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Corbin, KY

2019-05-12 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Big South Fork Scenic Railway – Day #18

Our first excursion in the London area was to the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, about one hour south of here, in Stearns, KY, near the Tennessee border.  This is also adjacent to the Daniel Boone National Forest…

Stearns, KY, is another one of the many small, thriving, towns which died in the 1950s.  At one time Stearns was a bustling industrial town of 10,000 – 15,000 people.  Today there are fewer than 1,600 people here.  The only remnants of the town, besides the few houses, are the Big South Fork Scenic Railway, along with the few remaining buildings that were once operated by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company.

Stores adjacent to the train depot:

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This building now houses the museum; it once was the headquarters office building of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company; it also housed the telephone exchange and the local bank…

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The train was awaiting our arrival…

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We had a lovely drive again, through miles and miles of tree-covered hills as far as the eye can see… After we arrived and procured our train tickets, we toured the museum.  There was the usual assortment of memorabilia plus photos showing the once-thriving town…

We enjoyed our box lunch, then waited for the train…

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And here it is!

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The cars may be vintage, but they are nicely finished inside… Soon we were underway.  The train’s planned destination was the Blue Heron Mining Community – a National Park Interpretive Center.

Blue Heron, or Mine 18, is an abandoned coal mining town.  It was a part of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company’s past operation in what today is the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service.  Most of what we know about life at Blue Heron, and the other Stearns coal towns, has been handed down through oral history.  Blue Heron mine operated from 1937 until it closed in December
1962.  During that time hundreds of people lived and worked in the isolated community on the banks of the Big South Fork River.  Their story is the focus of this interpretive tour of the Blue Heron Community.

When the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company abandoned Blue Heron in 1962, the buildings were either removed or they lapsed into decay.  There were no original buildings standing when the town was “re-created” as an interpretive center in the 1980s.  Consequently, the town was restored in an “open-air” museum format, and new structures were constructed on the approximate site of several of the original buildings. These new structures are open, metal shells of buildings, and are referred to as “ghost structures.”  Each ghost structure has an audio-tape station with recorded recollections of some of the people of Mine 18.

Unfortunately, recent winter storms damaged the train tracks, so Blue Heron is no longer reached by the railroad.  Big South Fork Scenic Railway is now the railroad to nowhere.  We rode about 1/2 hour, enjoying the scenery…

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Some passengers took a nap…

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Plenty of green…

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And wet… The train announcer told us that yesterday the creek was running slow and crystal clear… Remember the rain we had last night?

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And then the train stopped, and we backed up for 1/2 hour until we returned to the depot.  Some caravanners drove on to Blue Heron, but we, and others, returned to the campground…

There were many happy hours groups at several of the Airstreams this evening.  Some Airstreamers were happier than others…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-11 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Moving to London and Fried Chicken – Day #17

Today we hitched up and drove.  In the rain.  We started with another Drivers Meeting.  No pictures of the drivers, but these geese swam by during the meeting and they were way more interesting…

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We drove for about 2 1/2 hours through the rain, through more gorgeous green Kentucky countryside…

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We went about 100 miles on Highway 23.  All along there were signs denoting birthplaces of “famous” country music singers…

We arrived at Levi Jackson State Park in London, KY.  We set up easily – the rain had mostly stopped…

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We had a relaxing afternoon; tonight was the real treat!

We drove a few miles to Corbin, KY, the home of Harland Sanders;  this is where he ran a motel, a gas station, and a cafe.

Colonel Harland Sanders (September 9, 1890 – December 16, 1980) was an American businessman, best known for founding fast food chicken restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (now known as KFC, with the corporate name of Yum! brands…).  In his later years he spent his time acting as the company’s brand ambassador and symbol.  His name and image are still symbols of the company.  The title ‘colonel’ was honorary – a Kentucky Colonel – not the military rank.

The Colonel began selling fried chicken from his roadside restaurant in Corbin, KY, during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  During that time Sanders developed his “secret recipe” and his patented method of cooking chicken in a pressure fryer.  Sanders recognized the potential of the restaurant franchising concept, and the first KFC franchise opened in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1952.  In the late 1950s Interstate 75 was planned; Sanders saw that his roadside business would suffer when the traffic moved to the Interstate, so he sold the property.  He then devoted himself full-time to franchising his fried chicken throughout the country.  And the rest is history…

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While the motel, gas station and the original cafe are long gone, the Sanders Cafe is a recreation of the original building.  In it you can not only buy all the chicken you could ever want, but there are several historic rooms that you can visit to get a sense of what Sanders was doing 65 years ago…

With 50 caravanners showing up the place was soon packed…

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We had arrived early, so we didn’t wait much.  We viewed the various museum rooms…

The kitchen:

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The cafe furniture…

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There was also a “model” motel room set up adjacent to the women’s restroom in the original cafe.  The room would demonstrate for the women how nice the rooms were…

It was a fun piece of nostalgia…

And then it started to rain.  The skies opened up; some of the Airstreamers were wondering why we were not visiting the Ark (www.arkencounter.com) instead…

But we returned to the Villa without incident… And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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