gin and tacos: The Maker's Mark Trip
Act One: The Drinking at Bloomington

Ed had invited Mike and myself to celebrate his girlfriend's birthday party with a night of imbibing at their college in Bloomington, Indiana. Now I am in Champaign, and Mike lives in Chicago, so it seemed an epic journey we typically would be too lazy in which to involve ourselves. We realized that the only sensible way to engage in such a pursuit would be To, in this order:

So, being sensible people, a red Ford Mustang was rented from the fine people at Hertz in Schaumburg which was then driven to Champaign.

The weekend thus began.

Now, one must understand that when renting a convertible from the fine people at Hertz in Schaumburg, there must be a couple ground rules. Paramount is the top never going up. Although this may not seem problematic, as it was pleasant and sunny during the day, it can be very cold and windy in a red Ford Mustang convertible at night. Secondary is that Ed remain ignorant to the plan. He would soon learn that a convertible was rented and that I was in it. When we got there (he was told Mike's crap car would be in attendance and that I was ditching out, both reasonable conclusions). Finally, Ed would not find out until Saturday morning that we all had to go to Kentucky. He would be given 5 minutes to either get in the car and leave or stay at home and be taunted for years to come. This is often referred to as a "little bitch trump card."

So we arrive in Bloomington. Ed is told that there was an emergency- which given us being about 2 1/2 hours late made sense. He agreed to meet us outside the bar, everything was going to plan. We then 'rolled up' on him blaring D.V.D.A.'s ORGASMO soundtrack opus, "Now Your A Man." It took him a minute to come to the realization that we were not two random jackasses in a convertible- or perhaps he never came to the conclusion, the details get a bit fuzzy here.

Being her birthday, Ed's girlfriend had already drank enough alcohol to numb a small horse or possibly a pony (we assume anyway, we hope she was not that drunk after like three drinks) - we got her several more. The first bar we were at instills fear in all those who actually go to bars- you have to wait in line in order to get drinks. Picture this again; there is a bar, with bartenders and seats. However if you sit in the seats, the bartenders will ignore you until you queue up into the single-file line and wait your turn. This is how you buy groceries or get on a roller-coaster or take pre-schoolers to use the bathroom; it's absurd in a bar. If only because there's no incentive to tip - it won't get you further into the single-file line! There is something intrinsically sadistic about making drunk bar patrons line up in an orderly fashion to get served state fair or NASCAR race style.

It was the tail-end of a bar crawl, so we all proceeded to go to a bar called Yogi's. The name says it all. Ed's girlfriend heroically made it to the parking lot (assist credited to a top-down red Ford Mustang convertible and very loud Blue Oyster Cult) where the evening was to end for her. Presumably the people who took her home were friends. The three of us and a few remaining hardcore bar crawlers made it into Yogi's.

Yes, we know. It's a sports bar. It's a Big Ten sports bar at that. These facts alone should give you a sense of how much we needed a drink. Left with little recourse, we remained there for the rest of the evening (the next closest bar was hosting a 'hot bod' contest this was our situation). Plus they had bar trivia, which immediately makes a bad bar a decent bar.

Shadiness henceforth began proceeded. Everything was going basically as it would at any other bar around the country named Yogis. We consumed alcoholic beverages. Mike had a substantial number of dirty martinis, Ed drank Tom Collins and I had my usual, Irish Whiskey with a cheap domestic beer chaser. We ate chicken wings, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Honestly, Ed, Mike and I had been together for several hours at this point an had not eaten any offensive food items- that just couldn't stand.

It was past bar time and we wanted another round of drinks for several people at the bar. The bartender, below, said he couldn't serve us. We were floored! What manner of big ten school is this? We felt we had not choice, we began offering him bribes. The amount began increasing it reached $85. He agreed. Mike realized that we had bid up waaaaay too much for a shitty round of drinks and took back his offer. I am told that at this point I could be quoted as saying: "where is your cash machine?" I came back 3 minutes later with $85 cash, only to be foiled when this "bartender" realizing we had called his bluff retracted his offer. Mike and I were under the impression that we were engaged in honest business dealing. We made and offer and he countered until we found agreed. Apparently this tender of bars does not understand the concept of a gentleman's agreement.

We win, as we didn't pay that insane amount, and made him into a bitch for not taking the money. I believe Mike and I were motivated by the belief that Bloomington Indiana has no quality drinking establishments. In a haze of whiskey and gin we felt it our obligation at that point to make our opinions clear on the issue.


Mike and I woke Ed up at around 10am. We had a bit of trouble figuring out where exactly he passed out. Much like when you put your shoes in the closet or hang up your coat, the last place we thought to look was at his house. Somehow we knew where his girlfriend lived, woke her up absurdly early, she directed us to Ed. We gave her and Ed approximately 2 minutes to discuss, presumably, how exceptionally hungover she was before explaining to Ed that his and his families dignity was on the line should he not immediately extricate himself from bed and drive to Kentucky with us.

He made the correct decision.

Ed decided that MapQuest was run by a bunch of straight-edge pansies and they did not really know how to get to the Maker's Mark distillery. He took us on, what we can only assume was "a short-cut" that took us through rural Indiana. The use of the word rural in this context does not really have any meaning to those who have not actually experienced it. I live in Champaign, IL, this was rural the likes of which I have never seen before. This drive made southern Missouri look like a cosmopolitan urban area. I can't express to you how many times we drove past a trailer with a bunch of shit in the front yard and a man in overalls sitting on the porch, it quickly became clear that we were not amongst friends. Our only protection was the fact that I honestly believe they were all envious of our bitchin' convertible.

We passed by "English, Indiana" (you can imagine the taunting of immigrants with "hey, what do you think we speak around here?") among other small towns. There was a White Castle factory, which is approximately one and a half times cooler than the idea of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory (I'm still dreaming of oompa-loompas carrying trays of diced onions).

We did our driving on September 11th, 2004. Despite the fact that we were driving the most patriotic of American convertibles, the significance of the day did not occur to us. This, of course, did not hold true for most of rural Indiana and Kentucky. There was a small bar/venue that had a sign advertising "9/11 Revue." I have absolutely no idea what that would be, although for some reason I picture Billy-Bob dressed as George Bush holding a flag a top a pile of rubble. There was a street faire where, even from blocks away, we could see tables with piles and piles of patriotic t-shirts. When did September 11th become occasion for having a street festival- we can only assume that Bachman Turner Overdrive was playing somewhere nearby.

Forgetting that we lost an hour to eastern time, we did not have the time to stop.

However, being three guys in our 20s driving a rented red convertible across state lines, this did not stop us from pulling over to eat. We stopped at a diner that looked like it was out of the apocalypse. It was attached to an abandoned gas station, the people inside were speaking a language that was some dialect of gibberish, and the bathroom looked like a stray cruise missile hit it. Notice in the picture that the video slot machine is called "video redemption" - sadly no religious intervention was possible in this desolate place. The jukebox was entirely filled with country excepting "Dookie" by Greenday- seeing as that we had quarters the patrons had no choice but to listen to Longview.

Ed ate a plate of biscuits and gravy and some Krispy Kreme donuts, Mike ate the "mexican omelet", I consumed a ham and cheese omelets and some potatoes of some sort. This will now be the last time I ever mention the fact that the Tabasco sauce seemed to bleach the "cheese."

Much to our shock, we made it to the maker's mark distillery. To remind you of the scene, we had recently realized that we were on Eastern time. We had lost an hour, and were already running late. The last tour started at 3:30. Ed, piloted the convertible at such shocking rates of speed on small country roads that Mike and I were certain that we were either going to die, or we were going to kill something.

If you have never seen a crazed man in search of a whiskey tour, now is your chance.

We thought that Ed had risked occasionally going twice the legal limit for speed from no reason when we came across stopped traffic in the middle of fucking nowhere.

Originally we thought there was some kind of construction or something. This situation became further confused when after being allowed through there seemed to be no reason at all for traffic to ever have been stopped. These facts seemed to further cement Ed's determination whose speed increased- on one occasion passing 4 cars and a tractor in one go in a no-cross zone.

The more-thrills-than-an-amusement-park-ride trip to the distillery ended dramatically with Mike jumping from the back of the convertible to hold the tour...I think we ended up being several minutes early.

The picturesque tranquility of the Star Hill Farm where Maker's Mark whisky is distilled calmed our nerves. However, upon learning that the actual part of the distillery where the whisky is distilled was closed, we were once again somewhat agitated. This is not to say that there was no excitement to be had.

One important point to note is the development of intense sunburns by this point in the journey. Remember, although it is a car, convertibles have no top. Hence, you are still susceptible to the sun's damaging rays. The staff now recommends the use of sunscreen, or at least a visor when operating a red Ford Mustang convertible.

The staff of assumes that you have consumed alcoholic beverages before. If not, we will assume that you found that website somehow by accident, while searching for the Christian Coalition or gay donkey porn or something else similar. Either way, you should understand that is it quality whisky (note they don't use the "e") and the bottle is dipped in red wax. After the tour we compensated for not getting to see the actual still by shopping extensively in the gift shop. For any whisky drinker, the thrill of getting to dip your own bottle of Maker's Mark in the trademarked red wax transcends description. However, much like every time in the past when someone has said something transcends description, I will now attempt to describe it.

The woman sold me a bottle of Maker's Mark to dip. If you have never had it, there is a tab that comes out of the wax so that you can remove a strip of wax to take the cap off. The woman asked me whether I ever intended to drink it, if so she would place the tab out. I was appalled and confused. Apparently my face was enough to tell her my answer. I had to put on an apron and protective gloves. Never had I paid so much attention to direction than when I was told to dip turn twice and set it down. Looking into the hot, swirling red wax was a strange poetic experience. As I dipped the bottle, my heart skipped at beat and in a second it was done.

We enjoyed ourselves


Much like the watched pot never boiling, it always seems that the trip home seems to take a lot longer. In our case I think that this was in fact literally true. Needless to say, none of us really took in any landmarks or directions on the way there. We had clearly exceeded the speed limit. So, to make a long story short we end up on the wrong road. On realizing this, Ed's response was, "It will be okay." I suppose in a manner of speaking it was perfectly okay.

After covering a large number of miles going in some unknown direction (I think we might have been navigating by the sun) and seeing a large number of street festivals and patriotic t-shirts, we decided that it would probably be in our best interests in stop for directions. While in the gas station, I was kind of frustrated by the fact that Ed had told me that continuing to drive down the wrong road was "okay." I proposed to Mike that he and I purchase gas station microwaveable rib sandwiches, which I knew would offend Ed's sensibilities. Mike upped the ante when he suggested that he buy a gas station egg roll.

Not to be outdone I purchased something called a pickled sausage. Please, I beg you, if you listen to one thing written on in your entire life, do not. I repeat DO NOT EVER attempt to eat a pickled sausage.

Luckily this gas station had something other than ancient egg rolls, fried chicken, and pickled sausages. They had a man named Cooter. Yes, that's right, his name was Cooter. While in the gas station I heard the attendant yell across the room "hey Cooter, get over here." I looked up simply because I could not believe what I had just heard. I was actually in a part of the world where people are named Cooter. This is not just something that happens in movies, at fraternities, or on the Dukes of Hazzard.

he did actually look a bit like this

This man was, in fact, named Cooter. (Can you tell that I was a bit amazed by this?)

It was not until later when I was back in the convertible that I realized that Cooter was our savior. He had given us directions to the highway that would lead us out of Kentucky (which of course were only partially followed).

By comparison, the rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. Lets see what was left to happen:

Yeah, at some point on Sunday Mike woke up and took the Mustang back to Chicago, where presumably he treated his sunburn and slept.

Posted by Son of Cooter on September 21st, 2004 1:06 PM | Post comments here for the maker's mark trip