When in doubt, buy a road map

Published 10:36 am Tuesday, May 20, 2014

“Hey, mister, got a road map, I’m kinda lost, gotta get to Georgia tonight, don’t care what it costs.” – New Life, written by Toy Caldwell, Marshall Tucker Band (1974)

Have you ever been lost while driving the highways and byways of anywhere across the United States?

What about here in North Carolina….better yet, how ‘bout right here in the northeastern corner of the Tar Heel State?

In my job as a newspaper reporter there are not many roads I haven’t traveled in eastern ‘Carolina. I can’t remember the last time I unfolded a road map to find my way from point A to point B.

But to a stranger visiting our neck of the woods, we sure do not do them any favors when it comes to helping them find their way around.

Case in point are our road names and one prime example is the two-lane strip of asphalt connecting the St. John community to US 258 just north of Woodland. Follow along with me if you can.

If you’re traveling west on NC 561 in Hertford County and do not make the properly marked turn to the left in the community of St. John, you’ll find yourself traveling on the Menola-St. John Road. At the intersection of Chitty Road, within eyesight of the Menola community, the sign will read St. John-Menola Road (backwards from what the sign read back in St. John).

Travel a bit further westward and the Menola-St. John Road suddenly changes to the Benthall Bridge Road. That road name changes again to the Menola Road once you cross the Hertford-Northampton County line.

No wonder folks get lost.

If you’re traveling on Middle Swamp Road in Gates County, you’ll see New Middle Swamp Church; head down Country Club Road in Hertford County and you will pass directly through the heart of Beechwood Country Club; or travel on Baker Road in Bertie County near Roxobel and look for Baker’s Family Tradition Peanut Company. But if you go looking for Hebron Church on the Hebron Church Road (which is located off Benthall Bridge Road…aka the Menola-St. John Road….aka the Menola Road), you won’t find it. The building that once was the home of Hebron Baptist Church still stands on US 258 between Woodland and the Pinetops community…but the church name has changed.

For a mind-twisting dose of confusion, while Gatesville is in Gates County; Warrenton is in Warren County; Wilkesboro is in Wilkes County; and Wilson in Wilson County…the same cannot be said for other municipalities in counties bearing similar names.

The city of Washington (NC, not DC) is in Beaufort County…however, the town of Beaufort is in Carteret County.

And what about the town of Hertford. That’s in Hertford County, right? Nope, it’s in Perquimans County.

Dazed and confused.

If you go looking for the city of Lenoir in Lenoir County, you’re in the wrong part of North Carolina. That municipality is in Caldwell County in the northwestern part of the state.

More confusion rains down when you combine Roanoke and Chowan, as in the name of this newspaper. I have stopped counting the number of times I’ve gotten phone calls, e-mails and snail mail from a source thinking they’re corresponding with someone in either Edenton or Roanoke, VA. And you wouldn’t believe those who those messages come from.

Several years back during a very important election year, I got a phone call from the aide of a political heavyweight here in our state (I’ll refrain from naming that person). The candidate was stumping for votes and was embarking on a tour of eastern ‘Carolina. The aide called and wanted to set-up a time the candidate could visit our office while he was in Edenton. When I told him we were in Ahoskie, he acted like I was mistaken, not him. It’s safe to say that the meeting never took place.

If you’re looking for the proper route to travel (and what towns are where), follow the advice of the late, great Toy Caldwell…buy a map (or Google it online).

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207. 

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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