On these coronavirus rides I drive my car somewhere and take a bike ride of just a few hours. I keep totally away from people. I do not stop at any establishments. I bring my own food and water.
My son Jack’s girlfriend Mary Hannah is now is in graduate school at UNC but was originally from Stoneville NC, a place I had never heard of. I had to check Stoneville out. It is just over thirty miles north of Greensboro near the Virginia line.
It took about ninety minutes for me to drive the ninety miles from Chapel Hill to Stoneville. On a Sunday morning I parked in a church parking lot and took out my Bike Friday. There were three other cars in the lot. I guess the church was trying to preach remotely.
My ride would take me from Stoneville (population 1,200) to the much larger town of Eden (population 15,000.) I would seriously noodle by bicycle around Eden, then ride back to Stoneville.
A lot of North Carolina towns look terrible with commercial downtowns that have been essentially abandoned. Stoneville is not like that; they are definitely keeping up appearances.
A main line of the Norfolk Southern runs right through the middle of town.
There is a mid-century modern post office.
Biking on Sunday mornings during this pandemic I have seen various ways in which Christians seek to connect without physically connecting. Here on a stage in downtown Stoneville NC this woman was singing to an audience of exactly zero, at least until I got there. She was accompanied by a young man drumming who appeared to be about twelve years old. Maybe she is broadcasting this on Facebook; maybe she is just fulfilling her need to get the gospel music out. The music sounded much better live than it does on this recording. I found the music quite moving
I biked out of town on the older highway eastward towards Eden. Although I knew Eden would have many abandoned textile mills there is still some textile manufacturing going on in North Carolina. On a country road just outside of Stoneville NC Sans Technical Fibers was very much in operation even on a Sunday morning.
There were a few interesting things along the highway from Stoneville to Eden, including tobacco barns.
Wikipedia is changing the world. I can so easily learn all sorts of factoids that I otherwise would never have known. For example, who would have known that Eden NC (which I had definitely heard of) was created as a town in 1967 as a result of the merger of three towns: Leaksville NC, Spray NC, and Draper NC. All three were the site of large textile mills, all within three or four miles of each other.
On the outskirts of the city of Eden was a drive in movie theater. At least pre-coronavirus it seems still fully functional.
I first visited the former Leaksville, one the three towns that combined to make Eden.
I pedaled through neighborhoods towards its downtown. It looks like a factory town.
Downtown Leaksville seems to function now as the downtown Eden.
Down the block from these downtown buildings is the Karastan carpet mill, which seems very much in business, although it was not working on a Sunday morning.
The modernist offices of the carpet mill.
I biked downhill east from downtown. This lot had about twenty or thirty original Volkswagen Beetles.
Eden sits at the junction of the Smith River and the Dan River. There must have been a waterfall or steep set of rapids here on the Smith River. Historic signs pointed out that power has been generated here since 1813 and cloth has been woven by this power since 1836. Cloth for Confederate uniforms was made here. There are the remains of at least three huge mills, none of which seem to be operating now.
There was one more area I had to visit, the original town of Draper that now comprises the other half of greater city of Eden. Draper is four miles farther east and also has mill type housing.
The principal street of the area is Fieldcrest Road, presumably named after the towel manufacturer that used to be here. The street runs into a large former textile mill, now used as a trucking terminal.
I was out by myself during a coronavirus pandemic and it was time to turn around and head back towards my car. Two miles west is the municipal complex for the town of Eden. In the 1960’s there must have been farmland between the Draper area and the former Leaksville downtown. All the textile mills surely were running at full tilt. With the optimism of the era Eden NC on this farmland built a complex of mid-century modernist civic buildings, schools, and a city park. I stopped for lunch in parkland in front of what I believe is the police station. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a side of nuts and chips.
The Osborne Baptist Church is so close to the police station that at first glance it looks like they are connected.
Across the street is this high school.
Behind it is this middle school.
After lunch I got back on the bicycle and rode the ten miles back to Stoneville. It took about an hour. Here is one last shout-out to prewar gas stations I had seen on this day.
This region clearly has many Trump supporters. Their passion is terrifying This person cannot walk out his front door without stepping around this banner. It was faded, it has been flying there a long time.
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