All you need to know

26 08 2010

As late August moves into early September, the weather is transforming from being an oven which bakes your very soul (and soles, for that matter) to one more welcoming for the hobby of running. Therefore, with renewed vigor, I have set my feet to wearing grooves in my tennis shoes.

I’ve mapped a five-mile route that runs north from my apartment for a few blocks, takes a sharp left and then goes south, veering west again to descend into a subdivision before looping around and coming back the way I came.

It was trail created through trial-and-error and using the supposedly reliable odometer in my grand am. Because of this, it follows along city streets and creates basically one big loop through the neighborhoods of central Bardstown. In its own way, it’s actually a journey that gives a decent overview of the small town’s various faces, a foot tour of the self-proclaimed Bourbon Capital of the World that you may take if you read further.

My apartment is situated in a tiny neighborhood called Henrytown, which for a reason I do not know, has always struck me as sounding somewhat like the name a gay district might have in a larger metropolitan city. In truth, it is named so because it was one of the first subdivisions to be constructed in Bardstown back in the days of yore. It was financed by a wealthy doctor, a one Dr. Henry, and was known thusly as Henry’s town. I’ve been told that somewhere in the yellowed pages of ancient copies of the newspaper I work for, you can see the original ads enticing families to the area.

Unlike some parts of Bardstown, it has not aged well. It occupies a poorer end of the socioeconomic scale, and the apartments next to mine make frequent appearances in the police records for things such as meth busts. However, as I jog south from Henrytown and cross over the railroad, the neighborhood transforms. Properties began popping up that are not old in the poorly-maintained-for-decades sense, but old in the historic-preservation-district sense. A few churches crop up along the way, and then it runs into West Stephen Foster Ave., a street named after Kentucky’s famous song writer. Local history (and lots of tourism brochures) allege that one of the area’s landmark 19th mansions is the building which Foster’s song “My old Kentucky Home” is based on.

In fact, in addition to the street, Foster gets his own state park, a non-profit theatrical group dedicated to putting on sub-par renditions of popular musicals and a mediocre “home style” restaurant. All this, despite the fact that is not even clear if he ever even set foot in Nelson County.

The legacy of Stephen Foster.

Though maybe not as erudite but still cultural important to an understanding of Bardstown, a Five Star gas station and convenience store also sits at the intersection. Have you ever noticed that regions around the U.S. tend to each have their own semi-local brand of convenience stores? Well, this is one of those, the “Kwik-E-Mart” of central Kentucky, so to speak.

Moving on past the busy street, it enters another neighborhood that features one of the area’s fine educational institutes in addition to another historical house or two.

Heading farther west from there it encounters a stretch of run-down houses and an honest-to-goodness feed store. The shelves are lined with products whose uses I can only vaguely imagine. A board above the register lists prices for products in a heavily abbreviated manner that renders the letters into a foreign tongue. I actually went into the place once to ask the owner about an apartment he was renting and I have never felt more out of place. For some reason, the grizzled farmers in their Carharts and John Deere hats just did not take me for one of their own. The store, an oddly agricultural structure in the middle of the town, serves as my route’s reminder of the area’s roots in the tobacco and bourbon industries.

Next, my running path swings past the large, finely preserved house of a well-known local doctor. His fame stems from his founding and heavy contribution to Bardstown’s Civil War Musuem (which is actually a neat little place, if one likes that sort of thing). Then it enters another subdivision that is a slice right out of the apple pie that is Americana. A firmly upper middle-class subdivision, it features full green lawns uninterrupted by sidewalks — a sign of either luxury or poor urban planning, it’s hard to say. It lacks the crassness of the McMasion ‘burbs of the last two decades’ building craze — the kind of place that, heck, you could raise a family in.

After that, I climb a small hill with the sun in my face and then turn back to go through where I’ve been.For authenticity’s sake, I could go through all that again, but I’ll cut you guys a break and consider the tour complete at two and a half miles.




One response

23 09 2010

So, when are you going to write something!

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