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Old 10-07-2020, 08:42 PM   #1
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Alabama grades

My Garmin software is showing some rather substantial grades on US-431 near Gadsden, Ala., US-431 near Guntersville, Ala., and US-280 southeast of Birmingham. Is this valid? Mountain Directory doesn't cover this area.

I'm not a mountain neophyte, but generally for DW's nerves flatter is better even if it means going through Birmingham south to north.

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Old 10-07-2020, 08:56 PM   #2
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What are you calling substantial grades? I lived in Birmingham for 5 years around 1990, and while there are some steep hills in the area, some of which can be called mountains, these steep grades don't to on for long,a mile or two at most, you are usually looking at climbing or descending a few hundred feet. The highest point in Alabama is only 2,400 ft and is located about 50 miles east of Birmingham.
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Old 10-07-2020, 09:24 PM   #3
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I've been through Gadsden, AL a number of times and never saw any steep grades, but we were going East-West and not North-South.
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Old 10-08-2020, 11:56 AM   #4
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The grade on 431 heading South out of Guntersville is steep. 18 wheelers have to crawl up it with flashers blinking. I've never measured it but it probably less than 1-mile. The same heading north out of Gadsden. It is probably a 2-2.5 mile climb but not as steep yet steep enough that 18 wheelers have to gear down an crawl up the "mountain". Should not be an issue for a motor home or pull behind. The road is also 4-lane.
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Old 10-08-2020, 01:39 PM   #5
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Not sure if this is relevant. We came up US-431 from I-20/Oxford up to Gadsden, to get on I-59. We really did not have any problems with our DP. Just use a lower gear on the downhill grades and exhaust brake, if you have it, save your regular brakes.
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Old 10-08-2020, 01:51 PM   #6
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If I need to see elevations along a route, I use truckrouter.com

here's an example of leaving Birmingham on 280 heading to Kellyton, AL

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and here's out of Mooresville to Gunthersville on 431 confirming one steep grade about 2 miles long 500 up to 1100 feet

Click image for larger version

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Old 10-08-2020, 07:59 PM   #7
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The grade at Gasden is moderately steep, not bad. Been up and down in the car, truck with trailer, and motorhome.

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Old 10-08-2020, 08:36 PM   #8
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So I'm not seeing things! Thanks.

I carefully looked at that grade south of Guntersville using Garmin Basecamp and arbitrarily measured two miles from the foot of the bridge uphill. Basecamp has it at 8%-9% over those two miles. Then I took a good look at it using Google Earth. I don't think it's quite that steep but it's definitely steep; there's a runaway truck ramp.

I do think, though, that Basecamp may be exaggerating the grades. The way it gets altitude information is with a topo map loaded, and those topo maps are decades old. It doesn't see that roads are upgraded by fill and blasting away hillsides; it just assumes I'm driving over the hilltop and the valley bottom, which can result in a higher grade than reality.

I've crawled uphill at 30mph and have a good exhaust brake, so no problem.

Thanks for your help.
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