By Jared Hinderer
For the first time in years, we had glorious traffic-free traveling all the way from Greenville, Indiana, to our summer vacation spot, Orlando, Florida. And for the first half of the way home, it was the same story.
Then, we got to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Possibly the worst traffic organization I have ever experienced.
But let me back up for a minute. We left beautiful, sunny, Florida earlier that same afternoon, and made record time thanks to the complete lack of traffic through Northern Florida and Georgia. It looked like we were going to be able to make it home without having to stop for the night, an act that would save us nearly $200.
Unfortunately, almost immediately upon entering Chattanooga at 10:15 p.m., we were met by blue flashing lights everywhere. Looking ahead down Highway 24, four Tennessee police cars stretched across the highway blocking all lanes and all traffic was being directed onto a road that ran parallel to 24.
At this point, everyone was thinking this was no big deal and we would just run parallel to the highway for a bit and be on our way again, maybe 45 minutes behind schedule. Boy, were we wrong.
For what seemed like five miles, we followed this side road until we came to an intersection where everyone was sure we would enter the highway again. Nope; wrong a second time. Instead, we were met by another set of flashing lights and an officer pointing left with a flashlight.
After the vague instructions from the boys in blue, it was decided that the trucks in front of us probably knew where they were going. Wrong a third time. We followed a truck right back to where we started and had to wait, again, for the officer with the flashlight to point left. But this time, we asked him where we should go.
After getting so-so directions, we tried to follow them. By now, the cops were scrambling trying to get traffic under control. We followed a road toward “German Town,” where we were told we would find a tunnel. On our way there my dad pointed out a sign saying the tunnel ahead only had a 12’6” clearance, and he noted that he hoped no trucks tried to go that way since they are at least 13’6” high.
By the tone of this story, you can probably guess what happened next. Yep, a truck tried to go through the tunnel which, of course, destroyed the roof of the tunnel and police had to close it down.
At that point we were in another traffic jam. The only thing we could do was turn around. We found a gas station and stopped to get a map since our GPS kept routing us through the closed roads.
After spending $5 on a map and 20 minutes in a gas station we picked up a lost young couple from Terre Haute in our little two-car convoy.
Once my dad had figured out about where we were supposed to go, we loaded back into our Suburban and our new friends got in their Mitsubishi Galant to follow us.
Finally, we were headed in the right direction, until we found ourselves on the wrong side of town. A large luxury SUV, loaded to the brim with valuable items, with out-of-state plates, clearly lost, is a bad combination when you find yourself in a less-than-desirable area.
At last, after a very quick stop at a gas station for directions, we made it back to the main highway and were on our way to find a hotel for what was left of the night.
All in all, this just shows that Tennessee traffic coordinators and police have no idea what they are doing when they close down several miles of well-traveled highway for no apparent reason. But beyond that, this story shows that everybody should try their best to plan ahead, and not find themselves in a “Tennessee situation” scrambling at the last minute trying to figure out what to do.
Plan ahead, don’t be a Tennessee.