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How I got home from the Kentucky Derby: Tales of Louisville’s toughest task (2022)

It’s not all pretty hats and winning tickets.

143rd Kentucky Derby Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

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/ubers 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 is the 2022 edition of “How I Got Home From Derby”:

The Bad Husband

Last year Derby happened to fall on my birthday, so my in-laws had a nice Derby/birthday party for me. Lots of great drinks, great people, more great drinks. You get the point. We stayed at the track all day and had a great time, but decided to leave shortly before the last race. We had recently, like within the month, moved into a rental house about .2 miles from Churchill downs and thought maybe we could beat the traffic to get home. Little did I know that almost every single road going into my humble abode was blocked off with no entrance in. Here I am, quite tipsy and trying to convince police officers to let me drive down Central Avenue, but since I hadn’t gotten a new ID with that address, it was a no go.

My next great idea was to park somewhat near the Kentucky Kingdom theme park and walk down Central with my wife, my 6-month-old baby (weather was nice before I’m judged) a stroller, and me still drunk. No sooner do we make it to top of bridge at Central that I see an absolutely horrible site: Every single person in the state of Kentucky being released from Churchill to walk up the road towards us.

My wife instantly is embarrassed and frustrated at my great idea. I didn’t really mind, but once we started walking past people that changed. I have never experienced more odd looks, people trying to give me money, and donations assuming I’m homeless, and telling me that they would pray for my baby. Looking back I guess it wasn’t so bad, but just having 50,000 people walking the opposite way of you staring at you puts a weird feeling on you.

We finally get to bottom of Central and are thrilled to finally be close to our street when another officer tells us we can’t go through. I quickly tell him the story and he ends up laughing so hard the whole time he moves the blockade to let us through. Got home. Sore feet. Mad wife. But great memories.

Asleep on the Infield Fence

I think it was 2006 or 2007, not exactly sure at this point.

The girl I was dating at the time and I lived in old Louisville at 3rd and Magnolia. I think we got a ride to the track that morning after working at UPS the night before (so we might have slept for 3-4 hours to get to the track around 12 or 1). We also snuck in some liquor using plastic baggies shoved down our pants, it’s easy and worked like a charm.

Anyway, we had fun, drank all the booze, and more. Ran into a bunch of friends and my brother who had been there from 6-7am and had a little campsite on the fence line on turn 3 I think, maybe turn 2. We watched the actual Derby race, and at some point shortly after both my girlfriend and I were getting tired, as it was getting late, and took a nap using the fence as back support.

I kid you not, we woke up a few hours later and the infield was basically deserted except for cleaning crews, my brother and all his friends had left. After figuring out we were on our own, we walked home, getting hot dogs from a vendor on the way. Somehow I went out that night with friends while my girlfriend slept. Oh to be 25-26 again. Seriously, who leaves two folks just lying on a fence???

Wish We Had More Details

I’m not at liberty to go into any more details than this, but you know the crazy “you’re all going to hell because you’re evil” protestors that are in front of the track every year? One of them drove me home. Just us two.

Drunk, Lost and Afraid

2016.

After an afternoon of drinking copious amounts of alcohol, I somehow got separated from my friends. Stumbling around, looking at my phone with one eye opened, a police officer approached me. He asked if I was doing okay, to which I responded, “absolutely not.”

He then asked if I would like to go with him. I asked if I was being arrested, which I was not.

“Do you have water?”

“Yes we do”

“Alright, let’s go.”

After about 2 hours and several waters later, I decided to walk home since I only lived about a mile and a half away. I managed to get lost in a little neighborhood just outside of Churchill downs. Drunk, alone, and afraid I hear someone shout my name from a car. To my surprise, I turn and look to see my friend, who lived in northern Kentucky. He was ubering and saw me stumbling around. He drove me home and my roommates, their girlfriends, and several others were both shocked and delighted to see me. As was I.

The Ice Cream Truck, Part I

In law school in 2004, I had a group of LLMs (a.k.a, foreign exchange students) visiting me in Louisville to get a feel for American life, so yes, I took them to the Derby. There was a group of about ten of us, with me being the only Derby veteran/Louisvillian. I handed each of them a notecard with my parents’ address and phone number in case they got lost. They questioned the logic behind this move...

Fast forward to the end of the day. We had folks from Germany, England, and Australia among the crew. Well 4 of them split off to cash in a ticket as we headed towards the exits...I pleaded with them not to...and said we would wait 20 minutes. 35 minutes later, and no sign of them and no calls/signal to our archaic phones, so we left.

About 3 hours later one of the guys from Australia showed up - his sneakers were torn up - he said he walked 2.5 hours from the track before finally getting a taxi. I asked what happened to the other three, and he said he did not know.

About 20 minutes later, as the sun is about to set, we hear carnival music from the front of our house. We come out from the backyard to find an ice cream truck and three Brits popping out of the side of the truck.

They bartered their way home by giving up a winning Derby ticket, and promising the ice cream man that we would buy some ice cream when they arrived at my parents’ house.

The Ice Cream Truck, Part II

Sadly, I was on a different trip home, but my brother and his 2 in-laws and friends had a great ride to close enough home. They bribed an ice cream truck guy, what else do you call them, to give them a ride. So they piled into the truck and took a trip to Kern’s Corner. Of course, when they told their story inside, everyone came out and bought up All of the ice cream in the truck. How they made it back to Buechel is another story.

The First and Only Infield Trip

It was the end of my junior year at Trinity and I had never been in the infield. Packed in a van with 4-5 buddies and made it down there with no plan for the day whatsoever. My older brother was a freshman at UofL at the time and just recently got a fake so I was bumming drinks for the whole afternoon. Little did I know there was an undercover ABC enforcement waiting for me to leave a crowded group and ask me for some ID while in a vulnerable position. I panicked and chucked the drinks and started running only to be power slammed into the ground while all of my close friends were there to see.

After filling out the paperwork/getting signatures and whatnot, I finally got my dad on the phone. “You have exactly one hour to get home starting now or you are not leaving the house all summer.” I left the infield still under the influence and just started running down Central Ave and somehow ran into a college girl I vaguely knew. After a minute of begging, she promptly delivered me home in the East End with about 10 minutes to spare.

Haven’t been in the infield since.

The Teenage Driver Savior

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 collected the $150 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, then we set off on foot, and finally got there around 10pm, 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.