And, similar to when I was in Greensboro, I had a tough time telling when people were being genuinely friendly and when they where were just putting on an act.
The young girl selling baked goods at the farmer’s market seemed authentic when she sweetly said the carrot cake was amazin’. Oversold. Ordinary at best.
When I walked into a building of art studios and stores, I was greeted with a terse “may I help you.” Given, I was looking a bit rough, having tossed on a ragged t-shirt after finishing the day’s first run. I could have been mistaken for a homeless guy walking in off the street rather than the touristy type. But then one of the women tending the front desk warmly said “let me give you the run down” and spent a good five minutes talking about the various artists.
When I soaked my feet in the hotel pool after finishing the day’s final run, the family I encountered was hillbilly authentic. They managed to totally ignore me while breaking the only three posted rules. Grandma, ma and 16-year-old son were smoking and slamming down cheap beers while three young’ens dived in and out of the pool.
This was another trip where I did four runs in just over 24 hours. In addition to taking on the town of Martinsville, I covered the counties of Patrick, Henry and Franklin.
I suspect Martinsville is a vibrant place the few weekends a year NASCAR is in town. Martinsville Speedway is the only track to host a sprint cup race every year since the series began in 1949.
Overall, though, the area has declined severely from the time when it was a major hub of furniture manufacturing. In the early 1900s, Basset Furniture opened its doors in the Martinsville area. It, and a number of other furniture companies, thrived and provided stable employment until the rise of overseas manufacturing in the 1990s.
The poverty rate is around 28%, double the state average. The poverty could be seen in some of the neighborhoods. It could be seen towns such as Basset, once the home to Basset Furniture. Now, barely existing.
92 down, 42 to go