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.
Leave a Reply