Sunday, 15 March 2009

An American Odyssey, Part 3: Kentucky

Kentucky, we had arrived. Our trip to Louisville was one more stop on our Chicken Hajj. The trip that the colonel expects us all to make once in our lives.

Kentucky as a state holds a number of important religious sites, notably Corbin, where Harland ran his gas station and restaurant 'Sanders' Court' and of course where he developed the recipe. And Louisville, home of some some more sombre relics, the Colonel's grave at Cave Hill Cemetery, world HQ for Yum brands, Don Decker and the Louisville Visitors Centre KFC Experience. Contrary to popular belief however, Kentucky was not home to the World's first branch of KFC, that much coveted honour goes to Utah.

Our trip to Kentucky was sadly not taking us to Corbin which as you can see from the map is quite some distance from Louisville. Today Corbin hosts a small museum at the place where it all started.

We arrived in Louisville at roughly 4.30pm on what was a hot and sunny afternoon on Saturday 13th September 2008.

We entered the city along the thoroughfare of Baxter avenue, bringing us right to the Baxter Ave/ Bardstown Rd branch which was a fine example of a new restaurant that would be seeing our patronage the following day. More importantly however Baxter avenue took us right past Cave Hill Cemetery, the final resting place of our lord Sanders. (before the Resurrection)

As we arrived at the gates they were being locked for the day and there was little we could say and resolved to visit the grave the following day.

We wondered around in down town Louisville and I saw Colonel Don Decker, Harland Sanders impersonator extraordinaire available for weddings, christenings and Bar Mitzvahs who also happens to ply his trade on weekend evenings at 4th Street live, the epicentre of Louisville's chicken fuelled night life.

The following day we awoke, checked out of our fine motel and went to the Louisville Visitor Centre KFC Experience featuring wall displays, glass cabinets containing relics such as an original pressure fryer, an authentic white suit and other paraphernalia. There was a life size model of the Colonel with which to be photographed. There was an electronic touch screen quiz (100% needless to say), and my favourite, a telephone which when you lifted the receiver relayed to your ears the sweetest sound you ever did hear, a voice from beyond the grave, a selection of the inimitable wit and wisdom from the mouth of Harland.

When we left the experience (having purchased one of every KFC themed item from the gift shop) the wind outside had picked up noticeably and it continued to get worse. As we drove towards the cemetery our car was struck by a flying branch. Getting closer still there was near gridlock, power lines was down, lights were out and branches and even whole trees littered the roads and sidewalks crushing houses in their wake.

It was these treacherous conditions that the city authorities deemed so dangerous as to warrant the closure of Cave Hill Cemetery on safety grounds and so our visit to the grave of the Colonel was denied by the tail end of Hurricane Ike.

We retreated to lick our wounds to the nearby branch. For some reason the staff in there thought flying 3000 miles then driving a further 2000 to visit the grave of a man who you've never met but happens to cook tasty chicken was a crazy thing to do. Go figure.

Nevertheless the experience was a great one. We were the last people allowed into the darkened branch. With no power, no chicken was being cooked. We ate the last chicken in the place and had maybe the worlds first KFC lock in as the staff busied themselves with cleaning. They did however deign to dine with us. In these magical moments it seemed that the Colonel had seen our plight and intervened to make sure that Kentucky offered us a true taste of its soul food.

1 comment:

paulbot said...

amazing stuff, great t-shirt in the last pic there!