C.H. to Richmond; day two: Soul City

Posted: April 5, 2016 in Central North Carolina trips

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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