September 23 & 24, 2006 in Yanceyville--Street vendors, live music, bike rodeo, crafts, boy scout mischief, wild animals, stray dogs, stray people, free music, it's all at the Hoe Down Rumble!
The Chamber of Commerce says that every September over 30,000 people come to the Historic Town Square in Yanceyville for the Brightleaf Hoedown. In 2006 they were joined by a group of cyclotourists who rode up from Raleigh to enjoy all the excitement of the day long activities at this Annual Caswell County Classic Event. I'd ridden the route two or three times before, made up some cue sheets, sent out the invites, and lashed down the tube tent, 3/4 thermarest and other light camping gear to the back of the bike. We ended up with two groups: one riding up Friday night after work--late September is pretty warm in NC and honestly we were a bit nervous about being spotted by the FBI as our Y-ville contact had been emailing an agent in Paraguay about "sending the arms" and then taken to posting on the touring list about "explosives at the campsite". The other group was to follow on Saturday morning, under the cover of daylightness.
Heeby Jeeby, the Ventriloquist and I met at the NCSU bell tower at 5pm on Friday, as planned. David rode by to tell us he was feeling ill and, not wishing to worsen the situation, would do the prudent thing--join the Saturday morning bunch. We rode into Cary and picked up Byron, then into RTP where Chloe joined us, completing the Friday Night squadron. Derrick advised, "oh and, you guys should know that this will be my longest ride yet, so if I start bitchin', just send me a back hand across me jowls." We stopped on Durham's Ninth Street for a supper break to let the sun thoroughly set, hit the Last-Chance ATM, and then struck out to do the remaining 50mi by dynamo light. ETA--midnight-ish. The first few miles out of Durham on Cole Mill presented hills and traffic. Pleasant Green presented more hills and less traffic. Our lights played nicely across the asphalts where the wind blew the first fallen leaves of autumn before us on Schley Rd.. Riding was good, and we sailed right past Underwood Grocery at New Sharon and into twenty-four miles of quiet darkness with no services, followed by another twenty-four miles of few services (two!). We enjoyed a great tail wind, pleasant temperatures and only one puncture.
As the clock neared midnight, the Leasburg Rd hills grew steeper and the Ninth St Vietnamese supper was running low. Promises of mass quantities of Italian food, salad and icy pitchers of cheap lager at Fratelli's kept us pedaling. Finally we joined NC-86 for the dive into, and the climb out of, the Roanoke River basin and into Yanceyville--where the Fratelli brothers had just flipped the lights and vacated the premises leaving us to watch their "Sorry, we're closed." sign sway back and forth on it's string--cruelly mocking us--behind the glass door.
We found the Paraguayan "arms" dealer plodding the alleys--taking his (bomb sniffing?) dog for a midnight stroll. He showed us where the boy-scouts had commandeered the fire station camping space next to the Anderson dry-dock and Merrit organic gardens. We kept it quiet, so as to let the scouts sleep--anticipating a full day tomorrow of helping them earn their demerit badges in skidding, wheelies and misadventures. Then down the hill, behind the jail and deep into the Yanceyville arboretum, where Gilbert had built up a camp with lean-tos, running water and refreshments. Demonstrating the benefits of cycling events for the local economy, he'd also rented us a Porta-Loo Deluxe. After we took turns showering with the parrot and toasted the evening's adventures, and toasted those joining us tomorrow, and toasted the crafting of the crafts and downing of the hoes, we settled in for a well deserved night's rest under the stars.
Up at the crack of dawn on Saturday (well, it was dawn SOMEWHERE) we broke fast with country biscuits and fixings while plotting revenge on those dastardly Fratelli brothers. We telephoned the reinforcements to advise them to take the time to get a good breakfast before riding instead of rushing out and it was dutifully reported back that there was little risk of a hasty launch as a couple members of their party where out stocking up on cigars for the road! Strolling the Craft booths and selecting four varieties from the home-made goat's milk cheeses (the selections offered presented far more variety than any city bagel shop's cream cheeses!) must have had a calming effect, as we lunched at the now forgiven Fratelli's. I had warned everybody that healthy organic vegan food would be hard to come by at the Caswell County Hoe Down, but healthy anything seemed in short supply. I felt pretty weak that afternoon--the miles? the al-fresco sleeping? too much cheap lager? too much vegetarian cracklin's? A good afternoon nap in the arboretum restored my constitution and I ventured back to the 4-H tent for an education on Turkey Hunting.
What would you expect to happen if, during turkey season, you dress in full camo, find a spot where everyone knows there's likely to be Turkeys, make yourself invisible in the bushes, and start making sounds like a turkey and otherwise pretending to be a turkey--that one species of fauna all those other hunters are out there determined to shoot? "It's the most dangerous hunting there is," the man at the 4-H tent told me.
"Don't you wear hunter's orange", I asked?
"Heck no--a deer's color-blind, but not a turkey", he admonished! "I had a friend who was sitting in the bushes about to shoot a gobbler. The gobbler took off suddenly and got away. Disappointed, my friend sat back, reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out a pack of Marlboros. Another hunter saw the red & white pack and BLAM! I've got one less friend. You don't bring anything red when you're hunting turkey."
Made me feel safer cycling.
Next to the million-dollar restored courthouse, the bright-eyed nonagenarian, Ms Andersen, showed us around a very grim jail complete with a bona-fied gallows. "Never used," lamented our frail guide, "After we built it the legislature decreed that all executions be in Raleigh." They steal all the fun.
Gilbert gave us the walking tour of town. Brown's Seafood is operated by Commodore Kim of the Farmer Lake Yacht Club. He pointed out the dungeon beneath the boarded-up movie theatre where a refugee from by-gone days is holed-up pecking his memoirs from serving in Johannesburg for the Helms administration on an old manual Remington typewriter.
Glenn brought by his family plus a child he'd kidnapped from Macedonia. Kelly Doug Hans & David moseyed in around late afternoon. David set up, then disappeared inside a high-tech stealth tent suspended several feet above the briers.
In the morning we watched inmates cleaning up half-finished beers and encouraged them to pocket their more interesting finds among the flotsam and jetsam of a big Caswell Co Saturday Night. We broke fast at the convenience store, foregoing the traditional eggs-and-brains, minded the snakes in the resroom, saw Person County with daylight on it, reverse chased bikefest yellow darts to Pleasant Green, and made it home in time to boast!