COLUMN: The Kentucky Bucket List


For those that don’t know, I pride myself on being a Kentucky woman.

Born and breaded in the Bluegrass, like a piece of fried Kentucky chicken that we are so well known for.

I grew up in Lexington, and eventually moved to Richmond for college, and my career post-graduation.

I have always loved Kentucky traditions — such as the horse racing, the bourbon and the historical significance riddled throughout the commonwealth.

This interest in all-things-Kentucky prompted me to purchase a book titled, ‘The Kentucky Bucket List’ by Michael Crisp several years ago.

The book is full of 100 things to do in the state to get the “full Kentucky experience,” and includes Kentucky staple activities such as attending the Derby, see the birthplace of Abe Lincoln and visiting Shaker Village.

There are several tasks included many Kentuckians have done as part of their tenure in the commonwealth. Drinking an Ale-8 (or Kentucky swamp water as it can be monikered), sing ‘My Old Kentucky Home,’ and drink moonshine from a mason jar, are all examples in the book.

However, there are some tasks which even I — having lived my whole life — have never achieved.

And that dear readers, is the purpose of this column. As of Monday, July 12, I have completed 20 tasks out of 100 listed.

My goal is to complete all 100.

Those I have completed include: drinking moonshine from a mason jar, singing the state song, attending a UK Basketball game, taking a picture of the Versailles Castle, enjoying the view at Natural Bridge, visiting Shaker Village, drinking an Ale-8-One, dressing up to go to Keeneland, spending the afternoon at Florence Mall, visiting the Mary Todd Lincoln House, eating beer cheese at Hall’s on the River, wearing a ‘Getting lucky in Kentucky’ t-shirt, camping at Red River Gorge, taking a ride on the Valley View Ferry, becoming a Kentucky Colonel, visiting Lake Herrington, making a mint julep, seeing a movie at the Kentucky Theatre, shooting a gun, and buying something a Kentuckian made.

While I have completed only 1/4th of the list, I still have a long way to go. Whenever I can, I plan to check off more of these adventures, share my experience with our readers, and aim for the “true Kentucky experience” as it has been described in this book.

Some of the activities are right here in our backyard in Richmond, and some stretch all over Eastern, Western and Northern areas of Kentucky.

Some are a bit pricier than others, too.

One “to-do” is right in Richmond which I hope to complete in August by attending The Battle of Richmond Civil War reenactment (No. 17 on the list: Watch a Civil War reenactment).

Other fun experiences which will take me across my old Kentucky home, includes seeing a political speech at Fancy Farm, riding the rails of My Old Kentucky Dinner train, scuba diving in the Falling Rock Quarry, and sharing silence with a monk at The Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven.

But before I can complete any new adventures, I thought I would share a memory and story of one such task I have already completed.

This memory is camping at the Red River Gorge, which also includes other items on the list such as drinking an Ale-8 and visiting Natural Bridge.

My first camping trip to the Gorge was with my father, Steve, who I have written about on this page several times before. We would go to bond after he and my mom’s divorce and I would always love to sit with him by the fire, while he cooked us what he called, “camping steaks.” He is an avid outdoorsman himself, and throughout the years would teach me how to repel, hike, backpack and car camp with our family.

I have countless memories of the trips we have taken here, there is only one that I am both embarrassed, and delighted, to share.

Two years ago, my cousin Tyler (also nicknamed T6 for his initials), came to visit from his now-home in New Zealand. He is a few years older than me. We decided to take a day trip to hike the Auxier Ridge Trail at the Gorge. It was hot, the air was sticky, and the trail was a doozy.

We parked, began our hike, and my cousin found a nice big walking stick to help him along the path.

It is this very walking stick which leads us to a hilarious story. Maybe a few yards in, my cousin appeared to have struck a yellow jacket’s nest while trekking.

We were walking, and all of a sudden, my cousin who was several feet ahead began to yell obscenities and swing his walking stick about as if he was Avatar the Last Airbender.

Having no idea what was going on, I snickered and kept close behind and moving forward.

That’s when I felt it — a sharp, burning sting right in between my legs. I ignored it for maybe a minute. Then, I began to feel more and more pain in the same area.

At this point, both of us were freaking out, swatting the air around us and running and screaming like two small children. We had stopped at one point, and I looked down shifting my athletic shorts only to see a yellow jacket right on the seam of my shorts.

I panicked, and immediately froze and thought, ‘What do I do?’ I considered throwing my shorts off and running to the car, but the pain was becoming so bad that I just swatted it and took off running with my cousin, Tyler.

Now I know, this was probably the worst idea in how we handled the situation by running and screaming in terror.

However, at the time, it was hilarious.

Once we escaped the wrath of the yellow jackets, we tried to address our multiple stings. Luckily for us, neither of us has a bee or hornet allergy.

The pain was intense.

With quick thinking, I remembered a wives tale that said if you take soaked nicotine dip and place it on the sting, it will stop the burning, and numb the area.

My cousin, who was born and raised in Texas with my uncle, has dipped since we were teenagers. I always gave him (and still do) flack for partaking in such a filthy habit and tried many tactics to get him to quit. Once when we were younger and in a cruel prank war, my sister and I mixed in a little bit of dirt into his dip.

He noticed it right away.

However, that hot summer day on the Auxier Ridge Trail, I was thankful for his dip habit.

I told him to pull out his dip, put it in his mouth and then place it on his burns. He looked at me like I was delusional. Miraculously, he listened to me and immediately felt relief. He passed the can to me, I put it in my mouth and proceeded to place them on my multiple stings.

Even more embarrassingly, a few girls found us moments later. They had picked up his phone which he had dropped while we were running and screaming. While it was painful, a bit gross, and ultimately hilarious — it’s a gorge memory I will never forget.

I hope to share more adventures, and funny stories and experiences with you, readers, as I attempt to check off each Kentucky Bucket List item.

To check out the book, visit


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