Archive for the ‘Central North Carolina trips’ Category

I drove the Prius forty miles from our condo in Chapel Hill and parked it at a feed and hardware store just outside of Yanceyville NC.   Everything was closed on a Sunday morning at 8:30 AM.   Nobody would care if I park here for a few hours, right?  I pulled the Bike Friday out.

 

Here is the forty-five mile long ride I took that Sunday

 

Yanceyville (population 2,000) is only served by two lane highways, which is unusual in over-highwayed North Carolina.   Yanceyville’s grocery and drug stores are now a half a mile out of town in strip malls on one of those highways and the downtown has essentially no retail.   An exception is North Road Bicycle Imports, run by an avid reader of my blog.   He sells mostly multi-thousand dollar eccentric English bicycles Pashley and Moulton.

Yanceyville has a few pre-Civil War looking buildings, including the Caswell County courthouse, from 1861.

 

Yanceyville modern.   Art Deco?   (Yanceyville streamline moderne?)

Enough of Yanceyville!   It was time to cycle down the road, which in this case was NC-62, a stretch of highway that I had never cycled on, heading towards Milton NC, a town that I had never visited or even heard of.

 

tobacco fields.

 

Ridin with Biden.

 

 

 

There were a lot of old tobacco barns plus various empty buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped to pee in a patch of woods.   Fifty feet from the highway I was confronted by this empty house with the front door missing.

 

A Black church was having a service with the parishioners staying in their cars.

 

Most of North Carolina, especially the western two-thirds of the state, seems to have fewer significant buildings built 1750-1850 than do neighboring Virginia and South Carolina.   Much of North Carolina during the early years of the nineteenth century seemed to have been a backwater.  I have lived in North Carolina for thirty-two years so “discovering” a place like Milton NC was surprising.    Milton (population 166) sits on a bluff overlooking the Dan River and is less than a mile from the Virginia line.

These five buildings all date prior to 1860.

 

 

Fairview, built in 1783, the oldest house in Milton.   It was someone’s driveway so I could not get any closer than this.

Downtown Milton NC.

School

I then biked away from Milton and across the Dan River, where just after was the Virginia state line.   Danville VA (population 41,000) is only thirteen miles from Milton NC.      The poorer suburbs of Danville started sooner.

 

I saw a lot of Trump flags and signs on this bike ride, much more than Biden.   A demolition-derby car flying this flag was on a trailer was parked in someone’s driveway;  Trump standing on a flaming tank.

I have been following the city of Danville VA for years.    It is a faded tobacco and textile town whose inner-city has slowly been redeveloping.   There is a nice bike path along the Dan River which crosses the river on an old rail line.

There are several historic districts in Danville.  The brick warehouse district was virtually abandoned fifteen years ago; now it seems mostly occupied by apartments and offices but not obviously booming either.

 

The warehouse district and downtown are in a flat area along the river but Main Street runs uphill.  I am not sure how occupied these tall buildings are; Danville is another city where the tallest extant buildings were completed in the boom 1925-29.

 

About a mile uphill is a district of late 19th century mansions along Main Street.

 

 

Churches were letting out; crowds surged from the closed indoor sanctuary of one with no one wearing a mask; one guy had on a tee shirt with the word FREEDOM on the back.   Almost no businesses were open in central Danville on a Sunday during a pandemic; the one exception was Crema & Vine.  I stopped for an almond milk latte and a slice of their peach and raspberry crumble.  I could sit outside and keep a reasonable distance from anyone else.

 

 

I was physically tired; enough that I could actually relax.,   The sugar and coffee buzz was wonderful.   Suddenly on this coffee house PA was a song that almost brought me to tears, a song I had not heard in a long time.  Sure, Lake Charles and Danville have little in common but this one moment was enriching to the soul.   Maybe because of this song Lake Charles LA is still on my to-do bicycling list.   In about 1981 Tom Constantine and I could see the lights of the Lake Charles refineries as we passed by on I-10 in his Datsun pickup truck between New Orleans and Houston.    As I am writing this Lake Charles is being devastated by a hurricane!

After a significant chilling out at Creme & Vine I got back on the bicycle.   I would be about eighteen miles back to the car in Yanceyville NC.   First I bicycled through the neighborhood right behind the coffee house called Old West End, lovely affordable old houses.

 

This house was for sale.  Built in 1914; 2100 square feet.   I do not know its condition.  $ 69,000.00

 

I bicycled back downhill through the warehouse district.

 

Tobacco is still being processed around here.  Bicycling alongside these nondescript warehouses the smell of tobacco was intense.

 

Virginia stops and North Carolina starts at the Danville VA city limits.   Rather than taking the main road NC-86 I took the back road, most of which is called Old North Carolina Route 86.

 

 

My car was still there at the Yanceyville Ace Home & Building Center.  I was able to have a very late lunch back home in Chapel Hill.

There’s a pandemic and it is hot.  What to do?  Whatever bike riding one does, it has to be done early.   I left home at 6:45 AM and drove the white Prius thirty-five miles from Chapel Hill NC to the northern edge of Sanford NC.  I skipped breakfast and coffee.   Sanford (population 28,000) is by government statistics considered part of the Raleigh/Durham area, although far off to the west and south.  Sanford is geographically in the middle of North Carolina, forty-two miles west of Raleigh and sixty miles southeast of Greensboro.   It seems to always have been a factory town.  It is the seat of Lee County, which I just learned today was formed as a county only in 1907 and named of course for General Lee, just at the height of the stirring up of memories of the “lost cause” and new state laws restricting African-Americans.   Robert E Lee was NOT from North Carolina, as if anyone needs to be reminded of that.

Sanford is also “Brick City” because it sits in an area where the red clay of the North Carolina Piedmont meets the Sandhills.   There are several brick making facilities here.  I stopped on a Sunday morning at 7:30 AM at the parking lot of Lee Brick & Tile, about five miles north of downtown,   It seemed a good place to leave the car; who would care if I parked on a Sunday?   There were brick samples in the yard in front of the office.

 

 

 

I headed by bicycle south towards downtown.   The last few miles into Sanford are on a stretch of the original Maine/Florida US-1.   Back in the late eighties/early nineties I used to drive repeatedly to Sanford for air freight sales calls.  I am struck how by how little has changed in this stretch of road in thirty years.  All these signs and buildings look the same.

 

 

 

 

Dodge Trucks are now just called Ram.

 

I saw several pre-WWII gas stations.

This one is now a mini-mart and a church!

These two are more likely postwar but I like their style.

 

 

I continued on towards downtown.

“salad’s”

 

 

Sanford is a factory town that is also a railroad town.  (Amtrak’s NY to Florida train comes right through here but does not stop.)

 

 

 

Mid-century modernism!

 

 

Sanford is one more town where even today the tallest building in Sanford was built during the 1920’s real estate boom.  The Hotel Wilrik of 1925 has been senior housing for many years.

 

 

I biked much further to the south and east as Sanford sprawls towards Fayetteville.

 

I am not sure what this means.

The St. Luke UMC is an impressive piece of modernism.

I had been biking around Sanford for over two hours.   It was getting hot.   I biked back to the car and was home before eleven in the morning.

 

I parked at a gas station/mini-mart just to the north of town.   There seemed to be plenty of spaces so maybe no one would care if I left our car there for 3 – 4 hours.

 

I was about a mile north of downtown Laurinburg.   Laurinburg (population 16,000) is ninety miles south of Chapel Hill near the South Carolina line.   This is the farthest I have driven for one of these same day trips, where I take a bike ride and stay socially distant.  I came down here mostly to see the unique airport that is south of Laurinburg.

I biked into town through what must be the poorer side.    Wikipedia says Laurinburg Institute is a historically black boarding school.   Because of COVID I could not tell if it was open or closed.  There was grass growing around the parking lot.

 

I biked onward toward downtown Laurinburg.

 

 

 

 

I bicycled out of town towards the airport.  A lot of people just looked poor.

Smithfield, now owned by a Chinese company, is the largest pork producer in the world.  Just forty-five miles away in the tiny town of Tar Heel NC (population 117) is the world’s largest pork processing plant, where the they kill over 30,000 pigs per day.    I saw Smithfield signs all over the Laurinburg area.   This particular facility was on the east side of downtown Laurinburg.

I biked out of town onto the flat landscape and saw other signs indicating Smithfield.

 

 

The flat swampy landscape extended as far as the eye could see.

The Laurinburg-Maxton airport was built as an Army training base during World War II with a 6500′ runway.   There are today two or three companies in the California and Arizona desert where hundreds of older passenger jets are lined up to be scrapped.   For some reason a minor player in the jet junkyard business is here in humid Laurinburg.   I have been coming out here for several years and most of the same jets have been here the whole time.  This is a Northwest Airlines DC-10.

 

The airport is only lightly fenced.  About ten years ago I was here on bicycles with my late friend Dave Latowsky.   He was always much more brazen than me, he encouraged me and we rode our bicycles through an open gate and out underneath these jets.   But that was then, on a Sunday.   Here today on a weekday I just had to look at these giant 747’s from the road.

 

This former Southwest Airlines 737 is a relatively new arrival.

I bicycled completely around the airport on flat smooth roads with so little traffic that it felt uncomfortable.   There is other weird shit out here.   This airport is not a military base but it sometimes seems that way.   I learn from the web that the Gryphon Group is a private company that does combat training for the military.   Warriors apparently only drive pickup trucks.

 

From the road you could see several of its combat training grounds including a fake bombed out Middle Eastern looking town.

 

I biked back to Laurinburg on Business US-74.   Truckers for Trump.

 

The opioid epidemic is underreported.  I saw a lot of signs about pharmacies and drugs.

There were several cool looking commercial Mid-Century Modern structures that I saw in the Laurinburg area.

The south side of Laurinburg can be quite nice.   I did not go as far south as the six hundred student St. Andrews University.    Searching for a place for my picnic lunch I found Hammond Park.  It was surrounded on all sides by a residential neighborhood and had a picnic shelter.  Peanut butter and jelly.    I tried not to touch anything as I read The New Yorker on my kindle.

I saw almost no efforts of people attempting to social distance or wear masks in Laurinburg.   These kids were playing on the playground.

I biked the half hour back to the car north of town and drove home.   I got there in time to cook dinner for Tootie and me.   I had tried to stop at the drive-in Starbucks in Aberdeen on the way but the line was too long.

Where to go now?   How about the area south of Sanford NC, on US15-501?   I chose Carthage NC (population 2,200) which is fifty miles and a one hour car drive from my home in Chapel Hill.  I parked our Prius at a farm store.    I figured no one would care if I left the car there a few hours.   This would be another bike ride where I would totally stay away from people.   I brought my own food and water.

I pulled out the bicycle and started riding towards Pinehurst.   Here is the route of my bike ride.

Across from the Farm Supply this modernist restaurant sign likely from the 1960’s was flying above what is now a Mexican restaurant next to the local gun store.

 

At the end of the day I took a photo from the other side.   It is missing one of its four wings.  That is a white horse in the center.

 

It was just a mile or so bike ride to downtown Carthage.   I think downtowns should look like downtowns.   North Carolina is about the only state where the design, building, and maintenance of a large percentage of the roads are under state rather than local or county control.    Because Carthage’s main street McReynolds Street is considered a state highway (even though it is really not all that important a highway) the NCDOT has made sure that Carthage’s main street is so wide and efficient that it provides no intimacy to the downtown.   Carthage is the county seat of Moore County but downtown Carthage mostly looks like a highway.   This trend goes on all over the state.

 

The historic courthouse sits in the middle of the road.

Across the street sits the newer actual courthouse.   I usually like contemporary architecture but this place gives me the creeps.

 

There were a few signs of life downtown.

 

 

I guess no one but me cares that the town hall of Carthage is out on the highway one or two miles from downtown.

 

I cycled southward out of town into the Sandhills which stretch south for at least a hundred miles from North Carolina into South Carolina.    North of Carthage the forests are primarily deciduous hardwoods.   In the Sandhills it changes to almost exclusively pines.

 

This is not snow, this is white sand, at least a hundred miles from the coast.

I biked through mostly pine forest for the first ten miles south of Carthage.   Miles from any house a white cat crossed the road in front of me.

 

 

All by itself at a crossroads sat this place.

Pine forests in sand are likely not great farmland so back in the day (and maybe even now) land here was cheap.  It turned out to be a great place to build golf courses.  In the 1890’s a Boston developer purchased land right on a main north/south rail line for $1.25 an acre and built a hotel and a golf course.  Even then one could take the train here overnight from the Northeast.

I knew I was getting close to Pinehurst when I passed the first housing development.

 

Among Pinehursts there is Pinehurst (the village), Pinehurst (the resort), and Pinehurst (the country club).   The entire Pinehurst/Southern Pines/Aberdeen area now has a whole bunch of resorts and country clubs and golf courses.  By itself Pinehurst (the resort) has NINE golf courses.  Number 2 is supposed to be the best.   My ride into town passed a gate for Pinehurst No. 8.   The gate was open so I biked into it to have a look around.

 

 

During a pandemic I thought the solution was for each golfer to have his or her own cart and then stay a social distance from each other.   I am not sure these guys were totally playing by the rules of Coronavirus; it was hard to tell.

 

Frederick Law Olmstead died in 1901 at age 81,  America’s most famous and original landscape architect.  He had designed Central Park in Manhattan.   I learned from Wikipedia that in about 1895 he designed the winding streets of Pinehurst village.   Olmstead’s designs mostly started with empty land but make the landscape appear natural, like it was always that way.   By bike I noodled around Olmestead’s curvy Pinehurst streets and looked at houses.

 

I do not consider the weather in Pinehurst to be an attraction.   There are real winters and the summers are unbearably hot.   Pinehurst is more than an hour’s drive from any of the major cities of North Carolina.   I have always wondered: who lives in these places?

 

On these bike rides in populated areas during a pandemic with restaurants closed one unanticipated problem has been that there is nowhere to go to the bathroom!   In historic Pinehurst I found the Carolina Hotel, built in 1901.  There was almost no one around but it appeared open.  I walked inside to use their restroom.  There was a bellhop and a desk clerk, neither was wearing a mask.  I thought someone would question me but it seems an older white guy with decent manners can get away with a lot.

 

 

 

 

I decided to bicycle onward to the town of Southern Pines, six miles to the southeast.   There was an almost continuous progression of golf courses, housing developments, and cemeteries(!), including Pinehurst Country Club and Country Club of North Carolina.  There were lots of golf carts, even on the streets.

 

 

 

 

Stuff I saw on the way to Southern Pines.

 

 

Southern Pines has an attractive downtown with restaurants and gift shops.   I parked the bicycle and found a picnic spot on this bench in front of the post office.   With my peanut butter and jelly sandwich I read The New Yorker on my kindle.

 

I had to bike fifteen miles north back to my car in Carthage.   As I left downtown Southern Pines I saw lots of what looked like family groups walking around.   There were no masks.  In fact, I only saw four or five people all day that wore a mask.   All but one were African-American.


 

I got back to my car and was home in Chapel Hill by about 4:00 PM.   On this whole trip I had not gotten physically near anyone and had not touched anything.

 

It was another beautiful spring day during a coronavirus pandemic.   I had to stay close to home so that I could  bike ride in just a few hours and still drive home.  I had to do the entire ride without stopping to buy food or water and not talking to anyone.  (Keep social distance!)

Just a couple of blocks behind the Whole Foods on Wade Avenue on the northwest side of Raleigh I parked our car on a residential street.  It had been a half hour drive from our Chapel Hill home.   I pulled out the Bike Friday.

 

I will keep this report simple.  I just want to show pictures of buildings.  I have said on previous posts that Raleigh has an impressive system of paved greenways that follow stream beds, where one can walk or bicycle without traffic and without even climbing hills.   On more recent rides during this pandemic on Raleigh greenways I have felt uncomfortably close to too many people.   Social distancing was difficult.  On this day I decided to ride through residential streets where there were fewer people.   There were lots of steep hills.

I have also spoken before about inside-the-beltine-Raleigh’s trend of teardownerism.  It was fun looking for a newer gaudy house next to a much smaller house, which likely looks much like the house that used to be next door before it was torn down.

 

I cycled downtown.   The North Carolina State Legislative Building makes me proud to be a North Carolinian, even if the current occupants are majority Republicans.   It is one block from the 1833 classical State Capitol building which had become overcrowded.   Completed in 1963 and designed by architect Edward Durell Stone in cooperation with the local firm Holloway-Reeves, this building speaks optimism.   I daresay Virginia or South Carolina never would have built this building.   North Carolina in 1963 was excited about its future and not held back by the past.   I think the building has aged really well.

I biked back to the car in northwest Raleigh.   I was home in Chapel Hill for lunch.

It is sixty miles and a one hour drive from our Chapel Hill apartment to the Reidsville exit off US 29,  twenty-five miles north of Greensboro.  North Carolina passed a law back in 1988 that raised the gas tax but the proceeds could only be used to building freeway outer loops around the largest cities in North Carolina.   These outer loops are still being built in 2020.  I find this insane.  The newly named I-785 for ten or fifteen miles northeast of Greensboro had no traffic on this Sunday morning during a pandemic but I doubt there is ever much traffic on this road.  This photo was taken from the car while driving.

I parked our car south of Reidsville in the lot of a Southern States Cooperative which was closed on Sunday.

I pulled the Bike Friday out.  This is during a pandemic.  My non-negotiable personal plan was that I would not stop at any establishments and not go near any other people, and at those goals I succeeded.   I started biking.  Reidsville was ten miles north.

 

 

 

This facility was in the parking lot of a mini-mart on the southern outskirts of Reidsville.

 

I did not know much about Reidsville (population 15,000) other than my good friend Nancy lived there a while as child.

I noodled around town on the bicycle.  This 1920’s looking house seemed unique, one does not see Spanish Colonial Revival much in North Carolina.

I continued to cycle around Reidsville.

 

 

Downtown on a Sunday morning during a pandemic was like a neutron bomb had gone off.

 

Reidsville’s huge cigarette factory (with its Lucky Strike smokestack) is right next to downtown and seemed very much in operation but online I read reports that it is in the process of being shut down, with a loss of 110 jobs.   Production is being moved to the larger cigarette factory in Greensboro.

 

 

During this pandemic restaurants are closed for seating but many people in North Carolina I suspect would rather to stay in their cars anyway.    The drive-throughs were busy at locally owned restaurants.

I ate my peanut butter sandwich at a public park in Reidsville.

I like to look for mid-century modernist commercial buildings.   Here is Reidsville there likely not as much economic pressure to tear these down.

 

On the way back to my car I biked for a short period on the US29 Bypass and discovered my now favorite building in Reidsville, the Holy Infant Catholic Church.

Near where my car was parked was this graveside funeral.   No one was social distancing although a few people were wearing masks.

 

On these coronavirus rides I drive my car somewhere and take a bike ride of just a few hours.  I keep totally away from people.  I do not stop at any establishments.  I bring my own food and water.

My son Jack’s girlfriend Mary Hannah is now is in graduate school at UNC but was originally from Stoneville NC, a place I had never heard of.   I had to check Stoneville out.   It is just over thirty miles north of Greensboro near the Virginia line.

It took about ninety minutes for me to drive the ninety miles from Chapel Hill to Stoneville.   On a Sunday morning I parked in a church parking lot and took out my Bike Friday.   There were three other cars in the lot.  I guess the church was trying to preach remotely.

 

My ride would take me from Stoneville (population 1,200) to the much larger town of Eden (population 15,000.) I would seriously noodle by bicycle around Eden, then ride back to Stoneville.   

A lot of North Carolina towns look terrible with commercial downtowns that have been essentially abandoned.  Stoneville is not like that; they are definitely keeping up appearances.

 

A main line of the Norfolk Southern runs right through the middle of town.

There is a mid-century modern post office.

 

Biking on Sunday mornings during this pandemic I have seen various ways in which Christians seek to connect without physically connecting.   Here on a stage in downtown Stoneville NC this woman was singing to an audience of exactly zero, at least until I got there.   She was accompanied by a young man drumming who appeared to be about twelve years old.   Maybe she is broadcasting this on Facebook; maybe she is just fulfilling her need to get the gospel music out.   The music sounded much better live than it does on this recording.   I found the music quite moving

I biked out of town on the older highway eastward towards Eden.   Although I knew Eden would have many abandoned textile mills there is still some textile manufacturing going on in North Carolina.  On a country road just outside of Stoneville NC Sans Technical Fibers was very much in operation even on a Sunday morning.

 

 

There were a few interesting things along the highway from Stoneville to Eden, including tobacco barns.

 

 

 

Wikipedia is changing the world.   I can so easily learn all sorts of factoids that I otherwise would never have known.   For example, who would have known that Eden NC (which I had definitely heard of) was created as a town in 1967 as a result of the merger of three towns: Leaksville NC, Spray NC, and Draper NC.  All three were the site of large textile mills, all within three or four miles of each other.

On the outskirts of the city of Eden was a drive in movie theater.   At least pre-coronavirus it seems still fully functional.

 

 

 

I first visited the former Leaksville, one the three towns that combined to make Eden.

 

I pedaled through neighborhoods towards its downtown.     It looks like a factory town.

 

 

 

 

 

Downtown Leaksville seems to function now as the downtown Eden.

 

 

 

former armory

 

recording studio

 

Down the block from these downtown buildings is the Karastan carpet mill, which seems very much in business, although it was not working on a Sunday morning.

 

The modernist offices of the carpet mill.

 

I biked downhill east from downtown.   This lot had about twenty or thirty original Volkswagen Beetles.

Eden sits at the junction of the Smith River and the Dan River.  There must have been a waterfall or steep set of rapids here on the Smith River.   Historic signs pointed out that power has been generated here since 1813 and cloth has been woven by this power since 1836.   Cloth for Confederate uniforms was made here.   There are the remains of at least three huge mills, none of which seem to be operating now.

 

 

 

There was one more area I had to visit, the original town of Draper that now comprises the other half of greater city of Eden.   Draper is four miles farther east and also has mill type housing.

The principal street of the area is Fieldcrest Road, presumably named after the towel manufacturer that used to be here.   The street runs into a large former textile mill, now used as a trucking terminal.

I was out by myself during a coronavirus pandemic and it was time to turn around and head back towards my car.  Two miles west is the municipal complex for the town of Eden.  In the 1960’s there must have been farmland between the Draper area and the former Leaksville downtown.   All the textile mills surely were running at full tilt.  With the optimism of the era Eden NC  on this farmland built a complex of mid-century modernist civic buildings, schools, and a city park.   I stopped for lunch in parkland in front of what I believe is the police station.  Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a side of nuts and chips.

 

 

The Osborne Baptist Church is so close to the police station that at first glance it looks like they are connected.

 

Across the street is this high school.

Behind it is this middle school.

After lunch I got back on the bicycle and rode the ten miles back to Stoneville.  It took about an hour.   Here is one last shout-out to prewar gas stations I had seen on this day.

This region clearly has many Trump supporters.  Their passion is terrifying  This person cannot walk out his front door without stepping around this banner.   It was faded, it has been flying there a long time.

This was another bike ride where I touched nothing and neither talked to or allowed myself to be near anyone.  Although I could have started biking directly from my apartment I chose to drive the first few miles and then leave the car at a mall parking lot.

 

You may remember that a week or two ago I parked at the largest mall in Raleigh.   This time I parked in front of the other giant mall of the Raleigh/Durham area:  Southpoint Mall, on the freeway between Chapel Hill, Durham, and the airport.  The mall is a ten or fifteen minute drive from our apartment and was pretty much totally shut down.  There was plenty of parking.

 

My mission on this ride was to see as much of Cary NC as possible.   Cary’s original downtown is nine miles from downtown Raleigh, halfway from Raleigh to the airport.   For many years it was just a tiny town.  In 1930 the population of Cary was 909; in 1970 the population 7,700.   The current population is 170,000.   Huge subdivisions, many of them upscale, have been built in the past thirty years.  There is a substantial population of well-to-do Asians as well as many professionals who have relocated here from everywhere on the planet other than North Carolina.

The American Tobacco Trail is a twenty-three mile long rail trail that runs right by the mall.   I biked from the parking lot and then turned down the trail.

 

With the trail I could reach the western fringes of Cary in about six or eight miles.  Cary is difficult to bicycle through because most neighborhoods are deliberately designed with dead end cul de sac streets.   My plan was to just get lost in Cary residential neighborhoods and see what happened.   I got off the trail at O’Kelly Chapel Road.

 

 

 

 

 

I bicycled a quarter mile down the country road to the first Cary subdivision.

 

These houses were built in the past ten years by the company Del Webb.   It is called “Carolina Preserve at Amberly.”

 

 

 

The next subdivision which is also part of the faux-ville Amberly tries to look like Georgetown.

 

 

Right down the street were apartments that resemble many being built all over America right now.  Here I could see the detail on how this low cost building is done;.  They first build a wood frame, then cover it with styrofoam and then cover that with thin stone siding.

 

 

 

I biked across the major highways 540 and 55, and then came upon the”town” of Carpenter NC.  When I used to drive through here in about 1989 Carpenter was only this tiny collection of buildings surrounded by tobacco fields and woods.

 

Now a quarter mile away Carpenter gives the developer a name for his new subdivision;  “The Estates at Olde Carpenter.”   I bicycled through the gates.

The latticework of streets led to other subdivisions with the Carpenter name.   There are some big houses around here.

 

 

I crossed over Morrisville Parkway to the next big neighborhood called Preston.   The NCDOT has built giant roads like this all over North Carolina.   There is nothing intimate or picturesque about this street.  Cary is a collection of major state funded streets like this that connect pods of dead end residential streets.

 

Preston is a real estate development started in 1993 by the man who also started the very successful software company SAS.  It has mushroomed into a large set of neighborhoods, some centered on a golf course, each neighborhood with its own name.   As far as I can tell the name Preston was just some word they made up.

On a sunny weekday during a pandemic there were lots of golfers out.   It does seem logical to let golfers play, if they keep distance and each golfer takes a separate cart.

 

 

Biking through the Preston area it became clear that I could play a name game.   Sort of like bird watching, I could “score” each time I photographed a neighborhood entrance sign with the Preston name. (How do they think all this stuff up?)  I scored big.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I stopped for lunch at a pond likely reserved for Preston residents.  There was a bench and no one around.   I sat and ate the lunch I had brought;  avocado, sun-dried tomato, and leftover asparagus sandwich.

Here was the sandwich in my kitchen four or five hours earlier.

After lunch I noodled by bicycle around more Cary neighborhoods.   Not all houses were this big but the big ones are more interesting photographs.

 

I eventually started meandering around back in the direction from which I came; I got back on the American Tobacco Trail.   Here is the total ride, a little more than forty miles total.

While Chapel Hill is considered part of the Triangle of Chapel Hill / Durham / Raleigh;  Greensboro, population about 300,000 and the third largest city in North Carolina is not that far away to the west, especially from Chapel Hill.   It is forty-six miles from my Chapel Hill condo to downtown Greensboro and there are hardly ever traffic delays driving to Greensboro, something that cannot be said about driving the thirty miles to Raleigh in the other direction.

On Easter Sunday morning during a coronavirus pandemic it took about forty minutes to drive our Prius the forty-three miles to Gateway Research Park on the eastern fringes of Greensboro.  I was going to take a bike ride without stopping to talk to anyone, without touching anything other than my bicycle.

Look at the map above.  Downtown Greensboro is between the “s” and the “b” of the word Greensboro.   Look how off-centered the downtown is on the city limits of Greensboro.   Greensboro sprawls from downtown west and north, not to the south and east.   Almost all of the retail and restaurants of Greensboro are downtown and to the north and northwest of downtown.  As you might imagine this situation has everything to do with race.    I am not picking on Greensboro.  I like Greensboro.   It is just an example of the racial patterns in suburban sprawl.

I drove from Chapel Hill to the Lee Street exit on I-40.    This spot is only four miles from downtown Greensboro.  Where is the Walmart?   In Greensboro all the shopping malls, Walmarts, Starbucks, fancy restaurants and bars, even McDonaldes are to the north and west of downtown.  On the west side this stuff sprawls out for more than ten miles.  Here at the Lee Street exit there is almost nothing,  just a couple gas stations and some cow pastures.  These photos were taken from my car.

 

No supermarket.  No Walmart.   In fact, there is just one real grocery store (a Food Lion) on the entire east side of Greensboro.   There are almost no restaurants or retail outlets of any kind on the east side.

The government is doing its part to rectify this by putting money into infrastructure on the east side.   The state government sponsored Gateway Research Park buildings are on the right.   This is just beyond the freeway exit.   But private commercial development hardly exists.

This provided me an easy place to park. I pulled out the bicycle.

 

 

Crossing over Lee Street there were a couple more government and nonprofit buildings recently built: a YMCA and a city park called Gateway Gardens.   It seemed very nice but it felt weird that there were no privately funded businesses.  There was not even a fast food place.

 

Florida Street runs for six miles through the mostly African-American southern part of Greensboro, a part of town I had never visited before.    There were miles of neighborhoods of 1960’s brick houses.

 

 

I passed several modernist churches.

On Easter Sunday during a pandemic this man was preaching with a loudspeaker in the parking lot, his apparent parishioners sitting in their cars.

Florida Street passes by the city-owned Gillespie golf course.

Even at major intersections I saw almost no active businesses.  There was this dead mini-mart.

I bicycled through public housing.

I continued bicycling along Florida Street until it ended at Holden Road.   As befitting the title I have given Greensboro as having the least bicycle friendly streets of any city I know, Holden Road is insanely wider than it needs to be.  It was built to encourage fast car travel.

I bicycled back in the direction of my car but staying in the southern part of town, noodling through residential streets.

 

 

There was one entire block of mostly mid-century modernist houses.

Greensboro has always been a city of manufacturers; originally tobacco and textiles.   There were industrial buildings sprinkled through these neighborhoods.   There still were very very few restaurants or retail stores

 

 

There are two HBCU’s on the east side of Greensboro.   The state-run NC AT&T seems to be booming, new construction was everywhere.

Bennett College, a woman’s college of less than five hundred students is struggling.   About a year ago they had their accreditation pulled but I think they have worked out a solution at least for now.

 

Turning back within walking distance to downtown there is a small area Southside where the neighborhood has gentrified dramatically.  Many buildings were in vivid colors.

Downtown was quite empty on a pandemic Easter Sunday.

North of downtown the company that used to be called Wrangler (as in the blue jeans) has a new name and an impressive mid-century modernist headquarters.

 

Fisher Park is the name of both an early twentieth century neighborhood and a park just north of downtown.    I like the look of the neighborhood so much that I find myself wanting to move to Greensboro just to live in Fisher Park!   Not all the houses are as big as these two; many are small bungalows.

 

I found a spot to eat lunch in Fisher Park (the park).    No one was around.  Sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich.

 

There are large parts of Greensboro to the north and west but they will have to wait for another bike trip.  Fisher Park extends west – east for several blocks, ending on the east at North Church Street and a set of railroad tracks.   Across those tracks are the much poorer east side neighborhoods.  I would have biked around these but it was starting to rain.   I still had at almost an hour’s bike ride back to the car.   I passed this plaque along the way on McConnell Road in eastern Greensboro.

I wanted to bicycle (for once) on a road or trail that I had never cycled on before but was also near where I live.  This is the eighth part in a series of bicycle rides that are done alone without touching anything, not going to a store, not talking to or getting near anyone.   I noticed the Bicentennial Trail the other day on Google Maps.   Like many greenways and rail-trails the Bicentennial Trail starts in the middle of nowhere, this one on the far western edge of the Greensboro city limits.

Before leaving I needed to fuel up.  Breakfast at home in Chapel Hill was avocado toast with a side of cheese toast.  In these challenging times for small business I always want to give a shout-out, so it was local raw milk cheese called Hickory Grove, by Chapel Hill Creamery, Seven Grain Bread from Weaver Street Market, arugula from Lyon Farms, Creedmoor NC.

The start point for the bike ride was fifty-seven miles away, right off exit 211 near the Greensboro airport.   The drive by car took exactly one hour mostly on I-40 and was totally painless.   (Quote from my late father, native of Norfolk, Virginia, spoken in about 1968: “those folks down in North Carolina have been driving sixty miles to play bridge for FIFTY years.”)

I assumed no one would care if I parked for a few hours in a warehousing complex.

 

 

 

The starting point of the trail was inauspicious; no sign, nothing.   I only knew about the trail because of Google Maps which said it went all the way more than twelve miles to near downtown High Point.

The paved trail winds along a stream bed.   Less than a mile along it was in very poor condition.

I found that the trail gets better.  The one small stretch was the worst.  The northern (first) half is bumpier, sometimes with steep hills.   It is not a trail to be done on a road bike.   The southern half south of Penny Road the trail is very well maintained.   Whether the pavement is smooth or not, the trail goes almost entirely through lovely wooded areas.

 

At about the halfway point, north of Penny Road, you have to take the bicycle up stairs.

 

South of Penny Road the trail is newer and better maintained.

 

 

 

High Point University is surrounded by a fence but this trail has an opening that allows it right through the middle of campus.  If beamed down here from another planet and also at UNC Chapel Hill, an alien might pick High Point University as the more impressive looking campus.   I think most of the buildings are very recent.  My cousin Nancy’s son Patrick recently graduated from here.   Nancy if you are reading please send me his cell phone number.

The older neighborhoods of High Point lie just beyond the University.   I will save lengthy comments about High Point for another blog, coming soon.   I did see this apartment building on Main Street, next door to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, at the sort of gateway to one of the nicer neighborhoods.   My good friend and photography coach John Ripley lives on Maple Avenue in Carrboro NC, within walking distance to my Chapel Hill apartment but John grew up in High Point.   In the late 1940’s his parents moved into one of these apartments.   John was born when they were living in this building.

High Point still claims to be the furniture capital of the world, a title that may now be debatable.   Housing seems really affordable.  This house was just a couple blocks away.

 

 

 

I turned around and rode back the way I came, back on the trail.    I found a bench along the way.  When sitting and eating my lunch I took special care not to even touch the bench with my hands!   Peanut butter and jelly.  The same Weaver Street bread.

 

I spent an hour or two bicycling back to the car.   After finding my car and driving home I decided to break all my rules and buy an almond milk at Starbucks in suburban Greensboro, to drink in the car.    It was open for drive-through only.

 

I sat for a minute or two but the line was moving too slowly.   I blew it off and drove home.