Archive for the ‘Central North Carolina trips’ Category

I have been married to Tootie for thirty-five years.  I have been to her hometown of Winston-Salem (twin city!) more times than I can count.  I can honestly say it is almost a second or third home to me.

Everything I ever did in Winston-Salem was on the west side.  Everything.  The west side is a land of surburban houses, Whole Foods Market, Wake Forest University, golf courses, and country clubs.  I have always thought that Winston-Salem is one of the most segregated cities I have ever visited.   Not everyone on the west side is rich, far from it.   And clearly not everyone on the east side is African-American and poor either.   But there seems to be a huge cultural gap.

Winston-Salem has been recently successful with Wake Forest University in turning a huge former tobacco factory on the east side of downtown into a center for biotechnology, a sort of urban Research Triangle Park.   I wanted to bicycle around this redeveloped neighborhood.   But first I would bicycle south of downtown, an area I really had never visited.

The historically African-American Winston-Salem State University is on the southeast side of downtown.  I had never seen any part of it, not even on a drive-by.  This Wednesday afternoon I parked the car in student parking, pulled out my bicycle, and started riding.  The tall buildings of downtown were visible in the distance.


I biked off heading south, passing through the campus.


If you go down a steep hill from WS State you can get on Salem Creek Greenway.

I biked west down the greenway for a mile or two before turning south on Main Street, which is also called Old US 52.


In the area south of NC School of the Arts was an attractive early twentieth century neighborhood I had never seen before.

From there I decided I would bike fifteen miles south to the town of Welcome NC, where the map indicated some kind of stock car racing museum.   I would have to check it out.

On Old Highway 52 there were well-preserved pre-WWII gas stations.

The further out I biked from Winston-Salem the more I felt I was leaving one planet and arriving at the next.   Increasingly the traffic passing me was predominantly pickup trucks.

This guy’s boat has twin banners, a blue TRUMP, and the Confederate stars and bars


I realized several years ago that some of the best museum experiences in America are in privately owned and operated museums.   I recommend always stopping and visiting these places, even if you do not think you have an interest in their subject.   These museums frequently display a passion not always present in a public museum.   (Tip: go visit the Hank Williams museum in Montgomery Alabama.)   For some people Richard Childress is a big deal, a huge player in the stock car world.   I confess I had never heard of him.  His Wikipedia page describes him as “one of the wealthiest men in North Carolina.”   I do not follow stock car racing.   To me the word “racing” means high school cross country running, or horse racing.   But in Welcome NC “racing” means stock car racing.    With the over 55 discount I paid $8.50 to visit the Richard Childress Racing Museum in Welcome NC.  The young women at the front desk were friendly and helpful.

There were dozens of actual racing cars artfully arranged.



Except for one elderly couple I was the only visitor on this weekday.


Even more, uh, interesting was the other stuff.   Richard’s former office was on display.


There were two or three rooms just to display all the animals that Richard Childress had killed.


There was his tribute to the NRA.

And of course, what stock car museum is not complete without a display honoring the music of Brooks & Dunne?

I had wandered around this surprisingly large space for almost an hour.   I had to get out of this place.    I got on the bicycle and headed back towards Winston-Salem, looking for a place to eat lunch.

In about seven miles was Cagney’s Kitchen.

It is a popular place.


Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beens, one quarter sweet tea.  The meat loaf was a little too soft and chewy for my taste.


All along Old US52 are prime examples of bungalow architecture.




A rounded top building, the tallest in the Winston-Salem skyline, was built as Wachovia Bank headquarters just before management sold out and moved to Charlotte in 2001.    As I approached the city on South Main Street / Old US 52 I could see the Big Penis rising off in the distance.




Just before downtown I biked up a steep hill through Old Salem.   Yes, it is wonderful that they preserved buildings dating back to the late 1700’s.  But these buildings should be used in a modern context.   Maybe it is because my parents were always dragging me to Colonial Williamsburg as a kid, but trying to re-create the year 1800 in exact detail gives me the creeps.




I biked through downtown, looking for a place to get a coffee.    I love the look of the Nissen Building.   It has nothing to do with the Japanese.   Nissen, based in Winston-Salem, was one of the country’s largest wagon manufacturers.   The Nissens managed to sell off the wagon business in 1925 before the Depression, and built this office building in 1926-27 with the proceeds.   The building was recently renovated into apartments.

I found the coffee shop Sweet Aromaz on Trade Street.  It makes a decent oat milk latte.    I sat around, read my Kindle, and soaked up the vibe.

I had read about Innovation Quarter in an article I read about two years ago in Politico Magazine.   The headline was How Tech helped Winston-Salem Quit Tobacco.   The North Carolina city was once a major producer of cigarettes in the country; now it’s manufacturing human organs.   The article describes how a group of influential people of Winston-Salem were watching their city decline economically.   They put aside their personal differences and worked with Wake Forest University to create this technology center.

More than fifty years ago in another part of North Carolina 100 miles east of Winston-Salem, locals changed the world by creating Research Triangle Park.  Research Triangle Park sold itself for its rural nature, a high tech campus in the piney woods surrounded by major universities.   Their first big client was IBM.  While that was all a big success, tech firms in 2018 want a more urban setting.   Young technical talent now want to live in cities.

While there was not a lot of street life on this weekday, and there are huge surface parking lots,  Innovation Quarter still looks like an impressive achievement.





I wanted to leave my house and bicycle somewhere, but had no idea where to go or when to go there.  I had no agenda.  Early Sunday morning I just left, by bicycle.   Just in case, I took along my bicycle “trunk bag” with one night’s change of clothes, in case I wanted to spend the night someplace.

Tootie was reading the paper when I left the apartment about 7:45 AM


I keep my bicycle in a rack on level P1 of our condo building Greenbridge.

I looked back at the building from the street.    Our apartment is on the top level of the tower on the left, at the center of the photograph.


For those of you not from Chapel Hill, it is a relatively nice town.   The main drag is Franklin Street, which looked really empty on this Sunday morning.

One block later Franklin Street passes along the northern boundary of the University of North Carolina campus.

Until two weeks ago, a statue colloquially known as Silent Sam had stood about thirty feet to the right of the above photo.   Put up in 1913, it is of a Civil War Confederate soldier.  To quote my friend Andy Jones:  Silent Sam…was never silent. He shouted at every person of color that walked onto that campus. The photograph below is taken from Wikipedia.


A large group of students and others surrounded Sam three weeks ago and pulled him down.     The Republican appointed University administration does not know what to do about the situation; it is currently dithering.   On this Sunday morning I biked by Sam’s pedestal.



There had been a small riot here just the night before, two weeks after the initial tearing down.  Hundreds of anti-Sam demonstrators seemed to be picking a fight with scores of police who were protecting a tiny group of Rebel flag carrying pro-Sam demonstrators.    Sam has been controversial for years; I am not sure what there is to demonstrate for or against since Sam is gone.  I cannot image the riot that would ensue if they tried to put him back up.

At 8:00 AM the morning after the police were still here.


Just a few hundred hards away I passed by Old East, from 1793, the oldest state university building in America, and Old West, from 1822.


Lacking somewhere else to go, pointed the bicycle towards Raleigh, about thirty miles to the southeast.   After descending the hill which Chapel Hill sits on, there is a bike path along NC 54.


I turned down Barbee Chapel Road.

I have bicycled past this house on Stagecoach Road many times.  The house is hidden behind a fence.   The house and compound are less than ten years old, fronted by a yard much larger than is shown in this picture.     There are other large outbuildings in the same Gone With The Wind style.   I got off the bicycle, walked up to the fence, and raised the camera over my head to take this picture.    There are so many liberals in Chapel Hill and Durham that this guy must feel insecure.    Back in 2016 he had huge Trump signs on his fence.

I eventually ended up on the American Tobacco Trail greenway.


I could have taken the Tobacco Trail much further but instead I headed off towards Raleigh, weaving through miles and miles of subdivisions.   Many but not all are in the city of Cary.

This looks like Georgetown but these houses are less than ten years old, built on former scrub woods and abandoned tobacco farms.

The newer neighborhoods of Cary are a lot more multicultural than Chapel Hill or even Durham.    I stopped in a Starbucks to refuel and about half the people in there were Asian.


Later on I was weaving through this neighborhood of expensive tract mansions and these two dark complexioned women were speaking a language I could not recognize.



I crossed over NC 540, an almost new toll road to nowhere.   The road was recently written up as being “successful” in that it the tiny levels of traffic were still enough for it to make its bond payments.


On the western edge of the Raleigh city limits I biked by the state fairgrounds, including Dorton Arena, a modernist gem from 1952.   I was disappointed with the photo I took so I lifted this one from Wikipedia.


I was early for lunch but one should never pass by really good food.   Neomonde Bakery, near Meredith College in Raleigh, has the best Middle Eastern food in the Triangle.    Hummus, baba ghanoush, stuffed grape leaves, pita bread, and tabouli salad all exuded freshness.


What to do now?   I spent quite a while lingering over my lunch and reading The New York Times on my I-phone.   It was already thirty miles back to Chapel Hill.   Should I keep going further on?  Naah.

I left Neomonde and biked back to Chapel Hill.



Many of you remember seeing pictures of me on the blue bicycle with small wheels. I bought this new in 2002 for about $1800.00, custom made by Peregrine Bicycle Works of Chico, California.

This bicycle was fun to ride.   It performed almost as well as many conventional “road” bikes; it only weighed 22 pounds; it felt stiff and fast.  I had ridden it for so long that I was used to its eccentricities.  I rode it even when I did not need its folding capabilities.


It would fit in a suitcase for air travel.


On Amtrak I could just fold it up and lug it onboard without a case.   Getting off the train, I could reassemble it in less than a minute and bike away from the platform.

I have been in quite a few foreign countries and many states of the USA with this bicycle during the past fifteen years.   While I own a couple of other bicycles, this one has always been my favorite.    I have had a lot of maintenance done to it over the years, but I never would have predicted what happened three weeks ago.

I was out for a fifteen mile spin on country roads near my home in Chapel Hill NC.     Three fourths of the way into the ride, the bicycle started feeling “funny.”   The frame felt slightly wobbly.    I stopped about three times, shaking the bicycle and looking for problems, but could not find any.

Going slowly because it was uphill,  on Dairyland Road coming back towards Chapel Hill, just before the turnoff to Union Grove Church Road, the bicycle suddenly snapped in half, dumping me on the road.    I may have passed out for a moment, I remember thinking that I was now on the road and my shoulder was messed up.

Luckily no car ran into me and a couple cars stopped to help out.   One turned out to be my friend Brian Stapleton, who scooped the bicycle and me up.   We called my wife Tootie on the phone and she met us at our apartment and we drove to the urgent orthopedic clinic.

I have a nicely broken clavicle (collar bone), broken ribs that have been extremely painful, and a substantially bruised hip, which has resulted in swelling called a hematoma.   The hip may take months to completely heal.   Three weeks later I am walking around but still in pain.

My bicycle guru Gordon Sumerel says that this kind of structural failure should not happen ever, anytime, on any bicycle.  It was not something that I should have anticipated.   Am I angry at the manufacturer?   I have trouble getting angry at people, so not especially.   This was a hand built machine by a small business that no longer makes this kind of bicycle.   I get the impression he is almost a one man shop.   I am a small business person myself so I can understand his situation.


I have not decided what type of bicycle I will get to replace this.   I want to think about it for a while.

For the moment I can reminisce about just some of the places this bicycle went with me.

With Henry in the Netherlands 2006



The Netherlands 2007 (photo by Henry)


Northern Italy 2014


Rioja Valley, Spain 2015


with bikers in rural Spain, 2016


rural Spain 2016



outside Nancy, France 2017


Indianapolis 2016


rural Indiana 2016


Maine 20152620 Trapp Avenue, home of Tootie and Paco 1983

Outside our 1980’s apartment in Miami FL 2014



Assembling the bicycle on the streets of Paris, France 2017


Rural Northeast Pennsylvania 2017


Along the Rhone River, France 2017


My sister Betsy in Grand Central Station, New York City, 2017


Detroit MI, 2017


With my friend Lyman and my son Jack outside a Walmart, just south of Miami FL 2014


Just north of Fort Lauderdale FL, 2018


In front of Trump’s Mar a Lago, Palm Beach FL 2016

Among the bikers, near Daytona Beach FL 2012




Durham is about fifteen miles by bicycle from my home, depending on the route.   By the shortest route it is not even a very pleasant bike ride.  But Durham is a cool place.

I had read about Saltbox Seafood and its eccentricities, so I biked over to check it out.   Would the food be worth the wait?

In New Orleans in an industrial neighborhood there is a snowball stand called Hansen’s Sno-Bliz.   It has even won a James Beard culinary award, certainly the only one ever for a snow cone place.   Back in the 1980’s when Tootie and I lived near it, it was run by its original owners, an elderly couple who had run it since the 1930’s.  They were pretty much the only employees and they made amazingly creative snowballs with an exhaustive list of toppings.   All the syrups were made in-house.   They even invented their own snow making machine, with ice of uncommon fluffiness.    When we would arrive outside there would be a line of maybe five people.   But it still took about half an hour get to the front of the line.   The old lady (Mrs. Hansen, I presumed) took your order.  She would slowly and lovingly work out exactly what you wanted on your snowball.   It took like five minutes to just place an order for one or two snowballs.  The pace was so slow in was excruciating.  But if you had nothing else to do on a warm summer evening it was sometimes worth taking an hour (or more!) to get a delicious snowball.   The place still exists today, run by their granddaughter.

I saw some parallels in Saltbox Seafood Joint,  on the east side of downtown Durham.   There is nowhere to sit except on picnic tables scattered on the lawn.


At 1:30 PM on a Thursday there were three people standing at a walk up counter.    The guy taking orders was super friendly.   It took, however, nearly half an hour before he finally took my order for one clam roll.    He kept stopping taking orders so he could deliver food to other people.  When he finally took the order, as he had done for the people in front of me, he was sure to say “we are a little behind right now, the order will take forty-five minutes, is this OK?”

The guy said their menu changes every day, depending on what seafood they get that day, driven in from their sources on the North Carolina coast.  He said all seafood was from North Carolina.


I was determined to see this through, so I said “sure.”   It looked like there were two people working there, the guy taking orders and the other guy preparing food.    A little later I also saw another guy in the back.

I sat on a picnic table in the shade.   I actually was quite pleasant.   I read The New Yorker on my Kindle for somewhat longer than forty-five minutes.    I was starvingly hungry.  I swore I would never do this again.

But when my name was called the food was really delicious.  Clams have a distinctive flavor that can stand up in strong seasoning.    Their special creative coleslaw covered the fried clams, which had been heavily sprinkled with lime juice and a spicy hot and salty powder resembling Old Bay seasoning.  Everything tasted great, even the bread.  Unlike most fried seafood, I felt no urge to put ketchup or anything else on this.  It was complete and ready to go.



So it was great food that took forever to get.   Was it worth it?  I dunno, it depends on how valuable your time is!

Walking along Chapel Hill Road on the west side of Durham, I had never noticed the quantity and quality of 1920’s looking bungalow houses in this area.  They must have all been built about the same time.  They are generally big houses with enormous deep front porches.   This part of town does not seem yet completely yuppified.














I needed to drive 140 miles to pick up Tootie and Kathryn from an evening arrival at the Charlotte airport.    Using the opportunity I got to Charlotte early, parked the car, took my bicycle out of the trunk and spent most of the day looping though the streets of Charlotte.

I took lots of pictures.  Charlotte calls its downtown Uptown.  In a couple of areas I was struck by extreme and pervasive teardowning.   Southeast of Uptown in the prosperous neighborhoods of Dilworth and Myers Park small houses built in the 1940’s – 1960’s are being torn down and replaced by much larger houses.   Sometimes this is done in good taste, sometimes not.   I think this practice upsets the neighbors but there are a lot of bigger problems in the world.  It also shows the growing inequality in America.








There is very different teardowning going on in the other direction, northwest of Uptown in and near the neighborhood of Seversville, which looked to me an African American neighborhood now gentrifying.    This whole area is only about two miles from the high rises of Uptown.

All over the country 1920’s houses in the bungalow/arts & crafts style are popular.   Clearly there is insufficient supply in Charlotte, so the gentrification of this formerly mostly African-American neighborhood allows incoming young professionals an opportunity to build their own 1920’s bungalow.  There are a few original houses in the 1920’s style in Seversville, but mostly plain box houses are being replaced by brand new houses in this 1920’s style.  The house on the left is old, the house on the right in brand new.


My car was parked across the street.   An older small house wedged between two brand new larger houses (that look old!).

Right old, left brand new


Left old, right new.


Bicycling just a few blocks further west and the gentrification stops in its tracks.  Commercial strips are essentially abandoned, two or three miles from Uptown Charlotte.   Is it all based on race?  I think it is.   Every city in America has areas like this.   Why does no one want to live or work here?  These parts of towns have modernist commercial architecture that would have been torn down in more prosperous areas.










The wind was blowing hard and predicted to be from the southwest, with gusts up to thirty miles an hour.   Tootie suggested she drive me and my bicycle thirty-five miles southwest of Chapel Hill so that I could bike with the wind.    I got out of the car in the parking of lot of Loves Creek Baptist Church on the north side of Siler City (population 8,000);  pulled the bike out of the trunk and headed off towards downtown.

I did not eat at this place but it looks memorable.


Siler City is Norma Rae country.  Or, it was formerly Norma Rae country before almost all the textile mills closed in the past twenty years.   I passed one closed mill after another.  Chicken processing plants have opened more recently.   I do not think Siler City was ever a pretty town.

I have met several people who live in the Siler City area;  the liberal diaspora of Chapel Hill spreads out to near here.   I rode into the older downtown.


There was modernist architecture.


Before heading north back towards Chapel Hill I decided to bike an hour long loop though the countryside south of Siler City, maybe looking for the American Dream.


I might have found that dream on the way back into Siler City from the south, when I cruised through the quite nice neighborhood around the Siler City Country Club golf course.  I wonder if this house shocked the neighbors when it was built.



Siler City made national news back in the year 2000 when former Klan leader David Duke held a rally downtown.  The rally was more a less a failure in that locals seemed turned off by his message.    The inspiration for the rally was the influx of Hispanics who mostly came to work in the chicken processing plants.   The percentage of the population in Siler City who is Hispanic went from basically zero to about forty-five percent in ten years.

This seemed a good day to look for a Mexican restaurant.  I would never have found this place without Yelp.    It starts with a Mexican grocery store downtown that has no sign.



You walk in through the store past the impressive meat department to a small restaurant in the back.


The menu is on the wall.  Women were preparing fresh tortillas in the kitchen.


Accompanied a guava soda and green hot sauce, I got four tacos, two asada (grilled beef) and two lengua (beef tongue).


After lunch there was no alternative other than to bike northeast towards Chapel Hill through farmland pretty much the whole way.


In the liberal la-la land that is Chapel Hill, we miss entire movements.    Maybe twenty-five percent of ALL the houses displayed this specific sign, not only in Siler City but all along the roads through the countryside back to Chapel Hill.


These signs are the inspiration of a sixteen year old from nearby Asheboro.    He has encouraged thousands to buy them.

About halfway back, predictably on a creek for originally for water power (Cane Creek), I passed Lindley Mills.   On their website they say they are 10th generation owners and they now produce high quality organic flour.