Archive for November 9th, 2013

This barn, featuring an advertisement for Rock City on Lookout Mountain, sits on the grounds of the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY…

RT.11.13.9

LandCWell, it had to happen. As with all road trips a new destination was awaiting and I had to leave bourbon country. The next stop was Tennessee, where I planned to swing through Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville before heading back to Louisville.

I hit the road from my hotel in Richmond, KY (where I stayed after an evening exploring the charming little city of Lexington in the heart of the Kentucky horse country) and headed south for the 200 or so miles to Knoxville.

I had no real agenda for this day, I just wanted to explore where the road took me and eventually end up for the night in Chattanooga via Knoxville.

I mapped out a loose path – basically staying off the interstate and sticking to the state highways that wind through the countryside and small towns – and it was great.

I found the Kentucky countryside in autumn colors to be enchanting and enjoyed my drive all the way down to the Cumberland Gap, which separates Kentucky from Tennessee – indeed separated early America from the great wide west.

Although not something I planned to see on my trip, I was pleased to come across the Cumberland Gap as I remember reading accounts of the Lewis and Clark expedition (something I obsessed over for a period in my youth #yesIwasthatkid) passing through the gap when it was all wilderness.

Today, the area is covered by Cumberland Gap National Park, which I explored a little bit, enough to find the Lewis and Clark historical marker.

About Cumberland Gap National Park: “Early native Americans traveled through Cumberland Gap along a trail known as the Warrior’s Path. Pioneers and settlers walked along the Wilderness Road through the gap in a nation’s quest to move westward. Civil War soldiers from both sides vied for control of the historic gap. Modern day pioneers settled in the mountains surrounding Cumberland Gap, bringing with them their music, their culture, and carrying on the ways of their ancestors. All of these stories and more are part of the colorful history showcased at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park!”

Passing through Cumberland Gap from Kentucky to Tennessee is much easier than it was in the Lewis and Clark days, there is a great tunnel – the Cumberland Gap Tunnel – that passes right through the mountains.

I was struck by how quickly the countryside changed when entering Tennessee. It was still lovely, but different than Kentucky – as if passing through the Gap was crossing some kind of magic barrier.

LMUAnyway, Kentucky’s history includes a lot about Abraham Lincoln, who was born and raised in the state before moving to find his calling in Illinois. However, shortly after emerging from the Cumberland Gap Tunnel in Tennessee, I came across the Lincoln Museum on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University – a charming museum of Lincoln artifacts and Civil War history, which is abundant in the region.

About Lincoln Museum: “Located on the beautiful campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, the Abraham Lincoln Library and Museum houses one of the most diverse Lincoln and Civil War collections in the country. Exhibited are many rare items – the cane Lincoln carried that fateful night at Ford’s Theatre, two life masks, the tea set he and Mary Todd used in their home in Springfield, and numerous other artifacts. Approximately 30,000 books, manuscripts, pamphlets, photographs, paintings and sculptures tell the story of President Lincoln and the Civil War period in America’s history.”

Next stop… Knoxville.