Ellerbe NC, April 6, 2016

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.


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



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.


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.




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


People here seemed to value their privacy.


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.



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




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?


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.





Lunch was at Denise’s Diner.


There were artificial flowers around the entrance.


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.





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?


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


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.


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.



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.




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.




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.

One response to “Ellerbe NC, April 6, 2016”

  1. Cynthia Anderson Avatar
    Cynthia Anderson

    Another great article–thanks for the plug:)

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