Mar 25, 2013

5 Oddly Named Places I’ve Visited

If you’re like me and prefer to take the scenic route, drive the roads less traveled or follow the thin red lines on the Rand McNally, then you know that’s where you’ll find some of the best roadside adventures.  And sometimes, the name of the place you find yourself is a great indicator.  Take these five examples …

Bulpitt, Ill., pop.  250 (or 222, if you believe Wikipedia) – I bet at least half of my four faithful followers have been to this one since it’s nearby where I’m living.  Considered one of the tri-cities of Christian County, along with Kincad and Tovey, Bulpitt is located on Illinois Route 104 about 30  minutes southeast of Springfield, Ill.  Honestly, not much makes Bulpitt special, except that it’s fun to say the name.  Its eastern border literally straddles Kincaid, and if you aren't paying attention, you’ll miss it.  All three towns are basically right next to each other to form a conglomerate farming community of about 2,200 people.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s Bulpitt’s most famous landmark …

Actually, despite the fact that Tovey has the monopoly on small town bars in the area (many cater to the coal miners who work nearby), Bulpitt has arguably the tri-cities’ best tavern in Rumors.  So, they do have that going for them, which is nice. 

Mud Lick, Ky., unincorporated – I have a confession to make … part of my family tree runs through the Kentucky hills.  Yes, I have hillbillies in my family.  My grandmother really was one of those people who walked to school five miles a day, uphill, both ways, in two feet of snow, and was thankful to do it.

And this brings us to Mud Lick, which is located on the roller coaster ride that is Ky. Hwy. 63, as you head south from Glasgow to Tompkinsville.  Mud Lick actually rests on a small plateau among the hills where 63 interests with Flippin Road (they love to have unusual place names in rural Kentucky).  Mud Lick also used to have a real-life general store, which I believe is closed now, but it was the last place I recall buying a moon pie and a Big Red cola.  Oh, you know who else really is from Mud Lick?  This guy …

Yes, if you watched WWF Wrestling in the 1980s, you know that’s Hillbilly Jim.  They weren't lying when they said he hailed from Mud Lick.  He currently resides in Bowling Green, Ky., just about an hour away. 

One more item that’s a little off topic – if you’re ever in Tompkinsville, stop at Dovie’s for a hamburger that’s fried in about two inches of floating grease, kind of like Dyer’s in Memphis.  You’ll love it, but bring the Tums with you.

Santa Claus, Ind., pop. 2,481 – The main reason people flock to Santa Claus in southern Indiana every summer actually has less to do with Christmas and more to do with their amusement park and campground.  Welcome to the home of Holiday World & Splashin' Safari, and Camp Rudolph, located right next door. 

Back in a past life with a past wife, this was a lot of fun to bring the kids.  The wooden roller coaster at Holiday World is billed as the No.1 wooden coaster in the world by coaster enthusiasts, whoever they may be.  I did enjoy the rides there quite a bit, although as a grown-up I had just as much fun drinking on the back deck of our cabin at Camp Rudolph under the starlight.  Come to think of it, that may be a self-indictment on why that marriage didn't work out.

Anyway, the town’s theme, of course, is all Christmas all the time.  There’s a Santa Claus museum, and as you’d expect the post office is busy stamping all the mail during the holiday that gets sent there for Kris Kringle to read.  Most of the stores catered to tourists also have a tie-in, like St. Nick’s Restaurant and Frosty’s Fun Center.  

Defiance, Mo., unincorporated – As this sign clearly indicates, Defiance considers itself the gateway to Missouri wine country. 

It’s located on Mo. Hwy. 94 just as the road starts to get interesting, once the St. Louis suburban sprawl has stopped and you've made your way past the Weldon Spring Interpretive Center.  Few roads I've been on are more scenic than 94 from Defiance to Hermann, Mo., and you’ll find many fine wineries along the way.  But if wine isn't your thing, there are two really cool bars on the “S” curve at the heart of the town – the Defiance Roadhouse and Terry and Kathy’s, and the bikers seem to just love them both. 

From personal experience, Terry and Kathy’s has good bar food, friendly people and nice, cheap drink prices.  And if you happen to find yourself needing a place to crash in Defiance, there are a growing number of bed and breakfasts in town. 

Defiance is also reportedly the final home of Daniel Boone, kind of a defiant guy in his own right, especially considering he came to Defiance to get away from his legal problems in Kentucky surrounding the land speculation he was involved with.  His home and gravesite are nearby tourist attractions. 

Hot Coffee, Miss., unincorporated – Speaking of my grandmother, when I was six years old, she packed me in the car in Angie, La., to head north to see relatives in Macomb, Ill.  Bored with taking the same old way, she drove due north along some of those tiny red lines on the road map, presumably looking for a “shortcut” to Meridian, Miss. where we’d pick up U.S. 45. 

We eventually saw a road sign similar to this (we were actually in Mt. Olive, but isn't Internet searching awesome?), and instead of staying on route, we did what any adventurous soul would do and turn right. 

As these pictures show, not much has changed in Hot Coffee these days.  It’s a wide spot along the road, and they still have a restaurant where, as you’d expect, you’ll find some damn fine hot coffee. 

I was too young to drink coffee that day (I started the habit at age 7), but my grandmother couldn't pass it up.  It still makes for a great story.  

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