’s ear that I love her. That it is good to be home.

Tired hits. We drove for more than eight hours today, from Louisville to Maryland with a stop for lunch in Frostburg to see my brother, an artist specializing in metal work.

Coming home, that tired just takes over and I quickly crawl into my bed as Erica gets herself situated in her room.

“Can you come and sit with me?” I ask my mom.

“Really? You’re going to sleep.”

But she knows this game well. Whenever I need to talk, to soak up my mom, I always ask her to come and crawl into bed with me. Even at 32, just having her next to me makes me feel at ease.

That’s when it hits me.

The magnitude of what I’ve just done.

Flashbacks roll through my mind:

I’m sitting at Putter’s across from my apartment in Las Vegas, drinking beer and shots with Dave on my last night in the city that has been my home for the better part of seven years.

I’m tucking my cats into their carrying cases, tears rolling down my face as they meow their protests. As I drive them to their new home, I sob. And, when I get to the house, it’s even worse.

I’m standing in my empty apartment, imaging where everything was. Seeing myself in my room. Playing fetch with the cats. Sipping wine on my balcony. Those memories seem so unfair as I stand there. The ghosts of the life I lived.

I lay with my mom and let tears roll down my face as I let the moments from the past month of my life sweep through my mind.

“It’s OK, D,” she says as I sit there, silently crying. “You’ve just done something major. And you are going to do something else major. You are allowed to feel like this. It isn’t easy.”

I know she’s right.

For now, I have two weeks to soak up my family and my friends in Maryland. And then, it’s on to Thailand.

30 Life Crisis Americas Blog Maryland

Escape of the Week: America via iPhoneography

If there is one thing I did to an excess while driving cross-country, it was taking photos.

Between my new camera and my iPhone, I logged thousands of photos.

Because the iPhone was easy to tote around, there were so many instances when I simply pulled it our from my purse (or from the arm rest when I was driving) and snapped pics.

I like to think these photos help show the beauty of the lesser traveled/boring drives through the heart of America. For even more photos, be sure to click the links.

Enjoy the “iphoneography!”

The journey begins in Las Vegas. Dave and I head north on I-15 to Zion. Our drive through Nevada is flat, with desert surrounding us and mountains in the far distance.

The drive north on I-15 past Las Vegas, Nevada

A quick 2 1/2 hour drive from Las Vegas is one of the most spectacular spots I have ever visited — Zion National Park. Our first night, we grab dinner at the Bit & Spur, a cute Southwest restaurant with views of the fiery orange rocks from the patio.

The Bit and Spur at Zion National Park

The next day, we go and explore Zion. Walking from our moderately crappy motel, we hit the entrance to Zion on foot.

Walking in to Zion National Park in Utah

The entrance to Zion National Park in Utah

Pink blossoms hang from trees inside Zion National Park

Our next stop: Colorado.

We drive for 10 – plus hours. My eyes having a hard time to stay open as we go from high desert to the Mars-like landscape of barren red rock jutting out at different levels with the Rockies (or what I kept saying were the Rockies) in the distance.

Heading towards the Mars-like landscape in Moab, Utah

Finally, we cross Utah into Colorado and we get our first glimpse of the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

Driving on I-70 through the Colorado Rockies

Suddenly, I am awake. Thrilled to be in such a spectacular landscape.

I-70 through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado

From Denver, we head back up to Keystone for a conference. While I wait for our conference to kick-off, I spend time wandering through the main street of the charming ski town of Breckenridge.

The resort town of Breckenridge, Colorado

In Keystone, we are treated to high altitude and a sunset to rival some of the best I’ve ever seen. I’m sure that had something to do with the peak with little bursts of lingering snow set against the pine trees and pinks and blues of the sky.

The sun sets behind the Rocky Mountains in Colorado

I said “see you soon” to Dave in Keystone and then began the rest of my road trip with Erica. In the middle of the night, we drove from there to Denver, and in the morning we were off through the flat roads of Nebraska (and Colorado).

A photo from I-80 in Nebraska

Sunset off of I-80 in Nebraska

Eventually, we stopped in Omaha and enjoyed the awesomeness of the city and a dive bar tour.

A visit to a dive bar in Omaha, Nebraska

A visit to a dive bar in Omaha, Nebraska

The next day, we head out to Chicago via I-80 and Iowa. I’m surprised and delighted by what we see out of the window. It’s beautiful.

Driving on I-80 through Iowa

Driving through Iowa on I-80

Iowa from I-80

Of course, as we get closer to Chicago, traffic stops. Which gives me time to hang out the window and take some pics.

The Chicago skyline from a distance

A photo of the Chicago Theater in Downtown Chicago

Another look at the Downtown Chicago skyline

After Chicago, we headed south through Indiana …

Windmills in Indiana

… to Louisville. Of course, we took obligatory shots at Churchill Downs and of the charm in Downtown Louisville.

Downtown Louisville's main street

Our second night, we hit up Holy Grail, a church-turned-bar near my friend’s place.

The Holy Grail in Louisville, Kentucky

No visit to Louisville is complete without trying some bourbon!

A bourbon sampler in Louisville, Kentucky

After two weeks of driving cross-country, we finally headed to Maryland, stopping to see my brother first in Frostburg.

An old hotel on Frostburg, Maryland's main street

And then, eight hours later, we were to my house. And the next brief chapter of my life began.

Americas Blog Colorado Destinations Illinois Iowa Kentucky

The charm and quirk of Louisville, Kentucky

“Louisville is so cute!” I coo to Erica as we drive through the giant, tree-lined streets. “It reminds me of Atlanta!”

While totally out of the way on our road trip, I included Louisville on the route for two reasons: one, because one of my good friends live there; and two, because it was a place I had considered living when I returned from my long-term travel. Of course, Las Vegas won out, but it was the only other place I wanted to go. Even without seeing it first.

Aside from visiting Churchill Downs, seeing the city through the eyes of a local is something both Erica and I want to do. Thankfully, my friend Karen and her fiancé volunteer to take us on a little exploration of the city.

We head to West Main Street to explore the quaint and charming city.

A street in Downtown Louisville, Kentucky

A piece of street are in Louisville, Kentucky

Another photo of Downtown Louisville, Kentucky

Located on Main Street is the Louisville Slugger Museum. With record attendance two-years in a row, today there is a crowd of people outside. Inside, they will learn about the history of the museum, as well as tour the factory and more.

The entrance to the Louisville Slugger Museum

A stack of bats on display inside the Louisville Slugger Museum

The machines to make bats inside the Louisville Slugger Museum

Just outside the museum is the World’s Largest Baseball Bat — a must for photos.

The World's Largest Bat, Louisville Slugger, in Louisville, Kentucky

And then, there is the quirk. Erected in May 2012 in front of the popular 21 C Museum Hotel, this Statue of David is a replica of the infamous Italian one. Standing at 30-feet tall, the enormous gold figure is not easy to miss.

The Statue of David in Louisville, Kentucky

Another perspective of the Louisville, Kentucky's Statue of David

A look from the back at Louisville, Kentucky's Statue of David

My favorite part of Louisville, though, it what lays outside of the main streets — the homes. Gorgeous, palatial homes dripping in Southern charm can be found here, complete with front porches to take in the summer nights.

A home in Louisville, Kentucy

Have you visited Louisville? What were your favorite spots?

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round went road tripping and exploring America from Colorado to Maryland in June 2012. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

Americas Blog Kentucky

A visit to Louisville isn’t complete without Churchill Downs

Here’s a quick lesson:

If you mention Louisville ever, ever, make sure you don’t pronounce it “Louie-ville.”

Seriously.

It’s like when people from Nevada hear other people pronounce the state’s name as “Nevahhhdahhhh.”

As someone who lived in Nevada, hearing that is like nails scratching down a blackboard. Knee tingling awful.

Back to Kentucky. The name is pronounced “Lool-ville.” Only, it’s not that easy. You’ve got to do that “ool” in the back of your throat, all guttural.

Aside from having a name that bothers my throat, setting up shop in this quaint semi-Southern town was the perfect ending to our road trip across America.

The drive from Chicago to Kentucky (I don’t even like writing the name of the city because even thinking about it gives my throat sympathy vibrations), is entirely uneventful. Indiana is … Indiana. We shoot across the state fairly quickly, crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky just as the sun begin to sink, turning the city into a pretty picture of pinks and blues.

With a few hours until my friend we are staying with, Karen, gets out of work, Erica and I have some BBQ and enjoy the golden hour over the charming restaurant-lined main street.

Those, my friends, are some tasty fried pickles.

Erica and I have a few goals for the Louisville leg of our journey:

1. Don our best dresses and fascinators and head to the horse races.

2. Tour the disco ball factory (the town is home to the largest maker in the world).

3. Drink bourbon. Which for some reason, my whisky-loving mind cannot do.

We, as a duo, accomplished only one of those things. Half-way.

On our first full day in Louisville, we wake up and head to Churchill Downs.

It’s a hot day. The sun is out as we park our car in someone’s parking lot/yard and head into the grand building, and later, the grand stand.

The guy running the lot offers us tickets in the stands for a whopping $5. General admission is $3, so we decide being in the shade and in the stands is worth the $2.

Then, we cross the street and head into the complex.

 

It’s not nearly what I imagine. In my mind, I expect to see women dressed to the nines, extravagant hats perched on their well-coiffed heads, sipping Mint Juleps with ice that clinks gently as it settles to the bottom of the glass.

Yeah. That doesn’t exist. Except for maybe during the Derby.

Today, the people are normal. Shorts. T-shirts. The only hats people have on are baseball hats (and the fedora I threw on my head in an effort to look cooler than I am).

It’s not crowded, either. Even though the parking lot looks packed, walking into the track results in a crowd where the horses hang out before the race, and by the betting area.

The stands … they’re pretty much empty.

Erica and I have no clue how to place bets. I’ve only bet on horses once before when I was living in Las Vegas. My friend, an odds-maker, walked me through it. Today, he does the same, sending me text messages on how to bet and what to bet.

Then, after betting $2 on the winner of the race, we head up to our seats to watch.

Giddy, we clutch the little pieces of paper in our hands as the horses are brought out and strut around the starting line.

Then, they’re off. Galloping. Thunking their hooves onto the peachy dirt.

We lose.

Fortunately, we stick around for two more races …

… and win.

As we leave Churchill Downs, we’re still happy. Still excited. And, our day is young. There’s a murder mystery party to attend.

Editor’s Note: This post is a part of the #winosontheroad series. Over Yonderlust and d travels ’round went road tripping and exploring America from Colorado to Maryland in June 2012. Be sure to check out all of the posts of life on the open road.

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