Terms of endearment along Route 460

Published 8:04 pm Saturday, August 16, 2014

By Dennis Edwards

Like most folks around here, I’ve had a unique relationship with Route 460 between Suffolk and Petersburg. It is my favorite stretch of highway anywhere in this country. The reason it’s earned that distinction has much to do with its role in most, if not all, of the major events in my life.

This four lane, black-topped stretch of concrete and asphalt was used by my parents to take me to Virginia Union University in Richmond. From there, it was on to more life adventures in St. Louis, Raleigh, Detroit and Baltimore. Through it all, 460 was most often the road back home. There were actually times, when coming up from Raleigh, I avoided Route 58 off Interstate 85 in favor of going up to Petersburg just to take 460.

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Along the way, I learned the real and imagined consequences of speeding, the beauty of driving under a full moon as its fall light draped effortlessly over rich farm land and the excitement of matching speed with a freight train coming out of Suffolk. I’ve driven this road so much there’s been time to form attachments to a favorite tree along the way. One is shaped like the number 7 with another leg going up at the top porch. My family made a game of finding that tree coming and going.

There are homes along the way that still cause me to wonder who lives there and what kind of lives they lead. I’ve watched over time as some buildings sprang up only to be abandoned, fall into disrepair and crumble. It was like witnessing the progression of a misguided dream.

Over the years, Windsor has been the first step away or the final step homeward. Those rides brought the introduction of a wife to my parents, word to my home church of my first pastorate, first and subsequent jobs in television news and the purchase of a first house. It was the route I choose to bring my baby boy home 24 years ago to excited grandparents and curious church members.

Route 460 was the road to and from several different lives in varied places. But it always paved the way back to who I am. Its smooth pavement often calmed my stressed spirit. The lay of its land made me slow down to enjoy life’s simple rides. It downshifted my soul while reminding me that there is more to living than building congregations and breaking major stories. Problems never seemed quite so large coming out of its many curves.

For me, life and living happened on the way to and from home, along an otherwise obscure stretch of road peppered with towns like Waverly, Wakefield and Disputanta.

There was soft serve ice cream at the drive-in near the Virginia Diner with its irresistible fried chicken. Stops roadside for peanuts brittled, fried or smothered in chocolate. There were forays into antique shops run by characters right out of a Southern novel.

Am I seeing too much in this road? Perhaps. Am I romanticizing? Yes, indeed. But life has to happen somewhere. We are always on our way to or from some major event. Some road has to lead us to our dreams, bring us back to where we can rejuvenate and then send us on our way again. Route 460 has done that for me.

Dennis Edwards is an Emmy Award-winning television news reporter and anchor. He is a 1974 graduate of Suffolk High School. Email him at dennisredwards@verizon.net.