Athens: The Trip That Wasn’t, The Trip That Was

Never before have I attempted to go to Athens twice in one weekend.  My plan was to go down Saturday and rend my garment on West Union St., and maybe do that Indiana Jones thing in The Union to see if there were any remains of my liver in there.

I got as far as Logan on Saturday, about 50 miles from Columbus.  I was on a GoBus which was late in leaving Columbus, and it moved at a pedestrian pace all the way down U.S. 33, moving carefully midst the sheet of freezing rain and the glaze of black ice on the highway.  I easily passed 10 to 15 accidents, and saw emergency vehicles and fire trucks every half mile or so.  I saw several cars lying on their sides on the medians.

Our driver aborted mission just as we crossed the Hocking County line.  He had learned that U.S. 33 was closed in both directions because of the black ice, so we turned around and headed back to Columbus.  I walked in baby steps the rest of the day around Columbus, because the ice was so slick.  I called the friend I was going to see and told her what had happened, and promised I’d be down the next morning.

Which I was.  It was gray most of the day, but it was windbreaker weather, and I arrived right on time.  After my friend and I had breakfast at the Union Street Diner, we made the pilgrimage a little east on Union Street, and I saw the damage from the fire firsthand.

This picture is most representative of the fire's damage.  The white building in the center is Kismet, a clothing store.  The Smoke Zone Smoke Shop and the former Campus Sundry are to its right.  The apartments above these buildings are a total loss.

This picture is most representative of the fire’s damage. The white building in the center is Kismet, a clothing store. The Smoke Zone Smoke Shop and the former Campus Sundry are to its right. The apartments above these buildings are a total loss.

Both ends of Union Street, from Congress St. on the west to Court on the east, are closed.  There are metal portable fences and sawhorses on both ends, with signs reading ROAD CLOSED.  Even after a week, the soot smell lingers strongly over the entire block.

My sadness was offset by the wonderful day I spent with my friend.  She and I ate breakfast, toured Uptown (not so much a tour–she has lived in Athens all her life, and I have been pretty intimate with it on and off since I was 16), and visited Goodwill.  She and I both felt great all day, and I was thankful the rain held off until it was time for me to hop on the bus to head back to Columbus.  I truly hated to leave.

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