Pretty much all my friends and family know that Louisville has become my second home. Once Emily and Greg moved there in 2014 the die was cast. We have a lot of family there – my brother Mike, cousins Donnie MD and Chris JD and their wonderful wives Kristen and Marci (both Donnie and Chris overachieved in the marriage lottery), my aunt Missi, my Dad who lives three hours east of Louisville, and of course these guys (below). When Hudson was born in 2017, the allure of having a home base in Louisville became an imperative, at least for me.
As a result we’ve spent a lot of time there and invested in the area as well. We have some rental properties in Louisville that comprise my one real entrepreneurial move in life. Thankfully, that’s turned out well.
It doesn’t hurt that Louisville has become my kind of city. Interesting, funky, and foodie – big enough to be vibrant but not so crowded as anything in Socal. Kind of a Goldilocks city. Each time we go I find something else cool or likable about Louisville, so when you add that to the family ties it’s easy to spend time there.
This trip was a little different, as our focus wasn’t so much on Em, Greg and Hudson, but on the too-rare event of all four Nichols brothers getting together. Don and Jill came in from eastern Tennessee, Kathryn and me from Socal, Mark and Deeanne also from Socal, and Mike just stayed put in Louisville. We’ve only gotten together a few times in the last decade, a situation we’re trying to remedy. Here we are with the addition of Dad and one of Mike’s sons, Chase. Quite the crew.
Our first evening with at least three of us together we ate at an odd little place called Hammerhead’s. It’s in the basement of a nondescript old house in a nondescript old neighborhood. But their food is first-rate. I’d say they’re masters of deep frying and smoking. Mark said the lamb ribs were the best he’s ever had, and pretty much everything we ate was in the “best ever” class. We tore through way too much food too fast and spent the rest of the evening fighting a food coma.
The first thing we (almost) all did together was a trip to the Red River Gorge and Natural Bridge. Mark and Deeanne didn’t make that trip, as Mark was sick. The Gorge and Natural Bridge aren’t well known outside KY, and that’s a shame.
They are spectacular wilderness areas, largely unspoiled, featuring hiking, camping, rock climbing, kayak/canoe trips down the Red River, and views of amazing rock formations. All amid a lush forest ecosystem.
I have a lot of great memories of the Gorge, as it was my go-to spot for skipping classes as a UK undergraduate. Some like-minded friends and I would take off for the Gorge at a moment’s notice, for an afternoon or a few nights. We got to know the place pretty well.
Backing up a step, I should say that Louisville’s park system is far and away its finest asset. Not the bourbon trail, not the river or restaurants – but the park system. From Cherokee Park to Iroquois and Central, and especially including the Parklands – I’ve never seen a metropolitan park system so extensive and so well cared for. It’s a miracle in this modern day and age, and Louisville citizens have every right to be proud of their parks.
Our little outing to Broad Run and the new Woodland Garden was a nice surprise. It was hot and humid, but under the canopy of trees it was pleasant. And the Garden! Fifteen acres, more than 47,000 new plantings, a spectacular limestone path throughout, years and millions of dollars in the making – it’s worth a visit, any time of year. It’s designed to have highlights in each season, so we intend to go back there often. Highly recommended.
Another big get-together for the long weekend was the obligatory Memorial Day picnic, which we held at Em and Greg’s place. The logistics of getting everyone there on time and pulling a meal together on time were daunting, but it all went well. Greg and I collaborated on some near-perfect smoked pork shoulder and others pitched in with side dishes.
For our anniversary dinner on Wednesday the 29th, Kathryn and I went to Decca and enjoyed a superb meal. The fresh PEI mussels and sauce were the highlight, but the whole meal, service and ambiance were great. It was a nice finish to our Louisville trip.