Note: The thoughts and activities discussed in this post occurred on Friday, January 06, 2012.
This morning I harvested some more firewood from down the hillside in much the same fashion as described in my “A New Year’s Day Ride-Almost” post, but with one small change… I replaced one of the two heavy chains with steel cable… wire rope as some call it. The job went much smoother this time, partly because I had the routine down pat, and partly because the cable puts less strain on the winch since it’s considerably lighter and doesn’t have a hard time going over roots and other seemingly small obstructions like the chain does as the logs are pulled up the hill.
After hauling up a few logs and several limbs I ate lunch, then took the Inaugural ride I had hoped to take on New Year’s Day as discussed in the post referenced above. I stuck with the decision to begin my ride from the little town of Dillsboro, NC and head east into Sylva on US-23. This route parallels an old, yet still occasionally used, railroad track and the Tuckasegee River.
My ride started in front of the historic Victorian-style Jarrett House Inn and Restaurant which was established in 1884. During the summer this is a bustling place, and the wonderful aroma of their food wafts through the air. Like many businesses in this area they are closed in the winter. A block over (south) is what used to be the train depot, and the eastern-most starting point, for the Great Smoky Mountains Railway. The railroad is still in business, and occasionally operates trains to Dillsboro, however its primary depot is to the west in Bryson City, NC which is another area I plan to ride in.
From the Jarrett House I rode past the former depot, then to the Monteith Farmstead on Old Home Town Road. The farmstead is now a public park and area landmark. Volunteers are being used to repair the dilapidated original tow-story farm-house. Once completed the house will be used to depict life on a mountain farm in the 1800’s. The park also has play equipment for children and a bicycle/pedestrian path. After visiting this site I followed Old Home Town Road back to US-23, continuing my trip toward Sylva. A short distance from this intersection NC-107 begins/joins US-23, which breaks off about a mile away to join US-74 at the outskirts of Sylva. NC-107 continues on in a southeasterly direction (officially southbound) through Sylva, past the little town of Cullowhee (home of Western Carolina University), through Cashiers, then eventually enters South Carolina.
As I entered the western-most edge of Sylva I came to Mark Watson Park, an old park that is home to a couple of baseball diamonds that are currently being re-graded to provide better rainwater runoff and a tennis court. What used to be the office building for the Parks Department is now closed and a debate is in progress concerning its fate. Some residents want to see it restored and used to house community-interest offices/services, others want it simply torn down and the land used for other park functions. Personally, I’d hate to see the rock structure removed. As I said in a previous post, “they just don’t make ’em like that anymore”. As I was leaving the park I noticed steps leading up a hillside to the back of the “old” (former) courthouse. At one time people from the courts would use these steps to gain access to activities in the park. Now they are pretty much abandoned.
Next to the park is the “old” (former) courthouse for Jackson County which was built in 1913. The “new” courthouse, built around 2001, is a couple of miles away. In its day the courthouse also housed the county jail which is now in the new courthouse. Today the courthouse houses the county library. With its position atop a hill the former courthouse/library commands an impressive view of downtown Sylva as well as several miles of the town of Sylva and its surrounding mountains.
To the northeast of the former courthouse, on what locals call “Back Street”, is Bridge Park where a variety of activities are held each spring and summer. About a year and a half ago a gazebo was constructed near the Tuckasegee River to allow use of the park during inclement weather. For some reason there are only benches inside. All of the picnic tables are outside. Interesting choice. I guess if it’s raining they want you to run across the bridge to use the covered picnic tables on the other side of the river. Not complaining, just calling it as I see it. 😉 On weekends during most of the summer the Parks Department sponsors local bands to perform free concerts in the gazebo. A new bridge spanning he river connects this park with a playground across the river. Back Street, actually named Mill Street, is home to a variety of small businesses including a cafe, shoe repair shop, and a trinket store.
Returning to US-23/NC-107 I continued my journey eastward through downtown Sylva, passing the Motion Makers bike shop I mentioned in my “A New Lease On Life” post. Despite its age, Sylva doesn’t have what one would typically consider a “square” like a lot of old historic towns do, just two long one-way streets that parallel each other. The town’s primary downtown businesses, and it’s oldest, are on both sides of Main Street, with smaller business on just one side of Mill Street. The other side of Mill Street is reserved for parking and the recreational park mentioned above. There’s another street literally up the hill from Main Street that’s basically a residential area, but is also home to several churches and a couple of businesses. One of these businesses is the City Lights bookstore. I had planned to visit them during this trip but forgot to do so. Hopefully I’ll remember them when I go back to Sylva to do a more in-depth exploratory ride of the town.
After leaving the downtown area i came to the Jackson Paper mill. This mill is one of the leading recycled paper manufactures, and has been around since 1995. Across from the mill is a fruit and vegetable stand that’s ope year-round. In addition to these items they also sell local honey and molasses when available. Just past (east of ) these two businesses US-23 splits off of NC-107 so the balance of my journey followed the state highway rather than the US highway. One block over to the north there’s a new modern Fire Department building and local Highway Patrol office.
Here is where my trip became a little tougher. The hills through Dillsboro, and up to this point, were gentle and rolling, requiring me to shift down only one gear a couple of times, however a few blocks past the mill the road begins a gradual climb, becoming increasingly steep the further one travels eastbound. Just before the Wal-Mart Super Center where I ended my journey the road finally levels out for a short distance, then appears to become a down-hill ride for about 1/2 to 3/4’s of a mile. The businesses along this part of my route are for the most part newer than those previously passed. There’s a couple of gas stations, a number of “modern” restaurants, used car dealerships, dental offices, auto parts stores, etc.
The total distance traveled on this inaugural ride was 3.9 miles. Including all my stops to take pictures, and inquire about a couple of businesses, it took me an hour and a half to complete this ride. Amazingly my legs were not near as sore as I anticipated them being. The temperature started out at 49 degrees Farenheit and ended up at 60 degrees. In addition to the great weather, as the photos depict, my bike performed admirably, which borders on miraculous for a bike that’s around 18 to 19 years old and had never seen the type of maintenance it should have. It’s also not bad for the first decent length ride in years! I’m happy with the decision to postpone what would have been a very wet, cold, New Year’s Day ride until today.
I learned a few things during this ride. First and foremost – Do Not forget to wear a bicycle helmet!!! I was a bad boy and left it laying near the door. By the time I remembered it I was halfway through this ride. Next, at least one mirror is a must. It really does become a pain in the neck to have to keep turning your head at every driveway and intersection to be sure a car behind you isn’t planning on turning into you. Third, the bike’s original seat is much harder than I remember it being, perhaps because it’s missing the closed-cell foam pad I purchased for it years ago. I’m going to have to locate that, or replace it, if there’s going to be any rides longer than this one… and there will be. Once again I’m hooked! Wish I hadn’t been away from cycling all this time. Unless something totally unforseen happens it won’t be long before my next ride. Perhaps by then I’ll figure out how to use “Map My Ride” so I can post route information for you. Hope to see you out there! 🙂
>>> More photos taken during this ride (and full size images of the ones posted here) may be found in start of ride to finish order on our NEW Facebook page –http://www.facebook.com/pages/Old-school-cycling/353112701382145?sk=wall . For some reason the old page kept having to be “published” almost every day, and Facebook would never respond to my complaints or suggest/provide a “fix” for the problem. 😦 Hopefully this new page will work properly. As time permits I’ll be working on re-posting photos that had been on the old facebook page so please check back periodically for those.<<<