Coolness Constrained

Editor’s Note: This was written by Map Dot, Kentucky Founder Cory Ramsey in 2013, and has been hidden away on a zip drive in a drawer for the past five years.

 

“The girls in the back wanna know if you got any more of your cards.” I swallow a pancake and look up at her brown apron. Scratchy bluegrass music plays softy in the background. I’m post hike at a Cracker Barrel in Cave City.

“I’ve got a few more.” I say, reaching into my back pocket to pull out my wallet. “Here.” I hand her all I had. She smiles. “Thanks! They really like them. They like that ‘Coolest guy you know.’”

Indeed. Cool until I had to return to real life in an hour. But it had been a great start to the “Kiss My Tail Tour.”

I’m a welder. But not the kind that deals with blueprints and projects, and jobs well done. Rather, I stare at an assembly line. Lord, Mr. Ford. Nearly a thousand people pressing a button and pressing onward to support life. Seven days a week. Second shift to boot. And America still schedules its entertainment (read: life) for folks that work nine to five. If it weren’t for TiVo, we’d miss everything. Since 2006, sports seasons, movies, plays, concerts, Christmas parades—all missed because “I had to work.” Try dating. You can’t. So, folks that share my lot—including retail clerks, public servants, even doctors and nurses—miss out on the enjoyment sector of life due to a work schedule that benefits increased production (or in the case of health care, necessity). More is made in 24 hours as opposed to just eight. Somebody is getting rich. Not me.

Weekends for many were the normal and expected relief. But in February, 2013, I was told those would be gone, too. Seven day workweeks for an entire year. No days off. Put your life on pause.

I’d had enough. But granted, had to pay the bills. I couldn’t just walk out the door and quit, especially not in this economy. I had to work with what time I had left. The daytime. I decided to take miniature vacations in the morning. If I woke up at six, I had a seven hour window to travel to anywhere, so long as I could make it back to work by two. Christened it the “Kiss My Tail Tour.” Because I didn’t want to see a year go by without having a good time.

So the first trip happened a couple days after the announcement. Up at the scheduled six. Coffee in a stainless steel mug after a quick shower. If was flannel weather. Fair, but not too awfully cold. I was out in red and black plaid, Wranglers, and Red Wing Boots. Breaking the rules on what to wear on a hike. All the fancy magazines for hikers demand we put on synthetics and prohibit blue jeans. Whatever. I took said Wranglers up the road to Mammoth Cave National Park. While not exactly an all out road trip, I did want to spend the morning in the woods.

I won’t bore you with Muir-like descriptions. I hiked. I saw woods. For those unsure of how to picture that, picture woods. Then picture a trail in that woods. Then put me deep in that woods on that trail. More importantly, don’t picture that factory anymore. For the rest of the blog.

Now, look over there at that deer. Deer love the national parks and run rampant due to the fact they’re not hunted. Adjoining private lands are, but most big bucks are wise enough to stay in the heart of the park property. I jumped several on the walkabout. So used to visits that they stopped for pictures and listened while I casually talked to them. If they had talked back, they would have criticized my blue jean choice. One buck positioned broadside fifty yards away with one side of his antlers gone. I didn’t have much to say to him, but did snap another picture.

Imagine that trail again winding along the Green River, where once boats stopped for passengers. Now, only a small ferry to transport cars from one end of the road to the other. It was lunchtime when I hiked back to my car in front of the park visitor’s center. I drove a little ways to Cave City and that Cracker Barrel. Maple syrup on pancakes while I explained my plan to a willing to listen waitress. “I’m going to travel every morning.” I said. “And if a girl wants to come along, great. If she doesn’t, I’m going anyway!” I gave her my card, which became sort of an item in the kitchen and produced requests for more. I had made them years earlier with some TV work I was doing, and under the basic info was the phrase “Coolest Guy You Know.” Yep.

I left and went to the factory, and clocked in for the next eight hours.

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Intro To Hot Coffee 101

Editor’s Note: This was written by Map Dot, Kentucky founder Cory Ramsey in late 2013. It has been hidden away on a zip drive in a drawer until now.

 

Welcome to another blog about Kentucky. At least you’ll drink a lot of coffee with me.

I’m a professional road tripper. I get up every morning, pour a cup of black Folger’s into a stainless travel mug, and drive a two lane I haven’t been on to a spot nobody’s heard of. I found out after living in Kentucky my whole life and traveling only the four lanes that I had missed about 99 percent of what was off the cloverleaves. Beyond the Interstate exits. In the sticks. Worse yet, I had grown up in the country and should have known better.

Over the past two years, these stick drives have taken me to every county in Kentucky. Twice. And to within 20 miles of any given location in the state. Along the way, I took quite a few pictures, and began posting them on a Facebook page in August, 2013. Map Dot, Kentucky went viral immediately, as small town Kentuckians began to relate with like neighbors all over the state, and those living in bigger areas wanted to see what else was out there, too.

I’ve been fortunate to appear on TV and radio, and write for papers and magazines about the trips, but funding comes from a “real” job. I’m a welder. So, road trip in the morning, earn my keep at night. I quit sleeping altogether sometime in 2011.

This won’t be a travel guide, or a history lesson. It’s a story of what happened during those mornings when I hit the road. With Kentucky and its places an ample backdrop. Buckle Up, and I’ve got the tab this trip.

 

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To those Kentuckians tucked away in hollers, hills, knobs, and bottomlands…

What is in a political border that it holds us so? Why does the ground within that border bind us to tradition and defense of everything that border encompasses?

Kentucky is a land. Earth wrapped by rivers and mountains and a parallel. Yet, within that boundary, imaginary or waterlogged, lies allegiance. We, if Kentuckians, call it an “Old Home,” and sing songs about its grass and horses. We, if Kentuckians, claim it as home no matter our current reside elsewhere. We, as Kentuckians, perhaps the most homesick of the 50 states when away. But it’s just a border, established in 1792, completed with final purchase in 1818.

I’m from that purchase. My Kentucky was founded at the back end. No further can one go west than Fulton County. A river keeps us in, a border welcomes us southward to Tennessee. And to the rest of the encased Kentucky, we may not even exist. Warfield would know that feeling. Some 450 miles to the east, still in state, staring across to Kermit, West Virginia. Another river, yet with a bridge. No different, they may well be forgotten about to.

The Map Dots of Kentucky are spread far and near across the boundaries set forth in 1792, expanded in 1818. As Lexington and Louisville far outpaced other settlements for size, Kentuckians, those living within the border at any point in the land, still made a mark tucked away in hollers, hills, knobs, and bottomlands. They lived at the crossroads, the country stores, the farmlands, and the coalfields. They called this area home, too.

I sat out to see the others in 2013. It began as a quest to cover more hiking ground, and ended up as a quest to see the whole of Kentucky. Every single spot in the state. To compare it with the others, especially with the others that received the most attention. What was Kentucky? Was it the polished, presented parts seen on Derby Day on national TV? Was it the stereotyped images from the 1960s still etched in War On Poverty lore? What was out there? What was real? Was it even worth mentioning?

I found out in an exploration that lasted a year. A road trip to every county. With the bent of a protest, having to work seven days a week as an auto worker in Bowling Green, the chip on my shoulder and statement to make made for an even better reason to get out and go. So I did. And found out that border-wrapped passion, one mile at a time.

 

Editor’s Note: Written in 2013, in moth balls until now.

 

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