‘No particular place to go’

Abandoned church in North Carolina.
Abandoned church in North Carolina.

Fired up my Harley Davidson Switchback early Sunday and hit the road at 7 a.m. to ride down Virginia Rte. 8 from Floyd down Woolwine Mountain to U.S. 57 for the hop over to Bassett and then U.S. 220 past Martinsville to Ridgeway to meet members of the Roanoke Valley Harley Owners Group (RVHOG) for breakfast at Clarence’s Restaurant.

After eggs, two slices of pork tenderloin, homefries, wheat toast and lots of coffee, some headed to Windy Gap and others for Father’s Day celebrations.

I headed East alone towards Danville, then South on U.S. 29 into North Carolina, where I hooked up with NC 700 to venture west along the reasonably flat two- lane to cruise with the noise of a Harley’s stock exhaust and my thoughts for several hours before heading back north up into Virginia and more rural and quiet roads.

I tend to ride alone.  “No particular place to go,” sang Chuck Berry back in my teenage days.  At such times, I’m free to go in any direction, towards or away from any location without any planned route or destination.

Planned rides with groups are fun and interesting but unplanned wanderings are, in my opinion, the best way to go.

Relics of an abandoned time.
Relics of an abandoned time.

In northern North Carolina or the Southside of Virginia, one rides past abandoned relics of what once was but never may be again:  Decaying textile factories, empty furniture factories and other landmarks to economies and jobs that left America.

Those changes are part of national anger that the most presumptious and unlikely candidate for President — flamboyant womanizer, egomaniac and carnival showman Donald Trump — used to propel him to the GOP nomination.

The news from correspondents on my political news operation noted a growing group of Republican dissidents who are trying to derail the Trump express at the party’s nominating convention in Cleveland in a few weeks.

Fat chance.  Trump focused on a party in disarray and an aimless electorate to achieve what few expected in this circus of an election year.

Ironically, I did not ride past a single Trump sign in Southern Virginia or North Carolina on Sunday.  In fact, I didn’t see a single political sign showing any preference of Republican or Democratic candidate for President.

There are a few bumper stickers on cars for vanquished Democratic Presidential wannabe Bernie Sanders but none of the two who will be the candidates in the November general election just under five months from now.

Just as well.  There’s enough hysteria in newscasts and on front pages about politics.  Why destroy a pleasant ridge through the countryside on a pleasant Sunday.

I rode by a number of empty churches on a Sunday morning.  Not just closed churches but ones with boarded up windows or collapsing roofs.

Those with church services appeared to be playing to smaller audiences.  Lots of empty spaces in parking lots.

Pew Research in 2015 found “almost every major branch of Christianity in the United States has lost a significant number of members.”

“We’ve known that the religiously unaffiliated has been growing for decades,” says Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of religion research and the lead researcher on the new study. “But the pace at which they’ve continued to grow is really astounding.”

I’m one of those.  I left my longtime family church in 2013 after the leadership of it left Presbyterian Church USA because the denomination disagreed with recognizing homosexuals and decried marrying gay couples.

My first cousin, and one of my best friends, is gay and happy with his choice of sexuality.  I am happy for him and I cannot support a religions that considers him a “sinner.”  The God that I worship is not as intolerant or bigoted as some of those who preach.

When you ride past closed churches or parking lots that are half-empty here in the Bible Belt, you realize that society in general feels more tolerant and less unforgiving.

The morning coolness gave way to afternoon heat.  In North Carolina, I passed two young girls waking alongside the road, wearing just tiny bikinis.  Were they walking to a place to swim or lay in the sun?  Didn’t see any ponds or swimming pools.  They waved and smiled.

I had stopped for gas in Virginia before heading down into North Carolina.  Better prices in the Old Dominion  The Harley needs premium and Sheez near Danville offered 93 octane for $2.34 a gallon.  That’s more than 30 cents a gallon cheaper than premium in many other parts of Virginia — including Floyd.

Filled up again after crossing back over into Virginia near Galax.  Premium at a Shell station there was $2.39 a gallon.  That’s about what one pays, with discount, at a Kroger station in our area.

Random thoughts on a random ride on a Sunday.

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