Sunday, July 06, 2014

Early Summer Velo News

...begins last week in Danville, Virginia where I spent my childhood and teenage years before leaving for college in 1966.  I went back in late June to join my brother bicycling the town.  He rode there a few years back when he stopped overnight en route farther north and mentioned that the ride offered a different perspective as an adult to a place we'd both ridden extensively as kids.  We decided to to the same together at some point.  Last week was our opportunity; my brother was driving to Danville from Atlanta for a high school reunion and he kindly brought a bike for me.

My first ride was a solo one on Friday night. I hit town around 5:00 pm and took off in 91 degree weather along the River Walk Trail which follows the north bank of the Dan River eight miles through town.  When I lived in Danville much of the north bank was occupied by Dan River Mills.  The mill and its 10,000 jobs decamped years ago; the buildings came down in the 00's.  In their place is a very nice bike trail that provides access to the river not available in years past.  I rode about five miles before turning around.  Despite the heat, I was reasonably cool; much of the trail is nicely shaded.  I crossed the river on the old railroad trestle and explored the warehouse district and downtown.  The Danville Knitting Mill building where I worked three summers during college is still standing but completely shuttered.  About half of the commercial spaces on Main Street are empty.  The old Woolworths store at Main and Union Streets is now a church.

We got a late start on Saturday.  My brother's reunion group had an event in the morning so we got out around noon.  We rode over to our old house and checked out the neighborhood.  From there we headed across the river following one of the routes we rode to school.  I am pleased to say that I did not have to walk my bike up the steep Monroe Street grade like I did when I was a kid.  It did kick my ass, though.  We visited the National Cemetery where our parents are buried and marveled at the diverse and eclectic architecture throughout the surrounding neighborhoods.  Some houses were nicely restored while a house next door is shuttered and deteriorating.  Millionaires' Row on Main Street has been largely restored--I recall seeing some of those impressive homes abandoned and shuttered in years past.  We were out for a little over two hours before the heat got to me and we bailed back to the hotel.

Sunday morning we went out early.  The morning was cool and pleasant.  We followed the River Walk Trail, retracing some of my Friday route before continuing farther east toward the airport where we encountered some hills after miles of flat trail.  By the time we made it back to the hotel, the day had warmed up considerably.

In all, the trip was what I hoped for.  Seeing Danville as an adult from the perspective of a bicycle gave me a new appreciation for the town.  The river trail takes advantage of a natural resource that was largely ignored when I lived there.  The varied architecture gave me a new appreciation for the city's heritage.  And it was way cool to do something with my brother in the town where we both grew up.  

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