Owensboro Living caught up with Kentucky road tripper and “Map Dot, Kentucky” founder, Cory Ramsey, during a recent stop in Owensboro. He posted that night about his trip, “I traveled every corridor – 231, 431, 54… Great looking town!”
In a span of several years, Ramsey traveled to all 120 counties in Kentucky, then decided to return to all 120 again during 2013. Today, Cory stays busy with speaking engagements, giving interviews, and submitting articles in several publications, including a column for his hometown newspaper, the Hickman Courier. Map Dot, KY has also been featured in Kentucky Monthly, Kentucky Living, and Story magazines, as well as most major TV markets in Kentucky: WBKO in Bowling Green, WLKY in Louisville, WKYT and WLEX in Lexington, WPSD in Paducah, and WFIE 14.
The first time Map Dot visited Owensboro, 2nd street was still blocked off and the new riverfront was still in the construction phase.
“Every time I pass through Owensboro it looks like it’s getting better and better.” – Map Dot, KY’s Cory Ramsey
On this visit, sitting under sunny skies on a swing at Smothers Park, Ramsey enjoyed seeing the completed riverfront. “What you all have done down here is impressive. You look around at the hotels and the men’s stores and boutiques downtown, and you think ‘this is high-class stuff.’ These two or three blocks here are really impressive. I don’t know how you could ever get tired of walking this riverfront. It’s the most beautiful thing on the river in Kentucky – right up there with Newport. Louisville doesn’t have this. Paducah doesn’t have this. Bowling Green is talking about developing their downtown riverfront along the Barren River, but it could never be like this. I don’t think there’s any other riverfront up and down the Ohio River that has anything close to what Owensboro has now.”
But what impresses Ramsey the most is the infrastructure.
Owensboro, he says, is setting itself up to grow. “Owensboro’s always had the bones of a bigger town. It’s got the infrastructure with the highways and parkways. It’s set up like it was meant to be 60,000, so it looks bigger. And the downtown development fits it well,” Ramsey commented, drawing the natural comparison between Owensboro and Bowling Green because of similar populations. “If Owensboro wanted to grow another 20,000 it wouldn’t have any trouble, but if Bowling Green grew that much it would have some trouble in its corridors. I think Owensboro is perfectly set up for that next big industry to come in and well-positioned for another growth spurt to happen.”
In his travels from Paducah to Pikeville, Cory has noticed the winning combination for thriving communities seems to be a mix of sustaining local businesses as well as new companies and industries.
But despite the trials of triumphs of Kentucky towns, the tenacity of its people shines through. “There’s still a sense of pride. These places enjoy every little sign of progress. It doesn’t matter if it’s one little store that opens on a town square, people just flip over themselves thinking it’s the greatest thing ever. You’ve got towns that had an industry close and lost 5,000 jobs or 10,000 jobs and now they’re excited to have a new business that’s going to hire 30 or 50 people. I see that attitude everywhere.”
The story behind Map Dot, KY
Several years ago, Cory decided to fill his time during a two-month layoff (by trade, he is a welder in Bowling Green) to do some hiking. As he traveled to state parks across the Commonwealth, Ramsey began to notice all the small towns that were off the interstate. “I started focusing on the little towns I would pass through and posting pictures of the town squares, main streets, shops, and diners on Facebook.”
That’s how the idea of Map Dot, Kentucky came about. “I’d plop out a map, look at where I haven’t been, and figure out what map dot I could visit that day.”
For a while, Ramsey would travel to a new map dot five or six days a week, mostly sticking to towns within a two-hour radius of Bowling Green so he could make it back to work that evening, with longer trips on the weekends.
By 2012 he had visited all 120 counties in Kentucky. “Each visit, I pull in, walk around, get a feel for the place, and try to connect with fellow Kentuckians,” Ramsey said. “Then I started to notice that folks in the far west in towns like Fulton, Hickman, and Columbus are just like folks on the other end in Eastern Kentucky. The folks in Louisville, Lexington, Bowling Green, and Owensboro sometimes forget that 99% of the state are these little bitty places where people are living their lives that may not ever make it on the news. So Map Dot was to tie the bow and say that all these places are connected to each other.”
Then in 2013 he visited all of them again in one calendar year.
Ramsey says all of his travels have helped him discover the common threads across the Commonwealth. “Kentucky is not all horses. We’re not all bourbon. We’re not all stereotyped. And we’re not all backwards. We’re just regular folks – as real as we can be! Kentucky is rural America. We are Americana at it’s best.”
Read more about Cory’s travels on Facebook.