Where to bike ride next? It was cold outside; winter has arrived. I wanted to ride but did not want to contribute to the pandemic by warming up inside a closed space like a coffee house or restaurant. I would have to do the bike ride in one fell swoop without rest stops. I drove our Prius just a little over one hour west from Chapel Hill and parked on the street in downtown Thomasville NC (population 25,000.) Here is the bike ride I took.
Thomasville writes its town motto on the downtown public trash cans.
And just a block away was what locals call Big Chair, which has been in the central square of Thomasville NC since 1922.
Downtown to downtown, Thomasville NC is only eight miles from the much larger High Point NC. Both cities grew up around the furniture industry, which has declined precipitously in the past twenty years. On this bike ride I saw evidence that this industry has declined but there is still a lot of furniture manufacturing going on. High Point remains a major furniture exhibition site.
I started cycling northwest towards High Point, following the railroad tracks.
On the ride to High Point I was able to find relatively minor roads to bicycle on. Thomasville clearly used to be prosperous.
I passed many older brick industrial buildings.
I passed several manufacturers very much in business.
I cycled right by the factory for Thomas Built Buses, whose name I remember from riding the school bus fifty years ago. Thomas Built Buses have all been made here in High Point NC. It is the same company which built the still in use New Orleans streetcars back in the 1920’s.
Passing vacant industries on the way to downtown High Point, it sometimes felt creepy. It was a weekday but no one was around.
Downtown High Point has huge exhibition halls for the wholesale furniture trade. Because these buildings are only used a small portion of the year, it felt like a neutron bomb had gone off, killing all living things. Hardly any people or even cars could be seen on this Wednesday afternoon.
Several miles past downtown I cycled towards the Emerywood neighborhood; green lawns and shaded curved streets with early and mid twentieth century houses, It was the only part of High Point that I saw that looked like it was not under stress. My Chapel Hill friend the photographer John Ripley grew up in Emerywood in this house. He recently described this house to me (accurately!) as “halfway between the Episcopal Church and the High Point Country Club.”
I gradually started cycling back towards Thomasville, taking a different route.
I was a decent ride through more industrial areas. Just before I arrived back at my car in Thomasville I passed a pre-WWII gas station.
I arrived back at my car on the street in downtown Thomasville and I drove home in time for dinner. I stopped at the Starbucks in south Greensboro for a latte to drink while driving.