Tuesday, May 15, 2012


During my senior year in college, my parents moved to south eastern Kentucky for little less than a year.  At least for south eastern Kentucky, I found the fall and the colorful leaves to be so BEAUTIFUL!  Their snow in the winter was pretty cool too for someone who had grown up where an inch or two over the whole winter was fun.  My favorite restaurant was Pine Mountain Grill in Whitesburg, a little drive from my parents’ house.  They have an open face roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy on top that is so delicious!! I got one every time I was on break from school.  YUMMY!  When I go back to Kentucky, there are a few places I want to check out.

When you think of Kentucky, whether you’ve been there or not, what first comes to your mind?  Most know of the famous chicken that came from Kentucky – Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC.  They’re now world-wide.  I’ve seen a KFC in Canada, Japan, and Australia.  They got their start in Kentucky and you can learn more at Sanders Café and Museum in Corbin.  You can also check out the World Chicken Festival in the town of London.
Colonial Sanders next to the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken
One beautiful place to rest your head and take it easy is the Cumberland Falls State Resort Park also in Corbin.  The 125-foot wide waterfall is known as the “Niagara of the South.”
Cumberland Falls
Throughout the state, they have huge caves you can venture into.  One to check out is the American Cave Museum and Hidden River Cave in the town of Horse Cave.  This cave tour takes you 150 ft underground!  Another cave to check out is the Mammoth Cave National Park in Mammoth Cave.  This cave is said to be the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 390 miles explored hence the name “mammoth.”  Louisville called their big cave the Mega Cavern.  They have the world’s first and only underground zip line, five of them to be exact.  Lastly, there’s the Lost River Cave and Valley in Bowling Green, which has Kentucky’s only underground boat tour.  Kentucky has so many options underground for us to check out.
Mammoth Cave
Lost River Cave
One thing underground that Kentucky is known for and what I saw A LOT of in south eastern Kentucky is COAL MINING!  Most in that part of the state either work in or for the mining companies in some way.  One way to learn more about this industry is to check out the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum and Portal No. 31 Mine Tour.  Visitors step back in time and explore the history of mining and the life of a coal miner.  Then, they get adorned with traditional protective gear of a coal minor and tour an actual coal mine by rail car.
Portal No. 31 Mine Tour
Another thing Kentucky is known for is music – bluegrass and country music.  Bill Monroe and his band, “The Blue Grass Boys,” created a new sound in the 1950s that included Appalachian mountain music, rural “old time” string playing, folk ballads, blues, African stomp, and black and white gospel that became known as BLUEGRASS.  Now, it’s the official state music of Kentucky and you can learn more about it at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro. 
International Bluegrass Music Museum
OR You can discover Kentucky’s country music side on the Country Music Highway in eastern Kentucky also known as Route 23.  This scenic 144 mile road pays homage to such people as Loretta Lynn, the Judd’s, Billy Ray Cyrus, Ricky Skaggs, Dwight Yoakam, and Patty Loveless.  Watch out for wildlife along this trail.  Nearby is the Proposed Elk View Scenic Byway in Breathitt, Knott, and Perry Counties.  This area has the most elk east of the Rocky Mountains.

Bourbon is also synonymous with Kentucky.  I don’t know too much about bourbon, and that doesn’t matter.  It’s ingrained in Kentucky’s history so if you want to know more about Kentucky, you have to learn about bourbon and its history.  First place to check out is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. 
Kentucky Bourbon Trail Map
The trail features six distilleries nestled among the most beautiful scenery the Bluegrass state has to offer.  One such distillery is Jim Beam in Clermont.  There you can visit the historic T. Jeremiah Beam home where three generation of Beam distillers lived, the authentic 1800’s copper still (believed to be one of the oldest in America), and their oldest rack house where you’ll be surrounded by bourbon aging in 20,000 oak barrels.  Another distillery with some history is the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort.  Buffalo Trace was one of four distilleries in the country that operated throughout prohibition because they were licensed to produce “medicinal” whiskey, and, as it turned out, Prohibition coincided with an epidemic of afflictions that reportedly required a bourbon cure (uh ah!  Yeah right!?).  Can’t decide on what distillery to check out, once a year they all get together at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in Bardstown so check out the festival for all kinds of activities to learn more about bourbon.

Kentucky Derby
Lastly, Kentucky is known for its horses.  The event that most people know about is the Kentucky Derby held at Churchill Downs in Louisville.  It was held the beginning of this month (May).  However, there are other amazing horse events throughout the year that interest horse lovers that show off the beauty of horses - horse jumping, horse racing, and cross-country horse riding.  

World’s Championship Horse Show held at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville.
World Championship Horse Show at the Kentucky State Fair

The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington.

A horse jumping at the Rolex Three-day Event
A horse jumping at the Rolex Three-day Event
The Lexington Junior League Horse Show also in Lexington.

English Country Riding at the Lexington Jr League Horse Show
Pleasure Riding at the Lexington Jr League Horse Show
These are just the places I visited or would like to go to in Kentucky.  If you know of anywhere else in Kentucky we should check out, please leave a comment below.  Next, we’ll explore what’s just round the corner in Louisiana.

**All photos were found online**

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I visited Kansas on the Midwest road trip I spoke about in my last post about Iowa.  There’s not much in Kansas, but it does have beautiful prairies.

When planning a trip to Kansas, you’ll want to check to see if you’ll be driving on any toll roads.  One of the major interstates that we were on in Kansas was a toll road.  The bad news is that there aren’t many side roads to take to bypass the tolls, so check out other options before leaving on your trip.  The good news is that if you have an EZ Pass (mentioned in my Delaware Post), you can get through the tolls quickly.

During our visit to Kansas, we went on a tour of the state capitol building that included the inside and outside of the dome.  If you’re a little scared of heights, you might want to opt out of the dome part of the tour.  Now having been on it, I actually would have opted OUT of it.  I was so scared, but now I can say I climbed the 296 steps to the dome and lived to type this blog post!  But, I really enjoyed my visit.  They also have a very small gift shop to purchase things like postcards, t-shirts, and books.  NOTE: according to the website, tours of the dome were suspended during renovations but will reopen June 2012.

Kansas Capitol Building
Mural Inside
The steps we had to climb to the outside of the dome
The t-shirt that they sold in the gift shop
Like every other state, there are a few things I’d like to do in Kansas when I go back.

Just north of Kansas City is Amelia Earhart’s Birthplace Museum in the town of Atchison.  Amelia Earhart, born in 1897, is one of the world’s most influential female aviators.  Ninety-Nines, Inc., an international organization of women pilots, has owned her birthplace since 1984.  Amelia was their 1st elected president in 1931 and they have made her birthplace into a museum in order to portray her life and those of other women aviators through educational and interpretive exhibits, activities, and events.
Amelia Earhart's House (picture found online)
Just south of Kansas City is the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farm in Olathe.  It’s the last remaining stagecoach stop open to the public on the Santa Fe Trail and offers a unique hands-on experience for visitors.  Such activities include blacksmithing, stagecoach rides, and “plowin’, plantin’ and playin’ on the prairie.”  I’d love to go on a stagecoach ride!
The Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop (picture found online)
Heading west out of Kansas City, towards Topeka is the Dole Institute of Politics on the grounds of the University of Kansas in Lawrence.  Dedicated in 2003, the Institute is home to state-of-the art exhibits and one of the nation’s largest collections of Congressional papers, now being processed for use in future research.  Together, Senator Bob Dole and Kansas University crafted this beautiful institute to offer public opportunities for all individuals to discover how they might best serve their community, their state, and their nation.
Dole Institute of Politics (picture found online)
Outside of Topeka, in Wamego, somewhere over the rainbow, you’ll find Oz, The Oz Museum that is.  You’ve heard of the movie, the Wizard of OZ, haven’t you?  The museum houses over 2,000 artifacts relating to the magical world created by L. Frank Baum.  I wish I could just click my heels three times and magically be there!

Oz Museum (picture found online)
Heading northwest, you’ll come to the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita.  Take a self-guided tour of a living history museum and historical reenactments that show you how life was in the 1870s – try a wagon ride, hear the ring of the blacksmith anvil, visit various town people’s homes, or try an ice cold sarsaparilla in the saloon as you take in the gunfire that erupts in the streets.  How cool would it be to be there at high noon!?

Old Cowtown (picture found online)
Right outside of Wichita is the town of Hutchinson, home of the Kansas Underground Salt Museum.  It looks like if you have claustrophobia (afraid of closed in areas), then this might not be a wonderful place to go for you.  I’d be willing to try it out though.  In 90 seconds, you are transported 650 feet below the Kansas Prairies to explore how salt was formed and mined, take a guided tour on a tram, or journey into a rustic area of the mine on rails and ties used to haul salt in the 1920s.  They even have an event where boy scouts can camp down there overnight!  I’m not sure if I’m that brave.

Underground Salt Museum (picture found online)
North of Wichita is the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene.  They provide a glimpse of the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States.  You are able to go through his boyhood home (a typical Midwestern home at the turn of the century) and exhibits in the museum about his family life, military career, and political career.  You can even visit the gravesites of him, his wife, and his son.

President Eisenhower (picture found online)
In the southeast part of the state, 45 miles southeast of Dodge City, you’ll find the Moore Ranch Longhorn Cattle Drive.  It’s a working ranch in the wide open prairie that has about 300 Texas Longhorn cattle and 50 horses.  There you can get the real ranch experience sleeping in cabins, awaking at sunrise, and experiencing a true day in the life of a working cowboy.  They provide two, and three-day cattle drives too!

Cattle Drive (picture found online)
In Dodge City, you should visit Boot Hill Museum and Front Street.  They are dedicated to the preservation of the history of Dodge City and the Old West.  Dodge City was founded in 1872 and quickly became the world’s largest shipping point for Longhorn cattle.  It was the wildest of the early frontier towns, but law and order was soon established with the help of men such as Wyatt Earp.  Dodge City was a town that persisted and grew, and still honors its western heritage.  The Front Street buildings represent Dodge City in 1876.  Activities include a chuck wagon dinner, gunfights, can-can dancers, and storytelling.

Boothill Museum and Front Street (picture found online)
Last but not least, near the border of Kansas and Colorado along I-70 is the town of Goodland.  You’ll just need to look up to see one of the largest paintings you’ve ever seen - the giant reproduction of Van Gogh’s “3 Sunflowers In a Vase."  The project started in 1996.  The 80 foot steel easel holds a 24 foot by 32 foot reproduction.  WOW!

3 Sunflowers in a Vase (picture found online)
These are just the places I visited or would like to go to in Kansas.  If you know of anywhere else in Kansas we should check out, please leave a comment below.  Next, we’ll explore what’s just round the corner in Kentucky.

**Picture were taken by my friends or I on the road trip if not noted.