The days leading up to Christmas, out on the road, any work traveler has a challenging choice to make. I accept the fact that I could hang my head, sadly missing the festivities, parties and dinners back home, or I can continue to get out and explore the unique sights and hidden treasures in the small towns I’ve landed in during this final month of 2015.
It’s an easy decision for someone who’s accidently fallen into an extreme case of Wanderlust.
Driving several hours along US 23’s Country Music Highway, with Pikesville, KY as my final destination, I’m in somewhat familiar territory. I was raised on the country music of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, and spent many hours watching my parents (and their church friends) practice for an annual country music lip-sync show, which was a rather profitable fundraiser. I learned along the way that you can “fire proof” bales of hay to set the stage, that lip-syncing is harder than it looks, and the church seemed to be perfectly Okay with my father’s cross-dressing antics, doing whatever it took to steal the show as “Toot Toot”.
(If you’re not familiar with the song – “Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot”, you must see the video of John Fogerty’s version. “Toot toot” means “Girlfriend” in Cajun slang, equivalent of “baby”. I wish I had a video of the performance I witnessed in my childhood. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ipI2qnUGuQ )
It’s been a while since I’ve listened to much country music, but there were plenty of stations to choose from down in Kentucky. I settled on 93.1 WDHR, a local station in Paintsville, KY – a small enough town that the obituaries are still read over the airwaves.
I made it to the Country Music Highway Museum, where Thursday nights are dominated by “Front Porch Picking”, featuring performances by up-and-coming local country artists. Southern hospitality was at its height, as the doors were kept open just for me. The attendant told me about her dear friend with Thyroid Cancer who she was bringing chicken pot pie on her way home from the museum. Another few minutes of conversation and I think I would have been invited along for supper.
Along this winding road that dips in and out of small Kentucky towns, country music stars like Billy Ray Cyrus, Crystal Gayle and big sister Loretta Lynn developed the talent and ambition that would bring them great fame in the world of country music. The museum and performance /event space pay tribute to their home towns.
This area is also home to the CMA’s New Artist of the Year, singer and songwriter Chris Stapleton, who mixes country, blues, rock and R&B sounds. Stapleton is the first to win this award in the same year as Male Vocalist of the Year and Album of the Year. The museum displayed a small display of his memorabilia, but will be renovating and adding a permanent display soon, alongside the prolific Loretta Lynn.
One of the most exciting things about the travel I do, for work and just for fun and adventure, is experiencing the art, food, music, history and culture of places quite different from what I’m accustomed to. This trip took me back to my roots a little bit. I’m not entirely sure why an Irish gal in Chicagoland in the late 70s and early 80s was exposed to so much country music, but hearing Crystal Gayle brought back a few memories.
When I return home to Columbus, OH, it’s time to bring the local festivities to me! It’s rare for me to turn down an invitation to an art gallery opening, an annual holiday party, or a chance to hike, ride around town on my bike, or just relax with friends. I’ve learned to squeeze all that I can from my time at home, hosting my group of friends more often than not. I like it that way, and this lifestyle allows me to see the world and feel “at home” all at once.
Ready for the next Adventure,
Kentucky’s US 23 Country Music Highway: http://countrymusichighway.com/countrymusichighway/
Paintsville, KY – Country Music Highway Museum: http://www.visitpaintsvilleky.com/23-home/
Don’t Mess With My Toot Toot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ipI2qnUGuQ&list=RD8ipI2qnUGuQ#t=180
Chris Stapleton: http://www.chrisstapleton.com/about/
CMA Awards 2015: http://www.cmaworld.com/cma-awards/nominees/
Crystal Gayle online: http://www.crystalgayle.com/