Highway Chaplain: Following The Right Path
September 1, 2011
US Highway 129 had its humble beginnings in 1926 as an intrastate route connecting the town of Gainesville, Georgia to the “big” city of Macon, Georgia then, joining its parent route US Highway 29. It wasn’t until 1959 (a year after this author’s birth) that it saw not only its completion but also its autonomy (no pun intended).
In the early years of its existence, it was a major through-way for trucks moving poultry from the north around Gainesville, Georgia to Macon and points beyond, but also for bringing back produce grown in southern and middle Georgia to their neighbors up north.
I can only imagine the rough and rutted “highway” and the drivers who gripped tightly to the steering wheel gritting their teeth together as the bounced and bumped along to their destinations. It took a special breed of driver back then to drive trucks without such comforts as heaters and A/C. Not even dreaming of such creature comforts as Air Ride seats and sleepers to catch a nice rest before getting at it again.
As the years have passed along US 129, is still a connector road between Gainesville and Athens, Georgia and at times Macon to avoid Atlanta traffic. However with the building of the Interstate highway system, the old US Highways are used more by those who enjoy the slower pace of travel and those of us who enjoy seeing the back roads of this great nation we live in.
US Highway 129 runs a length of 582 miles beginning at its southern terminus in Chiefland, Florida to its northern terminus in Knoxville, Tennessee. It winds its way north through Florida in a curving basically northern route along I-75, where it enters Georgia. There it twists and turns upwards to Macon where it will run in a northeasterly path towards Athens through the towns of Eaton, and Madison. It turns to the northwest into Gainesville, Georgia (near my hometown of Murrayville) where it turns again northeast into the north Georgia Mountains.
Into the twisting curving lanes up Blood Mountain and into Blairsville then northward to Ranger, North Carolina it turns almost westerly as it joins with US Highways 64-74 until you enter Robbinsville where it splits off to Deals Gap, and northward to where it will intersect with US Highway 411 into Alcoa, Tennessee then to the southern part of Knoxville where it ends quietly without even a sign to designate its final mile. (The history of US 129 provided by Dale Sanderson © 2000)
So I know you are wondering why I have spent so much time describing a highway that many of you have never driven and most likely will never drive unless you have the opportunity to deliver a load somewhere in a town or major city that happens to lie in its path. This highway does have one place along its journey that has made it world famous to a very select group of people. Unless you are either a sports car or motorcycle enthusiast you won’t know what it is, but some of you are already smiling.
Along the path of this highway in the area between Deals Gap, North Carolina to Tabs Cat Creek, Tennessee there is a stretch commonly called ,“The Dragon Tail”, it is a stretch of highway twisting and winding along the edge of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. This 11-mile stretch of highway has 318 curves of every kind from slow sweeping to narrow hairpins that allow you to check your taillights as you pass through them.
The approach to this area from both the southern and northern parts has large billboard size warnings about this part of US 129. The signs warn large trucks to avoid using the highway and to follow an alternate route. Those warnings start about 20 miles out and the last one is usually around 8 miles from “the point of no return”. Yes, you guessed it; there have been those who did not heed the signs and paid the price for ignoring the warnings.
The end result is a trailer’s tandems slipping off the road and hanging in mid-air over some extremely high drop or worse the tandems tracking into oncoming traffic in a blind hairpin turn and the trailer winding up on top of an approaching vehicle. There are pictures – and they are not pretty.
The reasons are varied for an 18-wheeler to find its self along this stretch of roadway. For some it was a wrong turn, inexperience, or following a fuel route provided by their company. For some it is arrogance or overconfidence that puts them on this roadway. It doesn’t matter the reason the result is usually the same because a too long truck on a too narrow road is never a good thing and usually ends with blue lights and wreckers and citations.
For many of us, the road of life has its twists and turns, and we handle it pretty well through prayer, wisdom (either from God or life’s experience) but there are times when we think we can do it on our own, and therein lies the problem. The writer of Proverbs had a little something to say about that.
“ There is a way that seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12)
What Solomon is saying is that there are ways in life that seem right but those paths lead us to death. Sometimes physical but more likely spiritual death because we find ourselves committing sin and becoming in a sense separated from the Lord, more His presence because of it. Many times we are warned not to turn down that path. It seems like a short cut to the eternal destination but it leads to destruction filled with pits to catch those who stray along its alluring path.
In the book The Pilgrim’s Progress, Jon Bunyan called it “ By the Path Meadow” where Christian was lured into it because it appeared to be an easier path that wound along beside The Way. This is temptations and they come in many ways to lure us from following the path that though longer and harder is still safer for us to travel.
James wrote that; “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. “ ( James 1: 14-16)
James is reminding us that temptation comes when we are pulled away from our focus by our OWN desires and when fully realized it produces death.
God gives us the same warning signs just like those along US129 warning us not to turn down that path. The uneasy feeling you get deep in your gut when you know something is not right. A verse of scripture that just seems to come alive to your heart, or a friend’s wise counsel, don’t ignore the warnings but bow your head and your heart and pray and let God direct you along the safer road.
So until next time, God Speed and good running.
The Highway Chaplain
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