I wrote this immediately after leaving Sizerock in the car on Saturday July 30. I knew I couldn’t post it until after the hunt but I wanted to capture my immediate response and experiences about our side trip:
Item #121 of GISHWHES brought us to ‘Hell for Certain’. The Item had a list of places as posted by Instagram user ‘sadtopographies‘, hunters were to find one of them and ask a local about how the place got its name. All of their posts are maps of places with amusingly sad names. The closest Michigan one was Poverty Island. Although part of the Mackinac Islands, Poverty Island is much closer to the northern part of Wisconsin and would be a larger excursion later this week. As we were travelling up from Chattanooga on Saturday I looked for anything along the way and saw that “Hell For Certain Road” in eastern Kentucky was a feasible option.
Getting off I-75 to find the road we crossed through Daniel Boone National Park, which was gorgeous. it took about 45 minutes or so to fins what we thought might be our destination. Entering from the west, we drove the winding and sometimes dirt road it’s length from there, no luck, no signs, no people; although we did see small houses and trailers. The road is cut through the side of the mountain with deep cliffs and forest. A creek/small river runs along side as Hell for Certain winds its way through Hyden county.
We arrived at the end where the road met Mosley Bend road at the river and still no signs, on the way back, past where we started and on to the other end which stops in the town of Sizerock, KY. Only one sign that we were on the right path, a mailbox marked with a family name and address:
In Sizerock, our Holy Grail; we found the actual street sign. Now to find a local who could tell us about the road. We stopped into the only store there, a small two-pump gas and snack store.
Inside were two young ladies at the counter chatting and smoking cigarettes and an older gentleman playing a keno machine along the side of the room. With a few grocery items items on the shelves and coolers partially stocked with cold cans of coke and Gatorade, the space was much larger than needed for the items offered. The ladies (Bethany and Brittany) and man (Old Neil) as it turns out, did not know why the road was so named, but thanks to the internet,we did. So we told them and with a little conversation and explanation of why we were there and what we were doing they agreed to help. They were very impressed that we were from Detroit and were all the way down in Kentucky, which was strange to us, It’s only about 7 hours in a car from my home to theirs, not very far at all. They asked what we thought of the road and drive and were amused by our excitement. We chatted about the town and how beautiful Kentucky is.
Bethany would appear (enthusiastically nominated by Brittany) on camera explaining why the road was named ‘Hell for Certain’. As she was practicing for her ‘tv debut’, Brittany said something extremely interesting. She asked Bethany to “talk more country” and changed her own voice to be even more accented than it was naturally. She said that we would want to show people how country it was where we had visited and although we all had a laugh I found it fascinating that she thought we’d want to or care to accentuate the differences in our speech, that she thought our speech wasn’t as different as it already was, and that there was, to her ears (and as it turned out when I heard it, my ears too) a ‘more hick’ version of speech that they both knew and recognized as being more rural and perhaps lower class. The speech was more rapid and chewy, with words running together, as well as adding lexical items and phrases like ‘reckon’ and ‘tell y’all how it came’n’.
We talked to Old Neil (that’s how he introduced himself to us) for a while. He had traveled to the upper Peninsula of Michigan before to visit friends and was asking a lot of questions about the Flint water situation. Michigan readers, know we have concerned friends thinking of us in Kentucky.
On the way out, two younger men came in to the store. Josh (Jawsh) and Ben (Be-in). The ladies told them where I was from and they had a million questions too about what brought us to Sizerock. After explaining the scavenger hunt and all the kinds of tasks and items, Josh asked us what way we drove in and told me a bit about the roads and how they connect by the river. Ben left me with this “You sure are on a scavenger hunt, ain’t ya?”
Yes, I am. And it’s only day one.