Tuesday, September 25, 2012


When I am out riding, there are times I try out roads that I have spotted on a map somewhere, or that I turn onto at whim to see where they go and what is there.

Sometimes I find little or nothing.  Other times I find some gem that I had not expected.  These things can range form natural to manmade, and everything in between. Since my head still has lots of room to take in new things, I thought maybe yours might too. Come along with me to see some of the sights I have discovered in the last couple of years riding the bike. 

Just a couple of weekends ago, I went out on some familiar roads, but stopped to get a better look at something I had literally passed right over -- Toxaway Falls.  Toxaway Lake is dammed up to provide municipal water and recreation, but just below the dam is a waterfall of some beauty.  The only thing is, the road crosses over the waterfall and makes it hard to view.  There is also no public access from below the falls.
This is what the road and bridge above the falls looks like, facing toward the east on US-64.  There is a parking lane on the north, or dam side, of the road, but there is only a narrow place to park the bike on this side of the road.  Also on this side you can walk between the concrete barrier and a fence to get a better look at the falls below without worrying about being hit.
This is what you see close to the bridge.
This vista is downstream.
According to Rich Stevenson on the NCWaterfalls website, Toxaway Falls "spills and slides over some very colorful bedrock in a 240' change in elevation before the river disappears into the forest. In 1916, the dam gave way and Lake Toxaway came gushing down the gorge, stripping away the dense vegetation and exposing the bedrock along the falls and below." There are some very nice photographs and videos of the falls on Rich's website.  There is also a sweeping panorama of the falls at the Highlands Newspaper website

Another interesting thing I stumbled upon a few weeks back was a meeting of the Dixie Jewels Insulator Club at the World of Energy at the Oconee Nuclear Station.  I know people collect all kinds of things.  I, myself, for example, can be accused of that, owning three player pianos, and a huge number of paper rolls to play on them.  The Dixie Jewels, however collect electrical insulators.  Like these. 
And these.
As I was perusing the treasures, I spotted an insulator with some points on the skirt (or petticoat, to be more correct in terminology).
Do you know their intention?  Well, the Hemingray Company, doing business between 1850 and 1970, patented the design on May 2, 1893.  The points allow rain water to drip off more readily.  Interestingly, when I got home, being the dutiful husband I am, emptying the silverware basket in our dishwasher, I found that it has points on its bottom for the same reason -- to make the water droplets fall off so they don't land on your kitchen floor.  I would never have thought about it without having discovered it by accident looking at a bunch of antique glass insulators.
...now if they were collecting piano rolls, I'd understand that...

There are quite a number of gravel roads in the areas I ride, some of which I have written about.  (Search for the word "gravel" in the box at the upper left of the screen.)
One road that I recently discovered, White Cut Road, is cut very sharply into the terrain.  The angle of repose of the cut, in civil engineering language, is almost vertical. 
The soil and rock here must be very stable to allow this.  It is not a big thing, but I found it interesting.  The road is quite passable on the street bike, but it is narrow, so watch for the infrequent oncoming traffic.

Here is a very odd structure a found.  I first spotted it from across a railroad track, visible on the left of the photo, when I was wandering around near Piedmont, SC.
Looks like a super-size playhouse to me.  It encompasses a twin-trunked tree, has an enclosed space elevated above the ground, and it has an open observation deck above that.  It would be the best treehouse around -- if that's what it was.  It isn't.  It overlooks a cemetery!
Why, I don't know.  I asked a maintenance guy who was nearby, and he just said it was to be able to overlook the cemetery.  You can certainly see the extent of the graves here, and you can see this tiny and peculiarly pointed-roof stone building. 
It was once the cemetery office.  All this is at the Resthaven Memorial Gardens.  The map below reveals a giant cross, best visible from the air, that is located just to the right of the pointed-roof building in the photo above. 

This is a little memorial to a church that once stood here, the Whitmire Methodist Church. The building is long gone, but this stone memorial and the cemetery across the street remain. 
From a history of Salem Methodist Church:
"In 1913, the Whitmire Methodist Church closed its doors and united with the Salem [SC] Church. In the 1950s, the congregation decided to once again use the Whitmire building. After a few years, they decided that the Salem location was the best place to be and went back. In 1956, under the direction of Homer Griffith and James Whitmire, the old building was torn down and replaced." 
The church site is only a little way from a gravel road I followed last year called Winding Stair or Cheohee Road. 

The guy who owns this land also collects things -- mostly automobiles and automobiliana, by the looks of it. 

The car under the Coca-Cola shed says "SHERIFF PATROL" on the hood, and sports a gumball machine light on top.

Not far away, on Banks Road is Brown's Forest.
...or "BROWN'S FOR-REST" as they put it. Must be a great place to retire. I hope to do that some day. 

Up just beyond the Blue Ridge Parkway on NC-215 is this bridge.
It is picturesque on its own, but there is a nice view of cascading waterfalls just above it.
There is a place to pull off the pavement on the far side (north) of the bridge in the first picture, so you can walk around to various vantage points.
I hear that the road has been repaved there recently, but there are sections with heavy gravel on the road between the Blue Ridge Parkway and north to US-276.
NC-215 is usually clean south of the Parkway, and makes a nice extension of the twisty US-178 between SC-11 and Rosman, NC.  

Some of you who ride custom bikes and choppers might recognize the logo on this building. 
It is the shop of Redneck Engineering.  They sell anything from parts to complete bikes, ready to roll out the door.  I visited there one day, and found that they were working on various frames and bikes, and they have displays of their wares arrayed on a mezzanine around the periphery the shop.  The tattooed guys working there were a bit intimidating, by the way. 

Right down the street is the Moo-tel.
Actually, this is the Dalton Ranch.  Hospitable folks -- if you are a cow, I'd guess. 

If you need to stop for a few minutes of prayer, this little chapel might be a good place. 
Despite that fact that it is very well kept, it is a bit off the beaten path.
This miniature golf course is right up the street.
Both are near this view.
Do you recognize it?  That is Lower Whitewater Falls just left of center, viewed from the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Facility overlook.  .
The chapel and golf course are a little beyond the overlook, on a gravel road. Don't be going too fast past the overlook -- the gravel road is on the right at the next left hander, and there is a gate across the paved road after that. 
Pushpin A is the chapel, B is the golf course.  Scroll around the map and note the very large houses on this neck of land.  Maybe it is not so out of the way after all!

I went to Maulden South Carolina in May of last year and found a couple of unusual sights.  One is this log cabin.
It is the Gosnell Cabin, about 200 years old, now located at the Mauldin Cultural Center.  The style of the cabin probably indicates that it was begun by an Indian and finished by a white man.  It originally had a dirt floor, but was later jacked up and a wooden floor added.
Its original location was in northern Greenville County, near Poinsett Bridge, completed in 1819.  The cabin was used as the construction headquarters while the bridge was under construction.  The site of the cabin was later to become Boy Scout Camp Old Indian.
The other interesting thing I found that day was that a model train show was going on in the former school there.  This fellow was closely inspecting the displays. 
There were hundreds of scale miles of trackage, and thousands of railcars.  I happened to see a fellow rider, Dan and his young son there that day.  The kids really seemed to enjoy the activities.
They have the show every May, put on by the Piedmont 'N Southern Model Railroad Club and the Atlantic Coast S Gaugers.  How many of you are old enough to remember when S-gauge came out?  (It was in the 1930s, but became the more realistic two rail instead of three in 1946.) 

You know that there are redwood forests in the American west, but did you know there is one in Greenville South Carolina?  There is. 
It is on the campus of Bob Jones University.  It is, in fact, a Dawn Redwood, given to the university by General Chiang Kai-Shek of China in 1952.  The Dawn Redwood is the least tall of the redwoods, growing to about 200 feet (60 meters) in height.

Believe it or not, this is a tire store.
Looks very tropical, don't you think?  Here is a closeup of one of the murals. 
On second thought it looks a little 1950s.  This fine artwork is found at Ed Allgood's Tire store.  
If you can't go on without some pink plastic flamingos for your yard, here is the place: Get Flocked.com

You may recall that I collect and restore player pianos.  These instruments, most popular between about 1900 and 1929, are operated pneumatically, and a paper roll with perforations tells the instrument what notes to play.  Some of the music they produce sounds very mechanical, but others are uncannily realistic sounding -- to the point of your not being able to tell that a real pianist is not playing.
The fellow who owns the 1927 Lake Lure Inn, is a collector of such instruments, and some of them are displayed in the lobby of the hotel.
This instrument likely provided background and dance music for an early 20th century dance hall, possibly in Europe.  It contains a piano, organ pipes, and drums.   
The instrument below sounds a lot like the one at the inn, except that it does not have drums. The one in the video contains a piano, several ranks of pipes, and a reiterating xylophone. 

Here is a photo of a grand piano that plays like a human.  It is called a reproducing piano, and was built in 1926.  This one (similar to one at the inn) happens to be a Knabe brand, and it plays Ampico rolls.
The drawer beneath the keyboard slides open to load the paper roll.  It can hide in the closed position either when playing automatically or when the piano is being played by hand.  You can see and hear a piano like this here.  It is amazing what they did back then with purely mechanical workings -- no electronics whatsoever. 

There aren't very places where you would see a sign like this one.
It is placed on a road that ends in a boat launch into the Lake Hartwell visible behind it.  I found it when I went down to Lawrenceville Georgia for a class.  Apparently, the transition between the road and the ramp is not distinct enough and some people have driven right into the lake.  Fortunately, I heeded the sign and stopped in time to avoid a bath. 

Well, we have covered a lot of territory already.  There is more to come, but that's it for now.

See if you can visit some of the same spots and enjoy them as much as I did.  Maybe you can visit all of them in one day.  It is possible. 

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