Tunnel Anticipation

Sunday, May 17, 2009
Flat Rock, NC

You've probably heard of tunnel vision, but what the heck is tunnel anticipation?

Well, tomorrow we're pulling up the jacks, hooking up the toad, and heading for the closest access point to get on the famous Blue Ridge Parkway.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile long park that's managed by the National Park Service. Back in the Fall of 2007, we drove about half the Natchez Trace Parkway which is a similar kind of road. The Blue Ridge Parkway starts near Charlottesville, VA and runs Southwestward along the eastern flanks of the Appalachian Mountains. It's really a long, skinny park. Commercial traffic is not allowed and the speed limit is 45 mph.

We're getting on the Parkway at milepost 393.6 and will drive to the end at milepost 469.1 near Cherokee, NC. and the entrance to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Our drive tomorrow will be only about 75 miles on the Parkway -- we're leaving the rest for another time.

"OK, that's all fine and good. But what's this tunnel anticipation thing?"

There are 26 tunnels over the entire 469 mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and 17 of them are on the 75 miles we're covering tomorrow.

"OK, that's good information too. But I think there's more, isn't there?"

Oh yeah! There's more. These tunnels were built during the 1930's and 40's, some of them by the CCC during and after the depression. They're all arch shaped tunnels exactly two lanes wide and most are several hundred feet long -- the longest is almost 1500 feet long. The arch shape makes them taller in the middle and lower near the shoulder of the road.


Well there are three tunnels toward the end of our route tomorrow that have 18 feet of clearance in the middle... but only 10-1/2 or 11 feet at the shoulder.

"So what's the problem?"

The bus-house is over 12 feet high. Do the math.

"Oh. And why are you doing this??"

The Blue Ridge Parkway is an amazing thing to experience, especially in the Spring. It's one of those things that simply must be explored. We're not going to let some tunnels get in the way of those explorations.

Besides, the official Blue Ridge Parkway Directory and Planner says that tour busses and large RV's can travel the road and can negotiate the tunnels without problems... as long as you "favor the centerline" when going through those three tunnels in question.


And, in the event we "chicken out", there is an alternate route around the tunnels and the last few miles of the parkway. The other 14 tunnels give me enough anxiety and anticipation by themselves.

"Well, good luck, and stay close to the centerline!"

As an aside, I've observed that the tallest thing on the bus-house... the thing that makes it as tall as it is... is the satellite TV dome. Considering my experience with DirecTV up to this point, having the dome forcibly removed by a tunnel might be doing me a big favor.



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