Archive for April, 2016

I took this selfie sitting in front of a closed post office in Liberty Center, Indiana.  I had gone a long way that day, I needed to rest and get out of the sun.

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Trying to get out of my comfort zone, two months in advance I had bought a ticket on the nonstop Delta flight Raleigh/Durham to Indianapolis,  to arrive on Friday and fly home Monday afternoon.   I had never been to Indianapolis before and I did not know much about it.   Fort Wayne is the second largest city in Indiana, about 150 miles to the northeast of Indy, so Fort Wayne seemed a good destination for a three to four day bike ride.  I arranged for a one way rental car Monday to drive back from Fort Wayne and Enterprise agreed to watch my bicycle suitcase at the Indianapolis airport.   The airport is on the southwest side of town.  My mission the first day was to get to Noblesville, on the far northeast side of the Indianapolis metro region.

I do not think many people bicycle out of the Indianapolis International Airport.    It was 10:00 AM on a Friday morning.   The weather all four days was sunny and warm.

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The bike ride from the airport to downtown was fine, it did not feel unsafe on a loop service road around the airport that has very little traffic.  The southwest side of Indianapolis is an unattractive combination of industry and poor neighborhoods.   I crossed the White River to get into downtown, looking for a place to eat lunch.

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I had a nice lunch at a place called Tavern on South.   After lunch I biked around downtown Indianapolis.  It is very clean and organized but has lots of chain restaurants and not a lot of funk.    There is a nationally famous bike path called Indianapolis Cultural Trail, funded by mostly by a private donation by Eugene and Marilyn Glick.    It attempts to access by bicycle path all the major attractions of downtown.   I found it confusing as the trail meanders around downtown without having a specific origin or destination.

 

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Indianapolis is a huge place.    Within the city limits there is a population of almost nine hundred thousand, and going north from downtown, you can bicycle for twenty miles and still not yet be in the suburbs.  Except for a couple of small rivers, everything is pancake flat; older neighborhoods of early 1900’s houses spread out unencumbered.   Some neighborhoods were fixed up quite nicely.

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Other areas seemed OK in the bright sun of this beautiful day until you realized every fourth or fifth house was abandoned.

 

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I passed by a nice looking outdoor beer garden.

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Mike Pence is the governor of Indiana, a right wing Republican and social conservative with a helmet of gray hair.    I saw lots of political signs during my four days in Indiana.  Most were for Republican local offices in the upcoming primary, but in the older neighborhoods of Indianapolis I repeatedly saw these signs of someone’s apparent War Against Pence.  I did not see these signs anywhere else in Indiana.

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In an area called Meridian-Kessler homes were large and well maintained.  I liked this unusual flat roof.

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The Monon Trail is a well designed twenty mile long rail-to-trail that goes through much of the prosperous part of Indianapolis and its accompanying northern suburbs.   It was full of people on this sunny day.

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I found that the real money is when you leave Indianapolis and get into the municipality of Carmel.      Considering the damage the fifty year Norfolk / Virginia Beach rivalry has done to my hometown region I was interested in the apparent efforts of Carmel to construct its own parallel universe twenty miles north of downtown Indianapolis, even though huge areas of Indianapolis that I had just biked through were clearly underutilized.    And Carmel is building on the current move towards more urban living by adopting that as a fad.

On one side of the bike path is this fake European village called Carmel City Center, apparently quite new.

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On the other side of the bike path is Civic Square.   It includes a performance hall on the right called The Palladium.  (Home of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra!)  All these buildings are built in traditional style but are actually relatively new.   I wonder what performance halls in Indianapolis remain underutilized.

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Both Carmel and the state of Indiana have done a great job with bike paths in this area.   When the Monon Trail ends and dumps me in a mix of suburban chain stores that we have all seen before,  Carmel continues with bike paths.  The lane on the right in this picture is a protected bicycle lane as it crosses the Interstate.

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I still had about eleven miles to Noblesville.   The highway was lined by housing developments the whole way.

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I passed a megachurch on the left.

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The upcoming Republican primary was clearly on people’s minds.  I suspect winning that primary is tantamount to being elected here.

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People who live in suburbs like this (which is now most of America) must go crazy killing time in their cars.  On the bike lane I passed these cars backed up in the five o’clock traffic.

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At a water stop I had booked on Hotels.com a room at a Super 8 on the fringes of Noblesville that looked close enough to downtown that I could bicycle into town for dinner.   Noblesville was clearly prosperous when it was built, and now that it is surrounded by prosperous suburbs it remains so.   Dinner that night at Matteo’s was the best meal of my trip.

All around Indiana I could tell that the Indy 500 race was still a big deal.  It is the one hundredth anniversary this year.  Upstairs at Matteo’s they were having a private dinner for people driving Indy Pace Car Camaro convertibles.    When I was downstairs eating you could hear the people upstairs cheering and clapping.   I do not know who owns these cars or how this whole setup works, but there were about twenty of these identical new blue vehicles parked outside the restaurant on the Noblesville town square.

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I had a delicious dinner of tortellini sitting at the bar between two couples about my age.    They were friendly and interesting people who lived in the Carmel / Noblesville area.   One man regularly rode a recumbent bicycle in a group with friends.   I think he said he was a doctor.   He grew up in Indianapolis.  He relayed that now that their children had moved out, he and his wife had just finished building a new house near the center of Carmel, in a location where they could walk and bicycle to stores and restaurants.   I asked him if he ever considered moving into Indianapolis.   He acted as if he and his wife had never thought of that.   Both couples decried crime in Indianapolis proper.     Both couples advised me that I should bicycle to Muncie, forty miles down the road as my next stop.  They also said I must eat at a place called Vera Mae’s when I got to Muncie.

As I left to bicycle the half mile back to the motel in the dark, the Noblesville Town Hall was lit up against the sky.

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As I was leaving the Super 8 motel the next morning,  I had hesitated to go only to Muncie on Saturday because it was barely forty miles away.  I would be leaving too many miles left for the following two days.   But Muncie did seem like a nice place to visit.  It is a college town, home of Ball State University; also the origin of the Ball mason jar.   It took me about twenty minutes to get out of Noblesville and into actual countryside.    The terrain was to be mostly flat all day.

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I passed people along the way.

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A little further on, this farmhouse was having some kind of garage sale on this Saturday morning.   They must be adherents to whatever religion requires this type of dress.

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The only major town between Noblesville and Muncie is Anderson.   While Anderson and Muncie both appear on Wikipedia as being about the same size, about seventy thousand, Anderson looks a lot worse for wear.  As I got into town on the southwestern outskirts I was already looking for somewhere to eat lunch, but instead found Good’s Candy Shop, which I learned has been there at least since the nineteen fifties.

I got a cup of caramel fudge ice cream.   The place was so clean and the people so friendly that it almost got on your nerves.

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A little further into town, at Lee’s Famous Chicken and Strips I got the rest of my lunch, a chicken barbecue sandwich and a sweet tea.

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The rest of Anderson that I saw looked pretty depressed.  I think it has lost a lot of manufacturing jobs.  I did manage to take some candid photos of people out for a walk on a pretty day.

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Downtown Anderson had a nice art-deco skycraper, empty.

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The remaining miles to Muncie were pleasant bicycling through the countryside.   On the outskirts of Muncie golf course developments suggested that this town might be more prosperous than Anderson.

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The last several miles into Muncie were on this very pleasant path along the White River.

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Once in central Muncie I looked for somewhere to regroup.    The only coffee place downtown had closed at 3:00 PM.   I instead found Savage’s Ale House.   I got a beer and pondered what to do next.  The place had a mirror behind the bar.

 

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It turned out there was a major college debate thing going on at Ball State that weekend, and all the hotels were full, or near full, and the remaining rooms both really expensive and not well located.  I looked on Airbnb, and there was a place for $ 37.00 + tax at somebody’s private home in the Muncie suburbs.    I decided that if taking that deal required me to pay for a taxi home at night after dinner it was worth it.    The email from the Airbnb lady said she would leave a key for me in a combo lock at the front door.

As I headed out of downtown Muncie I noticed in the bright light that Muncie has some really attractive banks.

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I had come into downtown Muncie on the White River trail but there is another bike path, a rail-trail that extends out to the northwest from downtown, in the direction of my Airbnb.

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I got to the house and found the key on a combo lock at the front door.

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She had told me she had animals. As I entered this little dog kept his distance as he barked away at me.

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This cat sat motionless on the stairs.

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The room upstairs was really quite nice, with a huge bed, its own bathroom and fluffy towels.   It looked out over the backyard.

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I took a shower and chilled for a while, reading The New Yorker on my Kindle.  The woman was still not home when I got back on the bike to ride the five miles back downtown so I could eat dinner at Vera Mae’s.   The restaurant was not cheap, it was very crowded on a Friday night, and both the food and service were substandard.    The cab guy home was fun to talk with after I had loaded my bicycle in the trunk of his aging Honda Accord.

I talked with the Airbnb owner briefly when I got back that night and more when I was leaving the next day.  She had just returned to Indiana from living in California and had a young son about eight years old.  She said taking a picture of her was fine, but she did not want people to think that she normally keeps a kitchen so messy.   She works with skin care and she gave me some nice powdered sunblock.

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Biking the next day was to be through Indiana farming country.    It was seventy-seven miles to Fort Wayne, a distance that I could accomplish in one day if really necessary, but Google Maps showed there were several motels in the town of Bluffton, about twenty-five miles sooner.

I decided to get some miles under my belt before breakfast.   Outside of Muncie there was this dragstrip right next to the two lane highway .

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Someone out here feels the Bern.   This is one of the only two or three presidential signs I saw on the entire trip.

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I pedaled into Albany, Indiana, population 2,100.  Sunday morning breakfast was downtown at Milton’s.   It felt pleasantly like America, Land of the Free, Home of the Brave.  I heard the waitress ask the couple if front of me if they had gone to church yet, or if they were going after breakfast.  I continued reading The New Yorker, on my Kindle.

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After breakfast I pedaled through the neat streets of Albany and then through the flat farmland.  Almost all intersections are at right angles, both roads razor straight for miles in both directions.

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The rural areas here look very different from those in North Carolina.   Even in North Carolina flatlands like the area Down East, the roads are not so straight, and everything is not so neatly organized.   Here in this part of Indiana he land values must be high; there is almost no wasted land; all land seems to be either intensely farmed, or else someone’s house and yard.    You hardly ever see yards filled with old junk like I had just seen last week in the North Carolina sandhills.   Virtually every house out here had perfectly grown green grass around it, mowed in a yard drawn at right angles.

 

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Even where houses had been essentially abandoned, most of the time someone came around to cut the grass.

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I went through two small towns that day before I got to Bluffton in mid-afternoon.   While neither Montpelier nor Liberty Center looked prosperous (a house divided into three apartments in Montpelier was for sale for $35,000.00 and the crowd at the mini-mart in Montpelier did not look healthy) at least both towns looked like a pleasant small town.   Unlike North Carolina towns that have been chopped up by huge highways, these places still had their essential character.

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The situation in Bluffton, where I chose to spend the night, is a little more complicated.   Bluffton at 11,000 is much larger than than Montpelier or Liberty Center.    I was perplexed at the sign entering town, saying that Bluffton was “An Inclusive Community”  The town center looks well maintained.

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I learned the reason Bluffton proclaims itself an “Inclusive Community” is that its mayor Ted Ellis decided to address the inclusiveness issue head on with support from the business community.   That is in stark contrast to the town’s history.  Even now Wikipedia claims that Bluffton is 96.7% white.    According to a 2006 article in USA Today about Bluffton,  until very recently it was known as a “sundown town”, a town in which black people had better leave before the sun goes down.  Mayor Ellis is trying to fight that image.  I am sure he is facing a lot of headwinds.     There also appears to be a lot of conservative Christians here.   Church notices were posted in every establishment that I visited in or near Bluffton.    I began to wish I had kept going to Fort Wayne, which Google Maps shows having at least three brewery pubs.   I was tired however, and also did not want to shirk from documenting what I see and visit,  as is the purpose of this blog.   I got a motel room a mile and a half north of downtown, paying an Indian-looking guy.

Other than fast food, there was hardly anywhere to eat on a Sunday night in Bluffton.    One place right in town called Billy Ann’s Supper Club actually looked creepily interesting but was closed on Sundays.  The only real restaurant I could find open was even further out of town than my motel, a Mexican restaurant three miles from downtown, on the highway near the Walmart.    I had not had much lunch, so I decided to to eat early and thus not have to bike in the dark.

After chilling in my motel room for a spell, I biked down the highway to El Camino Real.   Speaking of diversity, there were actual Mexicans working in this restaurant, so I guess that says something.

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People eat early in the Bluffton suburbs.    When I got to the restaurant at 5:55 PM it was packed; I almost had to wait for a table.    When I left at 7:05 PM it was nearly empty.   There were church notices posted around the cash register.  El Camino Real does serve beer and wine although I saw almost no one else drinking.   The place was full of families eating together; it was an altogether pleasant vibe but I thought the Mexican food was tasteless.    Does the painting on the wall indicate that baby Jesus was somehow in a Mexican town, or am I reading too much into this?

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It was still light outside when I got on the bicycle and rode back down the four lane highway to my motel, where I watched two or three hours of excellent CBS television (60 Minutes / Madam Secretary / The Good Wife).   I then walked outside to take a picture of the motel in the dark.

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I had a tight schedule the next day, in that my flight from the Indianapolis airport was to take off at five thirty in the afternoon.  I left the motel at about seven thirty in the morning, figuring I would just get breakfast twenty five miles away in Fort Wayne.

Three or four miles out of Bluffton near the Walmart, in what feels to me the middle of nowhere, they are building new housing on the prairie.

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Further on towards Fort Wayne, the terrain was much like the day before, very pleasant flat roads that cut through the farmland with almost no traffic.

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I got to Fort Wayne even faster than expected.   On the outskirts there were two houses sort of by themselves.  These people must have an interesting political relationship. One of the two houses had this sign:

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The house next door had this:

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I cruised through older neighborhoods.

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I thought this was an attractive church.

 

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After being in Bluffton, to sit in a Fort Wayne Starbucks somehow felt like coming home.   I chilled there for quite a while, eating oatmeal and drinking decaf.    The Enterprise car rental place was about two miles further in an older neighborhood on the north side.    I cruised around downtown Fort Wayne before finding a nice bike path along the river that led me to the car place.   From there I drove three hours back to the Indianapolis airport.

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One note about the new Indianapolis airport.  It is the nicest airport of its size I have ever visited.   Like the new Raleigh/Durham terminal two, it is a soaring piece of contemporary architecture.   Unlike the new RDU terminal, when you walk in from the street without going through security you can walk straight into a welcoming large hall, with the airplanes visible the other side of a glass wall.   There are coffee places, bars and restaurants there, pre-security.   You go through security to enter the two concourses on either side.   The main hall is such a pleasant public space that I like to imagine, if I lived near here, I would come out here to just to hang out and look at the airplanes.

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Has anyone heard of Ellerbe NC?  It is in Richmond county, twenty-six miles west of Southern Pines.

I had driven down to the Sandhills area on a Wednesday morning, looking for some other part of North Carolina to discover.   In the center of the triangle formed by Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen sit the huge parking lots for Walmart, Best Buy, PetSmart chain stores, and megastores that line both sides of US15-501.  I parked outside a Panera Bread and went inside and bought a decaf.   Scanning Google Maps on my phone, the town of Ellerbe looked interesting.  I pulled the bicycle out of the car and took off towards the southeast, to see what the mysterious town of Ellerbe would be like.

Off the main highway about a mile from my car, Aberdeen has an interesting municipal building.

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I rode off down a pleasant two lane road through the Sandhills countryside.

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Those not from around here may not know about the Sandhills.   This area of central North Carolina that spills into South Carolina  is over a hundred miles from any beach, but the topsoil is pretty much all sand.    This is somebody’s driveway just west of Aberdeen.

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Around the end of the nineteenth century somebody noticed that all this otherwise near worthless land was perfect for building golf courses.  It was right on a principal north / south rail line;  people could come down here from the Northeast overnight by train.  Pinehurst and Southern Pines were the first golf resorts here.   The most prominent kinds of tree that grow well in sand are pines.  So everything here is named pine this or sand that.

I saw a little bit of golf stuff leaving Aberdeen, but apparently the south side of town is not as popular.    Most of the golf courses are north and east of where I was riding.   Heading southwest towards Ellerbe I got the impression that all this low cost land gives people a certain freedom.   You can live here and spread out.   I saw houses of all sizes.   If you want to live in a messy way just go for it.

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Or if you can afford a big house, maybe you also can afford a big front yard!

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People here seemed to value their privacy.

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I was about thirteen miles out of Aberdeen when I really felt I was in the middle of nowhere.  The houses had stopped and the two lane road ran through piney woods on sand.  I came upon something called Sycamore Lodge.    It is a large private campground; people must just come in their RV’s to hang out.

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The rest of the way to Ellerbe was mostly piney woods, interspaced with someone’s house, or someone’s old car.

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About three miles before Ellerbe I crossed over I-73/74.    I-73/I-74 is a recently built highway south from Greensboro to Rockingham to Wilmington, giving someone (I guess) an alternate way to drive from Greensboro to Wilmington.    There wasn’t much traffic on a Wednesday at 2:00 PM.   It used to be that having great roads like this was the key to economic development, but I do not think that is true anymore.  It might be the opposite; young energetic entrepeneurial people are moving to places that are not defined by their highways but have inviting public spaces.  Instead, what about a pay raise for our teachers?

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In the classification “towns big enough to have one or two restaurants and a Family Dollar store” there are hardly any towns left in North Carolina that have not had their downtown ambience wrecked by a divided four lane highway.    In most towns in North Carolina, even those near an Interstate highway, the NCDOT had previously built a four lane highway on the “old” road.   Ellerbe is indeed intact, but I wonder how long it will last before a strip mall or maybe even a Walmart is built at the I-74/I-73 interchange.   Ellerbe does feel like fifty years ago.

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Lunch was at Denise’s Diner.

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There were artificial flowers around the entrance.

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I got their specialty cheeseburger with cole slaw on top, plus a side of green beans from the hot bar, with sweet tea and a slice of pecan pie.   It was all delicious and cost seven dollars and thirteen cents total.

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I bicycled back to Aberdeen by a different route.   I enjoy looking at signs.   Just outside of Ellerbe, these people want you to call them, but why?

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This trailer park wants you to call Jeff,  but how?  Maybe everybody around here knows his number.

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I passed though some of the most remote feeling areas that I remember visiting in central North Carolina.   The major things I saw out here were a place called K2 where they train guard dogs, and this huge solar energy facility.  It is much larger than it appears in the photo.

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Bicycling along through what appeared the middle of nowhere, I suddenly was inside a neighborhood where it all appeared to be about golf.    This was Foxfire, the first of many developments centered around golf that I would pass in the next ten miles.

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I stopped at a mini-mart to get more water.   Apparently, the same management who runs the mini-mart and sells real estate also sells gold bullion and a Glock handguns!  You can’t be too careful out here.

 

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When I approached Pinehurst,  the older areas around the original hotel were more posh.  While these houses are not at all new, they try to look even older; maybe even aspiring to downtonabbyish pretentions.

 

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I bicycled through several more miles of roads fronting on of golf courses before I got back on US15-501.   I was dicey dodging the cars around the Walmart, before I could get to my parked Honda about a mile down the road.

I had a dentist appointment on Monday morning at 8:00 AM; having a tooth crowned.   After almost three hours in the chair, and with a mouth still numb from anesthetic, I came home and made myself a smoothie, the one thing that does not require chewing.  I drank it while I finished packing.  Ten minutes later I rode out on the PBW folding bike.  Tootie was not around to see me off; I think she was working at the office.

My mission was to get to Richmond in about three days.  I had only a sketchy outline of a route. The intermediate goal was the sixty miles to Henderson NC, near the Virginia border.

We live in a building called Greenbridge, on a street that divides Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

I bicycled about a quarter mile down Franklin Street.  Chapel Hill looks like the quintessential American small town.

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Twelve miles away is Durham.   Young people are moving to downtown Durham right now in droves.    Durham is not that much to look at but all sorts of interesting people live there.  I did not go all the way downtown; I passed it by on Buchanan Street, heading towards Club Boulevard, which would take me northeast.

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Heading out Old Oxford Road, I bicycled through miles of poor neighborhoods and public housing, then the fancy Treyburn development.    Soon thereafter road passes through actual countryside.

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Fifteen miles north of Durham, looking depressingly well funded, I passed the federal prison in Butner.

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A little further on I stopped for a cold drink at a mini-mart in Stem NC, a town I had never heard of.

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Another twelve miles down the road, I passed through Oxford, a town that reminded me I was now in the Real North Carolina, no longer in the trendy Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area.   Oxford has a beautiful modernist public library, with Johnny Reb guarding the entrance.

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Across the street, this dog sat patiently chained into the back up a pickup.

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Twelve miles further down the road,  I tiredly pulled into a McDonald’s in Henderson at about six o’clock.  I sat in a booth with a small coffee and pondered my lodging and dining options.  On Yelp there was a Greek restaurant in downtown Henderson called George’s that sounded great.  However, in Henderson there are no motels near downtown.  I did not want to risk bike riding long distances in the dark after dinner.    The entire commercial heart of Henderson has moved two miles out to Interstate 85.   I can list many North Carolina towns that have this same situation.   Unlike cities like Raleigh and Durham, where young people are moving downtown, the smaller towns have been decimated and their downtowns have not recovered as well.   Everything in Henderson is out by the highway.  In fact, near the highway the older strip developments are suffering because of the newer strip developments.

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At this Ford place a salesman told me this fetching showroom was built in 1972.  He said Ford was pressuring them to tear it down and replace it with a standardized corporate building.

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Around the corner from this was a Roses store.   Henderson was the original home of the Roses chain.   Anyone who grew up in Virginia Beach in the 1960’s remembers the two Roses;  on 31st Street and on 17th Street.  They were smaller then; what we then called a dime store.  When I was about twelve it was a huge part of my life, my friends and I bicycled to 31st Street and then hung around Roses.   Decimated by Walmart,  the remnants of the company are now owned by right-wing advocate Art Pope, who has been instrumental in wrecking North Carolina government for the past couple of years.   I guess they leave a store in Henderson, for old time’s sake.

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So I got a good deal at a Red Roof Inn, right near the Interstate.   A Ruby Tuesday was close by.  I could have walked across the wide street from the motel but chose to bike there.

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I snobbily assumed that I was selling out by going to a chain restaurant.   Actually,  Hickory Bourbon Salmon cooked rare was delicious and healthy.   The scene at the bar was delightful with all kinds of people, except maybe not the kind of people who seem to be in Chapel Hill.   I only drank white wine, but people in Henderson were drinking serious cocktails.

 

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I did not take the most direct route north from Henderson,  because I really wanted to bicycle through Soul City.

 

First, I did see inner city Henderson. The restaurant George’s was indeed there, but everything else looked mostly commercially vacant.

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Henderson was also a big textile manufacturing town.    Rather than just describing war heroes from the 19th century, these history signs have gotten more diverse.  From reading later on the internet this strike was much more complicated than described here.

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Soul City is about fifteen miles northeast of Henderson.

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Soul City was founded about 1970 and led by local civil rights leader Floyd McKissick.  It received federal government funding.  It was to be a “Model City” built from the ground up, but mostly for minorities and the poor, on a site pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  44,000 people were supposed to live here by the year 2004.  Some may say that it is a complete failure, but forty years later a few hundred people do live here.  On the downside, I saw both a health clinic and an assisted living facility, both not very old, but closed with grass growing in the parking lots.  On the upside, the people seemed to be living here in pleasant surroundings with street names meant to inspire.

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A few miles past Soul City, where the smaller road passed over I-85,  this gas station had been converted to a church.

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It was about eleven in the morning, and there was really nowhere to eat lunch until I got to South Hill, Virginia, about thirty miles to the north.    I would have to tough it out.   Compared to almost anywhere I have been in North Carolina, it seemed pretty vacant here.   A little further on, this store sat by itself at a crossroads, with locals congregating in the parking lot in their pickup trucks.   I stopped to buy some peanuts.  The guy behind the counter was talking to his coworker in Arabic.

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Once I got into Virginia, the rest of the way to South Hill was on US1, a three lane road with very little traffic that parallels I-85.

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I passed lots of abandoned buildings.

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About five miles before South Hill, this was a creative re-use to a former Horne’s restaurant.   I am not sure what they are selling.  Jesus is Lord, however.  (Important note: Horne’s is NOT Stuckey’s, they were similar but competitors!)

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I glided into the southwest side of South Hill about two-thirty; tired and hungry.   South Hill’s growth is also dictated by I-85. Most of the original town is to the west of I-85 and dying, any real retail is clustered around the Walmart on the east side of the freeway.    I was lucky to run into Wilson Brothers Barbecue on this depressing looking side of town.   Lunch of barbecue sandwich, brunswick stew, and sweet tea was delicious.   Everybody in there seemed old.

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I sat at the counter with my lunch and plotted strategy.   It is almost sixty miles to Petersburg from South Hill with only tiny towns and one questionable motel along the way, at least according to Google Maps.   I decided to stay that night in South Hill, ride all the way to Petersburg the next day, then get up the morning after that and ride directly to the Amtrak station in northern Richmond for the 1:00 PM train home.   With my phone I booked a room in South Hill on Hotels.com.

Going into town, I passed barely used tobacco warehouses.

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A vacant car dealership.

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I glided into the Days Inn for a siesta.

 

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After resting and watching the PBS Newshour in the motel room, I biked back into town for dinner.   South Hill is a remote place and I was not optimistic about dining options, but I was very impressed by The Horseshoe, which I found on Yelp.  It had a decent crowd on a Tuesday night.  In many ways it reminds me of a lower priced version of Crook’s Corner, in Chapel Hill.   It was Southern food, creatively reimagined and fun.  I got broccoli and cheese soup, then the fried green tomato BLT with pimiento cheese.  You could sit at the horseshoe shaped counter and read your book.

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When I asked about wine the only choices were truly local, from a winery in Lacrosse, Virginia, about five miles from the restaurant.  These bottles were in a small picnic cooler at the server’s feet.   The pinot grigio was refreshing.   I had a good time talking to the restaurant’s owner.

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He said he was a South Hill native but had worked away many years in the restaurant business, and came back and bought this existing place about five years ago.   Clearly their pies are a specialty but I inexplicably skipped dessert.

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You can see my bicycle in the lower left corner of the picture above.   There was not much traffic on this side of town at eight o’clock on at night even though this is Business US-1.

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