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How I Got Home From Derby: Tales of Louisville's Toughest Task

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Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Getting home after the Kentucky Derby is hard. Even if you've managed to keep track of the people you started the day with (a task more difficult than actually making money at Churchill on Derby Day), and even if you have a suitable vehicle within walking distance, there's a good chance that none of you are sober enough to get behind the wheel. Toss in the fact that cabs are few and far between, and that the Tarc will take you to Churchill Downs but it won't take you home, and suddenly you have yourself a massive issue.

The result of all this is that year after year hoards of drunk people are left scrambling to find a way to either get home or get somewhere else to keep their evenings going. This leads to some stellar stories, stories which we asked you to submit earlier this week.

Here are some of the best of those submissions.

The Train Hopper

So our good buddy (Redacted, we can call him "Dave M") got real real blacked out about 5 years ago -- the year we got a solid rain and the infield was slop.  He got hammered and was mud sliding and mud wrestling in the infield. The usual. 

At the time, his house was off Eastern Parkway by Manual Stadium. Dave decides the best route home after Derby is to hop on the train outside of Papa Johns/Churchill Downs and take it to Crittenden Drive. As it picks up steam, he freaks out a little, hops off and jumps into the pile of rocks on the side of the train tracks. Cars coming home from Derby that are stopped at the tracks because of the train are then privileged enough to see some drunken idiot covered in dry mud and now blood who just hopped off a moving train.

Dave proceeds to walk to the Dairy Kastle and order food, where a van with church ladies offers him a ride home to his house 4 blocks away. He showers and then heads back out for the rest of the night.

Limo-Bombing Warren Moon

We walk out of Churchill, we have no car (no one can drive anyway), and we have no plan. A friend, knowing this, decides to simply hop in a limousine with an open door and no one around it. No one else has the stones to follow him, but we all wait to see how it plays out so we just stand there waiting. About two or three minutes later, Warren Moon and an entourage get in the limo. About five seconds after that, our friend gets out of the limo. I still can't really remember how we ended up getting home. Sorry.

The Sleepy Cabbie

One year (embarrassingly not too long ago), a group of friends and I went out to Bardstown Rd after Derby. About 5 a.m. we decide to call it a night and hail a cab. Everyone and their brother is obviously out that night and it's no easy feat.

We begin to walk/stumble down Bardstown from O'shea's until we see a cab to grab. We finally catch one around Grinstead but the guy says no, he's heading home. Money talks though, and we tell him we live close because he was headed home in the Bashford Manor area, and so he starts to take us home to St Matthews. Halfway home we look over and our driver is asleep at the wheel. We shout and he wakes up. No idea if he made it home after dropping us off. Hope he did.

The Abandoned Out-of-Towner

This one isn't about me but about one of my buddies named "Kyle." It was a year after I graduated from UofL in 2000. Me moving back home to Jasper, IN (about an 1 hour 15 minutes from the Ville), I couldn't let go of my Derby fever as I went to every one except my freshman year while I was in school. 

So I got one of my good friends, Paul to charter a bus down to Churchill that race day morning. Got about 35 people to go on the bus which turned into a booze cruise if you know what I mean. Even got Paul to do a bit of narrating when we got close to the track. Such scenery there so he just had to capture. 

Our bus was one of many in the parking lot but I told the crew to meet back at least an 1 hour after the derby race. Everybody went in and of course we did our best sneak jobs regarding the alcohol. The best one of the group was a couple guys drilled a hole in the cooler lid and filled it up with whiskey. Duct taped around it and good to go. We got to the infield and boy did everyone have a good time. Majority of the crew were Derby Virgins so it was something to see for their eyes the first time. 

After the race everybody made it back except for 2 people. Cell phones were kind of hit and miss back then. Well our buddies Nick and Kyle were not heard of or seen. We waited about 2 1/2 hours for them and no signs. We took a group vote on leaving and it was unanimous and we headed out. We were one of the last to leave the parking lot. As we were pulling out near the exit there was Nick. Got in the bus and gave everyone hugs as he thought for sure he was going to be left. We asked if he saw Kyle, but no sign. 

So we proceeded back to Jasper and got back to the bar Headquarters from where we left that morning. About an hour later here comes Kyle into the bar with a hero entrance. We couldn't believe it. How did he get back? Well he said he got lost after the Derby Race and ended up going out of the track near turn 3 instead of 1 where all the buses were. By the time he got to the bus parking lot, the last bus was heading out. So he proceeded to find a payphone to call his girlfriend. Her and her dad wound up driving all the way down to Louisville to pick him up. Had to have been an interesting drive home. 

But he wasn't mad at us. Just drank a bit too much and got lost.

The Abandoned Louisvillian

In 1987, before cell phones, I was living and working in Michigan and had to be back on Sunday afternoon for a Pistons playoff game.  But just because I moved and had work commitments didn't mean that I'd miss Derby or not have my old college friends crash at my parents house.

After the Derby we're walking back to our car one of the dudes I'm with thought he saw an RV of another friend and wanted to go say hi.  We told the moron to 'stay with us,' which he promptly disregarded.  We waited at our car for an hour, sent 2 guys out searching up and down the streets, but never saw him again. Eventually, we had no choice but go back to my parents house. After partying Oaks Night and all day Derby Day, I have to get up at 5 a.m. and drive 6 hours to be at the Silverdome for a 1 p.m. tipoff, so I go to bed early that night.

At 11 p.m., the phone rings at my parents house. Of course, it is the dude who disappeared after Derby and he wants to know how to get to my parents place. Apparently when he got lost he decided to hitchhike and caught a ride.  It wasn't until the driver went over a bridge that this friend started to realize that maybe he was headed in the wrong direction, but the guy he was riding with was 'weird' and so he didn't say anything.  About a 1/2 hour later when they stopped for gas he got out.

It took him forever, and I still don't know how he remembered my dad's first name, but eventually he got our phone number from information.  He had no idea where he was but he wanted us to come get him. It turned out he was about an hour deep into Indiana.  Our other friends were out partying still, but since I stayed in to get much needed rest, my brother and I had to go find this clown in the middle of nowhere an hour away.

We finally found him and got back to my parents at 2:30 a.m., my alarm went off at 5 a.m. and I had a long miserable drive to the Silverdome. The good news is the Pistons won the game and the series, but it would take two more years to break through and finally win the World Championship.

The Mysterious Mailman

After about 15-30 minutes of walking aimlessly by myself, an old guy driving a mail truck asked me if I wanted to get in. Asked me where I needed to go, I told him, and then we didn't talk again. I have no clue if he was a postal worker or where he was headed, but he dropped me off without issue. In hindsight, one of the stupidest things I've ever done.

The Disappearing Van

In 2006 I brought my then-boyfriend and a group of college friends up from Atlanta for the Derby, and the group of us (along with a couple of other Louisville friends) decided to all pack in and carpool down to the track in my mom's minivan. This was really a responsible choice, fewer people driving!

We parked in the front yard of a friend's (rental) house, with their permission, and did a good amount of drinking before heading in. We stashed all the beer cans in the back of the van. Many hours later (after I had collected the $150 in winnings off of bets my grandma had me make for her) we stumble back to the house, and lo and behold the van is gone.

I'm now in an absolute panic because I don't know where it is, and I have convinced myself that having empty beer cans in the car is somehow illegal. I was over 21, so I'm not sure what the reasoning for that was, but when one of our group casually mentioned that they had left some weed in there as well, I really flipped out. I really did not want to have to explain this to my parents, who still labored under the delusion that I was an absolute innocent.

We had to call my best friend's little brother (still in high school at the time) and have him look up where cars were getting towed, which turned out to be a temporary impound lot in a park something like 2.5 miles away. I called and made sure it was there (it was), and then we set off on foot. We finally got there around 10 p.m., now fully sobered up and exhausted. Turns out we hadn't quite pulled forward enough, and the bumper of the van was ever-so-slightly sticking out into the sidewalk. I had to pay the $120 fee out of my grandma's winnings, but at least I was ok to drive as I made a tour of every single person's bank/ATM and collected it back.

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