Family vacation

Back before Interstate 40 followed the Pigeon River over the mountains, our annual or sometimes semi-annual trip to the beach started with a trip over a narrow, winding road over Viking Mountain in Greene County. Still known as the Asheville Highway, it is State Route 70 in Tennessee (not to be confused with US70, which crosses the mountains near the French Broad conjoined with US25E) and changes to State Route 208 in North Carolina. SR208 eventually bumps into US70/US25E for the remainder of the trip to Asheville.

There’s a big new section of highway now that bypasses the town of Marshall down on the French Broad, but US70’s Business Route does take that Main Street detour. After Asheville, there’s more fun roads that predate Interstate 26, which traverses some spectacular mountain scenery itself. But that’s another story. This one’s about TN70 and NC208.

Nolichucky Dam in the 1940s
Nolichucky Dam in the 1940s

The first thing I recall about TN 70 is Nolichucky Dam. Recent trips over the bridge in front of the dam have proven that it really is only 94 feet high, not the 2,452 feet I was sure it was. And I know there’s a new bridge over the river there, but I swear the old one was right up next to the scary 1913 dam, not a safe distance away as it is now. Or not. If it were where I remember it, that power plant building would not be there. I got to see the dam a couple times a year, both for vacation trips and the annual 4-H camp not far from there, and it invariably filled my heart with dread.

The second thing is that the road over the mountains is very curvy. Now, actually, I have been on more curvy roads than this one, but I still got a dose of dramamine before we left for this trip. Since then, I’ve had occasion to travel this road many times — a friend had a cabin on Viking Mountain for a time, and I spent some peaceful time there — and there’s been no sign of car sickness. It remains my favorite route between my childhood home and Asheville as it meanders alongside several streams on its way down toward Asheville.

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