Westward Ho!

Monday, October 22, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Westward Ho, Day 1:  Peachtree City, GA to Charlotte, NC

The sun was beaming down from a beautiful azure sky as we left home this morning in search of the wild, wild West.  Between today and the end of this year, we need to visit and find letterboxes in 15 states and plant letterboxes in 23 states to meet our 2012 goal of revisiting and letterboxing in all the 48 contiguous states this year.  We are especially eager to see some of the spectacular scenery that the West has to offer in its vast unspoiled wilderness lands.

A bit of color
Fall is definitely in the air, but the cool 50° temp we enjoyed early this morning was but a faded memory by the time the sun heated up the afternoon, pushing the mercury toward 80.  The autumnal color palette has yet to flaunt its full range in Georgia and the southern parts of Carolina, but there were sufficient patches of color to assure us that cooler weather is on its way.

Local gendarmes block the route to the track.
On our drive up I-85 this morning, we stopped near Jefferson, Georgia (pop. 9,554), to search for one of Kirbert's airport letterboxes.  Some radical pruning had recently been administered to the juniper bush where the box was hidden, so we didn't locate the box, but we did find a NASCAR driver in an unexpected place.  Directly across the street from the entrance to the small Jackson County Airport, we heard and then saw  a racing car speeding around the track at the Gresham Motorsports Park.  A little investigation revealed why there was only one car on the track, no spectators were in the stands, and police vehicles were blocking the driveway.  Due to a  concussion he suffered in a last lap pileup at Talladega two weeks ago, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was undergoing fitness testing with a neurologist to determine his eligibility for this weekend's Martinsville race.

Though we didn't stumble across any celebrities there, our letterboxing luck took a turn for the better when we stopped in Gaffney, South Carolina (pop. 12,456).  Anyone who has driven I-85 through South Carolina has seen what is locally known as the peachoid, a 150-ft tall water tower located near the interstate.  In fact, if you drive through the city at night, you'll still see the big peach because city leaders have provided lighting on the giant fruit. 

When the local public works department needed elevated water storage in 1980, they decided on a design that would reflect the area's economic dependence on peach orchards and would allow them to thumb their noses at Georgia, the "Peach State" to the south.  Around this time period, more peaches were produced in Cherokee County, where Gaffney is located, than in the entire neighboring state known for growing the fuzzy fruit.  The peachoid has a capacity of 1,000,000 gallons—and a letterbox nearby. 

Battlefield Trail at Kings Mountain National Military Park
After finding another letterbox in Gaffney we continued north.  We needed to plant a letterbox in South Carolina and had only 15 miles left before we hit the North Carolina border.  Luckily there was a great spot waiting in that territory—Kings Mountain National Military Park.  Often called the "turning point" of the Revolutionary War, the battle at Kings Mountain in October, 1780, was the first major patriot victory to occur after the British invasion of Charleston in May of that year.   And the park's battlefield trail led to a perfect little hideout for our South Carolina letterbox.  One box down, 22 to go.

You may legitimately question our sense of direction, considering we drove northeast from Atlanta to get to to the West.  No, we did not forget to consult the atlas before we hit the road.  We were on a mission.  Since we'll miss being with Ken's mother on her 92nd birthday next month, we wanted to start our trip in Charlotte to deliver early birthday wishes in person. She was keenly interested in our travel plans and promised to follow our progress in her atlas.

Sharing our itinerary with the birthday lady
Tomorrow we'll actually point our vehicle in a westerly direction, zipping through Tennessee on our way toward Missouri, the jumping off place for so many historical trips to the West.

Daily Stats
  • Miles driven:  305
  • States today:  3 (GA, SC, NC)
  • Letterboxes:  Found 2, Planted 1
  • Celebrity sightings:  1
  • Tractor trailers on I-85:  4,174
  • Ducks delivered:  1 (more on that later)

More Photos from Today
Restored one-room school in Gaffney
Our tax dollars at work replacing paving around the Kings Mountain visitor center
The birthday lady and her baby boy