Shawnee & Hillbilly Hotdogs – USA Roadtrip Highlights

Ohio in the snow - a great place to start our USA roadtrip

Our Ohio to Kentucky Roadtrip Highlights (Feb 2015)

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 snowflakes.

Pre road trip, I had planned our whole route based on hilarious roadside monuments that I couldn’t wait to take photos of; the world’s 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 the Shawnee Ohio ghost town, 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 driveways didn’t exist right now) and we went off to explore this…

Hillbilly Hotdogs in West Virginia is a world famous hotdog shack, featured on American TV many times, that is basically made from the biggest pile of junk - oh boy, it's unique! And if you're in the area you mustn't miss this treat - the best hotdogs in town and a great atmosphere!

Hillbilly Hotdogs

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 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, with 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…

Hillbilly Hotdogs in Lesage, West Virginia
The rest rooms at Hillbilly hotdogs are in keeping with the rest of the joint - full of junk and stuff to feast your eyes on.

Shawnee, Ohio, Ghost Town

So with sustenance in our bellies and a happy heart from some wonderful hospitality at Hillbilly Hotdogs, we set off in search of the Shawnee, Ohio, ghost town. 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.

Shawnee, Ohio is a ghost town as a result of a coal mine closure. An eerie place and so unique.
Shawnee, Ohio – ghost town

This place 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 the Shawnee ghost town and Hillbilly Hotdogs, and don’t forget to let me know how you got on!


34 Comments Add yours

  1. Melissa says:

    My father grew up in Shawnee. They lived in one of the apartments where you see the porches. Not only was this a coal town but also made bricks. Fond memories of visiting my grandparents there.

    1. Alex says:

      Aw, how sweet!! Thanks for replying.

  2. Tyisha Samra says:

    부달 You have the best laugh.

  3. William Tran says:

    A wonderful experience, I wish I had an experience like you.

    1. Alex says:

      It was William!

      1. William Tran says:

        I hope it will happen in the future

  4. Emma KB says:

    Sounds amazing! That’s one of the things I love most about travelling in the US, some of the random, fun things that you come across!!

    1. Alex says:

      it’s brill isn’t it!

  5. Love road trips!! We are currently in the middle of ours, we drove from Toronto to Florida, spent a month and then drove west to Las Vegas for a couple of weeks. We will then drive to LA and fly to Mexico for 6 weeks.
    Come back and get our car and do the drive in reverse. I have pinned this for the drive back.

    1. Alex says:

      How amazing! I’m so jealous. Yes, definitely check them out!!

  6. Loving your mid-west road trip posts! I went to college in Ohio but have never been to Shawnee (for sure have heard about it). Fascinating, and so old-school Americana. Hilarious about Hillbilly’s but no fun driving in a snowstorm! I’ve experience way too may of them in the mid-west and out west and am done! #farawayfiles

    1. Alex says:

      I bet you have. Our friends in Ohio think nothing if it – the country would come to a halt if the uk had the kind of snow storms Ohio does!

  7. Arianne says:

    What a fun read and what a crazy place it seems! I have always wanted to do a hillbilly road trip, now you inspire me to really go for it!

  8. Oh my goodness, this is brilliant Alex! How utterly wonderful that you discovered the crazy world of Hillbilly Hotdogs just by passing it in the snow – I love these unexpected travel discoveries and I love the complete unBritishness of this American experience. Shawnee looks fascinating too – just like the Westerns we see on the television. Loved it! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  9. Ahila says:

    Enjoyed the story behind the Hillbilly hotdogs. Lovely photos!

  10. Hillbilly Hotdogs sounds like the most surreal experience! I love your writing: you have a great style #FarawayFiles

  11. Katy Clarke says:

    Yes! Oh my gosh I love this and your travelling style Alex. Have you been to Australia? You could do a similar roadtrip here.. we have a “big” everything… from the Big Banana to the Big Rocking horse and even… a giant wool bale! But it was Hillbilly hotdogs that got me. Awesome. Thanks for sharing your USA roadtrip adventures with us on #FarawayFiles

    1. Alex says:

      Yes I’ve watched Endless Summer with pat and wing nut and they see all the big stuff in Oz – that’s what got me into looking in USA. Thanks!

  12. Hilarious! That’s Americuh for you. We lived in Cincinnati, OH for 4 years and my husband had clients in Huntington, WV not far from Hillbilly Hotdogs, but unfortunately they had just opened and weren’t as widely known – time for a re-visit. Love that you got it to yourselves and weren’t even expecting it! And as for Magpie’s – in England – I’m pretty sure they prefer fish and chips! 😉 Thanks for linking up with #FarawayFiles – we are happy to have you on board – cheers from Copenhagen, Erin

    1. Alex says:

      Ha! Yeh – you’re probably right! 😉

  13. Jurga says:

    Only in America… 🙂 What a special experience! I guess the snow just made it all even more surreal, no?

    1. Alex says:

      Definitely. I’ve been pining for it this week

  14. Mandy says:

    Umm… that hot dog place? lol. I guess the hot dogs were good?

    It sounds like, despite being thwarted, you had a fun road trip in the US. Not quite the monuments you were hoping to see, but interesting locations nonetheless. I hope next time you visit the US you are able to take your desired road trip.

    And just out of curiosity, is the big chicken you were talking about in Atlanta?

    1. Alex says:

      No, we were doing Kentucky and Alabama but they’re all over the place I think.

  15. melbtravel says:

    What a cool but strange place. I love to venture to a ghost town and I love different places to eat. I only ever really go to LA but a trip here sounds like so much fun.

  16. Jane Taylor says:

    Oh, I would have loved to go on that road trip with you! We would’ve had a hoot…Mind you with my bad circulation, I’d have lost several digits by the time I reached the hot dog shack! Sounds awesome!

    1. Alex says:

      I hear their ‘mini-dogs’ make good digits 😉

  17. Linda Tallett says:

    What a strange but funny place! Great post about it, sounds like it’s definitely one to see!!

    1. Alex says:

      It really is! Fab place.

  18. What a great place?!? That is my idea of heaven!! Did they have milk shakes too?? If they did there is a strong possibility I may book a flight and just go! I love this sort of place – so unique and somewhere you will remember forever !

    Ps please go back and take photographs of every one of those road side monuments – they sound just fantastic ? Crazy golf with a biblical theme sounds like it could be my favourite!!

    1. Alex says:

      We actually saw the crazy golf, it was shut cos it was under 3 ft of snow, but it was hilarious!! I will return one day.

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