Many of us routinely drive different places, whether as part of our commute, to go to the store, or perhaps to visit a place we’ve never been before. As we drive, we see the trees whizzing past us, along with a tapestry of scenic countryside, landmarks, and more. One of my favorite activities is bicycling, something which I often do on multi-use trails such as the Dick & Willie Passage Trail in Martinsville, the Danville Riverwalk Trail, or greenway trails in Roanoke, Greensboro, or Raleigh. I also enjoy riding along quiet country roads to take in the scenery and see things in an up-close way that is difficult to do from a car. Much like flying in a plane allows us to see the world from a different perspective, so does traveling on a bicycle. And as we are now in mid-February, it won’t be long until sunny, warmer days such as we had this past Saturday, will become more commonplace. I’ll discuss a bike trip I took in eastern Pittsylvania County this past Saturday during which I was able to see very interesting things up close.
In some past blogs, I had written about scenic “loop” routes that I had tried out or had intended to try. The route I biked on this past weekend was included in a blog I posted on November 1st of last year entitled Consider These Routes for Fall Biking in the West Piedmont Region, in which I recommended several rides throughout the region. One of those rides is within and in the vicinity of the White Oak Mountain Wildlife Management Area, located in east-central Pittsylvania County, just southeast of Chatham.
I parked at a small parking area with an information kiosk along Game Reserve Road and began my ride by heading north. I knew beforehand that much of Game Reserve Road is of gravel surface, which I thought would be a great idea, since such roads are often lightly-traveled by vehicles, and this road was no exception. What I did not take into account, however, was the coarseness of the gravel, comprising stones large enough to make riding with hybrid (semi-narrow) bike tires challenging. If you decide to ride this road, a wider, mountain bike tire is recommended. You can learn more about the White Oak Mountain Wildlife Management Area by visiting https://dwr.virginia.gov/wma/white-oak-mountain/.
That said, this route brought me past tobacco barns, some of which were in good shape, others not so much. I even biked past a small farm, where a curious calf appeared to see who was passing by on the adjacent road.
On this ride, I came upon the remnants of what appeared to at one time have been kind of a village activity center at the intersection of Spring Garden Road and Cox’s Store Road. Some private residences and a church are in the area, but there are also structures that are or appear completely abandoned, which include a school, a former convenience store, and a building located adjacent to the former school. According to a cornerstone on the school, it served as Spring Garden High School from 1894 to 1927, but may have served a different educational function since that time. We often see pictures of abandoned schools, hospitals, etc. but rarely do we get to see one up close. In addition to a slowly collapsing roof, many window panes were missing, allowing me the opportunity to walk up to the building to peer inside and take photos. What I saw was an eerie school interior that included chalkboards with chalk writing on them (almost certainly from teenagers entering the structure over the years), empty closets that once held children’s jackets and backpacks, a once-prominent entrance stairway with handrails that had long since rusted, as well as collapsing ceilings – no doubt a result of the deteriorating roof. I was able to locate some history online about the Spring Garden community as well as the Spring Garden school, which is available at https://www.victorianvilla.com/sims-mitchell/local/sg/hist01/.
This bicycling trip afforded me the opportunity to see many different things, and I look forward to additional trips like this one. As the weather becomes warmer as we approach spring, consider riding on quiet back roads on a lazy Saturday or Sunday, or even on a multi-use trail either in our region or in a different one. Not only is bicycling a great way to spend time outdoors, but it’s also an excellent physical workout, and it’s free (minus the cost of a bike)! An excellent resource which is available for planning your bicycle trip anywhere in the West Piedmont Region is the West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan’s interactive map, which provides a clickable layer of recommended bike routes (depicted by clickable green lines) in each of the region’s localities. this interactive map is available at https://wppdc.maps.arcgis.com/apps/View/index.html?appid=abfe3df1b6ec4769aff2253d528fe2e9&extent=-80.3966,36.5503,-79.3420,37.0073.
There are a few words of caution that I wish to express before I wrap up this blog. When riding along country back roads, I have been chased by dogs a few times because in rural areas, residents tend to often let their dogs roam free. If you have children with you or you are easily intimidated by dogs, it may be wise to instead ride on a trail or carry a dog repellant with you. Another word of caution is that, should you come upon an abandoned structure, while the desire to see what’s inside may be strong, never enter, as, in addition to it being considered trespassing in most cases, there are often visible or unseen dangers such as broken glass, asbestos, mold, nails, the possibility of structural collapse, and the likely presence of dangerous wildlife.
If you try bicycling on a backcountry road or trail and you enjoy it, there is no need for it to be your last. In fact, if you live fairly close to a store where you often shop, or if your workplace is a short bike ride away and there exists either a trail or a network of lightly-traveled roads between your home and your work or non-work destination, this may be a great opportunity for you to ty a different mode of travel. When you do bicycle from home to another destination such as work, the store, a park, or to visit friends or family, don’t forget to log your trip into the RIDE Solutions app to earn great discounts on shopping, dining, entertainment, and services, or the opportunity to enter raffles to win great prizes such as gift cards. If you have not done so yet, download the RIDE Solutions app for FREE at www.ridesolutions.org!