Chattanooga Traffic Craziness

Today we journeyed from London, Kentucky, to Fort Payne, Alabama. We were in four different states, and traveled our longest day yet of this particular route: six hours and 254 miles. It was not exactly a fun travel day, with happy sing-a-longs and road trip games (not that even our fun days produce such cringe worthy activities, but I think you get my drift, wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

Out the windshield view of Smoky Mountains
The view of the beginning of the Smoky Mountains in Kentucky on I-75 from my seat.
The views from my seat were very pretty, I must admit, and I think they would have been even more beautiful a week or so ago when the colors would have been at their peak. There weren’t too many serious grades: one downhill at 4% was as high as it went. I-75 skirts the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF) (FYI, Levi Jackson State Park is also in the DBNF) all the way down to the Tennessee border, and there were many attractions that caught my eye and have since been placed on the “places I’d like to see” list, hiking the Sheltowee Trace heading the list.

We went round the western side of Knoxville with a little more extra traffic than we experienced coming down I-75, but it was the kind of traffic we would expect in a metro area. There is a left hand exit from I-640 (Knoxville by-pass) to I-40/I-65, though. Things continued along, with the hills and grades gradually decreasing as we headed on to Chattanooga.

We hit the outskirts of Chattanooga about 2:00 pm, eastern. Traffic started to get very heavy around Cleveland, KY, with increasing amounts of semis and the dangerous behavior cars that are accustomed to a specific route exhibit when around them. The end of the route around Chattanooga on the south-east side terminates with a left hand exit, not a lot of fun in light traffic, but particularly difficult in heavy, semi-laden traffic.

View through windshield of Tennessee River just outside of Chattanooga
Don’t judge the traffic by this shot, Richard likes to give a lot of space in front of him. The Tennessee river is on the right hand side.
Then came the really fun part. In order to get to I-59 on the western side of Chattanooga, one must take I-24 for approximately 17 miles. There is a moment in this stretch where you break out ugliness and overlook the city nestled in it’s valley, followed by a beautiful curve bounded on one side by cut cliffs, and on the other by the Tennessee River. It is absolutely gorgeous. And absolutely not fun for the driver.

Traffic is still very heavy, the lanes are narrow, and the curve around the bend in the river is accompanied by a more steep slope than one would expect from an interstate in an urban area. Follow that up with the fact that to get onto I-59 you need to get into the far left lane, and you have a recipe for some real Chattanooga Craziness.

Craziness aside, Richard got us safely to our destination in Fort Payne, Alabama, at the Wills Creek R.V. Park. This park is great for an overnight stop, with tons of pull-throughs. Bonus, it’s not at all far from I-59. But there are little trees on either side of each site, many with low hanging branches, as well as narrow, dirt roads and tight corners. All in all, Richard and I are glad to be relaxing here and no longer in the congestion and headache of Chattanooga (even if we don’t have TV because we we’re too tired to set up the dish for one night and there’s no antenna reception here).

Road Data for November 13th

  • Traveled 254 miles in 6.1 hours from London, KY to Fort Payne, AL
  • Used 31.3 gallons of diesel and average 8 mpg
  • Cost of one night at Wills Creek R.V. Park $28.82 (with tax)

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