A Journey to Find the Best of Kentucky
Story by Ginger Williams
With matching racing style uniforms and followed closely by local TV, radio or print media, the Map Dot crew creates a buzz wherever they go. “We don’t have to pay for a helping of biscuit and gravy in this state ever. The biscuits, and the smiles of the moms and pops who still run their stores, has made it all worth it,” said Cory Ramsey, founder of the Map Dot crew.
The Map Dot crew has visited all 120 counties in Kentucky (only Texas and Georgia have more counties.) The team frequently plops an old style folding map like we used to get at the gas stations out on the table, and they try to find a dot that they haven’t been to before. “Our favorites are the oddly- named places like Possum Trot, Monkey’s Eyebrow, Bugtussle and hundreds more like that.”
In 2007, Ramsey took several trips out west to Yellowstone, Rushmore and Colorado.
“It struck me that I here I was wanting to be some traveler all of the sudden, and hadn’t even seen my own state of Kentucky,” said Ramsey. “So I set out to see our state parks first, and in seeing those remotely located places, I had to pass through rural towns: places that reminded me of my upbringing in Hickman down in Fulton County.”
“These were the same one-horse towns with the mom and pop store and the lone gas pump and they were still going strong in the late 2000’s. At the same time, it occurred to me that only the two or three largest cities in Kentucky were getting frequent mentions on professional tourism outlets. These smaller places I was seeing on a regular basis weren’t getting a fair shot at folk’s attention; folks who might love a greasy spoon burger or milkshake or unique attraction in the middle of nowhere for a selfie of their own.”
That was how Map Dot, Kentucky was born in 2013. Ramsey asked the question, “What if every Dot on the Map could have its very own day on a big-time social media enterprise, just like the big cities can afford to do?” And it resonated with thousands of followers across multiple states.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a rural, farm setting in Fulton County in western Kentucky. Local traffic was getting caught behind a slow tractor hogging the road. It was similar to other places across Kentucky where you had to drive 15 miles to the next town if you wanted something like a Wal-Mart. It was the kind of place with crossroads with names like “Four Points” and “State Line” where nothing was left standing, but a hollowed out, closed down general store, but it had meant something to someone a generation before.
What are some of the most interesting things that you have done on these trips?
• Held the secret formula for Ale-8-One at their plant in Winchester; they keep it locked in a safe.
• Met a kangaroo in Horse Cave.
• Met the dog mayor of Rabbit Hash.
• Named a “Sorehead” by the mayor of Hartford (they give out an actual certificate for that).
• Took a road trip with the WKU mascot Big Red.
• Visited 20 eastern Kentucky counties in a four-day blitz in the fall of 2013.
• Visited Daniel Boone’s grave in the middle of the night in Frankfort near Halloween.
• Had a slawburger, fries and bottle of Ski in Greensburg, then had a member of the Kentucky Headhunters comment about it on our Facebook page.
• Met my future wife (the couple will be married in June).
Why is this important to you?
Our familiar rural landscape is dying with each passing generation. The larger cities are getting larger, and the small places are struggling to attract new job options and keep their young folks interested in returning home after college if those jobs don’t exist. It’s not just the coal in eastern Kentucky or farms consolidating, but every small, intricate facet is withering. Many of the country stores I have passed display a “For Sale” sign because Mom and Pop have become Great-great Mom and Pop; they want to retire or set their affairs in order.
Why should other people travel to these small towns?
Life was richer out on the front wooden porch of a general store whittling a stick, trading the pocketknives, winning at checkers, and shooting the bull with the folk next to you. As much as Cracker Barrel has tried to replicate that on a grand marketable scale, they can’t break off into the uniqueness that each individual little country store and place provided. To go to these spots again, sit down at their patchwork tables, order a freshly sliced turkey sandwich, and put a dollar bill into an important, but struggling local economy should be reason enough to drive out there from anywhere and take a selfie to say “these places matter, too.”
How many people are on your crew?
There are five of us and we were all great friends even before the travels started. Since 2013, we either travel altogether or in some form with two or three of us hitting the road at the same time. Travis Norton has traveled with me even before Map Dot was created. Telia Stauffer was a fan from the Bowling Green Visitor’s Bureau, then friend, then fellow crew member. Kellie Reynolds and I met when I was visiting Barren River Lake on my early trips and is a great photographer in her own right. Monica Spees was a newspaper reporter who did a story on my travels and later became my fiancé. We are getting married in June and it just seemed the right thing to do to make her part of the Map Dot Crew as well.
How can we find out more about your trips?
To find photos, videos, and other fun things uploaded on a regular basis as we continue to take trips across our great state of Kentucky, visit the Map Dot Facebook page at Map Dot, Kentucky.