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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Vintage Neon Everywhere

Old Mojo Gas Sign - Rock Springs, Wyoming
Old Mojo Gas Sign – Rock Springs, Wyoming

Everywhere I go I see old neon.  These signs remind me of the my youthful days in the 1960s and 70s when we traveled.  Alas, for many, the only signs they see are the same unoriginal fast food, gas station and motel chain signs all over the place.  But, in the by gone days there were few McDonald’s and Motel 6 spots.  Instead, there were the little cozy motels with the old metal chairs in the front and the unique neon signs.  There were the local burger joints with their big shiny signs.  And there were the drive in movie theaters and the downtown theatres with their unique names.  Here is a trip down memory lane with neon I have captured along the less beaten paths and just a few comments, when appropriate.

OLD MOTELS

Chinook Hotel - Chinook, Montana
Chinook Hotel – Chinook, Montana

Of all of the unique neon signs, perhaps the hotel and motel signs are the most fun and bring back the fondest memories.  My first ever motel stay was in some non-descript motel in Amarillo, Texas in 1968.  At the time I was only 12.  It was exciting to sleep in a motel bed, see the paper covered drinking glasses, taste the strange tasting water, sit on the metal rockers on the front porch.  We watched the news and stock reports on the local television and ate pancakes at a local cafe before heading to our new home in Richardson, Texas (we were moving from Albuquerque, so yes, we were on Route 66 back then).

Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 - The Hi-Line - in Galata, Montana
Motel Galata on US Hwy 2 – The Hi-Line – in Galata, Montana
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
Thunderbird Inn in Savannah, Georgia
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
El Kapp Motel in Raton, NM
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk, Wyoming
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Kool Breeze Motel in Irving, Texas
Cave Land Motel - Cave City, Kentucky
Cave Land Motel – Cave City, Kentucky
Log Cabin Motel - Ashton, Idaho
Log Cabin Motel – Ashton, Idaho
Dude Motel - West Yellowstone, Montana
Dude Motel – West Yellowstone, Montana
D-K Motel - Arco, Idaho
D-K Motel – Arco, Idaho
Wagon Wheel Motel - Kadoka, South Dakota
Wagon Wheel Motel – Kadoka, South Dakota
4 Winds Motel - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
4 Winds Motel – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana  The sign is all that remains
Arena Motel in Shelby, Montana The sign is all that remains
Generic Motel Sign - Shelby, Montana
Generic Motel Sign – Shelby, Montana
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Old Stanley Cour-Tel Sign (from Missouri) now at Ra66it Ranch in Staunton, Illinois
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri.  Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Lays Motor Lodge sign in Kingdom City, Missouri. Motel building is dilapidated, but the sign remains
Motel in Havre, Montana
Motel in Havre, Montana
Palace Hotel - Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Palace Hotel – Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Antler Motel - Kemmerer, Wyoming
Antler Motel – Kemmerer, Wyoming
Texan Motel - Raton, New Mexico
Texan Motel – Raton, New Mexico

And to round off the trip, how about one of the more famed ones….

Sleep in a Wigwam - Wigwam Motel in Cave City, Kentucky
Sleep in a Wigwam – Wigwam Village Motel in Cave City, Kentucky

CAFES AND RESTAURANTS

Goody Goody - St. Louis, Missouri
Goody Goody Diner – St. Louis, Missouri

After a nice evening a a comfy motel, what is better than starting the day off with a great breakfast at a diner, a pancake house or a local cafe. The servings are always big, the mom and pop service is better than any fast food joint.  Of course, while on the road you can also stop for lunch and even a big dinner, in some cases even more than you can manage if you are willing to take the chance (think Amarillo, Texas!!)

Donut Whole - Wichita, Kansas
Donut Whole – Wichita, Kansas They have a giant rooster on the roof there too!
Voodoo Doughnut - Portland, Oregon
Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, Oregon
Royal Donut - Danville, Illinois
Royal Donut – Danville, Illinois
Crystal Cafe - Raton, NM
Crystal Cafe – Raton, NM
Golden Burro Cafe - Leadville, CO
Golden Burro Cafe – Leadville, CO
Presti's Bakery - Cleveland, OH
Presti’s Bakery – Cleveland, OH
Lil' Cafe - Commerce, Oklahoma
Lil’ Cafe – Commerce, Oklahoma
Irma Restaurant and Grill - Cody, Wyoming
Irma Restaurant and Grill – Cody, Wyoming
Pickle's Place - Arco, Idaho
Pickle’s Place – Arco, Idaho
Sport Bowl Cafe - Tripp, South Dakota
Sport Bowl Cafe – Tripp, South Dakota

How about some burgers for lunch?

Wimpy's Hamburgers - Dallas, Texas - I'll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today....
Wimpy’s Hamburgers – Dallas, Texas – I’ll gladly pay you Thursday for a hamburger today….
Paul's Hamburgers - Kansas City, Kansas
Paul’s Hamburgers – Kansas City, Kansas
Waylan's Hamburgers - Home of the Ku-Ku - Commerce, Oklahoma
Waylan’s Hamburgers – Home of the Ku-Ku – Miami, Oklahoma
Scotty's Hamburgers - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Scotty’s Hamburgers – Idaho Falls, Idaho
Hutch's on the Beach - Hamilton, Ontario
Hutch’s on the Beach – Hamilton, Ontario
Frostop Root Beer - Ashton, Idaho
Frostop Root Beer – Ashton, Idaho
Schroeder's Drive-In - Danville, Illinois
Schroeder’s Drive-In – Danville, Illinois

Perhaps you want to try an ORIGINAL Cozy Dog….a Route 66 Classic indeed.  This one deserves two photos

Cozy Drive-In - Home of the Cozy Dog - Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In – Home of the Cozy Dog – Springfield, Illinois
Cozy Drive-In - Springfield, Illinois  The sign says it all
Cozy Drive-In – Springfield, Illinois The sign says it all

Don’t want a burger or a corn dog?  How about a Maid-Rite Sandwich?

Maid-Rite Sandwiches - Lexington, Missouri
Maid-Rite Sandwiches – Lexington, Missouri

Or perhaps some great authentic Bar-B-Q?

Bryant's Barbecue - Kansas City, Missouri
Arthur Bryant’s Barbecue – Kansas City, Missouri

And a little Ice Cream for an afternoon treat….

Zesto - near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Zesto – near the zoo in Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Another Zesto in downtown Omaha, Nebraska
Jimmy's Ice Cream - Waldo, Arkansas
Jimmy’s Ice Cream – Stamps, Arkansas

Okay.  So this next one is not neon.  But it is certainly Vintage.  And who can resist stopping for an ice cream at a place that LOOKS like an Ice Cream?

M & M's Twistee Treat - E. Peoria, Illinois
M & M’s Twistee Treat – E. Peoria, Illinois

There are lots of places that you can get dinner…many of the old neon places are a combo bar/grill or bar/restaurant.   And many have unique signs.  Personally, I don’t drink alcohol, but I have certainly enjoyed a few good meals at some of these kinds of places.

Manhattan Bar - Leadville, Colorado
Manhattan Bar – Leadville, Colorado
Mint Bar and Lounge - Chinook, Montana
Mint Bar and Lounge – Chinook, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge - Butte, Montana
Acoma Restaurant and Lounge – Butte, Montana
Atomic City Bar - Atomic City, Idaho - no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Atomic City Bar – Atomic City, Idaho – no longer in business, but the sign is a classic!
Elk Bar and Good Food - Chinook, Montana
Elk Bar and Good Food – Chinook, Montana
Steaks - what more needs to be said? - near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Steaks – what more needs to be said? – near Turkey Ridge, South Dakota
Riscky's Steakhouse - Fort Worth, Texas
Riscky’s Steakhouse – Fort Worth, Texas
Lariat Saloon - Buena Vista, Colorado
Lariat Saloon – Buena Vista, Colorado

And let’s not forget two of the most iconic vintage neon places for travelers….

Cowboy Bar - Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Million Dollar Cowboy Bar – Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Big Texan Steak House - home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) - Amarillo, Texas
Big Texan Steak Ranch – home of the FREE 72 OZ Steak (if you can eat it all) – Amarillo, Texas

Maybe you prefer something a bit more ethnic in the evening….

Joe Mama's Italian - Time for Fine Eats - Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
Joe Mama’s Italian – Time for Fine Eats – Pittsburgh, Pennsylania
El Fenix Restaurant - Best Tex-Mex in Texas - downtown Dallas, Texas
El Fenix Restaurant – Best Tex-Mex in Texas – downtown Dallas, Texas
Hung Far Low - Famous Chop Suey and Famous name - Portland, Oregon
Hung Far Low – Famous Chop Suey and Famous name – Portland, Oregon

Or perhaps just a late night Philly Cheese Steak?  How about two choices and they are just across the street from each other in the triangle….(I actually tried one at each place on the same evening – add the whiz!)

Geno's Cheese Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Geno’s Cheese Steaks – Philadelphia, PA
Pat's King of Steaks - Philadelphia, PA
Pat’s King of Steaks – Philadelphia, PA

Movie Theaters, Drive-In Theaters and Music Halls

Teton Drive-In - Rexburg, Idaho
Teton Drive-In – Rexburg, Idaho

Perhaps you have had a long day on the road and need a break from motel room TV.  A visit to an old drive in theater with some popcorn and thus fuzzy little speakers hanging in your window will do ya.

Too cold outside?  Then there are some classic old movie theaters around that show some cool movies or maybe even will have a live band playing in them. Many of the old theaters are multi-purpose nowadays, but their old neon signs still draw you in and bring back the memories of 1960s childhood.

Following are a few classic looks with neon I have seen over the years as I travel the back roads of America.

 

Plaza Theatre - Glasgow, Kentucky
Plaza Theatre – Glasgow, Kentucky
Lund Theatre - Viborg, South Dakota
Lund Theatre – Viborg, South Dakota
Liberty Theatre - Vandalia, Illinois
Liberty Theatre – Vandalia, Illinois
Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA
The Blue Room - Kansas City, Missouri
The Blue Room – Kansas City, Missouri
Pix Theatre - Winner, South Dakota
Pix Theatre – Winner, South Dakota
Westside Theatre - Newman, California
West Side Theatre – Newman, California
Kentucky Theatre - Lexington, Kentucky
Kentucky Theatre – Lexington, Kentucky
Fox Theatre - Detroit, Michigan
Fox Theatre – Detroit, Michigan
Skyline Theatre - Rudyard, Montana
Hi-Line Theatre – Rudyard, Montana
El Raton Theatre - Raton, NM
El Raton Theatre – Raton, NM
Fischer Theatre - Danville, Illinois
Fischer Theatre – Danville, Illinois
Orpheum Theatre - Wichita, Kansas
Orpheum Theatre – Wichita, Kansas
Leeds Theatre - Winchester, Kentucky
Leeds Theatre – Winchester, Kentucky
Bing Crosby Theatre - Spokane, Washington
Bing Crosby Theatre – Spokane, Washington

VARIOUS AND SUNDRY OTHER PLACES

Pelo's Sundries - LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)
Pelo’s Sundries – LeClaire, Iowa (Home of the American Pickers!)

Sure, I meant it when I included “Sundry” in this section.  That term seems old fashioned now, but the old five-and-dime shops had “sundry” items.  There were also the old drug stores that sold magazines, had fountains in the shop and they sold “sundries.”

I also include the “various” in here since there are a few odds and ends neon signs that I  want to include in this section.

The famous Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
The famous Pike Place Public Market sign in Seattle, Washington
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas.  They also do shoe repairs
Pilgrim Cleaners in Houston, Texas. They also do shoe repairs
Arco City Hall - Arco, Idaho - First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Arco City Hall – Arco, Idaho – First City in the world to be lit by Atomic Power
Boring Rexall Drugs - Warsaw, Missouri
Boring Rexall Drugs – Warsaw, Missouri
The Old Drugs Store - Cumberland Gap, Tennessee
The Old Drugs Store – Cumberland Gap, Tennessee

Now, wasn’t that just a yummy adventure through the past?

Yummy House - Idaho Falls, Idaho
Yummy House – Idaho Falls, Idaho

Some roadside assistance provided by friends at……

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