Saturday, December 23, 2006

Andre's American Chronicles - December 2006

Bluegrass Airport, Lexington, KY. Monday, November 27, 2006, 6:51 AM EST.

A half-sun is poking over the horizon as my Continental flight lifts off from Bluegrass Airport, Lexington, KY. Another Monday morning, and I am taking another trip to Monterrey, Mexico. Since we moved all production to the Mexican plant my sky miles account have increased at a much faster rate than I would have liked. It's not that I don't like to travel, on the contrary, but I prefer to travel to places more exotic than Monterrey and with the knowledge that when I get to my destination I will be experiencing new vistas and be in a vacation frame of mind, instead of addressing issues and holding project and departmental meetings. Big difference!

It has been a long time since I last produced a newsletter. The last time was December 2004. And that was nearly 2 years after the previous one. Looks like I turned into a 2-year-newsletter-man. But then, are there really that much happening in my life that I can produce newsletter on a monthly basis? I don't think so. It is pretty much "life" as usual for all of us. However, enough happened to fill at least one newsletter.

Somewhere over Texas, Monday, November 27, 2006, 7:154 AM CST

An hour and a half into my flight, and the Texan landscape below me looked as if it was transformed into the Siberian tundra, not that I would know what that looked like from the air because I have never been to Russia. A thick mist has settled all over the land and from the air it looks like the earth is frozen solid into a grey-blue haze. In the low lying valleys where the mist is thicker it appears like freshly fallen grey-white snow, not yet frozen into ice.

US Citizenship

In February 2005 we started our applications for US citizenship. The process ends for us in September when, at a ceremony in Cincinnati, Monica, Lamar and I became US citizens. Prior to that we also applied and received approval to remain citizens of South Africa under the new law in South Africa whereby dual citizenship is allowed. Our other son has not yet completed the processes. We applied for him, but he was in the US Army when we did our fingerprinting and citizenship tests and the military would not allow him leave to come to Louisville. He will have to complete the process at another time seeing that he has since then completed his stint in the Army without taking up citizenship.
Monica even made it to the local newspaper when co-workers surprised her with a party to celebrate obtaining her citizenship.

Monterrey, Mexico. Sunday, December 3, 2006. 10:00 AM.
Today was the day for exploration, alas, it's pouring with rain. The plan was to take a day trip out to Obispado Mission on the opposite side from Monterrey where I am staying. When it rains in Monterrey it is best to stay of the roads because the roads turn to rivers. So I will be staying in the hotel room, how exiting, and work on my blog.

Traveling America.......and beyond... (Tales from the happy bus...)

The Bourbon Trail.

Although Kentucky is mostly "dry", meaning no liquor sales, especially in the southern and eastern parts of the state, it is nevertheless bourbon country. Bourbon is America's native spirit. Bourbon is a form of whisky, but where whisky is mostly made from rye, Bourbon is distilled from corn. A last comment: In 1964, a congressional resolution protected the term "Bourbon" and only since then has the product been defined. So you can call it bourbon if the basic elements are met: It must be a minimum of two years old, distilled fewer than 160 proof, and be made from a mash of at least 51% corn, and it must be aged in charred new oak barrels (which gives it that distinctive light caramel color.)

99% of Bourbon Whisky comes from Kentucky. Most consider the unique limestone spring water found in Kentucky the only water with that "just right" combination of minerals suitable enough for the finest Bourbons. I find it so hypocritical that in a state that produces and consumes such a high percentage of Bourbon, one cannot "import" any liquor into Kentucky. For example, it is illegal to go on the Internet and buy any wines and ship it into the state. One can only buy liquor in selected cities or counties where the people voted to be "wet" or in the case of Danville "moist", sales of liquor is only allowed in restaurants by the glass and only if the restaurant comply to certain rules.

One day during this summer Monica and I decided to explore
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail, specifically Makers Mark Distillery. We wanted to make this a whole day affair so we took a roundabout way to get to Loretto, KY, the home town of Makers Mark Bourbon, on Kentucky byways seldom traveled by us. But by taking these byways one gets to see the real beauty of the countryside. From Danville we took the US150 West through the historic town of Perryville and after the small town of Springfield we turn onto the US152 West to Loretto and from there a short ride on the US49 to Makers Mark. Once there we took a distillery tour, which takes you through all the different processes of making Bourbon. Most of the buildings dated back to the nineteenth century and the tour was worthwhile and actually very interesting. The lasting memory is the smells inside the Barrel Warehouse. At the end of the tour we bought some Bourbon-flavored chocolates and I bought a bottle of Bourbon, which I dipped and sealed in wax myself and I put on my own side label. We continue our circular tour by stopping at the town of Lebanon for lunch. We then followed the scenic byway US68 towards Perryville, but turned onto the US34 East, through the small towns of Mitchellsburg and Parksville until we get to the US127 at Danville again. There are several other distilleries in our area, like Jim Bean, Four Roses and Wild Turkey, and maybe we will visit some of them in the future.

For more travels:

New York, New York

London, UK

Chicago: My Kind of Town

Monterrey, Mexico. Wednesday, December 6, 2006. 7:10 AM.

Walking out of the Holiday Inn La Fe, the morning is crisp and clear as only Monterrey mornings can be. I love Monterrey mornings. The air smells clean, the sky is usually that beautiful blue that can only be described as sky-blue. And one can clearly see the surrounding mountains. But by 10:00 AM the crispness will be gone, replaced by haze, heat and the ever present white dust that seems to be everywhere.

Driving west on Avenue Ididoro Sipulveda the moon is hanging low and ‘shines’ brightly in front of me. Behind me the sun is spewing out its first intense rays of golden light as it clears the eastern horizon and brightens the rear window of my rented car. Two mythical titans in opposing ends of our universe, doing what they do everyday, providing us with light, and warmth, and a sense of comfort, and down here on earth we are doing what we have to do to live and survive.

Kentucky Vineyards

As tobacco subsidies disappear, farmers are looking for other cash crops and grapes for wine making have become an option. Nearly 150 start-up vineyards are now in Kentucky. But vineyards are not new to Kentucky - Kentucky was one of the top-three grape states before the Prohibition period (1920 – 1933), with winemaking traditions dating back to the 18th century, when Jean Jacques Dufour in 1798 planted the first vines next to the Kentucky River near Lexington.

One thing I have always done when I visited South Africa was to go on a winelands tour in Stellenbosch, Franchhoek or the Paarl. So it is not strange that I would seek out wineries in the Bluegrass. Now I had Kentucky-made wines before and I can't say I was very impressed by it, but I was willing to give it another try. There are several wineries around us, and although many of them make their wines from the not so well known cultivars, but, understandably, from cultivars that adapts better to the climate and local soil structure. Near Nicholasville is the Chrisman Mill Vineyards (their whites are mainly based on Vidal Blanc and their red a combination of Cabernet, Chambourcin and Niagara). Just outside of Lexington is Talon Winery, more famous for their music events and picnic days than their wines, which are rather expensive. On the edge of Danville is the Chateau du Vieux Corbeau Winery, which uses white and red French-Hybrid grapes for its wines (too fruity for me.) Just outside Midway, KY is the Equus Run Vineyard. The day we were there, there was a jazz band playing outside the tasting room and people were picnicking on the grass. It has actually a very nice setting for group picnicking and good music. (Several of the vineyards have frequent music concerts to boost sales and visits to the vineyards.) I bought a bottle of Vidal Blanc, crisp and fruity, and a bottle of Merlot, which I would give a low 80 on the Wine Spectator chart. My take on Kentucky wines and the vineyards: Their wines still have to go a long way to be really comparable with California wines and the wines are far too expensive compare to the quality.

Monterrey International Airport, Mexico. Friday, December 8, 2006. 8:55 AM.

It is raining again. After taking a bus to the plane and slowly boarding the steps while it is pouring its time for lift off. The airport buildings are flashing by, roads silvery and wet. Within seconds we are into the low hanging clouds and the land below is obscured. Gone! So quickly! I spent two weeks of my life here and I feel like I achieved nothing, but work, work and more work. From a business prospective projects have gone lived, management decisions have been made, etc., but personally I feel empty, like I lost two weeks of my life. Nothing significant really happened and within seconds the past two weeks have disappear into the clouds with the plane.

As we get closer to Houston most of the clouds fade away. The captain tells us Houston is partly cloudy and 34 ºF / 1 ºC. Nice weather compare to Danville where I’m heading and where the morning temperature was 9 ºF / -12 ºC. At least the reception at home will be warm. It will be good to be back again!

Garden 2006

This year our garden was at its best. Hard work of the past 6 years paid off at last. Here are some pictures.

Window boxes in the front...a la Switzerland.
Entrance to the backyard.

Backyard. The picture was taken late spring of this bed containing late summer flowers.

Garden paths.


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