The Piedmont leg of Highway 64 is much more than a collection of small country towns. It is historical, diverse–it encapsulates the spirit of North Carolina.
We began our journey in Lexington, North Carolina: home of the nation’s famous barbeque festival. Like one would expect from a small country town, Lexington’s downtown strip has ol’ southern character. Its main street is lined with boutiques, family owned restaurants, and pigs. Yes, pink pig statues line the sidewalk, paying homage to the barbeque that put the small town on the national map.
From Lexington, we wound down two-lane Highway 64 to get to Asheboro. This second stop on our journey brought us to a town bigger than the one we came from. Asheboro has distinct southern charm, much like Lexington, but its scale is larger. On the downtown strip, tourists can stop into a secondhand bookstore, get coffee next door, and finish their trip off with a nice dinner at a local establishment. If you’re in Asheboro during September, make sure to visit the town’s Fall Festival for even more fun.
Passing Asheboro is where Highway 64 begins to get a bit bumpy. The roads grow windier and windier, and the trees begin to close in. If you’re a back-seater like I was, beware: car sickness comes at you quickly.
As the road got straighter and my car sickness began to subside, the Highway brought us to Franklinville, and then Ramseur. The interesting thing about these two towns is that, despite their close proximity, each is distinct. It was easy to see where Franklinville ended and where Ramseur began. Small southern towns are not, it would appear, completely universal. Each has its own charm to offer tourists driving through. As quickly as they arrive, though, they’re gone: nothing more than small points in our rearview mirror as we continued down the highway.
Siler City, Saxapahaw, and Pittsboro passed in a similar fashion. Each brought its unique charm, but passed with blinding brevity. Then, we hit Apex, a town much larger than we were expecting. Apex is not your typical country town like Franklinville or Ramseur. It is commercialized, colonized, and growing in all directions. Costcos, Citgos, and Chipotles can be found at each intersection you past. While the town may have started small, it’s grown into something much larger today.
Apex prepared us well for our final stop: Raleigh. Highway 64 no longer runs through the heart of downtown, but we drove the course where it used to stand. Downtown Raleigh is the epitome of civilization, unrecognizable from its fellow Highway 64 towns. Raleigh visitors can admire the city’s skyscrapers, go to museums, spend hundreds of dollars on dinner, and even visit the governor’s house. If excitement is your thing, then Raleigh is the place to be.
At the conclusion of our six hour trip, we were exhausted, saturated with an overwhelming amount of sights and information–but it was worth it. Before this trip, we never believed that North Carolina could be so diverse and full of life. It goes to show you that no two towns are exactly alike, and you can find hidden treasures in the unlikeliest of places.