The following is an excerpt from a blog by Vacation of a Lifetime winner Michele Chandler. Be sure to check back for more snippets throughout the year.
Dog bowls, check; lots of dog towels, check; dog shampoo, just in case. Car loaded, chewy bones in the backseat, and somewhere in all of this our luggage made it in between the canine crate and Jameson’s travelling bag.
On a very cold day in March, Bob, Jameson and I started off for Ohio--our first stop of the “15 Inns in 15 days” tour courtesy of Select Registry. The weather forecast was dicey as snow streamers created whiteouts on the south shore of Lake Erie, but going slowly and determined to get south after a brutal winter, we made our way to Danville, Ohio.
An hour south of Erie we saw bare ground for the first time since December, and hoped there would be more places without snow at this time of year!
What was such fun about planning this “Trip of a Lifetime” was that the journey gave us the opportunity to visit places that had not been on our radar before.
As the sun set, we meandered slowly on the narrow Amish roads to The White Oak Inn -home of Ian, Yvonne and Dugald the big black Lab. Yvonne is also a member of the “Eight Broads” – Select Registry’s version of a Female Cordon Bleu brigade. She welcomed us with homemade lasagna, salad and our own BYO of Veuve Cliquot (the county is dry, so the White Oak cannot serve alcohol) to celebrate our first night on the road.
Ian joined us for a drink, and looked very perplexed at one point as we discussed the fact that 3 of 4 of us were from Toronto! When I described where we lived in the city, he raised his eyebrows and told us that he had worked at the now-defunct bakery on our street as a college student, and his grandmother had been the head cake decorator, including special orders for Queen Elizabeth when she visited Canada. This was an ultimate small-world story.
At breakfast Yvonne presented us with a plush-toy moose, promptly named “CJ”-- short for comfort and joy (and the tagline for www.theartofpudding.com). CJ is now our travelling totem for the Select Registry year on the road.
In bright sunshine hinting that spring really could be around the corner, we drove southeast into Hocking Hills State Park. The terrain morphed from undulating farm country into curving, forested roads as we approached The Inn at Cedar Falls. The vast property is right in the middle of the park, with easy access to wonderful hiking. Jameson was thrilled that he would be able to explore spring smells coming to life on the trails.
A short, but slippery walk took us down to the Falls themselves where it was like another world! Stratified rock deposits and a solid spring run-off made for magic in the valley. Jameson made friends, played with dogs, and returned to the car filthy but happy. The weather was nice enough for us to give him an outdoor bath, and leave him to dry on our cabin deck while we all enjoying the setting sun over the park.
At breakfast we had the pleasure of meeting proprietors, Ellen and Terry. Ellen’s enthusiasm and joie de vivre definitely adds to the spirit of the Inn. In the gorgeous wood-chinked dining facility we chatted about the area, the hikes we missed (and want to come back for) and the lack of cell service! Ellen generously gave us a baseball hat with the slogan, “Hiked it and Liked it” and I snuck some of the wonderful homemade granola into my luggage. Hugs and waves sent us out of the park in sunshine, and to points southeast.
It was hard for me to pass any antiquing opportunities while on the road. The route from southeast Ohio to Versailles, Kentucky definitely served up ample stopping locations along the way, but we had an end-game destination; Woodford Distillery on the Bourbon trail. Racing against the clock, we made the last tour of the historic spirit-maker. A great tour, a wonderful product, and the opportunity to talk to “Bourbon Bill” who quietly sat in the corner of the distillery shop, providing extra knowledge to those that probed further.
With a bottle of double-oaked Reserve, we drove via the back roads through horse country to the stately Storybook Inn. Elise, the elegant and lovely proprietor showed us through the beautiful property, to our aptly named suite “Gone with the Wind”. The gorgeous room with sumptuous colours and textures, made you feel like you had stepped back in time. Elise is passionate about her property, and toured us through the Inn’s other movie-themed rooms, where no expense or detail has been spared.
Jameson was looking very comfy here, except for the uber-friendly house cat who only wanted to make friends. Unfortunately our Wheaton’s previous experience with cats had been antagonistic, and he had other ideas. Quickly whisked into the car, Jameson looked longingly at the pretty little black and white feline who happily purred around our ankles as we chatted on the porch.
Please visit Michele's personal blog to read the rest of the family's 15-inn-in-15-day adventure! Click here for the blog.