I drove the Prius forty miles from our condo in Chapel Hill and parked it at a feed and hardware store just outside of Yanceyville NC. Everything was closed on a Sunday morning at 8:30 AM. Nobody would care if I park here for a few hours, right? I pulled the Bike Friday out.
Here is the forty-five mile long ride I took that Sunday
Yanceyville (population 2,000) is only served by two lane highways, which is unusual in over-highwayed North Carolina. Yanceyville’s grocery and drug stores are now a half a mile out of town in strip malls on one of those highways and the downtown has essentially no retail. An exception is North Road Bicycle Imports, run by an avid reader of my blog. He sells mostly multi-thousand dollar eccentric English bicycles Pashley and Moulton.
Yanceyville has a few pre-Civil War looking buildings, including the Caswell County courthouse, from 1861.
Yanceyville modern. Art Deco? (Yanceyville streamline moderne?)
Enough of Yanceyville! It was time to cycle down the road, which in this case was NC-62, a stretch of highway that I had never cycled on, heading towards Milton NC, a town that I had never visited or even heard of.
Ridin with Biden.
There were a lot of old tobacco barns plus various empty buildings.
I stopped to pee in a patch of woods. Fifty feet from the highway I was confronted by this empty house with the front door missing.
A Black church was having a service with the parishioners staying in their cars.
Most of North Carolina, especially the western two-thirds of the state, seems to have fewer significant buildings built 1750-1850 than do neighboring Virginia and South Carolina. Much of North Carolina during the early years of the nineteenth century seemed to have been a backwater. I have lived in North Carolina for thirty-two years so “discovering” a place like Milton NC was surprising. Milton (population 166) sits on a bluff overlooking the Dan River and is less than a mile from the Virginia line.
These five buildings all date prior to 1860.
Fairview, built in 1783, the oldest house in Milton. It was someone’s driveway so I could not get any closer than this.
Downtown Milton NC.
I then biked away from Milton and across the Dan River, where just after was the Virginia state line. Danville VA (population 41,000) is only thirteen miles from Milton NC. The poorer suburbs of Danville started sooner.
I saw a lot of Trump flags and signs on this bike ride, much more than Biden. A demolition-derby car flying this flag was on a trailer was parked in someone’s driveway; Trump standing on a flaming tank.
I have been following the city of Danville VA for years. It is a faded tobacco and textile town whose inner-city has slowly been redeveloping. There is a nice bike path along the Dan River which crosses the river on an old rail line.
There are several historic districts in Danville. The brick warehouse district was virtually abandoned fifteen years ago; now it seems mostly occupied by apartments and offices but not obviously booming either.
The warehouse district and downtown are in a flat area along the river but Main Street runs uphill. I am not sure how occupied these tall buildings are; Danville is another city where the tallest extant buildings were completed in the boom 1925-29.
About a mile uphill is a district of late 19th century mansions along Main Street.
Churches were letting out; crowds surged from the closed indoor sanctuary of one with no one wearing a mask; one guy had on a tee shirt with the word FREEDOM on the back. Almost no businesses were open in central Danville on a Sunday during a pandemic; the one exception was Crema & Vine. I stopped for an almond milk latte and a slice of their peach and raspberry crumble. I could sit outside and keep a reasonable distance from anyone else.
I was physically tired; enough that I could actually relax., The sugar and coffee buzz was wonderful. Suddenly on this coffee house PA was a song that almost brought me to tears, a song I had not heard in a long time. Sure, Lake Charles and Danville have little in common but this one moment was enriching to the soul. Maybe because of this song Lake Charles LA is still on my to-do bicycling list. In about 1981 Tom Constantine and I could see the lights of the Lake Charles refineries as we passed by on I-10 in his Datsun pickup truck between New Orleans and Houston. As I am writing this Lake Charles is being devastated by a hurricane!
After a significant chilling out at Creme & Vine I got back on the bicycle. I would be about eighteen miles back to the car in Yanceyville NC. First I bicycled through the neighborhood right behind the coffee house called Old West End, lovely affordable old houses.
This house was for sale. Built in 1914; 2100 square feet. I do not know its condition. $ 69,000.00
I bicycled back downhill through the warehouse district.
Tobacco is still being processed around here. Bicycling alongside these nondescript warehouses the smell of tobacco was intense.
Virginia stops and North Carolina starts at the Danville VA city limits. Rather than taking the main road NC-86 I took the back road, most of which is called Old North Carolina Route 86.
My car was still there at the Yanceyville Ace Home & Building Center. I was able to have a very late lunch back home in Chapel Hill.
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