Lexington to DFW –
A SUPER Trip to Metropolis
(In Search of Dogwoods and Friendship)
Apr. 10, 2010
by David “Sumoflam” Kravetz
April 10, 2010:
On the road again, “Road Trip!”,
striking out for adventure….yet another trip to Texas for iHigh.com and yet
another opportunity to seek out more of America’s wonders along the way.
Per my usual methods, I took the long way to Texas, this time visiting one of
the “must see” places on my bucket list of “must see places.” I would head
toward Metropolis, IL in search of Superman and who knows what I would find
along the way? Following is the map of this rather long journey through the
heartland of America:
This trip would take me to Central City, KY; Paducah, KY; Metropolis, IL;
Charleston, MO; Friendship, AR and other places
As always, since it is a long drive from Lexington, KY to Keller, TX, I left
early in the morning, got my cold drinks and munchies and gas and was on the
road west headed toward Paducah, in the far southwest region of Kentucky.
As the sun rose along the Western Kentucky Parkway southwest of Elizabethtown,
the fog set in and there was beauty all around me. the redbud and dogwoods
were in bloom, the horses were out grazing and the sun was peeking through the
fog-tipped tree line. Then, unexpectedly, I saw a sign for Central City,
KY. I had NOT done my homework!! It turns out that Central City was
the home of the Everly Brothers – Phil and Don. This was a MUST stop for
me so it was off the highway and on to the Less Beaten Paths in Central City.
Early morning Kentucky scene along Western
Central City is the birthplace of the famous singing duo “The Everly Brothers”.
Underneath the monument above was
the following: “Fom Brownie, to Iowa, to Knoxville, to Nashville, to Hollywood,
to England and around the world….
Don and Phil have taken the music of Kentucky, as taught by their parents. And
now they are bringing it back home
to Central City. August 25, 1988.” Phil was born in 1937 and Don in
1939…both in Brownie, Kentucky.
Also home to Star Records Studio
and Bry’s Cafe on Broad (which was not open the day I came through)
From Central City, I
was back on the road towards
Paducah. I have
been through Paducah a number of times, but have never spent any time there.
I wanted to see the murals painted on the Flood Wall along the confluence of the
Tennessee and Ohio rivers and whatever else I might run across in this lovely
river town. Upon arrival in Paducah, I headed straight for downtown (or
lowertown) as they call it there. There is a quaint beauty about the town.
Bridge over Lake
Barkley on I-24 east of Paducah
originally settled around 1815 and was known as Pekin. There were Native
Americans, most likely Chicksaw, living there and they traded peacefully with
white settlers and traders that came down the river. Their chief was named
Paduke. This arrangement stayed peaceful, but in 1827, William Clark, the
famed leader of the the Lewis and Clark expedition, and then superintendent for
Native American affairs along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, brought a
legal deed for the land the town sat on. He asked both Chief Paduke and
the settlers to leave, which they did. Paduke and his clan moved to
Mississippi. Clark named the town Paducah in his honor. In 1830 it was
incorporated and then chartered as a city in 1856. It was a dry dock for
barges and also became a major rail hub. Today it is home to the National
Paducah is dotted
with many old buildings. I was especially delighted with the colorful
A resident of
Paducah….as colorful as the town itself
Part of a set of
sculptures depicting the Native American history of the Paducah area
In 1996, the Paducah
floodwall mural program (Officially called “Paducah
Wall to Wall“) was begun by Louisiana Mural artist
Robert Dafford and
a team of other artists (including Herb Roe, Benny Graeff, Doug Safford and Mike
Doherty). They completed this project in 2007. (I came across Dafford’s large
project in Point Pleasant/Portsmouth back in April 2008. You can see my
There are more than 50 murals lining the walls and covering the history of
Paducah in chronological fashion. Dafford has done similar projects in
Portsmouth, OH, Louisiana, Covington, KY and other places. Currently Portsmouth,
Ohio born mural artist Herb
Roe, formerly one of Dafford’s team of artists, keeps the touch up work take
care of. Apparently Roe is the only member of Dafford’s team who can be
associated with having participated in the application of all 50 of the panels.
One segment of the
long line of murals stretching along the river. Time did not allow
for me to traverse
the entire length. But following are a few of those I did see.
L – An early
street scene of downtown Paducah. Love the Piggly Wiggly sign and “Cooled”
on the theater.
R – A scene from
the great flood of 1937 which inundated Paducah.
L – The old market
R – Hauling goods from port in the 1800s.
L – Some of the
beautiful old churches in town R – Early settlers along the river.
platting out the town
Time to proceed
further…and on to Metropolis. Metropolis is basically a hop skip and
jump away from Paducah…only about 13 miles. However, as noted above, Paducah
is at a major confluence of rivers and so bridges must be traversed along the
way. Here is one crossing the Mississippi:
One of many
similar narrow bridges over the Mississippi River. These structures never
cease to amaze me. This one crosses
into Illinois from
Kentucky and is between Paducah and Metropolis.
Then there is the
big booming town of Metropolis. Actually, not anything like the Metropolis of
the Superman series (which is more like New York City), the town of Metropolis,
IL does lay claim to Superman. As you enter Metropolis from the east, this
is what you first come across:
This is NOT
Superman, but is in front of a supermarket before getting into town.
apparently NOT the only BIG statue in town!!
After taking a shot
of the giant grocery man, I continued into town to find Superman. The town
is quite proud of their man!!
everywhere…especially the one big guy in the middle photo!!
L – One of many
signs on a “Superman Shop” in town; R – Tourists looking at large mural (I
thought this was a unique shot)
Of course, like many
small towns in the United States, this town does honor some REAL heroes with a
nice mural in town:
Honoring All Our
Defenders of Freedom – a mural in Metropolis, IL
After the little
site trip to Metropolis, it was back on the road south for me as I planned to
get all the way to Keller, TX on this drive. I headed back to Interstate
24, went south back across the Mississippi and into Kentucky to begin heading
further west. I continued into Barlow, KY and then on to Wickliffe and
into Cairo, IL and then over another river into Missouri, staying on US 60 along
the way. By the time I was in Missouri I had crossed over a literal maze
of bridges and over the Ohio River, the Tennessee River, the Mississippi River
and the Missouri River, all some of the greatest waterways in the US.
crossing over the Mississippi River – – Along the Great River Road
barge on the Mississippi; a mural welcoming me to Barlow, KY
Yet another bridge
over the river
It was time for a
gas stop, so I made my way into a gas station in
Missouri. Charleston is a small town of about 5000 people, but during
this time of year is a strikingly colorful time. I was one week early for
Dogwood-Azalea Festival. And for sure, the dogwoods and azaleas were
in bloom around the town. The town even has a 6 mile Dogwood-Azalea Trail
laid out and awards someone the best dogwood of the year. Here are some
photos of the dogwoods, azaleas and other flowering trees in the small town.
Dogwood Trees in
full bloom in Charleston, MO
The colors were
Every street was
lined with dogwoods…the tree on the right was this year’s award winning tree
Driving around town
was fun but I was given another surprise…being the webmaster and good friend
Antsy McClain, I was surprised to run into his “relatives” here in
Center…I wonder if “Everything’s
And the McClain’s
are probably happy in their “Lot 1409” (which was a house, not a trailer!!)
So much for fun and
flowers…back on the road again. Heading south on I-55 I couldn’t resist
this sign….I wonder if meant anything….
Is that sign
pointing at me???? Who would name a town Braggadocio anyway?
Time for another
break for some food and a stretching break somewhere off of I-55 in NE Arkansas.
I stop at this place along the highway and what do I find?
Needless to say, I
didn’t eat there…but I wondered, “Do they serve curry burritos?”
I continued south on
Interstate 55 until I got to exit 41, where I intended to head west to another
unusually named place….Marked
Tree, Arkansas. I got onto Arkansas State Highway 14 and headed due
west into Lepanto and then got onto State Highway 140, which took me south into
Marked Tree. The town claims to be the only town in the world named Marked
Tree. But, more unusual is that the town lies between two rivers which
flow in opposite directions. According to the story (from the Marked Tree,
The settlers chose “Marked Tree” because of the “old marked tree” on the
bank of the Saint Francis River near the railroad camp. Now we come to the most
interesting part of all – how did the “marked tree” come to be in the first
place? The aboriginal people in the region of the Saint Francis and Little
Rivers were Indians. In the early 1800’s the Osage and Cherokees roamed these
woods largely by using the rivers as their highways. There was a superabundance
of game and all the rivers abounded with fish. Pioneer Arkansas was widely known
as a sportsman’s country also suited to farming. The Indians traveling northward
up the Saint Francis River marked a tree at the first point at which Little
River is only ¼ mile distant across the land between the rivers. By dragging
their dugout canoes across this short portage to Little River they could
continue their trip northward and eliminate eight miles of up-river paddling.
There is another legend from the 1830’s about the mark on this huge oak
tree. The John A. Murrell outlaw gang had hideouts in the White River swamps
below Helena. They gambled, robbed, waylaid travelers, stole horses and even
slaves, and resold what they could in east Arkansas and west Tennessee. They
found the short portage at the “old marked tree” and marked it with a big “M.”
They used this site as a place to rendezvous.
Whichever legend handed down to people still living here you believe (they
both may be true), the “marked tree” was undermined and fell into the river
during the overflow of 1890. This large oak was a few hundred feet from the
original bridge across the Saint Francis River. During the digging into the bank
to build a new bridge in 1971, a large well preserved oak tree trunk was
unearthed. This tree trunk is believed to have been the original marked tree and
has been put on display with a historical marker in the center of Marked Tree.
There is really not
much excitement in the town of Marked Tree, but I did find some things of
interest that my camera eye was attracted to.
tradition, strange named town signs get an honorary photo…and where do they
fire trucks in
this fire department? This trailer is on wheels. Funniest Fire Dept.
I have seen to date.
I always like
running into old trucks and cars parked in front of barns
and of course, you
should expect “Hog Wild” BBQ in Arkansas
Not all wall
murals I find are fancy…but this one does show the history of Marked Tree
I never did find any
Marked Trees, so it was back on the road again to Texas. I took US
Highways 67 and 64 south into Little Rock and hopped on I-30 as it was now
getting late in the day and the light was dwindling. As I drove south I
came across a road sign that I apparently had missed on past ventures down I-30.
I finally found Friendship!! Seems like I have been looking for Friendship
for years and here it was:
Friendship was off
to the right…no, wait a minute…off to the left…
I guess you can
find Friendship in any direction!!!
Looks like I
finally found Friendship!!
They even need
police and a court in Friendship….how friendly is that?
By the time I left
Friendship, the sun was beginning to set and I needed to get onto the final leg
of the day’s trip to my sister Sherry’s house in Keller. So, back on the
road…arrived in Keller at about midnight CST.
Watch soon for more ramblings from the back roads on
this trip…still more fun to come!!
Some roadside guidance provided by……
All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.