Lexington, Kentucky, is the self-styled horse capital of the world-the laid-back city where many of the planet's most mettlesome hayburners change hands for mountains of money. We had 469 prancing German ponies at our disposal as the long-striding Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG wagon cantered northeastward along State Highway 68 at the start of this 180-mile drive. Undulating like the long, lazy swell on a great green ocean, the road crosses a landscape where the white-fenced, stone-walled farms are as perfectly groomed as the prosperous Bluegrass region's finest thoroughbreds.
Visit the historic Duncan Tavern in Paris-the sleepy old town is ever so slightly smaller than its French namesake-and salute Revolutionary War heroes at Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park. Among those who fought the British and their allies here in 1782 was Daniel Boone, the legendary frontiersman whose name appears on the park's memorial. Cruise through Fleming County, famous for picturesque covered bridges, and briefly leave the main road to enjoy historic Washington before swooping and sweeping down to Maysville on the broad Ohio River's southern bank. Much of the town's long, colorful history is illustrated on murals in the French Quarter Inn's parking lot, a stone's throw from the bridge.
Our route turns north after sixty riverside miles, but you can continue upstream for a few minutes to see the fabulous floodwall murals in Portsmouth. Painted between 1993 and 2000, they describe a span of more than 2000 years.
The Mercedes ran parallel to the Scioto River before joining scenic Route 772 near Jasper. This entertaining road romps over low hills and flicks through several challenging corners before reaching journey's end in Chillicothe, once Ohio's state capital. Route 772 also passes within a few miles of a little town whose whimsical name, Knockemstiff, is said to be a tribute to the potency of the local moonshine.
Marriott's Griffin Gate Resort, Lexington, Kentucky (859-231-5100; www.marriott.com). A welcoming resort hotel.
French Quarter Inn, Maysville, Kentucky (606-564-8000; www. frenchquarterinn.com). Handsome riverside property.
Hampton Inn and Suites, Chillicothe, Ohio (740-773- 1616; www. christopherhotels.com). The best bet in a town lacking hotels.
Do visit the 1200-acre Kentucky Horse Park (859-233-4303; www.kyhorsepark.com) before leaving Lexington.
Do allow time to explore Portsmouth's historic Boneyfiddle district.
Don't fail to relax over a Kentucky bourbon at the end of the day.
Eat & drink
Sal's Chophouse, Lexington, Kentucky (859-269-9922; www.salsrestaurant. com). Deservedly popular, with entrees from seven dollars. Specialties include tortellini carbonara.
Tippedore's, Maysville, Kentucky (606- 564-8000; www.frenchquarterinn.com). Good, affordable fare.
Italian Garden, Chillicothe, Ohio (740-773-2100). The city's newest restaurant is close to the Hampton Inn and Suites.
Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-845-3959; www.visitlex.com).
Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism (614-466-8844; www.ohiotourism.com).
Along the Ohio, Andrew Borowiec, Johns Hopkins University Press.
What we droveIt may not be the world's most capacious wagon, but the V-8 engine's 469 hp and 569 lb-ft of torque make the Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG hard to beat as a high-speed holdall. We traveled in seven-passenger mode, but a few saddles or a bale of hay would have been appropriate in the Bluegrass country near Lexington.