Updated 2 months ago
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - When Cory Ramsey took a voluntary layoff in 2009, he had to find something to do for two months.
"I started hiking," the Bowling Green man said. "My first hike was to Lost River Cave, then I went to Shanty Hollow and Mammoth Cave. I went on 20 hikes in those two months. I call them my layoff hikes."
The hikes developed into sort of an obsession for the 32-year-old Ramsey, who works seven days most weeks as a welder at Bowling Green Metalforming but spends the early morning hours traveling the state.
Ramsey has taken 225 hikes around the state since making those first layoff hikes. He is an Adventure Tourism ambassador for the state, writing blogs for them at getoutky.com. He also does guest spots on television and radio and this year made it onto the cover of Kentucky Living magazine.
His latest project is called Map Dot, Kentucky, which can be found at facebook.com/mapdotkentucky. The tagline for his page is: "No stoplights, just Kentucky. A celebration of the little towns that make up 99 percent of the Bluegrass."
Everyone wants to talk about what Lexington and Louisville offer, but Ramsey said there are discoveries to be made in every corner of the state.
"I'm 32 ... and there are still places I've not ever seen because I used to just travel the parkways and four-lane roads," he said. "But you get a mile or two off those roads ... and there are a lot of places to see. I want (Map Dot) to be representative of the tiny places that aren't talked about. Maybe I'll be a little bit like Duncan Hines."
Hines, who hailed from Bowling Green, was a sort of restaurant reviewer of his time, making comments on places he visited as a traveling salesman.
Ramsey focuses on the places where people don't pay an admission fee; there is no gift shop or a specific attraction. Instead, he visits the places that allow you to imagine the way things might have been or see the way they are now.
"We still have people who have no desire to visit Lexington or Louisville ... so I tell them about other places to go," he said. "You can learn things in a small town that you never learn in a big city."
Elaine Wilson, director of Adventure Tourism for the state, said Ramsey has added a lot of interesting blogs to the state's website at adventureblog.kentuckytourism.com.
"Our website is promoted nationally and internationally," Wilson said. "We get about 1,200 different readers on our (website) a month. Of course we would love to see it grow, but we are very happy on the amount of time (readers are) spending on it. We are planting seeds and giving people reasons to come to Kentucky. We can tell everybody to come to Cumberland Falls or Pine Mountain Trail all day long, but when they can read about somebody's experience, they get a different message.
"I think Cory's interest in the outdoors will always continue to grow and bloom," she said. "He likes engaging people, so I think the Map Dot idea is something that would come along naturally."
The name for his movement comes from a lyric in Tim McGraw's country song "Where the Green Grass Grows" - "... Well I'm from a map dot. A stop sign on a black top."
Ramsey plans to revisit all 120 counties in Kentucky this year. So far he has made it to 75 of them, and next year he will publish a book about his travels. Until then, he is posting photos each day on his website, writing his blog for the Kentucky Tourism Cabinet and continuing to take trips around the state.
"Some Sundays I may just get up and drive an eight-hour circle around the state," he said. "I've had to duct tape my map ... I spend hours just studying the dots," representing where he has been and where he still plans to go.
Among his favorite spots in the state are Cumberland Falls, which he said is as picture perfect as a movie set, and Daniel Boone National Forrest. Of the 150 towns he has visited, he says Maysville and Winchester are the prettiest.
"For small towns I like Glendale and Grand Rivers," he said. "I just went to (Grand Rivers) last week. I think I could spend the rest of my life there. It's so coastal looking."
One of the photos he posted from the community surrounded by Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake, however, was a picture of a flower pot full of bread and a side of strawberry butter at Patti's 1880's Settlement, a restaurant in Grand Rivers.
For the most part, Ramsey foots the bills for his adventures. The state does put him up in state park lodges when he is writing about them or places nearby. Ale 8 has provided him with drinks for the road, and Moon Pie has sent him snacks. Morris Jewelry gave him a watch so he could make it back to work on time.
Spending the money for gas is worth the fun he is having, Ramsey said.
So what is Ramsey's ultimate goal by completing these adventures?
He could see a future writing books in a cabin in the woods or perhaps having a more permanent television or radio presence.
"The goal has always been to let my personality out of the box ... and I want to help people enjoy Kentucky and life here."
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