At the turn of the twentieth century, a jumble of muddy roads covered the south like a bed of briars. Roads were not long-distance routes, but rather short paths that fed local traffic to the nearest railroad depot , Even before the railroads the backroads led to the nearest river landing where seamboats or barges could transport goods or people to the nearest market. There were no road signs or mile markers to guide you. If you weren’t from around these parts, you’d have a hard time navigating the roads that linked isolated farms to nearby market towns.
When Henry Ford introduced the Model T he could only guess how his car was to transform America. The need for better roads originally was hard to sell because many believed they would only benefit the wealthy The Model T was priced to place motor cars in the hands of middle class America. Middle class America was now on the road.
The automobile craze was transforming America and it wasn't long before there was a nationwide crusade to improve rural roads. A crusade that led seven Governors to a meeting in Chattanooga Tennessee on April 3, 1915 They started with the roads name. "The Cotton Belt" route, but wait that name didn't appeal to everyone. The name needed to have a snappy sound. It had to be a name with a geographic reference and most importantly it had to evoke popular nostalgia for the Old South. The name " Dixie Highway" sounded like a road to the past as much as a road to a place. It presented the South as an exotic destination to explore and exploit. Dixie Highway struck a note of nostalgia as much as Route 55 does today
Dixie Highway was to become a full-fledged interstate highway system—the first in the nation. And much of the old highway is still there !
Exploring Americas Backroads
Dixie Highway as it winds around the base of Lookout Mountain. Note the sheer rock cliff that was cut to create the roadbead. C-1926
View from atop of the mountain with the view of the tennessee river. (Elevation 2392 feet)
Re-Discover the South ...
motoring the backroads of America
Mountain Gateway At Cumberland Gap, (Jelloco, TN). Dixie Highway enters Tennessee with a majistic view. The mountail pass was created by an astroid collision 200,000 years ago that blew out a cut in a otherwise impassable mountain range. Danial Boone had searched up and down the range for over 80 miles in either direction before finding the gap. Boone followed old bufflalo paths and trails created by the Native American's that all led the same direction. Boone found the cut in 1769 but it wasn't untill 1775 he blazed his famous road. Boone's Road instantly became the gateway to the west, Thousands traveled this route through the mountains into the wilderness and on to the west. Modern day travelers would travel Boone's Road that was given a new name in 1916 to Dixie Highway . Since it was the only route out of the mountains even illigal whisky would be hauled down thru the gap..Racing by the light of the moon hot rod Ford's powered by sooped up v-8 would run the mountain pass. The mountail echoed with the thunder of the V-8 engine. Dixie Highway became synonymous with Thunder Road . And, Disney made a movie he called Thunder Road adding still another mistique to Dixie Highway.