Fall Colors Road Trip to KY, WVA, VA and NC 2012

October 18, 2012 · 0 comments

in Best Road Trips

It is time for a church road trip

My feet get itchy about the 1st of October every year. We have made a concerted effort to go to the mountains during this month for about 25 or 30 years. Our mountain trips to see fall colors have taken us to Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

If you go at the right time you will get to see the most spectacular, divinely inspired display of colors known to man. I haven’t had the privilege of seeing the extreme northern states for their season of celebration, but I have seen photos which reveal very similar amazing displays. The far west has always been too far for my fall adventure, but I may still have time to get there … I hope I do.

Day One

This year’s trip (2012) began on Oct 1st at 7 AM. We only had 5 passengers on a 15 passenger van, so there was plenty of room. The weather was cloudy and we had intermittent rain throughout the day. This was a very comfortable trip, because we all know each other very well and are close friends.

We ate a breakfast at Traceway Restaurant, a favorite area-wide restaurant in Mathiston, MS. The restaurant is located about ½ mile from the Natchez Trace Parkway. After breakfast we entered the parkway and were officially ‘on the road.’

Up the road, we stopped at a rest area called Witches Dance. We took a morning break and shared a devotion time. We do this on our church trips. I prepare a series of devotionals for church trips which follow a theme. We pick our place to pause and worship at random points each day.
I am making the devotionals available to you. They are free, all you have to do is request them and we will send them to you via email. If you like, I will send notices of new posts and items of interest.

I love to drive on The Natchez Trace Parkway. There are countless places of historical or archeological interest to stop.
Wild turkeys were abundantly present. We counted about 20 flocks which numbered from about 5 to 18 in each flock. They grazed along the mowed edges of the parkway, seemingly undisturbed by traffic. We saw a few deer, but this was the greatest number of turkey we have ever seen.

The Natchez Trace Parkway ends at mile marker 444. The exit onto TN Hwy 100 is about 20 miles west of Nashville, TN. 100 yards east, is a Tennessee landmark. The Loveless Café has been in business a long time. Evidence of its history is pinned to the walls of this great eatery. Everyone who has ever been a star and many hoping to be have left autographed pictures to bemuse us.

“The Loveless” is famous for its biscuits, more than anything else. The restaurant began as mall motel with an all night diner. The motel office was expanded and converted into a restaurant. The ‘tourist cabins’ were converted into small shops with an attractive variety of jewelry, gifts, and what-nots. On the west side of the café is a larger gift shop which sells jellies, molasses and souvenirs.

We made it through Nashville before ‘drive-time’ traffic hit. Thank God for small favors. I hate the traffic on I-40 west of Nashville.
We drove uneventfully up I-65 to Elizabethtown, KY.

Day Two – Kentucky

This day began in beautiful, historic Elizabethtown, KY. We ate the motel breakfast and drove into town. It is a beautiful historic town with many old buildings. Dark clouds and rain did not permit pictures.

Western Kentucky University is located here, on a beautiful campus. We missed the excitement of the Oct 12th ‘Fall Walking Works Challenge’, in which participants are encouraged to participate in the “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” fun-walk promoted by the local Humane Society. Sounded like fun!

Town Square Hodgenville, KY

We drove out KY Hwy 210 to Hodgenville, KY. This route takes you over narrow back roads. It is a short drive where you can see beautiful farmland that is cultivated. We saw crops of Soy bean, corn and tobacco at various stages of harvest.

Hodgenville, KY is county seat of LaRue County. This is the only US county with two national parks within it.

Hodgenville is a small town of less than 3,000. The town is built around a square which is pleasingly full of what seem to be prosperous businesses.

Lincoln’s Boyhood home

Most tourists come here for the same reason … this is the birthplace and for a time, the boyhood home of President Abraham Lincoln. South of town is his famous Knob Hill home place.

Closer to town is the Sinking Spring Farm, where he was born on February 12, 1809. The farm is now a National Park. Inside an impressive stone building, the traditional birthplace cabin in which he was born has been reconstructed.

We enjoyed the Abraham Lincoln Museum and gift shop, on the square in downtown Hodgenville. There is a modest admission charge, but the display of artifacts, and facts, is impressive and enjoyable. It takes a couple of hours to see everything. You can enjoy in a cursory manner in about an hour.

We turned north on US 31, which may someday be recognized as a road of national historical importance. It was for decades, the main north/south passageway across the southland carrying millions of motorists through southern states. Kentucky’s incredible Mammoth Cave is near this famed roadway.

We entered the Bluegrass Parkway at Bardstown, KY and turned east to Lexington. Bardstown is the birthplace of Stephen Foster, but time did not permit a tour on this trip.

Horse Show in KY Horse Park

The Bluegrass Parkway is a 4 lane road and has scenery that is beautiful and a pleasant drive any season of the year.

Keeneland Race Course

We reached Lexington early enough to drive through Man O War Airport and take an unguided tour of Keeneland Race Course. This famous course was established in 1936 and is one of the nation’s premier thoroughbred racing courses. It is on the National Registry of Historical Places, and was voted #1 Thoroughbred racing facility by the Horseplayers Association of North America. I’m impressed.

Day Three in Lexington, KY

After breakfast, we went to a guest room and held our morning devotional. This was a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere … a sweet moment of worship.

The Kentucky Horse Park was the feature event of the day. A member of our group owns and shows a Thoroughbred horse. Her knowledge of horses helped make the Horse Park exceptionally interesting. This is a huge facility. There’s no place on earth like it, nor can there be. Horses from all over the world are brought here. Shows are staged almost hourly in different areas of the park.

Horse lovers from all over the world use this as their ‘Mecca’. The Park draws over 700,000 visitors per year. Man O War is buried here. A life size bronze statue of him is placed above his grave. He is to be the greatest horse that ever lived, having only lost one race in his career.

The museum holds an amazing display of horse paraphernalia and historical displays of horses. It highlights the significance of horses in the formation of society. From Pony Express to plow animals and elegant Thoroughbreds, the horse has been at the center of our growth as people. We owe a lot to these noble animals.

At mid-afternoon, we tore ourselves from the KY Horse Park and set out for Lewisburg, WVA.

The Bert Combs Mountain Parkway carries you safely through the famous battlegrounds of the Hatfields and McCoys. These mountains are some of the most beautiful in the south. This was my first time to see this area, but felt right at home. The mountains are not as high as some in North Carolina, but are rugged and beautiful.

We lost our way and had to finish this leg after dark. We were in the westernmost parts of WVA, on the back roads. We drove around hairpin curves that lasted for miles and carried us up and down mountains with extremely narrow roads. You don’t want to be here on a dark night. I actually enjoy the challenge of driving under difficult conditions, so although this was a nightmare for my passengers; I couldn’t have been having more fun if I was on the Indy Speedway.

We arrived in Lewisburg, WVA at about 10 PM and our riders quickly disbanded in three directions. The General Lewis Inn is an amazing, beautiful historic home in one of the most charming cities anywhere in America. Greenbriar County is home to the world famous Greenbriar Resort. The Resort has been a favorite playground of the rich and famous for many decades.

Day Four

Day four we ate breakfast at Shoney’s. We were hungry and love the great breakfast buffet they offer. We then took a riding tour of the elegant little town of Lewisburg, WVA before striking out on US 219 South. A short distance below Lewisburg, we turned West onto WVA 63.

Train Underpass in WVA

As you turn, you are greeted by an unusual bridge/tunnel. An elevated train track crosses the highway, a stream flows beside the tracks. A concrete mound, with two holes in it, supports the train tracks. The largest hole is like a tunnel for vehicle traffic and the smaller hole is for foot traffic. The foot bridge also crosses the stream. It is the most unusual railway crossing I have seen. You see stuff like this in West Virginia. I love this state!

On one of the narrow roads as we were driving, we found one of the many churches begun by the revival sparked through the preaching of John Wesley as he passed through these mountains. We pulled into the church yard and spent about 20 minutes in worship and meditation.

Interstate 77 south of Bluefield, WVA is an awesome mountain interstate. You go through two tunnels, each is longer than ½ mile. The mountains around you appear uninhabited because the forests are too dense to let you see houses or towns.

Pisgah National Forest – NC

At Wytheville, VA we turned south toward, but not through, Ashville, NC. We bypassed Ashville in favor of a leisurely drive through Mt Pisgah National Forest. This is my favorite road through the “Smokey” mountains.

In late afternoon we arrived in Franklin, NC. After a few minutes of freshening up and stretching our legs, we drove into town and ate at a local steak house. We were ‘feeling’ the road, so we went to bed early to be fresh for the drive home on Friday.

Day Five

We left Franklin, NC on US Hwy64, a 4 land mountain highway. It goes right through the heart of the western mountains of North Carolina. The sun was bright and the colors were spectacular.

West of Franklin, NC

This was the best fall color we saw on the entire trip. It seems we were about a week or 10 days early. Some of the mountain overlooks give you vantage points above the clouds and the mountain range seems to run on endlessly as you peer into the distance.

This road goes right near Duck Town, TN and the Ocoee River. In fact you ride along the banks of the river. Several years ago, we rafted through the class three to five rapids of this river. In Spring and Summer, thousands descend on the upper part of the river waiting the release of the waters at the top of the mountain.

The dam was put in place to provide hydro-electric power, but sports enthusiasts quickly saw the value for the sport of white water rafting. It is safer than it seems. Everyone has a life jacket, and the guides are well trained in safety procedures.

When you emerge from the mountain path, you are about 2 miles south of I-75 east of Chattanooga, TN. You remain in the mountain range until you have descended into mid-Alabama.

Our gang at Cracker Barrel

After lunch at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant we were almost too full to get back in the van. A few miles south, we found an inviting rest area. The passenger car area had a dozen picnic tables in a grassy area under some shade trees.

We took advantage of the shady spot, ignored the bustle of traffic around us and had our devotional here. This was the last session on this trip. When we left the rest stop, we were like a Missouri Mule … heading home.

Right now the color in the areas where we went should begin to decline from its peak. North Arkansas, N. Miss, Alabama, GA and South Carolina should begin to peak around the 21st of this month. You should enjoy good colors in any of these areas from that time, until the end of the month.

I’m pulling over now. Y’all keep on driving if you want to. Try to travel like we do … We don’t count the miles, we just count smiles.

Until next time,

Bill Taylor

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