It’s fall here in Kentucky and the leaves are really turning in full force this week. It went from hot to cold and this week it’s settled into perfect fall weather. We’re expecting some pretty epic rainfall over the next two days, but I’m hoping that it won’t knock off all of the leaves, as I haven’t gotten nearly enough fall photos. I’ve made my turn back east this week after reaching the far western border of Kentucky on the Mississippi River. Now I’m headed back across the south towards West Virginia. It’s been a really busy week as I put the final touches on my podcast which will be out by this weekend, and it’s going to be a good one. Also, I celebrated a birthday this week, as I turned 43. No big party or cake this year, just a quiet night by myself in the woods. The political adds are winding up on the radio, which I find appalling quite frankly. It sounds like a bunch of junior high school students who haven’t yet mastered the art of civil discourse. I’ll be glad when they are over, but please do get out and vote this week. And finally my week is ending on Halloween here in Bowling Green. I have a costume for tonight, but you’ll have to wait until next week to see how it all comes out!
I left Owensboro last Wednesday and had a wonderful drive through Henderson County. I had received an email from the Henderson County Tourism Department that they were interested in some photos of the small Mom and Pop stores around their county. While I wanted to go and meet with them first, Friday was supposed to be a cloudy day so I figured if I was going to get some good photos, Thursday would be better. I really enjoyed making my way down the county’s backroads and seeking these places out. While Walmart has made many small town Main Streets need to change dramatically in order to survive, the proliferation of Family Dollars and Dollar Generals has done the same to many country stores. While I understand these chains can offer better prices and a wider variety to their customers than an independent store can, it is a shame to see so many go under. Those that are hanging on seem to be offering sandwiches and deli items and doing a decent business.
It took me most of the day to visit the six stores around the county, but I did get some good shots of them. Most were very plain and you might drive right by if you didn’t know they were there, but they are there more to serve the local community than the casual passer-by. I pulled into Henderson in the late afternoon and found it to be a really nice little town. They have a wonderful riverfront area there on the Ohio River, and a really charming downtown. I enjoyed walking along the river and taking some photos of the train bridge and buildings along the main streets as the sun was setting in the west.
Thursday I spent most of the day in the library, as the weather had indeed turned grim. I got a lot of work done though and even managed to get out and enjoy a couple of beers at Henderson Brewing Company. I don’t say this lightly, but their beers were excellent. They had a marzen which I couldn’t get enough of, and an excellent alt and Oktoberfest as well. The brewers were really friendly and passionate about their beer and it was definitely a nice place to pass the evening.
Friday I spent the morning at the fabulous John James Audubon State Park just outside of Henderson. What a wonderful place it was to see. This museum is dedicated to the life and work of Audubon, who spent his life seeking out and painting the birds and then the mammals of North America. His work was really important to understanding and cataloging American wildlife in his time, and he was the first to show these animals in lifelike poses in natural surroundings. His pictures are beautiful, and this is one of the premier collections of his work in the world. He had lived in Henderson for 10 years before his paintings took off, and is remembered fondly there. The museum was really beautifully laid out and organized. I loved my visit there and would highly recommend it if you are anywhere nearby.
I got some more work done before leaving Henderson and backtracking a bit to tiny Rosine. Rosine is the birthplace of the father of bluegrass music Bill Monroe. They also host a weekly Barn Jamboree showcasing local musical talent. The show happens literally in a barn, and it was a lot of fun. The audience was mostly older people and made me feel like a youngster which is always a nice thing. If you looked at an aerial view of our heads, I would be the speck of pepper in a sea of salt! The music was very local and a whole lot of fun. I particularly liked the two young fellas called Classy and Grassy who came up at the end. One was 9 and the other was 12 and they had a great time playing for the crowd.
I returned to Rosine the next morning to take some photos and have a look around town. Some of the fall colors were particularly bright that day. At around 9:30, I made my way out to Jerusalem Ridge and the Bill Monroe Homeplace. When I got there, I met Erinn, who gave me a wonderful tour of the property, and Cicero the groundskeeper. The tour was great and I enjoyed learning about where Bill grew up and learned to play. His life wasn’t an easy one, but it seems most of the great ones faced a lot of challenges growing up. I stayed there for several hours chewing the fat with Erinn and Cicero talking about everything from music to history to politics. I really had a great time there meeting and chatting with these great Kentuckians in the amazingly restored house of a truly legendary Kentuckian.
After a wonderful barbecue mutton sandwich at Slick Back Outdoors, I made my way back down the Blue Moon of Kentucky Highway and west towards Paducah. I stopped in a few places along the road to take some magical photos of the fall foliage, especially at the north end of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. I finally pulled into Paducah just after dark. Paducah is a great little city right at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. Their historic downtown area is small and charming with some neat little restaurants and bars. I wandered around downtown and had a beer or two at the Paducah Beer Works.
Sunday I had brunch at Shandies right across from the market. I had a great omelet which came with some tomato gravy all of which was amazing. It’s tough to really impress me with an omelet, but they did. I spent the rest of a lazy Sunday writing by the river and enjoying the sunshine. It’s so nice to sit outside when the weather is cooperating. I enjoyed wandering around and taking some photos of the historic downtown area while the sun was low in the sky.
Leaving Paducah on Monday, my birthday, I headed due west to seek out the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and find the western border of Kentucky. I had to travel across the Ohio River into Illinois to get a good view, but it was definitely cool to see these two great rivers come together. I visited a few of the small towns out west and then made my way back into Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area on the Tennessee border. I had been to the Tennessee side of this park during my stay there, so it was cool to see this side as well. I wanted to get out and do some hiking, but the days are getting shorter, and I wanted to get into camp early enough to get set up and spend some time sitting by the lake. I was very impressed with the setup of this park, run by the National Forest Service, and how organized it was. I chose to stay at Energy Lake campground on the eastern side of the park. I got a beautiful lakefront site, cooked some dinner and enjoyed a birthday campfire with music and a little bit of good bourbon to sip on.
I set no alarm the next day and enjoyed sleeping in a bit. It was so quiet out there. When I did get up, I enjoyed a quiet morning by the lake before heading out again. I got my water tanks filled and my sewage tanks drained and was off and running from there. My big stop for the day was at Jefferson Davis State Historic Site in Fairview. The small museum there tells of Davis’ birth in a small nearby cabin, and his life in the military and in public service to the United States. He had quite and interesting life before breaking away with his adopted state of Mississippi and becoming the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. There is also a massive obelisk, very reminiscent of the Washington Monument, which stands 351 feet high on the site. I was hoping for more information then I found in this museum, but it was an interesting little site nonetheless. I also enjoyed seeing the Amish carriages clip-clopping past while I was there. Who knew there were so many Amish communities in this country?
And then I was on my way into Bowling Green. I didn’t get into town until late yesterday, and took a few photos downtown before heading out to the mall to finish up writing my podcast. I had a quiet night out there, and then spent today editing and recording before sitting down to write this post. As I mentioned and as you undoubtedly know, it’s Halloween today, and I am looking forward to whatever the night may bring.
Soon, I’m heading into Mammoth Cave National Park, whether tomorrow or Friday I have yet to decide. Then I’m headed on to Cumberland Lake, Cumberland Falls, Berea and maybe a quick stop back through Lexington before I head on into West Virginia. I want to visit my dad for a few days while I’m in the neighborhood, and then I’m going to come back and explore southeastern Kentucky before exiting the state and heading south for the winter. Lots left to see in this state, and I’m really looking forward to it. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
That’s it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great Halloween and a safe one. Please remember to get out and vote this week, it’s important that you do. Have a wonderful week wherever you are, and I’ll see you right back here next week, only I’ll be somewhere completely different. Have a great week y’all, and be kind to each other out there.