During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The V Towns
Back in 2007 I had occasion to visit a friend of mine in Alberta, Canada. One of the side trips we tool was to the town of Vulcan, which has taken full advantage of its name and the association with the TV show Star Trek. Vulcan is a town located midway between the cities of Calgary and Lethbridge inthe prairies of Southern Alberta, Canada. The population of the town was 1,940 in 2006, and the population of the county, which is also named Vulcan. See more about my Vulcan visit HERE. Live long and prosper!!
Last week I posted about a place near Sweet Grass, Montana called Jerusalem Rocks. About 70 south of there is a town called Valier. It is a small town of about 700 and really does not have a whole lot there. But, just outside of town is another outcropping of hoodoos and formations in a place called Rock City. I wrote about this and other similar places in a post HERE. But, you may also want to check out my complete post on my Montana US Highway 89 adventure HERE.
In 1975 I made weekly trips from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah for work as a record/tape distributor. I loved the drive and Vernal was actually a nice place to visit every week. In the early 2000s I once again visited with my family as we ventured to the Dinosaur National Monument. Along with my trips, I would drive the switchbacks form Vernal and over the area known as Flaming Gorge. This is beautiful country and well worth the visit. It has been many years since I have been there, and I hope to get there again soon!
On a family trip in 2014, we drove through the town of Vandalia, Illinois as part of our return trip home. Our main reason for coming here was to see a fire breathing dragon…made from metal. But, Vandalia is so much more. This is where Abraham Lincoln kicked off his career as a politician. It was the western terminus of the National Road, one of America’s first highways. The Kaskaskia Dragon was a load of fun for the grandkids too!! Check out my full trip report with lots of photos HERE.
In the summer of 2014 I cruised down the Blues Highway and ended up spending the night in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I woke up early the next day to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park before heading further south on Highway 61. The park preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from May 18 to July 4, 1863 and also commemorates the greater Vicksburg Campaign, which preceded the battle. The expansive park includes 1,340 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles of historic trenches and earthworks, a 16-mile tour road, 144 emplaced cannons, a restored gunboat, and more. A must see for Civil War enthusiasts, but also a great place to learn about a facet of American history. Besides the park, the town has a great Coca Cola memorabilia museum and a number of murals along the river wall. You can see many more photos and a more detailed writeup about my visit in 2014 HERE.
Versailles, Kentucky (Honorable Mention)
Living in Lexington, Kentucky offers many wonderful opportunities for “Staycations.” One great place to visit nearby is the lovely and historic town of Versailles (pronounced Ver-sales) which is on US Highway 62 west of Lexington. Versailles is well-known for its quaint, small-town beauty, beautiful horse farms and Kentucky’s famed bourbon distilleries, including the famed Woodford Reserve. Many of the famed Bluegrass Horse Farms are in Woodford County and near Versailles. I have never written a blog post about Versailles, but I would highly recommend a visit there if you come to Kentucky. Plan the trip in April and go to the races at nearby Keeneland Racetrack then take the Bourbon Trail. Check out my 2013 blog post about Horse Farm Country with many photos about horses, horse farms and the Horse Capital of the World — right HERE.
Vincennes, Indiana (Honorable Mention)
In the summer of 2001 my family took a trip westward to Utah (including the trip to Vernal noted above). Early in the trip we went through Vincennes, Indiana to visit the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park. Founded in 1732 by French fur traders, Vincennes is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in Indiana and one of the oldest settlements west of the Appalachians. It sits at the intersection of US Highway 41 and US Highway 50. George Rogers Clark (November 19, 1752 – February 13, 1818) was a surveyor, soldier, and militia officer from Virginia and the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War. He served as leader of the Kentucky (then part of Virginia) militia throughout much of the war. Clark is best known for his celebrated captures of Kaskaskia (1778) (Way before the fiery dragon noted above!!) and Vincennes (1779) during the Illinois Campaign, which greatly weakened British influence in the Northwest Territory. Because the British ceded the entire Northwest Territory to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, Clark has often been hailed as the “Conqueror of the Old Northwest”. his younger brother William was the “Clark” in the Lewis and Clark expeditions. This trip was well before my travel blogging days, but the Memorial was definitely one of our more memorable experiences on a trip across the country to see history.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
Two different cities and a shared river and bridge. In September 2013 one of my daughters and her friends needed some assistance getting to Louisville and had some business to take care of. So, with camera in hand, we were off and they did their stuff while I drove around Louisville and then across the river to Jeffersonville. Here are a few the things I saw in a three hour jaunt thru two towns….
This stretch of the Ohio River is the widest and deepest part (about 23 feet) of the Ohio River.
A drive down West Main Street in downtown Louisville offers a number of interesting sights. You pass by the Art and Museum District of town. Perhaps the biggest and most interesting site is the amazing Giant Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat at the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory. The bat replica is actually not made of wood. It is a 120 foot tall steel bat that weighs over 68,000 pounds. The Big Bat is an exact-scale replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch Louisville Slugger bat.
Ironically, just a mere three blocks away is another “Big Bat”. This one is located at Caufield’s Novelty Shop and is a huge monstrosity of a hanging vampire bat. They obviously want to capitalize on the “novelty” factor!
Another business on Main Street, just a couple of doors down from the Louisville Slugger Museum is an advertisement for Kentucky Mirror and Paint Glass with a Giant Baseball going through a Painted Window…
Not to be outdone, there is the guy there that could actually use the giant bat and ball and probably fight off that vampire thingy… yes, a giant gold replica of Michelangelo’s “David” statue is a right there on main.
This statue was created by Turkish artist Serkan Ozkaya and was commissioned to be created in Istanbul, shipped to New York and then to Louisville. It certainly must be the largest representation of a male’s complete anatomy in Kentucky and perhaps even the U.S. (See this photo for details if you dare). The statue is at the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, which is a unique contemporary art museum coupled with a boutique hotel. The 21c Museum is North America’s only museum dedicated to collecting and exhibiting contemporary art of the 21st century. The Museum is open free of charge 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More than twenty special exhibitions and installations have been organized by the 21c Museum since its opening in 2006.
Mural Artist Bryan Todd completed this giant “Louisville Mural” earlier in 2013. (see article about it). Around the downtown area and the Highlands district there are other art works…wall murals, street art, etc.
The mural above is a classic piece painted on a retaining wall near Mark’s Feed Store and Ear X-Tacy in Louisville. Noah has painted a number of murals, many inside cafes and shops around Louisville. You can see an interview with him here on a mural he was working on in Philadelphia. Following are some detail shots of his whimsical mural. I have tried to find the story on this one but to no avail…
I found another nice mural on the side of Old Town Liquors on Bardstown Road. This one is more classic, but nice. Painted by Louisville artists Byron Roberts and Gary Bennett in 2002, it was partially funded by the City of Louisville. Roberts says of the project “I got my inspiration by standing on a porch in the neighborhood and it presents a perspective of looking inside out.”
And a few other odds and ends of art I came across just driving around in Louisville:
Then, in a few places downtown I came across this little guy…apparently somebody’s “tag”
And, to go along with the two “Big Bats” noted earlier, on the other end of Main Street I ran into a Big Batman!
Across the street from Batman is the Louisville Slugger Field that has a statue of famed Dodgers shortstop and Louisville native “Pee Wee” Reese. I remember watching him with Dizzy Dean in the 1960s as they announced the New York Yankees games on CBS.
Another unique statue off of main was what I think was an Alice in Wonderland rendition
While in Louisville I wanted to get a couple of nice shots of the landmark building of Louisville, the Aegon Center building, which is both the tallest and the most noteworthy and recognizable building in Louisville. It was built in 1993 (I remember well as I was living in Louisville at the time) and is 549 feet tall with 35 floors.
From Louisville I ventured over the Ohio River into Indiana on the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge, that was opened in 1929. The bridge spans over 5700 feet over the river and is one of five bridges from Louisville to Clarksville/Jeffersonville. I had really never visited Jeffersonville or Clarksville. My main intent was getting a broad view of Louisville from across the river, but I also was fortunate to see a number of interesting things on the Indiana side of the river….
On the other side of the river is the colorfully unique Southern Indiana Visitor Center
Also on this side of the bridge is Water Tower Square…
The Clark Memorial Bridge (also referred to as the 2nd Street Bridge in Louisville) has some cool old Art Deco (as if from Superman or Batman) cement pylons. Actually, these columns are identical to each other on each of their respective sides of the bridge. The only differences between the Indiana and Kentucky columns are the state names engraved on the column, as well as each side has their own version of the carved plaque.
Clarksville, Indiana was once a home site to George Rogers Clark (older brother to William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame), and was founded in 1783. It is the oldest American town in the Northwest Territory (the Territory Northwest of the Ohio River). The town is also home to the Colgate clock (seen above behind the water tower), one of the largest clocks in the world. The Falls of the Ohio State Park, a large fossil bed, are also just a short jaunt from the bridge.
Louisville and the associated Indiana communities—Jeffersonville, Clarksville, and New Albany—all owe their existence as communities to the falls, as the navigational obstacles the falls presented meant that late 18th Century and early to late 19th Century river traffic could benefit from local expertise in navigating the 26-foot drop made by the river over a distance of two miles.
The Fourteenth Street Bridge (also known as the Ohio Falls Bridge) was built in 1868 by the Louisville Bridge and Iron Company and was operated for many years by the Pennsylvania Railroad, giving the company its only access to Kentucky. Ownership of the railroad and the bridge passed on to Penn Central and later Conrail, which then sold the line from Louisville to Indianapolis, Indiana to the Louisville and Indiana Railroad, the current bridge owner.
Along the Falls is a statue of Lewis and Clark
Meriwether Lewis met William Clark (younger brother of General George Clark) in 1803. Together they recruited the “Nine Young Men from Kentucky” that formed the core of the Corps of Discovery. Meriwether Lewis and his party left Pittsburgh on August 31st 1803, reaching Louisville on October 14th where he was met by William Clark. At their handshake upon this meeting the Lewis and Clark Expedition was born. (see more detailed history here).
Over the years I have driven hundreds of miles across the U.S. and have traced the many paths of Lewis and Clark, even to Astoria, Oregon where their final western destination ended at Fort Clatsop. I have been to L & C sites in Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Idaho and more. But this is where it all started!! Here is a map f their entire route.
After the visit to Clarksville, I headed to Jeffersonville to see what may be there. To my delight, I discovered a series of floodwall murals, similar to what I have seen in other river communities.
Turns out that the 12 murals depicting the history of Jeffersonville were painted by Robert Dafford and his crew. This project began in 2007 and was completed in 2012. Ironically, I had seen his mural works in previous visits to Point Pleasant, WV, Paducah, KY and Portsmouth, OH. (see Paducah work here and the Point Pleasant work here). Dafford apparently has his photorealistic mural art in over 200 locations around the world.
Just a few blocks away is an entirely different scene. The Industrial Terrorplex, a massive haunted house and “horror complex” created using state of the art Hollywood effects, offered up some surprises as I rounded the corner. A couple of huge gargoyles were waiting on the fencepost to pounce down on me.
The gargoyles were enough to scare me back across the river to pick up my daughter and her friends and make our way back to Lexington. Along the way I did see a more pleasant statue…Thomas Jefferson said a nice hello as did a few ducks.