I have recently been somewhat spooked bicycling through the suburban sprawl that is much of settled America. Older cities are usually great to cycle in; areas of shopping malls and cul de sacs make safe bicycling difficult. Rural country roads can be great but only when they are far away from cities. On an unseasonably warm day after the New Year’s holiday I chose to go somewhere that traffic forgot, in this case Lunenburg County, Virginia.
My starting point would be the town of Kenbridge VA (population 1,200.); ninety miles north of Durham NC and seventy miles southwest of Richmond VA. I drove up there in our Ford Escape Hybrid with my Bike Friday in the back. On arrival I decided to limit my bicycle ride to just Lunenburg County. I grew up in Virginia and think a lot about geography but I still had not heard of Lunenburg County, population just 11,000. It is is circled here on the map. The dotted straight east-west line at the bottom is the North Carolina / Virginia border.
Lunenburg is part of a larger area known as Southside Virginia. Lunenburg County is a rare place in America that has had about the same population for two hundred twenty years! This is census data of Lunenburg County is from Wikipedia.
It had been about a one and a half hour drive from my home in Chapel Hill NC when I parked at the otherwise vacant Kenbridge Farmer’s Market and pulled the bicycle out.
I started bicycling towards Victoria, Lunenburg County’s only other sizable town. First I passed through Kenbridge. Kenbridge and most of this county looked reasonably prosperous. A check of Zillow shows housing prices are not insanely low.
Their main “shopping” street tries to keep up appearances but there was no one around.
I first bicycled the eight miles towards Victoria VA. This area still has some tobacco business, as well as lumber. I saw no real agriculture. Most of the landscape is wooded.
I knew there was, or at least used to be, tobacco markets here.
A passed by a big facility with just two or three cars parked outside. I looked it up on the internet and it is the home address of this company which has only one other location, North Las Vegas NV. They do catalytic converter recycling.
I did not see any Trump flags this day. Hmmm. On the other hand, alongside the highway towards Victoria I saw a house with a homemade military memorial and three flags, the center flag with the words NO RED FLAG LAWS printed on an orange Commie flag with hammer and sickle.
I bicycled into Victoria VA (population 1,800), founded in 1907 as a Virginian Railway company town during the construction of that rail line, one of the last rail lines to be built in America. A railroad employee named the town Victoria after the recently departed British queen. The Virginian Railway ran a few hundred miles from the coal fields of West Virginia to export piers in Norfolk VA and Victoria VA was about its midpoint. Only a little over fifty years later in 1959 the Virginian Railway went away when it merged with competitor Norfolk & Western. Sometime later the tracks in Lunenburg County were pulled up. At the center of town there is a nice railroad themed park. The rail bed constitutes as very short half mile long bicycle path, passing through a former rail underpass.
I bicycled around town.
I stopped at the mini-mart to buy a bag of cashews. Locals were standing around talking about lottery tickets.
Victoria did have one restaurant, a popular looking Italian place next to the rail line but I had brought a sandwich with me. I continued cycling onward. I saw an an otherwise empty commercial building decorated with a mid-century modernist entrance.
I passed a pre-WWII gas station.
A few miles later I cycled into the “town” of Lunenburg VA. By the placement of their courthouses these rural counties of Southside Virginia remind us how it was back in the day. Before the year 1900 there were no towns in Lunenburg County, just farms and plantations. The lovely Lunenburg County courthouse was built in 1820, in a “town” that lists it’s population even now as just one hundred sixty. Johnny Reb stood guard.
Even though there had been little traffic on the main highways, to loop back to my car I turned the bicycle onto even smaller county roads. The cycling was delightful.
I took the long route, about fifteen or twenty miles back to my car in Kenbridge. On a rural road I passed this house, guessing a hundred and fifty years old, remodeled with aluminum siding and new windows, and then apparently abandoned.
I arrived back in Kenbridge.
This house flew the Ukrainian flag, I have seen that all over America.
I arrived back at my car at the Kenbridge Farmer’s Market. I sat at a picnic table and ate a late lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I don’t eat those much at home but they are portable and easy to make when I am on the road. I read my book on my Kindle, then headed back to Chapel Hill NC in the car.
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