One thing about roads in Appalachia–they’re not boring. They’re often curvy, rutted, precipitous, narrow, and dirt. When giving directions to someone in Appalachia, we often include the phrase, “turn off the paved road.”

At our farm, we joke that you turn off the paved road THEN you turn off the gravel road to actually get to the house.

It’s not hard to tell outlanders when you meet them on these roads. Folks who didn’t grow up driving them often don’t know the road rules. So I thought I’d share a few in case you ever find yourself driving the back roads of Appalachia.

  1. If it’s a one-lane road you’re allowed to use the middle until you see someone coming. Then the trick is to hug the edge so efficiently that neither car has to slow down AND neither car has to drop to the shoulder. It’s an art. Watch your side mirror.
  2. If you CAN’T pass because the road is too narrow, the car coming DOWN the hill has the right-of-way. It’s easier to reverse downhill than uphill. Move back to a wide spot and give a wave or a nod.
  3. The preferred “wave” is lifting the index finger from the top of the steering wheel. You can use several fingers if you’re feeling enthusiastic or know the person well.
  4. On those roads with lots of potholes your “lane” is whatever part of the road has the fewest holes in it.
  5. The same goes for overhanging brush–you drive where it will scrape up your paint the least.
  6. You’re allowed to “straighten” the curves. Don’t do this if you can’t see around the turn, but if you can, go ahead and cross that double line to straighten the road out a bit.
  7. If you come to a gate, the passenger’s job is to open it, watch the car drive through, and then close it. Always close the gate. Unless you want to round up somebody’s cows.
  8. The car that gets to the one-lane bridge first crosses it while the car on the other side waits. If there appears to be a tie–see rule #2. (What if there’s no hill you ask? In Appalachia, there’s always a hill.)
  9. If someone’s stuck in the ditch, stop to offer help. You should have a chain in the bed of the truck or trunk of the car for this purpose.
  10. If someone’s trying to get up an icy hill, stop and give them plenty of room. You’ll get your turn as soon as they either succeed or give up. If they end up in the ditch, pull out that chain.

I think that’ll just about do it. If you’re a mountain driver, let me know if I forgot anything!