Tar heeled

IMG_3250We have been staying in the North Carolina Piedmont region.  It’s mostly flat, a mixture of farmland and woods, with some rolling hills and slow flowing, muddy rivers.  The area is conducive to slowing down—especially with temperatures in the 80s and humidity to match.  We have been enjoying ourselves in a leisurely way.

It has been a rare pleasure to spend extended time with our family here.  We also caught up on all of our chores—the things that pile up when you are on the road.  Our only tourist excursion was a visit to the nearby Tobacco Life Museum.

Zoe made herself at home at the museum.

Zoe made herself at home at the museum.

The Piedmont is tobacco country and, not surprisingly, we have encountered a lot of smokers here.  The museum was small—a little gem—with a very thoughtful and thorough presentation of life in rural North Carolina when tobacco farming dictated the rhythm of things.

Curing shed

Curing shed


The spinning wheel in the foreground is for flax, the larger one is for wool.

I am a sucker for antique spinning wheels.

There was supposed to be a full slate of bluegrass music throughout the day at the museum, but we found only two musicians doing sound checks.  No music until 1 pm, so we decided to have lunch and check back then.

Curing tobacco

Curing tobacco

We asked the museum folks where to find the best barbeque.  They sent us down the road to Stormin’ Norman’s.  Zoe was able to sit outside with us while we ate our lunch of a pulled pork sandwich (me) and fall-off-the-bone tender barbequed chicken (George).


The pig is next.

As we were eating, clouds piled up and the trees started to whip around.  We checked the radar and thunderstorms were moving in, so we headed back to the campground to pull in our awning and button down for the storm.   Missed out on the bluegrass.  Oh well.


A few days later, I decided to take a bike ride on the Neuse River trail.  It’s a lovely, well-constructed and maintained trail running from an area northeast of Raleigh to the town of Clayton in the next county.  I have no clue how long it is–anywhere from 27 to 49 miles, depending on what is considered part of the trail–but it is supposed to eventually become part of a larger trail system that will run from the Smoky Mountains to the ocean.

I enjoyed the ride immensely, but was frustrated from start to finish with the lack of readily-available information about access and mileage.  The information on the internet was not very helpful—it was impossible to tell which parts of the trail had been completed.  Sure enough, when we got to our planned drop off point, the trail was still under construction and there was no access–we could see the trail, but could not reach it.  Thanks to a woman at the local Walgreens, we eventually found access at the end of a subdivision road.  Nothing was marked–apparently you have to ask.

Setting out on the trail, I wasn't even certain if I was heading in the right direction.

Setting out on the trail, I wasn’t even certain if I was heading in the right direction.

Beginning of fall colors

Beginning of fall colors

George was set to pick me two hours later at an access point near our daughter’s house in the next county.  Stupid me, I had expected maps on the trail with mileage for the whole trail system.  No such luck.  All of the maps abruptly ended at the county line–as if anything past there was terra incognita–here be dragons–you will drop off the edge of the earth.  I guess the different counties don’t speak to each other.  So, I had no way of knowing how far it was to the meeting point with George.  It was about five miles longer than I expected.  But George and Zoe were patiently waiting, watching a parade of sometimes questionable people coming in and out of the trail parking lot.

The trail crosses the Neuse river several times

The trail crosses the Neuse River several times

Old mill dam

Old mill dam

I saw lots of cardinals and mockingbirds and one gorgeous pileated woodpecker.  I must have seen fifty turtles, sunning on half-submerged logs.

Turtles of all sizes.  I half expected to see an alligator snout poking up

Turtles of all sizes. I half expected to see an alligator snout poking up.

My heart stopped when I turned a corner and saw what looked like a bear grazing by the side of the path.  I am conditioned to think BEAR when I see a brownish hump like that.

Without my glasses, I thought this was a bear.

Without my glasses, I thought this was a bear.

Fortunately, it was a friendly pony.  In any case, I had bear spray with me.  No bears, but I was glad I had it because a man with gray teeth kept stopping and talking to me every time I stopped to take pictures.  He was probably very nice but it felt a bit like he was stalking me.  Despite the lack of maps and the gray-toothed stalker, it was a good ride and I enjoyed it.


This praying mantis was the only other wildlife I saw, his eyes followed me everywhere I moved when I took his picture.

This praying mantis was the only other wildlife I saw, his eyes followed me everywhere I moved when I took his picture.


5 thoughts on “Tar heeled

  1. What an exciting ride, especially when you didn’t know how far it was and being accompanied by a grey toothed stalker. You are very brave. I can see how you could mistake that fat little pony for a bear….

    • I have no idea how the pony got there. It was an area without any sign of houses or humans nearby. Sweet little beastie, though. The gray-toothed guy was one of those sad situations where you have to err on the side of caution. He was friendly and likely a perfectly nice man. But there was something about him that felt a little off. It’s a shame to have to be so on guard, but that’s the way it is.

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