Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016-25 Renfro Valley Kentucky


many excellent local musicians 

Renfro Valley Kentucky

the Old Barn, the Big Barn sits behind it

Campground:  Renfro Valley campground.  $14.50 PPA half off rate for 3 nights.  $29.00 for 3 nights full rate (Thur/Fri/Sat).  Full hookups w/cable tv and good free wi-fi signal.  Haven’t had tv reception in weeks so it’s a real treat.

a village of shops are near the Old Barn, but many are closed

Distance traveled:  130 miles

Weather:  On and off rain showers this whole week

Hal Rogers Parkway, formerly known as the Daniel Boone Parkway still goes through the Daniel Boone forest and all those Appalachian Mountains.  The parkway’s name was changed because Hal Rogers got the funding through congress, forget about the historical names that make up the area.  Well, it must have cost a fortune to build the mostly two lane parkway through the mountains.  What stunning views as the road travels up and over those ancient Appalachian chain, the oldest mountain range in the continental U.S.  With every rise and fall through deep valleys and heavily forested mountains the roadway was forged through solid rock.  Shear walls of stone cleaved through each mountain pass creating solid canyon like walls on either side of the highway.

I’ve arrived in Renfro Valley home to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and of course the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center.  They’ve been enjoying live music in the Old Barn Theater since 1939 and I’m sure to be able to catch a few great shows while here as well.

historic Lodge, currently close for sale/for lease

many of the shops are closed, with others only open
on nights with shows

After setting up for the week I discovered that my two year old Tv died.  Ekk.  Out of warranty and didn’t really cost that much to begin with, I decided to check out new Tv’s at Walmart.  Found a nice flat screen tv by HiSense and it’s a “smart Tv” just like my smart phone.  Is everything going to be smarter than me?  After setting up the Tv and checking out all the features, I discovered that with it’s built in wi-fi I can easily stream movies and tv programs from my cell phone or laptop computer.  With a good 4g signal the streaming is really smooth.  The remote control even comes with built in Netflix, Amazon, Vudu and You Tube.  I don’t currently subscribe to any of them but can easily set up an account in the future.  Another bonus while setting up the new Tv was that I found a wire connection directly to the built in stereo receiver and large speaks that sit just below the Tv.  So now I’m able to have full surround sound through the built in stereo speakers and all the wiring is hidden.  Fancy that.

In many counties in Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee they have what’s known as dry counties where liquor is not sold in stores or restaurants.   Renfro valley is in one of those counties and it shows.  Although the area could become a much larger tourist attraction, without the ability to sell alcohol many businesses won’t move into the area.  This could easily become another Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge tourist area.  Right now, all that’s in the area is the Renfro Valley entertainment center.  The historic log cabin lodge/restaurant and cabins is closed and what a stunning facility it is.  The Kentucky Music Hall of Fame just misses the mark in many respects and gets very little tourist traffic except for school kids outings.  Other than that, there’s not much in the area.  Most of the businesses in the small towns have all closed, leaving empty store fronts and little traffic.

While at a local truck stop diner I notice two women with a child eating lunch between puffs of smoke billowing above their table.  A truck driver, bent over texting on his smart phone and talking through his headphone setup, smokes a cigarette and sips on his coffee as he waits for his lunch.   The air a blue haze thick with the smell smoke.  Something I haven’t encountered in years on the road as most states have outlawed smoking in public places.

I-75 just north of my exit has been closed all morning south bound, due to a major traffic accident.  The north bound lane just closed also to enable clean up crews to tow away the crashed vehicles.  Hwy 25 in front of the Renfro Valley complex that I’m staying at is a mass of slow moving vehicles as an alternative to I-75.  The on and off rains over the last couple of days and this morning was surely a contributing factor to the accidents.

Jerry and Nancy Ensor

and what great home style cooking
corn/okra/tomatoes and two grilled pork chops... yum

After taking a detour around I-75 since it was still closed down, I headed into Lexington Kentucky to meet up with former co-workers Nancy and Jerry Ensor at Ramsey’s.  It’s a great local restaurant chain that specializes in good home style meals and even has a listing of the freshest in-season vegetables available.  I had a corn, tomato, and okra dish that was very tasty along with two honey glazed grilled pork chops that were the best I’ve had in years.  So nice to catch up with former workers who have been such good friends over the years.

I attended three shows in Renfro Valley

The same evening, I attended the first of three shows I’ll be going to in Renfro Valley.  Lots of very good country music performed by their troop of professional musicians and singers.  All shows I’ll be attending are in the Old Barn as the large Big Barn is reserved for 1st rate acts that are scheduled throughout the year.

a Minnie Pearl Impersonation

He's been playing in Renfro Valley since 1957

banjo playing at it's best

arriving from Nashville singing
Hank Williams 

the Emcee and great singer

The Gospel Jamboree and the Saturday evenings main event the Renfro Valley Barn Dance were both great.  What a pleasant way to be spiritually uplifted but through the sound of music and good old country gospel singing.  The Barn Dance is not actually a dance in that they have no dance floor.  Perhaps in the past they may have had a dance floor.  It all started back in 1939.  One fiddle player has been playing Renfro since 1957.  As a child he had walked up to John Lair, the owner, and asked if he could play on stage.  John said if he learned how to play the fiddle, he’d let him play on stage.  The rest is history.

Lots of really good old time music from Loretta Lynn,  Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline and the great Hank Williams were all spotlighted.  One singer from Nashville was even featured on stage.

In between all the rain we’ve had this past week, I’ve enjoyed some great music, visits with my Kentucky friends who are planning on moving to Texas to follow their daughter and family next year, and I’ve even enjoyed watching lots of tv shows with the cable connect at the campsite.  So maybe it’s not been much of a week of exploring the surrounding area, but none the less, I’ve sure had my fill of good ole country music.

an abandoned home right next to a Hardy's restaurant parking lot 

campsite at Renfro Valley, just a short walk across a
parking lot to see the shows in the Old Barn



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