Teen ritual of cruising still alive at North Carolina Wal-Mart

TAYLORSVILLE — You're 18 years old, and the sun is sinking and you live in a county so rural that even the main highway is just two lanes wide.

What do you do now?

Chances are the answer is this, if you're in Alexander County, about an hour northwest of Charlotte: Go to the Wal-Mart parking lot in Taylorsville, population about 1,800, and find your friends.

"It's the definite truth, for real," says Tyler Fox, 20, sitting at the wheel of his silver Nissan SUV a little before 9 p.m. on a Monday.

"We don't even have an ice cream shop in Taylorsville," says Ashley Harrington, 18, who has parked her black, older-model Toyota Camry next to Fox. They talk out their driver's side windows, as a group of friends gathers around.

"This is where you come if you want to see somebody," says Brittany Gilbert, 18, standing at Harrington's passenger-side window.

The question of how to spend your summer nights has confronted teenagers everywhere since time immemorial. No longer fully under their parents' umbrella, but not yet weighed down with adult responsibilities, they're out of school and seeking freedom.

This isn't always easy to find, even in bigger cities. But kids always seem to come up with something, and so they have in Alexander County, where Taylorsville is the only incorporated town.

Nearly every night, the south edge of the Wal-Mart parking lot - near the garden center, but away from the main entrance - becomes a teen crossroads, with cars, trucks and SUVs congregating in a bit of a basin abutting a grassy embankment. The slowest times are Fridays and Saturdays, when the 16-to-21 crowd heads to Hickory and cruises there instead.

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