US 321 undergoes a strange directional change at Elizabethton, Tenn. Until the early 1980s, US 321 came north out of the Carolinas to Boone, N.C., where it turned to the west and ran to Johnson City, Tenn. It ended there. Sometime during the early 80s, the route was extended from Johnson City southwest through Greeneville and Newport to Gatlinburg, then to Pigeon Forge, Townsend, and so on before ending near Lenoir City at I-40. Knowing that US 321 ran south from Johnson City into North Carolina, I found it odd when I realized that the road in that direction was signed "North US 321" out of Gatlinburg toward Newport. Somewhere along the line, I knew it had to change directions and switch from going north to going south. That switching point is at the intersection with US 19E at Elizabethton.
As you approach the intersection southbound on 19E, you see this sign. Note the lack of directional signs:
If you keep going straight on 19E, toward Boone, you see this sign:
But if you turn right, toward Johnson City, here's what you see:
So, no matter how you leave Elizabethton on US 321, you're heading south! (Notice that TN 67 doesn't change its direction, east is still east and west is still west.
If you approach Elizabethton from North Carolina on US 19E/US 321/TN 67, here's the signage you see:
But if you approach Elizabethton from Johnson City on US 321/TN 67, here's how it's signed:
So again, no matter which way you enter Elizabethton on US 321, you're going north!
This guide sign on North US 19E/US 321 just outside Elizabethton has a green plate covering something between the two route markers. It's probably the word "south."
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