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.