After attending BWIAB in Ohio, I had absolutely no idea where to go next. Need to keep heading west, but had a heck of a time finding a path. I struck out on 2 destinations in a row which also meant 2 unplanned 13+ hour driving days. That said, there was still much to be grateful for.
America The Beautiful
Our country is just beautiful. I have driven thousands of miles and have been blessed with picture perfect driving weather and I am grateful for that.
The drive from Washington D.C. to Ohio was gorgeous. I crossed over (or through) the Alleghenies of West Virginia and Pennsylvania. It had stormed the night before so the slate-blue skies were still lingering as the sun rose which made for stunning colors on the spring greenery of the mountains.
Ohio, in contrast, was very flat with endless miles of farmland and wetlands but beautiful in its own right.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
After Ohio I decided to go to Corbin, Kentucky. The destination was the historic DuPont Lodge at Cumberland Falls in the Daniel Boone National Forest.
On the way, I was listening to my new favorite app HearHere that tells you the history of the places your driving through. I learned that Corbin, Kentucky happens to be the location of the original Kentucky Fried Chicken.
The annual World Chicken Festival held in nearby London is quite the event and includes a Colonel Sanders look-alike contest, a waddle and beard contest, a rooster mullet contest and a chicken pageant.
I fully planned to stop and eat a batch of original recipe but I missed the exit.
The Falls. That’s All.
I arrived at the DuPont lodge early afternoon. The plan was to check in, hike to the waterfall and enjoy the great outdoors, get a good night’s sleep and make a very long drive to the Ozarks in the morning.
I found out upon arrival at the lodge that you don’t have to hike to the falls.. You can pretty much drive right up to it. So I did.
And then there was nothing else to do.
The lodge was in a gorgeous spot deep in the forest (no cell phone service deep). If I’d have had more time, I could have spent at least a day hiking. But I’d had a large Starbucks (another thing to be grateful for is the general availability of lattes) so I was kinda wired. Decided to get back on the road to take a chunk out of the drive I had ahead the next day.
I had planned to stop at the Bernheim Arboretum (that’s a place where plants and trees are cultivated) just south of Louisville on my way to Cumberland Falls. I made a bit of a miscalculation and realized it was not exactly on the way so I had to skip it.
But wait! When I got back on the road, I realized I could swing by it on my way across the Blue Grass Parkway enroute to the Ozarks.
It was the perfect mid-day break from a long drive. I visited their edible garden (and sadly got there about 5 minutes after the organic cafe closed). Gorgeous property with hiking trails and an exhibit they call “Forest Giants” which I thought were just going to be big trees but turned out to be these cool sculptures:
The little girl in the photo was deliberate to give some size perspective.
The Quilt Capital of the World
I found a good midway point to stop for the night in Paducah, Kentucky. Paducah was as quaint as it gets folks. This town is at the point where the Ohio and Tennessee rivers converge. It is also known as the Quilt Capital of the world and the National Quilting Museum is located here.
I was just thrilled to get a “real” meal after many many days of crap on the road. The Freight House was right up my alley. Fancy old fashioned with Kentucky Bourbon, fresh chilled cream of pea soup, whipped feta and pistachios with radishes, butterbean hummus with a side of smoked pork belly.
Everything was great except the service but that is par for the course these days unfortunately. I usually sit at the bar since I’m by myself and it’s really sad how rarely the bartender will even talk to me let alone provide attentive service.
Don’t Make Me Scream For Ice Cream
A strange phenomenon has been occurring throughout my journey. I have not been able to find real ice cream since I left Savannah, Georgia.
I will pull off at pretty much any and every mom-n-pop drive-up in search of a good cone, or better yet, a true ice cream sundae. It doesn’t matter if I’m hungry.
For some reason, I keep coming across places that claim to have ice cream but it turns out to be soft-serve.
Now, I’m not totally opposed to soft-serve, but I have a little bit of a phobia. Soft-serve requires someone to properly clean and maintain a machine. After a horror story I got from a friend who worked the soft-serve machine at McDonald’s in high school, I’ve been wary.
My other phobia is ice cream flavors that have lots of chunks of non-ice cream stuff in them. I’m pretty much a purist. Chocolate or coffee. The most exotic I get is mint chocolate chip or cookies and cream unless I can get black raspberry, a rarity.
By this point in the trip I was 0 for 10 on mom-n-pop ice cream stands. I thought I was finally on track in Paducah until I walked in and found they only have 6 flavors, all of which were things that had nothing to do with ice cream (like blueberry waffle or the dreaded gummy worm ice cream).
Gas And More
I was way out in the middle of nowhere on my way to the Ozarks the next day and stopped to get gas. And found this:
It was a trifecta. Chocolate, mint chip AND cookies and cream all in a perfectly fresh waffle cone hand dipped by a nice guy in the cleanest gas station I’ve ever seen in my life. Took my time eating that one and feeling grateful for every bite.
My destination was Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I just wanted to go somewhere in the Ozarks. It’s really hard to research that area.
For those who are fans of the Netflix series Ozark (who isn’t?), I found out that the show was actually filmed in Georgia so the only footage that is actually Ozarks is the drone footage in the intro.
I landed on what was supposed to be the quaint town of Eureka Springs. I had visions of fly fishing during the day and soaking my road-tired back in hot springs at night.
Don’t Drink The Water
I spent about 30 miles on winding backgrounds after passing through Branson, Missouri which is a well-known tourist town. Overall a scenic drive, but yikes! I was deep in the woods.
I arrived in Eureka Springs around 4pm. I’ll just say this in case any of you are from Eureka Springs or if it is dear to your heart.
Not. For. Me.
I canceled my hotel room and reset my GPS for Kansas.
On the way out of town, I turned on my history app and learned that while Eureka Springs was once renowned for it’s healing waters, they became contaminated many years ago and it is totally not safe to get in the water anymore.
One of the things I often reflect on while driving is how grateful I am that those who came before us built all the highways and roads. And that GPS was invented. I can’t imagine trying to do this trip without it. When I arrive somewhere that doesn’t feel right, I can re-route in a matter of clicks.
Road Work Ahead
Does anyone know who invented the famous orange and white caution barrel used to mark off road work zones on highways?
Me neither. Whoever it is, they are RICH. There is road construction going on literally everywhere according to signs and over 1 million barrels that I’ve passed so far. Not many workers actually working in the constructions zones, but man I wonder if the guy that sells these barrels has a good looking 40-something year old single son 🙂
Wide Open Spaces
Once I was safely out of the Ozarks, I hit the great plains of Missouri and Kansas. I ended up driving all the way to Wichita that evening which included about 100 miles on Route 400, a straight single lane highway that cuts through nothing but farmland.
I was in awe that there are still places left in the U.S. where you can literally drive for hundreds of miles and see nothing but wide open spaces.
Nickel and Dime
After a good night’s sleep, I did a little light birding at the Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita.
Then I remembered that a former co-worker and friend lives in Wichita. Some of you will recognize her:
Nicole “Nickel and Dime” treated me to a proper breakfast the next day. (We call her Nickel and Dime because she was our Chief Financial Officer). I was grateful for a familiar face and for a yummy omelette.
Carrying a fairly heavy set of binoculars and a camera for 10+ hours a day combined with long road driving makes for a fairly stiff body. I would not be surviving this trip without yoga.
My absolute go-to for quick, easy to follow yoga is pretty much any video by Yoga With Adriene. She is adorable and she doesn’t do anything fancy.
I found her on YouTube years ago because she has an “East Into It” series that you can do if you are either just learning yoga or if you haven’t done it in a while and are very tight. The video above is the first video in that series.
Also, her dog Benji is absolutely precious and often wanders in during the class.
If you’ve been sitting a lot, have been on a long flight or have driven several thousand miles, you might like this one:
I’m thinking I might need to do this one twice tonight 🙂
Next post – Dorothy may not be in Kansas anymore, but Jenny still is!