Friday, May 31, 2019

Eats & Treats in KY

While on a (mostly) southern states road trip traveling from New Hampshire to Florida, we're sampling foods along the way. It's part of the road trip fun for us. Here's some recent experiences in various KY locations.

First, we are not whiskey or bourbon drinkers, but when in Rome (or in this case KY). 

That said, when you're visiting the Bluegrass state (as we did) you quickly learn that it’s known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. We met folks who had traveled from many there states to sample whiskeys on what's called the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®. This is a program sponsored by the Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA) to promote the Bourbon whiskey industry. And from those we spoke to it seems very successful as many were repeat "trail" walkers.

Nothing mandates that bourbon must be produced in Kentucky, which dominates in distilling this corn-based, barrel-aged whiskey. According to the KDA, the state produces and ages approximately 95 percent of the world’s bourbon whiskey. Only whiskey produced in the State of Kentucky can be labeled Kentucky Straight Whiskey

We visited the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY which was near our hotel and the only one nearby that offered free tours. 
Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, KY
Buffalo Trace Distillery is the oldest continually operating distillery in the U.S. During Prohibition, the distillery was permitted to remain operational, making whiskey for "medicinal purposes.” In addition to the free tour, everyone is treated to a complimentary tasting of Kentucky bourbon, not uncommon in distillery tours.

We learned that KY is the world's bourbon capital because of three factors: water, climate, and soil. First, KY has vast deposits of blue limestone, which filters out hard iron and imparts calcium and magnesium. Second, the state's temperature goes from chilly winters to hot summers which causes the charred oak barrels, which give the spirit its amber color and distinctive taste, to alternately absorb and release the whiskey. Third, the fertile ground there is right for growing bourbon’s second main ingredient, corn.

Buffalo Trace Distillery sits on 130 acres. The facility has a capacity of almost 2.7 million gallons annually, enough to fill about 51,000 barrels. This production flows into 14 bourbons, a handful of whiskeys, and a vodka brand the company markets.

The company brochure explains that the name "Buffalo Trace" refers to an ancient buffalo crossing on the banks of the Kentucky River in Franklin County, KY. The path used by buffalo is called a trace. The distillery's namesake bourbon is called Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

As of 1992, the distillery is owned by the Sazerc Company. Historically, it' had several names, including the George T. Stagg Distillery and the Old Fire Copper (O.F.C.) Distillery. In May 2001, under the Stagg Distillery name, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark in March  2013.
Jim's Seafood & Steaks, Frankfort, KY

When dining out, our menu preference is usually seafood which made Jim’s Seafood & Steaks our choice for an early dinner stop in Frankfort, KY. It's called “the best restaurant by a dam” and is the only eatery in the area that can make that claim. It was built on the site of Kentucky River Mills hemp factory, which closed in 1952 and was the last hemp factory operating in KY. 

This casual, local restaurant was uncrowded when we dined there in late afternoon at a window seat overlooking the Kentucky river with a waterfall view by the dam. 

The family-owned eatery has served seafood made from scratch using family recipes for over 30 years. The menu is varied from shrimp, oysters, crab legs, lobster, scallops, to sirloin, rib-eye steak and chickenGrenville's had grilled Boston scrod with wild rice and coleslaw andI had New England clam strips with coleslaw and a veggie. It wasn't the best seafood dining we've experienced, but the service was friendly and unhurried. 

During a walking tour of Frankfort the next day, we found Hoggy's Ice Cream (in truth, we looked for it)This locally-owned ice cream shop is at the corner of West Main and St. Clair streets and a March 2019 addition to the downtown area.

The ice cream served while was not home-made, but hand-dipped by a group of youthful and energetic young folks. There's about 20 flavors of ice cream with names like Superman, Sea Salt Caramel, Blue Moo Cookie Dough, and ice cream sundaes, banana splits, milkshakes — all good treats. That said we restrained ourselves to ice cream sundaes. (It was in the 90s, after all.)

Whoops, I forgot to take a photo of the sundaes we enjoyed. If you go, be sure to try the peanut butter chip and the salted caramel which were my choices. The mocha chip and espresso were also good according to Grenville whose only "complaint" was that he needed more hot fudge, but don't we all?

Not the next day, but a day later, we sampled homemade gelato at Spotz in Versailles, KY. This small and brightly decorated business advertises that its “Gelato mission is to create a taste of Italy with the very best ingredients the Bluegrass has to offer.” The business was started by a husband and wife in 2013 after leaving corporate careers.

Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream and we're admittedly ice cream fans first and foremost and have tried gelato but not as often. The gelato at Spotz was handmade with local ingredients from Kentucky farmers. The flavors are produced in small batches in a commercial kitchen in a local family farm without artificial additives or flavors. The company is a certified Kentucky Proud business. Be sure to try the banana pudding flavor.

Completing this post about KY eats and treats, here's another favorite we enjoyed in KY — White Castle. Our fondness for this fast-food burger joint was the subject of a previous post. We know WC from our native NJ, but (unfortunately) there are none in New England where we now live. Leaving KY, there was just off the interstate. We had to go there for lunch and weren't disappointed.
Thanks, as always, for virtually traveling along with us. We've been reading and appreciating all your comments. Our days are spent on the road touring and eves are spent posting about our adventures. Blog reading may fall behind, but I'll catch up as time allows.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Citizens Motorcar Company

We're currently on a "southern" U.S. road trip from NH to FL and posting about sites seen & foods sampled along the way. This post is about a stop in Dayton, OH.

Before I post about the Packard auto museum we toured in Dayton, here's some (very) condensed info about this innovative U.S. auto maker's in business from the 1900s through the mid-1950s. The Packard automobile was at one time called America’s most luxurious vehicle. It led the in that area surpassing both the Cadillac, produced by General Motors and the Lincoln autos made by Ford Motor Co.
James and William Packard

Brothers James and William Packard, founded Packard Motor Car Co. in 1899 in their native Warren, Ohio. James had drawn a “horseless carriage” as far back as 1893, but financial difficulties prevented the brothers from building their first automobile. In 1900, they applied for a patent for an innovative car design with a flexible shaft drive replacing the chain drive. The first Packard automobile was released in 1899 and the Ohio Automobile Company was formed in 1900. James is credited with coining the expression that the company used in promotions. When asked about the dependability of his autos, he once replied, Ask the man who owns one meaning that the quality of the car was so great that its owner would vouch for it. Afterwards, that statement became closely associated with Packard automobiles in its advertisements, brochures and later in dealerships.
It's been said that Ford Motor Company founder, Henry Ford, designed a line of "boxy" cars geared towards the average car owners. By comparison, Packard autos unabashedly catered to the elite buyer as no expense was spared in making every car regal. Here's some examples of the  luxury Packard models seen in the museum. Even prominent (and wealthy) Ford shareholders preferred to drive a Packard car according to informational placards in the museum. (Unfortunately, I can't recall the names cited.)
These luxury models were designed to be chauffeur-driven with the well-to-do owners enjoying the scenery in back seats that resembled comfortable furniture rather than auto interiors. 

Detroit factory exhibit in Packard Auto Museum
In 1902, the company name was changed to Packard Motor Car Company and the growing company relocated to Detroit, MI, in 1903. The 3-1/2 million square foot Packard plant on East Grand Boulevard was designed by noted architect Albert Kahn, considered the foremost industrial architect of his time and often called "the architect of Detroit." Situated on nearly 40 acres, it was, at that time, the most advanced auto factory in the world. 

The Packard factory was the first industrial building in Detroit to use reinforced concrete to replace wood and provide better fire protection, but not until Packard's #10 building, then previous ones were renovated. By 1910, the largest US. auto plant employed 40,000 workers at its peak. The last Packard automobile was built in 1954. The abandoned and dilapidated plant was sold at auction for $405,000 in 2013. Its buyer plans to develop it for alternate uses.

That shortened Packard history resulted from our visit to the Packard Museum in Dayton, OH. It's a unique experience in that this is the only car museum located in an authentic dealership (according to everything we read). The building was constructed in 1917 and was the city’s premier dealership and it was also designed by architect Albert Kahn. The "official name of the museum is “The Citizens Motorcar Company,” after the name of the original dealership, but it's more widely known as America's Packard Museum

The museum has received accolades from Car Collector magazine which named it one of the "Top Ten" automotive museums. Also, The Society of Automotive Historians awarded it the James J. Bradley Award for "exemplary efforts" in preserving motor vehicle resource materials. Only six other U.S. museums had previously received the award.

The museum was founded in 1991 by Robert Signom Jr, a Dayton attorney and car collector, as a tribute to his father. The elder Signom lost a green 1928 Packard six-cylinder convertible coupe during the Depression. The younger Signom saw a "For Sale" classified ad for a green Packard in an OH paper. 

He asked his father if anything might identify the car as the one he'd owned and learned about a slit made in the rear upholstery for golf clubs. Signom saw the car and found the slit. The car had Packard serial number plates that were imprinted with the name of the delivering dealer, the Citizens Motorcar Company, Dayton, OH, where his father had bought it. 
That car was the first in Signom's Packard collection and is included in the museum which grew from this first car. The collection was housed in warehouses around Dayton until 
Signom acquired and rehabilitated the long-vacant dealership on Ludlow St. which was the start of the world's sole restored Packard dealership operating as a museum. 

The museum features over 50 automobiles on display in an Art Deco showroom, service department and an additional pavilion added in 1936. 

The cars cover Packard’s history from the company's early days before WWI to its 1950s demise. The original porcelain Packard sign was found in the basement, restored and hangs on the corner of the building’s exterior like it did so many years ago.

There's a basement, not open to visitors, where specialized mechanics work on restoring and maintaining the cars to keep them in running condition. (Who wouldn't enjoy a ride in one of these classics? )

Many of these museum cars while unrestored are nowhere near looking deteriorated. In fact, they appeared to be in better condition than some current "older" autos. Most of the displayed cars have maintained their original colors and show normal signs of use since most were driven and used before being donated or purchased. 

The museum is not just about cars, there's also artifacts from the Packard Motorcar Company, such as neon signs, tools, and repair parts on display. The back of the showroom has a row of in-floor hydraulic lifts that still function and ceiling-mounted hose reels for oil and grease servicing. 

During World War II, when auto manufacturers geared efforts towards the war, Packard built aircraft and marine engines. The company built its own version of the Merlin engine, the V1650, which powered the P-51 Mustang ironically known as The Cadillac of the Skies. It also built 1,200-HP Packard V-12 engines that powered the legendary PT boats of WW II  and were designed by Jesse Vincent, Packard's long-time chief engineer.  (I failed to get photos of these.) 

Sitting on pallets in the service area is the original stonework from the two-story entrance to Packard’s Detroit headquarters. It's planned for a future museum expansion. 

It was the beautiful styling and condition of these cars that captured our attention during our visit. Who wouldn't enjoy a ride in one of these convertibles?

We learned that Packards are prized by collectors, partly due to their short 50-year production span. The cars have a following for Packard's dedication to craftsmanship in the first half of the 20th century. The company was known to design well-engineered autos and pioneered many safety and convenience features like the modern steering wheel, the first production 12-cylinder engine, and air-conditioning in a passenger car. (We're thankful for that last feature on this road trip.)

The 1928 Jesse Vincent Speedster (center below) was used by Vincent to commute from his home. It was capable of 129 mph and served as a production prototype for the 626 Speedster that Packard introduced with minimal advertising in 1929. The 626 wasn't a success, few customers would spend $5,000 on a pleasure car after the stock market crash.

A number of coach builders built custom bodies on Packard chassis and helped create Packard's stylish image. One well-known designer was Howard "Dutch" Darrin, who  designed and built customized Packards for celebrities that included Clark Gable, Dick Powell, and Rosalind Russell. (We found out that he was also a NJ native like ourselves.) The museum features several of Darrin’s highly stylized models including this 1939 Victoria Convertible, a real beauty. 

After WW II was over, Packard continued in business. But several factors caused business to decline. First of all, they chose not to have separate styling for their more expensive models. It was now very hard to tell a Six from and Eight. They also continued to move downmarket, producing models for cab drivers. Grenville's grandfather owned one similar to this model used in his South Orange, NJ taxi business.

Looking at the details on these museum cars, we noticed that most of the Packards featured a distinctive hood ornament. Checking online, I learned that auto historians credit Packard Motor Car Co. with patenting 28 hood ornaments (or mascots) — more than any other American car maker.  

The Goddess of Speed ornament is shown with arms outstretched holding a disc, symbolic of a tire. It was one of automotive's "Flying Lady" ornaments crafted in the Art Deco style, designed in 1938 and based on Nike, the divine charioteer of Greek mythology. This hood ornament adorned hoods of the most distinctive Packard automobiles.

The “bird” hood ornament was introduced as a deluxe hood ornament in the early 1930s and used until 1957. Originally depicted with wings upright, it went through several design changes; wings went from an upright position to a swept back, stylized form in the 1950s. 
As evidence that these hood ornaments are still collectible, this earlier model "bird" hood ornament was seen on a Chevrolet truck advertising, appropriately enough, a scrap metal business. This photo was taken at a gas stop in KY.

The American Packard Museum isn't the only one in the state of OH. There's another one, the National Packard Museum is in Warren, OH, home of the Packard brothers and where they started their first company. It includes vehicles owned by the Packard family, and is housed in a more conventional and modern facility. We would have enjoyed touring it, but didn't have time for the 4-hour drive. Hopefully, it's a future road trip stop. (Of course, there will be future road trips.)

Monday, May 27, 2019

OH Museum Soars High

We're currently on a "southern" U.S. road trip from NH to FL and posting about sites seen & foods sampled along the way. This post is about a stop in Dayton, OH.

The oldest and largest museum devoted to military aviation is the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, OH. It's also the largest such facility in the world attracting thousands of visitors annually.

Not only is this one of the most-visited tourist attractions in OH, but also the largest free attraction in the Dayton area. (We always like to see free attractions on our road trips, who wouldn't?)
Photo credit: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Wright-Patterson Base, OH

Last week we added to the visitor count as we explored this vast exhibit space totaling nearly 17 acres, all indoors. There's so much to see and it's impossible to cover everything in a single visit. The museum is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m; we spent 4 hours on our visit. It was our last day in OH and we also were also going to the Packard Automobile Museum open noon to 5 p.m. (That museum is highlighted in an upcoming post).

The USAF museum’s very extensive collection includes more than 360 aircraft and missiles on display for historical, rare, and technological significance covering the history and development of aviation (no, we didn't count them all). There's a lot of (indoor) walking and exhibits were everywhere, on the museum floor, walls, and overhead. Despite its size and number of exhibits, the museum is easy to navigate with signage and well-defined pathways throughout interconnected hangers; no need to go outdoors. 

While you might expect to see every U.S. plane here bearing with a USAF insignia, that's not the case. Instead, some of these military planes bear the insignia of the U.S. Army. That's because the Air Force started as the Army Air Corps in 1907 until being established as a separate Armed Forces branch in 1947. Today, the USAF is considered the world’s largest and most technologically advanced air force.

The museum had its unofficial start in 1923, when the Engineering Division at McCook Field, an airfield and aviation experimentation station in Dayton started collecting aviation items for preservation. The growing collection moved to Wilber Wright Field an airfield and military installation by 1927 and in1932 was named the Army Aeronautical Museum. It was renamed as the Air Force Technical Museum in 1948, but was private. In 1954, the museum was housed in its first permanent facility, a former engine hangar and opened to the public. There wasn’t enough room inside for all the collected artifacts. Aircraft were parked outside exposing them to the elements. Efforts began for a larger indoor exhibit space.

Eugene Kettering
Through the 1960s, Eugene Kettering, son of American inventor Charles F. Kettering, campaigned for a permanent structure and became the first chairman of the board of the Air Force Museum Foundation. After his 1969 death, his widow continued his work. That led to the museum's relocation and opening of the current facility in 1971 which has since quadrupled in size with the addition of three more hangers

The collections span over a century of flight from the Wright brothers to the space age. The most recent hanger (224,000 sq. ft.) opened in 2016 bringing the museum’s total size up over a million square feet

The first exhibit space after entering the museum is dedicated to Dayton natives Orville and Wilber Wright, pioneers of flight, who conducted experiments at nearby Huffman Prairie Flying Field now part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.
Wright brothers exhibit
A replica of their 1909 Military Flyer and other artifacts of early flight are here. This building also houses the National Aviation Hall of Fame and related educational exhibits.
One of the most popular exhibits is also one of the newest ones — it's the Boeing B17F Memphis Belle. This heavy bomber flew 25 successful combat missions over Europe during World War II. It was placed on display in 2018 after years of restoration.

Another reminder of the grim reality of war is also on display — the Boeing B-29 Superfortress, Bockscar,dropped the "Fat Man" atomic bomb on Nagasaki during the last days of World War II. A replica of that bomb (not visible here) is also on display near the plane.

Nose art is a decorative painting or design usually on the front fuselage of an aircraft. It began for practical reasons of recognizing friendly units and quickly became a way to evoke memories of loved ones, many bore women’s names. This type of artwork is largely a military tradition that reached its pinnacle in World War II, now considered to be the golden age of the genre. At the height of WW II, nose-artists were in high demand in the U.S. Air Force. 

The hall of missiles hanger holds a collection of post-Cold War era planes such as the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber (test aircraft), the Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk stealth ground attack aircraft and others. Also displayed is a XB-70A Valkyrie, the supersonic nuclear bomber that developed in the 1960s, but never produced. 

Most aircraft could only be looked at, but a few exceptions, like the Douglas C-124 Globemaster II cargo plane (above and below) could be entered. It featured "clamshell" loading doors to handle bulky cargo like tanks, field guns, bulldozers and trucks and could be converted into a transport capable of carrying 200 fully-equipped soldiers or 127 litter patients and attendants in a double-decked cabin. 

In the photo above, Grenville is walking in to explore this huge aircraft. It was produced from 1950 to 1955 and the USAF purchased 448 during that timeframe.
At first glance, figures shown near some exhibits may appear to be "real." These setups added realism and I had to do a double-take a couple of times.

The newest hanger, completed in 2016, houses the museum's space collection and presidential aircraft, ones used by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The centerpiece of this collection is a modified Boeing 707 used by Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. While we saw many aircraft, we didn't make it to this hanger in the time available, perhaps on  future visit.

Today is Memorial Day, a U.S. federal holiday to remember and honor all men and women who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. We salute them all.

Update May 28, since this posted, we've learned that a tornado hit parts of Dayton, OH, sadly with a loss of life.  Early reports indicate there may have been some damage to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near the museum. It's a very sobering thought to realize we were recently visiting that area.