ADVrider (
-   Epic Ride Reports (
-   -   October Quest for the Original Cape Coalwood (

DeBandi 10-27-2008 04:01 PM

October Quest for the Original Cape Coalwood
I set out to find the original location where Homer Hickam, Jr. tested his rockets. I grew up in a small coal mining community in Kentucky. I left the community when I was 18 and now only return occasionally to visit family and friends. A few years ago I watched the movie October Sky Based on the novel Rocket Boys by Homer Hickam, Jr. and that story is the subject of the this ride report.

This would be a long four days of riding so serious time was given for planning routes and researching some background information.

Of course we had to do this in October. After all, it was the launch of Sputnik in October of 1957 that created the “space race” and inspired Homer to want to become an aerospace engineer.

Mo Boot was kind enough to join me on this adventure.

We stopped in Petros, TN, to see what remained of one of the filming locations of the movie. (Image from the web)

The temporary set of the Olga temple was removed after the filming. It was located on this corner in Petros. Several other locations remain in Petros that were featured in the movie.

Next, in Oliver Springs, TN, we saw Olga Coal Company still visible on several of the buildings in this small Tennessee town.

We wanted to get to Erwin, TN, for the evening, so we had to take off after a bite of lunch.

On day two the goal was to make it to Elk Park, NC, to meet up with Dlrides.
Mo Boot had some battery trouble, and the weather was blowing trees at us at 4,900 ft up on Beauty Spot Gap road. I have never seen weather this bad while riding.

Dlrides is a history buff and wanted to do the Coalwood ride with us on Saturday. He was gracious enough to show us some incredible historic items in & around Cranberry, NC. Friday was spent in that area exploring with Dlrides did a separate ride report for this day’s adventure :deal
Mo boot at a very long cable suspension bridge.

My fuel pump began to spit and sputter on the 950 about an hour after this creek crossing. (photo courtesy of dlrides)

The bike completely stopped running just as we pulled up next to a car wash. I had total fuel pump failure.
After several attempts to solve the problem, it looks like this ride has come to a premature ending.:baldy

Let me look around & see what I have.

Well, I will be dog, I just happen to have an extra fuel pump with me. :wings :rayof :wings
Dlrides was kind enough to install the fuel pump, and we headed to find shelter and a warm, dry bed for the evening.

Tomorrow - the destination is the Original Cape Coalwood and some historical information on the interesting coal village.

GB 10-27-2008 04:09 PM

Lookin' good :thumb

You carry a spare fuel pump with you? :huh :lol3


flux_capacitor 10-27-2008 04:22 PM


Originally Posted by Gadget Boy
You carry a spare fuel pump with you? :huh :lol3


Yeah, he rides a 950!!! :lol3 David, I gotta tell you, I made fun of you for carrying that thing around but it looks like it paid off. Good work mang. :thumb

dlrides 10-28-2008 05:39 AM


Epic ride as usual !

Before the report progresses, I would like to mention the roads taken to WV. We mostly picked our way on gravel and twisty backroads. along the way we found an abandoned road in western VA that was unbelieveable ! It ran through cattle farm country near Mendota VA, with parts that was extremely rocky grades. No pics of the rough parts, we were too busy getting the bikes through ! Some of the gravel roads in this part of VA run through huge cattle farms that are "open range" roads, meaning they have no fences and the cattle roam, simular to western states.

Carry on !

DeBandi 10-28-2008 08:29 AM

The Road To Coalwood
Coalwood, WV, was considered a model mining community in the 1930s.
This image is from the web

I wanted to see this historical coal village before it vanishes forever.

The road to Coalwood takes us through downtown War.

War is home to Big Creek High School.

This is where Homer went to school and was inspired by his teacher to pursue his dreams. He did just that. And Homer won the National Science Fair in 1960 putting Big Creek High School and Coalwood on the map.

Keep in mind that he first saw Sputnik in the night sky in October of 1957:thumb

Lopoetve 10-28-2008 08:45 AM

sweet ride idea!

DeBandi 10-28-2008 09:49 AM

Just down the road from War is the Olga Tipple at Caretta.

I am surprised that it has not been removed due to liability issues.

The large metal screen on the left extends over the road. This was for a big cable bucket system that went up the mountain to a slate dump. The screen protected passing cars from possible falling debris from the buckets on the aerial tramway.

The conveyor belt system to the right crosses above Highway 16 and was used for the coal and slate coming in by truck.

This tipple was constructed around 1924.
It is identical to the tipple that was at Coalwood.

Coalwood is just down the road.:nod

Stretch67 10-28-2008 10:12 AM

I always enjoy your reports. :ricky

mark1305 10-28-2008 10:17 AM

Great report! Keep it coming.

Dave, or Don... Didn't we ride through War on the epic Memorial Weekend ride in 2007? There are some fantastic places tucked away in that part of the country.

When are you guys going to team up and publish a book or two on these vanishing bits of history that you dig up?

clarkebd 10-28-2008 10:37 AM

Cool Report!
I really liked that book (movies are never as good).... I never thought of taking a ride like this!

Thanks for sharing!

MO Boot 10-28-2008 11:32 AM


Can't wait to see more! Absolutely incredible four days. :clap Look forward to riding with you and dlrides again soon.

Mo Boot

DeBandi 10-28-2008 12:06 PM

Coalwood Tipple: then & now
We finally reach our destination.

Dlrides made an interesting comment: "Most of the roofs are original including the copper flashing."

This is what the housing looked like back when the village was new.

We stopped at the Olga Tipple site.

Unfortunately, this small building (the machine shop) is all that remains.

This was the site of the only shaft mine in Coalwood. It started producing coal in 1905 from the original wooden tipple. Some 600 feet below this site was the six-foot high Pocahontas coal seam which held some of the best low volatile, low sulphur coal in the world.
photo courtesy of dlrides

This is what the site looked like circa 1930s.
image from the web
image from the web

The Olga #1 Tipple was torn down in 1959 but the mining operation continued.

More Coalwood info to follow...

DeBandi 10-28-2008 02:30 PM

Coalwood - The Hickam home and old school
As we enter Coalwood we stopped at the boyhood home of Homer Hickam, Jr.

This is the actual yard where he first saw Sputnik fly over.:thumb
The wooden white picket fence that he blew up with his first rocket has long been replaced with chainlink.

This is one of the larger, nicer homes in Coalwood because his father was the mine engineer and in charge of ventilation at Olga Coalwood Mine.
photo courtesy of dlrides

A back view of the house around 1944.
photo courtesy of David Goad collection (I think)

The Olga mine at Coalwood never had a major accident. Many contribute that to Mr. Hickam's (Homer's dad) advanced knowledge of the mine and ventilation techniques.

The old school is just about gone. I do not expect this to be here much longer.
image from the web

You can see Mo boot taking a picture of the incredible front facade.

A closer look.

More to follow...

tn-steve 10-28-2008 04:00 PM

Great ride report, looking forward to more :lurk

kdscoates 10-28-2008 04:51 PM

debandi:great report debandi!!!!

was that a stock ktm pump???? looks like one.

dl rides: that is hwy 16 in wv/va state line i found that road this summer that road rocks all the way to the ohio river!!!!!

moboot: i am sorrry you had to put up with those two all weekend!!!:D

Times are GMT -7.   It's 01:04 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.5
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ADVrider 2011-2015