Pilgrimage to Saxapahaw; a walking journey; Nov. 30, 2015

After posts of 95 bicycle rides, I am breaking The Rules (just once)  by writing about a walk.   If I do more walks, I guess I will have to start a different blog.

It is sixteen miles from my apartment on Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill to Jackie & John Ripley’s apartment on the third floor of the former textile mill in Saxapahaw.   I wanted to know what it is like to walk in America, if walking was your only means of transport.  What would an intercity walk be like?   Maybe I could feel like Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, walking down a highway, putting a crease in my hat as I walked.   Unfortunately, my hypothesis was confirmed.  Intercity walking on country roads in America is likely both unpleasant and unsafe.  Hiking down Highway 54 can indeed be a drag.  I will never do this again.

Not yet having confirmed this, I set out from my home on a Monday morning without even arranging for my return; my only hope was that John would take pity on me and drive me home.  Tootie had agreed to come get me if all else failed.   I walked from my apartment in Chapel Hill and down Poplar Avenue in Carrboro where I had lived for twenty five years.


I stopped off at my office in Carrboro for about an hour , then continued out of town.   With the miracles of smartphones, I could continue my Day Job even while dodging cars on Highway 54.

West Main Street in Carrboro is a street I have driven on many times. but had not examined quite so closely.  We always think now of Carrboro as this liberal place, but there is a diversity of opinion here.  “Where the Bible Stands”



At least West Main Street had a sidewalk.



After less than a mile, the sidewalk ends at the Carrboro Plaza Shopping Center.


It is about ten miles down Highway 54 from here to the turnoff to Saxapahaw.   Highway 54 quickly settles in as a two lane road.   I had thought the wide shoulder would make walking against traffic somehow tolerable.   It was just not wide enough.  I normally only felt comfortable stepping into the grass each time a car went by.


When walking and you get to something as innocuous as a gas station, it takes on a different meaning entirely, it becomes something to break up the journey.P1030314

There is street art out here in the country.


There is livestock


The is more religious diversity.



About six miles out, this small bar sits by itself on the highway.  It has been there as long as I can remember, with several different names.  I have never been in there.    I do not know what it is like now, but John Soehner told me several years ago that he saw a guy in there get beaten with a pool cue.



Walking along a highway, one sees all sorts of weird stuff that has been tossed out of car windows.


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Further out 54, I walked by this building.   Back in the day, when such things were Shocking, this building held the largest mail-order condom company in America.




A little over ten miles out, I finally made the turn onto Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road.  I still had something like four miles left to walk.  I had thought that this road would be more peaceful, and it is indeed picturesque.  However, it was so narrow that I had to jump into the weeds every time a car went by.


The mill apartments in Saxapahaw are indeed populated by many artists and free thinking people but there is diversity of thought on the highway outside of town.


Saxapahaw was a textile mill started in the nineteenth century alongside some rapids of the Haw River.   I had been closed for a long time when it was rehabbed about ten years ago as apartments.    I thought that it had no chance of succeeding, since it is really not close to any major city.   However, it has become a really cool place.    It has a general store, a performance space, a bar / restaurant, and a coffee house.  It also has a charcuterie,  where they make their own local ham, pate, and other pork products.


John’s apartment is in the upper right, overlooking the river.



He snapped my picture using my phone.







One response to “Pilgrimage to Saxapahaw; a walking journey; Nov. 30, 2015”

  1. Very nice piece Paco. This is my route to work everyday and 54 is a very busy road.

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