Red River Gorge – Slade, KY: A Different Look

Slade, Kentucky Welcome Sign

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.

Red River Gorge
Red River Gorge Scenic Byway

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.

Many dangerous cliffs in Red River Gorge, but a climbing heaven for rock climbers.

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.

Slade Welcome Center just off of Exit 33 on the Bert T Combs Mountain Highway
Miguels Pizza in Slade

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.

Climbers and hikers from all over the world set up tents in Miguels expansive campground
Miguels Pizza in Slade, Kentucky
The Sign on Highway 11 for Miguels Climb Shop
The artsy Miguels Pizza front door has been opened with hands of people from all over the world

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.

Star Gap Arch on Auxier Ridge Trail (#204) in Red River Gorge (Photo by Julianne Kravetz)

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!

Cliffs as seen along the Auxier Ridge Trail (Photo by Julianne Kravetz)
Fall Colors over the Red River Gorge in Kentucky
Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Slade, KY
Natural Bridge Skylift

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…

Speed Limit 23 in Natural Bridge State Resort Park
Low Gap Trail leads up to the Natural Bridge Arch
Watch out for Bears!
One Lane Tunnel

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.

Entrance to Nada Tunnel
A lit up view of the interior of the otherwise very dark Nada Tunnel
Exiting the Nada Tunnel
Wild Things of Kentucky

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!)

Wild Things of Kentucky -another unique tourist stop
Feed the Goats that reside on the roof

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.”

Selfie with Sitty Hall
Feed a Goat
Too funny/weird – The Snake Pit
The “Aquarium” includes a couple of turtles
Can’t be a trading post without the Indian
Inside the store
Entrance Fee for Wildlife Exhibit
Better not use the porch! Go use Sitty Hall.
They have goats…why not Goats Milk Products too
Lots of fun shirts and stuff… much of it Red River Gorge themed
Yes, they do have a resident Bigfoot.. He wants you to choose happy

And back to the road…a few more fun scenes from the Slade area roads

Big Arrow
Need Wood?
Go through the tunnel to get to The Depot
A bearable bear
There are folks that set up on an empty corner with lots of interesting stuff
Take the forest roads to the trails and there are forest service restrooms. Some of the signs are funny
And then there was this…

ENJOYING WHAT YOU SEE?  TRY MY BOOKS.

Now have three books out. Check them out!

You can check my books out on Amazon for more fun reads about my quirky back roads travels.  Get them out on my Amazon page https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B0784XVGSW

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Everywhere a Sign – Some Z Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

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

The Zigzag Ranger Station was built in 1935 and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Zigzag Inn – Zigzag Oregon
Zigzag Mountain Cafe, Zigzag, Oregon

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

#at Zing’s in Carmine, Texas
Zing’s in 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, Louisiana

Zwolle, Louisiana
Railroad sign for Zwolle, Louisiana
Zwolle Post Office
Zwolle Tamale Festival
Zwolle Tamale Factory

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!!

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Everywhere a Sign – Some XTRA Signs From 2018 #AtoZChallenge

Throughout my travels in 2018, I did not come across a single X sign.  In the past, I have been able to use Xenia, Ohio, but we didn’t go there last year.

So, I am Xcited to Xplain how I will post a number of fun XTRAs that I didn’t use in previous posts. There were some Xceptionally funny ones and a few Xtremely interesting ones. I hope you’ll enjoy my special edition of Xtra Signs from my travels over the years.  Enjoy the Read. Enjoy the Ride.

XTRA Fun For ALL — We are open

If We Are Here — Decatur, Texas
Love the “Sorry, We’re Open” sign!! At Apple Valley Hillbilly Garden Calvert City, Kentucky

At the X-Roads – Corssroads signs from 2018

Business Crossroads sign, Wallace, Idaho
Sign post in Broadus, Montana
I always love coming across direction markers that also give a mileage – Raymond, Washington
Route 66 Crossroads Sign in Bushyhead, Oklahoma
Go This Way — I need one of these!! Paradise Point, Scottsville, Kentucky

A Few Xceptionally Interesting Xtra Signs From 2018

Eat Me neon sign from Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Lexington, Kentucky
Howdy Sign from Doolittle, Missouri on Route 66
Wiener World, Home of the Cheese Dog – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Whatever Sign in West, Texas

A Few Real Oinkers!

Flying Pigs Cafe, Thomas, West Virginia
Taken in the Pigtown District of Baltimore, Maryland
When Pigs Fly sign at a shop called Uniques in Stratford, Oklahoma
Pig on car at Slap Ya Momma’s Barbeque in Biloxi, Mississippi

Now Back to More Xcellent Xtras

Signs at Hillbilly Garden in Calvert City, Kentucky
Welcome to Flatwoods, West Virginia. Home of the Green Monster
Is there such a thing as a Sanitary Sewer? Seen in Lexington, Kentucky
Social Vegan sign found in Austin, Texas
Walgreen’s Temperature sign in Cypress, Texas
Route 66 Gateway sign in Miami, Oklahoma
HipHop Fish and Chicken – a chain of at least 24 shops in Baltimore, Maryland
Peace Love & Little Donuts in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – feed your inner hippie. Like other doughnut shops (Voodoo and Hurt’s, among others), they make unusual combinations, except these are smaller.
Stayed at the Silver Saddle Motel in Manitou Springs, Colorado – best view of Pikes Peak!  Really!
Roll On In Sushi Burritos sign in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sushi Burritos??
Route 66 in Chelsea, Oklahoma
I Got VD in Austin – Voodoo Doughnut, Austin, Texas
Bucky’s in Stratford, Oklahoma. Fresh and tasty Fried Pies
Not to be confused with Bucky’s above, Buc-ee’s in Waller, Texas
Buc-ee’s is one of the largest convenience store gas stations anywhere. Over 100 gas pumps!! HUGE store
Be Nice or Leave sign at Paradise Point in Scottsville, Kentucky
Missing Balls… Uranus, Missouri
One of Delta, Colorado’s many murals. They call themselves the City of Murals
The Skuller’s Clock with eyes in downtown Lexington, Kentucky
Comfort Station this way – West Side Market, Cleveland, Ohio
Cookin’ from Scratch chicken place in Doolittle, Missouri
Complaint Department sign at K’s Cafe in Clarkson, Kentucky
Olympia Film Society mural in Olympia, Washington
Old Orange Crush sign – Helper, Utah
Wall Drug Sign on I-90 in South Dakota Do Lunch or Be Lunch
Wonder if they take Running Backs? Or Forwards? Or Goalies? Or do they require certain types of positions? How about just a plain old sitting position?  Certainly don’t want to be a stander. Taken in Ferdinand, Indiana
Welcome to Raymond, Washington
Lots of cool stuff at the DFW Elite Toy Museum in Haltom City, Texas
Sign on the back of an old school bus at Paradise Point in Kentucky

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!!

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