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gadfly homepage on the road home notes on places last contact: 1/2010 first contact: 7/2004

KY Trip Stats (6/09):


Counties visited: 30

Last Visited: 6/26/2009


Best county: Lyon Co.

Town visited most: Corbin

Places slept in: Paducah, Lexington

Most impressive town: Frankfurt

Least impressive town: Covington

Biggest town: Louisville

Most scenic area: Land Between the Lakes NRA

Most scenic spot: Mammoth Cave

Three words: hilly, verdant, wet


Road Trips: Southland Trip (7/04), Paducah Trip (10/04), Appalachia Trip (3/05), Florida Tour (6/09)


Neighboring States: IL, IN, OH, TN, VA, WV, MO


Major passes: In July, 2004, I passed through the state on my way home from Nashville along I-65. I could not help but stop at the Mammoth Cave. The hills of central kentucky were like nothing I could ever imagine. They were very tall and conical. I also completely crossed the state (at its narrowest point) in November, 2004, when I drove from Paducah to nearly the Tennessee border at LBL.  Passed vertically twice in March, 2005, from Covington to Williamsburg and then from Middlesboro to Louisville. Did the same pass in June, 2009, one time from south to north.


Future Plans: Central Kentucky's landscape intigued me a great deal. The oddly shaped countryside seems rather quiet. Perhaps, instead of racing through on I-65, I should take US-31E, listed as a scenic route by Rand McNally. While there I can visit the Lincoln birthplace since I have been to his deathplace and since I am an Illinoisan. I want to fish and camp at the Land Between the Lakes and the Mammoth Cave mega-corny tourist towns seem fun.


State obsessions: Kentucky is a beautiful state with a lot of variation. The people are as varied as the state, save for one unifying factor. From Paducah to the Cumberland Gap the stores and the people are decorated with KY basketball merchandise. In one shop, I witnessed a realistic painting of "wildcats" pawing at little basketballs probably for the living room.


Heroes: Of course, Kentuckians love their hero Daniel Boone so much that they had his body dug out of its Missouri grave and brought back to the state capital. Another notable hero is Colonel Harlan Sanders, the founder of KFC. The restaurant's birthplace in Corbin is a state landmark.


People. The people of Kentucky have always been friendly, at least to me.  In the west everyone either looks like country singers or beauty pagaent contestants and in the east everyone looks hungry. The Southern accent and culture gets stronger as one goes east.

First Contact: I first stepped foot in Kentucky at Wickliffe on a hot and sunny day in July of 2004. I was in Cairo, IL, and meant to drive south toward Memphis, but took a purposeful wrong turn so that I could say I crossed the border and the Ohio River. Where the Ohio and Mississippi meet, I was met with miles of bridge as it crossed over endless swamp, lake, and bayou. Until the trip home, I would have thought Kentucky was just a great big lake.

Ballard Co. (2004)

Wickliffe. From Cairo, the bridge to Wickliffe seems miles long. It crosses endless bayous and deposits you on semi-dry land in Wickliffe, home of the Wickliffe Mounds (a major Amerind mound system like in Cahokia and Aztalan.) I did not see the mounds and the town kind of gave me the creeps, although it was quite verdant. 

Simpson Co. (2004)

Franklin. I never saw the town but did visit a peculiar yet stereotypical gas station that sold "Proud to be a Reb" shot glasses and had a cashier who I couldn't understand with the name Bobbie Jo tatooed on her neck. Everyone inside seemed to know each other.

Warren Co. (2004)

Passed through along I-65 on the way home from Nashville. Bowling Green.

Edmondson Co. (2004)

Mammoth Cave NP. The day I visited was about the hottest I could have ever imagined. You figure its because of your closeness to the equater or something... so I decided to stop at Mammoth Cave. The woods around the cave are impressive old hardwood and the trees here reach their full potential. The cave, although packed with tourists from around the world, was such a cool rest. It grows quite dark as one descends and it would be a lot more fun without all the railings and tour guides, but such is life. There are a few Wisconsin Dells type tourist trap towns with go cart tracks on the way back to I-65.

.Green Co. (2004)

Passed through along I-65 on the way home from Nashville.

Larue Co. (2004)

The birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. Here the Interstate is set among beautiful, green hills. I was not able to stop and see the site where he was supposedly born, but I read somewhere the log cabin is a phony anyway. I bought a postcard and filled up with gas before heading out.

Hardin Co. (2004)

Passed through along I-65 on the way home from Nashville. The forested hills dominate the landscape on either side of the road. It feels like you are rolling down an alley. Fort Knox.

Poweshiek Co. (1992)

Passed through in the night as part of a detour around the flooded Mississippi River on the way home from a K.C. family reunion.

Hardin Co. (2004)

Passed tthrough along I-65 on the way home from Nashville. The forested hills dominate the landscape on either side of the road. It feels like you are rolling down an alley. Fort Knox.

Bullitt Co. (2004)

Passed through along I-65 on the way home from Nashville.

Jefferson Co. (2004)

Louisville. This classic Midwestern-looking city was quite different than I expected. I did not expect it to have so large a skyline, but it is after all the birthplace of Muhammed Ali and one of the first major league baseball teams. I guess, in Chicago, Louisville is not given much thought. It might be an interesting place to explore further. The Indiana side of the Ohio River was heavily industrialized and a bit "lived in."

McCracken Co. (2004)

Paducah. This small city was actually very nice. I will no longer use the word "Paducah" to mean "the sticks," although it was quite isolated. The Ohio riverfront is accessible and very busy here. I enjoyed watching the barges make their way east and west. Paducah's inland port is second only to Duluth's in busy-ness. The town was clean and pleasant as were the native Paducans. The people from Paducah had unique, clean Southern accents and were all very attractive (as a group), if I may lump them together. The malls were full of John Deere propaganda. I slept on the outskirts one night in the fall of 2004.

Marshall Co. (2004)

Passed through on the way to LBL from Paducah.

Lyon Co. (2004)

Lake City. You can drive across the historic TVA dam just west of here. This dam was part of FDR's New Deal and brought electricity to the area, creating the Land Between the Lakes. The lakes are the dammd up portions of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers called Lake Barkley (named for Paducah's most famous citizen, Vice-President Barkley) and Kentucky Lake. Grand Rivers. Driving down The Trace you pass through this small town and I suggest buying gas here. The station was not well equipped and smelled like night-crawlers might smell (if they smelled.) LBL NRA. The Land Between the Lakes was created when the TVA dam was built. All that is left of the towns that once stood under the flood plain are cemeteries in the woods and under the lake. The area contains wooded hills and prairie. Driving down The Trace is quite enjoyable, especially if one takes a look at the buffalo and elk in their acres of habitat near Golden Pond. Listening to the sounds of the buffalo grunting and elk crying brought me back to what it must have been like before we tamed the Midwestern landscape.

Kenton Co. (3/2005)

Newport. Driving over the Ohio, I was met by the tall levee much like the one that guards Paducah. It was late and there was no one around so I parked on the river bank and walked up to the Newport market, an outdoor shopping mall and aquarium. The market was lit by the colorful Cincinnati skyline and the Purple People Bridge. I found the next day that Newport is a lot like Niagara Falls, ON. If you go one or two blocks from the main tourist area, the neighborhood takes on a more desperate character. Covington. Seemed like a nice place to bet on horses and buy gas. I was happy to see a place so alive and real after being in the carefully planned Newport, although some might find this side of the Licking River depressing.

Boone Co. (3/2005)

Passed through this suburban county on the way to Knoxville from Cincy. Florence. A water tower along the Interstate says it all: "Florence, y'all!"

Grant Co. (3/2005)

Passed through along I-75 on the way to Knoxville from Cincy.

Scott Co. (3/2005)

Passed through along I-75 on the way to Knoxville from Cincy.

Fayette Co. (3/2005)

Passed through this suburban county on the way to Knoxville from Cincy. Lexington. The headquarters of Southern aristocracy. Passed through this hometown of Mary Todd Lincoln and Henry Clay.

Clark Co. (3/2005)

Passed through along I-75 on the way to Knoxville from Cincy. Should have stopped at historic Boonesboro, but didn't.

Rockcastle Co. (3/2005)

Passed through along I-75 on the way to Knoxville from Cincy.

Laurel Co. (3/2005)

London. Surrounded by the wooded hills of Boone NF, this run-down town was probably the most stereotypical Southern place I have ever been. We went to the thrift store where I saw banjos and countless knives for sale. Everything in town seemed to be for sale. Stands for flea markets lined the road and people were selling all sorts of animals. I have seen this sort of thing happen in Wheatfield, IN, on some summer days.

Whitley Co. (3/2005)

Corbin. The home of the original Kentucky Fried Chicken so, of course, I planned a visit. Too bad the Colonel had to sell out.

Bell Co. (4/2005)

Middlesboro. This strip-mall filled city claims to be in the middle of a crater. The tunnel that runs beneath the historic Cumberland Gap, where Boone and friends crossed into the West to start the Revolutionary War, was a rather impressive structure. Pineville. This is a very picturesque town surrounded by high ridges, falls, and mountains. It is the last of the true Appalachian towns as you head northwest on US-25E. Meldrum. Ferndale.

Knox Co. (4/2005)

Passed through along US-25E on the way home from Cumberland Gap. Flat Lick. Barbourville.

Woodford Co. (4/2005)

Passed through along I-64 on the way home from Cumberland Gap.

Franklin Co. (4/2005)

Frankfurt. Why did this town change its name from Frank's Ford? Climbed the hill overlooking the capital building and the entire city to visit the grave of Daniel Boone. This grave is different from the other Boone grave I have heard of because this one is really his final resting place (for now.) Bridgeport.

Shelby Co. (4/2005)

Passed miles of horse ranches and bluegrass country along US-60. Shelbyville. Simpsonville. Is this where Homer lives?

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Preparing for some chicken at Harlan Sander's original Kentucky Fried Chicken in Corbin.

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This is the huge tunnel that goes under the Cumberland Gap, where Daniel Boone led the first settlers from Virginia.

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Micah and I scan for eagles amidst the thick winter fog near Dam #12 in Bellevue.


Photos (c) 2005 by J. Bezold. All rights reserved.