Traveling the Country Music Highway

Tony hit the road for a tour of the Big Sandy Valley on Thursday. Along the way he logged 200 miles driven and nearly as many new friends made.

On the Road Again

There is something special about a drive on a late winter day in Appalachia. The menacing rain clouds that dangle from the heavens and wisps of fog that cling to the hilltops seem to add a surreal touch to the new day. With that as a backdrop, I left Huntington at 10 this morning with “Kentucky on my mind”.

As I drove I-64 toward Catlettsburg, the steam from the refineries billowed heavenward. The water vapor clouds are too often confused for air pollution.

Turning left onto Route 23, I began the southward trip along the Country Music Highway. I thought to myself how lucky we are to have a stable of musical talent as we do. I left Billy Ray’s native Northern Kentucky en route to the home of the likes of Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley, Crystal Gayle and Loretta Lynn.

As I reached southern Lawrence County, the turn onto Route 695 unveiled my first glimpse at the power of Mother Nature. The hills were strewn with tall pine trees felled by the January ice storm. This storm was one of several that tied the Coalfield school schedule into knots.

Arriving at Inez Elementary, I marveled at how beautiful a school I had entered. Spanking clean hallways, state of the art computers and a spacious library were all signs of a modern day learning center!

Ms. Brenda Preece Collins’ class of 55 eager 4th graders answered every tough question and mind teaser I could muster their way. From good old fashioned American capitalism to the adage that there is “news in the wind”, these inquisitive youngsters proved their prowess in the classroom!

By high noon, it was time to visit Ms Ida’s Tea Room in downtown Inez for a lunch with the Martin County Kiwanis. Led by the irrepressible Carol Sue Mills, the Kiwanis provide so much for the underprivileged of the Big Sandy Valley.

I have been to Inez now for going on 15 years to speak with the Kiwanians in spring. Since the UK Cats are normally in the NCAA when I visit, our focus touched briefly on the NIT and the Cats playing that unusual game at the Memorial Coliseum.

Back to the school issue, I talked to Representative Hubert Collins about the 20 something days of school missed by Martin County students. We agreed that a senior at Sheldon Clark High would be at a disadvantage entering a calculus class at UK next fall.

Mark your calendars for Saturday April 18th from 7 until noon for the annual Kiwanis Hillbilly Breakfast at the Senior Center. I promised to stop by on my way to the Hillbilly Days parade that afternoon in Pikeville.

Quarter after 1 and I was on the road again heading north toward my final stop, a rendezvous with Mrs. Feltner’s 4th graders at the Louisa East Elementary. Here along the banks of the Big Sandy River, I joined the A-team; namely, students who boast good “Academics”, good “Attitude” and perfect “Attendance”.

We talked about the cold winds and snow this winter and how the weather in Hollywood is different for their favorite TV and movie stars. All the while, I kept harping on how the kids need to master their Language Arts if they are to succeed someday.

On the road again by 2:45 having made many new friends and shared my vision of excelling in the classroom!

I will add pictures from my trip on Friday!
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