The Coronavirus Diaries, Part Sixteen: Laurinburg and its unusual airport; May 26, 2020

Posted: June 6, 2020 in Central North Carolina trips, Coronavirus Diaries 2020

I parked at a gas station/mini-mart just to the north of town.   There seemed to be plenty of spaces so maybe no one would care if I left our car there for 3 – 4 hours.

 

I was about a mile north of downtown Laurinburg.   Laurinburg (population 16,000) is ninety miles south of Chapel Hill near the South Carolina line.   This is the farthest I have driven for one of these same day trips, where I take a bike ride and stay socially distant.  I came down here mostly to see the unique airport that is south of Laurinburg.

I biked into town through what must be the poorer side.    Wikipedia says Laurinburg Institute is a historically black boarding school.   Because of COVID I could not tell if it was open or closed.  There was grass growing around the parking lot.

 

I biked onward toward downtown Laurinburg.

 

 

 

 

I bicycled out of town towards the airport.  A lot of people just looked poor.

Smithfield, now owned by a Chinese company, is the largest pork producer in the world.  Just forty-five miles away in the tiny town of Tar Heel NC (population 117) is the world’s largest pork processing plant, where the they kill over 30,000 pigs per day.    I saw Smithfield signs all over the Laurinburg area.   This particular facility was on the east side of downtown Laurinburg.

I biked out of town onto the flat landscape and saw other signs indicating Smithfield.

 

 

The flat swampy landscape extended as far as the eye could see.

The Laurinburg-Maxton airport was built as an Army training base during World War II with a 6500′ runway.   There are today two or three companies in the California and Arizona desert where hundreds of older passenger jets are lined up to be scrapped.   For some reason a minor player in the jet junkyard business is here in humid Laurinburg.   I have been coming out here for several years and most of the same jets have been here the whole time.  This is a Northwest Airlines DC-10.

 

The airport is only lightly fenced.  About ten years ago I was here on bicycles with my late friend Dave Latowsky.   He was always much more brazen than me, he encouraged me and we rode our bicycles through an open gate and out underneath these jets.   But that was then, on a Sunday.   Here today on a weekday I just had to look at these giant 747’s from the road.

 

This former Southwest Airlines 737 is a relatively new arrival.

I bicycled completely around the airport on flat smooth roads with so little traffic that it felt uncomfortable.   There is other weird shit out here.   This airport is not a military base but it sometimes seems that way.   I learn from the web that the Gryphon Group is a private company that does combat training for the military.   Warriors apparently only drive pickup trucks.

 

From the road you could see several of its combat training grounds including a fake bombed out Middle Eastern looking town.

 

I biked back to Laurinburg on Business US-74.   Truckers for Trump.

 

The opioid epidemic is underreported.  I saw a lot of signs about pharmacies and drugs.

There were several cool looking commercial Mid-Century Modern structures that I saw in the Laurinburg area.

The south side of Laurinburg can be quite nice.   I did not go as far south as the six hundred student St. Andrews University.    Searching for a place for my picnic lunch I found Hammond Park.  It was surrounded on all sides by a residential neighborhood and had a picnic shelter.  Peanut butter and jelly.    I tried not to touch anything as I read The New Yorker on my kindle.

I saw almost no efforts of people attempting to social distance or wear masks in Laurinburg.   These kids were playing on the playground.

I biked the half hour back to the car north of town and drove home.   I got there in time to cook dinner for Tootie and me.   I had tried to stop at the drive-in Starbucks in Aberdeen on the way but the line was too long.

Comments
  1. Randy S Greenberg says:

    I’m not sure why people are so adverse to wearing a mask. I was the only person wearing a mask down at South Padre Island last weekend and the beaches were crowded!!

  2. Lyman Labry says:

    How weird? And a little disturbing. Thank you. I would not know of these kinds of places without you.
    Good photos. That’s a particularly distressing looking Joy Ministry signage. Airplane graveyard, opioid crisis made tangible, and war games. Are these guys training for some secret middle eastern mission or taking over state capitals? What a world!

  3. Harvey Botzman says:

    It seems the pork industry is doing well. The U. S. exports many tons of pork to the PRC and many other nations. Smithfield must be doing quite well.

    Interesting about the airfield. I’ll have to photograph the county fire training facility’s burnt air planes.

    Another wonderful jaunt through North Carolina. If there is no big box general merchandise store (Walmart, Target) in Laurinburg, the general merchandise retail stores downtown might survive better than the large national retailers like J. C. Penny or Macy’s. Perhaps there will be a renewal of village downtown clothing and retail stores.

    Fascinating fact about the Laurinburg Institute. It is a co-educational k-12+1 academic & vocational school enrolling African-American students. According to its web site Dizzy Gillespie is a graduate as well as basketball stars Charlie Scott & Sam Jones.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s