The Back Road to Memphis: US Route 79

Bozo's Hot Pit BBQ - Mason, TN
Bozo’s Hot Pit BBQ – Mason, TN

With this post I continue blogging about some of our wonderful US Highways as I strive to avoid the interstates in my travels. In June, I took a trip to Galveston, Texas for a family reunion. The entire length of the trip was predominantly US Highways or State Highways as I made my way to Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and then southern Texas.

Route to Memphis from Lexington via Russellville, KY and US Route 79
Route to Memphis from Lexington via Russellville, KY and US Route 79

The first leg of this trip would take me from Lexington to Russellville, KY where US Highway 79 begins.  Following that highway, I would make my way into downtown Memphis, TN. From there I would catch US Highway 61 (The Blues Highway) down through Mississippi (the next post in this series). Though I have been throughout a good part of Kentucky and also have taken trips into Tennessee numerous times, this was my first venture on US Highway 79 in over 12 years.

Roadtrip
Getting ready to leave on my road trip…early morning start at 4 AM

My objective was to make sure I was on US Highway 79 by about sunrise, so I was on the the road heading west very early in the morning out of Lexington and then to the Bluegrass Parkway and onto I-65 south. I then took the Western Parkway heading west towards Central City, Kentucky, the birthplace of the Everly Brothers. Along the way, I experienced a beautiful sun rise which is in the photo below.

Sunrise as seen from the Western Kentucky Parkway near Leitchfield, KY
Sunrise as seen from the Western Kentucky Parkway near Leitchfield, KY
Watercolor Skies near Leitchfield, KY
Watercolor Skies near Leitchfield, KY

At Caneyville, KY I took State Highway 79 south to Russellville. It was a nice drive through mist covered farmland.

Kentucky Highway 79 south of Caneyville, KY
Kentucky Highway 79 south of Caneyville, KY
Mist covered farmland as seen from Kentucky Highway 79
Mist covered farmland as seen from Kentucky Highway 79
Kentucky Highway 79 just north of Russellville, KY
Kentucky Highway 79 just north of Russellville, KY

As noted above, my main objective for going to Russellville was being able to travel south along US Highway 79 all the way into Memphis.  I didn’t see much in Russellville, but there was a fun sign for Ray Bones BBQ, which is apparently now out of business…at least the sign was still there!

The former Ray Bones BBQ in Russellville, now closed, did have a fun sign
The former Ray Bones BBQ in Russellville, now closed, did have a fun sign
Downtown Russellville, KY
Downtown Russellville, KY
This is where US 79 starts in Russellville, KY
This is where US 79 starts in Russellville, KY
A nice red barn in a corn field south of Russellville on US Route 79
A nice red barn in a corn field south of Russellville on US Route 79

The first real excitement along the way was as I approached the Tennessee border near Guthrie, Kentucky. Mind you, Guthrie is way out of the way for most things but they do have a wonderful large pink elephant and a giant cow with sunglasses!

Ghost sign on a the side of a building in Guthrie, KY
Ghost sign on a the side of a building in Guthrie, KY
Welcome to Guthrie, KY
Welcome to Guthrie, KY
The American Cafe in Guthrie, KY... old sign
The American Cafe in Guthrie, KY… old sign, but still in business

The big pink elephant can be seen from US Highway 79 just before the function with US Highway 41.  I turned left on US 79 and a couple of blocks later came across the huge cow with glasses. The cow with glasses is reminiscent of the Pink Elephant with glasses in DeForest, WI (see my post about that from earlier this year).

Pink Elephant in front of a convenience store in Guthrie, KY
Pink Elephant in front of a convenience store in Guthrie, KY
Sumoflam with Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Sumoflam with Pink Elephant in Guthrie, KY
Cow with Glasses in Guthrie, KY
Cow with Glasses in Guthrie, KY
Sumoflam with the cow that wears pink glasses
Sumoflam with the cow that wears pink glasses

Just after Guthrie, I crossed into Tennessee and headed towards the small town of Paris, Tennessee.

Heading South on US 79
Heading South on US 79
Welcome to Tennessee
Welcome to Tennessee

I made a brief stop in Clarksville to visit a couple of friends and then from Clarksville, it was on to Paris to some beautiful lake country including a drive over the Kentucky lake which is part of the Tennessee River.

Welcome to Clarksville, TN
Welcome to Clarksville, TN
Classic Neon Sign in Clarksville, even called a Motor Hotel, before the days of Motels...
Classic Neon Sign in Clarksville, even called a Motor Hotel, before the days of Motels…
Land Between the Lakes in Tennessee
Land Between the Lakes in Tennessee
Dover, Tennessee
Dover, Tennessee

The drive from Dover, Tennessee south on US 79 is also called the Tennessee River Trail.  It is a scenic drive through pine trees and then eventually over the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake.

Tennessee River Trail south of Dover, TN
Tennessee River Trail south of Dover, TN
US 79 south of Dover, TN -- pine-walled highway
US 79 south of Dover, TN — pine-walled highway
US 79 just north of the Tennessee River
US 79 just north of the Tennessee River
Lots of signs just before crossing the Tennessee River near Paris Landing State Park
Lots of signs just before crossing the Tennessee River near Paris Landing State Park

Paris, TN is a nice little town, perhaps best well-known for its replica of the Eiffel Tower. They have competed with Paris, TX for the “biggest” replica of the Eiffel Tower in a town named Paris (I wrote a complete blog post about that). But here are a couple of photos from Paris, including the Tower.

Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
Welcome to Paris, Tennessee
The Paris, TN watertower, which has an Eiffel Tower  painted on it.
The Paris, TN water tower, which has an Eiffel Tower painted on it.
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower
Paris, TN Eiffel Tower
Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee is 60 feet tall
Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee is 60 feet tall

Paris, TN also lays claim to a big catfish statue atop of another welcome to Paris sign. Actually, the Catfish is meant to be the sign to the other famous Paris attraction: “The World’s Biggest Fish Fry.” Held annually on the last full week of April, the festival revolves around the “Fish Tent” where more than 12,500 pounds of catfish is served with all the trimmings.  This event has been held since 1953.

Welcome to Paris Catfish
Welcome to Paris Catfish – heralds the “World’s Biggest Fish Fry”

From Paris, US 79 headed south west towards Memphis through a number of small towns. One of these small towns is named Bells, Tennessee. It was funny for I pulled into town right at noon and there were church bells ringing from a couple of locations.  Bells…matched the name indeed.

Bells, Tennessee water tower
Bells, Tennessee water tower
Downtown Bells, Tennessee
Downtown Bells, Tennessee

Bells is also the home of the Pictsweet Company, a family-owned vegetable company (for four generations). Many in the south enjoy their selection of frozen vegetable products.

Pictsweet_RGB

From Bells I followed US Highway 70A/79 and drove on to the town of Brownsville, Tennessee, apparently “A Good Place To Live.”

Brownsville, TN water tower
Brownsville, TN water tower

When arriving in Brownsville, my eyes beheld a massive structure made of steel pipes and steel pieces and a large painted water tower that says “Mindfield Cemetery.” This large piece of art work is the work of one Billy Tripp, who in 1989 began creating a monument to his parents.

Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee
Mindfield Cemetery, Brownsville, Tennessee

Tripp used salvaged metal to construct what is considered to be the largest outdoor sculpture in the United States. This strange art monument covers about an acre and, at the tallest point, reaches a height of 125 feet.

Tripp's Mindfield Cemetery
Tripp’s Mindfield Cemetery in Brownsville, TN
Billy Tripp's Mindfield in Brownsville, TN
Billy Tripp’s Mindfield in Brownsville, TN

According to Tripp, the sculpture is intended to represent various events in his life including the death of his father, Rev. Charles Tripp. And on top of this, Billy trip as requested that upon his death, he be interred into the same location.

A section shot of Billy Tripp's Mindfield
A section shot of Billy Tripp’s Mindfield
A funny sign at the Mindfield
A funny sign at the Mindfield
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
A solitary chair way up high on the Mindfield
One of many sculptures in the Mindfield
One of many sculptures in the Mindfield
Well, a Flamingo fits this perfectly!!
Well, a Flamingo fits this perfectly!!
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield
A kind of Totem pole at the Mindfield

After this unique visit I was back on US 79 and continuing into Memphis.  There were no stops in Memphis as I was heading towards the “Blues Highway” (US Route 61) for the second leg of my trip.  That will be my next blog post.

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Sumoflam

Travelographer Extraordinaire. I Enjoy the Ride by traveling and seeing the world around me. We are so busy speeding down the freeways of life that we miss out on the back roads and all the wonderful little stories that every place offers. So, I try to take the less beaten paths and see the real world. I have visited all 50 United States and many provinces in Canada, nearly all prefectures in Japan as well as Seaul, Korea, Shanghai and Suzhou, China and Cenu, Philippines. Also been to Mexico. Father of five, grandfather of 10 and happily married to my sweetheart for nearly 38 years. Fluent in Japanese. Happy and well traveled. See details at http://www.sumoflam.biz/SumoflamBio.htm

3 thoughts on “The Back Road to Memphis: US Route 79”

  1. So much to like about this journey! The memorial is something else. I’m glad you took close-ups of it. I also like the regional name of “land between the lakes.” Pretty simple, yet has a certain mystique.

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