Archive for September, 2020

I parked the Prius at a Walmart on the southern fringe of Greensboro, just off the “new” I-85.  It had been an hour’s drive from my home in Chapel Hill.

This was to be a day trip, bicycling south towards Randleman NC, a town I had never visited.   I had heard that area was the birthplace and home of eighty-three year old NASCAR legend Richard Petty.   Maybe I could see something about him.

By bicycle I headed south.  Walmarts have lots of mindless impervious surface.

 

I cycled back over I-85.

Most of the day’s ride was on Randleman Road / US-221 although I veered off the highway whenever possible.

 

Randleman Road / US 221  used to be a principal highway but it has been bypassed by the newer Interstate from Greensboro heading south.  I saw many older highway businesses; some still operating, some not.

 

Word salad

 

On down the road.

Richard Petty went to Randleman High School but he really grew up in the settlement of Level Cross NC, eight miles north of Randleman NC.  To my Chapel Hill readers, Level Cross is really small, a crossroads like Calvander.  The Petty compound is about half a mile from Level Cross.

 

I read that Petty and most of his extended family live on their compound outside of Level Cross NC.

I bicycled up and parked the bike.   I doubt they get many visitors by bicycle.

 

 

There was not much activity here at 9:45 AM on a Monday morning.

The museum was open!   An older woman immediately apologized for not wearing a mask; she did stay socially distant and there were signs asking visitors to wear a mask.   Admission was twelve dollars.  I was the only visitor.

 

 

 

In addition to his cars there were Richard’s possessions, especially his guns.    I will let my readers make their own conclusions about this stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

There was his wife’s doll collection.

 

There were pictures of Richard with every president since Nixon including Obama and Carter but not Clinton.  I am not sure what to make of that.

 

 

I said my goodbyes and got back on the bicycle, heading toward Randleman.   I passed this house where people were sitting outdoors.

 

Randleman (population 4,000) is a former mill town, built originally around a waterfall on the Deep River.   As I crossed the river heading towards downtown this mill looked at least semi-operational.   Sometimes these old mills have been repurposed to other industries.

 

 

Randleman is a reasonably attractive town.   Downtown had the usual mostly empty storefronts.

 

 

 

In front of the offices of the local cable provider there was a bench.   I chose to do my lunch here.  There were a couple restaurants in Randleman but in this coronavirus I hate to take chances.  I chose lunch of mixed nuts and Starbucks, both bought at the downtown CVS.   (I love these Starbucks mocha drinks but there is too much sugar; I usually drink half and then toss the remainder.)    I sat on the bench and read The New Yorker on my Kindle.

 

Selfie.

I eventually got back on the bicycle and rode the seventeen miles back to the south Greensboro Walmart.

I was home in Chapel Hill by late afternoon.

Where else to go during a pandemic?   In our home town of Chapel Hill NC we have friend named Connie (married to a guy named Mark).  Connie is originally from Rich Square NC (population 958).   Connie and Mark’s daughter Hadley was our baby sitter back in the 1990’s.    I think Hadley currently lives in Los Angeles CA.  Despite being from Rich Square, Connie has lived in Chapel Hill for at least thirty years.

Thinking about Connie and Rich Square has always made me want to visit that area.   While Connie is white Northampton County is one of several in northeastern North Carolina counties with an African-American majority, a part of eastern and northeastern North Carolina that is truly quite remote.   By car Rich Square NC is two hours from the beach but also an hour and a half east of Raleigh.   Rich Square in an hour and a half both from Richmond VA and Norfolk VA; three hours north of Wilmington NC.   Northampton County has not grown much since the American Revolution.  (population in the year 1800: 12,000; in the year 2020: 19,000)

The weather was predicted to be cooler than the previous days but I still wanted to get an early start.   At about 6:00 AM at home in Chapel Hill NC I made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.   Out there in Northampton County during a pandemic I wanted to bring my own food.

It would take slightly over two hours drive to Rich Square even if there was no traffic.    I stopped for coffee at a Starbucks on the east side of Raleigh, forty minutes into the drive, arriving Rich Square at about 9:00 AM.

This is the day trip bike ride I took on this sunny but pleasantly cool Saturday.  

There is no Walmart in Rich Square.   I parked at Rich Square Market, the town’s only grocery store.

I pulled the bicycle out of the car.   Signs pointed to one growth industry out here.

I bicycled south out of town.   The land here is coastal plain; totally flat except an occasional slight hill.

I passed through two small towns, Roxobel NC and Kelford NC, first Roxobel.   It did not look much like a traditional town, just a few buildings interspersed along a highway.  One was the Roxobel Grill.

On this Saturday morning there was some kind of small flea market or farmer’s market going on.

Just two miles from Roxobel,  Kelford NC was even smaller.

This house stood several miles past Kelford.   I speculate that it is really old.

Along the highway also were many trailers.

I had not seen any business that could possibly have employed more than ten people.   It was a surprise to suddenly come up on a huge plant that processes what I assume are chickens.  There were dozens of cars in the parking lot on a Saturday morning.

I circled around the factory on the bicycle before bicycling down the road towards the next town.   It must have once been two towns but is now called Lewiston Woodville NC.   The total population of 549 is not likely not enough to support two downtowns.   The former downtown Woodville just stood by itself on a soybean field.

About a mile away is the former Lewiston NC, now Lewiston Woodville.   There are several actual businesses, including this mid-century modernist bank, along with an abandoned grocery store.

The real commercial action in Lewiston Woodville is now the gas station, just around the corner.

I pedaled through the rest of Lewiston Woodville.

I shared the road with a tractor before heading out of town north on State Highway Eleven.

This road had more traffic than those I had been on previously.

Lacking a picnic table I sat on a guard rail where the highway crossed a swamp and ate the first half of my peanut butter sandwich.  I highly doubt there are alligators around here but I still mildly thought about them being down there.

To get away from traffic I angled off on what the NCDOT calls “Business” Route Eleven.    It was delightful to bicycle since I saw a car only every ten minutes or so.

Another small town!  This time I bicycled through Aulander NC (population 888).   There was a mid-century modernist post office.

Aulander was slightly more put together than the previous three towns but still was not really picturesque.

I only saw two retail establishments in Aulander; a gas station/mini-mart and a Family Dollar.

It would be twelve miles farther back to the town of Rich Square where my car was parked.   For the first time this day I pedaled through tobacco fields.

I had only eaten half my sandwich.   It was time for my second “lunch.”      Once again I sat on a guard rail along the highway.  There was essentially no traffic.

Back on the road


I was back in Rich Square!    I had not seen much of the town when I had left it earlier in the day.

Rich Square has half a dozen retail businesses including a restaurant called Claudine’s.  They had set up tables outside in hopes of attracting customers during a pandemic.   I had already eaten lunch so I had to pass.

I got back in the car and drove two hours home to Chapel Hill.

Who in North Carolina goes on vacation to bicycle around Cincinnati OH?   During a pandemic?   Tootie and I wanted to get away to somewhere cooler while still staying safe and socially distant.   I had never been on the seemingly nice bike trail that connects downtown Cincinnati with much of Ohio;  I only had been to Cincinnati for essentially the first time less than a year ago.   By car Cincinnati would be an eight hour drive:  from Chapel Hill NC I-40 to Winston-Salem then I-77 through Charleston WV, then I-64 West, then Kentucky route 9.

We threw two bicycles in the back of the Prius and left home about 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning.   I took the Surly Long Haul Trucker, Tootie has a Cannondale.   We stopped for coffee at the Starbucks at the Elon College exit on I-85 and the drive was quite painless.  Newport KY is directly across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati.  Reser Bicycle Outfitters in downtown Newport had helpfully advised me by email that parking downtown was free, even for several days.  They advised we were taking our chances parking in this somewhat poor neighborhood.    Whatever.   Our 2005 Prius is not worth much.  We pulled in about 4:00 PM.

 

We had bags on the back of the bicycles with our changes of clothes.   For the first night we left the car in Newport KY and set out to bicycle the short distance across the river to Cincinnati, then through downtown to an Airbnb.

This is essentially the bike ride we did in one full day and two part days.

Newport KY is almost as old a town as Cincinnati.

 

 

 

We bicycled across the Ohio River on this former rail bridge, originally built in 1872.  It was redone several times before being converted to pedestrian only use in 2001.

Over The Rhine neighborhood is just north of downtown Cincinnati.    Poor and decrepit until relatively recently it has lovely nineteenth century buildings.

We pulled the bicycles up to the address of our Airbnb on a delightfully urban block.    Tootie watched the bicycles while I used the key code we had been given to go inside and check it out.

Once inside the Airbnb one bedroom apartment was quite nice but first we had to carry the bicycles up a steep set of stairs.   It felt very nineteenth century.

 

 

 

 

A little later was strolled around the neighborhood, looking for a safe space to order a drink.  We found a bar/restaurant that was selling drinks out of the window and where we could sit, spaced out, on the sidewalk.  It was fun to watch the world go by.

 

On the way back to the Airbnb a mini-mart was closed to normal sales but was selling tacos outside on the street.  We thought about getting some but passed.

 

There were a few restaurants that had some kind of outdoor seating but we felt safer, and thus more comfortable, watching TV in our Airbnb eating Middle Eastern takeout from the Ohio chain Alladin.

Thankfully our bedroom was in the back and away from the street.   Until the early morning hours there was always something noisily going on across the street at a mini-mart.

The next morning I walked five blocks to Coffee Emporium on Central Parkway and got a cafe au lait, an almond milk latte, and a blueberry muffin and walked them back to the apartment.  Somewhat later we carried the bicycles downstairs and loaded up to head out.

 

Our destination for the day would be the small riverside town of Milford OH, maybe twenty miles away.   We wanted to get there by threading through the often hilly city streets.

Downtown Cincinnati and the Over The Rhine neighborhood are on a flat area near the Ohio River.   The rest of Cincinnati, even many older neighborhoods, are in the steep hills north of Downtown.

 

 

 

This area is called East Walnut Hills, a streetcar suburb from the late nineteenth century.

 

We stumbled onto a delightful east-west rail-trail several miles long, the Wasson Way.

 

We passed through several more neighborhoods and towns like Evanston, Oakley, and Madisonville, with startlingly different economic situations in each; some rich, some poor.

 

The hills were becoming unpredictable and oppressive so we turned south to finish our ride to Milford along the Little Miami River and its attendant bike path.   We stopped for lunch at the Fifty West Brewery and Burger Bar.  It is interesting to see some restaurants actually doing well during this pandemic.   Fifty West has a huge lawn including multiple beach volleyball courts that have been converted to socially distanced seating.   There were hundreds of people here but it seemed reasonably safe because it was so spread out, and everything was outdoors.    We split an Ohio Burger; cheeseburger with Cincinnati chili,  plus an order of fries.  I got an IPA, she got root beer.

 

The Little Miami Scenic Trail comes right up to Fifty West and we bicycled the four miles further upstream to Milford OH, population 2,000 and likely to remain that, because the town in wedged in between the river and steep hills.   It seems to function as a touristy getaway.

It had several antique gun stores.

 

 

There was a store selling lawn ornaments.

 

Our Airbnb was quite nice, an inexpensive clean and modern two room apartment above a downtown store called Harvest Market.   Later on we walked down the street to Little Miami Brewing Company, another establishment that has enough outdoor space to accommodate a large crowd that can stay socially distant.   We watched overweight people on kayaks on the river below.

We enjoyed our beer but had had enough of even the idea of crowds.   We walked back to the apartment and ordered takeout pizza from a place called Padrino; we set up a nice dinner in the apartment which had a table and real plates and silverware.

The next morning we headed back towards our car in Newport KY.   First we biked south on the Little Miami Scenic Trail, part of the statewide Ohio to Erie Trail system.

 

 

Google Maps shows a continuous trail to Downtown Cincinnati along the river.   On the ground it is more complicated, the trail stops and starts.   We bicycled by Cincinnati’s general aviation Lunken Airport.

Much of the way into Downtown Cincinnati was along Highway 52 along the Ohio River, passing through industrial areas.

Interesting new public school, specially designed for the Ohio River floodplain.

There is a park on the riverfront in Downtown Cincinnati, people were playing pickleball.

 

Riverfront construction

The pedestrian bridge over the Ohio River to Kentucky was once again a delight.

Our car was still there in Newport KY!   We left about 11:00 AM and got home to Chapel Hill NC in time to make a late dinner.