Those of you who have known me for awhile know that I harbor a fascination for the remote, the out-of-the-way or the just plain strange or curious locations on this planet (In no particular order, my top five places I want to visit are Greenland, Labrador, Nunavut, Andorra (and other European micronations) and Easter Island (with a nod to Pitcairn Island as well). To satisfy my insatiable curiosity, I’ve dug up numerous places on the USA map that are rather sparsely populated.

Take a look at a map. Heck, take a look at Google maps, and zoom in close while your at it. Check out Western Maine, Southwest Georgia (especially around the small panhandle area bordering Florida), Western Maryland (around the Oakland area), Southeast Montana (between Rt. 12 and Rt. 212), Central Nevada, and parts of the Northern Texas Panhandle. How about a great chunk of Alaska too. Those are off the top of my head and there are many more than that, depending on the size and scope of one’s qualifying standards for remoteness.

So where should we start? What looks like a good location… How about extreme southwestern Virginia. Look at it. I’m not talking the route from I-81. Go a little further. I’m talking Rt. 23 and 58. Yeah, that’s where it’s at {Ahem} I mean that’s where nothing is at. It’s in this little corner that Virginia goes further west than it’s namesake West Virginia. Maybe that’s the reason nobody knows it exists.

The county that makes up the most extreme corner of this region is Lee County (named after the father of Robert E. Lee), which is headed up by the county seat of Jonesville – pop. 995. Somehow the county population checks in at a cool 25,000+ but I can barely buy that with the largest “city” being Pennington Gap at just less than 1,800 at last count.

What intrigues me the most, however, is when one gets closer to the borders with Tennessee and Kentucky. In fact, there is no practical way to get to Kentucky from this part of Virginia without getting off at the terminus of State Road 797 and walking into Kentucky or heading all the way back to Pennington Gap and taking Rt. 421 across. The extreme western stretch of Virginia has no access to Kentucky, likely because the border against the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park kept any roads from being built. That, and the relatively sparse population on each side of the border doesn’t necessitate many roads in between.

I’ll be heading out for Abingdon, VA on Friday evening, hoping to cut some of my Knoxville drive in half so I can have an easier go of it Saturday upon arriving for Saturday night’s Montana-Tennessee kickoff. I’ve plotted the following route that will take me through this interesting area Saturday morning:

Abingdon – Jonesville – Ewing – Cumberland Gap, TN  – Middlesboro, KY – Cumberland Gap, TN – Knoxville, TN. Not the most direct route, and I’m making sure to drive into Kentucky so I can knock that off of my airport-only state visits (Northern Kentucky-Cincinnati Airport shouldn’t even count really).

In Cumberland Gap, TN it appears some a couple roads go right back into Virginia, and if they are (what it appears to be) public access roads, then these would be the furthest west you can drive in the state. Check out the satellite image here

Another curiosity, on my way into Kentucky from Tennessee I’ll pass through the Cumberland Gap – only I won’t really see it…because the border crossing is done through a tunnel (see here).

The near four-hour drive will commence sometime in the early morning hours, giving me a little time to stop and smell the roses (and take a few pictures for the blog). Ah, nothing like a drive through the desolate Virginia to whet the appetite for some football…

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