CHATTANOOGA — Tennessee tourism officials see gold in them thar hills, where moonshine stills once bubbled and bootleggers hauled illegal whiskey in fast cars. The state's newly dubbed White Lightning Trail aims to lure free-spending visitors to retrace the mountain roads where "white lightning" helped give birth to NASCAR.
The trail traverses a network of roadways that span hundreds of miles across nine counties in northeast Tennessee. Tourism officials who launched the promotion Friday in Knoxville were quick — even a bit defensive — in saying the trail name is "not about promoting moonshine."
The trail's name helps highlight a regional heritage that includes the hometowns of famous country musicians such as Roy Acuff at Maynardville and Chet Atkins at Luttrell. There is Knoxville's Market Square and Old City, and the Museum of Appalachia between Clinton and Norris. There are also historic homes, antique and crafts stores, restaurants and natural attractions.
Along the way, there's also a motel owner who might be persuaded to tell the sad tale of how he saw his moonshiner daddy shot dead in a long-ago raid.
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The White Lightning Trail is one of 16 self-guided driving trails that have opened or are being developed and is intended to be a "fun attraction ride," said Jennifer Spence, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development assistant commissioner.
The state's promotional material also notes that moonshine running, in which people modified their vehicles to outrun authorities, gave birth to stock car racing, which grew into the popular NASCAR.