Staycation Mini-Roadtrip: Kentucky Highway 89

Kentucky Scenic Byway Highway 89
Kentucky Scenic Byway Highway 89

Oftimes when we think of a road trip, we typically think of some far off location with fun sites and unique places to visit.  Indeed, we may often overlook what is right in our backyard.  Thus the word “Staycation” was born.  A staycation is typically defined as a period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within driving distance, sleeping in their own beds at night. Most of the time it involves dining out more frequently than usual. Staycations achieved popularity in the US during the financial crisis of 2007–2010.

Map of my May 9 trip on KY 89
Map of my May 9 trip on KY 89
Kentucky Highway 89 south out of Winchester
Kentucky Highway 89 south out of Winchester

I personally have taken a few of these in my own home town of Lexington and in surrounding areas around Kentucky.  Last Monday was one of those days that I wanted to get out on the road, so I took a mini-roadtrip to travel along part of Kentucky’s Scenic Byway Highway 89 from Winchester through Irvine and into McKee.   I had received inspiration to take this trip from a friend’s posting on Facebook about a small drive-in restaurant in Ravenna, KY called The Wigwam Drive-In. (I posted about that yesterday) Though only a four hour trip, it was well worth it both in beauty and in the refreshment of just getting out on the road and seeing the beautiful hills of the Bluegrass.

Kentucky Scenic Byway sign on KY 89
Kentucky Scenic Byway sign on KY 89
Typical Hardwood forest along KY 89
Typical Hardwood forest along KY 89

From Lexington I took US 60 to the lovely historic town of Winchester (which I’ll cover in another Staycation post in the future).  From there I took Kentucky Highway 89 south towards Irvine, which begins on East Washington St. in Winchester.   This drive weaves its way through farmland and hardwood forests passing through a few sparsely populated communities and their small churches.

Watch out! It's a Trapp!
Watch out! It’s a Trapp!

The first community along the way is Trapp.  Originally called Round Tree, the town had a school, post office and other stores. Trappers would visit the community’s stores, which is how the school was dubbed Trapp in the early 1900s.   Nowadays the town has a few homes and a small grocery store called Fox’s General Store,  which is advertised on the side of a building with a nice wall advertisement.

Advertisement for Fox's General Store in Trapp, KY
Advertisement for Fox’s General Store in Trapp, KY
Old Log Lick Road in Trapp, KY. Love the name!!
Old Log Lick Road in Trapp, KY. Love the name!!
The Red River Bridge on KY 89 south of Trapp, KY
The Red River Bridge on KY 89 south of Trapp, KY

From there 89 crosses a bridge over the Red River into Estill County and the small community of Palmer. It is there that the Welcome to Estill County sign can be seen.  I like its catchphrase “Where the Bluegrass Kisses the Mountains.”  And indeed, this is where the mountains of eastern Kentucky really get started.  From this point southward the drive is a natural wonderland of forest, wildflowers and rolling hills.

Welcome to Estill County, KY
Welcome to Estill County, KY
Hargett, KY
Hargett, KY

Soon I was driving into the community of Hargett which welcomes the driver with a rare sighting of an old Mail Pouch Barn, one of only six or seven I have seen in Kentucky.  Originally known as Woodwards Creek, a post office opened in 1879 and was renamed Sams for a local store owner in 1886. It later moved to the nearby Louisville and Nashville Railroad’s Harg Station and was renamed Harg in 1914, just before closing.  A Hargett post office opened in 1915 and closed in 1943.  It is now a small unincorporated community with an old auto repair place that has a number of really old cars.  There is also a fire department.

A rare Mail Pouch barn sighting in Hargett, KY
A rare Mail Pouch barn sighting in Hargett, KY
Old Cars in Hargett, KY
Old Cars in Hargett, KY
This one has some personality!!
This one has some personality!!
Price Less Foods in Irvine, KY
Price Less Foods in Irvine, KY

About five miles down the road I entered Irvine and was welcomed by a Priceless Foods store (actually I think it is Price Less, but I like the Priceless better–HA!!).  Irvine is the home to locally famous Mountain Mushroom Festival at the end of April.  Irvine and nearby Ravenna are known within Estill County as the “Twin Cities.”  It is also the home of the famed Backstreet Boys Kevin Richardson and actor Harry Dean Stanton, who has appeared in a number of films including Cool Hand Luke, Alien, Red Dawn, Pretty in Pink and the Green Mile, among a myriad of others.

Welcome to Irvine, KY
Welcome to Irvine, KY
Irvine Clock
Irvine Clock
A large wooden carving of a mountain mushroom in downtown Irvine, KY
A large wooden carving of a mountain mushroom in downtown Irvine, KY
Welcome to Irvine, KY
A large mural on the side of River Place Antiques in Irvine welcomes visitors from the north on KY 89
Another large mural can be seen as one crosses the Kentucky River on KY 89 coming from the south into Irvine. It features a red geode, something else that Irvine is famous for.
Another large mural can be seen as one crosses the Kentucky River on KY 89 coming from the south into Irvine. It features a red geode, something else that Irvine is famous for.
The old Mack Theatre. Not sure if this is in use anymore
The old Mack Theatre. Not sure if this is in use anymore
A large mural of a train welcomes visitors to Ravenna, KY
A large mural of a train welcomes visitors to Ravenna, KY

As noted above, the driving force for taking this mini-roadtrip to was to find my into Ravenna and visit the Wigwam Drive-In Restaurant.  Ravenna is a twin city to Irvine and is accessed via KY Highway 52, which in town used to be affectionately called “The Wam.”

A large VFW mural in Ravenna
A large VFW mural in Ravenna
Downtown Ravenna, KY
Downtown Ravenna, KY
Another Ravenna Mural
Another Ravenna Mural depicting the Employee Safety Bridge

DSC_3128Before it was incorporated, Ravenna was apparently known only as “The Village”.  The Louisville & Nashville Railroad was responsible for the name of Ravenna, the building of the shops, yard, office building, passenger and freight station, and many other things that were built for the establishment of a railroad terminal in Estill County just east of Irvine.  After the completion of the terminal in 1915, the county decided it would call it “Ravenna”, which stems from the word “ravine”. Some early railroad officials reported that an Italian foreman and interpreter, with a construction crew of approximately 60 Italian men building the railroad yards, requested that the railroad officials name the station in honor of his birthplace, Ravenna, Italy, and it was so granted by the railroad officials in charge of such matter.

Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY
Sumoflam at the Wigwam Drive-In in Ravenna, KY

Just around the corner is the 60 year old Wigwam Drive-In Restaurant, famous for its Country Boy Burger (see my post about this place HERE).  A unique little diner, this place is loved by many residents, many Kentuckians and others.  I loved the old style diner feel of the place!

A collection of old soda bottles sits in a window of a store front in Ravenna
A collection of old soda bottles sits in a window of a store front in Ravenna
An Old Pharmacy sign in downtown Ravenna. I love old signs like this.
An Old Pharmacy sign in downtown Ravenna. I love old signs like this.
Kentucky River bridge on KY 52/KY 89 in Irvine, KY
Kentucky River bridge on KY 52/KY 89 in Irvine, KY

After leaving Ravenna, I got back onto KY 89 and crossed over the Kentucky River on the old bridge, which was built around 1940.  Once across the bridge I continued my trek down KY 89 towards the mountain town of McKee, KY.

Heading into the mountains along KY 89 S out of Irvine.
Heading into the mountains along KY 89 S out of Irvine.
Owl Heads Grocery in South Irvine. Love the sign!
Owl Heads Grocery in South Irvine. Love the sign!
A quilt Block Barn and Gourd Houses for purple martins
A quilt Block Barn and Gourd Houses for purple martins

Along the entire drive there are barns with quilt blocks on the side.  These are commonly seen in Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio, and perhaps other states.  Estill County has its own Quilt Trail.  There are a number of them in Kentucky, some of which I have visited in the past but not yet documented on my blog.

DSC_3143Purple Martins are North American birds that nest in colonies of 2 to 200 pairs.  They like communal living and return to their gourd abodes annually.  These communities can be seen all over the southeast and look nice as well as serving a purpose.  Learn more about the gourds and the birds HERE.

Forested road on KY 89. Much of the drive south of Irvine is like this
Forested road on KY 89. Much of the drive south of Irvine is like this
Wildflowers along the highway
Wildflowers along the highway

KY Highway 89 turns into a windy, sometimes switchbacked, highway through the Daniel Boone National Forest.  It is a beautiful drive this time of year as wildflowers dot the highway, as well as old beautiful barns.

Russell Flat Holiness Church
Russell Flat Holiness Church

There are many small community churches along this stretch of highway.  The buildings are typically non-descript, but I love seeing the signs.  Russell Flat was one of these.

There are quite a few others, many off of side roads.

Miniature horse spotting on Highway 89 by the side of the Russell Flat Church
Miniature horse spotting on Highway 89 by the side of the Russell Flat Church
An old barn on the side of the highway. There are dozens of these.
An old barn on the side of the highway. There are dozens of these.
A rustic old house along the road...looks like someone still lives there
A rustic old house along the road…looks like someone still lives there
KY 89 north of McKee, KY
KY 89 north of McKee, KY
Another church sign...just north of McKee
Another church sign…just north of McKee
Welcome to McKee, KY
Welcome to McKee, KY

I made my way into McKee, KY, another small town located in the heart of Jackson County, Kentucky.  It is home to bluegrass festivals and more.  I will visit there again and provide a more detailed report on this cute little place.

Old fire engine sign in Sand Gap, KY
Old fire engine sign in Sand Gap, KY

Highway 89 does continue south on to London, KY, but due to time constraints, I returned to Lexington via Richmond on US Highway 421, which is itself a beautiful drive through places like Sand Gap and Big Hill.  It was a great trip!!

Welcome to Sand Gap, KY
Welcome to Sand Gap, KY
An old Frosty-ette Drive in in Sand Gap, KY. I love these old places
An old Frosty-ette Drive in in Sand Gap, KY. I love these old places
Welcome to Big Hill, KY
Welcome to Big Hill, KY
The Big Hill north of Big Hill, KY on US Hwy 421. Goes down through limestone cliffs, often called Palisades
The Big Hill north of Big Hill, KY on US Hwy 421. Goes down through limestone cliffs, often called Palisades

And, one last road sign….sometimes they can be pretty silly….

DSC_3164

ENJOY THE RIDE!!  Take a staycation near your home, wherever it may be.  You never know what you may see.

 

 

 

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5 Replies to “Staycation Mini-Roadtrip: Kentucky Highway 89”

  1. You will have to come back to Irvine sometime… The Mack theater that you took a photo of is in the process of being purchased and restored by a local performance arts group!

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