Travel

22 Years ago - 119th Run for the Roses

... from Memphis, Tennessee, a cruise on the Delta Queen
and the Kentucky Derby

by Kay McCarte



We, my sisters, Betty and Margie, our friends (another)
Margie and Maureen, and I arrived at the Peabody Hotel in
Memphis, Tennessee to start a wonderful trip, cruising the
Mississippi on the grand old paddleboat, the Delta Queen,
ending in Louisville, Kentucky, and going to the Kentucky
Derby.

Part One of this saga begins at the Peabody Hotel in
Memphis, a luxury hotel built in 1869, with a beautiful
marble fountain in the center of the lobby. Legend has it
that the hotel manager and his friends liked to go duck
hunting and they used live (since forbidden) duck decoys.
On their return home, after imbibing some of Kentucky's
best whiskey, the men decided to put the ducks into the
fountain. It got such a tremendous response that, to this
day, there are ducks in the fountain.  Also duck is never served in a
Peabody Hotel restaurant.

Next morning after touring Memphis by bus, we arrived at
Graceland, the home and museums of Elvis Presley. We
enjoyed following the footsteps of Elvis and his family
through his stately and gracious mansion and in the Trophy
Building gazed in awe at the gold and platinum records
along with the other memorabilia including some of the
out-of-this-world clothes worn by this famous rock and
roll star.  A visit to the Memorial Garden where Elvis and
members of his family are buried concluded our tour and
we were off to Beale Street.  

A walk down (or up) Beale Street, home of the Memphis
Blues, known as the "most iconic street in America" brought
us past shops, clubs, bars, restaurants and, finally to A.
Schwab. This drygoods store was opened in 1876 and is
the only original business left on Beale Street. It's motto is
"If you can't find it at A. Schwab's you don't need it."  And
that is almost true. You name it you can probably find it at
A. Schwab.

Late afternoon on Friday, April 23rd , we boarded the
famous Delta Queen for a cruise up the Mississippi to the
Ohio River to Louisville, Kentucky. With a calliope salute to
the Port of Memphis, we were underway about 7:00 p.m.,
on our 7-day cruise to the Kentucky Derby.

Each morning our delightful Riverlorian, Nadine,
entertained us with information on Ol' Man River, such as
how to read mile markers and read river charts, how
Samuel Clemens took the name of Mark Twain, stories
about other characters on the river over the years, and
about the locks and places we would be passing each day.

There were supplies available for making your Kentucky
Derby Hat contest and for the Floozie contest, at the Huck
Finn Party, and for assembling kites to be flown off the
Sundeck. We had Riverboat Gambler's Bingo and
"Steamboat Races." Entertainment every night was
Showtime with David Evans and the Riverboat Five.

Shore tours were provided at Henderson, where John James
Audubon lived for many years, at Madison we had  a
walking tour of historic homes and a bus tour of Louisville.

The Great Steamboat Race was held the Wednesday of the
week before the Kentucky Derby between the Legendary
Delta Queen and the Belle of Louisville, to win the "Golden
Antlers" for the next year.

This is no horse race when you consider that the average
speed of the Delta Queen is 7 mph, with peak speed of 12
mph. They line up at the Clark Memorial Bridge, go 7 miles
to a buoy where, with the help of a tug, they turn and race
back to the starting point. The banks are lined with
spectators all cheering, bands playing, and on board
everyone is excitedly urging their boat on. It's lots of fun
but, unfortunately, we lost. Oh, well, the Delta Queen won
last year.

On Thursday, the last day on board, there was a (what else)
Mint Julep Party, complete with a "Horseshoe of Roses"
where you could have your picture taken.

On saying goodbye to the Delta Queen on Friday morning,
we boarded a bus for a tour of the beautiful Lexington
Bluegrass country and the Kentucky Horse Park where we
admired the sculpture of the great horse, Man-o-War, took
the trolley ride and attended the horse show and
exhibition. After a BBQ lunch was served in "The Big Barn"
the buses took us to the Executive West Hotel where we got
ready to attend The Queen's Ball that evening for cocktails,
dinner, music and dancing. Semi-formal and very festive.

Saturday, Kentucky Derby 119th Run for the Roses was
finally here. At breakfast that morning there was a
presentation by noted horse racing handicapper Bill
Hennessey who gave us the "Inside Scoop" on handicapping
a race. Though very interesting and informative, it did not
help us to pick the winner.

Buses left the hotel late morning for the 45-60 minute
drive to Churchill Downs. We were armed with a box lunch,
a cushion with back for our reserved open air Steamboater
seating in the INFIELD, and a light plastic cape because of
the light rain that was falling.

As there were 10 races that day, and the Kentucky Derby
was the eighth, we had plenty of time to enjoy the Churchill
Downs Museum and explore Churchill Downs itself. In
order to get to our seats in the Infield (not the best place to
watch a horse race) we had to walk through a tunnel under
the track. There were bleachers set up facing the
Grandstand for those of us who had been on the Delta
Queen. Although we were close to the track (when the
horses raced by us the ground beneath the bleachers
actually shook) we could not see the race develop on the
other side of the track. But who cared, not us. We were
there at the KENTUCKY DERBY.

It's been 22 years and --
The ducks are still parading on the red carpet at the Peabody Hotel.
A. Schwab is still in business on Beale Street.
The Delta Queen is now retired to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and
The 141st Run for the Roses at the Kentucky Derby is May 2, 2015.



May 1, 2015





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