by Rebecca D. Higgins
The Kentucky Tourism Board announced earlier this week that the governor had proclaimed today “Road Trip Day” to encourage people to get out and explore Kentucky’s scenic back roads. I guess I got in on the action a week early.
Last Saturday I found myself wanting to get out of the house but yet not wander too far afield. Cleaning out Mom and Dad’s house and sorting through retro things lately has caused me to wander through peddler’s malls and antique stores to see what some of those things are worth. So I decided to head to the premier antique store in our area, a place called Irish Acres. It’s a good destination for someone with a solidly Irish surname like Higgins! But road trips often are just as much about the journey as they are the destination, and last Saturday’s jaunt was no exception to that. There’s something peaceful about riding the country back roads that causes the worries and cares to recede. Perhaps the demand to drive more slowly around the twisting turns connects with our psyche and causes us to slow down emotionally from the mental rat race and worries and to concentrate on the unfolding scenery instead. My camera always accompanies me on these road trips, and frequently I will pull over to record an image that catches my attention. Last Saturday’s narrow, winding road didn’t allow for sudden pull-offs; so as I drove I found myself mentally taking pictures, forming descriptive words and phrases in my head rather than capturing them through the camera lens.
So, if you’re not going to take a road trip today down one of Kentucky’s beautiful byways (or wherever you happen to be), I invite you to come with me in your mind to a place called Nonesuch—honestly, that’s the name of the community seemingly out in the middle of Nowhere—where Irish Acres is located a mere 20-minute drive (or longer depending on how fast you choose to drive) from Wilmore, Kentucky.
After a quick errand in Nicholasville, I headed over to Harrodsburg Road to start my journey.
It was a lazy, quiet kind of Saturday—the calm before the storm—literally, as weather forecasters predicted a tempestuous Sunday. I rounded the curve on Highway 68 instead of exiting where I always do to go into Wilmore and mentally settled in to enjoy the journey. You can never go very far in this part of Kentucky without seeing horses grazing in a picturesque setting. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch them as they gallop across the field with the wind in their manes as though stirred with an inner desire to fly like the birds . Today, however, the ones close to the highway merely nodded at me as I passed, and I gave them a friendly Kentucky, “Howdy, y’all!”
I noticed the owners of the Potter’s Inn B&B were out doing trim work next to their roadside sign, their 200-year-old log home in the background beckoning travelers to come aside and rest awhile in a cozy environment that takes a person back to a quieter time and place. I haven’t seen anything but the outside of the Potter’s Inn cabin. The owners actually live there and have a couple of rooms with private entrances for guests. The main part of their Potter’s Inn B&B is a restored Victorian farmhouse located near Wilmore’s downtown green. If you like to hear train whistles, sit on wide veranda porches, curl up with a good book in a bright sun room, and sleep in a comfortable room decorated tastefully with antiques and the ambiance of original fireplaces, check Potter’s Inn out if you’re ever in the area. No, they’re not paying me for the commercial! Just thought I’d throw that out there in support of the local economy!
Back to the journey. I exited Highway 68 onto even more narrow and winding roads. The twists and turns took me past a herd of cattle lazily lying in the shade and a variety of quilted barns displaying the designs created so long ago by skilled needle workers and kept alive today by quilting circles and the creative quilted barn project. I caught the flash of iridescent blue and noted the indigo bunting perched on the top of a barbed wire fence. Inwardly, I thanked my dad—a lifelong bird lover—that I knew the difference between a bluebird and an indigo bunting.
I passed fields of soybeans and tobacco, and fields of cornstalks marching in perfect alignment across the wide open space. My mind drifted back to summer days of long ago when “corn days” at Mt. Carmel brought a community together. The pickers started early before the hot Kentucky sun made the task even more difficult. Then everyone else–from the old to the young—gathered behind the dining hall, pulling up chairs and turning over crates on which to sit while we husked and silked the corn. Laughter and stories abounded, and sometimes we accompanied our work with 4-part harmony as we sang fun folk songs or old hymns and gospel songs—sweet memories AND sweet, sweet corn!
I continued the journey to Irish Acres by following the clearly marked arrows that pointed out the twists and turns. I passed distinctive stone fences, some of them in need of repair, stones piled together waiting for the stone masons to arrange them like pieces of an intricate puzzle and to put them in order again. My literary background recalled Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall,” and I thought of the philosophical differences that sometimes separate people as in the poem. The poet opens with the words: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” He goes on to describe the springtime ritual he and his neighbor have of setting loose stones back in place in the wall between their properties. His neighbor simply says, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Frost’s written reply to that is articulated in the following memorable lines:
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.
But his neighbor continues repairing the wall:
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
My journey continued, the roadsides decorated with nature’s bouquet of blue and white–a mix of Queen Anne’s lace and blue chicory.
I passed signs with memorable names like the Clover Bottom Baptist Church that was apparently decorating for some big event—a wedding perhaps? I could just imagine having that on a wedding invitation! I passed the Knotmuch Farm, and thought of two other uniquely named farms on the road between Wilmore and historic High Bridge. One is the Seldom Rest Farm; and just down the road, its near neighbor is the Seldom Work Farm. Yep! Here in Kentucky people can be creative in naming things!
Before I could think about it much I had arrived in the community of Nonesuch! I knew I had arrived when I saw the one-stop shop –the Nonesuch Grocery and Hardware with a couple of gas pumps out front.
Just down the road I reached my destination of Irish Acres. An old school building has been transformed into what has come to be known in the area as the premier antique gallery that draws the rich and famous down these country byways when they make trips to Lexington and Keeneland. Irish Acres sits across the road from a cornfield and a house with a porch swing and a simple fundamental-style country church. When I pulled into the driveway, an old dog was lying in the front yard by the flower beds, obviously kept there as a trusty friend and not as a guard dog.
When I exited the building quite some time later (words aren’t enough to describe the interior of Irish Acres. It’s another story completely!), it seemed that the old dog hadn’t moved much but still sprawled in the shade enjoying a lazy summer afternoon. I decided to follow his example of enjoyment of the day by stretching my drive a bit further.
I headed on down the road toward Versailles. Now, if you’re not from these parts, you probably think that word is pronounced Ver-SIGH–like the palace/art museum in France. But around here, the pronunciation is Ver-SALES! Obviously, my computerized voice that gives navigational instructions in my smartphone isn’t from Kentucky! I chuckle every time “She” talks about Ver-SIGH.
As I rolled out of Nonesuch, I pulled up behind a large tractor with a baler attached moving at a cumbersome pace down the highway. On the narrow road, we quickly created a mini traffic jam as other cars lined up behind me. Knowing his farm machinery was difficult to see and maneuver around, the farmer driving the tractor became the traffic cop, motioning cars to pass when from his high perch he could see that the oncoming lane was clear. We exchanged friendly waves as I followed his direction.
As I rolled along, I passed fields where the hay had already been baled in big round wheels waiting to be picked up and hauled to the barns. I passed wineries and stables.
I came to the crossroads where Highway 33 and Highway 1267 meet. Strategically, very close to that intersection of ways stands the historic Troy Presbyterian Church that has ministered to the community for well over 100 years. I’m sure that long ago when a location was chosen for the church that a prime factor was that intersection where the church spire could serve as a beacon to travelers approaching from all directions. Isn’t that what churches should do, after all? Shouldn’t they stand in those places where people are at a crossroads and point people toward Christ?
I continued my musings and observations as I rolled on down the road past Misty Morning Farm—a name I love for its alliteration as well as the picture it creates.
The curves in the road wound through a wooded area that provided deep shade on all sides. I breathed deeply and enjoyed the shelter of the trees.
I continued on over the overpass for the Bluegrass Parkway and on into historic Ver-SIGH itself. No, Kentucky isn’t the location for the Versailles Palace; BUT Versailles, Kentucky DOES have its very own castle. Really! Castle Post is a medieval-looking construction with stone walls and turrets and huge gates, and they tell me (since I’ve never actually been inside the place) that it has opulence fit for a king. Oh, the last I heard it was up for sale. If you have a mere 30 million dollars burning a hole in your pocket, you can have your very own castle right smack dab in the middle of Kentucky horse country!
I digress! . . . But isn’t that what journeys down country byways are all about? Leaving the main road temporarily, getting sidetracked and wandering wherever the road takes you and taking time to enjoy the journey?
I drove on through the heart of historic Versailles, which has been an established point on the map since 1792, on to the quaint picturesque town of Midway, appropriately named because it was located at the midway point between Lexington and Frankfort on the railroad line when it was first incorporated as a town. A drive through Midway is like passing back to another era when two-story houses with flower boxes at the windows and big front porches were the norm. I was happy to see that most of those porches also had a porch swing. I could almost hear the rhythmic creak of the chains as I rolled by. Porch swings are for slowing down, taking time to smell the rosebushes that are hopefully growing somewhere nearby, and visiting with your family and neighbors. They’re for taking naps or reading a good book, or just for swinging—not the pump-up-as-high-as-you-can-go kind of swinging (that I confess my cousins and I sometimes tried to do on my Grandma Higgins’s little porch when we were kids)– but for the steady, rhythmic back-and-forth swinging that’s accomplished with a gentle toe tap. Somehow the steady creak of the chains and the gentle back-and-forth rhythm has a way of getting the body, mind, and soul in rhythm and quieting a restless spirit.
After a stop in Georgetown, I decided my wanderings had gone far enough for the day, and it was time to head back home. I could have taken the main highways and reached home much quicker, but I turned around and again wandered down the back roads. At one point in the journey, I noted once again the tiny little sign tucked by a mailbox on Highway 33—a sign that always whispers into my heart when I pass it. I wonder how often the owners ever think about the fact that the naming of their farm or the placement of that sign beside the highway can and does serve as a ministry to weary hearts as they pass by. “Grace Filled Farm” it reads. Who of us doesn’t need grace? The free, undeserved bestowal of kindness and favor. Perhaps that’s why we turn off of busy highways filled with impatient motorists in a hurry to get somewhere; with cars filled with angry, care-laden people who will flip off other drivers if they impede their journey in the slightest way. Instead, we look for a friendly wave, a shared appreciation for the beauty around us, a quieting of heart and soul. We go in search of grace—favor, kindness, benevolence—undeserved and unearned. May those back road wanderings lead us to the crossroads where we find the One whose grace has been freely given when He opened His arms wide upon a cross and proclaimed, “For God so loved . . . whosoever will.” Truly, there’s “none such” like it!
Grace and peace for your journey, my friends!