By Ülvi Gitaliyev
While most Berea students were enjoying time with their friends and family back home, some of us had to stay here over the winter. Winter breaks in Berea can get very boring, very soon. I dabbled in poker, puzzles, Dead by Daylight and a whole host of other distractions, but it just wasn’t enough.
On the morning of December 23rd, 2021, I began my walk from Berea College to the centre of Richmond and back; it was about 45.9km (28.5 miles). I decided to use Route 25 due to its lower car use and more pedestrian-friendly nature. I packed my bag full of snacks, sweets and two meals. Now, I know that to many of you, such an adventure is tantamount to madness, but hear me out. As an international student, I want to explore as much of America, both the beautiful and the less pristine, before I graduate. This trip was also extremely cost-effective, totaling about 25$ in provisions.
At eight a.m., I set out from Anna Smith towards Madison Southern High School from where I would leave Berea and walk straight to Richmond. As I said goodbye to the long line of fast food chains and stores, the protection of civilization left. I saw dead pigeons, raccoons, squirrels, cats and other animals along the road. Some died recently, but in others, you could begin to see their bones. It really gave the whole trip a solemn vibe.
After about three hours of walking, I reached the first destination – the Battle of Richmond Visitor Center. It was, naturally, closed due to Christmas, but I did take my lunch break of chicken soup near the entrance. I had never heard about this battle in Berea, but along the road to and from Richmond, there were many plaques, memorials and informational panels about it. After some reading, I learned that in 1862, Union and Confederate forces fought on these roads for control over Kentucky. It is considered one of the most complete Confederate victories during the Civil War. Considering the fact that many of these memorials were built in the 1950s, it should tell what their purpose was. Spoiler: it rhymes with knight chemistry.
Richmond itself was rather empty when I arrived; though, I did spot a shy skunk walking on the edge of the road. There was an adorable antique store called the Apparitions Vintage Village. As a reward, I bought myself five local Kentucky postcards and a vinyl called Best of the Loving Spoonful. Helpful tip: if you tell the store owner that you just walked from the College, then they will give a 50% discount on all purchases. I found a bench and table near the clerk’s office and enjoyed some fish and biscuits. I spent a total of three hours walking in Richmond, and while it is better than Berea when it comes to having things to do, there is not much improvement. As the sun began to fall, I walked back to Route 25.
Due to the darkness, I tried to stay from the road just in case some driver wanted to go off-road for fun. If the road looked creepy in the morning with all the dead animals, you can only imagine what it was like now. To keep me distracted, I was singing a Rolling Stones song at the top of my lungs without a care in the world. This should have been the slow and quiet end of my adventures, but instead, the climax was just about to come.
When I was about six miles from Berea, a black car stopped right in front of me and an old white man asked me, “what is a pretty boy like you doing out here at such a late time?” Now, I know what you are thinking. This dude is the cliché bad guy in a horror movie who is about to kidnap the protagonist, but please keep in mind that I was exhausted by this point and the thought of getting to bed early was tempting. So, I give him my thanks and get in. At first, he asks some basic questions like “Where are you from?” and “Why are you in Berea?” Very harmful, at first. Then he begins to ponder about my sexuality. When I tell him it is my private business, he asks about the size of my genitals and touches my leg. At this point, my survival instincts kick in and I ask to get out of the car (we were near White House Clinic at this point). Luckily for all parties involved, he stops the car and lets me out without a struggle. When I got out of that car, I was a different man.