I’ve always loved traveling backroads. The Blue Highway routes first memorialized by William Least Heat-Moon whose account of his journey along the back roads of the United States was first published in 1982. I’ve read all sorts of other books of a similar theme over the years, like John Steinbacks 1960 book Travels with Charley in Search of America and, more recently, Larry McMurtry’s 2001 trave book, Roads : Driving America’s Great Highways.
I love those kind of adventures, the serendipity of discovering what’s around the next bend, the delight of seeing new things, learning about the land and seeing and experiencing American life off the Interstate. That, I suppose, is why I got the Roadtrek. To get up close and personal with this awesome country.
We got a little taste of it yesterday, eschewing the more direct freeway routes suggested by my GPS for winding state roads. Mostly we traveled US 127, which roughly parallels I-75 north through Tennessee and Kentucky, anywhere from 10 to 50 miles to the west. We started out about 40 miles south of Nashville from the Henry Horton State Park and ended up at the Big Bone Lick State Park in northern Kentucky, about 35 miles south of Cincinnati.
The road twisted and turned up and down the western Appalachian Plateau. It was Easter Sunday and the scenery was spectacular, with blue skies and the mountains in early spring bloom. We averaged about 50 miles an hour, counting the reduced speeds of scores of small mountain communities. My only regret is we are on a pretty strict timetable. I needed to be home by early Monday afternoon, so there was no time to stop, look around, meet people. I saw lots of things I wanted to photograph… old barns, mountain churches, mountain vistas, a huge southern flea market.
Alas, except for some shots around the gigantic, mile-long Wolf Creek Dam at Lake Cumberland – now being repaired after dangerous leaks in 2009-2010 – there was no time. You can see in the main photo how the highway around te lake was literally carved right out of the mountain.
I shared in yesterday’s post how we learned really quick that state parks are our first choice in deciding where to stay. The Big Bone Lick Park only confirmed that choice. Before heading off this morning, we took a rugged nature path down and around a small fishing lake, and checked out the historical exhibit. The park is located between two wonderfully-named rural Kentucky communities – Beaverlick and Rabbit Hash. It was named because of the numerous mammoth bones found in the salt rich grounds around Big Lick Creek. In 1803 or so, William Clark spent three weeks there before heading west on the fabled expedition with Meriwether Lewis, collecting bone specimens at the request of President Thomas Jefferson.
There’s also a small herd of 11 bison there, watched over and tended by park ranchers as a demonstration project. We had no idea bison had ranged this far east but, we learned, back at the turn of the 1800’s, they thrived in the Kentucky bluegrass country just like they did on the western plains. Jennifer and I stood along a fence and stared at the huge 1,200 pound animals, who stared back, bored-looking, grunting and slowly chewing the sweet green spring grass bursting from the warming ground.
Then we hit the road in the Roadtrek, returning home by 4 P.M.
In my next post, I’ll share what I learned from our maiden trip in our little motor home.