Sunday, November 1, 2009

Old Esso Filling Station Near Landrum, SC

September 19, 2009, about a month and a half ago.

It was a rainy Saturday, so I did not go out riding as I usually do. Instead, I went to work, then stayed around home and did some chores. After church and lunch out on Sunday, the afternoon rolled around, and I had a hankering to ride out to find a location that had been posted on the Carolina Riders Forum Tag Game under "SC Mountains/Greenville-Spartanburg."

If you are not familiar with a Tag Game, the rules of this one are as follows:

  • Who ever is "it" takes a picture with his bike in the shot.
  • The first person to find the location where the picture was taken, and take a picture with his bike in the same place becomes it and may now post a picture of his bike in a new location.
  • All photos must be "fresh"... no using old files from previous trips.
  • All photos must be taken in a publicly-accessible place.
  • Your bike must be in the picture, but you don't have to be.
  • You must take the picture yourself.
  • If your tag has not been figured out in 1 week, you need to leave some more clues.
  • If your tag has not been figured out in 2 weeks, replace it with a new tag.
  • All tags must be within a 125-mile radius of the Holly Springs Country Store at the intersection of US-178 and SC-11.
  • When you are claiming a tag, you need to post your picture and a description of the location.
  • The first to post a picture of his bike at the correct location with a description becomes "it" and wins that tag.
  • The prize for winning a tag is bragging rights and the ability to post the next tag location.
I know about where the tag photo had been taken, so I ask my wife if I might go out riding for a while. She takes pity on me since I had not been able to go out yesterday, so I get ready and off I go, at about 2:00. The weather still looks iffy, so, just in case, I take my rainsuit along.

By the way, the particular tag I am going to try to find had been posted by the originator of the tag game on this forum, a fellow who goes by the name of Stretch. Now Stretch probably got his name because he is a long drink of water, being about six foot, six inches tall, and pretty skinny.

This is Stretch's tag, with his bike in the picture:

Stretch gave the following clues:

  • It is at a state line.
  • Between a lake and a railroad track, although I don't think you can see them from here.
  • If you can't tell, I really like these vintage gas stations.
I am afraid that someone else might get the tag before me since it had been posted about four days already.

I take this route over through Cleveland South Carolina and take the Greenville Watershed Road to Saluda North Carolina, about 46 miles from home. I have written about Saluda previously, including my first ride through there and the steeply-graded railroad whose crest is there.

I motor toward Tryon from Saluda, going down the Saluda Grade on US-176. It is quite curvy on the way down. I recall that the tag is along here, but I reach downtown Tryon and have not yet found it. Well, I either missed it or it is further along toward Landrum South Carolina. I decide to press onward, being the stubborn male that I am, not wanting to ask somebody. I keep looking, but reach the edge of Landrum without finding it.

By this time the weather is turning grayer. What do I do? Give up and go home or keep looking? I turn around and ride for a few minutes, then stop at an antique store to ask. I figure that someone in the antique business would likely know where a vintage gas station is located.

I stop, park, remove my helmet and gloves and walk into the store. I wait while they finish up with another customer, then swallow my pride and ask. The woman says she knows it is around here, but can't remember which way it is from here. She strides out the front door of her store and goes out to the street. She surveys the road in both directions, and pronounces the service station to be back a little ways toward Tryon, on the left side. I thank her, gear up, and head off that way.

It is no more than a mile up the road. How could I have missed it before? When I spot it, I see why: It is on the inside of a curve, so it wasn't as obvious when I went past before. I turn in, but there isn't much pavement in front of the station to park my bike on, and there is mud from the earlier rain. I plunge though it, sliding a little, but find a piece of ancient concrete to park on in about the same place where Stretch's bike was.

In order to get a good picture, I cross the road and capture this image.

The tag is mine as soon as I get home and post it, but I resist the urge to jump back on the bike and race home. As long as I am here, I might as well take a few more shots.

I peer through the front door and see this view. There are a few antiques inside.

I walk around the outside. It looks as though there is no gas today. Gasoline rationing, maybe?

The prices certainly look attractive at first, though compared with the income level then and today, the prices were quite high back then. Technology has brought down the price of fuel, despite heavy taxation nowadays.

...and they have a place to relieve yourself while you are getting your gas. It is just a short walk behind the station.

The seat looks a little rough. I don't think I'll use it.

Rear view.

Who is that in the window?

A close up of the front above the pump.

And the pump itself.

This type of gasoline dispensing pump worked by hand pumping fuel into the glass reservoir until it is full, then it was then allowed to drain through the hose into the vehicle's fuel tank. The graduations inside the reservoir show how much fuel has been dispensed into the vehicle. They had not yet invented reliable and accurate mechanical dispensing meters in the teen years of the twentieth century, about the time this pump likely was new.

An overall view.

This building across the street from the filling station has a 1964 Chevrolet four-door hard top inside along with quite a collection of sports trophies.

The old station is located on US-176 just north of Landrum, about at the NC line (at pushpin "D" on the map). Note that Lake Lanier is to the west, and the closest point of the railroad is to the northeast.

Here is a Google Street View of the station

I ran across a blog entry by Garland Goodwin of Tryon that describes the filling station and its ownership. It reads, in part:

"...I learned that my friend Mack Henson was responsible [for restoring the Silver Springs filling station], I asked him to meet me there so I could learn more about it directly from him. As always, I learned more than I expected to.

"The 'Filling Station' was built c.1914 and operated for many years by Mack’s grandfather, Sherman S. McClure. He was known as 'S.S.' and probably named the station 'Silver Springs' because of his initials.

"The enclosed part of the building is original, but Mack replaced the canopy that extends to the original brick pillars because he thought it posed a danger to anyone walking under it.

"The [Esso] sign is oval because that was the shape of the gasoline tank on the semi-trailers that delivered gasoline to all the little Esso 'filling stations.' The trailers had the blue border and red 'Esso' lettering on the back end of the tank."
There is a picture of the station in its heyday on his web posting. This is a low-resolution version of the one in his blog.

After I have taken my pictures, I hightail it to Landrum, turn right on SC-14 and head toward Greenville. About the time I reach the CycleGear Store on Wade Hampton Boulevard (at pushpin "F" on the map), the heavens open up. I quickly turn into their parking lot and duck under the front canopy.

Someone in an SUV follows me in, rolls down his window, and says something that my earplugs and helmet prevent me from hearing. Once I take off my helmet and pry the earplugs out, he asks me if I am Bucky who wrote the leather cleaning article for Motorcycle Lifestyle Magazine. About that time, I recognize the fellow as the publisher of that magazine, Norm Blore. He has recognized the leathers I am wearing today as the ones that I wrote the article about. (They are getting a second washing today, like it or not.)

Here is a picture I took from across the street at the filling station with me in the picture, using my tripod and the camera's self timer.

We chat for a few minutes about motorcycling and his magazine. Because motorcycle sales are down so far, he is having some trouble getting advertisers to support his publication. He does a very professional job on the magazine: It is glossy in presentation, and he includes articles of interest to many types of riders. I try to pick up every issue that comes out.

In a little while he takes his leave, and I go into the store to browse and wait out the rain. I don't see anything I need (or want that badly to part with some moola) right now. Their sales personnel are always helpful but not pushy. I like that.

The rain stops except for a little drizzle, so I shrug on my rainsuit and mount up again. The ride home from there is wet from spray, but not too bad. I take it easy in case there is oil on the road.

It is about 6:30 when I finally reach home. I shed my suits, hang them to dry, then rush to upload my photo to the forum. I have some trouble resizing it small enough to be accepted. I want to hurry, lest someone else beats me to it. At last, it goes in.

I am the winner of bragging rights!

Here is a map of the entire trip today, about 114 miles:

View Larger Map

Later in the evening, I post a new tag:

This is at a place I rode to earlier in September. The clues I posted:

  • This is a green location for all you tree huggers. There are lots of them to hug through here. And there is an environmental camp nearby to learn about what you are hugging.
  • You don't need an off-road bike to get there, but it might help a little if there has been some rain.
  • This is a way you could travel if you like going up to the head of Julius, but not back down.
You can see my trip report here to figure out where the photo was taken.

Well, my day has been pretty enjoyable. Church, dinner, a ride, a suit wash, and a tag won.

If you go:

Here is a page about Southeastern gasoline stations on Roadside Peek, a website that tells about roadside attractions..


irondad said...

I have to learn more about this game. I presume that there needs to be a number of riders within a somewhat central riding area?

Tags in North Carolina won't be attainable on any sort of regular basis for an Oregon rider, for example!

Bucky said...

To: irondad
It does not have to be a set group of riders. Any rider who happens across the forum can participate. If you, for example, were in our area, and knew where the tag had been taken, you could become "it" for the next round as long as your new tag is within the distance limitations stated in the forum and quoted in my blog entry.

Some of the tag locations are quite obscure, and even some locals cannot easily find them.

Troubadour said...

Thanks for the comment Bucky, and great blog. We do the same photo-tag on our local forum. I am working on a blog about our local game. It is great to go out and try to find new tags, Trobairitz and I went out and discovered Fort Hoskins last weekend. We had never been out there but we learned a little about the local history and enjoyed the sights.
Irondad- you are welcome to join us, I'll send you the link.

bobskoot said...


great site you have here and good documentation too. We also have photo tag up here on our local forums but have never tried it. I also like historic places and old buildings.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

bluekat said...

I'm thinking those prices look even better today than they did back when you posted this!

I found the reflection - I think you even match the building's colors. Nice photos and write up on your ride.

Oh, and a belated congrats on the tag! :)