Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bland highway

Kentucky now touts U.S. 23 as the Country Music Highway. I wasn't impressed.

Yes, plenty of country's superstars have grown up not far from the path of U.S. 23. People like Ricky Skaggs, Loretta Lynn and Patty Loveless. And signs direct you to points of country music interest along the highway's path.

Image courtesy: Wikipedia
But Kentucky's U.S. 23 has been re-done and upgraded in recent years. And if you stick with the main highway, it's as bland and boring as most Interstates.

We drove a good bit of the updated 23 this week. And missed a lot of the Appalachian character by doing so. Other states give you a choice of routing through by-passed towns by offering spurs with the  same highway number with an Alternative or Business descriptor to set them apart. But that's not the case with Kentucky's U.S. 23.

Kentucky has renamed 23's historical paths that wind through the small towns with obscure state route designations. For example, the historic U.S. 23 path through Louisa is S.R. 2566. State Route 3 used to wind through downtown, but even S.R. 3 now takes the old 23 bypass (as opposed to the wider new 23 bypass),

If you're looking to find Prestonsburg, you have to follow S.R. 1428. And compared to the kind of signage you'd see in other states, this business routes aren't well marked. You almost need an iPad opened to a map page to find some of these routes, the Kentucky official highway map lacks these details.

Don't get me wrong. I understand the region needs a modern highway to connect it to the rest of the country. And today's U.S. 23 is top-notch as highways go.

But I almost got the impression Kentucky's trying to hide some of its small towns. Yes, many of them are run down, and have pockets that might be considered eyesores. But poverty has long been part of Appalachia's legacy. And if you're going to understand the region and the country music artists who've come out of there, you should take the time to tour at least one or two of the bypassed communities if you're making your way down U.S. 23.

One additional thought:

It might be nice to see more done to highlight the Civil War history in the eastern Kentucky region now spanned by U.S. 23. It was a part of country where the war truly was a brother-against-brother experience. Many a clash or skirmish took place between northern and southern factions around places like Louisa, Catlettsburg, Pikeville.

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