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Off The Beaten Path

This Week on the Road, November 9th-15th

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This Week on the Road, November 9th-15th

It’s been another great week out here on the road, despite Mother Nature trying her best to put a damper on things. The weather has been getting significantly colder, and we’ve gotten quite a bit of rain. Winter weather advisories are starting to kick in which is definitely my sign that it’s time to turn my headlights south for the winter. It was great to be around friends and family for much of the last week, as it was a much needed recharge on my spirit batteries. My last week in Kentucky will be my last week in Kentucky for the moment. I spent most of it in the lovely Kentucky State Parks, and then wound down through Appalachia and Coal Country to the Cumberland Gap where I find it fitting that I will leave Kentucky the way early explorers first entered the area.. Despite the weather closing in, it really has been a wonderful week.

My week started where my last week ended, in Charleston, West Virginia at my dad’s place. It was nice to be off the road for a few days, clean up and fix a few things, get some work done and just spend some time with my family. The weather wasn’t great, but we did get out for dinner one night at a place called Bricks and Barrels. It was amazing and nice to go for a great meal with my dad.

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Inspiration in Berea

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Inspiration in Berea

Last week I was passing through the town of Berea, doing some research on something called the Day Law. The Day Law was passed in July 1904 and I found it interesting because it is the only example I can think of of a law that was passed to force segregation on a voluntarily integrated school. It was a tragic episode and one I hope to call attention to in my next podcast. While I was researching the story, I had a few questions I couldn’t seem to find the answer to, so I stopped by the Berea College Visitor’s Center to see if they could point me in the right direction. As it turned out, the young lady who was working there was a campus tour guide who not only could answer my specific question, but offered to take me on a tour of the campus as well. I’m really glad I took her up on it, because it was a truly fascinating and inspiring place and one I think we could all learn some lessons from.

Berea College was founded in 1855 by minister, educator and staunch abolitionist John Gregg Fee on land donated by fellow abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay (namesake of the Kentucky boxer better known by his Muslim name: Muhammed Ali). The college ran for its first few years out of a single building which was a classroom during the week and a church on Sunday. It was founded as the first racially integrated, coeducational college south of the Mason-Dixon line…

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This Week on the Road - November 1st-8th

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This Week on the Road - November 1st-8th

It’s been a very busy and very enjoyable week on the road. Fall colors are peaking here in Kentucky and it is truly beautiful to see. Peak foliage is such a short and intense time it’s hard to fully appreciate it before it’s over. Like strawberry season you just have to enjoy it as much as you can with the time you have. I finished my first Kentucky podcast this week which you can listen to HERE or by searching “American Anthology” wherever you get your podcasts. I really like how it came out. I’ve also taken some great photos this week which I’ve only now begun to sift through.

My week started in the world’s largest cave system at Mammoth Cave National Park. I had a great time exploring the park both above and below ground. From there I made my way out to beautiful Big South Fork National Recreation Area and on to Renfro Valley where I got to see some great music in a wonderful setting. I had a wonderful visit to tiny Berea with its fascinating historic University and from there made my way back into Appalachia and spent some time in unbelievable Red River Gorge, one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen here in the east, especially under fall colors. I’m finishing the week with a visit to my dad here in Charleston, West Virginia, where this whole journey started just about a year ago. In fact this week I will be celebrating my one year anniversary on the road. The weather is turning colder and as temperatures dip below freezing I’m starting to turn my attention south for the winter. It’s been a great stay in the Bluegrass State, but it’s almost time for me to be moving on…

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Where Bluegrass Comes From

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Where Bluegrass Comes From

While all modern forms of music have roots somewhere, it’s always fascinating to trace them back and try and discover where they came from and how they evolved. The blues will take you back to Dockery Farms in Mississippi and jazz to Congo Square in New Orleans, although the influences of those music forms go back much further. Hip-hop got its start in New York City. Many would say Sun Studios in Memphis was where rock and roll was born, although I tend to think otherwise. Each genre tends to have its early influences and groundbreaking shifts which led to how we define them today. Bluegrass music really gained that definition in the mid 1940’s when Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt joined the already extant band The Bluegrass Boys. There is no doubt though that the man who brought them together and nurtured the evolution of the sound was the founder of that group and the undisputed Father of Bluegrass: Kentucky native Bill Monroe.

Bill Monroe was born in a small house on Pigeon Ridge in central Kentucky. That house was torn down and a new one built in its place when Bill was a kid…

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Country Stores Hanging Tough in Henderson County

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Country Stores Hanging Tough in Henderson County

While for years people have discussed how the proliferation of Walmart across the country has contributed to the downfall of many towns’ historic downtown shopping districts, most people may not know that the same thing is happening in deeply rural parts of the country as well. As the number of Family Dollars and Dollar Generals has grown, the number of small country stores has rapidly declined. While these big chain stores can carry more items at lower prices and can be incredibly important in rural “food deserts”, they don’t have the same personality as independent stores. You certainly won’t get the same level of service from an hourly employee as you will from an owner/operator. I was very happy when the Marketing Director of Henderson County’s tourism department contacted me with a list of the six independent shops which were hanging on in Henderson County. I took a day to visit these six stores and meet the people who were running them and try and get a feel for how they are making a go of it. It was a great day in the American heartland. These places were sometimes hard to find, and some didn’t even have a sign out front at all. They were definitely catering to the locals more than the casual passers by, but all welcomed me in warmly with true Kentucky country hospitality. Henderson County’s country stores may not have had a lot on their shelves, but they were wonderful places with a lot of heart. While trying to capture the soul of these places on film was somewhat of a challenge, it was one I embraced. This is what I hoped to find as I traveled the country. These places are the very definition of the word “local”…

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This Week on the Road - October 25th-31st

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This Week on the Road - October 25th-31st

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…

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Mutton is What's Cooking in Owensboro

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Mutton is What's Cooking in Owensboro

Moonlite Bar-B-Cue is an institution in Owensboro, and in Kentucky for that matter. Family run from the time it opened in the 1940s, Moonlite is currently run by the third generation of the Bosley Family. Their grandfather, Hugh “Pappy” Bosley and his wife Catherine bought the small 30 seat restaurant in 1963, and there’s been a Bosley there running the place ever since. Today, the restaurant seats 350 people and they have a catering business which can serve up to 15,000. 350,000 people eat at Moonlite each year, and they have even had a few celebrities pop in over the years. William Shatner, Reba McIntyre, Kevin Costner, Bill Clinton and Al Gore have all eaten at Moonlite Bar-B-Q. Quite frankly, anywhere that has served both Shatner and Clinton must have good food.

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This Week on the Road - October 5th-11th

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This Week on the Road - October 5th-11th

Hello everyone, I hope you’re having a great week wherever you are. I apologize for my weekly newsletter not coming out last week, there was some sort of technical glitch which hopefully has been sorted out. Be sure you go to my Blog page (HERE) so you can catch up on what you missed. I’ve had a wonderful first week here in Kentucky full of friendly people, horse racing, history and bourbon. Indian summer has come with a vengeance and it has been hot and sunny all week, but it is supposed to cool down here by the weekend - something which I am really looking forward to. Enough summer already, bring on the fall. It is great to be in a new state with new focus and new things to think about, and it would have been hard to imagine a better way to spend my first week in the Bluegrass State than the week I’ve just had.

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Snapshots: The Covered Bridges of Fleming County

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Snapshots: The Covered Bridges of Fleming County

I love covered bridges as I think they hark back to a different time in this country. Because people always ask, covered bridges are covered to protect the main structure of the bridge from the weather. It is far less expensive to replace a roof than the bridge itself. Covered bridges really came into their own in the second decade of the eighteen hundreds, and at one time over 400 could be found all over Kentucky. Today, only 13 remain with three of them in Fleming County. Goddard Bridge is beautiful, and with the Goddard United Methodist church behind it, makes for some cool photos. Ringo’s Mill Bridge was built right after the Civil War, and while it’s not open to vehicular traffic anymore it’s still in pretty good shape. When I visited, they were preparing it for a wedding over the weekend which would probably be really pretty. The Grange City Bridge is also closed to traffic, but sits quietly off to the side where it has for over a hundred years. I enjoyed tracking down these three old bridges and taking these photos. I hope you enjoy them too

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Snapshots: Toledo's Old West End

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Snapshots: Toledo's Old West End

After the end of the Civil War, many of Toledo’s wealthiest residents began moving out of downtown and building houses “out in the woods”. This area developed over the next 50 years into the West End neighborhood, now called the Old West End. While it has ebbed and flowed over the years like most old neighborhoods, today it stands as one of the largest collections of intact Late Victorian Era homes in the country. It is a remarkable architectural gem, a living museum and a friendly and welcoming place for a visit. While I was walking around taking photos for this post, I met two long-time residents, Jim and Carol Kutsche, who you will see pictured at the bottom in front of their beautiful home. We sat on their porch for the better part of an hour talking about Toledo and the Old West End. The first day I visited the weather wasn’t in my favor, and the second the light was being difficult, but these photos still came out okay. It was too remarkable a neighborhood to pass by though, and I think you will definitely agree that many of these houses are real gems, even some which are in severe disrepair. If you are in Toledo, you must make time for a stroll around the beautiful Old West End.

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This Week on the Road - September 21st-27th

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This Week on the Road - September 21st-27th

Fall has definitely arrived here in Northern Ohio and I couldn’t be happier to see it. I am definitely a warm person and summer is always tough. When the weather gets cooler, I get cooler and I feel more comfortable and happier. I feel like I can wear nicer clothes because I’m not sweating through them and I become happier with how I am presenting myself. Shadow Catcher will be happier too. Although she handled really well through the summer, cooler weather is easier to deal with if you’re a van. I visited my first pumpkin farm of the season this week, just on general principle, and it definitely made me smile. The good apples will be out soon, and fresh cider is already in the stores. Soon, the leaves will start to change and I’m looking forward to the color changes and the photographic opportunities that come with it. I all but missed out on fall last year, so I’m really looking forward to it this year.

After we last met, I set off from Akron and headed south into Amish Country in Holmes County (see photos from the day HERE). On the way, I stopped by Nickajack Farms who were beginning their Fall Fest. I loved walking among the pumpkins and seeing all the Halloween stuff around. I bought a delicious fried pie and then got back on the road…

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Snapshots: Ohio's Amish Country

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Snapshots: Ohio's Amish Country

Holmes County, Ohio is home to over 10% of the world’s Amish population. The first Amish settlers arrived in the region in 1809 along Sugar and Walnut creeks, and today the area is home to over 35,000 members of the Amish community. Holmes County is also home to a large Mennonite population, who are similar to the Amish in their religious beliefs, but socially are more accepting of modern conveniences like cars and electricity. This area is mostly agricultural, but there are some small to medium sized towns as well. Visiting Amish Country in Ohio was similar to my experience doing so in Pennsylvania. There is great curiosity about the Amish which brings many visitors to the area, but in reality the Amish are busy working on their farms and would probably prefer to be left to their work. This leaves other people scrambling to scoop up those tourist dollars with things like the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock (or Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park in Pennsylvania - nothing is more Amish than a good roller coaster) and can create a Disney-like atmosphere. You can definitely get some wonderful bread and cheese in these regions and also some delicious baked goods. I also really enjoyed visiting the Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Millersburg. There is a fascinating Cyclorama there which tells the entire history of the Amish and Mennonite religions and how they evolved over time. They also have a wonderful video which explains the key differences between the Amish and the Mennonites. Both point out that in many ways the Amish and Mennonites are like anyone else - they have marital issues and rebellious teenagers too. But they also point out that because their lives are simple with all of their basic needs met, they don’t long for material goods and are more likely to feel satisfied than those of us who live in a modern world of mass consumerism. I can certainly agree with that...

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