Trip S1, August 18, 2003
Bristol, VA, and Bristol, TN
While one can get from Chapel Hill, NC, where I live, to Nashville, TN, where my parents live, by simply taking I-40, I've done this enough times
so that it's boring, and so to spice things up I've started taking more circuitous routes. On this day, I crossed a state
border twelve times:
- North Carolina to Virginia: I took the Future I-74 Corridor to the outskits of Mt. Airy where I then switched to
the Present I-74 Corridor before merging onto I-77 and crossing the border into Virginia.
- Virginia to Tennessee: After going through the ten mile stretch where I-77 North and I-81 South coincide, I stayed
on I-81 and headed for Tennessee. However, I exited on I-381, which becomes Commonwealth Avenue in Bristol, Virginia, but soon I
arrived at State Street, which lies on the Tennessee-Virginia border in downtown Bristol. I turned right which meant I
remained in Virginia, but I quickly realized I made a mistake for the real downtown part is in the opposite direction. Thus,
I turned left into a grocery store parking lot to turn around and entered Tennessee.
- Tennessee to Virginia: I cruised eastward down the Tennessee side of State Street.
All the streets change names as they cross State Street. For example, Commonwealth Avenue when it goes into Tennessee
becomes Volunteer Parkway. I must say that I was disappointed in the Tennessee names. All the Virginia names have
something to with Virginia, but Tennessee just reverted to numbers--Piedmont changes to Seventh upon crossing into Tennessee.
In the grand scheme of this trip, I really needed to go west on State Street, and so I
turned right into a health club parking lot on the Tennessee side to contemplate my map and turn around and headed back
into Virginia and cruised back through downtown Bristol, Virginia.
- Virginia to Tennessee: Eventually State Street turns left into Tennessee and so I followed. I quickly got back
on I-81 South and went for a few miles before getting off at I-181 North and headed for Kingsport, Tennessee, the only
Tri-City that I had not yet been to.
- Tennessee to Virginia: From Kingsport, I went back into Virginia in order to take US-58 toward Cumberland Gap.
- Virginia to Tennessee: US-58 stays in Virginia running just south of the mountains that Cumbeland Gap is a gap
in, but eventually it dips south into Tennessee.
- Tennessee to Kentucky: The new tunnel on US-25E goes under the actual Cumberland Gap so that the real Gap can
return closer to historical state. The Kentucky-Tennessee border is in the tunnel. The
Visitors Center told me about why
the Gap was important, providing a way for settlers to venture into Kentucky, much like I had just done.
- Kentucky to Virginia: Then I drove up the switchback-filled Pinnacle Road to Pinacle Overlook to overlook the Gap.
On the way, I passed some earthworks left over from the Civil War. Called "the American Gibraltar" by a Union general,
Cumberland Gap seemed to be a wonderful defensive position on the only way for the Union to capture the strategic railroad
of northeastern Tennessee. However, the American Gibraltar actually changed hands three times during the Civil War with a
shot being fired! The parking lot for the overlook is in Kentucky but the overlook is actually in Virginia, and so I
crossed to the border on foot.
- Virginia to Kentucky: After looking over, I followed the trail to where both sides in the Civil War put their
cannons. I took a different route back and ended up in the parking lot uncertain of exactly where I had returned to Kentucky.
- Kentucky to Virginia: I then repeated the crossing from number 8 to go back to the lookout. At the lookout I
there was a grad student from the University of Kentucky with a radio receiver trying to track bears.
- Virginia to Kentucky: When I went back to the parking lot, I met the guy listening for bears again, and we talked
for about 15 minutes. I insisted that his graduate research was much more exciting than mine, which consists mainly of sitting
at my desk using my pencil, paper, and computer.
- Kentucky to Tennessee: Then I headed back through the tunnel and went over to I-75 to get to Knoxville, and then to
Nashville. Unfortunately, it did not occur to me to seek out the Kentucky-Virginia-Tennessee tri-state point, and so I guess
I'll return to Cumberland Gap at some point in the not too distant future.
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