LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — The main drag through the Paint Lick suburb of Lowell is called Old Railroad Grade because it occupies a portion of the real estate on which the tracks from Lancaster to Paint Lick to Richmond once sat. Of course, neither Lancaster nor Paint Lick have been within 12 miles of a railroad in nearly a century but that’s another story for another time.
So anyway, as you might imagine, our equivalent to a main street is nearly plumb flat and the curves are very gentle except for one little uphill-downhill stretch that bypasses the first tunnel. Charlie Brown Road was, I believe, originally a side track that runs parallel to The Grade for a quarter mile.
The second tunnel actually was in use up until the turn of the new century. Daughter Jennifer, Loretta and I drove through it twice a day on our way to and from school and work and all three of us, at one time or another, have had to engage in serious negotiations with drivers headed in the opposite direction as to who had to back up when you met, head-to-head, in the tunnel.
I’ve actually gotten into terrified little old ladies’ cars and backed them up 100 feet or so to one of the wide spots on each end of the tunnel so that I wouldn’t have to back my truck up 200 yards or more.
The tunnel was only just over a tenth of a mile in length but it curved in such a way that you couldn’t see daylight from one end to the other and it took a big imagination to determine its width to be even one lane. Passing another vehicle in the tunnel was out of the question. But it shaved two crooked miles off the drive to Lancaster on old Highway 52.