If you didn’t know it was there, what you were looking for at the bend of the road, you would drive right past it. Sure, it stands out with its yellow exterior and large green, hand-decorated sign, but it’s a fairly basic building. It’s not a big business, and there isn’t a paved parking lot. No signs announce its arrival.
If you didn’t know about Miguels Pizza, it would probably seem like just another pizza joint. After all, what’s so special about pizza?
But it’s not about the building or the hand-painted sign or even the pizza that make this place significant.
Open since 1984, Miguels Pizza is not only a place to order a pie but it is also a gear shop, campground and meeting ground for rock climbers from all over the world. Some of the best rock climbing in the United States can be found in the Red River Gorge in Kentucky, and each person that descends upon the area eventually stops here. This inconspicuous yellow building with its curious but simple signage is a safe haven and built-in community for those who spend their well-earned cash on helmets, rope and shoes. Why crash at a hotel when you can sleep in the open lot (for climbers only) for the summer for $3.00 a person a night? Why frequent the local bars when you can talk about the day’s best climbs and find climbing buddies for the next day over a pizza at a picnic table?
Miguels Pizza works on a simple trust- and respect-driven system that caters to a community that appreciates this mom-and-pop business tucked into the hills of east Kentucky. In climbing, you have to count on your partners to pull through. As such, the concept behind Miguels Pizza works because each person carries this climbing mindset to the campground, the gear shop, the community bathrooms.
Miguel and Susan know the climbers who wander in for the summer, scraping by on small side jobs to fund a few months of carefree fun. Some tents in the lot look like collapsible homes with fold-out chairs and shade structures around them. A few rooms in a makeshift hostel look comfortable and cozy but sit vacated. Best to save those dollars for a handmade, delicious pizza after a long day of scraped knuckles, tough routes and rope burns. A long but perfect day, indeed.
Miguels Pizza website | Thank you to Kentucky Adventure Tourism for introducing me to Miguels Pizza.