Newnan, Georgia — 1056.5 miles
Old 80 and I go back a long way. I can remember being sprawled on the floor of a VW Microbus (to the extent you can sprawl at all in a VW Microbus, which isn’t much) all along Old 80 from Savannah to God knows where. Probably Shreveport. We made this cross-country run I don’t know how many times, and somehow Old 80 became more than just a road: it became a memory.
The eastern edge of Mississippi twisted itself into the leading edge of Alabama, and something was different somehow. It didn’t take too long to figure out what it was: one of the last segments of the old two-lane was being upgraded to a full-fledged four-laner. This will no doubt improve the road; it may even make it safer. But it basically killed the emotional connection: it’s as though they’d actually continued building I-20 along Old 80 instead of detouring it through Tuscaloosa and Birmingham on the way to Atlanta. This may not perturb you particularly, but I’ll miss the way it used to be.
One thing I won’t miss is I-65 through Montgomery. There would be suicide on a Guyanese scale in ODOT had Oklahoma City’s soon-they-say-to-be-supplanted Crosstown Expressway deteriorated to this point: the speed limit is down to 45, and even that’s a pain in the ball joints.
Just beyond the Georgia line, I filled up Gwendolyn’s tank with another shot of 93 octane, a rare commodity back in Soonerland. (We’re a quarter-mile above sea level, which I assume is the reason most vendors offer 91 at the most.) She seems happy with it, returning almost 28 miles for each gallon, and it’s not much more expensive than the alleged premiums in Oklahoma — except in Georgia. The person who had filled up at this pump before me left her receipt behind, and I don’t know why. I do know, though, that in the three hours and odd between her fillup and mine, the price went up six cents a gallon. I blame McGehee.
Newnan, focal point of the McGehee Zone, is named for road engineer Alfred E. Newnan, whose I-85 project has been going on for what seems like decades. But don’t bother asking him about it: he’ll just shrug and say “What — me hurry?”