Monday, January 17, 2011

Grabbing a Tag at Bloomer's on a Cold Windy Day

January 8, 2011.  I have written before about the local tag game posted on the CarolinaRiders forum.

If you don't know about tag games, 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 (making a claim or grab), 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 (this may be an older picture).
  • All claim photos must be "fresh"... no using old files from previous trips.
  • All photos must be taken in publicly-accessible places.
  • 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.
Well, I have grabbed tags a number of times (here, here, here, and even once over at the Adventure Rider Forum), and I plan to do so today. One of the guys who posts on the forum is Stretch, and he posts some very good tags with cryptic clues, so they are sometimes hard to find.  He rides a lot and seems to know every nook and cranny of Upstate South Carolina, Western North Carolina, Northern Georgia, and further, and has photographed a lot of potential tags. 

Here is his tag photo and his clues, posted on January 6:

  • It was a gas station, 39 miles from Six Mile, 25 miles from Pumpkintown, 8 miles from Tooter Town, 4 miles from Gramling, and only 1/2 a mile from "Junkie John".
  • This is one of two old deserted gas stations at a crossroads that does a fair impression of a small but windy city.
  • This will be especially easy if you know Junkie John.  
  • This one may even stump Bucky 

What does he mean, "This one may even stump Bucky."?  And that little guy sticking his tongue out; that is too much.  Stretch has thrown down the gauntlet and I intend to find this one.  Pronto. 

I start searching on Google Maps.  I can find Six Mile South Carolina, and I certainly know where Pumpkintown is, and Gramling is easy.  Even Tooter Town (230 feet wide, population 11) can be found on Google.  Little Chicago is also surprisingly easy, but I can't find anything about Junkie John.  I plot these places on a Google map, print it, and place it in my tank bag for reference.

I watch the weather the night before, and it calls for a low of 32 degrees.  It has not rained for a few days, so the roads should be free of ice, though I will have to keep an eye out for random wet places that may have frozen.  Sure enough it is 32 degrees in the morning.  I suit up with one extra layer, fire up the bike, turn on the grip heaters, and off I go. 

Soon, I am glad I put on the extra layer.  The wind is gusting to35 mph.  I am at times buffeted from side to side, and heading into the wind amounts to a 95 mph treat.  Going with the wind is eerily quiet, however.

I follow my map, but after I get beyond familiar roads, there is something wrong.  Either some of the map road names are not right or I have missed them.  Naturally, I don't stop to ask for help; being a man -- you know that is built-in.  I stop at a few intersections to restudy my map, make a significant number of U-turns and detours, but eventually spot the tag at the junction of Goodjoin Road and Mt. Lebanon Church Road.  I slither through a muddy place and park my bike, then stand back and take the shot.

It is the J.B. Williams and Son Grocery, and has long been neglected. The owner was locally known as "Bloomer".

Ah, now you know why the title above says Bloomer's. 

According to one Jody Raines in, on of all things, The Carolina Quilter blog [no wise comments, please], Little Chicago is named because the store proprietor had to draw his gun to prevent one man from shooting another.  This was during the time of Chicagoland gangsters, so a customer who heard about the incident commented, “Gosh, it’s just like a little Chicago!"  Another version of the story is that a town drunk went to Chicago and came back so loaded that when he came to, he thought he was still in “Little Chicago.”

There is a local watercolor artist by the name of Jean Souther Jones who has done some great paintings of the store.  Here is one of them.

Hers is a rendering from the rear of the building.  Do you see that tall white thing on the right?  It is a signpost showing the distance to forty-three places near and far.  Here is my photograph of the sign. 

The nearest destination is Junkie John, a half mile away.  According to Ms. Raines' blog, Junkie John had all sorts of junk in his yard and hung out at Bloomer's store.  The furthest point on the sign pole is Sydney Australia at 9272 miles.  Now I know how Stretch figured out how far away those towns listed in his clues were.  He just used Bloomer's sign pole. 

The top sign declares this place as LITTLE CHICAGO SC, and is inscribed, "THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED - 1856 - NOTHING".  Stretch found that very informative, as do I. I had long been laboring under the impression that something significant occurred here in 1856. 

Note the dramatic sky in the picture.  The sun is bright, and the clouds are starkly white on a brilliant blue background.  God surely put on this spectacular show today for the enjoyment of His children.

Here is another of Ms. Jones' watercolors, this one showing the present-day filling station across the street from the grocery.  
I stopped there for gas and for a restroom break.  There is another old filling station across from the old grocery, but it is not as picturesque as Mr. Williams' store and sign. 

OK.  Now to get home.  Since I am over this way, I decide to ride on a few other roads that I am not very familiar with.  I rode near here last time and wrote about it in a post that described a covered bridge, kudzu, and lead sleds.  First, SC-414 is an easy road with good views of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, then on to SC-11.  The beauty of the mountains and the bright, partly cloudy skies, make a painting-like diorama for my trip today. 

View of Table Rock. (Near Pushpin "D" on the map below.) 

On SC-11. 

Hardy kayakers way over on the far side of Lake Oolenoy at the Table Rock State Park Visitor center.  They are members of the Greenville Canoe/Kayak Meetup.

The temperature has risen to a balmy 43 degrees by the time I get home.  I was starting to get a little cold in the strong wind, but it has been an enjoyable day.  I have ridden about 150 miles on this route: 

View Larger Map

I rush to my computer to post my grab.  I get it in, and I am the winner of bragging rights until someone grabs my new tag, one that is easy to find; a train depot in a nearby town.  The weather forecast is calling for heavy snow tomorrow, so I am sure no one will find my tag very soon.  Then again, no one, including me, will be out riding soon either. 

Little Chicago is located at Pushpin "B" on the map above.  Now you can go see it too.  

It was a good tag, Stretch, but I found it pretty easily.  Now go grab my tag and post another good one, please.

Afterthoughts and Additional Information:

  • Mr. Robert Clark, who authors a blog entitled Every picture tells a story writes of a visit around 1995 to Mr. Willams' grocery
    "Stepping into Bloomer’s store was a trip back in time.  It was typical of a country store in the middle of nowhere.  The smell of fresh-ground sausage filled the air.  There were wedges of cheese behind a glass counter.  All over the store were packets of crackers, candy, and the little knickknacks you needed in an emergency.   There were little packets of buttons in all sizes and colors.   Some of the packets were yellowed with age and you could tell they had been there for years.  I could tell Bloomer was comfortable with our presence and I asked him if I could take his picture in front of a counter filled with various supplies.  Bloomer looked at ease with his smile and straw hat.  His smoky blue eyes stood out from underneath his hat’s brim.
     This is Mr. Clark's photo of Mr. Williams, who has now passed away.   
[Used with permission]

       By 2007, the signpole had deteriorated quite a bit, but
       has been restored since.  Here is the photo Mr. Clark
       took of the original sign, back in '95.  Note the similar
       cloud pattern and sky color to my photo.

  • When I got home, I examined the Google Satellite view of the area, hoping to spot Junkie John's famous front yard.  I couldn't find it, but I did see what appears to be a great little dirt bike track nearby. Take a look.
  • You can purchase prints of Jean Souther Jones' watercolors here, including the two of Little Chicago and of another place I have visited, Campbell's Covered Bridge.  



          Thursday, January 6, 2011

          Leather Cleaning -- at Home!

          Now that winter has set in on most of us, it is a good time to consider cleaning up the bike and accessories for spring riding. One of those accessories is your riding outfit. You do wear more than just a pair of jeans and a fashion jacket, right?  I'm not talking about those.  I'm talking about real motorcycle protective gear. 

          I always ride in a leather suit, but my suits are not new ones.  I have scrounged them from pawn shops and on-line auction sites, so they were not all pristine when I got them.  In addition, I have put on about 23,000 miles in the three years I have been riding, so the suits have seen year-round conditions including rain, road dirt, bug splats, ...and an unexpected taste of mud on the berm of a road. 

          Here is an article I wrote about cleaning leather at home that appeared in a local Greenville South Carolina magazine called Motorcycle Lifestyle.  The magazine publisher, Norm Blore, is an accomplished motorcyclist and graphic artist.  His magazine was one of my favorites, but, alas, it succumbed due to a lack of advertisers in the flagging economy, though a few issues can still be seen online at the link above. 

          Edit October 2012: The recommended washing product Woolite for All Colors is apparently no longer available.  Use instead the Leather Therapy products referred to later in the article.  


          Cleaning Leather Motorcycle Apparel at Home
          By: Bucky 
          Disclaimer: Users of this procedure do so at their own risk. Neither the author nor this magazine is responsible for any loss suffered in connection with its use. 

          Cleaning of leather riding apparel is needed from time to time to remove the inevitable bug splats, road soil, perspiration salts, and the results of an occasional tumble from the machine.  
          Upon searching for sources of cleaning services, it was found that they can be expensive, and that some local cleaners may not have experience with multi-colored leathers.  Therefore, those with limited funds or who lack a nearby cleaning source search for alternatives.  A few on-line sources suggest that washing at home can be done, so being frugal, this rider/writer had to try it. 

          So far, three suits have been cleaned using this method, all with good results.  The suit documented here is a white Fieldsheer one-piece that is about 15 years old.  The other suits were a very bug-splatted and sweat-salt-encrusted Polo black/yellow two-piece and a Fieldsheer light gray/dark gray/black two-piece that had gone through a tumble.  
          The white suit that is the subject of this article has been down once onto a mostly grassy berm, mud soiling and scarring a few places on it, as shown in the photographs.  The suit also had some minor soiling in the crook of the arms, and dark areas where the inside of the black riding boots touch the lower legs.  

          The washing method used is detailed here: 
          Test for Colorfastness
          Use a dampened white towel edge to gently rub each color in the garment.  If there is little or no transfer of color to the towel and if there is no noticeable loss of color on the garment, this indicates that the quality of the leather components is high enough to allow wetting while cleaning.  

          Products Needed
          Woolite For All Colors Fabric Wash. 

          Lexol Leather Conditioner, Preservative. 

          Padded hanger for drying.  Slitting a foam plastic swimming noodle and slipping it over a sturdy wooden coat hanger is an inexpensive way to make such a hanger.  A noodle with a hole down the center works best.  Make sure the ends of the noodle cover the wooden coat hanger and that the noodle extends slightly into the sleeves of the garment.    

          Washing Equipment and Settings
          Domestic washing machine with as large a capacity as possible.  Either top or front-loading type is acceptable.  A top-loading extra-large capacity washer was used for this suit.
          Set the water level to maximum.
          Set the temperature for cold wash and cold rinse.
          Set the agitation and spin speeds to delicate or slow.

          Pre-Washing Procedure
          Remove all armor and padding that is removable.  These are usually fitted into pockets in the garment’s lining whose openings are closed with Velcro.  Sometimes the armor is accessible in pockets from the exterior of the suit. 
          Remove knee pucks. 
          If the garment is very dirty with mud or bug splats, hang it where it can be rinsed with a garden hose.
          Spray the garment with the hose until it is saturated.
          Use a clean sponge and a soft bristle brush to remove dirt from the surface, from the stitching, and from the seams.
          Rinse thoroughly.
          Immediately begin the Washing Procedure below without allowing the garment to dry.

          Washing Procedure
          Turn the garment inside out to protect the leather from the washing machine agitator and from zipper abrasions.  Close all zippers and Velcro.
          Partially fill the washing machine tub.  

          Add 4 oz of Woolite For All Colors Fabric Wash.  (Fill the Woolite bottle cap to the top.)  Agitate for one minute.  
          Submerge the garment completely and distribute it evenly in the tub to reduce imbalance during the spin portion of cycle.
          Wash only one item at a time.  

          Continue to full the tub to capacity.  Set the agitation time for 12 minutes.  When that time has elapsed, but before the wash water has drained, reset the washing machine timer for an additional 12 minutes.
          When the second 12-minute agitation portion of the cycle is complete, allow the machine to complete its cycle.
          Again set the washing machine to rinse, redistribute the garment in the tub, and allow it to fill and rinse a second time to thoroughly remove the detergent.  

          Meanwhile, clean the armor with mild detergent and a sponge, and the knee pucks with a brush.  Rinse and set aside to air dry. 

          Treatment After Washing
          Remove the garment from tub.
          Turn it right side out.  Do not wring it or stretch it excessively.  

          Hang it on a wide, padded hanger to avoid stretching the garment during drying.  
          Close all zippers and Velcro to help prevent the garment from stretching unevenly.  
          Two-piece suits can be zipped together and hung as one or can be hung separately.  (When the pants of a two-piece suit are hung separately, the spring clips of the pants hanger may leave depressed areas in the leather.)  If the garment is too heavy to hang, lay it flat on several bath towels.
          While still wet from washing, apply Lexol Leather Conditioner, Preservative by spraying or wiping it on with a clean sponge.  The conditioner should be applied until is just begins to run.  

          Use a clean cloth or sponge to smooth out runs, as these may cause streaking once the garment is dry.  Straighten out the garment so it has as few folds in it as possible.  Straighten the zipper flaps so they dry flat as well.  

          Allow to air dry on the hanger in a heated or air conditioned room.  Do not dry near direct heat or in the sun.  A circulating fan is helpful in speeding drying, especially when the humidity is high.  

          Occasionally, shake or “pat” the leather to manipulate the leather fibers and promote flexibility.  
          If laying flat to dry, turn the garment over frequently and exchange the bath towels for dry ones to allow all portions to dry.  
          The suit in this article took about four days to dry while hanging in an air-conditioned room with free air circulating around it. 

          Once dry, again treat with Lexol Leather Conditioner, Preservative.  Wipe off any excess.  

          Allow garment to further dry for a day or two. 

          The suit is, in general, clean and bright.  There is no noticeable running of the colors.
          The leather is soft and supple.  

          The Lexol conditioner left a waxy finish that does not seem to cause excessive slipping on a synthetic leather motorcycle saddle.  
          The leather shrunk very slightly, probably to its original size.  
          The suit has been worn once since the washing, and it appears to have stretched a bit during that wearing, much as new leather would be expected to do.  
          The mud is almost all gone, except in some stitching and in scratches where the leather was abraded in the tumble.  
          The soil in the crook of the elbows was removed.  
          The marks on the lower legs from the inside of the boots were not removed by the washing process.  
          The sweat salt and stiffness in the other suit washed previously was removed without a trace.  

          These pictures taken after the washing process show the worst-soiled areas of the white suit.

          Some of the procedures described above were recommended by the makers of Leather Therapy preparations for cleaning leather.   
          Their products have not been tried by the author, though they are specially formulated for leather cleaning at home. They recommend their Leather Infusion Wash in place of the Woolite For All Colors, and their Leather Infusion Rinse afterward.  After that, use their Restorer/Conditioner if the garment seems dry.  They have posted some videos that show the procedure. 

          This shady-looking biker dude is showing off the finished product.  
          Well, there you have it.  Now there is no excuse for wearing dirty leathers -- unless you want people to think you ride a lot.  

          Oh, no.  What have I done? 


          Saturday, January 1, 2011

          Christmas Snow

          Snow isn't common in South Carolina, and a white Christmas is even rarer.  The last one in our part of the state was in 1963. 

          Fred, a business associate of mine, has recently begun experimenting with his photography, and is doing quite well.  These are his pictures of Hagood Mill in Pickens County, taken the day after Christmas.

          Happy New Year