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2019-05-13 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Cumberland Falls, Corbin, KY – Day #19

Today we once again traveled into the green hills of Kentucky; all around us is the Daniel Boone National Forest.  We are headed to the State Park to see the Cumberland Falls and the Dupont Lodge…

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It was a lovely lodge.  Not as nice as the Grand Canyon North Rim Lodge, but still nice…

But before we could enjoy the lodge we walked 3/4 mile to the falls.  The path was wet, but fairly easy; there is a 270′ elevation change walking down to the falls…

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We could see the highway bridge over the Cumberland River far below…

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The raging river was lapping over this walkway…  There is about 10 times the normal water flow today due to melting snow up north and the recent rains locally… (thus, the muddy appearance…)

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We finally arrived at the falls… They were great!

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We went down below for a closer view…

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Did you know that over 280 people die each year taking selfies in dangerous locations?

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Further downstream we got a wider view…

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And then it was time to walk back up… But by now we were even further down.  We walked up 66 steps, then up the 270′ rise on the 3/4 mile path back up to the lodge…

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And then we sat down…

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Soon it was time for lunch…

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The food was decent and the view was great!

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We returned to the campground.  We stopped along the way for Lynda to get her hair cut, and we took the truck to the local Chevy dealer for an oil change.

We had an “Open House” so that we could peak into all the other Airstreams; this gave way to Happy Hours…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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…

2019-05-10 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Butcher Holler and the Coal Miner’s Daughter – Day #16

We began today by spending time at OSCAR, the Oil Springs Cultural Arts and Recreation center; it is located in a school that was sold off in 1955 when the mining industry shut down and the population plummeted… (more on the mines later…)  The school was purchased by a local businessman who has lent it to OSCAR for the past many years…

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We did crafts.  Just like – well, you know… There was wood carving, tin punching, painting, wire art, and several other things that we could try our hand at…  We spent the morning crafting away, and they even provided a tasty mid-morning snack…

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I did a little relief carving of an apple…

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Lynda made something out of tin…

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Some others made these wall plaques…

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The sky was roiling when we returned to the Villa; we had a light lunch in the Airstream, and then we headed out for our next tour.  The rain held off for the rest of the day…

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We carpooled to the town of Van Lear, and the Webb General Store… About 1 1/2 miles down the road from the store is Butcher Hollow, or, in Kentuckian, Butcher Holler…

Here the story begins…

Loretta Lynn was born Loretta Webb on April 14, 1932, in Butcher Holler, in the “house” that is still standing today.  She is the eldest daughter and second child born to Clary and Ted Webb.  Ted was a coal miner and subsistence farmer.  The youngest Webb daughter was Crystal Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb).  There were six other children born to Clary and Ted, but you only need to remember Herman, Loretta’s immediate younger brother.

Butcher Holler was one of many communities that loosely made up the town of Van Lear, KY.  There were five coal and slate mines in the area dating from the early 20th century, with 2,500 miners, and four railroad lines serving the mines.  These mines supported a community of 15,000 to 20,000 people.  When the mines closed in 1955 the population plummeted.  There is little remaining today of this thriving community.  Today, even with recent “suburban” style growth, Van Lear has fewer than 2,000 people.

On January 10, 1948, 15-year-old Loretta Webb married Oliver Lynn, better known as “Doo”, or “Mooney”.  They had met only a month earlier.  Despite Doo’s promise to Loretta’s father never to take her away from Butcher Holler, the Lynns left Kentucky and moved to the logging community of Custer, Washington, north of Bellingham, when Loretta was seven months pregnant with the first of their six children.  The happiness and heartache of her early years of marriage would help to inspire Lynn’s songwriting.  In 1953, Doo bought her a $17 Harmony guitar.  She taught herself to play the instrument, and over the following three years, she worked to improve her guitar playing.  With Doo’s encouragement, Lynn began singing in local clubs in the late 1950s.  (In the Movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, she mentions that she was going to be playing in a “nasty ol’ honky tonk over to Lyndon”.  I sincerely doubt that Lyndon ever had a “nasty ol’ honky tonk”…) 

Lynn signed her first recording contract and cut her first record, “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl”, in February 1960.  Her first album was recorded in Hollywood.  The Lynns toured the country to promote the release to country stations.  By the time the Lynns reached Nashville, the song was a hit, climbing to No. 14 on Billboard’s Country and Western chart, prompting her first appearances on the Grand Ole Opry in 1960.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Her best-selling 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter, was made into an Academy Award–winning film of the same title in 1980, starring Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones.  Spacek won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Lynn.

Back to Lynn’s brother, Herman Webb.  After the mines closed most of the Webb family moved to Indiana.  But Herman always wanted to return.  In 1975, he bought the local general store near Butcher Holler.  He named it Webb’s Store and ran it until his death in 2018.  Today his son and daughter run the store and offer tours of the house where Loretta Lynn grew up…

Butcher Holler is a fer piece down the road, about 2 miles past Van Lear, and about 10 miles past Paintsville, (pop. 5,700 today).  Butcher Holler is way back in the hills…

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This is Webb’s store…

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The sign is a little worn…

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There are signs everywhere hawking the tours in case no one is at the store…

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A shuttle took us up the 1 1/2 mile one lane road to the house.  We shouldn’t complain – when the Webbs lived here there was no road, just a footpath.  (In the movie, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, Doo drives his Jeep to the house by driving in the creek…)

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The house is pretty much original.  When Herman moved back to Butcher Holler in 1975 he did shore up the foundation and replace much of the front porch using 1970s techniques and design.  (If you notice the front porch guardrail you will see that it is VERY similar guardrails in 1970s era apartment buildings in Orange County, CA…)

Inside the house we were given a tour by Hermasina, Herman’s daughter.  There are four rooms plus two attic bedrooms.  Much of the furniture is original to the house; there is a lot of memorabilia from the Webb and Lynn families…

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This view up the valley was not like this when the mines were operation.  There were few trees; any tree over 6″ in diameter would be needed as shoring in the mines, so this view would have extended miles up the valley.  The area would be farmland for residents to raise their own vegetable gardens…

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It was a great tour – very authentic and not too much hype and certainly no glossy brochures…

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This road was only a footpath in the 1940s…

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We forewent the shuttle ride and walked back to the Webb Store…

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We did pass one of the entrances to one of the mines…

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The store isn’t much – more memorabilia, a few staples, candy, and lots of moon pies and RC Colas…

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Other than the store, just about all evidence of this thriving community is gone… No train tracks, no industry, no other businesses, very few people…

So we returned to the Villa.  We had a little FaceTime with our grandson, Ian.  He is five years old this week!

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In the evening we returned to the Highway 23 Museum.  We enjoyed a nice dinner, then the pickers began… Bluegrass music!

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There was music, dancing, singing, and even some square dancing!

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-09 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Country and Country Music – Day #15

We visited three local points of interest today… We started at Mountain Home Place…

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This is a working farm; all the buildings here were moved onto this property from adjacent land that was taken when the Paintsville Lake State Park lake was built.  The buildings date from 1850 to 1900.

Of course, we start in the Gift Shoppe… They sell all hand-made products produced by local craftsmen…

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The old men caravaners enjoyed sitting on the front porch…

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We strolled the property and saw the vintage buildings; we also enjoyed their animals…

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I enjoyed what appeared to be really tentative foundations…

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We saw the local church…

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And the local one-room school house, in use until 1958…

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A typical cabin…

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Interesting ladder to the attic lofts…

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Then we moved on to lunch in Paintsville…

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I enjoyed a local delicacy… Fried Bologna Sammich…

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The next local landmark we toured was the Mayo United Methodist Church; the church was donated in 1904 by Mr. Mayo, who made his fortune in coal mining.  (We are only about 50 miles from the West Virginia border.)

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The stained glass windows are remarkable…

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The organ was relatively small (1,000 pipes, 18 stops, two manuals), but high quality, and still in good condition; it still uses the original mechanical connections to operate the pipes.  The manual pumps were replaced by electric fan chambers in 1914 when electricity arrived at the church…

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Our own caravaner played for us, and we returned the favor by singing a few hymns…

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Next door was Mr. Mayo’s house… The Mayos only lived here for a few years; Mr. Mayo died suddenly, and Mrs. Mayo moved to Tennessee to be with her family.  The house (45 rooms) is now a Catholic School…

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And finally we visited the Highway 23 Museum…

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It was so-named because of the many country music stars who were born along Highway 23…

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The only country music stars I had known anything about were Loretta Lynn and her sister Crystal Gail.  We also saw a video of an interview with Loretta Lynn about the making of the movie, “The Coal Miner’s Daughter”… We will visit her childhood home in nearby Butcher Hollow tomorrow, and re-watch the movie in a few days…

The museum is small, but it was enjoyed by those who followed country music… We returned to the Villa, and walked along the lake again…

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Happy Hours ensued, and an enjoyable time was had by all…

2019-05-08 – Airstream Caravan Travels – Springtime in Kentucky; Travel to Staffordsville and Paintsville, Ky – Day #14

We had a nice travel day today.  We are heading east, into the hills of northeast Kentucky.  Expect country music (banjos?) and beautiful hills…

We left the campground at about 10:00 am and drove for about one hour…

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We gathered at Natural Bridge State Park, a beautiful place…

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We took the skylift up to the top of the mountain…

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Others were already coming down…

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We arrived at the top, and walked along, enjoying the views…

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We walked down the narrow path…

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And we were under the arch!

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We walked back up the narrow path…

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We walked back atop the arch…

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We wondered if the arch can be seen from the stone cliff across the way… So we walked around to find out…

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Yes!  You can!

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We returned to the lift and descended the hill…

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We met a few friends coming up…

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Down in the parking lot we had a little lunch…

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We then headed out for the last leg of today’s trip… We were soon set up at the Paintsville Lake State Park…

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There is a beautiful lake here…

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At 6:00 we joined the others for a group meal…

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After dinner some of the Caravaners (Lynda) stayed to play Left-Right-Center…

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I returned to the Villa.  After the game, Lynda caught some sunset photos…

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And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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