Roadside Online

Day Four: Washington Court House, Ohio to Versailles, Kentucky

Ohio once had three communities called Washington; this county seat had added “Court House” to distinguish itself from the rest.

It is now distinguished by several murals by an artist named Harry Ayshen. Two downtown illustrated a fire hall and a railroad station. Another to the south, billboard-sized, had a countryside scene so detailed and authentic that it seemed almost like a mirror or window, only its golden hues setting it apart from the land it depicted on this gray day.

Route 62 southward presents a smooth, broad two-lane. At New Market, a roadside house appeared to have been abandoned in good condition and then overgrown with vines. At Macon, we spotted an immaculate tobacco barn; thereafter, it seemed increasingly difficult to find no-smoking sections in restaurants.

We reached Ripley a bit before Sunday noon. A riverside saloon, three yellow stories with stained-glass windows, overlooked two barge lash-ups sliding down the Ohio. The door was open; a flier heralded a “lingerie show” at another saloon, two nights earlier.

“C’mon in,” bid a fellow holding court at a round oaken table.

“We were just looking for maybe a coffee until the antique barns opened,” we said.

“Got some instant,” he said. “No charge. We’re not open yet. Can’t open ’til noon.” A few people sipping eye-openers around the bar seemed to contradict that prohibition.

“You’re not with the liquor board, are you?” he asked.

We ordered a bourbon, tipping the waitress its estimated price.

He brought a three-pound photo album documenting how he’d retrieved This place from ruin. It was called Snapper’s now.

“I’ve got another place a ways out of town,” he said. Doug recognized the name from the flier. “How’d the lingerie show go?” he asked.

For one moment, Mr. Jerry Jones, Host of Ripley, lost his composure. “How’d you hear about that?” he said quickly.

Doug pointed toward the sign.

“You’re very observant,” he said. “You sure you’re not with the liquor board?”

“I promise,” said Doug. “Anyway, it’s past noon.”

“Call again,” said the Host of Ripley. “Can’t figure out why you want to go to El Paso, though. I been there.”

Crossing the Ohio on a shaky two-lane bridge from Aberdeen, Ohio, we beheld the new paddlewheeler Mississippi Queen, tied up in downtown Maysville, KY, passengers debarking for a tour.

Maysville and Rosemary Clooney hold each other in equal esteem. She was born here and many of her family still live along the river. A showpiace carries her name, suitably ornate in the style of 1930s movie palaces, across the street from a fully restored Victorian three-story.

We pressed into Kentucky on the narrow roadways where Route 62 was born, a mere pencil line on the map, often with the speed limit 45. We wove around tobacco barns and Mail Pouch ads through the hamlet of Oddville (no post office) and on to Cynthiana, where a manufacturing plant startled us with first with its size and then with its product: Toyotas.

From here, Route 62 tracks due southwest, as if at odd with Lexington. Canopies of trees and guardrails of horse fences convey it along “Horse Alley” into the photogenic Midway, where a rail line splits the center of town, rows of shops on either side.

We paused at a restaurant recommended by AAA. It had nothing to our taste. Blindly, we turned to a little Versailles storefront, Kessler’s 1891.

It was entertaining an art exhibit this evening, but gladly satisfied our modest needs at dinner time. Our puny tab could not have made it worth their while- As we settled into slumber in the luxury of Julie’s Room at the 1823 Rose Hill Inn, we felt considerably in Kessler’s debt.

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