Last week I traveled to North Carolina. It was my first trip to NC in the two years I've been on staff at Southern Living. After tens of thousands of miles logged in the far reaches of Texas and in Louisiana's bayou backwater, seeing the rolling, tree-wealthy range of central North Carolina was the freshest breath of air I've had in a long while. At times, I felt like I was in another country, maybe Scotland.
I took a half day to drive south and east from Durham, where tobacco warehouses are now flats and coffee shops and architect firms, hoping to catch a glimpse of true, old-school tobacco farms. For some reason, the trade intrigues me. Maybe it's the old green barns; maybe it's my occasional affinity for a late-night smoke. Either way, the out-there-ness of McGee Crossroads, NC, and Benson, NC, was as relaxing as a two-hour massage.
before leaving Durham, I walked around the new downtown development called West Village and an existing revitalization called Brightleaf Square. Both are shinging examples of reclaiming a downtown industrial space. After sushi (buy one get one free, in fact), I hit the road with the Avetts singing their Carolina lungs out.
Farmers off Highway 50, an hour south of Raleigh, spoke to me about the beginning of planting season, pointing me down Zack's Mill Road to see some "good old barns" and freshly churned fields. One particular man, fixing some greasy machine in his bright red barn, looked at me funny when I asked about his favorites. I guess the tall green barns are normal to him, and some kid asking about them might seem like someone asking about the sky. I ended my drive in Kenly, east of Benson, at the farm life museum, which was closed. I snuck around back and poked around the time-period dwellings, rusted tools laying around, rockers on a faux cabin porch. I wasn't nearly as interested in that as I was in the man in his red barn.