The closed road meant we had to turn off Route 360. The detour took us through Scottsburg, which seemed less a town and more a random collection of rather dispersed but also rather nice houses. No people were out and about, unsurprisingly. We turned down another road, navigating our way around felled branches and trees, when we saw the only sign of the election thus far this trip:
The employees were nowhere to be seen, for reasons we soon discovered.
We got back on Route 360, which took us to our destination: South Boston, Virginia. How could we not stop in Southie? Well, South Boston turns out to be a surprisingly pleasant town. In fact, it seemed almost near perfect for a small town.
I say surprisingly, because most of the small towns that I have visited in further south, in Alabama and Georgia, have been dumps. They might have been cute once, but the automobile sucked the life out of their centers, quite literally demolishing many of the buildings to make way for parking. In some the outskirts are relatively prosperous, if generic sprawl; but in many the outskirts are also suffering. The strip malls are often filled with a collection of check-cashing places and consignment stores, interspersed with churches and (in South Carolina) adult stores. They are, in general, sobering places to visit.
Conversely, many small towns in New England (and in some parts of the Midwest) have been gentrified. Their centers are cutesy, often dependent on tourism, students, or upscale exurbanites, with shops catering to that trade. They can be like the worst stereotypes of hipster Brooklyn, only with easier parking.
But not South Boston! South Boston had hit that sweet spot. The downtown was surrounded by pleasant, well-kept houses and a collection of rather nice church buildings. The downtown itself was vibrant, filled with shops, but real shops catering to ordinary people: insurance agencies, furniture stores, the occasional antique shops, restaurants that were in no way upscale. It wasn’t rich, it wasn’t poor, the car hadn’t sucked the life out of it but it didn’t survive as a preserved bit of fakery for the gentry, either.
For example, here is my compa looking puzzled a store selling what seemed to be an entirely random collection of useful stuff. Very useful stuff, yes, and quite nice, but it still isn’t clear why you would need to have it all in one place.
There were also a lot of storefront churches, including one that was a pleasant surprise. And might explain downtown’s vibrancy, only this was the only sign in Spanish that we saw.
The streets, however, were spookily deserted. A few parked cars, but very little vehicular and no foot traffic. That was a puzzle, since most of the storefronts were filled. What was going on?
Well, we were soon to discover why nobody was outside save us ...