Everyone is aware that 2020 has been a challenging year. I taught for over twenty years in Greenville County School District’s Challenge Program, a service for advanced students. Our charge as teachers was to provide these students with a “challenging” curriculum asking them to think differently and solve problems and be creative. Well, I think that during 2020 all citizens have been provided that curriculum. We have had the challenge of figuring out how to move about finding our basic needs without infecting ourselves or others in this pandemic environment.
For Jim Scott and myself this was a unique challenge. We had worked for the whole of 2019 on a project to write a National Register application for the US Highway 25 which is a historic road starting as a bison trace in the prehistoric period. We had spent months searching for old road beds from the North Carolina state line at Tuxedo to the old ghost town of Hamburg at North Augusta. We found wide ditches denoting wagon roads throughout the western part of South Carolina and sections of concrete roads and bridges dating as early as 1910. We traveled all along the roads in 2019 easily finding what necessities travelers require (food and restrooms and gas stations). But something happened in 2020.
When the application was drafted and sent to the State Historic Preservation Office in February of 2020, we thought we were finished “stomping” as Jim calls our field trips. But suddenly in March I found myself with lots of extra time at home and had the bright idea to turn our work into a book thinking that it could bring in funding for the restoration of the McCullough House that Fork Shoals Historical Society had just acquired and was going to need money for stabilization projects. Finding the History Press in Charleston as the publisher required adding the North Carolina section of US 25 to complete the history of the road. So, that meant we had to go stomping again at the beginning of the shutdowns in North Carolina.
Well, on our first trip we had no idea how closed North Carolina was. Particularly the section from Asheville to Hot Springs. And we were chasing the old roads not the current US 25 four-lane in that area. Stupidly we decided to start at Hot Springs on the Tennessee line and come back to Asheville along the old road following the French Broad River. Another well….. We left Moonville with a picnic lunch thinking we were totally prepared. Jim had on slacks and a long sleeve shirt and brought along a light jacket. Friend Cathy Morton was along for the cold day dressed similarly. I always bring extra just because. It was late March and the weather here had been nice. Another well…. Did you know that Hot Springs is on the Appalachian Trail? Well, it is. Hikers have to walk through the town to stay on the trail. And just a few miles up the road is the Tennessee line at the top of a mountain ridge. Jim nor Cathy had anywhere near enough clothes. Thank goodness our stomping didn’t require much outdoor walking at this point.
Driving up the US 25 we had stopped for gas in Weaverville and had gone to the restroom at the station. We had lucked up we later found out. Thinking we would eat our picnic in Hot Springs and go to the restroom again there, we naively left civilization. When North Carolina shut down, they meant it. Hot Springs was dead (almost). We found the roads we were looking for (I had searched google maps previously.). Then we were ready to eat and find a restroom again. We stopped at a filling station. No access to restrooms there. We tried the tourist center. It wasn’t open. We saw people at a hardware store. They stopped us at the door and would only let us buy something from there. There was a hiking store open, but no customer restrooms. None of the restaurants were open. By this time we were floating our eyeballs. We stopped drinking.
Deciding to start back down toward Asheville along the French Broad, we began to problem solve how to manage this challenge. Where would a restroom have to be open? We hypothesized another major chain gas station? A park? A bush along the road? (I have taken to that in trips to the west.) But it was cold!
We got to the river town of Marshall thinking it was sure to provide relief. Well,….. one of us took to finding relief behind a building. You might guess who. The ladies held on. Finally deciding we would have to go back to Weaverville where we last rested. On the new US 25 moving south fast, we found an Ingles, I believe it was.
We discovered then and there that Ingles was our saving grace for travels to come. Park restrooms were all locked up along the old road and there were no real grocery stores in Hot Springs or Marshall. Jim and I did return once to Hot Springs on a rainy day in the summer, but we were ready. We plotted our path to the necessary spots and hightailed it back to civilization with the speed of the bullet train.
If you haven’t been in an Ingles in North Carolina, you should take a trip to just visit all the Ingles there. The stores don’t compare to what I know Ingles as in South Carolina. I have gotten to know the Ingles stores on the old US 25 from Hendersonville to Asheville really well. I’m almost one of their favorite customers. Safe travels to you all.
Please remember our efforts for the McCullough’s Cedarhurst. We have to pay insurance by December 31, 2020, and the coffers haven’t been filled this year, not able to fund raise. We are a non-profit 501c3, and donations will be tax deductible. Thanks for any help you can provide.
Fork Shoals Historical Society
PO Box 442
Pelzer, SC 29669