We recently took the C50 to southeast Kentucky. The nearest town of any size was Hazard (as in Dukes of). The region is definitely coal country, and many of the little towns have seen better days. But whatever they lack in prosperity, they definitely make up for in great riding roads and genuine hospitality.
Lots of interesting names among the little settlements in this area: Dwarf, Busy, Typo, Raven, Fisty, Viper, Kite, and the intruiging village of Beaver.
We spent most of our time riding southeast of Hazard, sometimes crossing into southwest Virginia. Some awesome roads that we found were Routes 7, 550, 66, and 421, to name just a few. Also Route 160, especially the portion on each side of the Kentucky-Virginia border. In fact, just about any road in the area will provide some great scenery and challenging curves.
A word of warning if you venture into this area if it's anywhere close to time to fill the tank and/or grab a bite, and you see an opportunity, go for it. There's not an abundance of services. We discovered this when we headed north from Pineville on Route 66. Had a little over 100 miles on the tank of gas, and figured that there would be a convenience store within 30 or 40 miles. We traveled a little over 30 miles, and had not found a station. We pulled over in the town of Beverly, where I checked my GPS for nearby gas stations. My GPS info is a little outdated, but it showed nothing nearby. I saw a couple of 70-something ladies sitting on a porch across the street, so I wandered over to ask them if they were aware of any station. They confirmed that there was nothing nearby, but offered up a gallon can of lawnmower gas. I put about half of it in the tank, knowing that would get me to a bigger town. When I returned the can, they absolutely refused to accept any money for the gas. That's some of the hospitality that I mentioned earlier.
We stopped for Sunday lunch in Cumberland, at Charlotte's Hoagie Shop., a nice little down-home place. While we were eating, we noticed that most people were familiar with the other diners. When Charlotte, the owner, stopped by our table, I asked if we were the only outsiders in the place. She replied, Yes, but there were a couple of others this morning. Being from 200 miles away, we were celebrities of sorts.
We also discovered a new interpretation of a familiar phrase. When a waitress, clerk, or any other local says, It will be just a minute, that refers to anytime within the next hour.
Although many of the little towns lack retail outlets, most have a post office, however small. Not sure it this one is still functional since we were there on a Sunday, but I'm sure it was operating at one time.
We also found an abandoned school building, and were a little puzzled by its name.
We later figured out that the name came from nearby Kingdom Come State Park. I guess they both derive their name from a book title of a local author.
The Kingdom Come State Park is definitely worth a stop. Great scenery, and an added bonus no admission fees on Kentucky State Park.
Another worthwhile stop is the Breaks Interstate Park, located on the Kentucky-Virginia border.
The highlight of the trip was the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, also located on the border of the two states. Shortly after entering the park, there is a log cabin and other bits of historical memorabilia from the area.
Continuing on from there, the park road climbs and twists for what seems like several miles. There is no worry about going over the posted 20 mph limit, what with the steep climbs and multiple switchbacks. At the end of this road is a fabulous overlook, where you can view the convergence of three states.
If you're going to spend a few days in the area as we did, be aware that there are no motels in most of this area. We found a vacation rental near Hindman, but it was pretty marginal. Don't think I'd stay there again.
We were in the area a few weeks ago, so by now there is probably the added bonus of good leaf color, especially at higher altitudes.