A Circus, A Plant, A Salad

Saturday, May 30, 2009
Lexington, KY

The campground here at Kentucky State Horse Park really filled up this weekend. As you might expect, the circus started arriving Friday afternoon and that nice quiet secluded corner of the park where we're camped is now packed. I don't want to generalize... but I will. Here's a typical campsite: one travel trailer or fifth wheel, at least two cars and a diesel pickup truck, a golf cart, quads and ATVs running up and down the road, kids on bikes, more kids on scooters, motor scooters, multiples of kids, multiples of dogs, tents, sun shelters, bug shelters, fake grass rolled out over the real grass, the requisite sign-post announcing to anyone who comes by whose house is empty and unguarded back home, cute colored lights hung from the awning, rope lighting strung along the ground, lawn chairs, hammocks, more kids, haggard-looking mom's walking around with a glass of something and a dazed look in their eyes, and Dad's all bunched together like flies on road-kill scheming/dreaming an escape to a golf course or fishing hole. And now get this... they drag all this stuff here, set it up, enjoy it for two days, before having to tear it all down, load it up, and take it home by Sunday night. Man-o-man... that's some kind of living.

Here's the "before" photo:

Here's the "after" photo:

On Friday, yesterday, we drove about 7 miles north to the Toyota plant. This is the largest Toyota plant outside of Japan. It's simply mind-boglingly huge at 176 acres of floor space. In contrast to most American manufacturing practices, this plant does almost everything needed to make a car. They do outsource things like fasteners, glass, and seats, but the vast majority is done in-house. They have their own tool and die shop. They do their own metal stampings (over 200 stampings that make up the car body including fenders, roof, quarter panels, etc). They have their own engine and drive-line plant right here, making both 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder engines, and the transmissions and axles that drive the car down the road. They have their own plastics shop, where they produce the dash-board, bumpers, and other key plastic components. They bring it all together with welding, assembly, and all the way out the door to the truck or train waiting to take the finished vehicle off to a dealer somewhere. It's amazing.

There are 10,000 people that work in the plant on a typical day. 7,000 of those Toyota employees, the rest are contractors or on-site vendors employees. You can imagine how important an economic engine this is to the local economy of an area like this.

Since producing it's first cars for the 1989 model year they have produced more than 10 million cars. The very first Camry, an '89 model, that rolled off the line is still in the lobby -- a museum piece that can never be sold. It doesn't even have a VIN number.

I picked up most of that information from a video "virtual tour" of the plant since we were not able to go on the tour. The plant tours are very popular and are booked weeks and months in advance. "Hey kids, do you want to go to the movies or to the Toyota plant?" Wow.

We were put on the waiting list for the noon tour -- we were 7 and 8 on the list -- and could go if there were some no-shows. Unfortunately, it didn't work out. (Waiting list spots 1 - 6 did make it. Aw, shucks!)

Since we were skunked on the tour business we found a Ruby Tuesday to have lunch. Sitting outside, we enjoyed the view of I-75 and the lawn maintenance guys doing the yard work while having a big salad and a designer quiche. It was all good.

This morning Dar worked on the photo albums and I updated the front page and wrote a journal entry. We did get out for a little excursion around the horse park where we're staying and I may have more on that later. A quick passing thunderstorm dumped a bunch of rain at the campground but it quickly gave-way to a bright setting sun.

Tomorrow we're planning to move north again. Our objective is to arrive in Charlotte, MI. on Monday afternoon and we're breaking the drive into two days. We'll find some place to stop about half-way tomorrow night.

Till then...



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