About thirty years ago I had an air freight client on the outskirts of Clinton NC; a manufacturer of high-end glass panels. I used to drive down there for sales calls. The factory might still be there although companies now change names every few years as they get bought and sold. I recently realized I had never seen downtown Clinton, which is sixty-five miles south of Raleigh, part of that great expanse of flatness North Carolinians call Down East.
On the day after Christmas I put the Bike Friday in the back of our car and drove down I-40. I chose to start my bicycle ride from the smaller town of Faison NC (population 961), about twenty miles northeast of the larger Clinton NC. Faison NC is at the top right of this map.
Here is Faison NC.
In an otherwise mostly empty downtown Faison NC, Hispanic immigrants have opened new businesses.
I pulled the bicycle out of the back of the car and headed west towards Clinton NC. Faison NC actually has a few distinctive buildings.
There was not much traffic as I bicycled out of town.
In the fifteen or twenty miles to Clinton NC there was a plethora of rural abandoned buildings.
I passed lots of industrial agriculture, including this set of barns holding thousands of what I think were turkeys.
Clinton (population 8700) feels positively urban compared to Faison. I appears about that about a generation ago many retail businesses in Clinton moved from their downtown out to the US-421 Bypass.
Now a lot of that retail on US-421 is also vacant, as the older sprawl is replaced by the further-out Walmart and its attendant shopping center. I bicycled toward downtown, passing a tractor dealer along the way.
There is life here! A long-time town doctor had donated his historic home for use as an arts center.
Downtown Clinton is not all empty, unlike many such North Carolina towns.
On the other side of downtown the entire street smelled of bacon as I bicycled by an enormous Smithfield pork processing plant, right in town. It was apparently just breaking for lunch.
Soon I was out of town, heading east towards the town of Warsaw,
across significant wetlands.
I passed another Smithfield pork processing plant. Clearly employees drive mostly pickup trucks!
I hit the second point of the day’s town triangle by arriving near the town of Warsaw (population 3000).
My brother Alex wrote an entire book about the fact that urbanization clusters around transportation modes. While there are almost no restaurants in the actual town of Warsaw, there are at least eight restaurants (mostly fast food chains) at the I-40 interchange, two miles away.
I had to eat, despite my food snobbism. Smithfield’s is a regional barbecue chain; maybe I could find something there. It was packed; I got in line.
What to eat? My doctor has suggested I cut down on animal fat and red meat. Brunswick stew was the healthiest looking thing I saw; only by the pint: $ 5.99. The young woman at the counter offered their special of a second pint for only $ 2.00 additional. (No wonder Americans are fat!) I declined, what would I do with another pint of Brunswick stew? I brought my own beverage (my water bottle!)
The stew was warm and comfortable, I ate it slowly while gazing at the parking lot.
Back on the bicycle, it was only eight miles to complete the triangle by bicycling back to Faison NC. I arrived on the other side of town and bicycled to my car for the two hour drive back to Chapel Hill.