There is nothing quite like a drive down a Kentucky highway.
The experiences of my life have placed me at the foot of soaring snow capped mountains and along ocean wave pounded coasts. I have walked among towering redwood trees and over sun baked deserts. My heart has leaped at the sight of river eroded canyons and determined waterfalls. Endless breadbasket wheat fields and tall grass prairies have carried my mind westward to orange sunsets.
And yet, I find them all, despite their grandeur, lacking the sensory pleasure of a journey with the windows down as I traverse along a Kentucky back road. The best is off the beaten path, down a two lane paved course through the rolling fields of the Bluegrass or over the deciduous tree covered mountains.
Something is mystical about a late afternoon drive, when sunlight bows to the coming night and twilight shadows dance on fields of freshly cut grass. Crickets and katydids in unison serenade the setting sun. The evening perfume of summer honeysuckle delights the senses on a moonlit night, with fireflies flickering in the distance. It can only be made better by the scent of a recent rain still lingering in the air.
But then there is the summer day. I have never known beauty, other than the faces of my children, more pronounced than sunrise over a field of thoroughbreds corralled by century old stone fences. Spirited foals run through the pastures while burley and corn crops stretch to the glorious sun. Brooks of clean fresh water stream along the roadsides while singing robins wing their way over the verdant meadows.
The goldenrod growing next to the highway, as common to the roadside as the limestone under the fertile soil, has always waved me on to the next hill or around the next curve in the road. The summer gold banner has never failed to give way to the canvas of autumn, dressing the hardwoods of the eastern mountains with their painted best before a winter sleep. But spring always has come, a time when the mountain laurel of the forests and the roadside dogwoods pair up for a waltz, all to the sound of music made by magnificent equine creatures thundering down a stretch of Kentucky soil.
I am awed when I drive along Kentucky’s highways and feel connected to the past, knowing that the natural beauty was here long before I was witness to its truth. It makes me wonder what the emotional experience of my ancestors was when they traveled through the state of my birth.
Whether they came over the Appalachian Mountains or traveled down the Ohio River to enter paradise, it was the roadway that took my ancestors to their home places and on which their lives journeyed. Many who passed through Kentucky found roadways which led them away from the state and on to the Midwest or further westward into the expanding nation. For whatever reason, perhaps it was a transcendent experience I share with them, my people made the state their permanent home and the blood of at least seven generations of forever-after Kentuckians runs through my veins.