Way Down East NC, April 1-2, 2017

Northeastern North Carolina, inland from the beach was the first part of North Carolina settled by Europeans.   It is also the poorest, most rural, and most heavily African American part of the state.  I had the bicycle in the trunk as I parked the car at about noon on a Saturday in the town of Windsor, population 3,600.




Windsor’s biggest industry now is probably this prison.



I biked the next five hours through almost entirely rural countryside.    The land is absolutely flat, interspersed with inland estuaries.  There were pine tree farms.


Near here, in the direction of Virginia Beach, is the site of the infamous mercenary training base operated by Blackwater Worldwide that had a huge presence with the U.S. military in Iraq.    It is named after the nearby Blackwater River.  This was not that same river but the water is about the same color.


This area has apparently has been depopulating for many years.   I passed scores of historic homes that were fixed up just enough to keep from falling down.  In many cases it looks like the residents abandon old houses and move to an adjacent double-wide.







I crossed the Chowan River, which is really an estuary of the Albermarle Sound, on a five mile bridge on North Carolina Route 32.   On a bicycle, when you were in the middle you felt like you were out in the ocean.


Edenton has a current population about 5,000.  At least on one website makes the claim “the prettiest town in the South.”  It is indeed a pretty town, but isolated 150 miles northeast of Raleigh and 75 miles southwest of Norfolk.    It was originally an ocean port in the eighteenth century, sitting on the open calm waters of Albermarle Sound.   I think it is slowly being rediscovered by retirees from somewhere else.




I do enjoy the minor thrill of biking into a town without having planned exactly where I am going to sleep that night.   I found this motel near downtown.  When I walked in to ask about a room, the expected Indian owner was sitting at a table, eating McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets with an overweight non-Indian looking woman.

The price of sixty-three dollars including tax was a good deal and the room was fine.


Dinner that night was at the 309 Bistro downtown.    It was a conservative looking crowd.


I ate lamb chops sitting at the bar.   Partway through the meal these two guys I imagine as Log Cabin Republicans came to the bar for their takeout order.


The next morning while watching CBS Sunday Morning I tried to eat an Egg McMuffin.   It was just so bad that I could just not finish it.  I really have become a food snob.


The bike ride back was peaceful on a Sunday morning.  To get across the Chowan River again I took a different bridge, this time US 17.   It was likely was illegal for bicycles but I took it anyway.    After the bridge I got back on small roads.   Like the day before I saw lots of abandoned farms.    It reminded me again of what V.S. Naipaul had written about Eastern North Carolina:

It was a landscape of small ruins. Houses and farmhouses and tobacco barns had simply been abandoned.   The decay of each was individual, and they were all beautiful in the afternoon light.












5 responses to “Way Down East NC, April 1-2, 2017”

  1. Paco/ Incredible cache of images of good traditional architecture. Fantastic report. Well done!/ Madison

    1. Thanks Madison for reading

  2. I particularly appreciate the VS Naipul quote. He is one of my favorite travel authors.

  3. always be a food snob

  4. Great post, Paco. My family has roots in Windor, Ahoskie and the Bertie county area. Both of my parents grew up there. Last year, I drove through downtown Windsor and had lunch at a place called Hammerhead’s which made an absolutely delicious Muffuletta panini sandwich. But that was before the heavy rains and then Hurricane Matthew came through and flooded the area. The restaurant owner decided to close up shop since they had already had to recover and repair from severe floods a few years ago. It’s a shame.

    I can’t believe you cycled on the loooong bridge over the Chowan River! That would completely unnerve me, it’s not like you can just veer off to the curb in case a large tractor-trailer truck comes zooming by. Did you run into any traffic? I doubt that people regularly see cyclists out there.

    Next time you visit Windsor, you should check out the treehouses that they built along the river there. Pretty impressive.


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