Enjoying a slow roll down NC186

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 27, 2009 in The 1L Life

My first car was actually a truck, a Wolfpack red 1987 Madza pickup that my father gave me after my freshman year at N.C. State.

Now I love my family, but they don’t know how to maintain technology for the life of ’em — mobile phones, computers, cars, etc — so by the time I got the truck in 1999 it was a beat up mess. But when your previous method of transportation was either on foot or pleading for a ride, you’re thankful for what you can get ;)

The truck radio didn’t work and it didn’t have air conditioning, so driving was a strictly utilitarian pursuit. I got into the habit of speeding to get from Point A to Point B (racking up more than a couple citations in the process) since the driving experience wasn’t terribly enjoyable. Even when I got my current car back in 2002, the idea of driving just for the sake of driving was a relatively foreign concept.

Fast forward to last year, when I took over as President of the UNC Association of Student Governments. One of the goals on my campaign platform was to personally visit all 17 UNC institutions at least 2x apiece during the year, so naturally that meant spending a few dozen hours driving around North Carolina.

And at some point along the way I started to really enjoy it.

Where I once cringed at sitting in silence with a non-functioning radio, I’d actually cut off the CD player and listen to the wind wrap around the car. Where I used to speed to get somewhere, I’d instead set the cruise control at the speed limit and take in the view along the way (unless I was late :beatup:).

That’s particularly true when it comes to visiting my grandparents back in Virginia Beach. Once upon a time I stuck to the Interstate as much as possible since it was the fastest way to get there. Then one day Pops pulled out a map and showed me a path down NC186 that shaved off about 50 miles — it was a little bit slower, but saved gas $$ :)

Satellite image of NC186

The path less traveled: NC186 from Garysburg to Gumberry to Seaboard to Boykins

I use it as my regular route now, and I have to say it’s one of the highlights of traveling home.

In most respects there’s nothing unusual about it at all, it’s very “North Carolina”-esque as far as countrysides go. There are miles of farmland that in parts stretch as far as the eye can see — mostly cotton, but some corn, soybeans, and wheat plots too — broken up by towns with only a few hundred residents. There’s an occasional visual oddity or two, like the lumber mill near the Virginia border or the fire station that doubles as a town hall. Gas stations are rare, and the ones that exist are more likely to accept paper checks than credit or debit cards.

The whole area makes me want to cut off the radio and drive through a few miles under the speed limit.

Even though both Nan and Pops had parents who lived on farms (in Pennsylvania and New York, respectively) I’ve always been a “city boy” who grew up in Virginia Beach and then came to Raleigh. That label got reinforced even more when I majored in Computer Science and then decided I wanted to become a lawyer.

I don’t regret it, because Lord knows I get cranky when I don’t have my internet. But there’s something to be said for the simpler things in life (über-cliché I know. sorry.). Seeing folks who have almost nothing beyond a rundown truck and a trailer putting up wreaths and garlands and celebrating Christmas with family reminds me of when I was a kid, when the internet didn’t exist and my idea of recreation was playing with Legos or running around in the yard. And I’ll be honest: with text messages and Facebook and tweets, I kinda miss going “off the grid” every now and then.

Anyhow, sorry for the rambling. Just got back into Durham today and thought I’d share :) Hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and are preparing accordingly for New Year’s Eve! :D

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