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Western North Carolina The Mountain Region including Asheville
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Old 05-08-2009, 01:32 PM
 
27 posts, read 44,392 times
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Default Need advice on driving from west to NC

I'm moving with a small moving van (recommendations welcome on whether to rent a U-Haul or Budget, or other) in July. My two options are to cross via I-40 through Asheville, or to detour down south from Tennessee towards Atlanta and take I-85 back up into the Raleigh area.

I've called the NC Tourism Dept, AAA and chambers of commerce to get a feel for the roads. This has helped somewhat but am still not sure which route to take. Is I-40 full of steep curves? Does it wind and wind around for more than 20 miles and how scary is it in a moving truck, albeit a small one. It sounds that the I-85 detour will bypass mountains completely. Just checking and please post any and all comments.

Thanks.
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Old 05-08-2009, 02:37 PM
 
Location: Up above the world so high!
43,167 posts, read 51,397,110 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mthelen View Post
I'm moving with a small moving van (recommendations welcome on whether to rent a U-Haul or Budget, or other) in July. My two options are to cross via I-40 through Asheville, or to detour down south from Tennessee towards Atlanta and take I-85 back up into the Raleigh area.

I've called the NC Tourism Dept, AAA and chambers of commerce to get a feel for the roads. This has helped somewhat but am still not sure which route to take. Is I-40 full of steep curves? Does it wind and wind around for more than 20 miles and how scary is it in a moving truck, albeit a small one. It sounds that the I-85 detour will bypass mountains completely. Just checking and please post any and all comments.

Thanks.

Well, as stated earlier in another thread, The area from the TN line to Asheville can be pretty hairy. I wouldn't let it stop me is a small moving van, especially if you could do it in the daytime (it's much harder in the dark) though. The reason it's so scary is because you are going interstate speeds while going up and down in are area with no shoulders, only concrete walls which feel thisclose to your car. However, plan to do as the big trucks do and keep to the right lane - it only lasts about an hour or so, then you're home free

See this other thread for more info:

Best scenic drive: Durham, NC to Nashville, TN
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:24 PM
 
Location: From WNC, now in Raleigh
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I think I'd prefer I-40 through Pigeon River gorge than traffic in Atlanta.

Another possible alternative would be I-81 N from Knoxville to I-26 E to Asheville and back on I-40. This would be much shorter than going to Atlanta while staying on interstate highways and avoiding the gorge on I-40.

I-26 north of Asheville has a much steeper grade than I-40 through the Pigeon River gorge, but has less hairpin curves. East of Asheville at Ridgecrest, I-40 descends the Blue Ridge at a 6% grade for six miles with a few sharp curves, so don't let that take you by surprise either.

So, unless you just completely avoid the mountains by going to Atlanta, you will have to drive on some relatively steep grades and sharp curves. Just drive at a safe speed and you'll be fine.
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Old 05-08-2009, 03:27 PM
 
Location: Up above the world so high!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cowboy_wilhelm View Post
I think I'd prefer I-40 through Pigeon River gorge than traffic in Atlanta.

Another possible alternative would be I-81 N from Knoxville to I-26 E to Asheville and back on I-40. This would be much shorter than going to Atlanta while staying on interstate highways and avoiding the gorge on I-40.

I-26 north of Asheville has a much steeper grade than I-40 through the Pigeon River gorge, but has less hairpin curves. East of Asheville at Ridgecrest, I-40 descends the Blue Ridge at a 6% grade for six miles with a few sharp curves, so don't let that take you by surprise either.

So, unless you just completely avoid the mountains by going to Atlanta, you will have to drive on some relatively steep grades and sharp curves. Just drive at a safe speed and you'll be fine.
I like your suggestion of I81 at Knoxville to I26 down to Asheville - this is an excellent route and much better than I85
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Old 05-08-2009, 06:17 PM
 
Location: Back Home in the High Country
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Originally Posted by lovesMountains View Post
I like your suggestion of I81 at Knoxville to I26 down to Asheville - this is an excellent route and much better than I85
I agree. I would NEVER go through Atlanta just to avoid a relatively short stretch of I-40 west of Asheville. Personally, I don't think I-40 is all that bad. Just don't be in a hurry. However, I've been driving in the mountains ever since I got my license at age 16... 40 years ago.
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Old 05-08-2009, 07:49 PM
 
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I prefer Atlanta over the gorge... just because most of the people driving in ATL drive it on the regular and it's straight... the gorge is tight, curvy, and lots of tourists travel that road during just about every season (I'm from the exit off 40 right before the gorge)... but, I'd go with whichever suits you better. Either way is honestly risky for accidents, traffic jams, and anxiety. Both will require your complete attention and my advisement to anyone unfamiliar is to pull over and rest in darkness, bad weather, or anything else that might take your attention.

As for rentals... I've gone with Uhaul in the past a few times but this year, I used Budget I think... maybe Penske... I'll find out and get back to you. I think it was Penske... and they were GREAT... and way cheaper than Uhaul for a one way.

If you can get away with something as small as a cargo van, Enterprise rents those very cheaply. Maybe you could even do a van pulling a trailer and it would work out cheaper? I haven't crunched those numbers.

Good luck.
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Old 05-08-2009, 08:52 PM
 
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I wouldn't go out of my way to drop down to SC to pick up I85, and if you drop down into GA to get on I85, you won't come within 60 miles of Asheville.
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Old 05-08-2009, 09:20 PM
 
Location: Sullivan County, Tennessee
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I live in Tennessee near the junction of I-26 and I-81. Just about everyone I have known that goes to Charlotte or Raleigh area take the Interstate route up I-81 through Virginia to I-77 and then south on I-77. When going to Raleigh by this route you can follow I-77 to I-40 and then follow I-40 all the way to Raleigh . You can shorten this route considerably (48 miles) by leaving I-77 (just inside NC) for a short distance via I-74 to US 52 (expressway) which will intersect with I-40 in Winston-Salem (no escaping Winston-Salem).

Routing east through Asheville may have recently become more popular now that I-26 has been completed (except in Asheville). You may have more to fear from Asheville than the road over the mountain. It can be a troublesome place to navigate for new comers. I would prefer crossing the mountains on 26 vs 40 (far fewer trucks, too) but getting from I-26 to I-40 requires close attention to the road signs (and sometimes quick reflexes) when you get into Asheville. I don't think the mountain crossing on I-77 is nearly as exciting with more gradual elevation change.
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Old 05-08-2009, 10:52 PM
 
27 posts, read 44,392 times
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It sounds like the option of taking I-81 over to I-77 might work. Does this route bypass the mountains altogether? I live in Colorado but after my last fiasco am trying to make this move stress-free. I'm a good driver and will have a friend with me, it's really just moving with a van or truck that makes putting on the brakes quickly more of a challenge.

As long as the roads are wide, and the grade isn't too steep, I probably won't be too worried.

Keep posting as it's very helpful just to get the right information. All the posts have been much appreciated, and I've gotten more from you than from my phone calls to tourism, AAA and the like.

Thank you so much.
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Old 05-09-2009, 12:08 PM
 
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One issue.. if you take 26 down to I-40 you will have to deal with ther traffic nightmare that is the bridges etc.. in Asheville.

I-40 straight through doesn't take you in to downtown and is quite a nice drive.

Or you could take 40 to 26 south of Asheville and down the mountain that way. You DO NOT have to go into SC to catch 85.. when you get down the mountain on 26 take the very first exit.. that is 74 east. It is a bypass road that runs to 85 outside of Charlotte. It is a nice wide open road and cuts hours off of catching 85 off of 26.
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