Welcome to Bubbleland: Life on a Strange Little Chunk of Kentucky

iStock/ilbusca
iStock/ilbusca

For most of its journey from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River takes a pretty direct path. Sure, it zigs east here and zags west there, but nothing too crazy. Around Kentucky, though, the river’s course gets a little convoluted. It turns north before heading south again in several places. These detours are what geologists call meanders and one notable example is the Kentucky Bend, also known as the New Madrid Bend, Madrid Bend, Bessie Bend and Bubbleland.

The meander - caused by a series of earthquakes - is in the southwest corner of Kentucky, where the commonwealth stabs its pointy end between Missouri and Tennessee. It threw a monkey wrench in the work of surveyors plotting the line that would mark the border between Kentucky and Tennessee.

At the time the quakes occurred, the team hadn't yet pushed that far west and had only estimated where their line would meet the Mississippi. They soon found that the parallel they had chosen cut right through the meander’s loop, crossing the river twice and creating a small Kentuckian peninsula bound by their border on one side and the river, Kentucky’s western border, on the other three. All around the peninsula, the land on the other side of the river belonged to Missouri. The surveyors weren’t about to change their line, and the they certainly couldn’t move the river, so the 17.5 square mile, teardrop-shaped hunk of Kentucky wound up cut off from the rest of the state.

For a while, Kentucky and Tennessee fought over the Bend. Despite the clarity of the borderlines, Tennessee felt it had rights to the land and administered it as part of its Obion County until the mid-1800s, but eventually dropped its claim.

Tennessee no doubt regretted giving up on the Bend, since it turned out to be extremely fertile cotton-growing land. The 1870 Census counted more than 300 residents on the Bend, mostly cotton farmers. The small population even had their own cotton gin and a couple of sawmills.

Bubbleland Today

Today, the Bend’s population is much smaller and the cotton business is bust. All that’s left is a handful of houses, a graveyard, a few fields of corn and wheat, and some small fishing lakes. Kids living on the Bend take a bus to Tiptonville, Tennessee, site of the nearest school (and boyhood home of rockabilly legend Carl Perkins). Tiptonville also provides the Bend’s residents with their closest medical care, grocery, and even mailing addresses. Elections require Benders to travel to the nearest voting machines in Hickman, Kentucky, which means a 40-mile trip and drive into Tennessee and then back into Kentucky. The closest library is 55 miles away in Fulton, but the few Benders with library cards are spared the trip by the librarian, who brings her bookmobile out to the Bend once a month.

Life on the Bend wasn’t always so dull. For sixty years, a violent feud – sparked by an argument over a horse, or maybe a cow – raged between the Darnell and Watson families. Mark Twain wrote about the feud in Life on the Mississippi, saying “in no part of the South has the vendetta flourished more briskly, or held out longer between warring families, than in this particular region…Every year or so, somebody was shot, on one side or the other, and as fast as one generation was laid out, their sons took up the feud and kept it a-going.”

The feud ended in the late 1800s when the last of the Darnells, an elderly father and his two sons, decided to flee the Bend by steamboat. The Watsons were told of the escape plans (word travels fast when there’s only 300 people) and showed up just as the Darnells were about to leave. They opened fire from the riverbank, killing the younger Darnells and snuffing out the family line.

The World’s 50 Most Beautiful Cities

A peek at Bruges, Belgium.
A peek at Bruges, Belgium.
Yasonya/iStock via Getty Images

The multitude of blogs, websites, and social media accounts dedicated expressly to travel means that we now have a seemingly infinite number of resources to help us decide where to book our next vacation. Having the world at our fingertips is undoubtedly a great thing, but it can also make the final choice seem pretty far out of reach.

To help you decide what’s worth using that precious PTO for, Canada-based travel agency FlightNetwork asked more than 1000 travel experts—professional writers, recreational bloggers, travel agencies, and more—to share their insights on which cities around the globe are quite simply the best.

Though the resulting list is called the world's 50 "most beautiful" cities, it’s “beauty” in a much broader sense than just visual appeal. If you delve into some of the individual entries in FlightNetwork’s guide, you’ll come to find that history, culture, food, entertainment, and other elements have significantly factored into the experts’ assessments of each city.

And, according to these experts (and probably everyone else in the world), Paris really does have it all, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, and wine so fine it might ruin you for all other beverages.

New York was the runner-up, because apparently not even the grimy subway rats can dull the sparkle of the City That Never Sleeps. While it might not boast the same snow-capped mountain peaks of Vancouver or the radiant beaches of Barcelona, the sheer quantity and variety of activities The Big Apple has to offer make it a must-visit—maybe more than once.

“You could visit hundreds of times and still discover new things on every trip. It has it all,” David Jagger, reporter for Bradford, England's Telegraph & Argus, told FlightNetwork.

The rest of the top 10 was mostly filled up by other cities that you probably expected to see on this list, like London, Venice, and Rome. Having said that, if you’re a “road less traveled” type of person, there are plenty of offbeat options for you, too. Colombia’s Cartagena, number 44, is a beachgoer’s paradise—complete with a breathtaking cathedral and castle—and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming waterfront town than Bruges, Belgium, number 26 on the list.

Scroll on to see the full top 50, and read more about each city in FlightNetwork’s guide here.

      1. Paris, France
      2. New York, New York
      3. London, England
      4. Venice, Italy
      5. Vancouver, Canada
      6. Barcelona, Spain
      7. Cape Town, South Africa
      8. San Francisco, California
      9. Sydney, Australia
      10. Rome, Italy
      11. Singapore, Singapore
      12. Lisbon, Portugal
      13. Amsterdam, Netherlands
      14. Prague, Czech Republic
      15. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
      16. Budapest, Hungary
      17. Istanbul, Turkey
      18. Tokyo, Japan
      19. Vienna, Austria
      20. Buenos Aires, Argentina
      21. Toronto, Canada
      22. San Diego, California
      23. Quebec City, Canada
      24. Hong Kong, Hong Kong
      25. Chicago, Illinois
      26. Bruges, Belgium
      27. Madrid, Spain
      28. Havana, Cuba
      29. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
      30. Jerusalem, Israel
      31. Edinburgh, Scotland
      32. Quito, Ecuador
      33. Zurich, Switzerland
      34. Cusco, Peru
      35. St. Petersburg, Russia
      36. Berlin, Germany
      37. Hanoi, Vietnam
      38. Queenstown, New Zealand
      39. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
      40. Seoul, South Korea
      41. Dubrovnik, Croatia
      42. San Sebastian, Spain
      43. Bangkok, Thailand
      44. Cartagena, Colombia
      45. Dublin, Ireland
      46. Marrakesh, Morocco
      47. Bergen, Norway
      48. Jaipur, India
      49. Beijing, China
      50. Athens, Greece

There Are 13 Winter Road Hazards in This Image—Can You Spot Them All?

trendobjects/iStock via Getty Images
trendobjects/iStock via Getty Images

If you've already found the hidden stocking and the sheep among the Santas in these brainteasers, see if you can solve another seasonal puzzle that's both fun and educational. The hidden image challenge below, which is a collaboration between Specialised Covers and IAM RoadSmart, is filled with winter road hazards experienced drivers will recognize.

This puzzle fits 13 hazards into a scene of cars driving down a snowy road. According to the makers of the image, it takes the average person 32 seconds to find them all. See if you can beat that time, and then check out the picture below for the answers.

Puzzle of winter road hazards.
Specialised Covers

Winter weather like snow and freezing rain make for dangerous conditions when traveling by car. Some driving risks—like large snow drifts—are obvious, while others are harder to spot.

Factors like freezing temperatures, darker days, and nasty weather make winter a treacherous time to hit the road in many parts of the country. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, an average of 800 fatalities a year occurred as a result of weather-related accidents between 2011 and 2015. Here are some tips for staying safe while driving this winter.

Solutions to winter road hazards puzzle.
Specialised Covers

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