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Southern Spaces
A journal about real and imagined spaces and places of the US South and their global connections

On the highway and Sams Gap:

Slide 2, Tennessee Governor, Ned McWhirter, at the dedication of the Tennessee portion of I-26, July 1995, just west of Sams Gap:
In July 1995, Gov. Ned McWhirter cut the ribbon at the TN-NC line, opening the new four-lane version of US 23 North to Bristol, TN. This left a 10 mile section of steep, curving, unimproved two-lane mountain road in northern Madison County, NC, sitting in the middle of what would eventually be an interstate linkage. The need for something to be done to North Carolina's side of US 23 was dictated by Tennessee building their portion of the route. Once actual construction began, NCDOT realized that their side had to be constructed or they ran the risk of creating a terrible deathtrap.

Slide 6, Howard and Yvonda Jenkin's nursery at Sams Gap that had to be moved to the Bear Branch exit because of run-off from I-26, 1995:
Howard Jenkins:  "The new road, in our opinion, it's going to take traffic away from us even down there at the nearest place to an intersection in this area because the new road is one way of getting from Johnson City to Asheville as fast as you can.  The people that are passing this road (Highway 23) right now are going the same way.  But once they get on the new road and can go from Asheville to Johnson City, unless they need to get off for gas or food, I have an idea they're going to stay right on that road."

Slide 17, Contractor spreading mulch at the new Visitor Center on I-26 East, looking at Dale and Lurethra Fluty’s farm, just below Buckner Gap, in the background:
Lurethra Fluty:  "I don't like to sound like I'm whining or complaining or whatever, and I know when people look at what we have, most of them would not understand why we would even have a frustration.  But it's just knowing what you had and what you were used to, and why you came here to start with, and to have those things taken away.  For years we'd go to sheep shows in Louisville, KY, and we would drive through Lexington and Louisville and that is a beautiful place, huge horse farms on either side of that I-75 and it's just beautiful.  But now when I drive through there I have a different perspective because I know that those people lost a lot when that road went through there.  Those people that owned that property lost a lot and had to deal with a lot.  It gives you new understanding into those kind of things."

Published: 5 June 2007
© 2007 Rob Amberg and Southern Spaces