Hit the Trail
Who doesn’t enjoy looking at classic cars? Even when one is cruising down the interstate it can turn heads. Just think what it’s like in Somerset during the monthly SomernitesCruise when more than 1,500 of these babies converge on the downtown area along with several thousand spectators who like to reflect on the days of bobbie socks, blue jeans, and Elvis.
The idea for the “car show” started out innocently enough back in 2000. That’s when a few car guys got together and decided they didn’t want to go car hopping to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, any longer, but instead do something in Somerset. The downtown area would be their backdrop. They also wanted it to be free to the public and something the entire family could enjoy.
Fast forward to now. Cars are cruising in from Florida, Alabama, California, Texas, North Dakota, and even Hawaii and Canada. In all, cars from 27 states have participated in SomernitesCruise.
The seven-month event, from April through October, takes place every fourth Saturday of the month, but it should be pointed out that this is not a one-day event.
“It gets under way on Thursday night at a local Dairy Queen,” says Mark Hansford, one of the event coordinators. “It’s a casual meeting of some of the local car enthusiasts who swap a few stories.”
Friday nights usually include a Rock & Roll block party hosted by local Walmart employees.
“We’ll regularly get 300 cars for this,” says Hansford. “There’s live music, kids’ games, and lots of tasty barbecue.”
Make no mistake about it, Saturday is the day. That morning many of the cars cruise the area, sometimes taking in nearby attractions such as Mill Springs Battlefield, Cumberland Falls, or the area’s houseboat building facilities. Then it’s on to downtown Somerset where all of those classic cars file into lined-off spots to take part in the Show and Shine competition. It’s also where the thousands of spectators can walk around and look, but not touch, these beautiful classic cars. For many, the cars, the year, and the models conjure up lots of good memories.
Something that makes Somerset the perfect cruise-in town is its 7-mile strip of numbered stoplights and numerous neon signs inviting visitors to eat here or shop there.
The locals have become accustomed to packing their lawn chairs and blankets at some of the town’s main streets where they can enjoy a world-class car show cruising by right in front of them.
SomernitesCruise has taken on a life of its own. With more than 50 full- and part-time volunteers, the event has even expanded to involve Louisville, Cincinnati, Nashville, and Knoxville.
“These cities have Friday night block parties, and the following morning groups from each city head out as part of a rolling car show with Somerset as the destination,” says Hansford.
Carolyn Mounce, the director of tourism for Somerset and Pulaski County, says the event offers something for everybody.
“Our residents love it and so do the visitors,” she says. “And we involve our Boy Scout groups, churches, and civic clubs in setting up food booths. It’s just a great family event.”
Other Classic Car Gazing
Art’s Auto Mart
Bowling Green, 513 Duntov Way
Art’s Auto Mart is not your typical used car lot. It sits adjacent to the National Corvette Museum and specializes in vintage classic cars for sale. In fact, it’s more like a museum. With more than 50 cars displayed under roof, owner Art Tinsley has shipped cars throughout the U.S. and several foreign countries. Cars from the ’50s and ’60s are the main staple here.
The Big Cruise of Bowling Green
Three two-day cruise-ins: July 10-11, August 7-8, September 25-26. All Friday events at Fairview Shopping Plaza, 31-W ByPass, 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m. All Saturday events at National Corvette Museum, 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Classic Car & Bike Show
Buckhorn Lake State Resort Park
(502) 564-8110, ext. 168
August 15, noon until 8 p.m., registration ends at 4:30 p.m.
Ohio Valley Cruisers Cruise-In Nights
April through October every 4th Saturday, 6-9 p.m., Shoney’s Restaurant, U.S. 41N.
Good Time Cruisers
April through October, every 3rd Saturday, 4:30 p.m. until dusk, Lincoln Square downtown.
47th Annual Southern Kentucky AACA Antique Arts Show
September 18-19, Courthouse Square.
Whiskey City Cruisers
April to October every 2nd Saturday; Justice Center parking lot on East Stephen Foster Avenue.
Downtown After Dinner Car Show
Mid-May through mid-September, every Saturday evening.
Gary P. West is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
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Hit the Trail
When Thomas Bealle retired from the Lexington Police Department in 1994, he wasn’t ready to stop working. An animal lover, he owned 127 acres of Jessamine County land bordering the Kentucky River and knew he wanted to do something outdoors. Starting a horseback riding operation seemed just the thing.
These days, his Sugar Creek Resort near Nicholasville offers guided rides on 16 miles of trails meandering past waterfalls and through picturesque woods, valleys, and ridges along the river. Anyone 18 years or older of any riding skill level can take a bit of pre-ride instruction, don a protective cap, and mount up in a Western saddle. (Yep, there’s a handy horn in front to hold onto.)
Riders are matched by experience with horses they’ll feel comfortable on.
“Some horses are type A: ‘Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!’” Bealle laughs. “Others are like, ‘Nah, I don’t really want to go, but okay.’”
He then adds, “Surprisingly, 90 to 95 percent of the people who come to ride have never touched a horse before, so we want to make it fun for them.”
As agritourism spreads across the state, Sugar Creek is but one of a slew of trail riding stables that afford folks a chance to hop on a horse and explore the countryside. Some facilities, like Whispering Woods Riding Stables in Georgetown, offer only guided rides on horses owned by the stable, while others—Stampede Run Horse Camp in Whitley City, for instance—are BYO (bring your own) horse only.
At Cave Run Resort & Stables in Salt Lick, riders can rent steeds or trailer their own and ride through miles of Daniel Boone National Forest trails.
“I’ve had people tell me it’s as pretty a place to ride as they’ve ever been,” says Jonas Adams, Cave Run’s owner.
Most operations include overnight capacities for humans and horses.
Another rent or BYO concern, Equine Adventures at Wranglers Riding Stable in western Kentucky’s 170,000-acre Land Between The Lakes adds farrier services. Some state parks have horse trails for personal use, some provide short trail rides through concessions, and two—Taylorsville Lake and Dale Hollow—have horse camping.
No one-trick pony, Sugar Creek offers steak or hot dog dinner rides, hayrides, and corporate team-building on horseback or in canoes. Most people have a limited knowledge of horsemanship, Bealle explains, so for the horse-related focus he teaches everyone nomenclature and how to groom and tack a horse. Then each person does one job, working together as a team to complete specific exercises. It’s all about communication.
A pair of Belgians, gentle giants Bill and Jim, do double duty as trail horses for a sturdy Cadillac of a ride.
Couples even get married at Sugar Creek. One lovely outdoor wedding location overlooks a budding vineyard that in 1799 became the site of the first such commercial operation in the country. (Bealle has plans for a future winery.) Receptions can take place outdoors, in the barn, or in a conference room for 40 to 50 guests.
So when your inner cowboy or cowgirl yodels, just phone a stable, saddle up a trusty cayuse, and take to the Kentucky trails.
The Bluegrass State is known for its fine horses, and you can climb aboard one at the following stables. Most prefer reservations. For a comfortable ride, wear long pants and closed-toe shoes, and take plenty of sunscreen.
Cave Run Resort & Stables
Salt Lick, KY
Rent or BYO horse, guided rides; 250-acre campground, 35-stall horse barn, riding arena, endurance rides, horse shows. Rooms, cabins, RV campsites, store, restaurant; year-round.
Equine Adventures at Wranglers Riding Stables
Land Between The Lakes
Rent or BYO horse, 100 miles of horse and wagon trails; April-October.
Long C Trails
BYO horse, 2,000 acres of trails; straddles Kentucky-Tennessee border. Vacation home with private barn, cabins, and camping; year-round.
Stampede Run Horse Camp
Whitley City, KY
BYO horse, rock houses, historic Sheltowee Trace; 23 electric/water campsites, 26 stalls, shelter with picnic tables; April–weather permitting in fall, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Sugar Creek Resort
Guided rides, 127-plus acres along Kentucky River; dinner rides, hayrides, corporate team-building, weddings; May-November.
Whispering Woods Riding Stable
Rent horses, 250-plus acres of wooded trails, trail rides for 8-year-olds and up; rustic cabins, day camps for kids and adults; March-November by reservation.
For more information, go to the Kentucky Agritourism Web site at www.kentuckyfarmsarefun.com and search the “Trail Rides” category.
Katherine Tandy Brown is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
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