Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Country Music Highway adventure

US Highway 23 in eastern Kentucky is considered the Country Music Highway because so many famous country music singers came from the small towns along this road.  After breakfast and getting the dogs comfortable in the rigs, Stan, Pam, and I headed out to find the U.S. 23 Country Music Highway Museum near Paintsville, KY.  That doesn’t sound like much of an adventure, but along the way we saw a sign pointing to the childhood home of Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle.  So, off the highway we turned and that’s when the day’s adventure began.  We had a little booklet that said to follow the signs and look for a rock with Butcher Holler painted on it.

Sounds simple, but along the way we got lost for quite a few miles.  After about an hour, we finally gave up.  I had earlier commented on the seeming lack of road signs in Kentucky. 


It was just by a stroke of luck after several backtrackings and U-turns that we eventually happened upon the museum that we had originally set out to find.  ($4.00 entrance fee)  We figured that after visiting the museum, we could ask for better directions to Butcher Holler.


There was a neat map in the museum where you could hit the button of the singer you were interested in to see where they had lived along this highway.  The red arrow in the middle of the map is for Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle.  (I didn’t know before that they were sisters)

67 On the way to NC 201250

Besides Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle, many other country western stars came from this area such as Tom T. Hall, The Judds, Hylo Brown, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless, Keith Whitley, Ricky Scaggs, and more.  There are quite a few displays of artifacts from each of the stars.  A sign says no pictures are allowed, but after talking to the lady working the museum, I was given permission to take these pictures.  I told her I wrote a travel blog, that I wouldn’t use a flash, and that I had no intention of selling these pictures.

She played a very interesting video for us of an interview with Loretta Lynn about the movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter” which depicted her life.  Perhaps you remember that movie starring Cissy Spacek?  I know I remembered it well.  We also asked this most exuberant museum worker about how to get to Loretta’s childhood home.  She went on and on with specific directions, and also supplied printed directions.  Cool beans, I thought.

Well, we followed those directions to a ‘T’, until we got to a little historical society building where we should stop for further help.  That building was closed, so we kept on driving.  The little back road got skinnier and skinnier, and after several miles, we decided we had better turn around.  This couldn’t possibly be right.  (no signs, of course)

Turning around wasn’t easy to do in these back hills, but I managed it as a car slowed to allow me to turn around.  The lady in the car rolled down her window, and shouted at me, “Just follow me!”  Alrighty then!  I turned around once again to follow an unknown women down a curvy, increasingly skinny road to who knows where.  Yep, all kinds of scenarios went through our heads as we got further and further into the back woods.  Then she stomped on her brakes, got out of the car, and came towards me.  She pointed off into the woods and said, “Do you see that hole?  It’s the entrance to the coal mine where the coal miner’s worked.”   She then hopped back into her car, and we headed off again.  Pam and I looked at each other in wonder as we figured out we had our own personal tour guide to Butcher Holler.  I couldn’t believe my luck!

She also stopped to show us the old schoolhouse/church that was used back in the days when there wasn’t this skinny little road, but only a railroad track to ship out the coal. 

_MG_9291Eventually we drove past the much looked for rock with Butcher Holler painted on it.  I found out there used to be signs, but people stole them.  They even stole the first rock.  That’s when they moved this bigger rock in.


This is the woman that came to our rescue and led us off that road right up a very steep gravel driveway to the childhood home. 


We would never have found it without her.  It turned out that she was a cousin of Loretta’s, and when she saw people that looked like they were lost, she guided them to their destination.  What a wonderful person.

67 On the way to NC 201249

Once we mounted the steps to the home, we were given a personal tour by Loretta Lynn’s brother!  ($5.00 fee)  Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle were two of eight children raised in this home.  Talking to both the brother and the cousin of these famous people was such a wonderful experience.  They are really down home folks, and made our day.  It brought me a real awareness of the hardships and perseverance of these back woods coal miners and their families.  What a history lesson it was.

I’m not a big country music fan, but today’s adventure made me appreciate the roots that go so deep and helped produce such classic’s as “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”  A truly memorable day.


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Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy