"Don't be against things, as much as for things"
State 4: Kentucky - June 19, 2017
The southern back road that we used to exit the far west side of Virginia dipped into Tennessee a few miles before we entered Kentucky. Right before the Tennessee/Kentucky state line was a long tunnel which bore straight through a mountain. We expected as soon as we came out the other of the other side of the tunnel, we would see a sign announcing our arrival to our 4th State on our cross country Trip: Kentucky. We both waited in anticipation as that tunnel seemed to go on forever. As we came out of the tunnel, I saw a tiny 12” inch blue sign that simply said “Kentucky” with a white outline of the state etched on it. I didn’t see the sign, and Lori almost missed it too. We had to magnify the picture so you could see it.
We both agreed that the welcome sign was kind of dinky, not to mention anti-climactic, and we still had no idea what the states motto was. I was quick to propose that the motto of Kentucky is so obvious that there was no need to put it on the state welcome sign. The motto of Kentucky must be “Kentucky: Finger lickin’ good” We both had a good laugh and pulled off the first exit right after the tunnel for our first stop: Cumberland Gap National State Park. In case you were wondering, we did find out what the state motto was for Kentucky, which we absolutely love: Kentucky: Unbridled Spirit. If you are reading this, and are from Kentucky, we are sorry and mean you no offense.
When it comes to national parks, everyone knows about Yosemite, Gettysburg, and the Everglades, but how many people know about National parks like Cumberland Gap right over the Kentucky state border? We knew very little about the park other than it was featured on the Kentucky state quarter, but we knew there had to be an interesting story about this park. Discovering little known pieces of Americana scattered across our land has been one of the most fascinating aspects of our trip. Back in in early days of our nation, the people who were trying to settle in the west had a huge obstacle standing in their way called the Appalachian Mountains. These mountains stretched from Alabama all the way to Canada, and were so dense and dangerous to cross, that the pioneers looked for gaps so they could cross more safely. The most prominent gap in the Appalachian’s was... you guessed it, Cumberland Gap. It was through this exact passage that America’s ancestors passed who eventually settled the west. Cumberland Gap is also the approximate point where Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina all meet. There was a road up one of the park mountains to a place called Pinnacle Overlook, which promised to offer amazing views of the gap, and where the aforementioned states merged. The road up the mountain was extremely steep and treacherous, and made the mountains of West Virginia seem like an ant hill! There were no guard rails and enough sharp razor back turns to the keep the adrenaline pumping! We finally made it to the top, parked Rosie, and were rewarded with the spectacular views you see below.
While we were at the overlook, we noticed a painted line on the path. One side said Virginia and other side said Kentucky. Of course we had to step on the line, so we could say we were in both states at the same time, and of course after we did that, we had to take a picture of us doing it as well. Believe it or not, this was a very difficult picture to capture. After a few contorted moves, a couple of comical outtake’s, not to mention a few peculiar looks for passerby’s, we finely got the shadowed shot of us standing in two states simultaneously! We were proud! Which one do you like best?
After leaving Cumberland Gap, we continued north to learn more about Kentucky. We realized that aside from Kentucky Fried Chicken and the Kentucky Derby, neither one of us knew very much about the state. Since we do not eat meat, neither one of us could even remember the last time we ate Kentucky Fried Chicken. A pretty heated debate ensued regarding whether or not we were going to visit the KFC museum. At this point, we did not even know if such a museum even existed! Oh the very odd arguments that vegetarians have! Lori could not fathom why, as a vegetarian myself, I would even consider visiting a business responsible for the murder of millions of chickens each year. My argument was to place ethics aside for a moment. KFC is an American success story, an iconic brand, and part of the history of Kentucky. If we really wanted to get to know the state we are visiting, then we needed to experience what each state offers. Just for the record, neither one of us for a split second planned to tear into an 18-piece bucket of chicken! Lori proposed a compromise. If we happened to run across the Kentucky Fried Chicken Museum, then we would see it providing it was free, and we did not have to witness the death of a chicken. Maybe it was fate or just divine intervention or by the spirit of the ole’ colonel himself, but as soon those words came out of Lori’s mouth, we spotted a large sign on the side of the road that said “Welcome to Corbin, Home to the Birth Place of Kentucky Fried Chicken. A quick google search revealed the 1st KFC was a mere ¾ of a mile down the road. It was definitely the most unique KFC I had ever seen. It can only be described as half fast food restaurant, and half museum. The Colonel Sander's original kitchen, desk, and the original suit he actually wore were all on display behind glass. We posed for a few selfies with a replica of the man himself,
and then left as the greasy chicken smell was a bit overwhelming. After leaving KFC, we went to the local library to catch up on some computer work, and then spent the night at the Corbin, KY Walmart.