Dilworth in Charlotte NC to South Carolina (and back); September 20, 2020

I parked the Prius on Pierce Street on the edge of the Dilworth neighborhood, about a mile south of downtown Charlotte NC.    I had been a two to three hour drive from my home in Chapel Hill NC.

I have had this idea about bicycling to Rock Hill SC since hearing years ago the Chuck Berry song Promised Land.   There is a famous Elvis version.

Left my home in Norfolk Virginia

California on my mind,

straddled that Greyhound and rode it into Raleigh

and all across Carolina.  

Stopped in Charlotte, bypassed Rock Hill and we never was a minute late,

till we were ninety miles out of Atlanta by sundown, rolling cross Georgia State.

It was 9:30 or 10:00 AM during a pandemic when I started bicycling from Charlotte NC heading towards Rock Hill SC, twenty something miles to the south.   Dilworth is said to be the blueblood neighborhood of Charlotte.   My friend Suzanne lives there; if she is reading this my apologies for not stopping by!   A cat was crossing the road.

Charlotte was not all that big a city eighty years ago so there are not the usual miles and miles of 1900-1930’s houses. Real estate developers are trying to expand the Dilworth footprint by doing teardowns on the northwest side of the neighborhood.   Little 1940’s houses are being replaced by monsters.

While many in the Raleigh/Durham area like to make fun of the place (interstate rivalry!) Charlotte is a national star in creating urbanism without starting with the usual urban fabric.   Their light rail system is a model for other cities.   As I crossed the tracks I could see Uptown (their word for downtown) in the distance.

There is a nice bike path that follows a light rail line heading south southwest from Uptown.

Central urban areas of many U.S. cities have become more bicycle friendly.  The problems for bicyclists arise in the newer suburban areas. Bicycling tends to get more and more dangerous the further from downtown one cycles.   Heading south from central Charlotte, after the bike lane ends there nevertheless is room for a bicycle on the lightly travelled Old Pineville Road as it continues to parallel the light rail line, passing what looks like a refinery.

On the same trajectory I bicycled through this neighborhood.

On the busy Nations Ford Road there was a bike lane, until there was not.

Just a few miles further I crossed the state line into South Carolina.    The South Carolina landscape was a mixture of lovely farms and new housing subdivisions.   The first subdivision had this pretentious name.

They say North Carolina is an island of humility between two mountains of conceit; Virginia and South Carolina.   When cycling in NORTH Carolina one NEVER sees signs for former plantations.   Within a couple miles of arriving into South Carolina I passed a historic sign for the former Springfield Plantation.

It was a Sunday morning.   Onward during this pandemic I passed outdoor worship in a rural area.

I then was able to cycle off the highways by threading through a huge Del Webb real estate development called Carolina Orchard that sits in the South Carolina exurbs of Charlotte NC. I looks a lot like Agrestic, the fictional California town on the TV show Weeds.

I was biking on Business US-21/Old Nation Road and noticed a delightful complete lack of traffic. There was a bridge out; the road was closed. I ignored the signs and continued cycling and was able to bicycle right across this closed bridge.

I bicycled into Fort Mill SC. Just before downtown is this interesting older modernist office complex of the textile company Springs Global.

There is a park next to the Fort Mill SC downtown; I sat on a bench and ate my lunch; peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

My day’s destination, from the Chuck Berry song Promised Land, was Rock Hill SC; only eight miles further. I was already skittish with cycling in heavy traffic. All roads to Rock Hill funneled onto a bridge over the Catawba River. It felt physically risky to keep going. I decided to skip Rock Hill. I turned around and headed back towards Charlotte.

Earlier while cycling through the huge Carolina Orchards development I had seen a high rise by itself a mile or two in the distance. What was a really tall building doing out here? I decided to detour and find out what the skyscraper was doing here.

It was surrounded by a huge parking lot sprouting weeds. I counted twenty-one stories in the building, clearly abandoned and shedding its siding.

On the other side there were a few cars in the lot, parking for an adjacent building.

I now have learned that this abandoned building was a hotel, a remnant of Heritage USA, the Christian theme park opened in 1978 by TV evangelists Jim and Tammy Bakker. It closed in scandal in 1989. Whoa. The buildings next door are now used by the religious group Heritage International Ministries.

I bicycled onward, all the way back towards my car parked in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte NC. As befits such a neighborhood near my car I found a delightful coffee shop.

I bought an almond milk latte with one packet of sugar, to drink in the car on the 2 – 3 hour drive home to Chapel Hill.

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