The day trip to Danville is just right for a lazy Saturday afternoon. After dozing in the rumpled mess of my comforter with the sun creaking in through tangled wooden blinds well past my alarm, I rustled myself from between the sheets and into a few thin layers before jumping in the car. There isn’t much in the way of preparation. A quick look at a map lets me know the drive is a straight shot up 86. And only an hour away, I take to the road with the relaxed ease of a hop over to Chapel Hill or Raleigh.
With a nice detour through charismatic Hillsborough’s town center to provide the kick I need—a morning cup of joe to heighten my senses to the scenic route I’m about to explore. The charming stretch of rural highway that you stay on for nearly all of the jaunt is a page ripped straight out of a Shel Silverstein book—old, long forgotten barns etched into the surrounding farms and fields, grump trees stretching through the aging sides and reaching up in a heavy yawn. And Warren’s Store, with its ancient gas pumps and empty rocking chairs, awaits you.
Danville’s unpretentious Millionaire’s Row, which runs a short while downfor a short row of houses down Main Street, is lined with magnificent mansions of yore, stripped of their former glory with cracked wood and stripped paint, yet retaining that unmistakable pride that led the South to secede from the Union. Also known as the City of Churches, a number of denominations hold services on the town’s most famous road in massive churches.
The Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History, off of Main Street near the beginning of Millionare’s Row, is often referred to as “the last capital of the Confederacy,” built for William T. Sutherlin and home to President Jefferson Davis during the whispered goodbyes of the withering government. Taking only thirty minutes, beA 30-minute walkthrough, be sure to swing by the condensed history and preserved artifacts, serving as an easily digested narrative of the town’s role in the Civil War easy to digest.
An early evening sashay through the nearby cemetery, just down Chambers Street across Millionaire’s Row, offers a haunting peace in the dim light of the setting sun, instilling a sense of solitude that will linger with you for your night drive back to Durham. But the lively atmosphere pouring out of the Wooden Nickel, back in Hillsborough, is sure to re-awaken your spirit. The perfect end to the perfect drive.