I’m Getting Those F’ing Wings!!!

And I did, but that’s for later.

Derby time!

…and we’re off! Photo by BW

Smooth flight down—yay!—on Thursday, with our delightful cop, Justin, and equally delightful escort, Anne, picking us up for the ride into Louisville. Time for lunch, and yum, before it’s off to the hotel to unpack and decompress, then dude it up some for Club Night. Happily the event’s right here in the hotel. Especially since the theme is Bourbon Tasting. Sorry, Kentucky, not my drink, but my companions sampled some new to them bourbons.

Nora and BW, ready for fun. Photo by Laura.

Wonderful, big space, a fabulous rotations of live entertainment. And best of all reconnecting with some of our Derby family, much missed since Covid kept us home the last three years. Laura and Mark haven’t been to Derby with us since 2016. But they remember everybody!

Great weather, fun times. Lots of dancing. Felt good to get the groove on, and see so many shiny, happy faces.

I met Tricia Helfer, whom I’ve loved since Battlestar Galactica. Number Six!! She is ridiculously beautiful. We reconnect with the fabulous York Sisters, Tonya and Tammy, who put this incredible weekend together year after year. And so many more Derby pals—plus the chance to make new ones.

Bruce, Nora and Tonya York

Tumble into bed about midnight.

I do a very short little in-room workout in the a.m, then Anne’s taking me and Laura to get mani/pedis, shop, lunch while BW and Mark are off to the Oaks. I pick a filly—I have yet to win and Oaks race in all these years, but hope springs. BW will bet for me.

Off we go to a lovely salon with GREAT pedi chairs. Oh boy, ahhhh. Pretty fingers and toes for all. The guy who did my mani is also the manager—possibly the owner. Young guy who seriously knows how to multi-task and keep things moving smooth, even on the day before Derby when people are calling, doing walk-ins, chairs are rotating.

A pregnant mom and her little girl—maybe five—get pedis. So, so cute.

Our Italian restaurant (Grassa Gramma) for lunch is right next door, and it’s wonderful. We see a group of dressed-to-the-nine’s ladies sitting outside. Laura offers to take their photo—all there to celebrate one of the ladies’ birthday.

They’re all so pretty!

The dining room at Grassa Gramma.

The very ornate Italian decor of the restaurant  just sets the mood for my amazing spaghetti and meatballs. Anne and Laura both go for the pasta primavera. And nobody left hungry or disappointed.

Meanwhile. BW and Mark at the Oaks.

Shopping at Rodes with Beth next—a long Derby tradition. I score! But I had no doubt. Actually found the perfect wrap for the gala—much better than what I brought with me. Also some very cool and comfy sneakers. I don’t need more sneakers, but they’re so cute! And a little this, a little that.

Back to the hotel to chill before we glam it up for the gala. They hold a silent auction to benefit Blessings In A Backpack—such a good cause. And everybody gets spiffied up. I think the four of us—five including Anne—pulled off the spiff!

Gala ready.
Laura, Nora and Anne dressed for the evening.

But I continue my losing streak on the Oaks. Next time!

On the red carpet.

My first stop when we get down to the ballroom area, is that auction. I’ve already looked at some of the donated items on line, but did NOT spot the amazing wings until I saw them in person. And I immediate knew—I’m getting those f’ing wings. They’ll look so right in my gardens! I see a few other things—and hey, for the kids—so bid.

Those f’ing wings! Photo courtesey of Unbridled Eve.

More music—such great entertainment and all in a big ballroom that has simply gorgeous decor.

Tammy and Tonya York, acknowledging the Nora Roberts Foundation.
Tablescape. Photo by BW.

Someone else wants my wings—but they don’t have a chance. I’m determined! Bid, bid, bid, stalking bids with my phone, but still managing to get up and dance. You can’t NOT dance with that music pulling you up.

First act of the night – JD Shelburne.

When the auction closes, the f’ing wings are mine!! Was there any doubt? Once I find the perfect spot, I’ll take another picture.

The packed dance floor with Robin Wilson of The Gin Blossoms on stage.

More dancing, more happy—a quick stop to mug for the Photo Booth—then another tumble into bed.

We’re going to the track early—why not spend the day at the Downs? We ride with Lisa Leslie and Michael Lockwood… They’re not only TALL, but both are gorgeous. Plus so nice. BW and Mark sat with them at the Oaks on Friday, so they’re already Derby pals.

Michael Lockwood, BW and Lisa Leslie at the Oaks.
The early birds win the early races! Off to the Derby in style. Photo by BW

Perfect Derby weather, and a quick walk down the red carpet, then a longer one—always wear comfortable shoes to the Derby!—to our floor and our area for the day.

The best looking group on the red carpet.

And just in time to place a bet on the second race. And I’m a winner! Woo. As I am on the next race, and the one after. Whoa baby, I’m on a streak!

Lisa and Michael also hit on the first bet, and I believe the second. We seem to have a mind meld going on what horse to pick.

More people filter in, so many fun hats, pretty dresses, handsome suits! And so much happy energy. We have our fantastic long-time servers, Amy and Kim, and that’s another reunion.

I love standing out on the terrace, looking out at the track—so rich and brown against the green infield and the white buildings and stands.

More hugs and kisses, more catching up with old friends.

More betting!!

BW has his own serious system. Mine is—first always bet on the gray—and if no gray, I go by the name. What appeals. (Like one big winner for me, Webslinger. I’d always bet on Spider-Man!) I Always bet across the board. Win, Place Show.

Guess who won more races? Ha! I think I only had three races all day where one of my horses didn’t come in.

We’re honored to have the legendary Randy Travis and his lovely wife, Mary, at our table. Also J.D. Shelburne and his lovely wife, Amy. J.D. performed at the gala, so played a part in getting people on the dance floor.

Nora, Randy and Mary Travis

This is part of Derby magic for me, meeting people you admire for their art, their talent, then getting a chance to know the person behind that art, that talent.

When JD (Shelburne) meets JD (Robb).
Tricia Helfer and Nora.

For the Derby race, I also pick horses for my fam at home. Kayla happened to get home from college a couple days before we left, so I showed her the field. She picked Mage—for the name.

I also bet on Mage. Because, hey, magic.

As the big race approaches, the energy’s through the roof. The sun really does shine bright today on our old Kentucky home. Everyone crowds outside to watch the horses parade. They’re simply beautiful.

The packed stands pre-race 12 (Derby race).

All bets placed, the crowd in the stands and the infield are pumping out more energy.

And they’re off!

It’s simply impossible to describe the feeling. The cheers rising up, spreading out in a wall of sound. Then the stunning look of those athletes—horses and riders—flying over that oval. It’s thunder and lighting on four legs. As always, I lose track of my horses—the ones I bet. Because it just doesn’t matter now.

The race is on.

This is it, a breath-taking display of speed and athleticism. The wild excitement of that two minutes when thousands of people are focused on the same thing.

But as they’re coming down the stretch, I hear people shouting, Come on #8. Why, that’s Mage! And I see him, oh yeah, I see that beauty streaking toward the finish line. Just tearing up the track.

I realize no one’s going to catch that horse. Kayla and I have the Derby winner!!!

Now there’s the bonus of fun. Winner, winner! I love texting her she won, and her OMG reaction.

We have to say goodbye to many, but we always stay for the last two races. Mostly hoping traffic will ease up.

It’s starting to rain—lucky it held off for Derby!

The rain coming in

And Laura hits it big*—I have another winner to cap it off.

Then the long walk down, the search for the right lot where Justin waits to take us home.

Our hope re traffic wasn’t realized. Whew, it’s a long ride, but we made it. And Anne brings us pizza. Just the perfect end to a perfect day.

Nora, Justin Probus, BW and Anne Rademaker — the two people who made things happen.

At some point during that perfect day, I lost my voice. Just gone. But it seems to be coming back as I write this.

We’re heading to the airport soon—had to wait out a wild, really wild storm. Clearing up now—thank all the gods and goddesses.

Honestly couldn’t have had a better time, in better company. They’re going to ship my f’ing wings. Can’t wait to find the perfect spot for them.

Thank you again, Tonya and Tammy, for having us back for the best weekend of the year!

(Turns out not so lucky today—4-hour delay so far**, and who knows when we’ll finally take off!)


Notes from Laura:

*Let’s be honest, Nora’s big win is a tad larger than mine. But since my Derby win was $8 in 2016, I’ll take this.

**Our delay totaled 5 hours. At one point, the pilot told us we’d be parked for nearly two more hours, so he and his co-pilot were ordering some pizza — would we like some? Sure! Why not?

Then he told us we could step out on the tarmac to stretch our legs since we’d been in Justin’s car for two hours and then the plane for another two. Do something very few people ever get to do? Sure! Why not???

Just a small taste of the planes lined up.

We get back on the plane, finally start moving in a slow stop-and-go when the copilot springs up and re-opens the door. The pizza was coming out on a golf cart! He grabbed it and put it on an empty seat,

then once he closed the door, he came back and put the seatbelt around the precious cargo.

We were all home by 7 pm.


32 thoughts on “I’m Getting Those F’ing Wings!!!”

  1. Michael Lockwood’s an Air Force Academy grad and pilot. I’m surprised that his height didn’t rule him out of the job.
    Obviously a great deal of fun was had by all.

    1. In addition to being tall and ridiculously handsome, Michael is also a sweetheart. He and Lisa are adorable! So glad I had a chance to meet them.

  2. Man, I’m not into horse racing, but that looks like so much fun! I’da gone just for the party. Everyone was so spruced up. Yes, Ms. Leslie is truly gorgeous. And those f’ing wings! I can see why you’d fight so hard for them. Can’t wait to see where they end up. Thanks for sharing, Ms. Roberts!

    1. I took a little after-work tour of my gardens. I have a few places I’m going to try them out. They’re so very cool!

  3. So glad you were able to come to the Derby this year! It was a wild storm Sunday morning, we ended up with TWO tornadoes on our side of the river!
    Looking forward to seeing where the wings end up!

  4. More often than not, Derby Day is rainy with a sloppy track. As a native Louisvillian, I know the weather can be fickle. You were fortunate for the bad weather to have held off as long as I did. We are currently visiting family in your lovely Maryland and have kept up with the wild weather at home.

    Next time you visit, try Impelliziri’s for pizza. Supposed to be the best in town. Not close to SDF though so I can see why you ended up with Papa John’s.

    It is always lovely to see your photos from Derby. I recognize those taken at the riverfront with I-64 just below you and the river behind. I haven’t lived there in over 40 years but still visit my parents who live very close to the river not far from downtown.

  5. Love it, love it, love it! Thanks once again for sharing your life with us. You’re the best, Nora!

  6. Looking fabulous, everyone! Congrats on the wins … the big and not so big. Thanks for sharing the events and the great pics with us. Can’t wait to see those f’ing wings in your garden, Nora! 😄

  7. Love all the pictures of your weekend. I’ve never been to The Derby but your pics show all the excitement surrounding all the wonderful events. Well done on the F’ing wings and all the winners you both picked at the track. Sounds like so much fun.

  8. I have truly enjoyed all your books, not just the In Death series but many of the other triple stories. You bring all your character’s to life and the locations as well . Thank You Nora. Sincerely Patrick Brewer

  9. Looks like a great time was had by all. I picked Mage too. Never go with the favorite and was pleasantly surprised to have been right. Everyone looked fabulous! Loved your hat. Thanks for sharing. Lovely pictures. Can’t wait to see where the wings end up.

  10. Looks like everyone had a wonderful time. You all look
    so pretty and handsome…

  11. I always enjoy hearing about Derby weekend and seeing all the fabulous clothes and hats. Great score on the wings Nora! I would love those for my garden.

  12. Sounds like such a great time! Can’t wait to see those beautiful wings. Glad you won them for yourself!

  13. Love this travel log of the Derby. Everyone looks great, beautiful outfits. Can’t wait to see where the F-wings end up in your beautiful gardens. Congratulations on all your winners at the Derby. Thank you for sharing your trip.

  14. Love your hat! So glad you all had a wonderful time. I just enjoy reading about it. Can’t wait to see where those f’ing wings end up in the garden.

  15. You should come down to our Melbourne Cup Nora. At 3pm on the second Tuesday of No ember, Australia just stops!. I have my annual bet, They run sweeps in every club, ornganisatio ,office in the country, I can even remember the nuns putting on the radio so we could hear it at school.That was a long time ago for me.
    Through out the country there are Ladies Cup Lunches which are great fun and everyone dressses to the nines.

  16. Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time and thanks for sharing it with us. Loved all the pictures and so happy y’all had a great time.

  17. Sounds like you had a blast, and we all get to enjoy now. Thank you!

  18. Loved the photos, loved the recap, thanks so much because I love the Derby! And those, f’ing wings? Congratulations!

  19. Everyone looked beautiful and it sounded like a great time

  20. Love, LOVE reading your account of Derby! I actually teared up! I’m a Kentuckian, didn’t get to Derby this year, did the track on Wed, AND Grassa Gramma <3, ( the BEST brussel sprouts EVER ) but the Magic of the Derby is never lost on me. The sounds, the smells, the COLORS ~ truly MAGIC!! Thank you for sharing your account!! Ooh and JD Shelbourne ~ isn't his voice awesome?
    Many years ago I met my favorite author at Hawley Cooke bookstore Derby week ~ You were magical as well!! I still find magic in your books ~~ and pulled out True Betrayals, like I do every year, for a reread.

  21. What a fun, fabulous weekend you had! Everyone looked wonderful! I love the pictures. And the Wings! Looking forward to seeing a picture of them in your garden. Thank you for sharing.

  22. Looks like you had a marvelous time! You and Laura both looked fantastic. Can hardly wait to see where the f’ing wings end up.

  23. Amazing! SO glad you all returned to the Derby! It’s on our bucket list to get there one day – we always dress up and go to a derby party, but I can’t wait to go there in person. Thank you for sharing!

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