Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Traffic Tribulations

I apologize in advance to all Tennesseans reading this blog. I do not mean to cast aspersions on the state, at least not now that football season is over. I lived in Alcoa and Maryville for a few years during my childhood, and they were pretty good years.

However: Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge is a growing fistula on the state's backside, spewing road rage and concrete droppings of tourist traps from Sevierville to Cherokee, North Carolina. If you live there, I feel sorry for you. You seem like nice people, but I think your blood pressure might drop if you relocated.

When I was a child, we visited Gatlinburg a few times. We parked, got out of the car, and walked around to look at the tourist attractions. Finding a parking place was the only problem. Things have changed a lot in the last -um- twenty-five years.

The layout of the area probably 'just happened that way', but could not have been better planned by an anger management counselor looking for customers: Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/Sevierville is one huge mall with four to six-lane service roads. There are precious few sidewalks, and nothing is close to anything else. Signs and lights are everywhere, telling you that you're simultaneously on a northbound and southbound road. That's not all: U.S. 441 splits at a right angle for north vs. south, too. Methinks someone didn't have a compass.

I drove through Denver during the Democratic National Convention. Every morning, I left from Aurora and entered its construction zones and rotating lane closures. They changed the lane closures every day for security reasons (malice, more likely). Denver earned its listing as a horrible town for traffic fair and square.

Surely I, a Denver Convention veteran, wouldn't get lost in Sevierville, a 'small town' in Tennessee..? Yes, I did, and lots of fun was had by all (NOT). It was even more 'fun' later, when we needed to take someone to the emergency department (I will not relate that story here because I've received death threats). Did GPS help on that trip? No, it didn't, not when they'd moved the hospital!

Oh, you're planning to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Drive into NC from I-40 and approach from Cherokee. Mapquest told me that a drive from one resort to another would take 10-11 minutes. It took 45 minutes to an hour each time we drove it. We tried driving through the park from the Tennessee side during warmer weather (FYI: Xmas is the busiest season), and it took three hours to get anywhere close to the park. Biggest use of the park's welcome center: to pee. Incidentally, we took the faster route. If you want to take a slower route, try the 'Gatlinburg Bypass'.

Don't try to do an entire drive-through of the Park via the other direction, either: the traffic backup to the Terrible Tennessee Trio begins while you're still inside the park in a section where you can't do turnarounds. Expect to creep for a couple of miles before you reach the park exit. Oh, and keep those windows rolled up. There are still bears in the Park, and they love potato chips.

I know, I know. All these complaints, and I've offered no solutions. I have one: create a public shuttle system that stops at the various resorts/hotels and malls/tourist attractions. Stick a giant Park n' Ride at the outskirts of Sevierville, too, so daytime visitors would have a legal place to leave their cars. Yes, this would require an enormous number of shuttles to cover the area effective. The system would be large enough, though, if everyone who wanted the shuttle to stop at their establishment had to pony up a few thousand dollars and pay an annual fee for maintenance. There are very few 'small' businesses in the area, and no one is selling anything on the cheap.

They'd all pay the fee to be included, to keep the customers coming in. It's not like you can just walk any more.



susie kline said...

OK, that traffic sounds like a nightmare! I think you've come up with a plausible solution though!

xo Susie

Marian Allen said...

I haven't been to Gatlinburg in many years. Sounds like I'm glad.

Marian Allen