When I travel, unless inclement weather, my goal is not to go the fastest or the farthest in the shortest amount of time, it is to enjoy the journey. Today was a perfect example of that philosophy — no deadlines, no particular place to go or be, no final destination to make by the end of the day. That leaves one free to explore the day and the area, step by step, mile by mile, moment by moment, stopping or moseying at will.
The roads are narrower, the towns smaller, and the pace slower — takes me back to an era when you really could “see the USA in your Chevrolet” rather than just flying down the Interstate.
Here are a few things I discovered along the way…
Paducah, KY — It was a cold Sunday morning and outside the tourist season, with no paddle-wheelers expected, so it was pretty quiet downtown. Driving through the Lowertown Artists District and into downtown, checking out the old steam train (should I be the conductor or the engineeer?) and seeing the brightly painted flood wall reminded me of previous trips on a warmer day. Here are a few that might entice you to visit the arts district some summer weekend or maybe the end of April for the International Quilt Show.
Land Between the Lakes — When I head South and East, I always go a little out of my way to drive my favorite byway in these parts — The Trace, a rustic and very , scenic road that runs along a ridge of land called Land Between the Lakes (a National Recreation Area) between Kentucky and Barkley Lakes (formerly and still under there somewhere the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers).
I feel a little guilty enjoying this beautiful natural area filled with trees, water, and wildlife because of the way the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and US government, in the name of progress and the greater good, went about acquiring the land by forced condemnation. Families were forced to leave to make way for the damming of the river and thus flooding of their ancestral farms, homes, and businesses. The thing is that between 1960 and the late 60s, some families were forced to move, not once, not twice but in some cases three times, eventually having to leave their land between the rivers altogether to create the “park” itself.
Between sightings of wood ducks, hawks, and a majestic eagle soaring over my head, cement steps leading to nowhere, seas of daffodils in now empty clearings, the occasional dilapidated barn or shed, and the cemeteries are all that is left of these town.
I ended the day at Montgomery Bell State Park, West of Nashville, TN. The park is 4000 acres, the former lands of a young man who came here from Pennsylvania seeking (and gaining) his fortune mining and smelting iron ore until The Civil War put an end to the industry. If you are in these parts, stop by for a visit. A creek babbles along the edge of the campground (or for you city slickers you can get a room at the lodge/conference center), miles of hiking trails will give you a work out, several lakes, some accessible only by foot, provide beautiful reflections — the whole place is just serene (at least in the off-season.