Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The AA Highway

I like having Toledo as a frequent road trip destination. Since there is no direct interstate connection between here and there (not yet), there are many different route options available that don't add too much time to the drive. We've already driven pretty much all of the reasonable route variations between here and Jacksonville, but with Toledo, there is still a lot of exploring (and new county-visiting) to be had.

And that takes us to the AA Highway, a two-lane road in Kentucky that more or less forms the hypotenuse of the Cincinnati/Lexington/Huntington triangle.

View Larger Map

I think I just found this road intriguing because it's relatively new (opened in 1995), mostly rural, travels through five previously unvisited counties, and because I think the name is catchy. While it's officially Kentucky Route 9, it's more commonly known as (and signed as) the "AA Highway", so-called because its primary purpose is to connect Alexandria, KY with Ashland, KY. Yeah! AA Highway!

The Wikipedia article says this road is dangerous, due to "speeding...and numerous side road entrances and at-grade intersections". It never felt dangerous to us. I mean, look how wide the shoulders are!

Then again, we were driving this thing at around 9 AM, when there wasn't a whole lot of traffic. I can kind of see how the road is "dangerous", though. The speed limit is 55, but with the wide shoulders and very infrequent traffic lights (a few in Maysville, and that's pretty much it), some people probably try to go 70 or more. That'd be fine if the road were limited access, but...it's not. And while I thought the road was scenic, I can see how one could kind of get lulled to sleep by it. It's hilly, but there are no slow corners. It's built for speed. Maybe that's the problem! (Since the picture caught part of the speedometer, let the record show that I was going 61 mph, not 67.)

Let's talk timing. Let's say you're on I-64 west of Charleston, and you're trying to get to Cincinnati. Is it faster to take I-64 all the way to Lexington and I-75 north from there, or to take the non-interstate AA Highway and cut the corner? I've done both, and I've timed both, so I have the answer: the AA Highway is 12 minutes faster. But the fastest route from Charleston to Cincinnati is probably US-35 to OH-32, rather than the AA, which I haven't done yet.

So, there you go. The AA Highway = win!

Meanwhile...I was kind of discouraged after the drive to Jacksonville, as to the prospect of road tripping with a young child, or in our case, an infant. It's no fun anymore, I said! Well, the drives to and from Toledo were both fun, AA Highway or no AA Highway. (We took one of the faster routes home.) The key is to not be in any kind of a hurry. Enjoy the ride, and don't think about all the things you have to do when you get home until you actually do get back home. If you have to stop for 30 minutes, after having just stopped 15 minutes ago, no big deal. And, all things considered, Marla has been great in the car, on both drives. We have a "road trip baby" in the making.

Still, though, we're tired. I don't think we'll be taking Marla on any more overnight road trips until at least March, which by our standards, is an eternity.

1 comment:

James said...

Hey Chris,
Long time reader, infrequent commenter (I think I've chipped in on a couple of your curling posts, which is what I read for).

As I grew up in one of the cities the AA highway is named for, I thought I would throw in a couple comments! First off, the highway doesn't actually have it's ends in Alexandria or Ashland, and it's northern terminus, Newport, is a much larger city than Alexandria. (In fact, Campbell Co. actually has two "county seats" because of that size difference).

Also, the AA was originally KY 546, and KY 9 was an earlier major route. After several years of operation, they decided to rename it, even though the AA overlaps more with KY 10 than it did with KY 9. That turned into quite a controversy over the expense of re-signing everything.

As far as danger, the road almost never has much traffic except in a couple highly populated areas. Most of the problems come from heavy fog due to its proximity to the Ohio River, and some poor intersection designs, many of which have been corrected by now. (There was originally one intersection where the southbound lane was angled so that continuing "straight" through the intersection actually put you into the northbound left-turn lane. After several fatal accidents, it was redesigned.)

Anyway, I have rambled on for too long. But having grown up through the development and construction of this highway, I thought you might like some input!

P.S. Good Curling!