Oct 162013

An undiscovered gem in Eastern Kentucky

Patty emerges from Dawkins Tunnel. Photo by Dave Cooper.

Patty emerges from Dawkins Tunnel. Photo by Dave Cooper.

By Dave Cooper

The Dawkins Line Rail Trail, in Johnson and Magoffin Counties in eastern Kentucky, officially opened in June – but many Kentuckians still have not heard about it.

This 18-mile-long trail is a little gem in the mountains of eastern Kentucky: it’s our commonwealth’s longest rail trail, it’s in a beautiful and remote area, it’s very peaceful and quiet, and it is in pristine condition.

I first rode this trail solo in late August.  I enjoyed the trail so much that I went back the following weekend with my friend Patty and we rode it on a beautiful late summer day with just a hint of fall in the air: the ironweed and the Joe Pye weed along the trail’s edge were in their full glory, and the wooded sections of the trail were nice and cool and shady.  The trail is quite beautiful in spots, and it’s a low-key and enjoyable ride that is suitable for families and even small children. Continue reading »

Jun 062013

By Dave Cooper

In March I wrote an essay for North of Center about the excessive amount of outdoor advertising along New Circle Road in northeast Lexington.  My little screed, entitled “No more tube dancers!” was fun for me to write because I enjoy spreading awareness about the many insidious manifestations of our society’s corporatization.

Tube dancers are an advertising gimmick used by car dealers, check cashing firms, and other retail-oriented companies to attract the attention of motorists.  They are tall, brightly-colored, fan-powered “men” that wave and flail their arms as the traffic roars past.  I hate those things. Continue reading »

Feb 022013

By Dave Cooper

Much to my surprise, in January the Lexington Herald-Leader published a 700-word op-ed that I wrote that was harshly critical of the advertising industry.

My op-ed was basically a rant about how much I dislike the new electronic “ribbon board” advertising display inside Commonwealth Stadium.  For those who have not yet seen this high-tech monstrosity, it is a lighted LED billboard around the fascia of the upper deck of the stadium.  This space was previously used to honor famous UK football players and coaches such as Bear Bryant, Art Still, Tim Couch and George Blanda.  It was called the “Ring of Honor.” Continue reading »

Nov 072012

By Dave Cooper

The 2012 Wild and Scenic Film Festival rolls into Lexington’s Kentucky Theater on Tuesday, December 4 with a great lineup of 13 inspiring short films.

The Wild and Scenic Film Festival, which began in 2003, combines stellar film-making, beautiful cinematography and first-rate storytelling to inform, inspire and ignite solutions and possibilities to restore the earth and human communities while creating a positive future for the next generation.  Selections from the 3-day festival in Nevada City, California, go on tour and are hosted by local environmental organizations. In this way, the festival reaches over 100 cities annually, the largest environmental film festival in North America. And thanks to the folks at Kentucky Heartwood, it’s coming to Lexington.

Highlights of this year’s film festival include: Continue reading »

Oct 032012

Remembering Larry Gibson

By Dave Cooper

An American hero has passed away.  Larry Gibson, the “Mountain Keeper” from West Virginia who fought for over 25 years to save his family’s ancestral land on top of Kayford Mountain, died on his beloved mountain of a heart attack on Sunday, September 9.

Larry Gibson being arrested as part of a non-violent demonstration against mountaintop removal in West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin’s office, March 2007. Photo by Dave Cooper.

Larry fought the good fight.  One of the first West Virginians to try and organize people against mountaintop removal (MTR), he fought longer and harder against that destructive process of coal extraction than anyone else ever could.  Beginning as a volunteer with the West Virginia Citizen Action Group (WV-CAG) in the mid-1980s, Larry soon joined the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition (OVEC) and, with the help of OVEC organizer Laura Forman, began speaking publicly against MTR by the late 1990s.

When I first met Larry in March, 1998, I wasn’t too sure what to think of him.  He was not a polished speaker and it was sometimes difficult to understand what he was saying.  But like me, he was a former General Motors employee, and he had a lot of good GM stories from his days on the assembly line in Lordstown, Ohio, so we hit it off.

Meeting Larry changed my life.  Shortly after hearing him speak, I visited Kayford Mountain, and 14 years later I’m still working on the mountaintop removal issue.  Continue reading »

Sep 052012

On ambassadorship

By Dave Cooper

NoC ambassador to Cycling

In July of 1989, my friend Carol and I decided to follow a dream and ride our bicycles across America.  We took leaves of absence from work, packed our bikes and gear into boxes, and flew to Seattle to start our trip.  Carol brought her brown 18-speed Fuji from Massachusetts.  My bike was an orange 15-speed 1970’s model Schwinn LeTour III, with fully-loaded front and rear Cannondale panniers, leather grips and a handlebar pack.  It weighed a freakin’ ton.

After reassembling our bikes in the baggage claim area, we rode out of the airport and wobbled towards downtown Seattle to try and find an REI camping store. Pedaling around an unfamiliar downtown, we got turned around and ended up riding the wrong way against traffic on a one-way street before cutting across the street to the store, blocking traffic in the process.

A pedestrian looked at us and said, scornfully, “It’s people like you that give bicyclists a bad name.” Continue reading »

Jun 242012

Homegrown Hideways in Berea, KY

By Dave Cooper

Are you worried about how peak oil and climate change will affect your life?  Do you want to live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle?  Do you want to spend less time stuck in traffic and more time stuck in the garden?

“Raising Backyard Chickens” is one of 65 workshops offered at the Whippoorwill Festival – Skills for Earth-Friendly Living. Photo by Jessa Turner.

The Whippoorwill Festival is a four day festival in mid-July near Berea, Kentucky (just south of Lexington off Interstate 75) that seeks to promote sustainable living by sharing earth-friendly living skills with one another in a positive, healthy, family-friendly atmosphere.

Running Thursday July 12 through Sunday July 15, Whippoorwill celebrates Kentucky’s Appalachian heritage while helping prepare our minds and bodies for a future world of climate change and a diminished supply of fossil fuels.  The festival is a low-cost event ($20 per person per day) with simultaneous workshops, tent camping, healthy and home-cooked meals, guest speakers, plus old-time and mountain music, dancing, and story-telling in the evenings. Continue reading »

Feb 082012

By Dave Cooper

Because our little house in the Joyland neighborhood is about 50 years old and the backyard is pretty overgrown, we get lots of “volunteer” trees coming up in the fencerows and in the garden: hackberry, cherry, water maple, and the occasional oak or redbud.  I don’t believe that trees and plants have feelings, but it still makes me feel bad to pull up a struggling little tree and throw it on the ground, where it will die a miserable, slow, and painful death from dehydration.

How to kill a tree: surround the trunk with bricks. North Limestone at Church St. Photo by Dave Cooper.

Continue reading »

Oct 262011

Food Not Bombs returns to Lexington

By Dave Cooper

Lexington Food Not Bombs is back, feeding the public delicious and healthy free food every Wednesday at 5:30 in front of the downtown public library in Phoenix Park.

Organizer Melody Millage, 22, who works at Magee’s Bakery, got the idea to start a Lexington Food Not Bombs group after talking with Tates Creek High grad John O’Shea over coffee at Common Grounds, and they have now been serving meals in Lexington for several months.

Most of the food served is donated from the Lexington Farmer’s Market, along with random donations:  At a recent dinner a man rode up on a classic red Schwinn bicycle, opened his daypack and withdrew a gigantic five pound bag of uncooked elbow macaroni to donate. Continue reading »

Oct 122011

Advertising landscapes

By Dave Cooper

I am standing on New Circle Road, and this is what I see: flags everywhere.

One flag says “90 Day Refills.”  The next one reads “One Hour Photo.” Then “Drive Through Pharmacy.”  In the next block, a matching pair of flags shouts out the message “SONIC.” Just past the flags is a large sign that says “Salvation Army Thrift Store.” Across the street another announces “Brothers Auto Sales.”

Looking up and down the road: “Swifty – Pay Cash and Save,” “Burgers 99 Shakes,” Check Advance, Golden Corral, Advance Auto Parts, Beds To Go, Bryan Station Inn, “We Buy Gold,” “Buy Sell Trade Anything of Value,” Quality Auto Sales, “We Buy Anything,” “GOLD,” “For Sale,” Kroger, Firestone, Marathon, Demovellan.com, “Now Hiring,” Frito-Lay Sun Chips, “Welcome UK Credit Union Members,” Fed Ex, “Financing Available,” “Free Carfax Report,” “Big G Express Trucking.” On the corner is my favorite: “S&M Pawn Shop – Where Courtesy is a Must.”

It’s enough to make you sick, all of this visual junk.  Most outdoor advertising is done as garishly as possible, using big, thick block letters to bash us over the heads with thick, blockheaded messages.  Continue reading »