Your road is everything that a road ought to be?
And yet you will not stay in it
half a mile,
for the reason that little, seductive, mysterious roads
are always branching out from it
on either hand,
and as these curve sharply also
and hide what is beyond,
you cannot resist the temptation
to desert your own chosen road
and explore them.
After ten days in Nappanee, Indiana, the warranty work on our motorhome at Newmar Factory Service Center is complete, and on September 30, 2000, we?re off on the next stage of our journey. Our destination is the Kentucky Bluegrass Region.
Our first stop is Columbus, Indiana,43 miles south of Indianapolis. Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) members have an advantage if they use Columbus as a base from which to explore the surrounding area because they can stay at CERAland, a recreational area and campground owned by Cummins Engine Company. The CERA in CERAland Park stands for the Cummins Employees Recreation Association. The park is located on a former 345-acre farm that Cummins employees purchased in 1963 with money from their recreation fund. Because this is a semi-private park, it is not listed in RV directories. However, through an alliance between CERAland and FMCA, FMCA members can use the park. The campground has 315 sites with water and electric utilities and 55 with full hookups.
Columbus is relatively small (pop. 37,000) but it has earned its reputation as a showcase for America?s most acclaimed architects. Public buildings, fire stations, schools, churches, commercial buildings, a library, a shopping mall, and parks and open areas give testament to a vision of beauty and order in this carefully planned community. There are 50 public and private buildings designed by prominent architects, among them the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library (designed by I.M. Pei, 1969); Irwin Union Bank & Trust (Eero Saarinen, 1954); the Commons Mall (Cesar Pelli, 1973); The Republic (Myron Goldsmith of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrillk, 1971); St. Peter?s Lutheran Church (1988); and Lincoln Elementary School (1967), both by Gunnar Birkerts. Many of the well-known buildings are in the downtown area, mixed with historic structures from Columbus? early years. The Visitors Center on the ?Avenue of the Architects? (Fifth Avenue) is an ideal place to start your visit to Columbus. The 1864 structure houses an exhibit and gift shop. Tours leave from the Visitors Centre (March through November, $7 for a one-hour tour and $9.50 for a two-hour tour. Senior and AAA discounts available.)
The focal point of the exhibition area in the Cummins World Headquarters in downtown Columbus is an ?exploded? NT engine with its components suspended by stainless-steel cables. The display also includes a 1934 Auburn powered by a Cummins diesel engine ? the only such automobile known to be in existence today.
Columbus is convenient to the popular specialty shops in Indiana?s Brown County, as well as the historic town of Madison, and the college town of Bloomington.
Brown County has long been known for its natural beauty and fall colors, and the renowned arts and crafts colony of Nashville, which offers more than 350 antique, craft, and specialty shops. Brown County State Parkis the largest and oldest state park in Indiana ? 15,543-acres of rolling hills and hollows and beautiful forests opened to the public in 1929. The park offers camping, picnicking, hiking, a swimming pool, a lodge and cabins, shelter houses, fishing on two lakes, and a country store. There are more than 12 miles of hiking trails and another 80 miles of equestrian trails. A two-lane covered bridge greets visitors at the park?s main entrance off Indiana Route 46. Autumn, with its outrageous colors, is the park?s busiest season ? October is the peak month. And, while of course it isn?t true, it seems that all two million visitors are there on the same day. The actual count is a tad more modest 12,000 visitors daily.
It?s Tuesday, October 3rd and the wonderful warm weather continues as summertime hangs in for another day (85?F/29?C). It?s surprising how many creepy critters are still around. Noseeums ? those pesky little gnat-like creatures that bother you especially in early morning and at dusk ? and spiders, spiders, and more spiders! Some spiders, like the brown recluse, can leave nasty bites. And then there?s chiggers bites. If you can resist the urge to scratch the first day, the chigger dies of frustration. If not, hello welts!
From Columbus we drive Indiana Highway 7 (very good road) to Vernon and Madison (40 miles/64 km) and stay four nights at beautiful Clifty Falls State Park, located one mile (1.6 km) west of Madison with entrances off State Roads 56 and 62. The spacious campground features 106 Class A sites (electrical hookup, picnic table, fire ring, parking spur, drinking water supply in area, and modern restrooms/showers) and 59 Class C sites (primitive, drinking water supply in area, pit toilet, no electric hookup). There is also a dump station. We pay a very reasonable $11 a night for our Class A site. Also in the park is Clifty Inn which overlooks the Ohio valley and the historic river town of Madison, and provides year-long lodging and meeting facilities.
Clifty Falls State Park was established in 1920 to preserve the falls on Clifty Creek. The park now covers 1,361 acres and is known for its rugged, cliff-lined gorges, sheer rock walls, and plunging waterfalls. There are 12 miles (19 km) of moderate to rugged hiking trails and in our hike we see some of the 60 species of trees as well as deer, woodchucks, rabbits, and a huge variety of birds.
From our base at Clifty Falls State Park we drive the Ohio River Scenic Route, east to Vevay in Switzerland County, cross the Ohio River into Kentucky via the Markland Dam Bridge, west to Carrolton, and cross the Ohio River back into Indiana at Madison (71 miles/114km). Designated a National Scenic Bywayin 1996, this portion of the scenic drive hugs the river?s edge among picturesque hills and valleys surrounding the majestic Ohio River.
The city of Madison offers the visitor a step back in time. The town on the banks of the Ohio River prospered in the early 19th century as a major river port, railway center, and supply town. It became the gateway to the Northwest Territory with the building of the famous ?Michigan Road? and, later, the first railroad west of the Allegheny Mountains (Madison to Indianapolis). Madison has the largest collection of 19th century architecture in Indiana with 133 blocks listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Downtown Madison contains over one thousand 19th century structures and two National Historic Landmarks?the Lanier MansionState Historic Site and the Shrewsbury-Windle House.
In more recent times, Madison was selected as the ?Typical American Town? by the Office of War Information (OWI) during World War II and a movie heralding the community was widely distributed. The 1958 movie ?Some Came Running? was set in Madison. In 1997 Madison was proclaimed ?best-preserved town? by the Chicago Tribune, and ?prettiest small town? by Ladies Home Journal in 1998.
Further up the Ohio River, Vevay was settled in 1802 by Swiss winemakers who transformed the area into the first commercial vineyards and winery in the United States and gave the country its Switzerland name. Kegs of fine wine were carried by horseback to President Thomas Jefferson and the Congress. Switzerland County remains rural today: a recent count revealed that there are more deer than people.
Carrollton, Kentucky, on a bend where the Ohio and Kentucky rivers meet, was established in 1794 as Port William. The city is one of the largest burley tobacco markets in the world. Historic Carrolton encompasses a 25-block area with 350 commercial buildings, including antique shops, specialty shops, restaurants, and early 19th century homes. The centerpiece of this district is the Carroll County Courthouse, completed in 1884.
It?s October 7th and temperatures plunge! The first freeze is upon us! Kentuckiana (northern Kentucky and southern Indiana) is getting an early taste of winter as a cold front slams through. A 20-30 degree temperature drop over the past 24 hours; 40 degree temperature drop in the last few days. And we?re two to three weeks away from peak fall coloUrs.
Kentucky and the Bluegrass Region
? Who ever saw a field of clover in its pristine beauty in the
Bluegrass Land, shall not forget its glories.?
? J. Soule Smith,
Lexington journalist and lawyer, 1898
We cross the Ohio River into Kentucky at Madison, Indiana, and drive south on U.S. 421 (up and down and around on a road with no shoulder) to Bedford, New Castle, and Frankfurt (71 miles/114 km). Frankfortis surrounded by wooded hillsides and divided by the S-curve of the Kentucky River as it meanders through the Bluegrass Region. It became the state capital in 1792 as a compromise between rivals Louisville and Lexington. In addition to government, local industries include rich burley tobacco, and corn farmlands and bourbon distilleries.
We take a self-guided tour of the Kentucky State Capitol, a neoclassical Beaux Arts-style building that is one of the most beautiful capitol buildings in the country. Outside the Capitol is the giant Kentucky Floral Clock, 34 feet in diameter and supported by a 100-ton base. The minute hand, which is 20 1?2 feet (6 m) long, makes a sudden sweep once every minute.
The Frankfort Cemetery, the final resting place of Daniel and Rebecca Boone, overlooks the city with sweeping views of the Kentucky River and what a breathtaking view it is!
We spend a delightful two hours at the Kentucky History Center, a new state-of-the-art museum and research facility. Located in historic downtown Frankfort, it houses the state history museum, the collections of the Kentucky Historical Society, and the genealogical research library. The Center is located at 100 West Broadway; admission is free.
Lexington is the geographic center and the heart of Kentucky?s Bluegrass Region which encompasses roughly 1,600 square miles of rolling farmland in north-central Kentucky. For most visitors this is the scenery that epitomizes the state ? quiet farmhouse communities and rolling green pastures bounded by picturesque white and black plank fences. Lexington itself is a gracious, picturesque town with a long and rich history. Fine antebellum mansions are open for tours, and a host of first-rate museums await exploration. And, of course, there are the horses! Rare is the pasture in this lush bluegrass region that isn?t polka-dotted with thoroughbreds. Lexington is Internationally recognized as the ?Horse Capital of the World? and horses are a multi-billion-dollar industry and a way of life here. Lexington is also the commercial center of the Bluegrass Region; it?s the country?s chief producer of bluegrass seed and white barley as well as the largest loose-leaf tobacco market in the world.
Lexington was touched by both the Revolutionary War and the War between the States and there are 16 Civil War Trust Discovery Trail sites here. Many fascinating old home sites in Lexington are open for tours: such as the girlhood home of Mary Todd Lincoln whose father was one of the town?s founders.
As we drive through the gently rolling Kentucky countryside we cannot see any of the famous bluegrass. It is supposed to be all around us ? but the grass is distinctly green! So what is Kentucky Bluegrass? It is a type of grass that grows lushly in the State?s rich limestone soil. It is not really blue ? it?s green, but in the spring it develops bluish-purple buds that when seen in large fields look like a rich, blue blanket. Nobody knows for sure where Bluegrass came from but early pioneers found it growing in abundance when they crossed the Appalachian Mountains. They shipped it back east and soon traders began asking for the ?blue grass seeds from Kentucky? ? and the name stuck. Today, Kentucky is known as the ?Bluegrass State.?
Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, American Saddlebred horses, some of the world?s finest breeds, are nurtured on this calcium-rich grass. Some of the most celebrated horse farms in the world are in this region ? the neat horse farms with their trim plank fences are a delight to the eye ? but they are rarely open to visitors. A detailed look at the raising and training of racehorses is available at the Kentucky Horse Park. The park, 10 miles north of Lexington at the junction of I-75 exit 120 and Iron Works Parkway, includes tours, demonstrations highlighting the region?s equine heritage, the American Saddle Horse Museum, the International Museum of the Horse, and the Man o? War Memorial. The famous Kentucky thoroughbred set many records. He was said to have had a 25 foot stride and was once clocked at 43 mph (68km/h) during a workout.
Kentucky Scenic Byways include gorgeous farms on Russell Cave Road, Hughes Lane, and Ironworks Pike. But if you could take only one drive in the Bluegrass Region, it should be on the Old Frankfort Pike. This 15 mile (24 km) stretch between Lexington and Frankfurt passes six historic districts and four National Register properties. Stately old trees canopy landscapes of paddock and pasture as we pass horse farms with dry-laid rock fences, and painted board fences.
Majestic views along US 68, designated a Kentucky Scenic Highway, alternate between the close views of trees and rock fences lining the road, to mid-distance views of historic houses, fields, barns, livestock, and ponds, to wide panoramic views of rolling hills, woodland stands, and the valley of Jessamine Creek and its tributaries. The Kentucky River bridges afford a spectacular view into a deep gorge. Ravines, rock walls, and overhanging trees create a tunnel effect that combine with curves to make for exciting driving.
Bourbon is another symbol of this region. The Reverend Elijah Craig is credited with developing what would become known as Bourbon whiskey in Georgetown, Kentucky in 1789. In order to be called Bourbon, the whiskey must contain at least 51% corn and be stored in new charred oak barrels for at least 24 months. At the historic Labrot & Graham distillery visitors can see the way that Bourbon has been made throughout the almost 200 years since Elijah Pepper chose this site in a lush green valley. The distillery uses the original Scottish ?pot still? method and the only surviving stone-aging warehouse in America is filled floor to ceiling with barrels of Bourbon awaiting their moment of perfection. Of course, we left with a bottle of that wonderfully smooth Labrot & Graham?s Woodford Reserve Bourbon whiskey which contains 76% corn.
No visit to the Bluegrass Region is complete without a visit to Keeneland, six miles (9.6 km) west of Lexington on U.S. 60. With its tranquil setting and lovely stone fences and buildings, this National Historic Landmark is one of the most genteel and beautiful race courses in the world. It is a park as well as a racetrack. Thirty different types of trees line the Keeneland property and they are in full fall regalia with spectacular bursts of crimson, yellow, and orange. As we drive through the Man o? War entrance, we?re flanked by two lines of sugar maples and bright red autumn blaze trees.
Keeneland runs two short race meetings a year lasting about three weeks in the spring (April) and in the fall (October). The spring meet features a stakes race each day, highlighted by the Blue Grass Stakes, a popular prep race for the Kentucky Derby. The Fall meeting, showcased by the Spinster Stakes, has served as a launching pad to success in the Breeders? Cup championship program. Not only does Keeneland attract quality racehorses, but also the best jockeys and trainers in the country compete at the spring and fall meetings. We attend the third day of the 22-day Fall Meet, which runs from October 7th to 28th.
The SHAKERS and a SIMPLER TIME
As we come down the drive to the restored buildings of the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, one of the most completely restored Shaker community in the country, we feel as though we?ve wandered back in time to the early 1800s. The simple beauty of the 30 original buildings and peaceful atmosphere surrounding 2,700 acres of gently rolling countryside works magic on all who enter here.
Given the name ?Shakers? because of their trembling during their devotional dancing, the United Society of Believers in Christ?s Second Appearing believed in simplicity, pacifism, celibacy, community of goods, and separation from the world. In the Shakers? unusual living arrangements the men and the women lived apart from each other.
The Shakers came to central Kentucky in 1805 and established the village of Pleasant Hill on a high plateau above the Kentucky River near Harrodsburg (35 miles (56 km) southwest of Lexington. By 1830, the community was prosperous and self-sustaining with nearly 500 residents and more than 4,000 acres of land. Then, the Civil War funneled troops through Pleasant Hill calling on the villagers to feed and care for both Union and Confederate forces. The Pleasant Hill Shakers never recovered from the demoralizing effect of the war which disrupted their southern markets and exposed the Order to new and corrupting worldly influences. In 1910, the 12 remaining Shakers turned over what was left of their property to a Harrodsburg citizen in return for care until their deaths, and the village was closed. The last Pleasant Hill Shaker died in 1923. For the next 50 years, Pleasant Hill existed as a small farm community, and in 1961, a nonprofit group was formed to preserve its heritage. Since that time, 33 original buildings have been restored and 2,700 acres of farmland preserved.
Innovative builders and farmers, the Shakers are credited with a variety of inventions, from the clothespin and circular saw to the modern flat broom, and water-repellent fabric. During their flourishing years, the Pleasant Hill Shakers led the state in scientific farming in the propagation of sheep, cattle, and hogs, and in the development of agricultural implements. The sale of flatbrooms, preserves, garden seed, and herbs throughout the Midwest and South made the Shaker name a hallmark of excellence.
Today, the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a National Historic Landmark, is a model of historic preservation where a daily schedule of guided tours and talks offers an in-depth look at different aspects of Shaker life and work. Costumed interpreters give insight into 19th-century life at Pleasant Hill as we watch broom-makers, woodworkers, coopers, spinners, and weavers use Shaker tools and methods to demonstrate crafts.
The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill is located on U.S. Highway 68, 25 miles southwest of Lexington and 7 miles northeast of Harrodsburg. It is open daily 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. from mid-March through Thanksgiving weekend. Winter hours vary. Shaker Village admission is $10; seniors $9.50. Additional information can be obtained by calling (800) 734-5611 or from their Website at www.shakervillageky.org.
QUICK KENTUCKY FACTS:
Located in the south central United States along the west side of the Appalachian Mountains, Kentucky ranks thirty-seventh in land size with 39,732 square miles. Kentucky has more miles of running water than any other state except Alaska. Kentucky has 12.7 million acres of commercial forest land ? 50% of the state?s land area. The main species of trees are white oak, red oak, walnut, yellow poplar, beech, sugar maple, white ash, and hickory.
Kentucky is one of four states to call itself a ?commonwealth.? In 1792 when Kentucky became the fifteenth state ? the first on the western frontier ? both ?commonwealth? and ?state? were used. Commonwealth, meaning government based on the common consent of the people, dates to the time of Oliver Cromwell?s England in the mid-1600s. The other U.S. commonwealths, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, were original British colonies. Kentucky, once part of Virginia, chose to remain a commonwealth when it became a state.
The following country and western singers were born in Kentucky: John Conlee, Billy Ray Cyrus, Don and Phil Everly, Crystal Gayle, Tom T. Hall, Kentucky Headhunters, Grandpa Jones, Wynonna and Naomi, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe, John Michael Montgomery, Ricky Skaggs, Merle Travis, Steve Wariner, Keith Whitley, and Dwight Yoakam.