Thomas Valley Road Ride

Thomas Valley Road Ride On 12AUG2012

AKA The Shake-Down Ride

Finally!  A ride that was mostly for fun!!  Other than my initial ride on this motorcycle shortly before I purchased it, all of my previous rides were to either diagnose a problem, or see if a problem had been fixed, and all but one were less than a mile long, round-trip.  Today’s ride was what I would call a shake-down ride.  In other words, a ride to familiarize myself with my bike, and according to some beliefs a ride to let “her” begin to learn about my riding style and what I expect.  Sure, that might sound corny, but a rider and their bike often become “one”, and depend heavily upon each other.  A persons bike becomes like a family member, a close family member, not like that in-law you might want to take for a last ride.  😉

Anyway, back to the ride.  If you’re planning on taking a ride through the “Tail Of The Dragon“, into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you may want to take a few minutes off of the highway (US-74/441) to check out this short rural road.  Also, if you’re into rafting or kayaking there’s several outfitters for this on the side of the highway near the start of my ride.  I chose this particular road for its topographical characteristics and moderate length.   I wanted my first real ride on this bike to have a little bit of everything I might encounter on any other black-top road in the Eastern TN/Western NC area, but to a lesser degree than often found here in the mountains.

I would have been hard pressed to have found a better August day to take this ride.  The temperature was in the mid 70’s/lower 80’s (depending upon elevation) and the sky was dotted with white, not dark and threatening, clouds.

The Thomas Valley Road portion of my ride began when I left US-74/441 close to half-way between Sylva, NC and Cherokee, NC, by turning onto Barker’s Creek Road which is directly across from the SuperTrac and Exxon gas stations.  I crossed a wide concrete bridge over the Tuckasegee River and traveled about 1,000 feet to Thomas Valley Road on the right, which is just past where the cars are in this photo.  The “Do Not Enter” sign is deceiving.  It is not for Barker’s Creek Road, it is for the turn lane that can not be seen clearly from this angle.

FYI For Bridge Aficionados – To the left of the concrete bridge is the original truss-style one (built in 1920) it replaced.  Instead of tearing the old bridge down when the new one was built the community had it designated as a Memorial Bridge dedicated to Jewel J. Revis.  For those of you who like detailed pictures of old bridges, and those who want the GPS coordinates to the start of this ride, click HERE .

Right off the bat the road seemed to drop out from under me as I took the right-hand split.  Usually a turn or “Y” is somewhat on the same plane as the road it’s leaving, but not this one.  If you were to want to make this turn coming from the other direction on Barker’s Creek Road you would have to make a hair-pin turn and point your nose down at the same time.  After about 100 feet the road levels out, well… level compared to its start.

Thomas Valley Road is pretty typical of other country roads found in the mountains.  You’ll pass a wide variety of houses, some seem to be “homesteader cabins” from a previous era, others much more modern.  One of the first houses I passed on the right was this quaint little one set far back from the road, complete with its little guard dog who seemed more curious about my passing quietly by than guarding the house.  😉

Somewhere around the 2 mile mark I came across this totem-pole.  I’m used to seeing these on and around the Cherokee Indian Reservation, but not on the back roads.

Like all mountain roads this one has it’s twists, turns, hills, and straight-aways.  Of course not all mountain roads have railroads that meander in and out along their path.  For me that’s an added treat.  I’ve always been thrilled by railroad tracks.  Perhaps it’s the old lore of hobos camping out along the tracks, hopping a freight train to who-knows-where, or maybe the nostalgia of when I used to ride the rails on various trips around the country.  Regardless, they call to me much like motorcycles do.  I suppose it’s really the sense of freedom both offer to those who give in to their siren call. 

The ride also took me past old barns and fields where the smell of fresh-cut hay filled the air, and enormous hay rolls dotted the landscape.

Some enterprising person placed their bee hives between the road and the truck farm.  I’m not sure what the bees think about the colors, but to me they sure do resemble Art Deco.  Is that drawers they used?  Lol

I also came across a set of interesting signs.  I won’t say what ran through my mind when I first saw them, but it did make me wonder.

Speaking of making me wonder… this was not far down the road from these two signs.  Now, I’ve heard of rain dances to bring the rain (no, I’m not trying to be insensitive to our Native American friends), and I’ve heard of people beating on drums and calling out to the clouds, but this is taking things a whole new direction.  What happens if you’re late on a payment?  Does someone start some sort of repossession proceedings??? 😉

Near the tiny old town of Whittier, NC, which was founded in 1881, I came across this old boarding house.  At least I think it was a boarding house.  It’s next to the tracks not far from where the train depot used to be.  I sure wish I could see a picture of it in its “hey-day”.

Here’s another old house near the edge of Whittier.  I’m guessing it either belonged to a very large family or served as a hotel to the lumber jacks during the lumber boom just prior to the Great Depression.  After that time Whittier lost the majority of it’s residents and dropped its Incorporated status.

This is about all that’s left of the Whittier business district.  There’s still quite a few outlying residences, along with a couple of campgrounds, a bed and breakfast, and a nearby golf course.

Here’s a picture of what used to be the town’s lumber yard, general store, and what we would now call a “home improvement center”.  I didn’t get a picture of the building that would have served as the general store.  😦  I wonder… is this the same Revis the memorial bridge at the start of this ride is named after?

I guess there’s a bit more than initially meets the eye here.  The school the road sign in the picture is named after is now closed and used for other purposes.

Apparently this little town has done fairly well to have 2 cemeteries.

You know, every where you go you find bikers!  What’s up with that?  🙂

Whittier was my turn-around point.  The trip back felt just as scenic as the ride in.  Guess it was the change of direction making everything appear a little different.  I even noticed this magnificent tree I didn’t see before.  I bet if it could talk it would have some very interesting history to relate.

Even though it’s old, probably circa 1900 – 1910, wouldn’t this be a great little house and acreage to get away to for a weekend now and then?

I swear I didn’t notice a curve like this during the 1st half of my trip.  Perhaps I was simply so excited to be riding again it didn’t register with me as being this sharp!

That’s all I have for you about this trip.  Perhaps now that you’ve read about it, and have seen a few of the sights, you’ll want to check this route out in person.

Starting Point = 35.384869,-83.290937 Round-Trip Length = 16 miles.  Riding Time = Approximately 45 minutes if you don’t zoom through but take time instead “to smell the roses”.  Oh… the general store in Whittier serves some great ice cream!  😀

http://goo.gl/maps/32qi4

Click HERE For Full Size Photos, And Other Photos Of This Ride Not Posted

Happy (and safe) Biking!

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