Country Music Shrine
Country Music Shrine
Stop for gas at an Exxon station at the intersection of U.S. 23 and U.S. 3 at Louisa, and Ricky Skaggs might be filling up at the next pump, Ralph Stanley's blue city-block-long tour bus could be parked by a replica of the Statue of Liberty, or two-time NASCAR Winston Cup champ Terry Labonte may be sipping a cool drink in a line of comfy rockers on the front porch. Step inside, and you'll find an attraction that has to be the most unusual on Country Music Highway 23's circuitous 150-mile path from the Ohio River to the Virginia border at Pound Gap.
To date, 11 country music superstars have emerged from this region, and under the Queen Anne-style blue tile roof of the Kentucky Paveillon (pronounced pah-vee-YOH) at Falls Creek resides a veritable shrine to these and other musical greats. Though truckers like the 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, easy-in-easy-out access, the five-story, octagonal structure is not your average filling station, and once visitors start looking around, they're likely to stay for a while.
In its convenience store, called The Marketplace, country music videos play nonstop on a bank of TV screens as customers peruse an array of merchandise running from bourbon balls and warm Krispy Kreme doughnuts to UK Wildcat T-shirts and Pawley's Island rope hammocks.
But look up, and mounted on the wall above the refrigerated cases of milk, soft drinks, and ice cream cakes, you'll find superstar musical instruments, Country Music Association Awards, clothing, and photos, much of it autographed and all authenticated.
Proudly looming overhead are signed guitars from 10 of the Highway 23 personalities: Billy Ray Cyrus, The Judds, Ricky Skaggs, Loretta Lynn, Crystal Gayle, Hylo Brown, Dwight Yoakam, Patty Loveless, and Tom T. Hall. The 11th, Keith Whitley, died young and left only two guitars. So instead his mother donated his childhood rifle, which stands next to the long, white duster he wore to the Country Music Association Awards.
Scan the shelves to ogle Skaggs' mandolin and the red jacket he wore while performing with Ralph Stanley, the revered bluegrass musician who gave him and Whitley their big breaks and whose gold banjo adorns the Paveillon (as does he, fairly frequently). Other treasures include Naomi Judd's pink lounging outfit, Cyrus' Harley helmet, Loveless' snazzy boots, and a gorgeous jacket made for Yoakam by Manuel, the famous Nashville designer whose father created Elvis Presley's gold suit.
Speaking of The King, an adjoining Taco Bell, which shares the 8,000-square-foot first floor with The Marketplace and a Baskin-Robbins, continues the collection with non-Highway 23 stars--Tammy Wynette's sequined dresses, Minnie Pearl's coat, guitars from Tim McGraw and Garth Brooks. And from Elvis, a monogrammed shirt, a lock of hair, and his Exxon credit card. Really!
Whenever stars with local roots stop by--and they do--they'll sign autographs and chat with fans, but you never know when that might be, says Eric Clevenger, the imposing facility's architect, whose family owns and runs the business.
"People have called the place The Nest, The Taj Mahal, and The Castle," he laughs. "You can't miss it. When the building opened in 1992, we decided to do a country music guitar collection to enhance the Country Music Highway idea, which was in its planning stages. And as you can see, that collection took on a life of its own!"
Not only does the Paveillon celebrate big names in country music, but its back Courtyard provides a stage for talented superstar wannabes the region seems to almost mass-produce. Visitors can grab a meal or an ice cream cone, settle at an outdoor eating area in front of an enormous stone fireplace, and tap their toes to free summertime weekend entertainment.
Tour groups are welcomed and, with advance notice, Courtyard entertainment will be arranged; either Eric, his mom Wanda, or Taco Bell manager Frances Ball will step on the tour bus for a welcome and a short history of the Paveillon.
For a real treat, order the wonderfully gloppy, ice cream-based Star Case Delight Dessert on a cool day, and savor every bite outside by the Courtyard's big fireplace. You'll be cool on the inside and toasty on the outside.
Kentucky Paveillon at Falls Creek is located 34 miles south of Ashland on U.S. 23 at the intersection of U.S. 3. The Exxon station and The Marketplace are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Admission is free. For information on the country music memorabilia collection and the Courtyard, or to schedule entertainment for a group tour, visit www.kentuckypaveillon.com or call (606) 638-9998.
Kentucky's Country Music Highway 23 offers a slew of attractions in its vicinity. Catch country music performances in Ashland at the Paramount Arts Center, (606) 324-3175; just down the pike on I-75 at the Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, (800) 765-7464; in the Prestonsburg area at the Mountain Arts Center (888) 622-2787, home to the Kentucky Opry; and at the Jenny Wiley Theatre, (877) 225-5598.
Learn about the stars and how a recording is made at the new Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Renfro Valley, (606) 256-1000, or at the Country Music Heritage Exhibit at the Highlands Museum & Discovery Center, (606) 329-8888, in Ashland. Visit Loretta Lynn's Homeplace in Butcher Hollow near Paintsville, (800) 542-5790; then step into living history on an 1800s farm at the Mountain HomePlace, (606) 297-1850. Kentucky Tourism offers a jam-packed five-day summer itinerary, the Kentucky Music Trail, (800) 225-8747, with superstar shows and Appalachian crafts, food, and culture.
Eat a light lunch and save yourself for luscious homemade pie in Paintsville at Wilma's Restaurant, (606) 789-5911; or grab the best chicken salad lunch at Stone Crest Golf Club, (606) 886-1006, in Prestonsburg. Overlooking Dewey Lake, May Lodge at Jenny Wiley State Park, (800) 325-0142, often offers lunch and dinner buffets. And treat yourself to an overnight at Lakeview Hideaway, (800) 813-1868, a Yatesville Lake-side bed and breakfast near Louisa that has a hot tub, on-deck breakfasts, and candlelight dinners.
Web Sites of Interest
Highlands Museum & Discovery Center, www.highlandsmuseum.com
Jenny Wiley Theatre, www.jwtheatre.com
Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum, www.kentuckymusicmuseum.com
Kentucky Tourism, www.kytourism.com
Mountain Arts Center/ Kentucky Opry, www.macarts.com
Mountain Homeplace, www.mountainhomeplace.com
National Scenic Byways Program, www.byways.org
(Search for "Country Music Highway" for lots of links to points of interest and photos.)
Paramount Arts Center, www.paramountartscenter.com
Renfro Valley Entertainment Center, www.renfrovalley.com
Katherine Tandy Brown is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
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In a hideaway characterized by its off-the-beaten-path location, heavy woods with hiking trails, and an island perched in a rollicking creek, romance is second nature. And nature--glorious, colorful, peaceful nature--is everywhere. Family-owned (for five generations now) Doe Run Inn is situated four miles southeast of Brandenburg near the Kentucky-Indiana border.
"The first building on the land, now named Doe Run Inn, was constructed in 1821 with hand-hewn timbers and native limestone," says innkeeper Van Smith. "The walls were two and a half feet thick and Abraham Lincoln's father worked as a stone mason on the structure."
This building was used as a woolen mill, a gristmill, and eventually a flour and grain mill. In 1927, it was converted to a country inn that now lays claim to antique-laden, period rooms situated against a backdrop so romantic that the innkeepers got into the wedding and reception business.
"The island in the creek is large enough to hold hundreds of people. There's a natural waterfall alongside it and the area is surrounded by woods. That's where all the couples want to have their weddings."
Inside the inn, rustic charm abounds from the dining room whose hallmark is authentic regional cooking, with a special smorgasbord served on Sundays. Guests can choose from a variety of cozy accommodations on the second and third floors of the inn, all showing off the family's love of antiques. There is also a roomy cabin perched snugly in a forest of greenery, just a stone's throw from the inn's front door.
Doe Run Inn guests are close to a great collection of antique and craft shops in the nearby towns of Irvington and Radcliff. Also nearby: Otter Creek Park, which straddles the Ohio River, offers excellent hiking and mountain bike riding, plus nature center and Frisbee golf on its 2,300 acres. Buttermilk Falls Historic Trail, sandwiched between Brandenburg City Park and Flippin Run Park, provides scenic hiking on paths that allow foot traffic only.
About 140 miles to the east, in the heart of the Bluegrass, is Guerrant Mountain Mission Bed and Breakfast. Located in Winchester, the B&B has an address that simply drips romance: Valentine Court. And the inn's two "sweets" carry the atmosphere right on into the boudoirs.
The Cream Candy Sweet has a 200-year-old tiger-striped maple bed dressed in frothy layers, a wood fireplace, and a private deck for stargazing. The king-size Black Raspberry Sweet is all about privacy and pampering with its own lounge, a steamy Jacuzzi, and a breakfast table set for two.
Combining Old World charm with 21st-century luxuries, the Federal-style inn is in one of four historic buildings that remain on the grounds of the Guerrant Mountain Mission Clinic and Hospital built in the early 1900s. Guests can stroll into the old hospital kitchen and dining room and sit at the same carved oak dining table used 60 years ago by nurses and doctors taking their lunch.
Of course, those seeking romance and respite will probably head to the second floor and their lavishly appointed private lounge.
Doe Run Inn, 500 Doe Run Hotel Road, Brandenburg. Rate per night: from $40 to $77/inn, $90/cabin (up to 6 people). Winter hours through April 1: Open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only. Summer hours: Open seven days a week. Innkeeper: Van Smith. (270) 422-2982, www.doeruninn.com, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guerrant Mountain Mission Bed and Breakfast, 21 Valentine Court, Winchester. Rate per night: $100. Innkeepers: Wallace and Lana Guerrant. (859) 745-1284, www.bbonline.com, e-mail: email@example.com.
ROMANCE IN THE WEST
Trinity Hills Farm B&B Inn/Spa Retreat, 10455 Old Lovelaceville Road in Paducah also offers romantic getaways. Rate per night: from $95. (800) 488-3998 or (270) 488-3999, www.trinityhills.com, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Distinguished by en suite fireplaces and whirlpool baths, candlelight dinners, and an on-site massage therapist, this 17-acre retreat offers a private guesthouse enveloped in woods, fields, and well-tended gardens. It is a haven for walkers, birdwatchers, and boaters, and for those who enjoy animals--the menagerie includes an Arabian mare, miniature donkeys, llamas, peacocks, ducks, and pygmy goats--as well as bonfires by the lake and the solitude of nature.
"We have had couples come to us and tell us that their visit here saved their marriage or rekindled their love for each other," boasts resident owner Ann Driver.
Ann and her husband, Mike, and innkeeper Jessica Stanley began serving their Candlelight Dinner for Two more than a year ago. Guests had expressed a desire for private dining without having to drive somewhere in search of it. A menu was designed, a romantic ambiance created, and soft music added; the dinner is now among the favorite features of repeat guests.
Kathy Witt is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.