Indiana, Kentucky, Where We've Been

Churchill Downs, Toyota, Lincoln Boyhood Home, Santa Claus

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Churchill Downs

Churchill Downs – where people go to enjoy watching horses race, placing their bets, and wearing their favorite stylish hats.

There wasn’t a race the day we went, so we just took the tour instead. They have a museum where you can learn about the Kentucky Derby and the world’s fastest race horse, Secretariat. 

There’s never been a horse like Secretariat since he won the Kentucky Derby in 1973. After he died, they did a post mortem on him and found that his heart weighed an stunning 22lbs! To give you context, the typical horse’s heart only weighs around 8.5lbs. Many of the horses raced at the Derby today are the grandkids of Secretariat, but none of them have had the size of Secretariat’s heart. I believe the largest they have found a grandchild horse to have was around 18lbs. 

They made a movie about Secretariat if you’re interested in watching more about him.

Did you know that the man who began Churchilll Downs was named Meriweather Lewis Clark Jr? Turns out he was the grandson of the famous explorer, William Clark. Go figure!

Inside the museum, you can try your hand at racing in the derby. It’s incredible how tight the regulations are for being a jockey. They can’t be above or below 125lbs in weight on the day of the race. That’s including all their gear!

Ellie mounted a horse at the starting gate. She has a few more pounds to gain before she could qualify for being a jockey.

These stands are filled on race day with the lower stands costing less then the higher stands and those that are closer to the finish line with the highest price at the track.

Our tour guide said that at one time a spectator had placed a $2 bet on a horse that had 91:1 odds. That day, he walked home with $182 in his pocket. Not a bad deal!


Toyota has several manufacturing plants across the U.S. 

The one we visited in western Indiana makes Highlanders and Siennas. They wouldn’t let us take pictures on the tour, so I’ll do my best to tell you what we saw.

In the main lobby, they had a pulled apart car. I’m actually not sure what this car was supposed to be, but it looks like it could be a pickup. It’s very similar to the way they pulled apart that old car in the Henry Ford museum.

The new Toyota Highlander was on display. We had a Toyota Highlander just before getting the pickup and starting this adventure, but it was an older 2012. I’m sure there’s been some improvements since then.

Alright, so onto the tour.

We watched a movie about the Toyotas made at the plant before loading into a couple of small tram cars. We were given headphones and safety goggles to wear and told not to stick our heads or arms outside of the car, for safety reasons, which became apart later.

 The inside of the factory was run like a little city. It was laid out in blocks with small lanes of two way traffic busily moving between each of the work stations.

The cars’s frames were being welded by robotic arms, with supervisors moving in between each work block overseeing their work. The robotic arms would move each piece into position, make a weld and move it onto the next position. Their work seemed perfected and refined. 

Now what was very intuitive here was that the robot’s had their own music they would play. It wasn’t for relaxation, but it was for conveying messages. The song sthat were being played told the managers what was happening at any moment. The managers are familiar with what each tune means and are able to figure out what the robots are communicating. This way they don’t need to hear annoying beeps, or watch for error codes. 

Once the frame was in place and the car started to take shape, it was lifted onto a line where it wouldn’t touch the ground again until it was nearly complete.

From here the doors were constructed and attached, then on to be painted. From this point, they actually removed the doors. Why would they do that? It was to prevent scratches and dings as it went through the line. 

Now they could add the interior, dash, panels, seats, carpeting, and wiring. The engine was brought up into place and held with only 4 bolts. (More bolting later as it went down the line.)

All the components were put into place one by one. There were more human workers at this point making there way up and down the line as each car passed by. Each of these cars had a build order because they were being made to spec. Each of these cars had already been sold, before even being put on the line. The workers would read the build order and drop in whatever components were required at their stations.

Now what’s really neat are the zip codes. As I said earlier, this plant was designed as a city and every city needs zip codes to deliver the mail. If a department needed parts, they would put in the request and the mailman would pick up the parts and deliver it to the zip code location.

At the end of the tour, we saw them add their first few gallons of gas into the newly finished cars. They rolled off the line for their first mile on the odometer and out the door.

If you ever get a chance to tour a Toyota facility, do it!

Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home

Abraham Lincoln was born in Kentucky, raised in Indiana, and lived in Illinois as an adult. This was a stop to his boyhood home in Indiana where he and his brother and sister were raised.

The cabin no longer exists, but they did find its foundation walls and reconstructed the outline where it once stood. The cabin was small for five people, especially for the growing boy who would become a tall 6’4″ man.

On the site they’ve recreated a few cabins to understand the farm life at the time.

Just down the hill was a well where Lincoln would be asked by his mother to fetch some water.

Nancy Lincoln, the children’s mother, died of milk sickness at only 35 years old. A cow had eaten a toxic plant and Nancy had drunk its milk. She passed away when Abraham was a very young boy.

A train came by as we were leaving. Just a rural passing in the woods, no gates or levels, just a sign that let people know of the danger to stay off the tracks if one should come by. I don’t believe this would have been here when the Lincoln’s lived here.

Santa Claus

Did you know that there’s a town named Santa Claus? Well there is and kids who write to this address at Christmas time will get their letters answered by volunteers nearby and returned to this post office to be sent back to the kids with the official Santa Claus post office mark on them.

Next door was a cute little Christmas store that we had to stop and take a look at too. 

They had every kind of Santa and Christmas decoration you could think of – fudge, hot chocolate, and cookies sold inside too!



Charlestown State Park

Charlestown State Park was a last minute campsite that ended up having plenty of room. The sites are spaced out with some tree cover.

It is back a few miles from the entrance of the state park, but not too difficult to find. Check-in was at the entrance building, just pull up and tell them your name and site number and they’ll give you a window hanger and map to your site.

There was a bathhouse nearby that was in decent shape. We had full hookups with no issues. No problems with low branches or access for our big rig.

We got 9 down/10 up on Starlink. 3 bars on the Verizon phones and 5 bars with the cell antenna (35/8). AT&T was 5 bars with the cell antenna (24/7).