USA Roadtrip Highlights
The kids in Kentucky were in some kinda frenzy! It was the first time Lexington had had snow for 20 years and they just didn’t know what to do with it! We’d not long since left Ohio on our road trip and up there had been a whole different ball game – they were completely used to Lake Erie throwing up its moisture and dropping a bag full of white stuff in their general vicinity and were absolutely prepared with snow ploughs and winter tyres, in fact, when we were there in Feb 2015 there had been a total white-out since the previous November and those guys were well and truly over snowmen and snow angels by this point. Winter was so last season!
But in Kentucky the world had gone mental – those born with too many stress genes were holing up and writing lists of meals that could be concocted from the tin cans in the pantry, everyone else was out in their yards in their inappropriate clothing making lots of noise and not worrying about how they would get to work or school on Monday through the 3 feet of snow. I’ve got to say though, their elation was infectious and it was a joy to see – we may have thrown a few celestial shapes in the parking lot ourselves! That was until the next morning when we had to dig our car out and our next 4 days plans had been scuppered by the weather. We’d had every intention to make it further south to Tennessee but news bulletins had stopped us in our tracks with word of an Ice Storm that was bringing down power lines and trees, and most main roads around Crossville, Tennessee, were closed. So with heavy hearts and even heavier bellies (we were totally getting the hang of those waffle makers every hotel in America seems to have!) (plus, what if we got stranded in the snow – we would have to keep warm from our fat stores, right!?) we set off North again, back in search of civilisation that knew how to handle a few snow flakes.
Pre-road trip, I had planned our whole route based on hilarious road side monuments that I couldn’t wait to take photo’s of; the worlds largest picnic basket, the original KFC Colonel sat in a rocking chair on his veranda, crazy golf with a bible theme, worlds largest chicken, worlds largest squirrel, worlds largest horseshoe, a talking tree – you get the picture. I had also heard about a supposed ghost town from my best friend Pinterest. But, most of this was going to have to wait for a future trip because the only thing on our minds right now was not dying in our car. The roads were white, the landscape was white and no more than a few foot in front of us could be seen through the snow storm, it was pretty hairy. And slow going. We picked the most sensible route back to Ohio and didn’t even realise we were holding our breaths until the snow finally stopped and the sun started to poke through the grey. We could finally see again and it was beautiful.
We’d been heading west on Highway 64 and had every intention of joining Highway 77 to shoot north and get back as quick as possible but the glint of optimism from that big yellow ball in the sky had relaxed us some, and I did a quick reccy and noticed that 2 things off our list could still be achieved if we were prepared to be a little risky.
So there we were, following the Ohio river in West Virginia, heading towards a ghost town called Shawnee, on a road that looked like it hadn’t seen another soul for days when both of us said …
What on earth was that!?
After a slow reverse in the three foot snow Rich made the executive decision to just abandon the car in the middle of the road (lay-by’s and drive ways didn’t exist right now) and we went off to explore this…
Sonny and Sharie Knight met, fell in love, got married and erected a 12 x 16 hut on the land where Sonny grew up, with the aim of serving ‘weenies’ to a passing trade. A little while later, since things were going real swell, 2 school buses were added along with a whole load more junk. This place is an absolute prize of megawatt proportions! I have never before, or since, come across anything so wonderful as this joint, so much stuff to wrap your cornea’s around and I’d imagine that if you were a magpie your heart would just give way (although, I’ve heard magpies prefer Mexican food).
The food menu is epic, hot dogs for every occasion. We settled with the good old Hillbilly dog but if you were up for the challenge you could order yourself their world famous ‘Widow Maker’ – a 30 inch, 2 pound weenie with a whopping 4 pounds of toppings!! Can you imagine!?
The Hillbilly team sing you a song if you tip, something which scared the life out of us cos we had no idea it was coming! Plus, it involves the ringing of bells and a good hearty Yee-Haw to end on. Awesome. It’s all about the love at Hillbilly Hotdogs – it was built with love and it succeeds with love, you can even have a Weenie Wedding here for $50, or just a Weenie Renewal for $25.
We told our friends back in Ohio that we’d been and how great it was and they said they’d recently seen it featured on TV and that in the Summer the queues can be 2 hours long! Thankfully the snow granted us a whole school bus to ourselves. Feast your eyes on some of the details…
Ghost Town Shawnee, Ohio
So with sustenance in our bellies and a happy heart from some wonderful hospitality we set off in search of Shawnee. It must have been the sing-song that raised our spirits because our confidence levels had reached a new high and we were laughing in the face of blizzards, despite the fact the roads were going to be smaller and less travelled.
This place had had me intrigued from the beginning. Actually, it’s a semi-ghost town, if there is such a thing. A town built for a coal mining community back in 1873, but now exists at less than 10% of its original number of residents. The coal mine has been laid to rest, hence the exodus, and what stands now is a grid of streets where tumbleweeds blow freely and the only sign of life is the occasional curtain twitch (and the big dog that chased me to our car – Rich sat behind the steering wheel in stitches!). It looks like something out of a Western and it has an eerieness that kept me looking over my shoulder, but it was one of the highlights of our trip and something you just don’t get to see in the UK – unless you find yourself in the middle of an Army Training Ground, staring down the barrel of a gun – I wouldn’t recommend it.
So, if you’re on a road trip of your own be sure to include Shawnee and Hillbilly Hotdogs, and don’t forget to let me know how you got on!