By Jessica Mohr
On a sunny morning in late October, my travel group and I set out in my mom’s Chevy Avalanche for a day-long road trip around central North Carolina. From Elon to Lexington, we enjoyed taking in the sights of I-40, a busy, industrial road linking countless towns and cities together. However, the real adventure didn’t start until we hopped on Highway 64 heading out of Lexington. I-40 is great for getting where you need to go in a timely fashion, but this stretch of 64 through Franklinville and Ramseur is more for sightseeing and enjoying North Carolina’s great fall beauty, unless you live out there, of course. The tops of the trees are just beginning to turn orange, yellow, and red — a striking contrast to the sharp blue sky against which they are set.
Driving on 64 through this rural section of the state was a welcome change from the more developed and crowded cities I’ve come to call home: Apex and Elon. By no means are either of these towns a bustling metropolis, but they are certainly busier than downtown Ramseur, NC. While driving through both Franklinville and Ramseur, we hardly encountered any traffic, even though we were there around lunchtime. Pedestrians waved cordially to us, giving the impression that these were towns where everyone knows everyone, and newcomers/tourists/visitors are few and far between, except when related to long-time residents. Ramseur’s defining characteristic was mainly its evident history as an industrial town; old factory buildings and mills lined the roads, and regardless of how long they’d been abandoned or repurposed, they still bore the name associated with that previous life proudly.
Unfortunately, the roads that wound through Ramseur made one of our travelers a little motion sick. After stopping on solid land (read: an empty Arby’s parking lot) until she regained her equilibrium, we rolled out once again, this time aiming for my hometown of Apex! This stretch of 64 was one that I was significantly more familiar with, as I’d been driving on it since I was old enough to have a learner’s permit. As we got closer to the new Chipotle off 64 just past the demolition site that used to be my high school, I was able to put on my tour guide hat! Granted, I didn’t know any super interesting historical facts about the highway or the places we were going by. My tour guide knowledge consisted mainly of things like “that’s the neighborhood where my best friend from high school lived! She’s now off getting a doctorate in how to save the world from Stanford,” and “this is the new toll road, we’re all pissed about it because it’s only a toll road around Apex/Cary and is free everywhere else.” Local tidbits are my specialty, not a broad historical perspective.
After a delicious lunch stop, we loaded up the truck once more for the final leg of our drive – Apex into Raleigh. Since my house is 20 minutes away from downtown Raleigh (15 on a good day), this was a blissfully short drive, comparatively. Remarkably, none of my travel group mates had ever been to Raleigh! On again went my tour guide hat. We drove the length (and width) of the city center multiple times, being sure to circle the Governor’s Mansion multiple times until we could all get a peek at it through the large, leafy trees obscuring most of the view. We also saw the courthouse, museums, convention center, and the beautiful tree mural that shimmers in the wind. Since we couldn’t let a trip into Raleigh not include sampling the local food, we stopped at a small bakery called Lucette Grace, which was a fun combination of French rustic and sleek modern lines on the inside. After snapping some photos and each filling one of the bakery’s bright yellow boxes with 8 assorted macaroons, we meandered back to the truck to head home to Elon, all with a better understanding of how this historic highway winds through the Piedmont region.