Archive for the ‘Walks’ Category

Downtown to downtown, depending on route, it is 12-14 miles from Chapel Hill to Durham.

Our local governments are in the final stages of deciding whether to spend about two BILLION dollars building a light rail line that would connect Chapel Hill and Durham, especially UNC Hospital and Duke Hospital.   But these same local governments, with massive non-assistance from the state government, have failed to succeed in building a safe way to BICYCLE from Chapel Hill to Durham.   I know this because I bicycle to Durham regularly, despite its dangers.

Now I can say definitively that there is also no safe or pleasant way to WALK to Durham.  I sort of knew this already.  Why not spend the money to build greenway, or a bike path on some relatively direct route  from Chapel Hill to Durham?

Both my regular bicycles are currently being worked on.   I live on the Carrboro/Chapel Hill border.  Some compulsion yesterday morning led me to walk out of my home, walk east down Franklin Street (in the direction of Durham),  and just keep walking.


I walked across Franklin Street next to where the huge town-supported apartment buildings are nearing completion.



Three quarters of a mile down Franklin Street I passed McCorkle Place, where the University of North Carolina campus runs up to Franklin Street.


There is a sidewalk on both sides of Franklin Street has it winds through a leafy neighborhood before suddenly heading steeply downhill, off the “hill” Chapel Hill was originally built on.


At the bottom of the hill, after about a mile of commercial strip centers, I walked away from Franklin Street through Eastgate shopping center before crossing the highway bypass called Fordham Boulevard.   It is a tricky pedestrian crosswalk.


I walked through another shopping center before heading east down Legion Road, a street that has a sidewalk only part of the way.   After about a mile Legion Road dead-ends next to Old Chapel Hill Road.

I needed to walk several miles down that road to get to Durham.   While some subdivision streets run into Old Chapel Hill Road, these streets are all dead-end and not interconnected.   Old Chapel Hill Road does have a sidewalk on the portion of it that runs behind a series of car dealerships.

There is a nice path to walk on where Old Chapel Hill Road runs behind the reflecting modernist Blue Cross/Blue Shield building.


After the Blue Cross building the sidewalk just ends.


For the next mile or two I had to walk on the highway facing traffic, but step off into the grass whenever a car came, which was about a third of the time spent walking.  Old Chapel Hill Road crosses over I-40.  This was the view looking back.


Somewhere along this stretch is the border between Chapel Hill and the City of Durham.   Although it did not yet feel like much of a city, at least I felt I was making progress.   Near Githens Middle School the sidewalk started up again, but then the sidewalk stopped.   After crossing Garrett Road, Old Chapel Hill Road turns into University Drive.

While it is an uncomfortably wide road, it least now it has a sidewalk.    I had walked about two-thirds the way from downtown to downtown.   With about a third of the journey still to go there would be a sidewalk most of the remaining walk.

About a mile later I cut off University Drive and walked through the huge parking of Target Superstore, so I could sit and drink a decaf latte with lots of sugar (and read The New Yorker) at the Starbucks located inside the store.

Refreshed, I walk out of Target and walked along the sidewalk of the strip mall, past Sam’s Club.


Crossing through the lot of Durham Volkswagen, I inspected lots of new model cars.   I then walked facing traffic along the feeder road along 15-501.   It was a more pleasant walk than it looks, in that there is almost no traffic on this road.  Note the obliterated remains of a car dealership on the right of the photograph.


I made a hard left on Academy Drive that crossed the 15-501 highway, then a right on Pickett Road, then a left on Chapel Hill Road.    Once on Chapel Hill Road it was a continuous sidewalk lined by pleasant 1920’s houses.    The sidewalk is only on one side; I had to walk across the street to take this picture.


I took a right down Lakewood Avenue.


I was getting close.  I could soon see the tall buildings of downtown off in the distance.  Eventually I just walked up to downtown.


I had just passed where the Durham Bulls play.


Downtown Durham is booming.    Starting about ten years ago lots of people decided they wanted to live downtown but there were very few apartments available.    Apartments are now being built right and left.    Downtown Durham now has five or six hotels, three of which are aggressively trying to look trendy.  (Desk clerks dressed in black, modern art museum in the lobby, mid-century modern decor right out of Mad Men.)

I really like this building.   It is some kind of Masonic Lodge.  I hope nobody tears it down.


It was almost 3:00 PM when I finally sat down at Bull City Brew and Burger, for what else, a cheeseburger and a stout.

I took the bus back to Chapel Hill, after walking around awhile looking for the stop.


After posts of 95 bicycle rides, I am breaking The Rules (just once)  by writing about a walk.   If I do more walks, I guess I will have to start a different blog.

It is sixteen miles from my apartment on Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill to Jackie & John Ripley’s apartment on the third floor of the former textile mill in Saxapahaw.   I wanted to know what it is like to walk in America, if walking was your only means of transport.  What would an intercity walk be like?   Maybe I could feel like Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, walking down a highway, putting a crease in my hat as I walked.   Unfortunately, my hypothesis was confirmed.  Intercity walking on country roads in America is likely both unpleasant and unsafe.  Hiking down Highway 54 can indeed be a drag.  I will never do this again.

Not yet having confirmed this, I set out from my home on a Monday morning without even arranging for my return; my only hope was that John would take pity on me and drive me home.  Tootie had agreed to come get me if all else failed.   I walked from my apartment in Chapel Hill and down Poplar Avenue in Carrboro where I had lived for twenty five years.


I stopped off at my office in Carrboro for about an hour , then continued out of town.   With the miracles of smartphones, I could continue my Day Job even while dodging cars on Highway 54.

West Main Street in Carrboro is a street I have driven on many times. but had not examined quite so closely.  We always think now of Carrboro as this liberal place, but there is a diversity of opinion here.  “Where the Bible Stands”



At least West Main Street had a sidewalk.



After less than a mile, the sidewalk ends at the Carrboro Plaza Shopping Center.


It is about ten miles down Highway 54 from here to the turnoff to Saxapahaw.   Highway 54 quickly settles in as a two lane road.   I had thought the wide shoulder would make walking against traffic somehow tolerable.   It was just not wide enough.  I normally only felt comfortable stepping into the grass each time a car went by.


When walking and you get to something as innocuous as a gas station, it takes on a different meaning entirely, it becomes something to break up the journey.P1030314

There is street art out here in the country.


There is livestock


The is more religious diversity.



About six miles out, this small bar sits by itself on the highway.  It has been there as long as I can remember, with several different names.  I have never been in there.    I do not know what it is like now, but John Soehner told me several years ago that he saw a guy in there get beaten with a pool cue.



Walking along a highway, one sees all sorts of weird stuff that has been tossed out of car windows.


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Further out 54, I walked by this building.   Back in the day, when such things were Shocking, this building held the largest mail-order condom company in America.




A little over ten miles out, I finally made the turn onto Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road.  I still had something like four miles left to walk.  I had thought that this road would be more peaceful, and it is indeed picturesque.  However, it was so narrow that I had to jump into the weeds every time a car went by.


The mill apartments in Saxapahaw are indeed populated by many artists and free thinking people but there is diversity of thought on the highway outside of town.


Saxapahaw was a textile mill started in the nineteenth century alongside some rapids of the Haw River.   I had been closed for a long time when it was rehabbed about ten years ago as apartments.    I thought that it had no chance of succeeding, since it is really not close to any major city.   However, it has become a really cool place.    It has a general store, a performance space, a bar / restaurant, and a coffee house.  It also has a charcuterie,  where they make their own local ham, pate, and other pork products.


John’s apartment is in the upper right, overlooking the river.



He snapped my picture using my phone.