Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hendersonville, North Carolina

Friends: I am once again on the trail of Carnegie libraries. Two of South Carolina's eighteen were built in towns on my route of 200 miles across the state, route 178, until I picked up 25 to Greenville. I stuck to 25 north out of Greenville, rather than taking a less busy and more scenic road, as it took me through Hendersonville, site of one of North Carolina's ten Carnegies.

Unfortunately, only one of the three century-old Carnegies I have sought out so far still serves as a library. That was in Honea Path, the smallest town in South Carolina with a Carnegie. The small red brick building in a residential area could have passed as someone's home. I missed it when I passed by it the first time, not even noticing the book drop out front. It has been magnificently preserved, and, like all Carnegies, stands proudly as an architectural gem. Its high ceilings and spacious interior made for a most comfortable retreat.

Honea Path still has a modest enough population to make do with such a small library, unlike Hendersonville and Greenwood, the other city in South Carolina that was on the Wikipedia list of towns in South Carolina with a Carnegie that was on my route. Both these towns have grown into sprawling cities. Their Carnegies have long ago been replaced by huge County libraries. The Carnegie in Greenwood has been torn down, but the one in Hendersonville on the corner of Fourth and King now houses a development company.

Greenwood was in the process of moving from the library that replaced the Carengie in 1957 to a new location. I caught the movers in action at 8:30 yesterday morning. The movers knew nothing about the former Carnegie, but a librarian was able to fill me in on the details. She didn't know though if the Carnegie still stood in Honea Path, 25 miles away. "That's in Anderson Country," she said. "I can't rightly say."

The head mover was a typical Southerner of great friendliness. After we had chatted for a couple of minutes he asked me my name and introduced himself, a customary practice in the South. He told me that if anybody in the news business should happen to do a story on me before I left South Carolina to be sure and mention his moving company, Rapney and Sons, as he could use the business.

I was on the alert for the next hour down the road awaiting a reporter to pull up alongside me, as happened to be in Louisiana in January of 1986 when I was on my way to the Bears' Super Bowl. Someone I had talked to called the local TV station and sent a reporter after me. The next day a few people told me they saw me on the news that night. It didn't get me a ticket to the game though.

Like quite a few others these past days, Mr. Rapney couldn't fathom why I would want to be riding my bicycle in this 90 degree heat. I explain that though it is hot, the breeze I create dries the sweat, and it sure makes the cold drinks I stop for all the more welcome. Every gas station has a soft drink dispensing machine that also dispenses ice. I fill the 32 or 44 ounce cups with ice and after I drain it of the soda or Gatorade, as they occasionally have, I keep adding water until the ice has melted. I am taking great advantage of my insulated water bottle to preserve the ice a few extra miles down the road.

Not everyone I talk to would choose to spend their discretionary time in any place other than the shade, but I try to convince them it is quite satisfying, if not exhilarating, to be able to spend the day rolling along on my bike seeing what there is to see and meeting so many friendly and curious people and not having anybody telling me what to do or having to make demands of anyone myself. I can almost forget that the economy is in the pits and that so many people are struggling to get by, despite the many closed down businesses. Almost as common as "for rent" signs on shops are signs that say "under new management."

I couldn't even find a bicycle store in the large city of Greenville. Both that I was sent to were closed down. I wasn't in need of anything bike-related, just information on the National Professional Bicycling Championships held there the previous weekend and for the past several years. Banners still hung on posts in the downtown featuring local George Hincapie.

A couple of cyclists on top-end racing bikes sitting at an outdoor cafe were able to tell me, though, that the finish line was right across from where they were sitting on Main Street and that the route went north out of town to Paris Mountain for four circuits. The two guys were visiting from Miami. They also knew where George Hincapie lived, in a development north of the city that was on my route. They knew that neither Leipheimer nor Hincapie, the two favorites, won the race. Some 21-year old they didn't know riding for the Trek-Livestrong team won by over a minute. Twenty-year old Taylor Phinney just nipped Leipheimer in the time trial the day before.

I had no problem finding Greenville's baseball stadium, not far from downtown, thanks to its towering light fixtures. I entered Greenville on route 123, Shoeless Joe Jackson Memorial Highway, which took me to the ballpark, Flour Field. The field was an exact replica of Fenway Park, complete with the Green Monster, though it only seats 5,000. On Friday and Saturday nights one can buy a ticket for $25 that entitles one to as much soda and food as one can down.

Charleston is the Class A affiliate of the Red Sox. Across the street was the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum in the house he grew up in, which had been moved to be alongside the stadium when it was built five years ago. It was only open on Saturdays from ten a.m. to two p.m. There was a large banner on the outside with a photo of Jackson and his proclamation of innocence--"God knows I gave my best and no man on earth can truthfully judge me otherwise."

Jackson was one of eight members of the Chicago White Sox banned from the game for throwing the 1919 World Series, even though he had twelve hits during the Series, the most ever, and was the only member of the White Sox to hit a home run and had no errors. He would have been one of the all-time greats if his career hadn't come to an abrupt end. He hit .408 in his rookie year in 1911, a record, and his lifetime average of .356 is third best ever. He is a great cause celebre in Greenville, his home town. There is a statue of him in the downtown half a mile from the park.

One county I passed through boasted of being the home of two Alamo heroes. There were signs in Hendersonville to the vacation home of Carl Sandburg, now part of the National Park Service.

Later, George

No comments: