Viewing entries tagged
Kentucky

Happy New Year - A Look Back and a Look Ahead

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Happy New Year - A Look Back and a Look Ahead

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, no matter what and where you celebrated it. I was at home in Washington D.C. with my family, trying to catch my breath for a minute, fix some of my equipment and enjoy some holiday cheer. It is, of course, always a good opportunity to look back at the year gone by, and look ahead at the year to come.

A year ago, I was getting ready to set out for the second time on this trip. I had had a fascinating month in West Virginia at the end of 2017, learning about the wonderful history of the Mountain State and seeing some truly spectacular scenery. I had never taken such a deep, in-depth look at a state before, and I really connected with West Virginia on so many different levels. From deep in the heart of coal country to their wonderful state park system to the little big cities of Charleston, Huntington and Wheeling, West Virginia had so much to offer. On the other hand, it was December, so it was cold and the sun was going down at around 4:30 in the afternoon. These were probably not the best of conditions to try and learn the ins and outs of my new van and my new lifestyle, but then again I am a big supporter of a trial by fire. The challenges I faced in my first month of this journey were real, but I persevered as there was no way I was giving up...

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My Month in Kentucky

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My Month in Kentucky

As I made my way into Bluegrass State, I asked all of my Facebook friends what thoughts came to mind when someone mentioned the word “Kentucky”. Some things, like bourbon, bluegrass, fried chicken and horse racing come quickly to mind, but some people went deeper and came up with things I hadn’t even considered – like the fact that every Corvette in the world rolls out of a factory in Bowling Green or that Kit Carson was a Kentuckian. I even had one friend from Europe who said quite honestly that he didn’t think much about it at all – that it was just another boring state in Middle America. For my part, I had an amazing month in the Bluegrass State, learned a lot about Kentucky history and culture and met some wonderful people along the way. While I have moved on into Georgia at this point, I wanted to write one final post wrapping things up from Kentucky.

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Rays of Light in Kentucky's Coal Country

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Rays of Light in Kentucky's Coal Country

I’ve spent a decent amount of time in Coal Country in the last year and it is an area of the country that fascinates me. This region of Appalachia that stretches from far southeast Ohio down to the Carolinas and the very far north of Georgia is full of rich history and tradition. The mountains are majestic and the woods are full of game and recreation opportunities. Families that live there have often been there for generations and the whole area can sometimes seem frozen in time. Unfortunately, times are often tough in Appalachia. Poverty is rampant, which is doubly sad because poverty was usually what drove these families there to begin with. The opioid epidemic is taking a huge toll on the area, although the problem started when miners with genuine chronic pain got hooked on prescription pain pills. The years have taken their toll on buildings and houses and many are slowly dilapidating into the ground giving many areas a “ghost town” like feel, but if you look closely you can see that this wasn’t always the case. There was a time that these buildings were brand new and that these communities were thriving. As the coal seams have dried up and mining has become more mechanized, there hasn’t been much industry to take its place. Many people have just picked up and moved away while others are fighting to stay. These areas are remote and hard to get to, despite the transportation links which once brought millions of tons of coal to market. Many of these communities across the region are aging and struggling and some have all but given up the ghost. In Kentucky’s Coal Country though, there are rays of light as these communities are trying to rediscover themselves and reinvent themselves and move boldly towards the future. While I have loved visiting communities across the region, it is those in southeast Kentucky which seem to be pushing the hardest for new ideas and change. While this entire region is deeply religious and many communities have just leaned back and put their faith in God, Kentucky’s towns seem to know that God helps those who help themselves. I was impressed with a lot of the efforts I saw in my time there and wanted to share some of those today.

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The Colonel In Kentucky

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The Colonel In Kentucky

Harland David Sanders, one of Kentucky’s most beloved and well known celebrities was actually not from Kentucky at all. He was born September 9th, 1890 in Henryville, Indiana. His father died when he was just 5 years old, and when his mother took a job at a tomato factory, Harland was left to watch his two younger siblings.

watch his two younger siblings.

He dropped out of school in the 7th Grade, and went to work as a farmhand. Leaving home at 13, Harland had many jobs over the years from a carriage painter to a streetcar conductor. He joined the army when he was just 16, and worked as a teamster in Cuba. He was honorably discharged before his 18th birthday, and went to live with his uncle in Alabama. He worked for the railroad for many years, and studied law at night through a correspondence course. He graduated and would practice law in Little Rock for several year…

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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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In Focus: Mammoth Cave National Park

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In Focus: Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave is the longest known cave system in the world. So far, over 400 miles of cave have been explored and mapped and nobody can really say how much further the cave goes. It is generally a dry cave, so it’s not known for beautiful and elaborate formations (with some notable exceptions), but it’s enormous rooms and passageways make it a magical place to visit. It is a National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the International Biosphere Reserve.

In addition to the vast underground cave system, the park also protects 52,000 acres of beautiful Kentucky forest surrounding the Green River. Miles and miles of trails crisscross the park providing ample opportunities for exploration above ground as well…

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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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