Lessons from the Highways and Byways

Saturday, August 18, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Bowling Green, KY to Paducah, KY
Our journey today offered up a plethora of lessons.  From planned activities to serendipitous events, we found ourselves alternately surprised, disappointed, and, most often, inspired.

1.  Sometimes you can go home again.

In spite of Thomas Wolfe's warning, some people can go home and find honor and respect.  As we traveled across Kentucky today, we came upon a 351-ft. reminder.  Despite the fact that Kentucky supported the Union in the Civil War, the people of Christian County still saw fit to honor a native son who embodied the Confederate cause.
Edifice to a leader who went led a war against the United States
Although many considered Jefferson Davis an ineffectual leader of a lost cause and he was deemed a traitor against the United States, his home community saw his better qualities and recognized his accomplishments with the tallest concrete obelisk in the world (most obelisks are made of stone blocks).  Funded mostly by locals, construction began in 1917 and was completed in 1924.  Builders even had the foresight to include an elevator to take visitors to an observation platform near the top.  (View from the top pictured above.)

2.  The stuff of legends may be around the next corner.

While searching for a letterbox today on the Hopkinsville (KY) Community College campus, we followed a clue to the school's Round Table Literary Park.  Nestled among a grove of trees on the campus, the park features a 22,000-pound replica of King Arthur's round table and his sword, again stuck in the stone.
King Arthur's Round Table
The brainchild of a humanities professor at the college, the park also includes a replica of the Tholos at Delphi and a Greco-Roman amphitheater with a sculpture of Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy.  The park serves as an outdoor classroom and venue for college literary events.

3.  Scenic is in the eye of the beholder.

For several years, we have been interested in the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky and Tennessee.  In this area, where the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers flowed very close and parallel to each other, the TVA damned local communities in the mid-1900s by damming the rivers to create two long lakes and making the land between them one large park.
Woodland Trace "scenic" routeWoodl
Finally this trip gave us the opportunity to cruise the Woodland Trace National Scenic Byway, a 43-mile passageway threading from north to south through this park.  We went out of our way to experience the northern half of this "scenic" byway today, only to find it looked very much like an average country road in Georgia.  Obviously, marketing is everything.

4.  An uninitiated new player may change the rules of the game.

Although it doesn't occur too often, there have been times when we have found letterboxes that have been vandalized.  Since it's a somewhat secretive hobby and the containers aren't always labeled well, most incidents of "muggling," as such mischief is called, are probably due to a lack of understanding that letterboxes are part of a scavenger hunt game.  Today, we found an odd twist to a muggled box.

Someone who calls himself CrowBar apparently found this letterbox and decided to use it for a game of his own.  He snuffed out the logbook and rubber stamp that were in the box and added a note asking finders to take one of the empty dipping tobacco cans and leave an unopened can.  Since there were a half dozen or so cans in and around the box, he must have either seeded the game, or his ploy is working.

5.  Trucks can play role reversal, too.

While in downtown Paducah to search for a letterbox this evening, we stumbled upon the town's annual truck pull games.  Though we've never attended truck or tractor pulls, it was our understanding that this was a motorsport involving modified vehicles competing to pull heavy loads.  Paducah's version of the truck pull is a little different.

People pulling an 80,00-lb truck
To raise funds for the local Special Olympics program, the good folks of Paducah do the pulling rather than the trucks.  Teams from various companies and organizations in the Paducah area take on the "Biggest Challenge in Town," competing to pull a loaded UPS 18-wheeler a distance of twelve feet in the shortest time.  Even kids took part, but their teams pulled a UPS delivery truck.  What an inspiration to see the community rally around the Special Olympics organization and raise $40,000 for this worthy cause. 

Every day that we travel the highways and byways of America, we relish such opportunities to learn more about our country and ourselves.  And if we keep our eyes and our minds open, we are rarely disappointed.

  • Weather:  sunny, 59° to 85°
  • Letterboxes found:  3
  • States:  1 (KY)  
  • Monuments in US taller than Jefferson Davis's:  4
  • Seats 'round the Round Table:  24
  • Towns forcibly abandoned to create Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area:  3
  • Weight of UPS truck/trailer pulled:  80,000 pounds