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Small Journeys: Reflections while traveling in central Kentucky – Part 1 out of 5

July 21, 2009 by · 3 comments

Roger Conner Jr

Ostensibly the trip should have been a rather mundane one, even boring; a drive to Richmond and Lexington, Kentucky to attend the twin college commencement ceremonies of two dear friends, but for me it was much more than that.

I had made part of the trip before and would be familiar with the road from my starting point in Radcliff, KY to Lexington, KY. The Blue Grass Parkway can be seen as something of a recreational drive with few cops, thin traffic and high quality road allowing for a fast drive. Good time can be made if the driver is willing. From Lexington south to Richmond on I-75 was new driving territory for me. It would not be the roads that mattered to me, but more the reasons for driving them.

The first of my friends was to graduate from Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond on Saturday afternoon and leave for a job in Glacier National Park on Monday. The final 4 miles to the college campus proved to be the most difficult of the trip, with traffic and a car wreck slowing progress. I was late, but not enough to do harm.

Alumni Stadium on the EKU campus where the commencement was held was packed to standing room only. Making the effort of dealing with such a crowd would only be worth it for the sake of a special friend, and this friend is special to me in the way that unlikely friendships can sometimes be.

It had begun almost without willful intent by either of us, and unlike so many friendships which must be birthed with effort and maintained with planning, ours seemed to sustain as though it were fated to last, a friendship that seemed to be intent on remaining in existence with or without the effort of either of the parties involved. It was a charmed gift that causes one to believe in mystical forces.

After a few years, my friend found a partner, and she was naturally embraced into the friendship, and embraced it, with no stress or strain, as though the friendship ordained that she should always have been there. It was her commencement later that evening at Rupp Arena in Lexington that I was to attend.

How unlikely the four of us, the two of them, the friendship and I. It had become only proper in my heart to now regard our friendship as a living partner to the three of us. Priceless such a bond and such a gift to me, and I pray to my two dear friends that I would need to reflect on the magic of such unions and on time and life and change after our parting.

In an almost empty parking lot behind Rupp Arena in Lexington I stood beside my car, lit a cigarette and looked up at the stars in the sky. A clear sky defining infinity. I had wanted more time, more sharing with my friends and more ways to let them know what they have meant to me and how fortunate I have been in knowing them. This is always true during our partings from those who matter to us. Feeling lost, I knew I had to go somewhere. I had always wanted to go to Berea.

Berea, Kentucky is a “charming” town. That is the way it is often described by those who have been there and in articles about the town. Charming is such a cliché, but in this case it is exactly correct. Berea really is charming, and it is designed to be so. It seemed only correct to stay at the most charming accommodations in the town, Boone Tavern Hotel.


Boone Tavern was founded as a guest house to Berea College and completed in 1909. If you get off the I-75 exit at Berea the signs will lead you there, or you can do as I did and simply drive around a bit, finding your way to the old town section of Berea. The hotel will stand out.

Boone Tavern is a certified historic hotel and southern charm and heritage are on display everywhere, from the four Greek Revival Ionic columns of the portico (so popular in the American south) and the paired columns of the porch to the comfortably luxurious lobby waiting areas, the dining room and the guest rooms themselves.


Despite the imposing looking columns out front, the interior of the hotel is not pretentious, but instead gracious in the way that fine old homes can be. Traveling alone, I took the smallest room available and even on such a small scale the elegance was comforting without being ostentatious. The bed was nearly perfect, one of best I have ever slept in.


I had arrived at the hotel just after midnight on a Sunday moring with no reservation, taking the advice of friends that I would probably be received. Indeed I was but the kitchen was closed and I was getting hungry. The desk clerk said there were few places in town still open, but to try Mario’s Pizza.


I was not in the mood for pizza, but the desk clark had said “they have other things” without being specific. Other things turned out to be one of the best rib dinners I had eaten in a long time, with baked potato and cole slaw. It was an excellent post midnight dinner. Mario’s also had a full Italian buffet still up and running after midnight, so if you arrive in Berea a bit late at night I would strongly recommend the place. It is more than it appears to be, located at 636 Chestnut St, only a few blocks away from the Boone Tavern Hotel.

Returning to the hotel, I was not in the mood to sleep just yet. I wanted to let the food digest, sit on the porch of the hotel,soak up some time with thought and try to decide just what mood I was in. I already missed my friends, and the hotel had me thinking about heritage, time, friends, and the temporal nature of things. I expected to sit alone with no sight of others, but the street was still busy with Berea College students even after 1:00AM.

Being a night person myself, my spirits were lifted by the happy chatter and laughter of pairs of college students walking by, talking in the relaxed way that youth seems to allow. I thought of my friends, both younger than I, and remembered the lightness they brought into my life, the spirit of adventure and fun and willingness to try new things.

As I walked indoors and up to my room, my mind was circling itself, asking how we can bring the spirit of adventure into our lives and keep it there, while still maintaining a sense of heritage and charm. I went to sleep quickly, weary from travel and thoughts of how what I want to be can conform to what I feel I must be.

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