Archive for June, 2012

There are not many negative aspects to living in Carrboro, but one is that it lacks beautiful historic buildings.    We crow about our mill houses, but, please.  I have always wanted to live in an urban historic neighborhood, in a tightly spaced bunch of old houses, within walking distance to a downtown.   This kind of place hardly exists anywhere in the state of North Carolina, much less Carrboro.   But, at least physically, it does exist 110 miles away in Lynchburg.

On this Sunday morning I parked the car in front of a Target store, near a Walmart and a Sam’s Club and a Dick’s Sporting Goods, across the highway from Jerry Fallwell’s Liberty University.   Liberty is in a suburban location,  wedged between two highways, but adjacent to the breakfast spot of Red America.

I spent at least the next four hours cycling around this very hilly city, including Liberty University   I cannot confirm much about the housing choices of  Christian social conservatives, but  I speculate that most of the senior professors and managers at Lynchburg’s one growth industry prefer to live in the suburbs and exurbs.    Lynchburg is a faded industrial  city, reeking of history.  It needs someone to adopt it.  Sorry, but that will not be me.   Living here would be creepy.

Just since my last visit two years ago, one can sense some urban progress.  I had an excellent Sunday lunch of wood fired pizza at the almost rowdy bar of a brewpub housed in a nineteenth century brick former warehouse, at the bike path that runs along the Appomattox River.      Closer to downtown, there are blocks and blocks of barely used buildings, both commercial and residential.  They are in various styles and materials, and some date back to the seventeen hundreds.  Because of the hills, it somehow evokes San Francisco.










Housing here seems cheap.   This place, on a lovely tree lined street of similar homes, was built in 1858, comprises about five thousand square feet, and was just reduced to $ 238,00.00.

This place built in 1853 advertises twenty nine hundred square feet, with relatively new wiring and plumbing.   The pictures of the kitchen on the web look almost trendy.  $ 289,00.00

More houses in Lynchburg:

Near Amity Gardens PA

We always think of Red America as being rural, and probably Southern as well.   But parts of central Pennsylvania feel very much part of that Red America vibe, but mostly in a good way.   Flags are everywhere.  (Maybe because it was very close to Flag Day!)  Harley riders (helmetless) are also abundant.

This bike trip took me from the western Philly suburbs on the excellent Schuylkill River bike path, upriver to the faded industrial city of Reading.     I spent the night in Reading and rode back to the car the next day, on a different route.

Keeping with the Red America vibe, I ran into an excellent old car show on the streets of Pottstown PA.   One guy showed me his flawless AC Cobra.   Do any of the Marshall siblings (or Mom) remember this car?   It is just like the one Dad had, except his was red.

1966 Rambler Ambassador convertible

Saturday afternoon, at cocktail hour, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, on a lightly used secondary road, was this excellent outdoor bar.    What a find!

I arrived Reading about 7:30 PM Saturday.   It is very much a faded place.   Some parts seemed scary.    The city is now majority Hispanic.   Those new immigrants have saved part of the city, but nothing appears very prosperous.    Some parts of the city are really beautiful, although this block is not as prosperous as it looks.

street in Reading

There is, however, some life in the town, exemplified by the excellent restaurant I went to on Saturday night;  Judy’s on Cherry.   It is downtown, surrounded by many empty storefronts and vacant office buildings.  It was packed; people waiting for tables.    I do work hard to carry a respectable change of clothes on these bike rides, but I was still pushing my luck.   Everyone else at Judy’s had made an effort to look nice.    Not like Carrboro.

I have cycled to and from Danville many times.    In terms of driving time, it is the closest place to Carrboro that really feels like you are not in Kansas anymore.   In its own mind, its biggest claim to fame is that it was, for forty-eight hours, the last capital of the Confederacy.    It is a textile and tobacco town whose textile mills have almost all closed.    If it could get its act in gear it might actually end up a pretty cool place.

This Sunday afternoon I cycled from Yanceyville NC (about 45 miles from Carrboro) about twenty miles each way to Danville.  It is a glorious ride through Piedmont farms and woods.

Danville is blessed with an abundance of historic architecture, including blocks and blocks of old tobacco warehouses, most of which are not fully used.

old tobacco warehouses, Danville

This blog is really about the Downtowner Motor Inn.   This motel  must have seemed like a good idea at the time.  In 1966, people wanted to stay in motels, not hotels.  So why not build a high rise motel downtown?   It was a very small national chain.  They were in places like Sumter SC, Springfield IL, and Rochester NY.    And Danville VA.  They are all pretty much gone; you can follow them on the web.  (I am not the only nut out there on this issue!)

I had even written a letter to the local paper,  The Danville Bee imploring their community to save this building.   One guy on Facebook agreed with me, although he lives in Dallas, Texas, of all places.   Another  guy on the web referred to its “Bauhaus-like qualities.”   It appears pretty much everybody in Danville hates this building.   It was in the process of being demolished while I was there.     R.I.P.

Downtowner Motor Inn, June 2012

For more pictures by even more intense advocates, see