Lexington, Kentucky Shamrock Tour®: Four Roads Through Horse Country
Cool, moist air seeps from the acres of perfectly manicured greenery as the sun tiptoes closer to the horizon. The sky is already a clear blue and a few mists still linger in the hollow places of the hills. Kentucky waits with open arms.
Chasing Daniel Boone
The rising sun finds my riding partner, Stephen, and I picking our way eastward through the old money horse farms that litter the countryside around this Shamrock Tour®’s home base of Lexington, KY. I’m astride a 2015 Honda Gold Wing while Stephen pilots a similar vintage Triumph Trophy SE. Though Lexington is Kentucky’s second largest city (behind Louisville), we are pleasantly surprised by how quickly the metro area hustle and bustle is replaced by the serenity of horse country.
The Gold Wing’s sublime flat six hums smoothly as the Triumph’s more raucous triple sends the area’s four-legged residents trotting deeper into the hills. Highway 57 is a pleasantly windy ribbon of asphalt that meanders northeast across Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region. It’s no accident that this area is known as the Horse Capital of the World, as the region’s limestone-rich soil is ideal for the state’s namesake bluegrass. The grass, which is high in calcium, helps horses raised on it build stronger bones and run with greater endurance.
The hills inch higher and the road begins to writhe this way and that under our tires as we enter the Daniel Boone National Forest. The rolling hills for which Kentucky is justifiably famous are gradually replaced by stoic stands of deciduous trees whose leaves are showing the first hints of autumn color. We motor along the shore of Cave Run Lake, a reservoir built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and completed in 1973. The path winds through alternating thick forest and open farmland. Before long a left turn onto Sky Bridge Road brings us into the Red River Gorge. The river keeps us company on the right as the narrow, unmarked strand of pavement undulates under the thick forest canopy. It’s a true motorcycle route and Stephen and I lean our big touring rigs into the curves, careful to hug the right-hand line in case a car suddenly appears.
We take a break at the Gladie Visitor Center and tour a small, turn-of-the-century farm that’s been meticulously restored. It’s a compelling glimpse into the way Red River Gorge residents lived back then. The twisty, single lane tarmac continues unabated until we reach Pine Ridge. From here, the map leads us back to Lexington where a tasty meal and warm bed await at the Campbell House.
Motorcycles & Gear
2015 Honda Gold Wing
2015 Triumph Trophy SE
Helmets: Bell Star Carbon, Bell RS-1
Jackets: Firstgear TPG Rainier, Held Carese
Pants: Firstgear TPG Escape, Held Carese
Boots: TCX Infinity EVO GORE-TEX, Joe Rocket Sonic R
Gloves: Held Airstream II, Joe Rocket Sonic Sport
Another perfect day dawns and we’re heading out early. Once again we encounter Kentucky’s beautiful rolling hills as we navigate between white columned estates and young stallions grazing on that magic bluegrass. It’s a leisurely ride with plenty of sweeping curves and serene pastures. Our route takes us through Cynthiana and Falmouth before we’re yet again wandering down narrow country roads gawking at the beauty from behind our tinted visors.
The view changes as we make a right on Highway 8 along the Ohio River. The pavement straightens and we try to catch glimpses of the water through the trees to our left. A dozen or so miles later we’re deposited in Augusta. The picturesque town offers the perfect respite from the ride as Stephen and I relax on a bench next to the waterfront and watch a small ferry transporting vehicles to neighboring Ohio. The scene is tranquil and quiet and we linger for a time as the current drifts slowly by. Soon, though, it’s time to turn back south. Highway 19 takes us away from the river and back into the hills that have already enchanted us. We find ourselves rolling down smooth, single lane roads draped across sprawling farmland. Each hillcrest gives us a panoramic view of northeast Kentucky that leaves us in awe. This is motorcycle touring as it’s meant to be.
We pass through a succession of small towns. Brooksville, Petra, Milford, Mount Olivet—all charming examples of rural America. Along Highway 68 we come across the Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park. This is the site of one of the last battles of the American Revolution. In the battle, a coalition of Loyalists and American Indians ambushed a rebel militia that included Daniel Boone and his son Israel. The fight went badly for the rebels and Boone’s son was killed.