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.  




          irondad said...

          This kind of stuff is fun! Used to do it around here.

          Good work accepting and conquering the challenge.

          Barron said...

          Great article Bucky. Very interesting to say the least. Keep up the writing and inspiration to ride. You certainly will entice someone to get on a motorcycle for just a little different perspective of God's beautiful and interesting earth. Oh and I did find your tag near the Hartwell Dam last month. Happy Riding and God Bless you Bucky for living to enlarge the Kingdom. Barron Cooley aka bcool.

          bluekat said...

          Nice trip and ride report. Plenty of sunshine in those photos, even though it didn't warm things up much.

          The downside of photo tags: Once you grab one, it's hard to relax for the rest of the ride, rather I want to rush home and post the tag before any one else!

          The old gas station is a great tag, especially since it was an unknown destination, and has historic significance. I love discovering little gems like this. Thanks for sharing some of the history on the place.

          bobskoot said...


          I also love historic, old places and I notice a lot of them on our backroads. Whenever I see a photo I try to imagine where they were taken, or at least guess the general location, so I understand your compulsion to find the location first. I also like the way you delve into the history and come up with all the facts.

          After finding the tag I would have thought you would have gone to the nearest internet cafe to post your find and not divert to someplace else. I would fear that some one could find it after you but post first

          Wet Coast Scootin

          Bucky said...

          @ irondad - The tag game combines motorcycling with some sleuthing, luck, and sometimes riddle solving.

          @ Barron - ...and you got a fine photo of yourself on your bike, very similar to my photo. I wonder how many places in the world have a warning sign saying "ROAD ENDS IN WATER".

          @ bluecat - yes there is that rush to get home and post the grab, but most of the time I am successful. See "Bruced" below.

          @ bobskoot - this area of the country is rich in unusual places as well. Regarding the Internet cafe, I don't know very many of them, and my cell phone just makes telephone calls. It doesn't take pictures or surf the 'net. I have to ride home, then post the photo and location info.

          @ bluecat & bobskoot - the term for someone finding and posting a grab before you is "Bruced". It comes from a tag game in Ohio where a fellow named Bruce continually posted a grab just after someone else had done so.

          Anonymous said...

          Hi there - I wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading about your ride to Little Chicago. My grandfather, John Robert Cox and known as 'Junkie John', passed away March 19, 2002. He did in fact have junk in his front yard, as he was an auctioneer by trade, but the mess was cleaned before I was even born yet the name still stuck. I know my grandfather, also a WWII veteran, would have enjoyed reading about your adventures. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to my hometown of Little Chicago. I wish you exciting travels in the future!