It’s a “bucket list” that can’t be topped: A father-son road trip that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
Two longtime friends — Brian Lufty, a father with a son and stepson; Neil Janna, a dad with two teenage boys — hopped into a van and hit the road to get a bite to eat.
But, there’s a catch.
The trip wasn’t your typical 10-minute fast food run. The 34-hour journey, which even includes commemorative T-shirts for the fathers and sons, started Thursday in Canada — Montreal, Quebec — to be exact.
From there, the six drove all the way to Corbin, Kentucky, had dinner at the Harland Sanders Cafe and Museum — where Kentucky Fried Chicken was born — stayed a couple of hours, and drove straight back to Montreal.
During the trek, they crossed two Canadian provinces — Quebec and Ontario, five American states — New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, drove approximately 3,364 kilometers (about 2,090 miles), and spent five days away from home.
For Lutfy, the trip was not only about having fun and bonding with their sons, but it would also close a chapter he opened some 30 years ago.
“Jason and I were having dinner one day, and I told him how I traveled to the original KFC in Corbin, Kentucky. A friend of mine was traveling in ‘the States’ in 1985, and we were in Kentucky and Corbin, so we came here. It was great,” Lufty recalled.
“There were pictures on the wall — the place wasn’t a museum yet, and I loved the food. There was a plaque in front of the restaurant that told the story of the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken. I read the plaque, took a picture of it with a Polaroid camera, and we left to go back north. On the way back, I looked at the picture, read it again and realized there was more information on the other side of the plaque,” he said.
Lutfy was able to make up for missing the rest of the plaque 10 years later in the mid-90s.
“That’s when I went on a trip to visit a friend in Nashville, Tennessee. After visiting there, I decided to make a side trip to Corbin and visit the KFC again. That time, I got to read the other side of the plaque,” he said.
Lutfy told those stories to his son, Jason, who was amazed.
“My son was enthralled by all this. He said to me, ‘Dad, Let’s do this. Let’s do a father-son trip. I told him, ‘Jason, you realize it’s about 34 hours round-trip?’” A couple of days later, I kept thinking, ‘I’m not 20 years old now, I’m 52…I called Neil, who’s 51, and told him my idea. Neil, my stepson Sebastien who is 23, and I could take turns driving. I told him we and the boys would never forget this road trip. They’ll forget they went to Niagara Falls, but they won’t forget this,” he recalled.
After hitting the road on Thursday, the “Montreal 6” spent the night in Erie, Penn., before traversing through Ohio and crossing the river into Kentucky Friday.
That night, they settled in at a motel in Scottsburg, Indiana, considering the Hoosier State’s location was central to them to visit other places associated with Col. Sanders.
Early Saturday morning, the group visited the Colonel’s birthplace in Henryville, Indiana, the Colonel’s burial place and to the world headquarters of KFC’s current owner, Yum! Brands both in Louisville, Kentucky, before heading to Corbin for the last leg of their pilgrimage.
With frantic but friendly waves, a combination of local diners plus hungry visitors from other states and at least one foreign country greeted them, as their blue van with a bucket of KFC stuck on the top pulled into the cafe’s parking lot.
They struck up a conversation with the cafe’s General Manager, Dennis Overbey, who has been at the helm at the Corbin, KFC for 40 years, with Lufty explaining that the group traveled more than 2,000 miles to dine in the historic café.
“I can’t recall anybody who’s driven that far,” Overbey said. “In 40 years, I’ve never seen anything like this!”
The Canadian crew gave him some gifts, including some Canadian maple syrup, local foods, a certificate, and several empty KFC buckets from Canada — printed in English and French, the country’s official languages.
Following the exchange, Lutfy, Janna and their sons ordered their meal and then went to the café’s dining room, bringing out their own plates, silverware, glasses, artificial flowers and candles, leaving the other diners in awe.
Soon after, the group dined for about 20 minutes on two large platters of KFC chicken — Original Recipe and Extra Crispy — along with several sides.
Considering three of the teenage boys — Lufty’s 13-year-old son Jason, and Janna’s two sons, Jesse and Josh — had never had a morsel of Kentucky Fried Chicken in their lives, Lufty knew that would make the trip even more special.
Even though they do have KFC restaurants in the Montreal metropolitan area known as PFK’s, or “Poulet Frit Kentucky”, the boys have never eaten at one of them, especially not the American café where it all began.
While the “Montreal 6” only intended to spend an hour for dinner, the meal stretched to over two hours, including a tour of the museum area including old signs, memorabilia, and the kitchen and bedroom that made up the cafe and the former motel.
Following an overnight stay in Akron, Ohio, the group made their way back to Montreal with plenty of memories to last a lifetime.
“It was a great trip. It was funny most of the time, and we anticipated coming here to eat. We stopped at several places, and people participated in our shenanigans, like small skits we did (on) our Facebook page for all our friends and family to see,” said Sebastien, Lufty’s stepson.
Already, the seeds of a sequel with a new generation began.
“I think it’s crazy to do this trip, going all the way down from Canada to Corbin. And what a trip it was. It’s my first time to have Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’d like to start this with my kids. It’s going to be a tradition,” Lufty’s son Jason said.
Lutfy accomplished his mission with the successful trip and he had fun doing it.
“Neil and I have been friends for 35 years, and doing ongoing, crazy things have been special for us. But to bring our sons here with us makes it even more fun,” Lufty said.
Corbin, Kentucky Times-Tribune contributed to this story.