Ft Mitchell, KY – June 2017 – Ventriloquist Puppets

A small residential street in Ft Mitchell, Kentucky was the home for an amazing find, a Ventriloquist Puppet museum. The day we were there they had an open house, so the place was very busy, but the volunteers were enthusiastic and helpful in making sure everyone enjoyed their visit. It is known as having the largest collection in the world, with three small buildings full of puppets.

Freaky or fabulous, this is a stop that is highly recommended.

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Eastern Kentucky – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 10

We ate breakfast at the hotel opting for oatmeal and fresh fruit rather than the ham and cheesy scrambled eggs. The fatty food probably accounts for the area of Hazard and Perry Counties having one of the worst life expectancy rates in America. Kentucky ranks in 45 out of 50 states and the town of Hazard is even worse than the Kentucky average.

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The morning air was a cold temperature of 26o F. as we left Hazard. The hillside and trees were covered with kudzu as well as a school bus on our drive to Breathitt County.

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As we made our way north we ran into smoky air from wildfires in the area. The smoke was thick enough that we can smell it in the car with the windows closed as we moved along state route 15N through the hills.

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Layers of exposed rock sheered on both sides of the highway rise at least 100 feet. Rock is why we are here; to see Natural Bridge State Park. The park was founded as a private tourist attraction in 1895. It is still cold at 23 degrees as we began our hike on the original trail to see the natural bridge, but with the steep ascent up uneven steps we didn’t notice, and we followed the path up hill to reach the bridge.

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The trail ends under the bridge but a narrow passage called Fat Man’s Squeeze and some stairs lead to the top of the natural bridge. The view from on top of the natural bridge was marvelous. It looked as if their was a laser beam of light shooting outward into the air from the cliff in front of us over the valley of autumn colored trees. I believe it was a layer of thin fog hovering in air; in any case, it looked really awesome.

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We climbed down onto the same trail, and back through the Fat Man’s Squeeze again.

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Leaving the Natural Bridge Park, we headed north on Kentucky Highway 77, reaching Nada Tunnel,  a 900-foot long tunnel that was formerly a railway tunnel.

Since the tunnel is a single lane you must honked first before entering to alert anyone on the opposite end. The tunnel was originally 12 feet in height but when the first train load of logs became stuck and had to be blasted free, the tunnel’s height was increased to 13 feet.

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After passing through Morehead we made our way to the town of Olive Hill to see Carter’s Caves. Unfortunately we arrived at a time that the next tour was hours away. Deciding not to wait, we went for a brief walk on the trail that allowed us to explore the cave park area on our own. The half-mile loop trail from the visitor center led us into a great open cave.

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The cave had a small round opening at its roof, jagged walls of stone with niches and a small stream that flowed among the layers rocky floor surface. We finished our walk and promised to visit again but for now we headed home to end our latest advenutre.

Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky Mountains – Late Fall 2016 Road Trip – Day 9

It was a very winding road from Boone, North Carolina passing through Mountain City on the way. Mountain City had numerous Christmas tree farms preparing the trees for delivery to the holiday sale lots. The two lane road curved through the hills with gorgeous views of trees in autumn colors and valleys with low lying fog.

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Our travel continued to the South Holston Dam, an earth-and-rock filled dam 285 feet high reaching 1,600 feet across the South Fork Holston River in Bristol, Tennessee. Construction of South Holston Dam began in 1942 and was completed in 1950 by the TVA to serve as a hydroelectric facility.  We drove across the top of the dam to reach the visitor center which had a lot of information for us to learn about the history of the TVA and the South Holston Dam.  The height of the dam also offered a beautiful scene of the sun shone through the trees with the fog settled over the river and giving a misty look of the colorful hills.

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A short drive from the dam is Osceola Island and Weir Dam Recreation Area. The weir dam (a dam designed to pool water behind it while also allowing water to flow over) helps control the water along a river, allowing engineers to measure the amount of water moving along the river, and also helps oxygenate the water.  It also makes for a pretty sight.

On an average day water gently tumbles over the ends but this isn’t always the case. The nearby South Holston Dam releases water from time to time as part of their hydroelectric operations. When this happens, three things happen: a loud siren plays a sound that echoes for miles down the river, bright yellow lights begin to flash on a sign cautioning visitors about the sudden increase in flood waters, and the water starts to rage across the top of the weir dam.

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The weir dam was built by the TVA for the purpose to revitalize the river by adding oxygen to the water to promote a healthy environment for fish, insects, and the river. The weir dam had rows of concrete horizontal barriers across the width of the river with interlocking wooden timber walls. The water that flows over the top of the weir falls over its side and acts like a natural waterfall creating oxygen that is added to the river.

The weir is an interesting sight that also attracts fishermen.Men were fishing from the footbridge and within the river. The fly fishermen stood thigh high in the river casting their lines in a rhythmic wave even though it was only 29o F. A short walk across the rusty metal footbridge is Osceola Island with additional walking trails but we crossed the bridge to the island only for new photo angles of the weir dam.

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Afterwards we drove into the town of Bristol, Tennessee, or perhaps Bristol, Virginia since the state border between Virginia and Tennessee divides the town. A sign straddles State Street so that south of the street sign is the state of Tennessee and property north of the street sign is Virginia. Flags of each state hung on their respective sides of the street. Having recently seen the Geico commercial we tried to spot the painted marker on State Street, but did not find it.

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Then off we raced to Bristol Motor Speedway to see an old NASCAR racetrack that was built in 1960. The structure looks like a football stadium from the outside but has a capacity to hold 162,000 spectators. Bristol Motor Speedway is the fourth largest sports venue in America and the eighth largest in the world.

Finding the stadium open we walked into the bleachers amazed at the size of this immense stadium.  The concrete oval short track was set below in the center of the stadium. It must be deafening to be here for a race with the noise of the crowd on metal bleachers and the thundering roar of the car engines within these enclosed walls.

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The Natural Tunnel in Duffield, Virginia was next on our list to see. A trail at the visitor center led us downhill to the creek and train tracks. Natural Tunnel State Park is a Virginia state park, centered on the Natural Tunnel, a massive naturally formed cave that is so large it is used as a railroad tunnel through the Appalachian Mountains.

It is the first tunnel that I have seen that was not man-made and bricked. The Natural tunnel, which is up to 200 feet wide and 80 feet high, began to form from a small river, now called Stock Creek that was diverted underground and continued to erode the tunnel over millions of years continuing to this day. Time will eventually wear away the rock ceiling until it falls and forms a gap between the hills of the mountain.

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Local folklore of the area tells of a Cherokee maiden and a Shawnee brave who had been forbidden to marry by their respective tribes, jumped to their deaths from the highest pinnacle above the Natural Tunnel. The place is now known as Lover’s Leap after the couple sneaked away at night to climb the peak waiting until morning to jump from the cliff so that they could be together in the afterlife.

This seems to be a popular tale because we have heard this story before with multiple peaks known as Lover’s Leap. We hiked to the pinnacle of Lover’s Leap overlooking the park. Looking down over the edge at Lover’s Leap from this point most definitely certified death should anyone jumped from this cliff.

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After we hiked back, we went to McDonald’s for our usual order of chicken sandwiches with sweet tea before continuing on to the town of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, the southeastern end of the famous passage of Cumberland Gap that led west. The Cumberland Gap is a National Historical Park located in Middlesboro, Kentucky at the border of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. The Cumberland Gap is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountains.

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We started our adventure of this park by driving a four-mile road to Pinnacle Overlook, an elevation of 2,440 ft. This overlook provided a great view of the tri-state park and the Cumberland Gap. The Cumberland Gap was a trail used by elk and bison to the salt springs. Native tribes marked the trail before Dr. Thomas Walker who worked for the Loyal Land Surveyors documented the route through the gap in 1750.

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The Appalachian Mountains made it difficult to move westward but the Cumberland Gap allowed westward passage beginning in the 1770’s. Daniel Boone who was born near Reading, Pennsylvania made his first passage through the gap in 1769. Boone with thirty men was commissioned to mark out the Wilderness Trail from the Holston River in Tennessee through the Cumberland Gap in 1775. The significance of the Cumberland Gap was dubbed as the “Gibraltar of America” by Ulysses S. Grant.

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The Object Lessen Road was a path that brought attention to the importance of a road through the Cumberland Gap to people in the 1920’s. We hiked the Object Lessen Trail until we reached the intersection of Cumberland Gap and the Wilderness Trail. A large boulder at the crossing of these trails had a bronze plaque mounted on the face of the rock dedicated to Daniel Boone. Since the sun was beginning to set we left the park and traveled through the mountains to reach our hotel in Hazard, Kentucky.

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Bowling Green, Kentucky – National Parks Road Trip – Day 24 – Corvettes on the way back to Ohio

It is a six-hour drive from Nashville to Columbus, but I had a couple of stops planned. First up is the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This is the museum where eight classic corvettes fell through the floor because a 60-foot-long, 45-foot-wide, 30-foot-deep sinkhole opened up in February 2014. The museum recovered and rebuilt the museum to display six of the eight cars.

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One Corvette was restored and five are shown in their state of wreckage. Another Corvette is being restored. The sinkhole area is now a tall cylindrical building as a tribute tower for all who have contributed to the creation and promotion of the Corvette and exhibiting the fallen corvettes at the spot of the sinkhole. The museum also presented a history of the corvette of its development, design, and engineering.

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We were caught in a construction zone after Bowling Green on Interstate 65. This detour prevented us from seeing the Stonehenge of Kentucky in Munfordville, so we continued on to Lexington.

We reached Keeneland, a horse track, that was to host the Breeder’s Cup Race  in 2015, a month or so after our visit. The grounds are perfectly manicured and this facility has grass and dirt racetracks. The stands were open so we explored all, taking the elevator to the top floor of the grandstand to see the full view of the surroundings.  We drove around the grounds that encompassed acres of land and found the stables and then the library that has the largest collection of horse information in the country. We also saw statues of jockeys represented by their colors for the horse owners in the Breeder’s Cup.

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Our plans were to take us to the Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky but we were ready to go home and continued driving until we made it to Columbus. We spent 24 days together on the road without a minute break from each other; most people would call this a true test of marriage and we aced it while having one of the best vacations of our lives.

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Huntington, WV – March 2015 – In Search of the Mothman

This Saturday morning found us headed for my last Ohio county, Scioto, and it’s county seat, Portsmouth, which like many Ohio River towns has seen better days. Portsmouth once had a population close to 50,000 and now it is down to 20,000. Apparently to live there many turn to meth and heroin as the drive down passed about 10 billboards advertising how to get help.

The city itself actually looked better than expected, and when we arrived at the riverfront we were blown away by the History of Portsmouth Murals on the floodwall.

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These murals portray the history of Portsmouth, Ohio from the mound building Indians to the present day, and use a 20ft. high, 2000 ft. long floodwall as a canvas.

Topics include; The Portsmouth Earthworks; a Shawnee village; The 1749 ‘Lead Plate Expedition’; Tecumseh; Henry Massie, a founding father of the town; A Civil War unit from Portsmouth; Jim Thorpe, a who was the player/coach of the semiprofessional Portsmouth Shoe steels in the late 1920s; The Portsmouth Spartans, a charter member of the NFL that later moved to Detroit to become the Detroit Lions;

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Branch Rickey; Clarence Carter, an American Regionalist and surrealist painter; Local photographer and historic photo collector Carl Ackerman, from whose collection many of the murals draw their imagery;

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The disastrous Ohio River flood of 1937; Transportation – stagecoaches, riverboats, railroads and the Ohio and Erie Canal; Local notables including Roy Rogers; the local history of education; the first European settlers; industry; sister cities; the local Carnegie library, firemen and police, period genre scenes of old downtown and other localities, a memorial to area armed forces veterans, Portsmouth’s baseball heroes and the Tour of the Scioto River Valley.

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The murals are extremely well done, with minute detail and vivid images. Despite the morning cold, we thoroughly enjoyed walking and driving the length.

We crossed over into Kentucky and continued on to Huntington, West Virginia. Once in town we found our way to the Museum of Radio and Technology, located in an old school high up on a hill on the south end of town.

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This museum has a number of room dedicated to commercial adios over the decades, as well as military radios, ham and short wave radios, a vintage hi-fi room, and a computer display.

Once back into town, we went to Taylor’s Auto Collection. Jimmie Taylor made his money in auto parts and salvage, and over the years has amassed an impressive collection of vintage automobiles, where he now displays them in a garage in Huntington.

The day we arrived there were a few volunteers around how explained a bit of it to us, then just let us wander. A few minutes later Jimmie came in, apparently just returning from winter in Florida.

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Jimmie proceeded to show us his favorites, including a 1936 Chrysler Convertible and a 1930 Cadillac Limousine that belonged to JP Morgan.

Nearby was a railyard that had a couple of restored rail cars, including one for the Marshall University Thundering Herd, and another that said it was JP Morgan’s personal railcar. Who know Huntington had such a passion for JPM.

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It was time to move on and I had plans for lunch, Hillbilly Hot Dogs in Lesage, West Virginia. This hot dog stand had been featured on numerous TV shows, and as such is amazingly busy. When we arrived they were lined up out the door with a 45-minute wait, so we didn’t.

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We continued up the river to Point Pleasant, West Virginia, the home of Chief Cornstalk and the Mothman. Chief Cornstalk Cornstalk was a prominent leader of the Shawnee nation just prior to the American Revolution. His name, Hokoleskwa, translates loosely into “stalk of corn” in English,

Cornstalk opposed European settlement west of the Ohio River in his youth, but he later became an advocate for peace after the Battle of Point Plesant. His murder by soldiers after being taken hostage by American militiamen at Fort Randolph during a diplomatic visit in November 1777 outraged both Natives and Virginians. It is reputed that as he died he put a curse on the area, and that since then many tragedies have befallen the area.

The Mothman arrived in Point Pleasant in November 1966 in classic style, scaring couples in parked cars and eating farmers’ dogs. He was described as seven feet tall with a barrel chest and a piercing shriek. His most memorable features were his ten-foot batlike wings and his huge, red, glowing eyes.

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Some people thought that Mothman was a mutant, spawned from local chemical and weapons dumps. Some thought that he was the the curse of Chief Cornstalk.

Mothman remained an obscure bogeyman until 2001 when the lame movie starring Richard Gear came out, and the town realized that this was its one chance to make something good out of its monster. In 2003, Gunn Park was renamed Mothman Park, and a 12-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture of Mothman was unveiled.

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In 2005 the Mothman Museum and Research Center opened across the street from the statue; it display some of the props from the film, and sells an assortment of Mothman souvenirs.

Even Chief Cornstalk has a memorial in Point Pleasant. A four-ton stone obelisk, marked simply “Cornstalk,” stands in Point Pleasant Battlefield State Park down by the river. The Chief’s surviving remains — three teeth and a few bone fragments — are sealed in the center of the obelisk, perhaps to ensure that his curse is safely locked away.

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The Point Pleasant flood wall also has murals painted by the same person as those in Portsmouth, just not nearly as many. They do have though statues of Chief Cornstalk and Lord Dunsmore, along with Daniel Boone and Mad Anne Bailey, whose “mad” exploits in thwarting the Indians earned her the nickname, after her first husband, Richard Trotter, was killed in the battle.

Located in the southern end of the town is the four-acre Tu-Endie-Wei State Park commemorates the 1774 engagement. The park’s centerpiece is an 84-foot granite obelisk that honors the Virginia militiamen who gave their lives during the battle, while the statue of a frontiersman stands at the base., as well as the Cornstalk Memorial.

Also located on the park is the Mansion House. Erected in 1796 by Walter Newman as a tavern, it is the oldest, hewn log house in the Kanawha Valley.

The Point Pleasant River Museum and Learning Center focuses on river life and commercial enterprise on the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers. The museum has many displays and video demonstrations on the great floods, boat construction, sternwheel steamers, river disasters and the local river industry’s contribution to World War II. The museum also offers a pilot house simulator, aquarium and a research library.

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Of particular interest is an extensive display on the Silver Bridge Collapse. This bridge fell into the Ohio River taking 46 lives into the river. The museum has a display of the bridge, as well as one of the infamous eyebars that failed, leading to the collapse. Sadly the only memorial to the victims are small bricks that are difficult to see near where the entrance to the bridge once was.

But one can only have so many curses and legends in one day, and soon we had to head back to Columbus. On the way back we stopped at the Leo Petroglyphs near Jackson, Ohio.

There are reported to be 37 sandstone petroglyphs, however they are very difficult to see, except those that someone has enhanced with sharpies (at least that is what it appears to be). While the rest of the ride home should’ve been in quiet thought it was not, instead it was discussion of the variety of sights we saw that day.

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Favorite Photos 2004-2014

Trier, Germany – February 27, 2006 – Imperial Baths

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Cleveland – December 27, 2010 – Frozen Pier on Lake Erie

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Louisville – October 27, 2013 – Foggy Ohio River Bridge

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Pittsburgh – June 28, 2008 – PNC Park

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Cleveland – June 15, 2009 – Progressive Field

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Columbus, Indiana – October 25, 2013 – Cummins Engines Corporate Office

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Scottsbluff, Nebraska – July 9, 2012 – Scotts Bluff National Monument

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Clermont, Kentucky – October 26, 2013 – Jim Beam Factory Tour

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Marblehead, Ohio – August 09, 2014 – Sandusky Bay & Cedar Point

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Cleveland – August 2, 2007 – Jacobs Field Restaurant

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Arapahoe Basin, Colorado – June 20, 2010

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Augusta, Georgia – April 10, 2013 – The Masters

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Pittsburgh – January 28, 2012 – Bill Mazeroski Statue

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Mansfield, Ohio – June 2, 2012 – Shawshank Redemption Prison Tour (Ohio Reformatory)

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Fayette County, Pennsylvania – October 9, 2011 – Kentuck Knob

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Pittsburgh – August 2004 – Kennywood Park

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Cambridge, Massachusetts – June 22, 2012 – Charles River

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Outside of Barstow, California – March 14, 2012 – Route 66

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Louisville – October 2013 – Baseball Bat Factory Tour

While in Louisville we went on the Louisville Slugger baseball bat factory tour. The building that houses the factory, museum and store has a huge replica bat leaning against the building outside.

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Since the very early years major league players would have their signatures on their bats, as well as the ones sold to the public.

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A bat vault contains bats from many of the legends of baseball.

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Unfortunately photography was prohibited on the factory floor.  I did however come home with a nice new baseball bat.