Sunday, August 14, 2016

2016-24 Kentucky, Prestonsburg Country Highway 23


5 mile road through Ginny Wiley State Park


West Virginia to Kentucky

Campground:  Jenny Wiley State Park Resort.  $22.50 after small senior discount.  50 amp elect and water.  Large pull-thru site.  The lodge is currently closed due to a fire in April.  Smoke damage and water damage from the sprinkler system.  Full hookup sites are also available they are back-in sites.

I’m traveling along the Country Music hwy 23.  Along this route many of the great county and western singers lived.  Rv-ers will love this 4 lane divided highway with it’s grassy median in-between and rugged forested mountains running along the boarder between West Virginia and Kentucky.

Jenny Wiley St Pk is always a nice stopping point as it has a number of amenities many state parks down have.  In Kentucky if it’s listed as a resort park, it has a golf course, lake, campgrounds, cabins and lodge with restaurants and of all things a Theater.  Where college students and some local actors put on plays all summer long.

There seems to be some kind of disconnect this year with the recent fire and temporary closing the main lodge for repairs.  Much of the staff here at the campground and up at the conference center where they’ve moved the dining hall temporarily, haven’t a clue as to what’s going on in the park.  I asked a number of workers about what play was on this season and no one knew what the show was for sure or what dates it was playing.  Of course you can be assured, I’d find out.

It was time for laundry and washing the truck yet again.  Amazing how a light rain while driving down the road will throw up dirt all over the truck.  After the chores were done, I headed out to the Mountain Arts Center known locally as MAC for some info on local activities.  With a very helpful young lady as the front desk I learned that their summer Grand Ole Opery season had just finished up, but on Friday they have an open mike night with many local musicians coming together for free entertainment.  So here’s my schedule for the rest of the week:

Wednesday:  Visit Loretta Lynn’s Home place “Butcher Holler” and the Coal Miners’ Museum in Van Lear Kentucky.

Thursday:  Pikeville KY, Front Porch Pickin, 7pm.  A free outdoor concert next to the U.S. hwy 23 Country Music Highway Museum.

Friday:  Prestonsburg KY, Mountain Arts Center, Free concert.  Country, folk, Bluegrass.  7 pm.

Saturday:  Jenny Wiley Amphitheatre for the play “9 to 5”.  8:15 pm

Sunday/Monday:  no tours, relax at campground

I love exploring old abandoned sites as you may know.  In Prestonsburg they have an old bridge (1928) that apparently means a lot to the community as it is featured on their sign coming into the town as well as a mural in town and a park where the bridge is located.  As I was driving down a residential street I came across the original entrance to the bridge and had to stop and get a few pictures.  The entrance to the bridge is now flanked by a couple of newer expensive homes.  I walked up to a small set of steps leading to the bridge which is fenced off.  The fenced gate which has a lock on it did not deter me from going further as the chain link on the gate has been pealed back.  Obviously begging me to enter the site.  Even with a no trespassing sign, I had to go through the gate and get some up close pictures of the bridge.  I walked to about the middle of the concrete and steel bridge and could see quite a bit of deteriorating concrete posts holding up the bridge.  Wonder how much longer it has before falling down.  But as you can see, I got my pictures.  Note:  The town is considering fixing it up for pedestrian traffic only if cost is within reason.

Archer Bridge also called the Rainbow Bridge

would I go through onto the old bridge?

of course I would

The next day, after going into Paintsville and stopping at the U.S. Country Highway Museum for some information I headed over to Van Lear and Butcher Holler and the home of Loretta Lynn, where she grew up to become known as the Coal Miners Daughter.  I’d been there before and tours weren’t available today, so I hung around Webb’s Grocery store which has been in operation since 1900.  It was originally a coal mining company store and I believe is now owned by Loretta Lynn’s family.  While there I talked to a few locals.  They don’t particularly like President Obama as they say he killed the coal mining industry in Kentucky.  The grocery store is near the end of Butcher Holler and provides a fair amount of grocery items for the locals in this remote part of Kentucky.

Butcher Holler, old mining town store

Back at Jenny Wiley State Park, after having lunch, I stopped by the old swimming pool.  It’s been closed for years and has quite the abandoned look to it.  Of course I had to check it out and get some pictures.  The huge parking lot was empty except for my truck parked in front of the steps leading up to the swimming pool.  With no one around and not being able to get any good pictures through the fence, I had to climb up over the fence to get in and take some shots.  Once inside another gate was locked and closed, but walking around the back side of the main buildings, I found an open passageway and walked right on through to the now empty pool.  It was kind of exciting being in a restricted area getting pictures just for you.  I would never do it if it wasn’t for my readers you know.  What a rush as I retraced my steps and climbed back over the fence, down the grand steps, hopped into my truck and sped away back to the campground.

you bet I climbed over that fence

Well I made it to Paintsville and some “Front Porch Pickin” over at the hwy 23 museum and visitor center.  There were three groups of musicians performing mainly folk and bluegrass music with plenty of space out front for dancing.  These Kentuckians love to dance.  One form of dance is called clogging or as one gentleman said it’s like freeform square-dancing by yourself.  Many of the folks had cleats added to the bottom of their shoes for aiding in tapping out the tunes they were dancing too.  The main crowd would be considered elderly by most accounts, but I was pleasantly surprised to see some younger late teens, early twenty something’s who made a point of dancing with many of the elderly folks.  It’s definitely a social gathering place as many folks come around and greet each other with the warmest of hugs and  sharing of family gossip.  I must admit many were not good dancers or at that age where just a simple shuffle is all they could do, but there they were, out on the dance floor having a great time.

Paintsville, Front Porch Pickin

Kentucky folk love to dance

One day I drove deep into one of those Hollows in search of an Appalachian folk art center in the community of David.  It was listed on one of the tourists maps.  Found out the art center had been closed for three years but they let me in to see what was still unsold.  Not much so I didn’t get any great folk art for the camper.  Though the drive along the narrow winding lane leading further and further into the hollow was pretty exciting.

While attending the free Open Mike night at the MAC center, two men who were sitting behind me started to discuss medical issues.  One guy had just come from the doctors office and said he was able to finally get the doctor to admit that he has black lung (caused from working in a coal mine for years).  He said the doctor said he’d be submitting the information to a review board.  The other man who also has black lung disease was awarded compensation based on 60% non functioning lungs.  He told the other guy that if he was awarded anything he’d get $2,300 per 1% of disability.  Sounded like a one time settlement.  And yet folks in the area still want the coal mines reopened because it means jobs.

Prestonsburg, MAC center, free Thursday night entertainment

The MAC center is a great venue for local musicians and I enjoyed all the performers.  Of course there were a few standouts including one young lady who played the mandolin and sang with a clear powerful voice.  The audience really showed their appreciation.  The only gripe I had with the whole evening was the a/c.  It was so darn cold in the place I could barely concentrate on the music.  I kept rubbing my arms all evening trying to warm up.

With temperatures in the 90 degree range, it’s been a let’s stay inside during the heat of the day kind of week.  No Tv so lots of reading….

Next stop:  Renfro Valley Kentucky

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