Tuesday, April 17, 2007

84. The road to Blacksburg from Louisville

In the immediate past entry on Sunday, I mentioned the deadly tornadoes of April 3, 1974, and the 31 people killed by the storm in Brandenburg, Kentucky. I also mentioned the meandering Indiana State Road 62. In talking about SR 62, I did not mention that it was formerly co-numbered (or multiplexed) with US 460, starting along West Main Street and the Corydon Pike in New Albany then heading to the Illinois state line. Heading east from New Albany, US 460 continued to follow the old route of IN 62 through Spring Street into Clarksville and Jeffersonville, crossing over into Louisville on the Clark Memorial (or Second Street) Bridge. From downtown, it followed Main and Story up to Frankfort Avenue, where, along with US 60, it headed east to Frankfort along the route known since the 1800s as the Midland Trail. Since the opening of Interstate 64, from Frankfort west to Saint Louis, Missouri, the US 460 designation was dropped between those two cities.

The current western terminus of US 460 is in Frankfort at the intersection of East Main Street and Versailles Road, near the Elkhorn Middle School. From there east, US 460 is basically a narrow winding two-lane court house road, connecting the various county seats such as Georgetown, West Liberty, and Salyersville to Pikeville. In the area around Pikeville, it shares the (at this point four-lane) road with several other highway numbers including the long southern route across the Commonwealth of KY 80, Kentucky's lengthiest highway route.

Southeast of Pikeville, it heads to the Kentucky/Virginia State line, around the north and east sides of the Breaks Interstate Park, where Virginia Republican George Allen managed, in one word (Macaca), to lose his race for the United States Senate to Democrat Jim Webb. That last section in Kentucky is undergoing an incredible rebuilding, with some of the new road literally up on stilts while other parts have dramatically widened the valleys below into four lanes with sidelanes, center medians, and service roads.

Upon entering Virginia, US 460 is for the most part a four line divided highway. As in Kentucky, it moves through the mountainous county seat villages like Grundy and Tazewell. Briefly, it crosses north, riding along a high ridge, into Bluefield, West Virginia. Upon crossing south back into Virginia, it crosses the Brush Mountains before heading down into Radford, a small college town in the New River valley. Between Radford, and the next largest city, Roanoke, following northeast and downstream along the New River, lays the town of Blacksburg, Virginia, population about 39,000, of whom about 24,000 are students at the Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State College, much better known as Virginia Tech.

The news from Virginia Tech is inexplicably sad and tragic. Yesterday, the lives of 32 (maybe 33) people were lost at the hands of at least one gunman, a nineteen year old who took his own life in the massacre. There is nothing more I can add here. I've taken you on the trip to Blacksburg. Where it leads from here I do not know. Despite knowing no one there or even remotely associated with either the college or its surrounding community, I am deeply saddened, as most people are. I do not handle such tragedies well. I try to envelope them in territory which is more familiar. I've been to Blacksburg and to the college, although not in a long time. I have no words except those of consolation and sorrow. May the Souls of those departed Rest In Peace. And for those who remain, only prayers of support can be offered. And they are.

1 comment:

Nick Stump said...

I used to play at the South Main Cafe in Blacksburg and thought the town was one of the great little college towns in the country, very progressive and very down home. They had a wonderful and well-informed music crowd there, and I remember my visits with great fondness. When I heard about the tragedy, I was concerned about some of the bloggers from Montgomery County I had met during the Webb campaign, but thankfully they're all safe, though not in good spirits.

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Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.