“Can I ask you a question,” the clerk at Pearce’s Mini Mart asked.
“Sure,” I said, the only customer in the dusty convenience store featuring cheap booze and a wide selection of drug — I mean “for tobacco use only” — paraphernalia.
“I saw you walk’en around town tak’en pictures. What’s worth tak’en pictures of in LaCrosse?”
I proceeded to tell her about my quest to run in every county and independent city in the state, and, well, it was Mecklenburg County’s turn.
As I paid for my diet soda, she gave me an odd look, perhaps her polite way of saying “why in the heck would anyone do that?” I suspect she is someone who has lived most her life in the rather plain town of less than 700 people. A place where an outsider running through on a lazy Monday is noticed enough to be worthy of conversations.
She probably knows everything about everything and everybody in LaCrosse. I should have quizzed her.
- Does the Virginia Quilting Company in the town actually make quilts?
- What does the LaCrosse Candy Company actually do? An Internet search indicated it distributes tobacco products. Maybe the paraphernalia in the store?
- Does the LaCrosse Hotel actually still operate? The “No Trespassing” sign in the window wasn’t exactly inviting.
- Why does such a small town have so many police cars? There were at least a half dozen parked in front of the police station.
But I didn’t ask. LaCrosse will remain a bit of a mystery.
This was a stop where I was more interested in knocking another county off my list than learning much at all about the metropolis. I was making a quick detour on the way to a conference in Durham, N.C. I ran on the Tobacco Heritage Trail. The LaCrosse section of the path had a slightly slushy surface and I had to watch out for the occasional horse droppings.
While only a few sections of the Heritage Trail are complete, the goal is for it to eventually run through parts of three counties. This stretch would go about 40 miles between Clarksville and Lawerenceville.
Three days later on the way back from the conference, I took on another section of the trail in Victoria, a town in Lunenburg County. This section, which goes by the name the Virginia Railway Trail, was a bit more green and clean.
I picked up the local newspaper while in Victoria. The lead story was about a theft of a ladder off the side of a van. Another big headline: “Victoria Denied 2nd Stoplight”. Apparently, traffic has been brisk at the new Subway restaurant, but the locals couldn’t convince the Department of Transportation that a stop light was needed to restore order.
Victoria and LaCrosse are in the south central section of the state and have a history rooted in railroads. LaCrosse apparently got its name because it is where two railroads crossed. No relation to the game or the French as far as I am aware. While the name sounds as if it might mean ‘the ‘cross’ in a bad French accent kind of way, it really translates to ‘the stick.’
Victoria was the midway point for a line that went between Norfolk and Roanoke.
In both towns, there are prominent parks with restored red cabooses. For LaCrosse, passenger trains could roll through town again some day if plans to build a high-speed rail between Richmond and Charlotte are realized.
49 runs down, 85 to go.
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