Day 61 - Henderson, KY to Springfield, IL

Ah, Big Trip Karma.  It has visited on many occasions and Day 61 was another one of those days.  Our last full day of the Trip was surrounded by great folks and us being really lucky.

The last day was spent at Ellis Park, a horse racing track in Henderson, Kentucky.  For those keeping track at home, yes, that does make fast cars, alcohol and gambling all within a two day span.  Horse racing in Kentucky was one of those items that Kim and I have wanted to try once, and it was a great day.  We chose Ellis because of the location, but also the timing.  There is only one track open to live racing in Kentucky at any one time, so you have to plan accordingly.

When we arrived, we had absolutely no idea what we were doing, having never been to a track before.  Like we have so many time on the Trip, we went up to the friendliest looking stranger we could find, let them know what we are up to, and asked if they can help.  We found Courtney, a track employee, under a hospitality tent and she did her thing, telling us about the park, the horses, racing, betting, etc.  She was a COMPLETE sweetheart!  Courtney then told our Big Trip story to the track's General Manager, Mike, another great guy (and a Midwest transplant).  Mike took us under his wing for the day and showed us a fantastic time.  

We bet a few bucks on our first race and the girls won!  We bet a few other times was exciting.  Neither Kim nor I are big gamblers, so after that we spent the day exploring and enjoying the hospitality.  Mike got us up to the sky box area so we could see some races from way up and we had a really nice lunch.  From there we went down to the track and watched a few more races.  Towards the end of our stay, Mike asked if we would like to go into the winners circle and have a picture taken with that race's winning horse and jockey.  You bet we took him up on that!  Pictures below.  The track pics, by the way, were taken by Kurtis Coady of Coady Photography.  Serious pro horse photographer and a great guy - printed us out some beautiful prints of his shots as we waited, and we were on our way.

THANK YOU to everyone at the track.  It was a really, really fun day and we appreciate your hospitality more than you know.  It was a fantastic way to close out our last day.

We were then in the car heading to Springfield, IL for our last hotel stay at the Route 66 Hotel.  We also just had time to get to the Route 66 Drive In Theater.  It's the first and oldest outdoor on old Route 66 - seemed fitting given the nature of the trip.  We saw 'Pixels' - it won't win any Oscars, but good summer fun.  More than seeing a movie, it gave us an excuse to all be squished together in the back of the car, eating popcorn and spending some nice slow time together on our last night.  

Lots of pics below.  More on the final hotel stay, our drive home and a trip recap in the final blog post coming soon.  

- Jim

Fast horses.  I dig photographic motion blur.

Good lookin' pony.

Future jockeys?

'Call to Post' and other trumpet fun.

Good looking fillies, right?

Photo courtesy Kurtis Coady of Coady Photography.  Us, with our host Mike and winning jockey Jesus Castanon.  He's a big deal, won the Preakness in 2011 and has won over 2,000 races!

Winner circle photos, including us sneaking in with the Owner's group and the horse.  Love the name...

Drive-in movies rule.