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Kentucky Travels: Top Travel Destinations from My Old Kentucky Road Trip

Are you planning a trip to Kentucky anytime soon? You know, the Derby will be here before you know it. Whether you’re from Kentucky or are traveling here soon, My Old Kentucky Road Trip (a blog, and now a book, coauthored by current staff member, Cameron M. Ludwick and former staff member, Blair Thomas Hess) has a few suggestions for the next time you’re up for some uniquely Kentucky fun!

My Old Kentucky Road Trip

reposted with permissions from; originally published November 17, 2011. Photos courtesy Elliott Hess Photography,

Kentucky was the 15th state to join the Union and the first on the western frontier. High Bridge located near Nicholasville is the highest railroad bridge over navigable water in the United States. Post-It Notes are manufactured exclusively in Cynthiana; the exact number made annually of these popular notes is a trade secret. The first American performance of a Beethoven symphony was in Lexington in 1817. Pikeville annually leads the nation in per capita consumption of Pepsi-Cola. Teacher Mary S. Wilson held the first observance of Mother’s Day in Henderson in 1887; it was made a national holiday in 1916. The song “Happy Birthday to You” was the creation of two Louisville sisters in 1893. More than $6 billion worth of gold is held in the underground vaults of Fort Knox; this is the largest amount of gold stored anywhere in the world. Cheeseburgers were first served in 1934 at Kaelin’s restaurant in Louisville. Middlesboro is the only city in the United States built within a meteor crater.

There’s no other place like Kentucky.

©Elliott Hess Photography

In the spirit of the Kentucky Department of Travel’s “There’s Only One” campaign, we’ve put together a short list of some of the “Only One” destinations we’ve visited. We’ve had a great time on our travels so far—we want you to enjoy the Bluegrass State as much as we do!

  1. Lexington is known as the Horse Capital of the World
    OK, we’re a little biased here. We’re both born and raised Lexintonians, and we’ll be the first to tell you there’s no where else in the world like it. The rolling hills of Bluegrass and sweeping fields of thoroughbred horse farms are just the start of its beauty. While you’re there, take a walk through Gratz Park or visit downtown and Cheapside Park. There are tons of great things to do in Lexington
  2. Take to the high seas Ohio River on the Belle
    The Belle of Louisville is a historic steamer docked on the riverfront in downtown Louisville. Take day cruises, dinner cruises or special event cruises. A few years ago, our friends joined us for a special fireworks cruise on the Belle on the Fourth of July. It was a beautiful night of dancing and fireworks.
  3. Take a tour of Bourbon Country
    We road tripped to the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. It was a fun an informative day full of good friends and great bourbon. But the Maker’s Mark distillery is just one stop on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail. 95 percent of all bourbon is distilled, aged and bottled right here in Kentucky. That makes it a must-see.©Elliott Hess Photography
  4. Hang out with the buffalo in Land Between the Lakes
    Blair has a soft spot for Land Between the Lakes and the bodies of water that surround it (Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley). Her grandparents live in one of the neighboring counties, and she spent countless summers growing up there with her brothers and sister. Enjoy the great food, all of the miniature golf, the lovely resorts along the lake — Lake Barkley State Resort ParkKentucky Lake State ParkPrizer Point, just to name a few — and if you look close enough, you’ll even spot a few buffalo. How very uniquely Kentucky.
  5. Whether to rock climb or to eat some delicious pizza, people come from around the world to see Red River Gorge
    This canyon system on the Red River in east-central Kentucky is about 44 square miles of high sandstone cliffs, natural bridges, waterfalls and rock shelters. ‘The Red’ attracts rock climbers and boulder-ers from around the world to experience the tons of bolted routes in overhanging, pocketed sandstone. When you’re there, be sure to check out Natural Bridge State Park. This natural sandstone bridge spans 78 feet and is 65 feet high. And don’t you dare leave without stopping at Miguel’s Pizza in Slade, Kentucky. Some of the best pies we’ve ever tasted.

Check out more of the items from the “There’s Only One Kentucky” list here.

©Elliott Hess Photography

Photo by Guy Mendes

Kentucky Travels: Featuring One of Our Favorite Kentucky Writers

When you live in Kentucky, it’s hard not to be Kentucky proud, and we’ve certainly got a lot to be proud of! Wonderful sports, parks, derby races, food, bourbon—the list goes on. Part of what makes Kentucky so great is the support and love you feel as a community, and today we are sharing one of our favorite Kentucky native authors, Gurney Norman.

Gurney Norman is a professor at the University of Kentucky in the English Department and currently teaches and advises students interested in creative writing. He started out as a student at the University of Kentucky, and, after graduating, moved to California to attend Stanford. Being from a small town in eastern Kentucky has not limited Gurney to one place. As a young writer Gurney traveled across the country, and his experiences have been reflected in his writing throughout the years. Gurney has written numerous books and essays, including Divine Right’s Trip: A Folk-Tale and Kinfolks (“Fat Monroe” was actually made into a short film that you can view here). He also was a contributor to Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes which is published by the University Press of Kentucky. In addition,  Gurney has over 16 awards/honors to his name, including being named Poet Laureate in 2009–2010.

Gurney has left his mark on the hearts of the people of Kentucky through his writing, his teaching, and his storytelling, and we thought he deserved this honorable mention. While corresponding in email with Gurney, we discussed his writing and I decided to ask him the question: At what age did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What made you want to pursue a writing career? To which he answered:

“I was fifteen when I actually wrote a complete story. It was a mystery story in which a boy was fighting his ‘evil’ uncle on a narrow footbridge only inches above the raging waters of a river in flood. The man was his uncle-by-marriage. The aunt was out of the picture, suggesting that the man had murdered her. The bridge might be swept away at any moment but the boy and man kept on fighting. I can’t remember the boy’s name. My later stories featured a boy named Andrew. In this first story I imagined the boy to be about twelve years old.
Unfortunately I did not write the last page of the story, so it still is not finished. I seem to have lost the manuscript some time in the past sixty years. The story was handwritten, about seven or eight pages.

Interestingly, to me at least, my father had died about a month before I wrote the story. It was not about my father but I was still in a certain mood following my father’s funeral so I do feel a connection between the two events.”

Gurney’s writing heavily involves family and traditions, reflecting his deeply rooted love for Appalachian culture. Being raised in both Virginia and Kentucky, Gurney feels a strong connection to the land and the people of Kentucky and has involved himself in Appalachia his whole life. Even though Gurney has been firmly rooted in the Bluegrass for quite some time now, this did not keep him from spending time out west or joining the U.S. Army.

If there is one thing we can learn from Gurney, it’s to remember where we came frombut to not forget to travel, explore, and grow. As Kentuckians we should always be proud of where we come from, and we can show this by traveling and cultivating ourselves in the outside world and through our writing and creative outlets. Kentucky is a wonderful place. Let us show the world how great it truly is.


Crane Giveaway!

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It’s the first day of Spring! To celebrate this momentous occasion and hopefully banish the cold weather for good, we are having a book giveaway! Remember Colonel Hogan from Hogan’s Heroes? Well we have an entire book discussing his life from his start on public radio to his untimely death.

On June 29, 1978, Bob Crane, known to Hogan’s Heroes fans as Colonel Hogan, was discovered brutally murdered in his Scottsdale, Arizona, apartment. His eldest son, Robert Crane, was called to the crime scene. In this poignant memoir, Robert Crane discusses that terrible day and how he has lived with the unsolved murder of his father. But this storyline is just one thread in his tale of growing up in Los Angeles, his struggles to reconcile the good and sordid sides of his celebrity father, and his own fascinating life.

For your chance to win a free copy of this exciting and well-written book, click here!

To learn more about Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved murder, click here!

Happy National Poultry Day!


Following the theme of yesterday’s blog post about random holidays, we thought we would share one that is sure to be near and dear to every Kentuckian’s heart: National Poultry Day! From Colonel Sanders to the World Chicken Festival, its no secret that the folks of the commonwealth love their yard birds. To celebrate this unique holiday, we wanted share the history of a native Kentucky chef!

Kentucky’s Cookbook Heritage by John VanWilligen highlights the life of Thelma Clay Linton of Harrodsburg, KY, who was a respected caterer and an important leader in the business, social services, and religious communities. Linton lived to the ripe old age of 101. Susanna Thomas’s introductory essay states, “In our town of Harrodsburg in Mercer County, Kentucky, Thelma Clay Linton is an institution, revered for her outstanding country cuisine and her remarkable character”. Here is her recipe for fried chicken pulled from her cookbook, Thelma’s Treasures: The Secret Recipes of the Best Cook in Harrodsburg:

Fried Chicken (1992)


Puritan oil


Put the chicken pieces in a big pot of water. Add two tablespoons of salt for every one chicken that you use. Soak the chicken in the salty water overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, drain off the water, pat the chicken pieces dry.

Mix the flour (enough to coat all of the chicken) with the pepper and the paprika and a little bit of salt to taste. Coat each piece of chicken with this mixture.

In an iron skillet, add the Puritan oil and cook it until it sizzles. The grease should be even up with the chicken. Then add a few pieces of chicken and turn down the heat to medium. Cook the chicken a half hour or so on one side and flip it and cook it a half hour on the other
side until it is evenly browned. Remove the pieces from the pan as they are done and drain them on a paper towel.

To learn more about Kentucky cookbooks, recipes, and chefs, check out Kentucky’s Cookbook Heritage by John Van Willigen on our website!

It’s National Agriculture Day!


We know you’ve heard of all of the major holidays like Christmas, Halloween, and even smaller ones like Arbor Day, but did you know that March 18 is National Agriculture Day? On behalf of learning totally awesome things you didn’t know before, we would like to wish you a happy National Agriculture Day! Although many of us are surrounded by the buzzing of cars and corporate buildings, agriculture is still one of the most important factors in life as we know it! Without it, our bodies would become malnourished, many products we enjoy using today wouldn’t be available to us, and a vast amount of people would be without jobs.

To celebrate the importance of agriculture in our lives, we have prepared an excerpt from The Vandana Shiva Reader, which tells the inspirational story of how a woman became one of the world’s most influential and highly acclaimed environmental and antiglobalization activists. Her groundbreaking research has exposed the destructive effects of monocultures and commercial agriculture and revealed the interrelationships among ecology, gender, and poverty. Enjoy!

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In 1984, a number of tragic events took place in India. In June, the Golden Temple was attacked because it was harboring extremists. In October, Indira Gandhi was assassinated. And in December, a terrible industrial disaster took place in Bhopal when Union Carbine’s pesticide plant leaked a toxic gas. Thirty thousand people died in the terrorism in Punjab, and thirty thousand people have died in the “industrial terrorism” of Bhopal. This is equivalent to twelve 9/11s. I was forced to sit up and ask why agriculture had become like war. Why did the “Green Revolution,” which had received the Nobel Peace Prize, breed extremism and terrorism in Punjab? This questioning led to my books The Violence of the Green Revolution and Monocultures of the Mind. Blindness to diversity and self-organization in nature and society was clearly a basic problem in the mechanistic, Cartesian industrial paradigm. And this blindness led to false claims that industrial monocultures in forestry, farming, fisheries, and animal husbandry produced more food and were necessary to alleviate hunger and poverty. On the contrary, monocultures produce less and use more inputs, thus destroying the environment and impoverishing people.

In 1987, the Dag Hammarjold Foundation organized a meeting on biotechnology in Geneva called Laws of Life. I was invited because of my book on the Green Revolution. At the conference, the biotech industry laid out its plans—to patent life; to genetically engineer seeds, crops, and life-forms; and to get full freedom to trade through the GATT negotiations, which finally led to the WTO. This led to my focus on intellectual property rights, free trade, globalization—and to a life dedicated to saving seeds and promoting organic farming as an alternative to a world dictated and controlled by corporations.

Having dedicated my life to the defense of the intrinsic worth of all species, the idea of life-forms, seeds, and biodiversity being reduced to corporate inventions and hence corporate property was abhorrent to me. Further, if seeds become “intellectual property,” saving and sharing seeds become intellectual property theft. Our highest duty, to save seeds, becomes a criminal act. The legalizing of the criminal act of owning and monopolizing life through patents on seeds and plants was morally and ethically unacceptable to me. So I started Navdanya, a movement that promotes biodiversity conservation and seed saving and seed sharing among farmers. Navdanya has created more than twenty community “seed banks” through which seeds are saved and freely exchanged among our three hundred thousand members.

Through our saving of heritage seeds, we have brought back “forgotten foods” like jhangora (barnyard millet), ragi (finger millet), marsha (amaranth), naurangi dal, and gahat dal. Not only are these crops more nutritious than the globally traded commodities, but they are also more resource prudent, requiring only two hundred to three hundred millimeters of rain compared to the twenty-five hundred millimeters needed for chemical rice farming. Millets could increase food production four hundred fold using the same amount of limited water. These forgotten foods are the foods of the future. Farmers’ seeds are the seeds of the future.

For more from The Vandana Shiva Reader, head over to our website!

A Conversation with Irish author, Ruth Barton

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! We thought we would kick off the Irish festivities today by discussing one of Ireland’s brightest film legacies, Rex Ingram! We recently chatted with UPK author and Ireland native, Ruth Barton, who reveals some insight on the research of her book, Rex Ingram: Visionary Director of the Silent Screen, and the life of the director himself! Check it out below!


UPK:  Why did you choose to study Rex Ingram?

RB:  I had written an earlier book (Acting Irish in Hollywood) on émigré Irish actors in Hollywood, which threw up some extraordinary stories. So, I thought it would be interesting to extend that study into directors. I knew the outline of Rex Ingram’s story but I had never really explored it much, so this seemed to be a good time to do that. Outside of Liam O’Leary’s book on Rex Ingram, he had been surprisingly neglected by film historians and writers so it seemed like the moment had come. Also, a number of new films have emerged and new materials, like letters and family papers, so that helped.

UPK:  Did anything surprise you in your research?

RB:  We were very lucky to acquire his memoirs for the Trinity (College Dublin) archives and I was surprised by just how attached he was to Ireland and how that stayed with him throughout his life. When I started, I hadn’t been sure if he had really converted to Islam, it seemed such a radical step for the son of an Anglican rector, but the facts mounted up and now I’m convinced that he did. It was also interesting for me to find out more about the early film industry and to read his account of that in the memoirs.

UPK:  What, in your opinion, makes Rex one of the greatest artists in silent cinema?

RB:  He was truly convinced that film was the great new artform of the twentieth century and that he could put the principles of sculpting that he had learned studying under Lee Lawrie at Yale into practice by making films that had the depth of sculptures. And he managed that, making films that were acclaimed as artistic masterpieces but that were also really popular with audiences. Artistic blockbusters, if you like. He was a real perfectionist too and refused to compromise on detail.

UPK:  What influenced him to go into the film industry?

RB:  To be honest, he started in the film industry (as an actor) to make money but then he got hooked. That wasn’t unusual in those early days of the film industry, when people didn’t really know what it was. Then, too, people didn’t waste too much time on learning what to do or how to do it, they just learned on the job, which is what he did.

UPK:  Do you think growing up in Ireland had an impact on Rex’s career?

RB:  I’m sure that it did. In particular, he grew up in the Irish Protestant tradition. Irish Gothic writing comes out of that tradition, most famously with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which Rex had wished to film. The Irish Gothic is filled with images of haunted castles and ghosts and supernatural apparitions, as are his films. He always spoke of how important Ireland was to him and was very proud to be Irish.

UPK:  How did the Great War affect Rex and his work?

RB:  Rex’s brother, Frank Hitchcock, was an officer in the war and was gassed in the trenches and Rex was very affected by this. Also, many of the boys he went to school with at St Columba’s died in the war. He himself joined the Royal Air Force Canada but didn’t see service. He was also always very interested in military matters and collected military items, like swords. I think that he was fascinated by war generally and deeply affected by it personally so that this feeds into his great anti-war war film, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and also Mare Nostrum.

UPK:  Why do you think Rex felt pulled toward America?

RB:  Irish people have traditionally emigrated to America and he saw that he would have opportunities there that he never would have in Ireland. His father had a friend there who promised to look after him, so that made it easier for him to leave. Also his mother had died and he missed her terribly and wanted to get away.

UPK:  Do you feel that Rex’s work is underappreciated today? In what ways?

RB:  Unlike other of his contemporaries, such as say Cecil C De Mille, very few people have ever heard of Rex Ingram. One practical problem is that it is hard to get to see his films. Another is that the pictorial style that he so pioneered is less in favour now than fast-paced narratives. Another just seems to be chance–no one kept his reputation going. I’m hoping to rectify that!

UPK:  Do you feel that he still has an impact on modern Ireland?

RB:  I believe that it is important for Irish filmmakers to realize that they come out of a longer tradition (of art cinema) than they knew. I’ve found people in the film industry are very intrigued by this history that they didn’t know about.

UPK:  What do you think Rex would have to say about the film industry today?

RB:  I think he’d love some of the films being made by non-mainstream cultures, such as Iranian films. He didn’t much care for Hollywood by the time he left it and I doubt he’d care for it any more now.

UPK:  What is your favorite Rex Ingram film and why?

RB:  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has to be my favourite film, because it is so visually stunning and so ambitious and it carries it off, but I also love The Magician, which is a very creaky horror movie in the tradition of over-the-top Gothic melodramas.

To learn more about Rex Ingram: Visionary Director of the Silent Screen, check out our website!

Poster - Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The_02 220px-Rexingram2 th

A Look Back On The Wildcat’s Championships

Kentucky has won a lot of Championships. A lot; 8 total. And I know that it’s hard not to sound like someone is bragging when they say that, but it really is amazing that a school – any school – has achieved that (and UK doesn’t even have the most! It’s UCLA, with 10). And, I mean, it happened; there’s no denying it. And now, they are, once again, in the running for another title, and possibly a perfect season to boot. Now, anything can happen in the tournament, and this no way claiming that Kentucky will go all the way, but, let’s take a little retrospective on UK’s titles anyway, and, hopefully, provide some fun factoids you may never have known.



1921 Champions

While this may not count as an NCAA title, since it didn’t even exist back then, I’m still going to include it. Back in 1921 George Buccheit and his “Wonder Team,” who I talked about in the previous blog post, went on to win the first ever Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament against the Georgia Bulldogs. The team comprised of all Kentucky natives and was led by Basil Hayden, UK’s first All American. He also returned to coach UK in 1926, but had a dismal 3 – 13 record.1921_UK_bball_team



1948 – 1949 Back to Back Champions

Kentucky’s first championship was also the second time, ever, that a college team had won both the NCAA and NIT title. They played against the Baylor Bears, defeating them 77 – 59. And while the game was not as dramatic as others, the team went on to play in the Olympics, afterwards, in London, winning gold – the first college team ever to do so. The next year, most of The Fabulous Five returned, winning one more game than the previous year, and went on to win another championship against Oklahoma A&M, defeating them 46 – 36.




1951 Champions

With a championship omission in the 1950 season, Kentucky came roaring back to defeat Kansas State 68 – 58 in 1951 to claim the title. Victory was not celebrated for long however. Scandal rocked the school; Kentucky players, Alex Groza, Ralph Beard, and Dale Barnstable were accused of taking bribes to shave points in the 1948-1949 season against Loyola. As a result, Kentucky cancelled the 1952 – 1953 season. champs1951

The Undefeated in 1954

I’m also just including this one just because it’s interesting. In 1954, Kentucky went undefeated in the regular season; they had a perfect 25 – 0 and were also ranked the number one team overall. But Rupp, following a decision that excluded some of his star players from participating in the tournament, in protest, backed out of the tournament.1953-54

1958 Champions

Both UK’s and Rupp’s fourth title, this season showed the Cats play against Seattle in Louisville. This team, also known as the “Fiddlin’ Five,” who was also mentioned the previous blog post, dropped as low as thirteen in the overall rankings. But, despite their “fiddlin’” they still brought home the championship, defeating Seattle 84 – 72.champs1958

1978 Champions

Kentucky’s next championship would not be for another twenty years. The pressure mounted each year UK did not win a title, so by 1978, they were known for almost never breaking composure during their games. Hence, this season was known as the “Season Without Celebration.” Their dedication paid off however, as they won 30 out of 32 games and went on to defeat Duke 94 – 88.champs1978

1996 Champions

It would almost be another twenty years though before Kentucky won their sixth championship. Pitino, in ‘96’, however, coached “The Untouchables” to the Finals. They defeated Syracuse 76- 67, and almost went on to win the championship two years in a row, but, lost to Arizona, one of the two games “The Untouchables” lost, in ’97, partially due to Derek Anderson tearing his ACL.champs1996

1998 Champions

After Pitino, Tubby Smith came to Rupp arena and took the Cats to the finals in his very first season with the Cats. This team played “Tubbyball,” a defense oriented, slow tempo type of playing, This caused them to never truly dominate the court, as Kentucky fans usually prefer, but always come from behind and pull off amazing comebacks, such as the Duke and Stanford games during the season.champs1998

2012 Champions

And then the Wildcats didn’t make to the Final Four again until 2011. They lost to UConn however, that season, but bounced back the next year, only losing two games, and wound up defeating Kansas 67- 59 in New Orleans, earning their eight national championship. The team lost six players to the NBA after this season, leading Calipari to recruit, arguably, one of the best recruiting classes of all time.UK men's basketball photo day 2011-12, John Calipari, UK Basketball, UK men's basketball team photo


Check out some of our other books on Kentucky Basketball, as well as some other sports, here.