Westbound: Eastern Kentucky members’ eventful trip to Frankfort

The trip from the mountains to Frankfort can be difficult, but the KFTC van ride on I Love Mountains Day was one we will tell big tales about for years. Harlan “Tootie” Seals has been driving charter buses and vans for decades and even served a term as mayor of Fleming-Neon. So I was looking forward to an adventure. Little did I know…

It was cold and dark in Whitesburg when we met at 6:00 in the morning. The road to Cumberland that crosses Pine Mountain is difficult. When Tootie’s van crossed the mountain, I figured the rest of the trip  would be downhill, no problem. KFTC friends from Lynch, Benham, and Cumberland met us on the south side of the mountain as the sun was rising. On to Harlan, where the rest of our van riders joined us, then we headed for Frankfort.

The blow out of one of our front tires was on I-75 north of Richmond. Bennie Massey, our fellow van rider and friend from Lynch, is a retired coal miner. Bennie can handle anything. So I figured we could change the tire and keep rolling. Luckily we had a spare tire, but we didn’t have a wrench that fit the lug nuts. That was a problem. While we were calculating whether we could get another van and whether we were going to get to Frankfort in time for the rally, a Kentucky transportation truck stopped. The truck had a whole set of sockets and we were able to change the tire. No problem, on to Frankfort.

Well, time was starting to be a problem. We were running late, we had one of the banners for the march from the Kentucky River to the capitol, and one of the rally speakers was riding with us, Kimberly Shepherd. We began to focus on the capitol speaking part of the day. Let the march go as planned, with other banners and signs. If we could get Kimberly to the capitol steps in time for her speech, then things would work out. No problem, except for the cold, cold wind and light snow.

The speeches were amazing. I was proud to be there and to hear expressions of hope and love for our state. Someone said that this could be the last “I Love Mountains Day.” Although the Kentucky legislature meets in the coldest time of the year, I will miss the opportunity to stand on those steps and let the members of the General Assembly know that we are paying attention.

The return trip was going smoothly until the brake-line broke near Corbin. The brake pedal went to the floor with no effect. Having no brakes is a serious problem. Somehow Tootie got the van stopped and there was a bit of room on the shoulder of the road. The cell phones allowed us to call for other vehicles. Eventually, as daylight ended, Burt and Jenny Lauderdale arrived with snacks and a small van. Other cars came to the rescue. All is well that ends well. It was a long trip, but I wouldn’t have missed it.