Vistas are the joy of back roads travel. Every corner, every crest of a hill, every mile offers a new vista. And this country has some spectacular and splendid vistas.
Over the years I have seen some amazing vistas. Whether they be in the deserts of the southwest, the high plains of Montana or on the oceans in the east or the west, the views are endless and inspiring. Following are some of the vistas I have enjoyed and their locations. Enjoy the ride and the views.
My family moved to Kentucky with in 1993. We moved from the western United States and had not lived in a humid, green environment since our time in Japan in the late 1980s.
Like many others, when we heard the word Kentucky, we thought about the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Kentucky bourbon. There was not much else to really understand or know about Kentucky.
Honestly, looking back I can say that our move to Kentucky was one of the best things we ever did. Kentucky is a beautiful and diverse state. Living in Lexington, which is the Horse Capital of the World, we are surrounded by beautiful horse farms. In fact, I can leave my driveway and be driving through horse farm country within five minutes. The black plank fences, the nicely mown fields, immaculately expensive barns and the horses out grazing in the field… always uplift our souls.
There are so many things to see and do in Kentucky. The worlds largest cave, Mammoth Cave is here. Beautiful waterfalls, streams, rivers and lakes. The hills of eastern Kentucky are lovely.
The drive across the state takes about six hours if you’re driving east to west from the furthest points. The diversity that you will see on a drive like that is amazing.
Kentucky is one of those states that has true four seasons. The wintertime typically has snow and sometimes we even get some pretty impressive ice storms. Not fun in and of themselves, the ice storms leave beauty hanging around.
After winter comes springtime and the abundance of colorful flowers and flowering trees. One of Lexington’s favorite places for visiting and viewing flowering trees is the Lexington Cemetery. It is a lovely place when everything is in bloom.
April is the start of the horse racing season in Kentucky. Keeneland Race Track is one of the premier race tracks in the United States and then after the Kingman meet horses move onto Louisville and Churchill Downs and eventually the Kentucky Derby. In the past I’ve had the opportunity to attend those events and they are a lot of fun.
But there are many other horse activities in Kentucky such as show jumping and even Polocrosse — a mix between polo and lacrosse done on horses.
Throughout the year, I make my way to a local reservoir/lake on the outskirts of Lexington. It is called Jacobson Lake and is part of the huge Jacobson Park. It is a beautiful place to come early in the morning and watch a sunrise or come in the evening and catch a sunset. I also thoroughly enjoy spending time at the lake and listening to the birds and watching and photographing birds. There are a variety of them from the great blue heron in the beautiful bald eagle and Osprey, to many smaller birds such a seagulls, Killdeer, blackbirds and bluebirds and Cardinals.
Summer in Kentucky is generally mild but can be warm and sometimes very hot and humid. Those are the times to stay indoors or to go to the lake and sit out on the lake. The family has made a few visits to Cave Run Lake in eastern Kentucky to enjoy the nice environment.
Also, during the summer I often take back road drives around Kentucky. There are so many lovely little two lane back roads that one can take and see the landscape, lifestyle and many other unique things. On these trips I’ve discovered old churches, beautiful old farm houses and buildings. I’ve come across fields of sunflowers. I even came across “Kentucky Stonehenge.”
Traveling south of Louisville I took a back road during the spring in hopes of catching the migration of the beautiful Sandhill Cranes. And I was fortunate enough to be there when they were there in the small little town of Cecelia, Kentucky.
On other trips we have visited Cave City, a kind of National Park resort town that supports Mammoth Cave. Cave City offers one of only three remaining historic Wigwam Motel complexes, the other two being in Arizona and California. Further south on the same interstate or taking a back road, is the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. This is the only factory in the world that builds the Corvette. Kentucky is also home to the largest Toyota plant in the United States, a huge Ford production facility in Louisville that makes F150 pick up trucks.
Both Lexington and Louisville feature amazing murals and wall art. Lexington even has an organization called PRHBTN that invites famed street artists from all over the world to come to Lexington and paint on buildings around the city. There are some amazing pieces.
I love Kentucky. I am so glad that we had the blessing to move here to this beautiful state. If you have not visited Kentucky, you need to add it as a “must see” to your list.
And, if you live in Kentucky…go take a “staycation” and see this great state.
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 what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The J Towns
Jamestown, North Dakota
One of my fun places to stop in North Dakota is Jamestown. It is known as the “Buffalo City” and one can find all kinds of Buffalo things, including “the World’s Largest Buffalo” statue and the National Buffalo Museum. It was commissioned in 1959 by local businessman Harold Newman, and built by art students from Jamestown College, under the supervision of art instructor and designer, Elmer Peterson. It is visible from Interstate 94, overlooking the city from above the James River valley. The statue is 26 feet tall, 46 feet long and weighs 60 tons. It was constructed with stucco and cement around a steel beam frame shaped with wire mesh and is one of the giants across the US. See more about my visit to Jamestown HERE.
Known as “The Little Switzerland” of the United States, Joseph, Oregon is a scenic town on the shores of the lovely Wallowa Lake. I visited this community in 2007 and was enthralled by the beauty. Like many towns, they have an art walk with many fine outdoor sculptures, including the intricate eagle sculpture “The Spirit of Joseph” by Steve Parks. Joseph was named after Chief Joseph of the Wallowa Band of the Nez Perce Tribe. Joseph is also about an hour away from the awe inspiring Hell’s Canyon. Despite the grandeur and wide expanses of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Hell’s Canyon has been carved much deeper by the Snake River. The canyon is about 100 miles in length and there is one 40 mile section that is nearly 5500 feet deep. But the steepest point from river to rim is at Granite Creek. This is an amazing 7900 foot deep section of the canyon!! The widest expanse across the canyon is 10 miles. The Hell’s Canyon Scenic Byway is an awesome way to spend a day driving and taking in the wonderful views. See more about my NW Oregon and SW Washington roadtrip from 2007 HERE.
Just across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY is the river town of Jeffersonville, Indiana. Two different cities and a shared river and bridge. In September 2013 , with camera in hand, I drove around Louisville and then across the river to Jeffersonville. The town has a series of floodwall murals which are delightful to walk along and see. 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. Jeffersonville is also home to 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. See more about this unique Ohio River town in my 2013 post HERE.
One of the few places you cannot get to on a backroad by car is Juneau, Alaska. Only accessible via air or boat, we visited while on a cruise in June 2004 with other family members. Sitting along the Gastineau Channel, the town is picturesque and touristy. It is the gateway to Mendenhall Glacier as well. Mendenhall Glacier is about 13.6 miles long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles from downtown Juneau. We also took the Mount Roberts Tramway to the top of the mountain and enjoyed a spectacular view. The tramway’s cars rise 1,800 feet from the cruise ship dock in downtown Juneau through the rain forest to the Mountain House, offering expansive views of Juneau and Gastineau Channel. The Tramway is one of the most vertical tramways in the world. See the entire report of this trip HERE.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
One of my FAVORITE places in the US is Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is the gateway to the Grand Tetons National Park and is a beautiful town nestled in a picturesque valley. See my full post from a 2013 visit HERE. It is one my “Heaven on Earth” places.
Janesville, Wisconsin (Honorable Mention)
Another of the interesting towns in Wisconsin, Janesville is not too far from Madison and north of Beloit. The town has big cows and cheese factories as well as a great history. Definitely worth a visit.
Jackson Center, Ohio (Honorable Mention)
Jackson Center, Ohio is the home of the Airstream Factory. Everyone has seen these iconic trailers on the roads. This is where they come from. They give tours!! Check out a report about my visit there in May 2008 right HERE.
Jamaica Beach, Texas (Honorable Mention)
On one end of Galveston Island in Texas is Jamaica Beach, with nice beaches, condos to stay in and wonderful views of the Gulf of Mexico. Brown pelicans are in the air everywhere. See my 2014 post with many pelican shots and lots of views of the beautiful gulf coast HERE.
Jamestown, New York (Honorable Mention)
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t include another Jamestown. (And yes, I have also been to Jamestown, VA to see the old Jamestown history!!) Jamestown, New York is the birthplace of iconic TV star Lucille Ball. There is Lucy and Desi stuff all over town. We didn’t have time to visit the Lucy-Desi Center, but I did at least get shots of the facilities and the murals. See my full report about my New York trip to Jamestown and other places nearby by clicking HERE.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.