August 7, 2016 – overcast, 85 degrees
Miles Today: 93
Miles to Date: 14,078
States to Date: 39
Overnight thunderstorms brought cooler air. I left early to get a jump on my long day; it was actually chilly in the long forest shadows. By nine I enjoyed a pleasant juxtaposition of cool breezes in shade, and warm sun when pedaling along exposed fields.
I rode along a portion of Lee’s retreat to Appomattox. The roadside is littered with almost cryptic historical markers. At some point in every depiction of every Civil War altercation are the words ‘the Confederates repulsed the Unionists.’ It takes close reading to decipher that they eventually lost.
Sunday morning 10:00 a.m. in rural Virginia: the most segregated hour of the week. I passed black churches and white churches and empty churches. No integrated churches.
My distance from urbanity continued to expand. The hills leveled out to swales; I travelled miles with nothing on either side of me but trees or tobacco. I detoured to Drake’s Branch to avoid a four-lane stretch of highway with a rumble-strip shoulder. The area has great street names like Genesis Road, Gethsemane Church Road, WPA Road (with electric lines), and Poor House Lane. Back on US 15 from Wylliesburg south is a swell ribbon of fresh pavement all the way to Clarksville.
By mid afternoon the heat was rising and the cicadas in the brush alongside the road made such a racket they invaded my headspace. After 68 miles I needed lunch and stillness, so nestled into Gino’s Pizza on Main Street Clarksville. Next time you’re in town, I recommend their steak and cheese sub with all the fixings, served on a roll made from pizza dough. Giant fans churned a breeze in the big empty space. Nascar blasted from the TV.
The line that divides Virginia and North Carolina is arbitrary but ancient. 36 degrees 30 minutes was established by King Charles I in 1665, with absolutely no knowledge of the geography behind it. That latitude eventually influenced the borders of eight states, as far west as Oklahoma.
Arbitrary though it may be, the line has sociological significance. As soon as I entered the Tarheel State, the trucks got bigger and louder, their tires bulged, their speed increased. I held my own, wishing that some cycling advocate might turn the grassy area between the highway and the railroad into a bike path. Until a parade of brawny guys in ATV’s came roaring up that strip, popping wheelies on every obstruction. Obviously, I am on the wrong vehicle for this state.