Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kentucky

Unfortunately we had no classes in KY, February 17 was a travel day only, but there were road signs pointing to all my Kentucky associations.

There was the Kentucky Fried Chicken birthplace, the historic bourbon trail and a sign reading "Horse Capital of the World." (The Kentucky Derby of course). Only "My Old Kentucky Home" lacked an appropriate brown road sign. All of this got me wondering how a tourist attraction merits "brown sign" status. When I learn the answer, I'll let you know.

A few of the other sites that I noted through the car window were "Stinking Creek," the river whose name is least likely to inspire real estate prices to rise along its banks, and the Hyrock Cemetery. It sits along the side of I-75 just before the Kentucky border. As the name suggests, the cemetery sits on a high cliff. What caught my attention was that the only entrance appeared to be on the Interstate itself, and surely no one was stopping on I-75 to pay their respects. Anyone know the history of this cemetery and how it ended up where it is?

Update: (written in April 2008) The book Along Interstate I-75 also makes mention of this cemetery. "Notice the tiny graveyard beside I-75 just before (the mile 161) marker? here is stark evidence of the way the instertate planners slashed the new freeway across the landscape, dividing businesses, farms, homesteads and in this case- separating the local folk from their departed loved ones. The graveyard is lovingly maintained by the Gibson, Hyslope, Corbin and Parrott families; the cemetery is always well groomed and the flowers fresh." This entry only adds to my curiosity about this landmark. (Now back to the original narrative)

Without leaving the car you can get a glimpse into America's vast and varied religious culture. I remember tiny churches in farm country with seemingly no population for miles. Then there were megachurches the size of sports stadiums; gothic style architecture and churches in the corners of strip malls.

Some of the most interesting roadside sights as we pass through small towns are the church signs. My favorite message so far: "Even when you don't sneeze."

Other people have been fascinated with roadside religious symbols. A religion professor Timothy Beal traveled around the country documenting what he saw.

In various places on our travels we saw large crosses or other religious icons along highways. In various places on our travels we saw large crosses or other religious icons along highways. Some of the most common are the crosses in sets of three and are painted white and gold. West Virginia has 352 sets of these crosses, the most of any state. That's because they were planted by a man named Bernard Coffindaffer, who was born in Craigsville, West Virginia. At 42 years of age, Mr. Coffindaffer became a Christian and had a vision to "plant crosses". Before his death in 1993, he had planted 1,864 trios of crosses.

An especially interesting roadside cross can be found on I-75 in Tenessee just before passing into Kentucky. An giant "Adult World" superstore sits curiously beside an even more gigantic aluminum cross. "Adult World" probably couldn't be much larger, nor could the cross. It stands 101 feet, 6 inches from the ground and appears to be made out of aluminum siding.

James Potter, the preacher who planted the large cross, said, "You know the Bible tells us to stir up their spirit. Well there's no other way you can do it except something big, you know."

Next time we're in Kentucky, I hope to have classes to report on rather than my random travel musings. We very much enjoyed the sights and sounds of the state and hope to be back soon.