Exploring local highways and backroads

Published 5:41 pm Friday, June 14, 2024

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Over Memorial Day weekend, I took a day trip to Raleigh. I’ve made this trip countless times, so I always have a schedule in mind and pretty much know what to expect from the drive there and back. I never even use my GPS system.

Of course, despite my luck in the past, I should have known that traveling during a holiday weekend would include its share of problems. This time, traffic came to a stop on the interstate, so I had to find another way to get to the highway which would take me to my destination. In the end, I ended up taking the scenic route to Enfield and Highway 301, and then it was finally smooth sailing after that.

If I hadn’t been in such a hurry that day, I probably would have enjoyed finding the backroads and taking them all the way to Raleigh. The traffic certainly is less frustrating that way, though the tradeoff is that it’s slower too.

To be honest, I really love just driving around in my car, and I would do it more often if my gas tank could stay magically full all the time. But I particularly enjoy driving here in our four-county area. It’s nice that this job gives me the opportunity to be out on the road frequently, traveling through our different towns and communities.

I’m most familiar, of course, with my home county of Northampton. There are plenty of interesting quirks in the roads you discover if you drive them enough.

Look at a map of Woodland, for example, and you’ll find that pretty much all of the roads within the town limits are named after trees. Fitting for a place named Woodland, right?

I’ve always thought it was kind of funny that a place named Rich Square features a “triangle” prominently right in the middle of town where Highways 305 and 258 meet up. The shape certainly makes navigating traffic in that area more interesting, depending on which direction you’re heading.

You’ll find the end of Highway 305 in Seaboard as it meets Highway 186. But if you choose to keep going straight at the intersection, you’ll be on Peanut Market Road. That takes you all the way to Big John’s Store Road, which might as well be another highway, considering that it spans across a good chunk of the northern part of the county.

One of the few stoplights in Northampton is located right in the middle of the little town of Lasker. You’d think a town with a population under 100 might not need a stoplight, but I believe it’s there to help with school traffic since Northeast Academy is located just down the road. Either way, I’ve never minded taking a moment at the intersection to wait as the light changes from red to green.

When I used to work at the cotton gin (before I jumped headfirst into journalism), my commute every day would take me to Highway 46, and I can remember plenty of times getting stuck waiting for the train to pass in Garysburg. There are plenty of towns in Northampton with railroad tracks running through them, but Garysburg is the one where I got stuck the most.

Now the NCDOT is working on widening a part of 46 and connecting it to Highway 158, so whenever that’s done, maybe there will be a way to avoid the train when I’m headed in that direction.

These are just a few town examples, but I also have fun driving through the various little crossroad communities scattered throughout the county too. Sometimes it’s just an intersection with a little green sign with white letters posted at the corner, proclaiming the name to passersby. These might just look like little ordinary stretches of road, but to the community there, it’s home.

You won’t find many of those names on Google maps, so you’ll just have to climb into your car to discover them yourself.

Speaking of discovering things, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Northampton County’s Barn Quilt Trail which is sponsored by the county’s Cultural Arts Committee. The quilts (which are actually large wooden pallets) are designed and painted by my neighbor Georgia Taylor, and you can spot each brightly-colored pattern as you make your way around the winding backroads of the county.

You can download a map at nhcculturalarts.com but please remember to be respectful of people’s private property if you want to pull over and take a look.

I’m not as familiar with the quirks of other counties yet (though Hertford is a close second to Northampton), but that just means I have plenty of time in the future to explore all those roads and crossroads and communities too.

To me, it’s almost like a mini adventure without having to go too far from home. Well, relatively speaking, of course. Northampton and Bertie are both so expansive that the drives can take up quite a bit of time if you aren’t paying attention, and even the miles and miles of backroads in Hertford and Gates can add up too.

Still, it’s nice to go for a drive, especially this time of year with the windows rolled down and the music on.

Maybe if you have some free time (and a full tank of gas), go explore the roads of the Roanoke-Chowan as well. You never know what you’ll find out there.

It certainly beats a drive to Raleigh!

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.