Kentucky Proud: Alum takes road less traveled in promoting Commonwealth

Cory Ramsey looks at a map in Fountain Run, Ky. before heading to his next destination in Bugtussle, Ky. while working on his project Map Dot, Kentucky. Many of the towns he visits, including Bugtussle, can only be reached by back roads where he says his GPS unit gets confused. 

Anna Roederer

By night Cory Ramsey works as a welder, but by day he puts on his forest green fedora and is an explorer of Kentucky’s unknown places. Life has led Ramsey on a different path than the one he imagined for himself while in college.

“In college I didn’t travel at all,” he said. “I would not leave town. I used to think that Barren River was too far.”

What began as a hiking adventure due to a layoff in 2009 has now led Ramsey, a 2004 WKU graduate, on road trips to places in Kentucky such as Frosty Freeze, Do Stop, and Lickskillet.

“My goal is to drive every mile of road in Kentucky, Ramsey said. “It will take the rest of my life.”

His passion has turned into a second job as Ramsey writes for state tourism as well and appears monthly on Bowling Green’s WBKO television station. He is sponsored by businesses such as local Morris Jewelry.

Ramsey believes that Kentucky is much more than the tourism industry promoted cities of Louisville and Lexington, and he recently founded Map Dot, Kentucky, to highlight Kentucky’s towns off the beaten track. He wants to be a voice for the people who normally do not receive attention.

“I’m kind of like an ambassador, a champion of the cause for the folks,” he said.

Ramsey considers this cause relatable for many WKU students who are from all over the state.

“They have somebody in the sticks,” Ramsey said.

Sometimes Ramsey’s map dots might be a town with only a closed general store like Bugtussle, Kentucky, but it is the winding journey through one lane roads and the stops along the way that matter.

“If you only drive the highways and parkways, you miss Kentucky,” Ramsey said.

While off the highway, Ramsey got a taste of life from Barry and Becky Kaufmann, owners of Main Street Grocery and Hardware in Fountain Run, Kentucky.

Sitting in his Kentucky crafted rocker, Barry listened as Becky expressed her excitement for the new drink in town.

“We’re excited to have [Ale 8],” Becky said. “It’s something different.

The one room general store filled with shelves of food and walls covered in Bible verse signs is life for the Kaufmanns. Ramsey said he enjoys unearthing these small ma and pop style operations.

“People live in their own little worlds and this is theirs,” Ramsey said.

By meeting with residents like the Kaufmanns, Ramsey wants to connect with the people’s outlet and dispel small town stereotypes.

“They’re regular good people,” Ramsey said. “They get up, drink their coffee and don’t think anything of it.”

Ramsey also wants to dismiss the idea that life only happens in the big cities.

“Culture and reality are in small towns, not just on some show or reality TV,” he said.

For Kathy Ford working at Dovie’s in Tompkinsville, Kentucky, has been her reality for the past 13 years.

Ford makes time to chat with all of her customers before serving them one of Dovie’s deliciously famous greasy burgers. She proudly tells of her daughter’s success in Geometry class to a customer, while later she casually mentions that people from as far away as Germany and Poland have come to Dovie’s.

“One time we FedExed a burger to a lady who had cancer,” Ford said.

Ramsey received several “likes” within seconds of updating his website to highlight Dovie’s, illustrating people’s sense of pride in having their place recognized.

Ramsey has developed a sense of ownership of the state through his travels.

Eventually he would like Map Dot to stand by itself and be a full-fledged tourism operation.

“I feel like Kentucky is mine,” Ramsey said. “I feel like I’m out of place when I’m out of the Bluegrass.”