Lewis Grizzard Wednesday: A Wider Road Might Have Changed Two Lives

They opened a new stretch of Georgia 316, a four-lane highway that runs between Lawrenceville and Athens.

What that means is you can drive on a four-lane highway all the way between Athens and Atlanta now. From Atlanta, take I-85 to the Lawrenceville exit and then 316 the rest of the way.

Athens-Atlanta motorists can make the commute in under an hour, a report said.

Twenty-seven blankety-blank years too late, I said. I was 19 and a sophomore at the University of Georgia in Athens in 1966. I was also in love, but she lived in Atlanta. We were apart for the first time since the  6th grade.

 I had a job in Athens. I worked for the Daily News, a fledgling newspaper we struggled to deliver six mornings a week in competition with  the afternoon paper that had been in town since movable type was  invented.

I worked full-time. I went to class, and then I actually worked more than full time.  That’s because they couldn’t run me out of the Daily News newsroom, a converted automobile dealership. It remains the best part of journalism career.

On Saturdays, I would go to the newspaper at 2 p.m., and I would still be there at 1 the next morning when the Sunday edition was  finished.   Then, I would get into my blue VW bug and head for Atlanta and my girl. Each week we had from about 4 a.m. Sunday until 10 Sunday night together. I hated that drive. It was all two-lane from Athens until outside Lawrenceville where I could pick up  I-85.

 It was 45 miles of small towns and bends and  curves.  Out Highway 29 through Bogart and Statham.  And then into Auburn, Winder and the infamous speed trap, Dacula. They never got me in Dacula, but about 2 one Sunday morning the night cop got me in little Auburn; he was wearing his pajama  top. But he didn’t give me a speeding ticket. The reason he didn’t was I gave him the two Georgia-Auburn football tickets in my glove  box.

 I would fight sleep all the way. A week of classes, studying and work can even exhaust a 19-year-old.  Every Saturday night for months I made that drive. The TLC at the end was worth it, but I still wonder why I didn’t doze off one night and run into a tree  and kill myself.

We decided to get married the summer of ’66. It made a lot of sense.  We knew we would  marry one day anyway, and I didn’t know how many more times I could  survive that drive.

So we up and did it. Mama said, ‘Just make sure you finish school, young man.’ My pretty blonde bride got a job at the paper, too, and they gave me a raise after we married – from the minimum $.25 cents an hour to $.30. I would have paid them.

When I read about the four-lane being open all the way between Athens and Atlanta, I wondered what if it had been that way back in  ’66? The drive would have been a lot easier and quicker. Maybe we would have waited to get married. And if we had waited, maybe it would have lasted. Nineteen is too young to get married. Especially if you’re a blindly ambitious, selfish fool.  My wife wasn’t the one who was the blindly ambitious, selfish fool.

There is a move afoot to give the new highway 316 connection a name.  “University  Parkway”  has been suggested.  Somebody else will offer “Bull-dog  Boulevard,” of course, and “Dawg Alley” must be considered too.

 Whatever they name it when I drive it -and I will drive it often – I will think of her  and how I blew it, and how perhaps a little extra concrete 27 years ago  might have kept something that was very good intact. You tend to think that way as you get older.

All that’s left to say, I suppose, is drive carefully on Nancy’s and Lewis’ Road!


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