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JIM: Memories of commutes on the Cumberland Parkway

So many stories packed in 25 years - from the Cumberland Parkway's opening in 1973 until 1999 - regularly traveling the 62 miles from Russell Springs to the Parkway's Western Terminus.
Click on headline for all the fascinating tales - then pick your favorite, if you can

By JIM

The snowy day photo of the LBN Parkway you posted recently (left) brought back a lot of memories.

I regularly ran the Cumberland Parkway (as we greybeards will forever know it) from Russell Springs to the western terminus at I-65 from the time it opened in the summer of 1973 until we pulled up stakes and moved north seventeen years ago.


Regular commute from The Sprangs to end of Parkway for 25 years

During that quarter-century and pocket change time span, I traveled those sixty-two miles at all hours of the day and night in good weather and bad, and in the early years, ofttimes would be one of only a handful - if any - other vehicles. One night in particular, I didn't see another westbound car over the entire distance.

Time and speed measured by Johnny Horton tape

During the last few years I lived in Bowling Green, I made frequent weekend trips to Russell Springs, generally after dark, and always kept the radio or a tape in the cassette deck on to help keep me awake. After a while, I figured out that if popped in Side 2 of my favorite Johnny Horton tape somewhere around the 42 or 44 mile marker and drove the speed limit, I would arrive at the Russell Springs toll booth just as the tape flipped back to Side 1. Many is the times ol' Johnny got through those last 20 miles, generally with at least half a song left, if you get my drift.

'63 green Valiant outran incoming snow storm

One memorable trip, circa 1974 or '75, involved a Sunday morning trip back to BG with Genita C-------, a WKU student from Casey County, riding shotgun. We left earlier than planned in an attempt to outrun an incoming snow storm, but should have left earlier still. However, my trusty old '63 green Valiant came through, and we arrived safely in Bowling Green, but I'm pretty sure when I traded the car off years later, my fingerprints still were embedded in the steering wheel and Genita's remained well imprinted on the passenger side armrest.

The '63 Green Valiant made it safely, with friend's family through black ice patches
Another cold weather trip forever tattooed in my mind took place on January 1st, 1977 or 1978. I was in Russell Springs on Christmas break, and friend Ernie asked if I'd run to Bowling Green to pick up his wife and kids, who had been visiting her Mom down there. I agreed, and off I took on a bitterly cold day that got only colder as evening approached. Finally, a bit after dark, Ruth and the kids were ready to leave and off we went in the same old Valiant. By that time, the temperature had dropped below zero, and there were patches of black ice all over the parkway. We kept the heater pumping on high all the way to Russell Springs and it still was might nigh cool enough in the car to safely kill a hog or two when I dropped them off up in the north end of Russell County. It took me hours to get warmed back up after that trek.

Oddest event occurred in 1999

However, I suppose the oddest event occurred on a warm, sunny Friday afternoon in the spring of 1999. I was cruising east at only slightly above the speed limit, only peripherally aware that in the distance ahead a school bus and a Jeep were tooling along at about the same nearly legal speed. Suddenly, the Jeep veered sharply first one way, then the other, brake lights flashing as it finally came to a shaky stop on the shoulder.

Suspecting there might be problem, I pulled in behind. Come find out, one of the rear tires had blown. To complicate matters, the vehicle had been broken into the week before and all the tools, including the jack and tire tool, had been stolen. However, with the help of a socket wrench, a breaker bar, a jury rigged jack from a Delta 88, and a judicious application of elbow grease, the driver and I got the flat tire off and the spare uncoupled (being a Jeep product, the spare was bolted to the underside of the carriage), only to discover the spare was flatter than a tick in January. I happened to have a cigarette-lighter powered pump, so we set that little gizmo to work and sat back while it did its thing. The space was almost up to full pressure when a dark colored sedan came tearing out the east, roared past us, did a quite illegal U-turn about a quarter of a mile west, came flying back east, and screeched to a halt behind my old rattletrap. That's when I got the rest of the story.

The bus and the Jeep were traveling together, being driven by husband and wife, respectively. He was taking a girls' softball team to Russell Springs for a game and she was going along (I've long since forgotten why) in the Jeep. When her tire blew, he couldn't stop, as he had to get the team there on time or they'd have to forfeit. However, as soon as he got there and got the team unloaded at the ball field, he commandeered a car at Russell Springs (I didn't ask whose or how) and blistered the road getting back to his sweetie. We caravanned to Russell Springs, him in front, then his wife, and me trailing. We waved at each other at the exit, and I never saw them again. It was only later I realized we'd never even exchanged names.

The hitchhiking honeymooners story best left for another telling

Then there was the time I picked up the hitchhiking honeymooners, but that's a story best left for another telling.


This story was posted on 2016-02-13 04:46:41
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