Thursday, February 25, 2010

25 FEB 10: Take the Long Way Home

"How do you go home - by 85?" Several people asked me that question in metro Atlanta Wednesday. Thankfully, none of them were beggars looking to hitch a ride....

Most Columbus residents probably would answer that question by saying yes - you take Interstate 85 to Interstate 185. But there really are two ways to answer that. There's also Georgia Highway 85, which begins at the State Farmers Market in Forest Park. Too bad the Columbus Farmers Market at the other end is now mainly an antique shop.

Have you ever taken the other "85" from metro Atlanta to Columbus? I decided to try it Wednesday evening, to see if I've missed anything all these years -and if the state highway might be faster than the interstate. It turned out to be slower. But at least that matched some of the towns I passed.

"COLUMBUS 94" says a sign along Georgia 85 near Riverdale City Hall. You almost have to look for that green sign to spot it, because the four-lane road is busy with cars and businesses. After a late and successful poker night in Riverdale last week, I'd say the phrase "main drag" only applies there at 12:00 midnight - when the road is empty enough for a drag race.

Afternoon rush hour is busy on Georgia 85 through Riverdale, and the flow improves only a little as you head south to Fayetteville. "Big box" stores of all sorts have opened in recent years, as Fayette County's population has boomed. Yet there's still on-street parallel parking along Georgia 85 downtown - if you want to park more dangerously than at HiFi Buys and Home Depot.

Fayetteville's best gas price Wednesday evening was $2.55 a gallon - only four cents lower than the best price I found in Columbus. Between those cities, gasoline is about ten cents more expensive. But somehow, I suspect the store clerks are more likely to have Southern drawls.

Georgia 85 narrows from four lanes to two, south of Fayetteville. If you've wondered where "metro Atlanta" ends, I think that change marks one of the boundary points....

Jones Hill is a marked unincorporated place in southern Fayette County. Why it's even marked is a mystery to me, since I saw no homes or businesses - and even when you pass Jones Hill heading south, it's downhill from there.

The next town on Georgia 85 is Senoia - but before you get there, a beautiful waterfall surprises you on the west side of the highway. If this waterfall was in Chattanooga, there would be billboards promoting it for at least 50 miles.

I drove past Senoia to the Meriwether County town of Gay, Georgia. This town actually has a traffic light - but unlike the recent controversy in Augusta, there's amazingly still no talk of holding a "Gay Pride" parade.

The geography on Georgia 85 becomes a bit more obscure from there....

+ I decided against turning toward Imlac - even though that community sounds like the most unlikely hockey hotbed in the Southeast.

+ I drove over Pappy Creek - but I never saw a Momma Creek, so maybe she was busy fixin' dinner.

+ Woodbury confused me for a couple of reasons. An "Alternate 85" road branches off the main highway there. And a town that far out of the way simply should NOT have an Ingles supermarket.

The biggest city between metro Atlanta and Columbus on Georgia 85 is Manchester. If it has a real McDonald's restaurant in the distance AND a downtown area which seems to fill a city block, that's big....

A highway sign south of Manchester pointed me toward Pine Mountain. I resisted the temptation to turn, in an attempt to find the "Extreme Makeover Home Edition" project - even though TV floodlights probably would have made it easy to track down.

I came across a highway work project on Georgia 85 at the Harris County line, after turning toward Waverly Hall. It appears the road simply is being repaved. Georgia Transportation Commissioner Vance Smith still doesn't seem to have enough clout to widen the road to four lanes all the way to Manchester.

Baseball players were practicing under the lights, when I reached Waverly Hall. But I didn't know the town had a buffet restaurant called Cat Heads. With a name like that, I'd rather settle for Boar's Head meats at a Columbus supermarket.

Waverly Hall also has a corner store named "B&R&R." Is that another mistake by an area sign maker? Or was an extra R added because it's been so cold this winter?

Georgia 85 widens to four lanes, three miles north of the Muscogee-Harris County line. I was able to race home from there - a journey which took about 20 minutes longer than Interstate 85 would have been. So I was right when I told Wednesday's questioners I took the "scenic route." Maybe someday, more than about five miles will be marked "Scenic Byway."

E-MAIL UPDATE: After returning from metro Atlanta, we found quite a surprise in our InBox....


For all of the mentions….Keep up the good work….

Steve Holman

Voice of the Hawks

Uh-oh - he found out about us [10 Feb/14 Jan]. I didn't listen to Wednesday night's Atlanta win over Minnesota, to see if Holman described this blog the way he describes Hawks players getting fouled -- as "whacked and hacked."

We promised a TSYS update today as well. But we need to hold that for 24 hours, because of late-arriving information we need to confirm. So let's get caught up on news items we've missed from the past few days:

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington announced two finalists for the new position of Crime Prevention Director. Dozens of residents nearly fainted when they realized neither finalist had "Myers" in his name.

+ State Senator Seth Harp told an Atlanta TV station the Georgia budget dilemma is similar to the "Great Depression." Harp is receiving so much TV time in interviews that his campaign fund for Georgia Insurance Commissioner is becoming a leading economic indicator.

+ Georgia education officials proposed a shorter school year, to help balance the state budget. There are creative ways to make this work. Require grade-school children to stay home and watch GPB one day a week - while high school students watch ESPN to work on becoming high-paid sports stars.

+ Ground was broken for a new ice-skating rink next to the Columbus Civic Center. I can't wait for the entertainment there to begin. You know, with the motocross bicycle riders flying over giant mounds of dirt....

+ Roundball Night in Dixieland (tm) saw Columbus State sweep a women's and men's doubleheader over Georgia Southwestern. The C.S.U. women had "Think Pink Night" -- but for some reason, Trista from "The Bachelortette" failed to appear at halftime for a motivational speech.

+ WRBL showed Carver spanking Spencer 15-1, in a high school baseball game played at Golden Park. So where was the big crowd of graduates, hob-nobbing in the stands? Is this match-up only hip and cool when the marching bands perform?

+ Instant Message to "By Faith Taxi Services" of College Park: I guess your name is supposed to reassure me. But I think it applies to any taxi ride ever taken by a tourist in a strange city.

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