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Road trip: Atlanta to Durham and back

Published 2014-03-14 · By James Bursa

In January, I decided to visit a friend in Durham in North Carolina for a few days. I drove there from Atlanta. Here are a few highlights from the journeys there and back.

On the way there, I took the most direct route along Interstate 85, but I made some stops on the way. First stop was Greenville in South Carolina. The town’s main landmark is a waterfall spanned by a new pedestrian suspension bridge.

Panorama of the Liberty Bridge

There’s a busy pedestrian-friendly Main Street.

Main Street in Greenville

The town has a mix of architectures from various eras. Here’s a panorama showing the modern city hall with an old courthouse and hotel.

Panorama of City Hall, County Courthouse, and Westin Hotel

My next stop was Spartanburg. The centre is mostly low historic buildings like this:

Main Street in Spartanburg

But one end of Spartanburg is dominated by a brutalist skyscraper, headquarters of the Denny’s restaurant chain.

Denny’s building

An odd sight on the way from Spartanburg to Charlotte is this peach shaped water tower right next to the highway.

Peach water tower in Gaffney

I stopped in Charlotte too, although I didn’t have enough time to explore it properly. Here’s a glimpse of downtown:

Downtown Charlotte skyscrapers

I arrived in Durham in time for a delicious dinner.

Bull City Burger


Durham seems to be in the midst of a recovery from past economic problems. The younger population is growing, tech companies are moving in (it’s part of the “Research Triangle”), and historic buildings are being reused in various ways.

This is a former tobacco plant, now mixed-use.

Panorama of Tobacco Campus in Durham

The tallest building in the city centre is the Hill Building. It’s an art deco tower, and some of the architects also worked on the Empire State Building previously. It’s currently being converted into a hotel.

Hill Building

We wondered what this unusual tower was for, and thought it would make a cool house. Turns out that it was built for training firefighters.

Fire Drill Tower in Durham

U.S. Route 1

On the way back, I took U.S. Route 1 for most of the journey. U.S. Routes are the system that preceded Interstates. For much of the journey, the road was just one lane in each direction, and there wasn’t much traffic. Here’s a typical view:

US Route 1 in Richmond County, North Carolina

The road passed through many small towns. It was sunny and warm for January. Here’s one called Cheraw, just after entering South Carolina.

US Route 1 in Cheraw

I managed to snap this giraffe and collection of other animal statues alongside the road! It seems to be at a concrete and pottery item manufacturer.

Animal statues alongside US Route 1

I stopped for a break in Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. There’s an impressive capitol building:

The South Carolina State House

Here’s the view from the capitol steps. Palmetto trees dot the city, giving it a much more temperate feel than Atlanta, just 200 miles away.

View from the State House steps

See more photos from this road trip on Flickr.