Whitehaven Welcome Center

Whitehaven Welcome Center 01-17-2016I have three usual routes for going back and forth to Florida and Missouri. In those routes are sub routes. For example, if I’m going by way of I-24 and Nashville, I can either go through Paducah or through Wickliffe. In the old days, I’d usually take the Cairo – Wickliffe – Cadiz track so I could make a short jog over to check out our Kentucky Lake trailer near Benton, Ky.

When I got to Cadiz on my trip back north this time, I could tell that it was going to be too dark and cold to stop at the trailer, so I took the Paducah leg, which is faster.

I usually bypass the Whitehaven Welcome Center at I-24 and U.S. 45 on the west side of Paducah. It’s neat looking, but you have to deal with traffic to get there, and, to be honest, I’m usually looking for the rest area equivalent of a fast food joint, not a museum.

I’m glad it was restored

Whitehaven Welcome Center 01-17-2016Having said that, I didn’t realize how close we were to losing the beautiful old building. It was built in 1860 and restored in 1983 to how it would have looked in 1903.

A story in the Paducah Sun reported “The dilapidated home had fallen prey to thieves and vandalism before the state received a $3 million grant to build a welcome center in 1980. Preservationists and government officials argued for the restoration of the Smith Mansion rather than building a new welcome center, according to Bill Black, preservationist. He said the restoration was $200,000 under budget because of many local donations of furniture, glass and other historic items.

Maybe I haven’t been fair to the rest stop. On the way out of Cape, I’m fresh and in a hurry to put miles behind me. On the way TO Cape, I’m tired and want nothing more than to stop seeing the white highway lines whiz by.

Somewhere in Kentucky

Kentucky Interstate 07-25-2013

I haven’t driven the roads between Cape Girardeau and Athens, Ohio, enough to know every turn like I do the regular routes back and forth to Florida. When I stayed at LaGrange last night, I wasn’t even sure what state I was in, other than exhaustion and confusion.

When I was pumping gas and scraping suicidal bugs off the windshield, I wondered who swiped summer. It was chilly enough that I’d have reached for a jacket had one been handy. It felt more like early November than late July.

Thursday was spectacular: the sky was blue with puffy white clouds all around. It was a good day to be on the road. This was taken somewhere in Kentucky.


It’s Looking Like Fall

When you live in Florida, you forget what changing seasons look like. In fact, you divide the world into two classifications: hot and hotter. Today’s ride from Cullman, Alabama to Cape Girardeau reminded me of how pretty this time of year can be. I ran across the first really striking trees around Huntsville.

By the time I got north of Nashville, the colors were starting to get pretty enough that I decided to risk death by shooting some windshield pictures. Now, before you take me to task for not concentrating on my driving, these aren’t carefully composed photos where I hold the viewfinder up to my eye and wait for just the right composition. I stick the camera up in front of me and hold the button down, glancing at the LCD screen on the back every few frames to see if I’m pointing anywhere close to the right direction. It’s gangbanger-style photos where you spray and pray.

Still a lot of green left

My eye was drawn to the farm coming up on the right, the clouds and the patches of sunlight on the road. I clicked off eight frames. The first one was the best. That’s frequently the case. I might shoot multiple frames of a subject to bracket the exposure or to make sure the picture is sharp, but it’s almost the first shot that has the best composition. That helped form my philosophy of “shoot it when you see it.” The longer you fool around, the better the chance that the magic is going to leak out.

Clouds look menacing

By the time I got off I-24 at the Cadiz exit, the clouds were beginning to take on an Armageddon appearance. Despite their menacing look, I covered about 350 miles Sunday with just a handful of sprinkles.

90-degree approach

I published a photo of the Ohio River bridge at Cairo from the eastbound side last trip. I hit the infamous 90-degree approach to the bridge from the westbound side this time at about dark-thirty.

Tuesday Preview Show

Here’s the last plug for my preview show at the Altenburg Museum on Tuesday night at 6:30. I have to cut my presentation down for the formal show later in the month, so I’m looking for folks to tell me what works and what can be jettisoned. I’ll be talking about stories I’ve covered interesting folks I’ve met and what it’s like to have a job where you work a mere 300 seconds a year.

Last leg photo gallery

Here are a few more windshield grab shots from the last leg of my ride to Cape. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Murray State’s Shoe Tree

Ever since I ran across the Perkins Shoe Tree (OK, it’s really a pole, but the pole was once a tree, so I’m going to say it still qualifies as a tree), I’ve been wondering how many other ones there are out there. When I spotted a newspaper clipping about the Murray State University Shoe Tree, I decided to make a detour on my way back home.

Located behind Pogue Library

I mentioned being a bit unnerved by the clown sign on the edge of town. I left my phone charger in Cape, so I had to stop at a Big Box store to get a new one. Neither did the young cashier nor an older woman at the door had ever heard of the Shoe Tree. Out in the parking lot, I did a little web research and found that the tree was supposed to be near Pogue Library. I put that in my GPS and headed out.

Unfortunately, when I got to the university, it seemed like every street I needed to turn down had temporary barricades on it. I went into a building that had all kinds of security monitors behind a desk, but there was nobody around to ask. The door that said I was supposed to show ID before entering was propped open. Trusting folks, those Kentuckians.

Skateboarders point the way

Out in the parking lot, I flagged down some teenage skateboarders who gave me vague directions. That got me close enough to ask some coeds in another parking lot who said they didn’t know the names of the streets, but I should take a right, another right before the McDonald’s, then curve around until I got to the library. They were right. Even found a parking spot in the shade.

More like a snag than a tree

The legend is that if two students who met at Murray State University, fall in love and then marry, they will have good luck if each partner nails a shoe to the tree. Some folks have returned to tack a baby shoe to the tree when they’ve started a family. Nobody seems to know when the practice started.

This isn’t the original tree. The first one, the story goes, was struck by lightning and burned. This one has had the branches lopped off and appears to be on its last legs (roots). Some accounts say that even this tree has been struck by lightning “due to a high zinc content from the nails.” I tend to discount that theory. There are lots of taller metal objects around that would provide more enticing targets for Thor.

Las Vegas? Chicago?

Stefanie, the self-proclaimed List Queen, debated going to Las Vegas to celebrate her first wedding anniversary. Her hubby was pushing for an expensive Chicago restaurant.

“So what the heck are we doing? We’re going to nail our shoes to a shoe tree in Murray, KY (#185 on my list). What kind of redneck tradition is that, you may ask?”

How do you do it?

Stefani continues, “I thought there would be a whole process of verifying that we were students and that we actually did indeed meet at Murray. I thought we’d have to be escorted to the tree and someone would take our picture. But when Blake called, they were like, “Yeah, just show up and nail your shoes to the tree.” Awesome.

Southeast Missouri State University has its Gum Tree at the top of Cardiac Hill, so I guess it’s only right that Murray State would have a shoe tree.