Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer Road Trip 2009, Day 4

Day 4 of the Summer Road Trip Posts, Start with the Introduction Post.

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After our very pleasant stay at the Beaumont Inn, we set off east, trying to cover some ground towards West Virginia as well as stop and see the sights. This leg of the trip brought us up into the mountains of eastern Kentucky.

We decided to head towards the Red River Gorge and see what we could see along the way. Driving along one of the smaller state routes we saw a State Park sign for "Cottage Furnace". Neither of us had any idea what this meant but it looked like it would take us further up the mountains and it was an awful pretty drive. Following the signs down increasingly smaller roads we arrived at the Cottage Furnace picnic area parking lot, nestled up at the top of a mountain in the woods.

We walked around for a while trying to find what the point was. There weren't really any helpful signs with information about the site and we headed back to the car. Fortunately, we noticed another trail near the car then headed down that to see if we could find anything. Down the hill a bit and we came across the Cottage Furnace.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

Unfortunately there is not much in the picture to provide scale, but that entrance is probably 10 feet wide and the whole structure is maybe 40 feet tall. As you can well see, it is somewhat overgrown. This large stone structure and a pile of discarded flint shards are about all that is left to see. At this point, you might be asking yourself, "What is Cottage Furnace?". Well, so were we. We found out later that it was used to make pig iron and operated in the mid 19th century. There are a number of sites that talk about these types of furnaces this site has a brief history of cottage furnace.

Having discovered Cottage Furnace we hopped back in the car and continued east. We found a Natural Bridge State Park on the map just south of Red River Gorge and decided to see what that looked like. I guess there's little mystery there ... it's a natural bridge! There are a number well maintained trails, as well as a sky lift, leading up to the bridge.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

Once you have gotten up top there are a number of other trails you can follow around. One of them leads to a lookout point that makes for a great picture opportunity. Unfortunately, Cara was caught licking her lips here. I assure you, this picture is much better than her attempts to photoshop in a proper smile :)

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

We climbed down the "Balancing Rock" trail and picnicked in the park at the bottom then set off to the Red River Gorge. Red River Gorge has an excellent visitors center next to a historic farm. Our trip to the center brought us through the single lane 900 foot Nada Tunnel, which was an old railroad tunnel. The day was getting late and we had already had our hiking in so we failed to visit any of the many trails in the Gorge, but it made for a nice drive.

At this point, we pressed on east looking for a place to stay. We stayed the night in Prestonsburg, Kentucky at a Super 8 next to the worlds most scenic Wal Mart.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

We had dinner at a restaurant down town and got a good rest for the next day's push into West Virginia.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Summer Road Trip 2009, Day 3

Part 4 of the Summer Road Trip Posts, Start with the Introduction Post.

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We sprinted across Kentucky to get past Lexington to the Bourbon Trail, the central portion of Kentucky famous for Bourbon and horses. The views were gently rolling hills scattered with horse farms.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

We first tried to stop off at the Woodford Reserve distillery, but it is closed on Mondays, so we were unable to see it. So we pushed on towards the Marker's Mark distillery stopping for lunch in Versailles ("ver-sales") Kentucky for some good home cookin' at a downtown diner.

We toured the Maker's Mark distillery and saw all of the steps of whiskey making. We saw the 12 foot high 12 foot diameter cedar tubs they ferment the whiskey in and the several story tall copper stills they distill the liquor in. The still house and still storage tanks can be seen through the front doors of the still house below.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

At the end of the tour, we got to taste not only the Bourbon, but the "high wine", or the clear distillate that gets put into the barrels to age. It was diluted to 90 proof to be more drinkable. We had expected it to taste like Vodka but it had a distinct grain flavor. It was an interesting surprise. This tour was definitely worth taking the time.

After the tour we headed back east trying to find a hotel. We struck out in Danville, KY, but the folks at the Danville Info center provided a number of suggestions including the historic Beaumont Inn, which sounded like it would be nice. As it turned out it was a fantastic and not too expensive Inn. We had a delicious dinner at their tavern, played a few hands of rummy on their porch, a very comfortable night and an excellent and sizable full breakfast in their dining room the next morning.

The Inn was built in 1845 and used to be a girls school among other things. It is filled with antiques and memorabilia like this "Cleopatra Clock" that came from the French Exposition at the 1893 Worlds Fair.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

The front entrance to the Inn.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Road Trip 2009, Day 2

Part 3 of the Summer Road Trip Posts, Start with the Introduction Post.

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After a somewhat disturbed sleep and being awoken by various stomping and children noises we had our continental breakfast, which became a staple on this trip. The free breakfast at motels really saved us quite a bit of money and made our occasional light picnic lunches reasonable.

Day two brings us out of Ohio, through a bit of West Virginia and into Kentucky. We shot straight south from Athens to Pomeroy, OH right on the Ohio river. Pomeroy had a quiet little riverfront downtown.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

We stopped at their river front park and took a picture of ourselves

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

as well as some pictures of the new bridge complete with coal plant exhaust in the distance:

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

We crossed the above pictured bridge into West Virginia and perhaps somewhat amusingly the first thing a visitor crossing this bridge sees is a Wal Mart. This really did seem like a bridge to Wal Mart. Interestingly, if you go look at this bridge in Google Maps (Satellite View) and Street View, you can see that it is under construction.

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Also, someone else has pictures of the Pomery/Mason Bridge under construction on Panoramio.

We drove along the West Virginia side of the river up to Gallipolis. Along the way we passed the Gavin Coal Power Plant shown below. An interesting tidbit about this plant is that the power company ended up having to buy up the entire town of Cheshire, OH downwind of the plant because clouds of sulphuric acid ocassionally, uhm, inconvenienced residents.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

We cruised a few more hours through West Virginia and Ohio and then finally into Kentucky. Stopped for lunch along this creek in the Carter Caves State Park where we later took a tour of X Cave and a two mile hike.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

All of our drive through Kentucky on this day was along the US 60. The very same US 60 as in Arizona and I would venture to say that the East Valley has far more trailers along the US 60 than does Kentucky. Though I bet more moonshine is made along the Kentucky stretch.

At the end of the day we zipped into Morehead, KY and found a decent cheap hotel, had a calzone and a walk. We went back to our hotel room and drank some wine that we had brought with us. I have awarded Cara with a vacation commendation for thinking ahead and packing some beer and wine to save some dollars as well as insulate us from silly regional liquor laws. The restaurant we had dinner at couldn't serve drinks on Sundays.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Road Trip 2009, Day 1

Part 2 of the Summer Road Trip Posts, Start with the Introduction Post.

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The first day started late, so it was a bit short. We headed south with our first stop being the mandatory custard stop at Whit's Frozen Custard in Granville. Since I first had that custard, I don't think I have made it through Granville without stopping. It is really quite fantastic, delicious and sooo smooth. Granville is also home to Denison University. After paying the Whits Custard toll we pushed further south.

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway station was along the roadside in Nelsonville, OH. Even though it was closed, the train cars are still easily viewed from the adjoining parking lot so we hopped out and took some pictures. This beast caught my eye so I slammed on the breaks and we stretched our legs. This is a rail road snow plow though I think it could easily have a future in the movies as a Mad Max like vehicle of doom and destruction.

From 2009 Kentucky, West Virginia Road Trip

We made it to Athens at about 6PM and drove around until we found downtown and the Ohio University area. As a point of reference for my Arizona friends and family, Athens is the Flagstaff of Ohio. Athens is the big hippie enclave of the state as far as I can tell. It has a nice downtown right next to the University and was full of partygoers since there was a big "Boogie on the Bricks" block party.

We strolled around for a while an settled in for dinner at Casa Neuava. Actually dinner was an hour and twenty minute wait due to the crowd, but that was no big deal, we enjoyed some local beers and their salsa selection with some probably too healthy corn chips. Finally we got seated and ate a quick dinner. The food was excellent and could be best described as Mexican Hippie fusion. No offense to either Mexicans or Hippies, it really was delicious and I hope to eat there again.

After dinner we called it a night and drove around in circles until we found a motel on the other side of town. Our first night away from home was the least comfortable but worked. Noisy in room air conditioners are possibly the worst thing that can happen in a cheap motel. Maybe I should say the worst legal thing that can happen in a cheap motel.