Debauchery, Travel

Talk Derby to Me, Baby (Road Tripping to the 140th Kentucky Derby)

I attended the 140th Kentucky Derby, and so did these restful folks:

Making snow angels.

Making snow angels.

Before we get to those live-wires, let me expound on the other activities that the Kentucky Derby demands, such as purchasing proper Derby attire. Since I was a first-time Derby-er, I used this Art of Manliness visual as a guide.

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I tried on some shoes.

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I got my hat!

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I ended up with this:

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With my outfit ready, I invited two good buddies, Rich and Brett. We spent minimal time planning, but had decided on one thing: it would be a road trip.

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

On Thursday evening, we began our 800-mile journey, which had three possible routes. We took the highlighted one below.

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On the way, we stopped at a gas station (which would turn out to be a repeated activity); Rich made a new friend:

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Smells like. What the hell does this thing smell like?!

We forgot to take good advice from a good friend, and drove through not-so-good Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania is basically an empty state, in case you were wondering.) We spent the night at the Quality Inn at Breeze Manor. They only had one room left, which was for handicapped folks, and it also smelled like old cigarettes. This was a perfect fit, because all three of us are handicapped and smoke cigarettes.

When I woke up, I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. And when I came out, I saw this:

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Sadie!

We made a new friend, as you can see!

Towards the end of our stay, I stumbled upon this nice Foursquare review from Shannon Guerin:
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To which I can only conclude, Shannon Guerin must normally live in a crowded, lightless basement at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, or, Hell.

Throughout Friday, we continued driving through awful Pennsylvania, and into Ohio. In Pennsylvania, the most exciting thing we saw for hundreds of miles was this bridge. I took a photo of it. It’s not worth uploading.

But once in Ohio, we stopped at thrift store in Columbus, where Rich acquired his Derby outfit (Miami Vice outfit) for the all-time low price of $25, which I think included tax. We also spent about an hour trying to navigate the 1,289,443 detours set up in Columbus so that I could make my first visit to what is apparently a great American institution, Cracker Barrel. I verify this, by providing this photo of 100%-engaged, middle-aged women:

"Let's buy some random knick-knacks, Carla!"

“Let’s buy some random knick-knacks, Carla!”

Cracker Barrel rocks, because you can play big-people checkers!

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After leaving the great American institution that is Cracker Barrel (and having one of the worst hamburgers of my life), we made our way to Cincinnati. I wasn’t driving, and was incredibly bored, which produced this car pano (“carpano?”):

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After an hour or so of driving away from Cracker Barrel, we made it to Cincinnati and searched high and low for the nicest hotel we could find:

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Found it. High class people stay here.

We immediately started drinking, and began our mission to explore this new city. This began with crossing the Ohio river, where only 60 or so seconds elapsed before we were approached by two young men who asked us if we wanted free hot dogs. (They were carrying about 200 of them.) In unison, we sang the beautiful song of “YES!” despite the fact that none of us were hungry. You just can’t pass up a free hot dog. We shared our victory over the water:

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Look at those hot dogs.

From the guidance of friends and Yelp!, we went to three bars, MOTR, The Famous Neon’s Unplugged, and Japp’s Since 1879. MOTR had solid music, and a cool sign outside:

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But no women…

Neon’s had adult Jenga!

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Isn’t that a stick-y situation? (Jenga at Neon’s)

But no women… And Japp’s had fancy drinks and nice lighting! But guess what they didn’t have? Women! Cincinnati is apparently a men-only city, and thus, not the right city for me (or my dos amigos). We made our way back to our comfortable Travelodge beds around 2 a.m.

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Also known as, “DERBY DAY”

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We bought as many black clothing items as possible.

We went downstairs to check out the ol’ Travelodge’s Continental Breakfast. We found this spectacular ensemble:

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Do you want some milk with that white bread?

Brett had some fresh cereal:

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And we thought his misfortune was pretty damn funny.

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I questioned: If it was your first time visiting the United States, English was your second language, and you were invited to this “Continental Breakfast” already knowing what the word “Breakfast” meant, but not the word “Continental,” what would you think “Continental” meant? “Mediocre?” “Run-of-the-mill?” “Characterless?” Perhaps even “Prosaic?”

Nevermind the best breakfast ever, we were on our way to the Derby. And because we were still a bit hungry after our 5-course breakfast, we stopped at a gas station, which is where I saw this goddamned abomination.

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Guys, it stays cold LONGER! It’s totally worth it.

I did not partake in any of this nonsense. Fast forward a couple hours, and we’re in Louisville, dressed up, and on the way to the race track. Of course, we took a golf cart.

This driver had no name.

This driver had no name.

Rich had horrific blisters from his brand new thrift store kicks, so he made a wardrobe adjustment:

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Those are called sandals.

We made it to the gates of ol’ Churchill downs and snapped this gem:

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Busy looking good.

And then, it was time to enter. Apparently going to the Kentucky Derby costs money, like $50 for General Admission. We coughed up the cash, walked in, and were immediately surrounded by people looking like bright Crayola crayons, and generally, acting like they were in Kindergarten. We were bound to fit right in.

The drinking really picked up, and before we knew it, we were taking great photos of great things.

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A little landfill.

 

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I even caught someone trying to make it across the roofs of the Porta Potties!

And before we knew it, California Chrome won!

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Spectacular image quality.

California Chrome’s victory netted me $17.50, and I knew, at that moment, that I was unbelievably wealthy (by 1890’s standards).

After I collected my winnings, and people were clearing out, we began to recognize what sort of destruction had actually taken place, and we took the below photo.

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After posing like supermodels, we left Churchill Downs along with all of the other drunks. We had no arranged pickup or transportation planned, so we just started walking and stumbled into a dive bar called the Whirlaway Tavern. The place was a true dive-y masterpiece, filled with folks who were 2-2.5 times drunker than us, and also surprisingly, 2-2.5x older. After staying for an hour or so, Rich somehow negotiated a ride with someone he knew; it was a damn southern miracle.

We ran around the block to meet our saving grace and crammed into the 5-seater car — all 6 of us. As it turns out, the three other travelers, whose space we were invading, were completely sober. So then the car was filled with three people and three jackasses.

We all got past this fact, though, and before we knew it, we were at our next venue, The Garage Bar. And that’s basically where the day ended.

It was certainly a memorable day, (although, perhaps a few details are missing from my memory). And after some reflection, I’ve put together some bullet-proof advice for anyone attending the Derby:

  • Dress better than most.
  • Get there early, like, before 12 p.m., and place bets on all of the races for the rest of the day. Bet Trifecta Boxes!
  • Think about how much a horse weighs. Now, bring that amount in cash. No excuses, rob someone or a bank if you have to.
  • Have a mint julep; they’re delicious, and alcoholic.
  • Always bet on the winning horse.

Aftermath, Sunday May 4th, 2014

In short, we drove 12 hours in one day, and we thought about buying one of each of these shirts:

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I took a photo of the dash when we were nearly back to Hoboken, NJ to return the car:

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We arrived in Manhattan at 2:30 a.m. on Monday, and were back at work before noon. And it was totally worth it. If I go again next year, I’ll probably invite these guys:

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Rich

 

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Brett

Milo

Milo

Because they’re all really good at having fun.

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Debauchery, Travel

Unzipping Zermatt, Switzerland. (I kept my pants on.)

You can take a train to 3,135 meters, get off, put your skis on, and go. True story. The train that takes you is called the Gornergrat, and the place you’re skiing at? Zermatt (“Zermatt, Baby” is also an option).

gornergrat

Before we get to Zermatt, dear reader, let me explain where we were staying. Our group rested in a little town called Täsch. We decided to stay there because apparently everyone who stays in the town of Zermatt won the lottery, or can spend money like they won the lottery. (These people are very lucky!) Our little hotel was called the Monte Rosa, which was surprisingly good. I began to realize that it was hard for Zermatt and the surrounding areas to meet your lowest standards — the Swiss just don’t play that game.

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Our rooms with two single beds. Sweet pow skis not included with stay. (Sorta-ugly-puke-green-painted walls are, though.)

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On Sundays the Monte Rosa will serve eggs/sausage and pancakes. I basically quit Paleo while in Switzerland.

Täsch is only 12-15 minutes away from Zermatt… via train! So we were actually taking a train to Zermatt, and then we were taking another train up the mountain once we were there. Weird.

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The Monte Rosa train station in Täsch.

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On board the train, there are places to store your skis and your luggage carts if you are heading in for the week to Zermatt.

It costs 16 Swiss Franks for a round trip ticket, which at the time of writing, converts to 17.38 USD. This alerted me to the fact that the Swiss apparently don’t mind paying a lot for transportation.

Once you make it to Zermatt, you have a few options for getting up the mountain. You can take 1) the Gornergrat train, 2) a funicular, or 3) a bus to a gondola. These are all obvious choices for American skiers… To uncover this information, we immediately went to the tourist information office.

“Sprechen sie Englisch?”

And yes, they did. If you can think of a language, the Swiss speak it. We got some directions and went skiing. We repeated this process mostly every day, but added some other activities. For example:

Activity #1: Drinking

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The “T-Bar”

Activity 2: Exploring Zermatt in a Snow Storm

They have a McDonald’s.

Activity 3: Buying Random Shit

Does not have side effects, other than the creation of a desire to take a photo.

Does not have side effects, other than the creation of a desire to take a photo.

Activity 4: Eating at Little Mountain Chalet-y Restaurants

Chemitta -- "the best fondue of my life."

Chemitta — “the best fondue of my life.”

Activity 5: Taking Pictures of Funny Signs

In case you were confused.

In case you were confused.

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Taken at Wilde Hilde, Zermatt. They served excellent and relatively inexpensive rotisserie chicken.

Activity 6: Après Skiing

We had a lot of fun at this place called Hennu Stall — maybe too much fun.

hennu stall

The white pole is for dancing.

The white pole is for dancing.

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Is that a shot-ski?

That is a shot-ski!

That is a shot-ski!

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Mission accomplished. 50 Swiss Franks for 10 shots of terrible alcohol.

Activity 7: Après Après Skiing

It starts to get dark, so you should probably…

Hold on to the lights!

Hold on to the lights, obviously.

Alternatively:

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“If you drink enough, you can fly!”
“Like Peter Pan?”
“Yes, like Peter Pan.”

Activity 8: Skiing

Before aprés ski, there is actual ski. And we did a fair amount of that, in fresh powder.

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No fun.

happy

Blue skies.

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On our way to the promised land.

The promised land, 52.

The promised land, 52.

On our second to last day, we discovered 52, an off-piste section that was largely untracked. Once discovered, we skied 6 runs there; it was some of the best powder skiing of my life.

We also got to hang out with baby-thug-skiers (BTS):

This kid was prolly packin' heat.

This kid was prolly packin’ heat.

Despite all of the good fun, we never got to see the sun while we were in Zermatt.

Activity 9: Skiing With Your Eyes Closed

"Where does this chair go again?"

“Where does this chair go again?”

Activity 10: Trying to Spot the Matterhorn

Because of the great weather, our favorite thing to do was attempting to spot the Matterhorn and take a photo of it.

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“The Matterhorn, it’s over there!”

"I think that's the Matterhorn"

“I think it’s over there, actually.”

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“No, I can see it, it’s here.”

Activity 11: Accepting Useful Gifts

To remember this wonderful trip, my dad decided to give me something that I’ll hopefully need if I ever come back to Zermatt.

Sunglasses.

Sunglasses.

Looking for a good time? Come ski with these guys:

We are also exceptionally good-looking.

We are also exceptionally good-looking.

The end.

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