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Old 02-17-2013, 06:54 AM
 
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Help. I am looking at buying a place in east TN just across the state line from NC (near Butler, TN). Would be working in Boone. I am interested in the following: What is the drive like along 321 from TN line to Boone? What would the drive be like in the winter? I've done the mapquest, and it says its about 20 miles/40 minutes. But, what about weather? In winter, I am concerned with ice and snow making it impossible to drive. Is that highway clear?
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Old 02-17-2013, 08:36 AM
 
Location: Sullivan County, Tennessee
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I really, really would not recommend commuting on that stretch of 321 even if it appears to be shorter.

When you indicate locating near Butler, that suggests locating on the Mountain City side of Watauga Lake rather than over east around Little Milligan or Poga. Taking TN67 or TN167 north to Mountain City and then US421 into Boone is a far improved experience to that stretch of US321. There are three mountain ranges to cross on 321 between 321/67 intersection near Butler and the 421/321 intersection at Sugar Grove just outside of Boone. The maps do not accurately represent the very curvy nature of that stretch of US321 (wife calls it an official "car sick road" on a par with US 421 "the snake" between Mountain City and Bristol).

If your potential property is located somewhere off 321 east of the lake toward the NC line, then the choice may be moot. I think Tennessee does a respectable job of treating the roads following a snow event but these mountain highways (421 or 321) can be a challenge until the snow event ends. TN67 and US421 seem to have more traffic than US321 and I suspect they get a bit more attention when it snows.

If you are going to be working in Boone and want to live in Tennessee, then looking for property in the Trade or upper Roan Creek area might be worthy of consideration. That is a long commute from Butler to Boone with either choice of routes.
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Old 02-17-2013, 09:01 AM
 
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Default Thanks, we would be south of L. Wautaga

We would be South of the lake, near 321 and Greggs Branch Rd. So, that sounds a little better?
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Old 02-19-2013, 09:12 AM
 
Location: Sullivan County, Tennessee
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I verified the location of Gregg's Branch road on Google mapping and it appears that you are right on the border of NC. The only real choice that far south and east of Watauga Lake would be US321. Google says that it is about 14 miles from Gregg's Branch Road to the US421 intersection near Sugar Grove. That stretch of road has always seemed to me subjectively to be much longer than 14 miles but that can also be said of many of our mountain roads in this area.

I'm not certain of how well NC clears 321 and 421 these days but we were on 321 near Sugar Grove in Dec 2010 the day before a major snow event was forecast and NC DOT was out liquid treating 321 and 421. I'm not sure how far off 321 in TN you will be but Johnson County, TN does not do any salt treatment of the county roads. They will eventually get around to plowing and putting fine gravel on the troublesome spots where the ice lingers. It's best to maintain a reliable AWD vehicle for commuting in that area. Gregg's Branch intersection with 321 is about 2400 elevation and 321 climbs as high as 3000 before meeting 421 at Sugar Grove at around 2800. US421 climbs rapidly up to about 3500 before Boone then dropping slightly into Boone. Areas above 2400 (especially on the western side of the tall mountain ranges) get frequent snow accumulation when we only get rain in the ET valleys.

Here is some interesting current information on the Watauga County Road Condition Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/WataugaCountyRoadConditions
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Old 02-21-2013, 12:13 PM
 
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321 is verrry curvy in spots. I would not want to drive it for any long distance in the winter.


We also made the rookie mistake once (stupid GPS set to "shortest distance") and went across Grandfather Mountain on our way to take the kids to Tweetsie. There is an intersection at the foot of Grandfather Mtn. You can drive straight to go across Grandfather Mtn or left to take another route (very nice if you turn left BTW) to Blowing Rock/Boone.

Oh my goodness. May have been shortest "distance" but WOW GPS does not figure in curvy roads slowing you down or car sickness !! We were all sick and I had 2 kids in the car in their car seats crying about it. This is coming from a girl and her husband who both LIKE to drive on 2 lane curvy roads !!! NEVER AGAIN !! It was the mountain of death. Switchbacks, rocks hanging over almost touching the top of the car, in the middle of nowhere, can't pull over, and we were all about to puke.


(Sorry to get off topic but thought you might like to avoid it !)
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Old 02-21-2013, 04:19 PM
 
Location: Sullivan County, Tennessee
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TNGal78 View Post


We also made the rookie mistake once (stupid GPS set to "shortest distance") and went across Grandfather Mountain on our way to take the kids to Tweetsie. There is an intersection at the foot of Grandfather Mtn. You can drive straight to go across Grandfather Mtn or left to take another route (very nice if you turn left BTW) to Blowing Rock/Boone.

Oh my goodness. May have been shortest "distance" but WOW GPS does not figure in curvy roads slowing you down or car sickness !! We were all sick and I had 2 kids in the car in their car seats crying about it. This is coming from a girl and her husband who both LIKE to drive on 2 lane curvy roads !!! NEVER AGAIN !! It was the mountain of death. Switchbacks, rocks hanging over almost touching the top of the car, in the middle of nowhere, can't pull over, and we were all about to puke.

It sounds like you took the old US221 route up the southeast side of Grandfather which is a bit lower on the mountain than the Blueridge Parkway. That portion of US221 is awful, awful, awful. Sometimes when the Parkway is closed due to weather it is the only choice on that side of the mountain (or go back to Linville and take NC105 into Boone). The Blueridge Parkway is a much more relaxing drive up along Grandfather to Blowing Rock than curvy US221- one of my favorite stretches of the Blueridge Parkway.

According to something I read in western NC history- that portion of US221 was originally built as a wagon and carriage road for early "tourist" development. And, only changes made in 100+ years is adding layer of asphalt. This US221 before the asphalt was applied: http://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/state/ill62.html


You can experience it again on YouTube (but it's not quite like being there).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCzKiBhsOx0

Last edited by Jim37680; 02-21-2013 at 04:31 PM..
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:41 PM
 
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Yes we did. I will never go that way again !! It took forever and I thought we would never get over the mountain !!! Thanks for the video link.

I just can't even describe how scary it was and we are used to mountains and curves but NOT like that.


Blue Ridge parkway is . Never been on that stretch of it, though. I think 105 is the road I like that turns in Linville to go to Tweetsie.
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Old 02-22-2013, 08:52 AM
 
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Now that I watched the video...it seems like it only shows part of that road. It seemed more curvy and higher up. Oh well.
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Old 02-22-2013, 03:09 PM
 
Location: Sullivan County, Tennessee
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Here is something to warm the heart of snow-lovers on winding mountain roads. I was looking for some video of US 321 between Watauga Lake and Boone, NC. This short video during a memorable snow event was all I have found so far.


The Drive Home - YouTube


The caption says this was on 13 December 2010. We were on 321 when temps were in mid-fifties two days before this (as commented in previous post) and saw the roads being given the liquid pre-treatment due the forecast of a bad snow event. The road in the video shows signs of being plowed and salted but the high temp at TRI that day was only 22- probably far less in these mountains- and salt isn't very effective below 20.

Actually the storm wasn't nearly as bad in most of Tennessee and NC as expected but caused chaos from the northern edge of Tennessee up through southwest Virginia and much of West Virginia. The snow was wet and heavy in those areas and virtually destroyed the AEP infrastructure in several mountain counties in Virginia.
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Old 10-01-2014, 09:34 PM
 
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getting ready for a leaf peeping drive from Boone, NC up to Bristol, TN. am wondering which route to choose...321 or 421? Not really concerned about time of travel, but more in there being fewer curves in traveling. Any suggestions/preferences?
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