Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
These days when being around crowds is not advisable, long rides through the countryside prove to be a simple and safe diversion on the weekend.
Last weekend, my husband Fred and I headed east on N.C. 42 for a three-hour getaway to explore a few new roads, some small towns that we had never passed through and to enjoy country architecture and seasonal crops.
We did not need a GPS. We simply went where the roads took us. Nor did we need a restaurant or a gas station. We went prepared with a picnic lunch, a full tank of gas and a need for relaxation and a few surprises.
We went through Macclesfield and rode by the church where we were married. The church has not changed much since we were there. Then we passed through the small towns of Crisp and Conetoe, both in Edgecombe County, and Parmela in Martin County, and saw where people just like us live their lives. The towns were all quiet and peaceful on a summer weekend, it being too hot for too much outdoor activity.
Through the countryside we noticed a number of large solar farms, a few irrigation systems going full force in the fields and a few herds of cattle grazing and swishing their tails to keep flies away. Traffic was really light that day, so we could travel at a leisurely pace and get a good look at what was of interest.
We noticed that there were many fields of peanuts, which will be harvested in September and October. Tobacco fields were numerous as well; some of the fields appeared to be struggling, while others appeared to be thriving. Soybeans and cotton were plentiful as well.
We rode through Robersonville, Everetts and Williamston, all in Martin County and all of which were new to me but not to Fred. Hamilton and Oak City were not far behind. Between towns, we noticed the brightest red barn we had ever seen, a welcome sight in the midst of all the green and brown in the fields.
Most of the small towns had mainly houses and a closed-up country store or two, although a few had a Dollar General or Speedway. In the past, there was probably more activity than is evident now.
We passed through the community of Hobgood in Halifax County, which neither of us had ever visited.
We took a different route back home. Just before we got to Rocky Mount, we passed through Leggett, where Fred pointed out a mid-18th-century home that he had helped to restore by reproducing windows, doors and a mantlepiece for the owners. The owners are still living in the home and keeping it up.
We also passed by another old home, Old Town Plantation, on N.C. 97, a home built in 1742 and still occupied and kept as a historical site. Fred had reproduced windows, doors, moldings and wainscoting that met all requirements for restoring buildings on the historical registry. At the time of the restoration, the owners were friends of ours, who have since sold the house to others and moved to another town. Seeing Old Town Plantation again brought back memories of our friends and how they lived in the old home while it was being restored.
Through all the driving through small towns, we had yet to find somewhere to spread out our picnic and enjoy lunch. After a little more driving, we settled on a little spot at the Tar River Reservoir where we saw a picnic table in a shady spot.
We took out our pimento cheese sandwiches, deviled eggs, potato chips, pickles, fruit salad and cans of Coke and LaCroix flavored water. There was even a little breeze through the trees to make us comfortable. We saw a couple of families boating and enjoying the day.
Just as we were about ready to bite into our pimento cheese sandwiches, a gentleman who had been fishing on the bank of the river walked by us with a fishing pole, no tackle box and no cooler to hold his catch. He saw us with our picnic and said, “Simple things are so good. We’ve been like robots, but it’s good to keep things simple.”
We agreed with our new friend, who was probably fishing to get away from a busy life and a tense job in town and to find some pleasure in simple things.
Our trip ended after three hours of getting away after a busy week. We were thankful that we did not spend our day in a big city with its noise, crowds and rat race. We were glad that we were not robots, as our fisherman friends had said earlier.
Our friend was right. Sometimes the simplest things can bring the most pleasure.
Sanda Baucom Hight is retired from Wilson County Schools after serving as an English teacher and is currently a substitute teacher in Wilson County. Her column focuses on charms and ideas for a fuller life.