Lexington to DFW - Again

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 Kentucky Parkway



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


Paducah was 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 Quilt Museum



Paducah is dotted with many old buildings.  I was especially delighted with the colorful storefronts


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 writeup here.) 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.


William Clark 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:


Metropolis, IL Welcome Billboard


This is NOT Superman, but is in front of a supermarket before getting into town.

Superman is 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!!


Metropolis City Hall



Superman is 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.


Another bridge crossing over the Mississippi River - - Along the Great River Road



A coal-bearing 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 Charleston, 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 their 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 striking!!



Every street was lined with dogwoods...the tree on the right was this year's award winning tree apparently


Driving around town was fun but I was given another surprise...being the webmaster and good friend of singer/songwriter/artist Antsy McClain, I was surprised to run into his "relatives" here in Charleston.....



McClain's Food Center...I wonder if "Everything's a Dollar"? 

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, Arkansas website):

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 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.



Keeping with tradition, strange named town signs get an honorary photo...and where do they keep the

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.


Day 2: Fun in Ft. Worth - Bulls, Trains, Flowers


Some roadside guidance provided by......


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