Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Eastbound, down the highway

For the first time in almost nine years, I made a trek into the southeastern part of Kentucky for business purposes.  And I'm always struck by the natural beauty of Kentucky's "mountain" region (trust me, these aren't really mountains, but for local purposes they'll do nicely), particularly in the early fall when leaves are just starting to turn.  Yesterday was no exception, and here's a sampling of what I saw:

The Mountain Parkway is still a two-lane road for a bit less than half of its length, so windy is its path that an added passing lane is all that could be built to resemble a modern, four lane highway.

There are passages (in some cases several miles long) where the highway rests literally at the bottom of the hollow ("holler" if you're from eastern Kentucky), and still winds significantly.  One has to look upward quite a bit to even see the sky!

Despite some of the natural beauty, there is still quite a lot of evidence of poverty and disadvantage among that region's residents.  Not at all uncommon to see a nice, even contemporary family home and directly next door sits a vacant, rusted-out mobile home.  I even saw one trailer which had been covered by a carport-like structure, presumably because the original trailer roof had begun to leak.  An interesting solution to what I would imagine is a common problem.

Because cable TV still doesn't exist outside of the towns in the eastern part of the state, satellite dishes sprung up all over when they first came into consumer existence.  And I don't mean the modern, two-foot-wide grey ones that dot rooftops all over suburbia.  I'm talking about the eight-foot-wide babies that would pick up almost anything, before it was all decoded and sold directly through subscription.  Still a good number of those, but no way to know if they're functional.

Trucks.  Everywhere.  Not just pickup trucks, which are very common in such a rural area.  No, I'm talking tractor-trailers, hauling everything you'd normally see, plus coal trucks, log trucks, metal salvage trucks, you name it.  Thank goodness for the passing lanes.

Lots of burning of trash, cleared brush and even material collected from flooding that hit that part of the state.  The oddest instance was within about 100 yards of a Wal-Mart store, making me wonder (from a distance) if the store was on fire!

But I have to close with this observation:  the people from this area are among the nicest and most genuine you'll meet.  They may be a little suspicious of people from outside of their immediate area, but I think we're all a bit that way.

Hopefully it won't be nine years before I go back.

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