Sunday, August 17, 2014

The most wonderful time of the year

Vacation time was upon us last week and we were in no mood to drive to the beach this year.  Last year's trip to the beach kind of burnt us out on going again so soon, so we decided to go some place different.  After a scant ten minute search on the interwebs, we decided to go to a state park in eastern Kentucky that offered hiking, swimming, and relaxation.

Pineville, KY, where crushed dreams go to die.

We set off for Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade, KY on Monday morning.  We took a leisurely drive up through Lee County VA and through southeastern Kentucky, the route we used to go when I was a kid when we'd go back and forth between Michigan and Jonesville.  After stopping in Pineville to look around and quickly getting back in the car and driving as fast as the speed limit allowed through to Corbin where we caught interstate 75 North, I can safely say that not much has changed in that SE KY/SW VA area since the mid 1970's.  Wait, that's wrong, the roads are a little better.

We got to the Berea area around 2:30 that day and we looked around and stopped in a few shops.
A hand of hands in Berea.

After finding out that Berea is a dry town, no alcohol served or sold, we sped up the interstate to Richmond to stay the night.  Our first stop there was a store called 'Liquor World.'  We stayed over night in Richmond because our reservations for the cabin in the park didn't take effect until Tuesday.  We stayed in Holiday Inn Express, which I highly recommend by the way.
Refurbished Richmond after the rain.

My first order of business in the hotel room was to claim the shower cap.  Boo ya.

On Tuesday morning we drove some of the back roads to get to the park and we got there a little after noon.  We checked in, ate lunch at the Hemlock Lodge, and then we went back out to get some groceries.  We got back to the cabin and took it easy the rest of the day and night.  

Wednesday we had planned to spend the day in the park hiking and swimming in the pool but the weather wasn't cooperative. We did manage to hike one of the trails and on it we saw huge rocks, tons of trees, and more huge rocks.  The weather was wet and damp so we decided to get in the car and take a trip to Morehead to see the Folk Art Center.  
 This photo does not do this rock justice, it's fucking huge.

 After taking a rather circuitous route to Morehead, we finally arrived and found our destination.  And let me tell you, the trip was well worth it.  The folks who run the Folk Art Center, which is free by the way, could not be nicer and they are very respectful to the artists who's work they show.  The place is full of brilliant art by self taught artists.
 In the upstairs gallery they had an exhibition of handmade chairs by the late craftsman Chester Cornett.  That snake chair he made is incredible to see up close.  The detail is incredible.  They had twenty to thirty of all kinds of his chairs in the exhibition.  He was well and truly an artist.

 Sparky stalks me.

We had reservations for the cabin for three nights but we decided to see if they'd let us out of staying Thursday night because we wanted to go to Lexington to stay the night and because the park is in such a remote area in relation to other things we wanted to see and do. They let us out so Thursday morning we checked out and off we went to the home of the University of Kentucky.  

Neither of us had ever been there before so we parked downtown and took in the sights.  Downtown is nice and it's pedestrian friendly but there's not many shops or things other than restaurants and offices down there.  But we hiked around, had lunch, and then went off to explore more of the city.

I love this mural in downtown Lexington. 

We drove out to the UK campus to check out the university art museum.  We were pleasantly surprised by the scope and scale of the collection the university possesses.  We saw everything from abstract expressionist work, to prints made in the WPA years, to massive oil paintings made by old European masters, to work made by those in the art brut school of art, to modern sculpture and craft.  I highly recommend you stop in to see their collection if you're in town.

 This public art crow sculpture outside the museum cracked me up because we'd been seeing huge crows all week long in KY.

After trudging around for a few more hours in Lexington, we decided to spend the night back in Richmond at the same hotel where we stayed on Monday and we decided that we'd go back to Berea to take in more of the art and craft scene on Friday morning before we headed home.

Berea is a regular four year college but with one special twist, it's tuition free for students from the Appalachian region.  In exchange for getting a virtually free education, all it's students must work around 20 hours a week at the college.  Some wait tables in college owned restaurants, some work in college owned shops that teach them traditional crafts like woodworking, weaving and other fiber related arts, broom making, printing and print making, traditional music making and recording, pottery, and more.  It's a really neat place and it's been doing business like that since it opened it's doors over a hundred years ago.  Everyone we met, from staff to students to professors, was super nice and helpful.  We got the feeling they'd bend over backwards to help out if need be.  I probably would have gone to college at Berea if my asshole cousin hadn't gone there, I wasn't about to follow him anywhere.
 A woodworking shop on campus.

 A print made by a student. 

We hung out, looked around, bought some crafted items, and then we left for home.  

We stopped in Knoxville for lunch around 1:30 PM and then drove the rest of the way home.

On this vacation I discovered that I don't need to be in or near the water all the time on a vacation and that it's a pretty easy drive from Lexington to our house, provided there no major construction going on on the interstates.  It took us about three and a half hours of driving time to get from Lexington to Johnson City, so in the future, I see another trip to that area and one that will go further afield to Louisville as well.


Caffeinated Joe said...

Sounds like quite a unique vacation. Glad that you both had fun exploring and finding places that interested you!

mbarnato said...

Good reminder, Dr M, that some of the best vacas are not that far afield. There are always fun & colorful things to see & do close by.
Glad that lunch at the Hemlock Lodge didn't do you in...

gmb said...

Sounds like a great time.