GREAT NEWS! Book 4 is now officially underway! Thanks to my friend Antsy McClain, the new cover for Book 4 has been setup and here it is. Titled “8154” after the number of miles we traveled for 23 days from late January to mid-February 2020, this book will detail my EPIC Roadtrip with my daughter Marissa and her three children. You’ll finally get to take a trip as seen from our eyes. Marissa will help write the book with me. We hope to have it ready for sale by the end of March 2020. We hope you’ll watch for it.
Some of the sights we visited were kindly suggested by our friends at Roadside America. Visit them and get their app!!
Ofttimes when we visit a place, we have a destination in mind. The Red River Gorge area of Kentucky is one of those places. Visitors typically are focused on visiting beautiful and expansive views of the gorge, hiking some of the well known trails, taking a hike up to the Natural Bridge or something else.
This past weekend (August 31, 2019) I took my wife to the area fora hiking meetup. This left me with a three hour window to do other things. I am not able to hike some of these trails right now because my knee has been causing problems.
So, after dropping my wife off, I headed back to Slade to do my “offbeat travel” thing and find some of the unique and quirky of the area. I had no problems with that, because inevitably, where there are lots of tourists, there are also the quirky and offbeat to draw them in.
As the Welcome Sign above indicates, Slade is the “Adventure Capital of Kentucky.” And it is true. A drive around the area in the summer months will prove it as one can see license plates from all over the United States and Canada. According to one website (GEARHUNGRY), the Red River Gorge is the second best, just behind Yosemite for rock climbing. They call it a “must-do list contender for the serious climber.” The site notes that there are over 1600 potential climbs in the area. And Slade caters to these visitors big time.
A drive down Kentucky 11 (also called Natural Bridge Rd.) from the Slade Visitor’s Center will take you past the REALLY World Famous Miguels Pizza and its neighboring Miguels Rock Climbing Shop, both of which cater to climbers big time.
Founded by Miguel Ventura, who was from Portugal, the place has become a go to for climbers and hikers since 1984 (the name was changed to Miguels in 1986). As the Ventura family continued to befriend climbers, they expanded and opened a campground and soon the place got the nickname “The Camp Four of the East” by climbers. (The Original Camp 4 is a climber’s campground in Yosemite National Park). For over thirty years the Ventura family has made a name for itself all over the world as a result. Then, in 2016 in the field behind the Pizza Shop, the Rock Climbing Shop was opened and now is a full-service climbing shop as well as the check-in spot for the campground.
Rock climbing is not the only drawing card of the area. Another big hitter are the more than 30 big hiking trails in the area. It includes the 282 mile long Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail which begins in northern Kentucky on KY377 and travels south nearly 290 miles to its terminus at Pickett State Park in Tennessee. The trail meanders through the Daniel Boone National Forest and also gets its name from the Shawnee name given to Daniel Boone by Chief Blackfish.
But Sheltowee is not the only trail. There are many other trails from easy to very difficult. Most of the trails are numbered (all are in the 200s) and there are plenty of maps in the area. Many of the trails offer spectacular views, many arches and lots of scary cliffs!
Drive down KY11 a little further and you get to Natural Bridge State Resort Park, home of a large geologic formation called Natural Bridge, which is 65 feet high and 78 foot long. It is one of the few large arches in the Eastern United States. The hike is about 2.5 miles long, but those that prefer a more casual adventure can take the Natural Bridge Skylift up to the scenic arch.
I had fun driving through the park and catching some of the unique. For instance, where can you go to find a unique speed limit, like 23 MPH? Then there are the other things…
Take the opposite direction from Slade on Kentucky 15 northwest to Kentucky 77 which leads to the Nada Tunnel (pronounced nay-duh by the locals), a 900-foot long tunnel which is considered as the “Gateway to the Red River Gorge.” This unique single-lane rough hewn tunnel was originally built in 1911 for the Dana Lumber Company. It was named for the small town of Nada, which was a logging town at the time. Its original use was for a railcars, but has since been paved and is used by thousands of visitors every year as they traverse into the geologic wonderland of the Red River Gorge.
For me, much of the fun is discovering the “other stuff” that can be seen on the road. Probably the most interesting “touristy stop” along the way was the Wild Things of Kentucky tourist stop where they advertise their Kentucky Snake Pit, the Kentucky Aquarium, an hilarious restroom and other things. Sadly for them, they literally JUST missed out on being included in my most recent book about unique and quirky tourist destinations. (Have you seen my new book? If not, check it out HERE!)
Places like this always try to find things that become a drawing card for tourists. Indeed, they have some unique finds in the shop. And, for a small fee you can visit the “Snakes and turtles and fish…Oh My,” as their pamphlet advertises. Over on the other side of the building you can feed live goats that reside on the roof of the building. You can get a selfie with their “Sitty Hall” outhouse or with their own version of “Bigfoot.”
And back to the road…a few more fun scenes from the Slade area roads
Well, I have made it…from A to Z throughout the month of April. Along the way I have provided some Zany photos and many Zingers.
In 2018 I traveled the country with great Zeal, hitting 26 states with the Zippiest of attitudes. I hope to provide you with a Zestful rest of your day with a few Z signs I found along the way in 2018. Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.
Zigzag, Oregon is located on the very beautiful Mt. Hood Scenic Byway on US Highway 26. It is home to one of America’s oldest Ranger Stations and there are a couple of restaurants and gift shops. The name Zigzag is assumed to come originally from pioneer/explorer Joel Palmer in 1845 as he wrote about a ravine from Mt. Hood.
“The manner of descending is to turn directly to the right, go zigzag for about one hundred yards, then turn short round, and go zigzag until you come under the place where you started from; then to the right, and so on, until you reach the bottom.”
Since then there are a number of Zigzags… Zigzag ravine, Zigzag Glacier, Zigzag Creek and, of course, the small community of Zigzag.
Zing’s Restaurant, Carmine, Texas
I am not sure if Zing’s is open any longer. But I thought the signs and the rustic nature of the place in this small community on US Highway 290 was an interesting addition to my sign collection.
Zwolle is a small town of about 1800 people on US Highway 171 in Sabine Parish northwest of Many and south of Shreveport, Louisiana. Unlike many of the towns in Louisiana, Zwolle celebrates its Native American and Spanish heritage.
Zwolle was originally an Indian village that was occupied by the Spanish Province of Texas for many years. It was settled by the descendants of French and Spanish adventurers, who intermarried with the friendly Indians and with English-speaking settlers from Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. The town was named for a community in Holland, in honor of a prominent Dutch visitor.
The town has become regionally famous for its spicy tamales and has a Tamale Fiesta annually in October. The fiesta stems from a combination of the Indians’ and Spaniards’ culinary efforts to produce the most delectable hot tamale in the country.
Like what you see? Well, there is lots more! I currently have two books about offbeat and quirky places to take on your road trips. You can see both of my books at http://amzn.to/2ks6fQZ. Working on Book 3, coming in late Spring 2019!!