You know those movies that start out with gorgeous blue skies, mountains, and lots of beautiful green trees everywhere? You know the ones. It’s typically spring and there’s usually a horse in a pasture somewhere with some birds flying by.
That’s my Kentucky.
I know, I know. I’m sure I’m romanticizing it a bit, but seriously, when I think of home, these are the images that come to mind. And no matter where I live and how long I live there, Kentucky will always be home to me. I can’t help it. It’s in my blood and it’s in my heart.
When my husband and I made the decision to move to Texas almost two years ago, it was not an easy one. I had lived in multiple towns in the great state of Kentucky, but had never actually crossed that state line to make my humble abode elsewhere. I left extreme eastern Kentucky and the beautiful Appalachian Mountains fresh out of high school to go to college in Morehead, located in northeastern Kentucky, and went back home every summer and for Christmas breaks. When it came time for law school, I made my way to Lexington in the central part of the state. After that, we lived in northern Kentucky, both of us working just across the river in Cincinnati, Ohio every day and then coming home every night to what we now refer to as our “Kentucky House”. Moving to Texas was a big deal, but an amazing job opportunity for Colin and the lure of greater financial security for our family was too much for us to turn away from and so we left the Bluegrass State.
“What makes Kentucky so special?” you might ask. For many non-Kentuckians, it brings to mind images of fried chicken, bourbon, and that little horse race we host in the beginning of May each year. But there’s so much more. Kentucky is a border state, so to speak. It’s not exactly a southern state, but it most definitely isn’t a northern state. You can’t really call it the Midwest, but it’s not on the east coast, either. Regardless of where it lands geographically, Kentucky is a state with abundant beauty and is rich in cultural heritage. The Appalachian mountain chain not only provides the country with a large supply of the nation’s coal, but is also a postcard picture just waiting to be captured. On the border with Virginia is the breathtakingly beautiful Breaks Interstate Park. It is gorgeous year round, providing abundant hiking and even kayaking during certain parts of the year, but you won’t beat its picturesque beauty in the autumn when the leaves are changing and the air is just getting cool. A little further east, in the Daniel Boone National Forest is Red River Gorge; home to what I am told is some terrific rock climbing (if you’re into that sort of thing) and the Natural Bridge State Park, where bridges have been formed into the rock over time.
As you move through central Kentucky, where the mountains give way to rolling hills, you won’t find a more scenic view than the horse farms. Kentucky is known worldwide for its thoroughbred horses and driving along the interstate any day of the week, you will see these magnificent horses grazing in startlingly beautiful pastures. If you’re in Lexington in April or October, you would be doing yourself a serious injustice if you didn’t head on over to Keeneland, a time honored racetrack, and watch the horses run.
Moving even further west, you get to Louisville, a city on the Ohio River, with a fun and thriving art scene and homes and buildings that are reminiscent of a slower, gentler time when the river was the economic focal point of any successful city. Louisville is home to many large corporations and yet has held tightly to its historic charm and splendor, making it a great tourist city with a lot of museums, sporting events, and historic sites. Oh, and did I mention the Kentucky Derby is held there every year and Lousiville gets to play host to celebrities and royalty from around the world? Can’t beat that!
Western Kentucky has its own high points as well. If you’re into cars, stop for a quick tour of the Corvette factory and museum in Bowling Green before heading southwest for some outdoor fun. Located on the Tennessee/Kentucky border, the region known as the Land Between the Lakes offers unbeatable camping, fishing, and hiking. You can even spot elk, bison, turkeys and all other manner of wild animals!
You get my point, right? I would argue that the natural beauty of the Bluegrass State is unparalleled and I’ve only scratched the service of all that Kentucky has to offer. I have to say, though, the people are the icing on the cake. It is a place where people really do sit on their front porches. I know because every time I go home, I end up on at least three different porches visiting with family and friends and watching kids play in the yard. Even the “big” cities of Lexington and Louisville offer a warm hospitality that is rare in today’s dog eat dog world. I’ve heard Kentuckians described as “clannish” or “backward” and I can tell you nothing is further from the truth. There is a real sense of family in the great state, but even as an outsider, you will find yourself warmly welcomed and immediately brought into the great Louisville Cardinals vs Kentucky Wildcats debate. I can say without hesitation that should you ever find yourself in that region of the United States, you would not be disappointed to tour the bluegrass state. Slow down, maybe tour the bourbon trail, see a horse race, take a hike, or just sit and take in all the beauty. You’ll be glad you did! Oh…and…go Cats!