In a big way, you can drive all over the country on the Interstates and never really get to know America. They are good for covering a lot of ground in a hurry, but they tell so little about the land and the people who live on it. I drive the two-lane highways because they give me fuller experiences of the places I visit.
I admit to spending some time on I-65 and I-40 on our recent spring break trip to Tennessee, but we spent much more time off them. I loved driving through rural Kentucky and Tennessee on state and US highways as they wound through every small town. I love to follow the old alignments – paths roads used to follow before they were improved. I saw many as we drove and wanted to explore them all, but I resisted as I wanted to arrive at our destination before dinner.
One sunny afternoon we hiked ten miles through Cumberland Mountain State Park. My abandoned-alignment thirst was serendipitously slaked when the trail suddenly exited the woods and met asphalt.
This used to be US 127. It once meandered a bit through this part of Tennessee, but has since been leveled and straightened considerably.
Here’s the scene from the air, thanks to Google Maps. US 127 used to follow what is now “Old Hwy Cir” and curved into Byrds Creek Lane. Two segments of the road are not marked on the map – one past the south end of Old Hwy Cir and one past the south end of Byrds Creek Lane.
Both abandoned section involve creeks and, I’m sure, a local government that didn’t want to pay to maintain the bridges that spanned them. I’m pretty sure we were on the more southerly of the two abandoned segments. The bridge over Byrd Creek there is in dreadful shape, as this photo shows.
From the old bridge, here’s a view of the current US 127 bridge.
This abandoned road doesn’t last for long before it fades off into the woods. The hiking trail stays on it only long enough to use the derelict bridge.