I got on the bus at Belmont Park and after a two minute ride up Avon St. we pulled into the downtown transit center and became the number six. The only street theater was a man in a studded leather belt gesturing furiously to the back end of the trolley as it drove away without him. After a brief pause, we headed down Water St. and turned left onto Ridge St. and left again onto Monticello Ave and then pulled into the tiny circular driveway in front of the Crescent Hall apartments, where a woman with a wheeled basket that appeared to be loaded with white laundry got off. I noticed an agreeable old-fashioned cemetery up the hill in the distance and wondered what it could be. Charlottesville is so convoluted, with its hills and dead-ends and curvy streets that you can be less than a half a mile from the house where you've lived for over ten years, as I was at that moment, and still see something unfamiliar. I was delighted when the bus, instead of returning to Monticello Ave, as it used to do, proceeded toward the old-fashioned cemetery.
I realized we were on First St. and the old-fashioned cemetery gave way to the larger one that you can see from Cherry Ave. We scuttled across Cherry and into a housing project and at one of the stops I watched what appeared to be a drug deal from the safety of the bus window. We turned down Lankford Ave, an odd little street with a fabulously dilapidated and apparently abandoned Victorian mansion sitting lonely among a row of sad little cracker box houses.
We considered buying a house on Lankford--another spacious historic house--that was on the market for $77,000 in 1999. Daunted by the amount of work it needed and the sketchy neighborhood, we passed, but whoever did buy it fixed it up nicely and it's larger than my own house, so I always look at it with a little regret.
We turned left on the old Ridge St. which isn't wide enough for buses and we had to pull to the side every time a car approached from the opposite direction. It's called Ridge St. for a reason and the houses cling to a precipice so steep that the rooflines are level with the street and instead of driveways they have concrete parking decks with steps down to the houses. It must be hell to bring in the groceries.
The last time I rode the number six, we got to a certain point down Ridge St. and made a massive U-turn and returned to town. Now, the bus turns left and the frankly low-class houses give way to the hoity-toity suburban structures of the Brookwood subdivision. I was disappointed as I was quite looking forward to the u-turn which is such a crazy thing for a bus to do and so representative of the pootling nature of C'ville's public transportation system. After a brief loop through Brookwood, we returned to Ridge St., where we stopped to let an elderly lady off directly in front of her house so she wouldn't have to walk far. Charlottesville bus drivers are nice like that. If they see you running for the bus, they'll wait for you, and they seem to know many of their riders personally.
Pulling up to UVA hospital, a loud roaring sound engulfed us and I looked out the window to see the sharply etched shadow of a helicopter and then the actual helicopter landed on the helipad, a few feet away. I noticed Jon-- my very own husband!-- dapper and oblivious to the helicopter, walking down the sidewalk, apparently leaving work early since it was only 3:00pm. A quick loop around the hospital and back toward Cherry Ave, and surprise, surprise, there was Jon again, on his motorcycle, directly in front of the bus.
Jon was headed home but we went downtown and I watched a woman driving a minivan with a Village School bumpersticker absentmindedly eat cheezits from a box next to her. Back at the transit center, we became the number 3. A small group of gentle crazy people got on the bus and sat quietly dozing and we trundled down Water St. again and made the same left turns onto Ridge St. and Monticello Ave as we did when we were the number six. I realized this was the third time we'd traveled the short length of Monticello between Ridge and Second St. This time, we turned left onto 2nd and right onto Garrett St and then to Avon St and into Belmont.
I noticed a new vintage shop at the corner of Avon and Levy, in the building that used to be the Belmont barbershop. One thing that Belmont needs--that Belmont has been practically crying out for--is a vintage shop, and now, like magic, here it is! I can't quite remember the name of the shop--something Druthers--but I intend to check it out soon and you should too, if you live here.
We turned left into downtown Belmont--the only neighborhood in Charlottesville that has its own "downtown," in this case a block-long stretch of restaurants (all very high quality) and some small businesses. I was too busy daydreaming about the north end of Avon St. becoming a fun business area with vintage and antique shops and maybe a boutique or two to notice my surroundings until we crossed Carleton Road and entered the Hogwaller section of Belmont.
My out-of-town family had an adventure there several years ago. They were visiting for Grace's first communion and wanted to hike the Rivanna Trail and started at the rugged section behind Belmont. The incompetently executed trail map, did not include a reference to the CSX tracks that cut across the trail and as a result, my relatives got disoriented and lost and somehow emerged from the trail at the Sunrise Trailer Court where they wandered about the Hogwaller, confused, eventually stumbling on an Asian grocery store from where my sister called me and said, "I don't know where we are and nobody speaks English." I realized that she must be in the shops near Cville Market and went to rescue them. My family had been walking for a long time and assumed they were far from home, so they were a little surprised when I pulled up in the car about ten seconds later.
The bus wound up and down the steep hills of the "hogwaller" so-called, I think, because of the stockyards, from which animals do escape into the surrounding neighborhoods. Belmont Park was once invaded by cows.
There are worse things to do on a sunny April Friday than to take a tour of Belmont on a bus.
After descending to the bottom of the hill on Monticello Rd, we climbed it again on Druid Ave to Monticello Ave, and then turned left and descended the same hill via the nearly vertical grade on Altavista Ave. And so to Belmont Park where I got off with one of the gentle eccentrics--a man wearing black shoes and white socks with pants ending several inches above his ankles.