Sunday, March 21, 2021

2019-06-02: Geocaching Through Love, History, and Chainsaw Art Along the Backroads of Virginia and North Carolina.

Who's up for a surprise road trip? Well one of my co-workers on this project here in North Carolina got transferred to another project up in Virginia. And he doesn't have a car to drive there himself. So I offered to drive him up there myself. That's also another roadtrip opportunity to go Geocaching in a new area, to see new things, and maybe get some new caching county or two out of it. So off we go...

His new project was just outside the town of Blackstone, Virginia. Doing some research online, we found a place for him to rent while he's there. So a quick stop at Hardee's in Washington, NC for breakfast and we hit the road. We drove straight up into Virginia and arrived at the rental house, but the person renting out the room wasn't home at this time. Instead of just waiting there for an unknown amount of time, I drove him up to Enterprise over in Colonial Heights so he could rent a car until arranging a ride with another co-worker.

Now that his transportation is set and he's heading back to Blackstone, I'm going south back to North Carolina. But not before finding a geocache (GC6J8B2) right there in the parking lot next door. Now one thing a little different with Virginia is that they have 95 counties to find caches in. But then there's also 38 independent cities separated from the county borders for a total of 133 regions to complete on the "county" map. This cache gave me credit for the city of Colonial Heights.

Then I drove over to the "Welcome to Hopewell" cache (GC3X2VT) to get credit for the City of Hopewell region. There along with the normal "Welcome to" sign, they have a huge "LOVE" sign.

A quick roadside stop in the City of Petersburg (GC2JQCN), and another in Nottoway County (GC27HQ8). Then over in Prince Edward County at the Gallion Game Sanctuary, I picked up a couple of caches down some Jeep trails (GC4MNAM, GC4MN9X). In Charlotte County I realized I skipped right over lunch when my stomach started growling. I hit the drive through at a Burger King then parked next door in the parking lot of the Food Lion right next to the LPC cache (GC5XD7R). The last geocache today in Virginia was for Mecklenburg County (GC2W7HB).

On the way out of Virginia, I passed this place called Chainsaw Art. Seeing some of the work on display I knew I just had to pull over at this roadside attraction and get a close-up look. If this is the stuff left outside on a Sunday afternoon when nobody's around, the artwork on the inside must be amazing. I don't usually include this many photos for one place. However I thought this place deserved it.

Stopping for gas in the tiny town of Wise, North Carolina, I spot this old abandoned red brick two-story building. I asked this guy sitting on a chair outside the Pay Jay's Corner Store if he knew anything about it. He just said it was the old school building. Now doing further research, I find that this old abandoned school building was built in 1904 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. I'm not sure when it was last used. There is an effort underway to raise funds to restore this old historic school building.

My last stop of the day was a virtual geocache (GCH16M) in Littleton, NC. Here you'll find a replica of the home of Nathanial Macon and the gravesite of he and his wife. The original house burned down in 1977. From the headstone: "Nathanial Macon, born December 17, 1758, was a soldier of the American Revolution, a state senator in 1782 and 1784, a Representative in Congress 1791-1815, Speaker of the House 1801-1807, United States Senator from 1815-1828, President of the Constitutional Convention of 1835, the strictest of our models of Republicanism." Notice they did NOT use the word democracy which is so misused today. The founders despised democracy and mob rule, forming a Constitutional Republic.

Nathanial Macon was one of the most powerful men in the nation and exercised great influence until his death June 29, 1837. Thomas Jefferson referred to Macon as "The Last of the Romans."

Nearly 500 miles later, I finally returned back to Blounts Creek, NC. It was one of those unexpected but pleasant geocaching trips, picking up some new counties and seeing history. Now time to get some rest and prepare for work tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by and look forward to having you ride along again soon.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

2019-05-27: Roadtrip Day3! The North Carolina County Challenge: Finding an Old School, Civil War History, BBQ, and Railroad Museums

So today is Day 3 and the last day of my holiday weekend roadtrip geocaching around North Carolina to try and complete my caching county map. Unfortunately though, like I said in Day 2's blog, I had to turn the corner and start heading east before I was able to get all the counties. But I still have more to get to today as I travel east along the south-central part of North Carolina. 

Let's hit the backroads and drive through North Carolina history. The passenger seat is open on the GeoJeep. Climb in and see what we can find... 

After checking out of the hotel bright and early this morning, I drove up to Burke County for my first geocache (GC6GJMA). This one was hidden by a geocacher outside her own house. Problem was that she moved away and it doesn't look like the house has been occupied in a while. Probably won't last much longer.

Moving right along into Alexander County for a quick parking lot cache at a grocery store (GC7MF94). Going east on I-40 into Davie County, I exit on US-64 to the town of Mocksville. I find the quick cache (GC467NN) near the fire station and keep going.

Entering the town of Lexington in Davidson County, I stop in the town square for a look back into history. The name Lexington was given to a crossroads settlement that consisted of a store, a tavern, and a few houses in 1775 shortly after the first skirmish of the Revolutionary War in Lexington, Massachusetts. The town was officially incorporated in 1828. The first Davidson County court house was completed in 1858, and was the only masonry building in the county at that time. The courthouse was used as barracks for Yankee soldiers in the civil war during which was damaged by fire in 1865, and rebuilt in 1867.

Lexington is also known for its BBQ (GC6C85). North Carolina has a long history regarding barbecue. The Spanish brought hogs to the Americas in the 1600's. As the pigs took over, pork became the meat of choice. Over time, the barbecue methods from around North Carolina converged into the style that’s known today as Eastern-style barbecue, a thin tangy sauce made with vinegar and red pepper flakes. Once the meat is smoky and tender, it’s chopped up and mixed with more of the vinegar sauce. Eastern-style barbecue is served by the plate or on a bun, usually accompanied by white cabbage and mayonnaise slaw. This is the original style of North Carolina bbq.

Sometime around World War I, an East-West split started to happen in the towns and cities of the Piedmont region west of Raleigh. There, pitmasters started using only the shoulder of the pig and vendors started adding ketchup or tomato paste to the traditional vinegar sauce. The style grew in popularity throughout the Piedmont region. It especially took hold in Lexington, which became the center point for Western-style barbecue. Barbecue is big in Lexington. The town of just under 20,000 hosts an annual barbecue festival that draws upwards of 175,000 attendees.

One more quick roadside geocache (GC46YJ8) in Davidson County at a historical marker for the Yadkin College which opened in 1856. It began as the Yadkin Institute, a high school for young men by the Methodist Church. It was re-chartered by North Carolina as Yadkin College in 1861.

Then followed by a quick roadside geocache (GC1V14A) in Rowan County.

Moving south into Stanly County was another historic old school building (GC15ENE), pictured at the top of this page and the next two. Pfeiffer University is a private university located in Misenheimer, North Carolina, established in 1885. The school first began its operation on the edge of Hudson, NC and was called Oberlin School, and was later endowed by Mrs. Mary P. Mitchell and was named in her honor as the Mitchell School. A fire destroyed the original school in 1907, and it was then moved to Lenoir. The new location proved to be inadequate and was relocated in 1910, to Misenheimer.

The Mitchell School began awarding high school diplomas in 1913, and began offering junior college classes in 1928. In 1934, the Pfeiffer family of New York City, gave several generous financial gifts to the school. The school changed its name to Pfeiffer Junior College, after it was accredited the same year. In the 1950's, the school began offering senior level college courses, and was then accredited as a four-year college in 1960. In 1996, the college received university status, as Pfeiffer University.

On the way to my next set of geocaches I passed through Albemarle, NC. One of those always interesting roadside attractions was spotted outside Jerry's Automotive. A shortened VW Bus with the monster head and arm sticking out that reminded me of the old Ed Roth or Rat Fink CARtoon drawings. I had to stop for a photo.

My next two geocaches were also quick roadside stops, one in Montgomery County (GC1M50J) and the other in Union County (GC82RBK).

Driving down to my next geocache, I passed by this old abandoned house. It looked like it was once a nice home. I wonder who once lived here and why they abandoned such a nice house. It's a shame it's just falling apart.

The next geocache (GC4JA4H) and county comes with a ghost story. The Ghosts of Indian Rock In Anson County, about 3 miles northeast of Wadesboro there's a small bridge crossing a creek. Most people drive across the bridge without a thought of what lurks nearby, but the locals know. They know it as Indian Rock. Near the creek known as Gould's Fork Creek there is a cave that was carved by Catawba Indians long before the white man settled in Anson County. But it's what happens here that has the locals spooked. That's all I'll share with you. You can read "the rest of the story..." over on the geocache page.

Moving over into Richmond County, I had two virtual geocaches on my to-do list. "Justice Rolls Down" (GCG67R) was the virtual located in the town of Rockingham. Outside the county courthouse were three historical markers and a monument. The historical markers were for a Brigadier General, a Governor, and a U.S. Congressman. The monument honors the county's veterans who served.

The next virtual geocache (GCG67V) was located in the town of Hamlet, NC. The first building constructed on Main Street by E. A. Lackey in 1901. It once was Carsons Drugs, Hamlet Pharmacy, and then Birmingham Drug which remained in business for over 50 years until 2019. During WWII, soldiers stayed in the rooms upstairs while waiting to board their trains. In 1990 the movie Billy Bathgate was filmed here and this was used as the hotel and restaurant in the movie.

Across the street from the historic train depot was the Tornado Building. I thought it had something to do with the weather. After some research for this blog, I discovered it to be a railroad museum.

The Tornado was the first steam engine locomotive in North Carolina. Originally built in 1839 by D.J. Burr & Co. of Richmond, Virginia, the Tornado was classified as a 4-2-0 steam engine locomotive. The numbers stood for four leading wheels, two driving wheels and no trailing wheels and a total length of 50 feet including tender and box car. It was one of four locomotives delivered to the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad, the others being the Tempest, Volcano and Whirlwind.

Weighing in at six and a half tons, the Tornado was on the light side by most locomotive standards; however she pulled thirty loaded cars and routinely hauled up to 160 tons of freight on 50-mile runs between the towns of Henderson and Gaston, North Carolina. In 1840, the Tornado became the first steam locomotive to reach the state capital of North Carolina on the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad, where she arrived to gawking crowds of residents.

In the spring of 1865, the Union Army captured the Tornado when they took the North Carolina Railroad between Goldsborough and Raleigh. After much use and a gradual phase out of this model in favor of the newer 4-4-0 models, this Tornado replica was originally rebuilt in 1892 for the Raleigh Centennial Exposition. It was featured in the Great Centennial Celebration parade in October of that same year. It arrived in the Town of Hamlet in 1950 and was again fully-restored with North Carolina DOT funds between the years of 2007-2009.

The building in which it is now housed was specially-created to accommodate the Tornado. The structure also houses a 1927 Model-T, a 1930 Model-A Ford and a 1949 fire engine. Now I wish I would have checked to see if it was open so I could go inside.

In the late 1800's, John Shortridge established a woolen and saw mill along Marks Creek in the sand hills of North Carolina. In 1879, a railroad running from Wilmington passed through the area that would become Hamlet to the Pee Dee River, where it connected to a line running to Charlotte. Another railroad was being built from Raleigh through to Augusta; it was through the influence of early residents that these tracks also crossed through Hamlet. 

The Hamlet depot, the only Victorian Queen Anne style station in North Carolina, was built in 1900 for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad as both a passenger station and division headquarters. This two-story station was originally constructed at the crossing of the Raleigh and Augusta Air Line and Central Carolina Railways. Hamlet grew with the railroad, as it provided hospitality for travelers passing from New York to Florida. By 1936, Hamlet was dubbed the “Hub of the Seaboard,” with five Seaboard Air Line Railroad lines leading out from the city and about 30 passenger train departures each day. Freight trains still come to Hamlet for maintenance at the CSX Transportation Maintenance Shops.

Running out of time, I start making my way back as quickly as possible. In Moore County I find a quick roadside geocache along US-1 (GC1WYKK), one in Scotland County (GC1W6AA), another in Hoke County (GC3WBFA), Lee County (GC2QJFE), and finally Chatham County (GC7TCRR).

That is all the time I had for this weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it as far west as I wanted too and had to leave those counties for another roadtrip. The other two counties in the middle, well I'm not exactly sure how I missed those. Still a good trip since just a few weeks ago when I first arrived in North Carolina I think I only had about 24-25 counties completed. And I still have some time left here. Maybe I can get those on the way back to Texas. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

2019-05-26: Roadtrip Day2! The North Carolina County Challenge: Visiting Mt Pilot, Siamese Twins, the Jail Chapel, and the Blue Ridge Parkway

Rise and shine roadtrippers, geocachers, travelers, and friends. Today is Day 2 of our 3-day Memorial Day weekend roadtrip across North Carolina. (Click here for Day 1) We gotta lot of miles west into the mountains to get to today. And hopefully round the corner back east to start the return trip for tomorrow. So grab a cup of coffee, climb into the GeoJeep and let's get going...

I grab breakfast in the lobby and check out of the hotel at the crack of dawn. Before driving away, I first grab the geocache (GCW6C1) in the parking lot to claim a find for Forsyth County. It wasn't a planned cache, but when there's a geocache so close it's hard to just leave it behind.

Driving west into Yadkin County, I pass through East Bend headed for the Mt Olympus Greek Restaurant for my next geocache (GC42WQF). What should have been a quick parking lot find turned into 15 minutes spent for a DNF. Being half Greek, I really wanted to find this one. But no luck this morning. I still need the county so I drive another mile down the road for another quick roadside cache and find that one (GC3YNZM).

On the way to my next geocache, driving the backroads through the country, I spot this old truck sitting off to the side of this gated driveway. Then I notice the skeleton sitting inside and just knew I had to turn around for a photo. As I'm taking the photo, I see the sign and realized that I'm getting my picture taken also.

Driving north on US-52 into Surry County, I see my next goal. As a fan of "The Andy Griffith Show" I wanted to return to Pilot Mountain, also known as Mt Pilot on the TV show. It's been nearly 14 years since I last visited this area with my sons and I hadn't yet started geocaching. There were two geocaches: "This Way to Pilot Mountain" (GC322YP) near the state park entrance and the "Pilot Mountain" Earthcache (GC1195C) up near the observation deck. I drove up the mountain to the parking area and made the short hike to the observation deck. After some photos I gathered the information I needed to claim a find for the earthcache.

Driving up US-52 with a view of Pilot Mountain

The view from the observation deck.

The view from the observation deck.

I wouldn't want to be down below if that rock slides off!

Instead of continuing on up to Mayberry (Mt Airy), since I've been there before, I thought I would check out less popular historical sites. Such as a virtual geocache at the grave of the Bunker Brothers (GCF338). I know... you're probably thinking "Who are the Bunker Brothers?" More commonly known as the Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng were born in 1811 in what used to be called Siam, now Thailand.

In 1829, the twins left Siam to begin touring Europe and the US. They were very popular and drew large crowds in "freak shows" where the twins exhibited various feats of strength and dexterity. In 1839 the brothers quit touring, purchased 150 acres in Traphill, became American citizens and choose the last name of Bunker in honor of a woman they met and admired in New York. In 1845 they purchased 650 acres here in Surry County. A few years later the twins married two sisters, Sallie and Adelaide Yates

Within 9 months and one week of the marriage each sister had given birth to a child. Over the years 19 more children would be born to the sisters. Over time, the two sisters began to fight and would often put Chang and Eng in the middle of their fights. It was decided that the family would split and two houses were built. The two houses were about two miles apart and the twins would spend three days in one house with Sallie and then move in with Adelaide for three days before starting the cycle all over.

Chang passed away on Jan 17, 1874. There were several theories and autopsies performed as to why Eng died, some saying within 30 minutes and others up to two hours. It is often said that Eng was scared to death of the thoughts of his brother being dead and have attributed his death to shock. Others concluding that blood continued transferring from Eng to Chang, but obviously not returning. They were then buried in the lawn at Chang’s house and in the 1920’s were moved to the church that they are at now, which the brothers had donated the land for.

The White Plains Baptist Church was established in 1856 on land donated by Chang and Eng who went to church there. The twins, their wives, and 40 other Bunker's are buried there in the cemetery, plus many other descendants under various other names.

One more geocache for Surry County was at the Dix Freeman Homeplace (GC4P3ER), a favorite location for Round Peak musicians to gather to play their old-time music and hold weekly square dances. Furniture would be moved, sometimes even outdoors, to make room for two or more groups of square dancers in the two room cabin. String musicians, mostly fiddle and banjo players, would stand in the doorways and play their music for the dancers.

“Breaking up Christmas,” usually held after harvest time between Christmas and the New Year, was a time for festivities including music, dancing, socializing and lots and lots of food! Families in this Round Peak area would begin at the Freeman home and then travel to a different cabin every night. Dix Freeman, 1908 – 1995, was an oldtime claw-hammer banjo player who learned to play when he was 10 years old. He credits learning most of his banjo tunes from the legendary Charlie Lowe. Dix played with the Pine Ridge Boys and was a collector of banjos and fiddles, amassing over 237 instruments.

Round Peak Mountain, eleven miles east of here, lends its name to the signature style of old-time fiddle and banjo music that developed in its shadow. The relative isolation of the community and difficulty of travel during most of its history helped to ensure that a limited selection of songs shared and composed by residents would eventually became the core of today’s “Round Peak” music. Round Peak music is characterized by a close interplay between the fiddle and the “fretless” banjo with a driving sound that developed as the musicians played for flat foot and square dancers at frequent social gatherings such as corn shuckings, barn raisings, house parties, and an annual local party tradition referred to as "Breaking Up Christmas."

Moving right along and hopefully picking up the pace. I found a quick roadside geocache in Alleghany County (GC2RTZF) before getting onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Then quick earthcaches at the Stone Mountain Overlook (GC77NWW) and the Air Bellows Gap Overlook (GC6TP4K).

One more stop further down the parkway exiting at mile marker 248 was for a cache (GC47JGV) at this Jail / Wedding Chapel in Laurel Springs. Gives new meaning to the term "shotgun wedding" I suppose. Doing a little research, I found that that wasn't ever a real jail or chapel. Just painted up that way for a roadside attraction and photo opp. Unfortunately it was a busy area off the parkway with a restaurant and bar across the street and a motel and campground nearby. There were a lot of muggles nearby and made it difficult to search for the cache.

Driving down to Glendale Springs in Ashe County, I stop for a multi-cache. A multi-cache is where you have to go to multiple stages getting clues to the final coordinates. They can be as few as a simple 2-stage cache to as many as you want. I think the longest I've found was a 7- or 8-stage multi-cache.

This one was called "Re-Visit the Past" (GCK8FB). In the late 1800’s Episcopal missionaries came to this region of the Blue Ridge Mountains to provide schooling and medical help for the people living there. Holy Trinity Episcopal Church was built in Glendale Springs in 1901. After the church was officially closed in 1946, members began removing the furnishings and taking them home. For over 30 years the church sat deserted and neglected. In 1972, Rev. Faulton Hodge became priest-in-charge at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in nearby West Jefferson. In the late 1970’s, he started a campaign to restore Holy Trinity. As work progressed on the building, the original furnishings were returned. Today the church has its original pews, pump organ, Altar, and candle stands.

There's also a cemetery on the property as well that has over 200 interments and is still in use today. According to the findagrave website, the oldest dates back to 1879. After gathering clues from the front and cemetery area, The final cache location was around back by this large statue.

Then there is the "Fast Find" cache (GC5QYT7) in Watauga County followed by another quick roadside stop at "Fall Creek" guardrail cache (GC29P3N) in Wilkes County. Had to take a few pictures at the creek though.

Getting back to the Blue Ridge Parkway southbound, I stop at the Green Mountain Overlook for another earthcache (GC6YHXZ) in Caldwell County and a few photos. I decided to include the GeoJeep in one of them.

Moving down into Avery County there was the Boulderdash Earthcache (GC700KY)...

...followed just down the road by the Artic Window Peak earthcache (GC21N6F) at the Yonahlossee Overlook.

My next stop was down in McDowell County at a cache called Restful River (GC6KHW5). This cache was near the bridge overpass for the North Fork Catawba River and the Honeycutt Creek. Down along the banks were a dozen or more of these butterflies. Every now and then they'd stop long enough for me to get a photo.

And then there's the "Be In Three Places At Once" cache (GC6HE12). Louise's Rock House Restaurant was formerly known as the Linville Falls Tavern and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1936 by stone mason Lenoir Franklin and owned by C.J. Howell, the tavern was built right where the intersection of three counties converge. The Avery, Burke, and McDowell counties all come together near the fireplace. With the layout of the restaurant, your food is cooked in Avery County, picked up by the wait staff in Burke County, and then served to you in McDowell County. Even though the restaurant was a little busy, the cache was hidden enough by the wall that I was able to quickly retrieve it without being seen. I just forgot to take photos.

Well it was starting to get late in the day. Looks like I'm gonna have to skip a few of the counties still to west and round the corner back towards Blounts Bay. So I head south into Rutherford County and the town of Forest City. There I get a quick parking lot cache (GC4H1H9) to claim that county. Now driving on US-74 eastbound, another quick parking lot cache in Cleveland County (GC16C21). Turning north on US-321 for a park and grab in Lincoln County (GC53CBQ).

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

2019-05-25: Roadtrip Day1! The North Carolina County Challenge: Finding Bigfoot, an Alien, a Miniature Village and More!

Welcome back roadtrippers, Geocachers, travelers, history buffs, Jeepers, friends and family to another entry in my AwayWeGo's Geocaching Adventures blog. It's a 3-day holiday weekend which will allow me more time to venture farther into western North Carolina. Today's geocaching roadtrip adventure is Day 1 of an attempt to find at least one geocache in the remaining 47 of NC's 100 counties.

Here's the map of the targeted geocaches for the weekend. We've got a lot of miles ahead of us, history to see, and roadside attractions to discover. So hop on board the GeoJeep and let's go for a drive...

So I get an early sunrise start from Blounts Bay and make my way over to NC-33 westbound. On the way to my first geocache I spot a "roadside attraction" that was waving me down for a photo opp. I just had to get a picture of the GeoJeep with a Yogi Bear statue at the mini-storage lot.

Arriving in Greenville, almost to my first geocache, I pass by another "roadside attraction." This cool metal yard-art sculpture of a sailing ship at the Villa Verde restaurant was also asking for a photo opp. There were a few other pieces of metal sculpture of animals out front, but this sailboat was the best.

My first two geocaches were challenge caches. Those are usually fairly simple to find caches that require achieving certain goals in order to claim a find. In the city of Greenville in Pitt County, was the 1,000 Finds Challenge (GC40YX9), which I qualified for long ago. After that in the town of Tarboro in Edgecombe County was the 366 Day Calendar Challenge (GC53AT0), which I also qualified for several years ago.

Driving over into historic Rocky Mount located in Nash County, Europeans began settling the area along the Tar River in the early 1700's. The Falls of the Tar River Primitive Baptist Church was established in 1757. With the establishment of the post office in 1816 (GCA855), the name of Rocky Mount became official.

Rocky Mount Mills (GC7D3B), the second oldest cotton mill in North Carolina, was built in 1818 on a 20-acre tract of land at the falls of the Tar River. The mills were operated initially by Joel Battle and two partners, but by 1825 Battle was the sole proprietor. When Joel Battle died in 1829, his son William took over the operation of the mills. Built from local granite, the facility was three stories plus a basement; within the building, the Battles operated both cotton and grist mills.

A large industrial complex, Rocky Mount Mills was raided by Brigadier General Edward E. Potter’s Union cavalry on July 20, 1863. The mills, outbuildings, cotton, and yarn were destroyed by fire. William Battle rebuilt Rocky Mount Mills on the original foundation between 1866 and 1867. The new brick building, four stories with a basement, burned in 1869. Battle again rebuilt the mills. During the height of its nineteenth century production, the cotton mills, with about 50 employees, could process about 700 pounds of raw cotton per day.

In 1883 financial difficulties led William Battle to relinquish control of the mill. Thomas A. Battle, great-grandson of Joel Battle, was secretary to the mill’s new board of trustees. He eventually became president and the mills thrived under his leadership. Battle constructed additional buildings in 1889 and 1894. When Rocky Mount Mills closed in 1996, it was believed to be the oldest operating cotton mill in the South. It now comprises a local historic district and has been redeveloped into residential, retail, dining, and office space.

Also on the 20 acres next to the mills is the Battle House (GC78k8M). Constructed in 1835 by Benjamin D. Battle, a son of Joel Battle. In 1863, when the Federal cavalry burned the mill, the officer in charge spared the home because he and the superintendent of the mill were both Masons.

A village of small homes were built around the mills for those families working in the mills. In 1918 this village community house was constructed. It is now a gastropub.

Heading north up into Halifax County, I stop for a quick roadside geocache and get a good laugh also. The "Little Green Men" cache (GC4J08N) turned a simple cache find into a little bit of fun.

Driving the rural backroads around the country, I often stumble upon unexpected pieces of history. Passing through the community of Centerville, NC in Franklin County, I saw this old church building and had to stop. Centerville was established in 1882. This abandoned building was once the Serepta (sometimes spelled Sarepta) Methodist Church. In my research, I couldn't find any history on the church. However the nearby church graveyard has 33 interments which date back to 1879, a 35-year old Confederate Col John Preston Leonard. The towns charter was officially dissolved in 2017 due to lack of growth and population of less than 100. If you know anything more about this church, please send me a message.

Moving right along picking up some more quick roadside geocaches in the new counties of Franklin County (GC1QA2W) and Vance County (GC1KBYM). Then over in Granville County right off I-85 was a Travel Bug Hotel cache (GC1C8A2). It gave parking coordinates at the gas station next door, then a short hike over to trailhead, and then to cache. I arrived at the gas station to see a sign that said "Customer Parking Only." So I drive over to the trailhead. Didn't see any signs that said hiking or Jeeping. Looked like a GeoJeep trail to me. I was able to drive right up to within 50 feet of the cache.

On the way to my next county cache and again driving the backroads, I pass by this old house. With the modern appliance and power lines, does somebody live here or is it abandoned? Too bad I can't go exploring.

Speaking of exploring abandoned places... that brings me to my next geocache. Over in Person County is the Castle Mont Rouge (GC6H90P). An abandoned castle located 3/4 of a mile from this cache at the end of Mountain Brook Road. This Castle was designed and built in 2005 by American Architect Robert Mihaley. Abandoned in 2008, rumored because of the death of his wife. Some time after 2009 it was significantly vandalized in and out which allowed the elements to work on the interior structure. Because of the vandals, now there's a gate, fence, and no trespassing signs. So now you can't even drive up to see the castle.

Just a few miles away across the line into Durham County, is my next stop at the Blalock-Chambers Families Cemetery (GC6K69Y). This cemetery dates back to Justin Ruffin Blalock in June 1860. There are nearly 200 interments here in total. And they are "Never Alone."

Another few miles away in Orange County was another quick roadside cache (GC6K6BA). Staying on Hwy 57 south towards my next geocache, I encountered another of those surprise roadside attractions. Two life-sized horse sculptures, one made of scrap metal and the other of wood.

Making my way into Chapel Hill, I stopped at Battle Park to go hiking in the woods for the North Carolina Challenge Cache (GC19YRC). While I haven't yet completed all 100 counties yet, I can still sign the log as a "Write Note" for when I do find a geocache in each county. Hopefully by the end of this 3-day weekend.

I'm driving around trying to find a close parking spot to the cache but it's all residential with no public access to the park. So I turn around back to the west end where I remember passing by a few parking spots along the road at the edge of the park. But now instead of a 200 feet hike, it's closer to a quarter mile hike. I grab the hiking stick, more for poking in the ground and leaves listening to that "thump" sound of hitting the cache container, and a bottle of water and begin my journey.

On the plus side of parking where I did, my hike starts me off into this outdoor theater. The Forest Theater at UNC staged its first drama in 1916 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death. William C. Coker, botany professor and founder of the Coker Arboretum, chose this particular location. A few years later, Professor Frederick Koch, founder of the Carolina Playmakers, developed the location into a permanent theater. Forest Theatre was rebuilt with Work Projects Administration funds in 1940 and was further improved in 1948. After taking a few photos, I headed for the woods.

It was a nice little jaunt hiking the Battle Branch Trail through the green forest. Once inside, it's hard to believe you're in the middle of town with houses and office buildings all around you. Even had a raccoon quickly scurrying along about 100 feet away. Tried to get a pic but it was too fast moving through the brush, trees along a creek. All I got were blurred photos with the phone. The one time I leave the Nikon in the GeoJeep.

I get to the geocache location and begin my search. I find the perfect hiding spot in this hollowed out fallen tree but no container. I expand my search looking all over but after 30 minutes there's nothing to be found. I even search further down the hill just in case it got removed by a critter and washed downhill. Nope no luck. The previous searcher just a week prior couldn't find it either. Well instead of a "Write Note," I'm gonna have to leave a DNF. Looks like I'm gonna have to make another trip back here.

On the way to my next geocache, I passed through the town of Cedar Grove, NC. In the mid-1700's, Scotch Irish, Germans, and English settlers migrated from the coastal regions to this back country area. The Cedar Grove Male Academy opened in 1845. By 1850 the towns businesses included a tanner, a coachmaker, a physician, a store and post office.

The Presbyterian Church erected in 1834 and renovated in 1901. Also built in 1834 was the Methodist Church. In 1939, a new Cedar Grove United Methodist Church was constructed and is the largest of the rural churches in Orange County built before World War II. After the Civil War, freed blacks began establishing their own communities and churches. In 1918, Lee's Chapel Baptist Church appeared at the outskirts of Cedar Grove, becoming the focal point of a small settlement of black farmers. 

The first of the photos I took was of the C.H. Pender Grocery Store. This two-story weatherboard building dates back to the 1880's. The one-story addition on the left side once housed a post office. It was moved across the road to its present location in 1900. Like the exterior, the inside still has its wooden shelving and glass display cases arranged along the side walls. The Allison Family first built the store back in the 1880's. The Oliver Family acquired the store in October 1907. Irene Oliver married C.H. Pender and they acquired the store in the 1960's.

Below is the Ellis Store built in 1923. This quarter-acre lot was first owned by Thomas C. Ellis who operated a store from 1871 until his death in 1892. In 1902 the lot and store were advertised for sale. At some point the store was acquired by W.J. Hughes from whom Thomas's son, Allen A. Ellis, purchased it in 1921. It was Allen Ellis that had this new building erected in 1923 and operated as a general store and post office. Allen Ellis retired in 1943 and his son Tom Ellis took over the business until he died in 1982. His widow Lucille eventually sold the property in 1995.

Heading north up into the town of McDade, I stopped for photos of this old abandoned gas station. This type of gas station and general store was built in the 1920's, a more modern and convenience version as the automobile became the mode of transportation replacing the horse and buggy. The front overhang protected the gas pumps. This store replaced an older 1880's store which was once across the street. Charles Samuel McDade owned and operated this store by 1940.

Moving along and driving north into Caswell County, I arrive at a virtual geocache called Rock City (GC9EF3). This miniature city, Shangri-La, began construction in 1968 by a retired tobacco farmer. For nine years this farmer built the tiny village out of rock removed from his farm land, concrete, and thousands of arrowheads. Among the miniature houses, the village includes a hotel, a mill, water tower, theater, a church, and more. There were 27 buildings in all. At the time of his death in 1977, he was working on adding a hospital to his village.

Moving right along, I stopped at a Bojangles in Yanceyville to grab a bite to each. While there I noticed a geocache in the parking lot (GC35H5Z) and of course I had to find it while I was there.

Going into Rockingham County, my next geocache was one of my favorites. A historical church with a graveyard. Wentworth Methodist Church (GC5NPD2) was organized in 1836, and the present sanctuary was constructed in 1859. It contains a slave gallery and is the last antebellum Methodist church building in Rockingham County. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.

Slaves and free blacks are buried in the cemetery behind the church, as well as members of the predominantly white congregation. Other officers and soldiers are interred here. Lt. E. Wheeler Hancock, who served in the Mexican War, became colonel of the 77th Regiment, North Carolina Senior Reserves, during the Civil War. Surgeon John R. Raine served in the 45th North Carolina Infantry. Lt. John P. Ellington, 72nd Regiment, North Carolina Junior Reserves, drowned near Fort Fisher. Capt. Berry J. Law, a native of England, served in the 69th Regiment, North Carolina Home Guard.

These obelisks mark the graves of George D. Boyd and three of his sons who died in Confederate service.  Capt John H. Boyd, Co I, 21st NC Infantry, died in Richmond, VA in 1861. Lt George F. Boyd, Co E, 45th NC Infantry, was killed in 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg. Capt Samuel H Boyd, also of Co E, later was promoted to Colonel and was killed at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, VA in 1864. A fourth brother, Lt Col Andrew J Boyd of the 45th NC Infantry and later of the 22nd Battalion NC Home Guard, survived the war and settled in Reidsville, where he died and is buried.

Passing through the corner of Stokes County, I grab a quick parking lot LPC (GC61GYQ) at a Dollar General to claim that county. It's 8PM now and I've been going on fourteen hours. I decided to drive down into Forsyth County to find a hotel closer to my next cache in the morning. Along the way, another "roadside attraction" at a giant Bigfoot statue. Gotta get a selfie with this one. Can you see a resemblance? 

Well that's it for day #1 of my long weekend roadtrip. If I keep stopping for all these unexpected roadside attractions, I may not make all my planned county goals. But then that's a part of the journey and makes for a better backroads experience. Time to get some sleep. See you bright and early again tomorrow.