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Thoughts from the Lower 40: Travel Babble
In May 21 Issue
By Wade Daffron, Columnist

I travel a lot for my job.

When some people say they "travel," they mean they hop on a plane and fly to some other state, or maybe even some other country.

When I say "travel," I mean within the confines of the Bluegrass State.

Being one who has never really gone anywhere or done much, it's just as exciting to me to go to Paris, KY as it would be to go to Paris, France.

I have learned Kentucky is chock full of all kinds of interesting towns, eclectic places, and fascinating people,

Just the other day, I drove past a tiny, roadside "dive" called The Blue Castle.

And sure enough, it looks like a "blue castle"-complete with a wooden facade of towers and fancy trim.

Oddly enough, I don't think the restaurant intends to be a take-off of White Castle. It just is what it is.

And judging by the vehicles parked along the roadside (there's hardly any parking), it must be a good place to eat.

The Blue Castle is located on the outskirts of Hyden, KY.-which you sports fans will know as the birthplace of UK gridiron star Tim Couch.

It's also home to one of the area's best Bluegrass festivals, at which Russell County's own, Daniel Wilson, has graced the stage with The Sullivan Family.

What else do I find fascinating about Hyden?

The "Runaway Truck Ramp."

And it's exactly as it sounds.

As you drive into Hyden, off Hal Rogers Parkway, you will be travelling down a steep, straight hill.

As you get toward the bottom of the hill, there is literally a lane to your right which leads to what looks like huge piles of dirt-hopefully big enough to stop a tractor-trailer rig that's lost its brakes, or suffered some other type of mechanical failure.

I wonder how many times something like this actually happens.

I also wonder that if you happen to be travelling on the Hal Rogers Parkway, and experience a problem, do you think to yourself, "OK, I just need to make it Hyden, and ditch this rig on the runaway truck ramp."

If everything goes well, I assume you can crawl from the wreckage and walk down to The Blue Castle for an order of onion rings.

But there again, there seems to be a decent amount of crosses near the runaway truck ramp, so...

I've driven past Weaver's, on Main St., in London, KY, a gazillion times, but have yet to sample one of their world-famous hot dogs.

Which makes me wonder why London has a Chicken Festival when they have a place known around the globe for wieners.

Corbin, which is just down the road from London, should have a more accurate claim toward "chicken fame" since its home to the original "Sander's Cafe," of KFC history and fame.

(And no, I've never stopped there to eat, either. One for the list, though...,)

I've also thought the "White Flash" restaurant in Jackson looks interesting, as do the numerous pool rooms situated on town squares throughout our fair state (Not to be confused with State Fair-which I hear has fried candy bars and Krispy Kreme burgers).

People often say, (and I tend to agree) the best burgers are served up right after you watch them being grilled in a pool hall.

And barbecue?

Holy cow, don't even get me started. (But I will say the Pennyroyal Region (think Tompkinsville) has the best. Yes, even better than Moontlite, in Ownesboro.)

But it's not just all about food-even though I can tell you which Subways across the state always offer $5 footlongs, or which Wendy's serve breakfast, and so on.

People are missing out by not taking a "day trip" across the Commonwealth.

I'm not sure of the count, but there are a handful of wooden bridges across the state, a few natural arches (we have one of the best in Russell County with Rockhouse), and more roadside attraction than you can point a GPS at.

And while I'm on the whole GPS issue, I must say that those things are not always accurate.

I'm no expert at geography, but I'm pretty sure the courthouse in Butler County is NOT in the middle of a field next to a concrete plant.

Just sayin'.

I've actively sought out some of Kentucky's landmarks along my routes, but it's always a treat to be surprised.

One morning, I was travelling in Western Kentucky as the sun was coming up, and I saw something strange on the horizon.

At first, I thought the early-morning hours and fact I had already been on the road for three hours was messing with me, but I swore I saw the Washington Monument.


Did you know there was a "Jefferson Davis Monument" in Kentucky?

Well, there is, and the thing is huge!

It's pretty close to road and quite startling if you're not expecting to see it.

You can't help but catch a chill as you drive past the "Octagon House" near Franklin, KY. (Yep, it's literally shaped like a stop sign.)

It's supposed to be haunted, and looks as it could be.

Over in Eastern Kentucky, there's what looks like a huge bridge, and multi-lane road near Harlan.

It appears to be some kind of short cut through the mountains, but from what I am told, it's a road only coal trucks can use.

Sure enough, there always seems to be somebody sitting in a vehicle at the entrance of the road, and if you, as a mere traveler, try to turn onto that road, you will be stopped and sternly chased away.


Heck, I dunno', I've not been brave enough to try it. (I get scared driving past the Octagon House, remember?)

If you choose to venture across our state, here's a few tips:

*Don't ever, (and I mean EVER) make fun of, or joke about coal mining if you're in Eastern Kentucky. Just sayin'...

*Don't ever confuse "Harlan" and "Hazard" unless you can run really fast.

*Don't try to pronounce "Hindman", KY without the assistance of someone who lives there.

*If you see a "High Water" sign in far, western Kentucky, don't expect to instantly see water on or across the roadway, for at least a half-mile-at which time you forget about seeing the sign, anyway,

*No one is impressed if you say "I've been to both London and Paris (KY) today!"

*I think it's a law that you can be legally slapped if you are in Ohio County, KY and ask, "Is Bill Monroe really from here?"

*I also believe it's against the law to drink anything but Ale-8-One in the Winchester area.

And guess what?

If you're traveling from Russell County, there's really no destination in our state that's more than a five-hour drive.

I'm not trying to sound like a travel agent, but I am thrilled with each new adventure I undertake in our state.

As the old song goes, (Probably the most popular version is by the Everly Brothers, who have a landmark to them in Central City, KY)...

"A man in Kentucky sure is lucky"

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