Most states that we have visited on this trip are new to us, or at least one of us. Kentucky was an exception as 41 years ago we actually lived in the southwest part of the state for six months while stationed at Fort Campbell. Since the Fort sits on the Kentucky Tennessee border between the towns of Clarksville, TN and Hopkinsville, KY, we had a choice about which town we wanted to live in. We chose Hopkinsville and so our short time in Kentucky began. Prior to our arrival at Fort Campbell, we had been trained (I use that term loosely) to be Arabic linguists for the Army Security Agency and ended up assigned to this base. Our time there was less than exciting as we were part of a backup unit with little to do but wait for an overseas crisis. When I first got there they were unable to process my security clearance for a month, so I remember spending time outside under a tree reading magazines since there was nothing I could do. Although once I got my clearance work didn’t pick up much either, but at least I could enter the building and participate in activities like a normal “soldier.” At the time I was the only woman in the unit and Mark and I have had a few laughs over the years over our commander assigning me to carry a grenade launcher around. Carrying it around was all I ever did with it which is probably best, since marksmanship was not my strong point. Although I thought Kentucky was a beautiful state, what I remember most was the awful humidity. We have lived in some hot places such as Tucson, Arizona and California’s Central Valley, but that Kentucky summer heat seemed the worst!
One of the great things about being retired and traveling full time, is that one has the opportunity to pick the best times to visit each state. So, when we visited Kentucky this time, we came in the middle of fall when it was nice and cool. We stayed in the southeast part of the state at Laurel Lake Camping Resort next to the Daniel Boone National Forest. It is named for the nearby very large reservoir created by damming the Laurel River. I chose this campground because it was reasonably close to two places we wanted to visit, Cumberland Gap National Historic Site and Cumberland Falls State Park. Below is a photo of the lake which is popular for boating and fishing.
My favorite part of this campground was the many birds that visited our feeders. I am always hopeful that we will get some visitors, but here it was a bonanza. We had eleven different varieties coming all throughout the day like Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Chickadee, Purple Finch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Cardinal, Dark-eyed Junco and American Goldfinch. It was so fun to sit outside and watch them and they were less timid than most other places we had been. In the first photo below are two titmice and the second photo is a White-breasted Nuthatch.
Before arriving on a Thursday in October, we received a call from the campground office reminding us of trick or treating that Saturday. The campground hosts two Halloween celebrations the last two Saturdays of October, inviting families not only from the campground but towns around the area. Some RV’s put out fun decorations and lights and there were a good amount of children with parents walking around collecting candy. There was also a “haunted forest” set up in the trees as well as pumpkin carving. I sat outside with our bowl of candy to greet all the cute visitors.
The family in the photo below all dressed up together like characters from the Toy Story movie.
The city closest to where we were staying was Corbin, an unassuming town that is spread out into three counties. Since Kentucky has a state law prohibiting cities from being in more than two counties, one part of Corbin is not incorporated into the city limits. As someone who once worked as a County employee, I wondered how services were provided with several counties involved, but I was too lazy to find out. At the state visitor center Mark and I were surprised to find out there are 120 counties in this state. California is quite a bit bigger than Kentucky and has 58. As we drove around we frequently saw signs that we had entered another county.
Corbin has a former citizen whose face is famous the world over. It was here on July 4, 1940 that “Colonel” Harland Sanders opened his motel and restaurant business. It became successful and he was known for his country ham, biscuits, pies and other homemade southern dishes. Back then you could get a breakfast of country ham, two eggs, red gravy and biscuits for $1.70. The menu stated, “Not worth it – But mighty good.” By 1952, he had perfected his secret recipe for fried chicken and that dish became the main feature of his menu. The bronze bust of the Colonel in photo below was made by his daughter Margaret in 1954.
When Interstate 75 opened and took traffic away from his downtown business, he decided to close the motel and restaurant in 1956 at the age of 65. Having little money other than his social security check of $105 per month, he began developing the concept of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) . Traveling the country he promoted his secret recipe fried chicken to those interested in having a franchise. At the end of seven years his fried chicken had made him a millionaire and the owner of the Nation’s largest food specialty franchise business with over 1,000 restaurants in all 50 states. I can count on one hand how many times I have eaten at a KFC in the past five years. I have eaten at them a few times while on this trip (because of Mark – he loves the green beans and instant mashed potatoes), but in my pre RV life, I never thought about eating at one. I am not a fan of most fast food places, but I like history and seeing where and how things began, so it was fun to visit this original location.
The original Corbin site still operates as a KFC, but also has a small museum with memorabilia including articles, pictures, photos, dishes, kitchen equipment and novelty items with the Colonel’s likeness. Although his face is famous throughout the world, his signature white suit is easily recognized without his face and one of them is also displayed here.
In the photo above is the large kitchen where he perfected his secret recipe with eleven herbs and spices and developed a system for pressure cooking chicken. By using a pressure cooker, he was able to reduce the cooking time from thirty minutes to nine. The most unexpected exhibit here is a motel room that Sanders kept in the restaurant area so that women coming to eat could see what one of his well appointed rooms looked like before they agreed to let their families stay there.
During our visit I got such a kick out of a young couple visiting from Asia who were delighted with the museum. They spent time posing outside in front of the building and then the woman walked around the exhibits several times snapping picture after picture. Another diner offered to take photos of them and they posed happily and excitedly while eating their chicken. It was a reminder of how popular the Colonel and his KFC restaurants have been historically, not just in the U.S. but also around the world.
Thanks for checking in! In the next post I write about our visit to Cumberland Falls State Park where we see a phenomenon occurring only here in the Western Hemisphere!