Author Topic: The Letha Store  (Read 1338 times)

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Offline jamawani

The Letha Store
« on: February 14, 2022, 12:34:27 pm »
Back in 2015 on a tour of the West
I came upon this little store in Letha, Idaho.
I leaned my bike against the mailbox and went in.
Guessing I bought a Gatorade and some Grandma's cookies.

The owner was up there in years, his dog even more up there.
She was napping in the sunbeam on the well-worn wooden floor.
It was groceries, post office, hardware, gossip - everything.
But it closed in 2019 - even before the pandemic.

I suspect that many more country stores have closed since then.
And, most likely, they will never reopen.

<<<>>>

Across the country - from the Carolinas to Kansas to Idaho -
Country stores are disappearing.
Sometimes a C-store gets built on the bypass in the county seat,
but I can assure you a C-store and a country store are miles apart.
(And not just pedalling miles)

I'm in my sixties and began touring in North Carolina.
Back in the 1970s & 1980s there was a country store at every crossroads.
Even today, if you ride in the rural South, you see their footprints.
Sometimes they've been converted into houses.
More often, they are boarded up and sagging.
Or gone altogether - with just the footprint of the gas pumps.

It makes a difference for touring cyclists.
In more remote places in the West, they are essential.
US 6 across central Nevada used to have four between Tonopah and Ely.
Warm Springs, Blackrock, Currant, Preston Junction.
Bar/Cafe/Store/Casino/Cabins. Everything you might need.
They are all gone. 168 miles with zero services.

Not only could you get a Coca-Cola and a moon pie,
but you also had a connection with local folks.
Unlike people driving thru, you would hang out for a while.
And because you were on a bike and the traffic was light -
the owner and the rancher stopping by for mail would chat you up.
Rarely happens in a C-store. Where the employees are on camera.
And need to mop or stock when the store isn't busy.

You see the chairs out front?
Country stores always had chairs or benches - in the shade.
So you could sit down and enjoy your root beer and visit.

It is an art that is rapidly disappearing.
And I will miss it.




« Last Edit: February 14, 2022, 12:40:50 pm by jamawani »

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2022, 03:50:55 pm »
Love those old, individual places.  When I took up touring again in 2009 after an 8 year break the GF and I did the Glacier-Waterton loop.  First stop out of Whitefish was in Olney, MT.  Olney just happened to be the name of the neighborhood in Philly where my GF had grown up.  The place had a collection of old soda/pop bottles.  She had the heat lamp cheeseburger.  I had a beer brat out of the crockpot.  There were, in fact, chairs outside on the porch and a friendly neighborhood dog.

The Wise River [Montana] Mercantile is one I have stopped at three times.  For some reason, they always had really nice Roma tomatoes.  The Wheat & Thistle in Harrison, MT is another that comes to mind.

You can still find a decent number of them in rural VT.  I've stopped at this place twice for supplies before heading to a state park with little around.  Benches on the front porch.

https://www.google.com/maps/@43.8037176,-73.2984243,3a,37.5y,171.93h,90.44t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s-RIljBJ1HFXzX2MINPZ1aQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656




Offline DanE

Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2022, 10:17:21 am »
North Carolina resident here as well. I don't think riding in the summer heat would be possible without country stores. Attached image of my favorite store to visit. This store stocks every item possibly needed for rural life.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2022, 02:18:33 pm »
Reminds me of the way back growing up as a kid in Northwestern CT. Two general stores 200' apart. One owned by brothers who scooped 10 cent ice cream cones, the other by an older gentleman. When the older gentleman went down the street to the Covered Bridge Café for coffee he just left a note that said take what you need and leave the money on the counter. The nearest "grocery store" was about 18 miles away.

Of course being a quaint town with a covered bridge in the Berkshires 100 miles from NYC we had a lot of New Yorkers (and movie stars) with summer homes. The store owned by the older gentleman was built right on the brook. It was bought up and converted to a high-end restaurant with a deck extending out over the brook catering to the NYC crowd. :(

Now, looking at West Cornwall, CT on Google Maps, the restaurant appears to be a private residence and the other store a Ski and Bike Shop. The local Meat Market is also gone. So much for progress.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline BobG

Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2022, 11:52:42 am »
One of my favorite stores on the TransAm is Gertie's. At the bottom of a long westbound descent from the Blue Ridge Parkway, a nice campground is just down the road or camp in the field around the store. Everything you need at the right spot! I even have their T shirt ...



An active Facebook page says they're still open!

« Last Edit: February 17, 2022, 06:12:34 am by BobG »

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2022, 09:37:49 am »
Of course being a quaint town with a covered bridge in the Berkshires 100 miles from NYC....

I have a B&W photo of that covered bridge I took in 1999.  I had gone off route from ACA's Atlantic Coast route at Windsor Locks to visit a friend at Yale and was heading back up to N. Canaan to rejoin the route after camping at some state park after leaving campus.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #6 on: February 17, 2022, 09:50:25 am »
Of course being a quaint town with a covered bridge in the Berkshires 100 miles from NYC....

I have a B&W photo of that covered bridge I took in 1999.  I had gone off route from ACA's Atlantic Coast route at Windsor Locks to visit a friend at Yale and was heading back up to N. Canaan to rejoin the route after camping at some state park after leaving campus.

Yeah, I cannot believe Route 7 south of West Cornwall is a designated bike route - lost of blind corners and no shoulder for the first mile or so.

I was a total geek and rode my Peugeot U08 to high school in Falls Village from our house near Mohawk Ski Area every day. No back racks back then - one teacher let me keep my bike in the science room closet during the day. My Mom was the Post Master in West Cornwall for many years, then Sharon and Litchfield. 
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline BobG

Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2022, 11:51:56 am »
Cornwall Bridge has a nice country store. The Cornwall Country Market was alive and well three years ago with everything you'd possibly want from a general store. I attended a wedding at Mohawk Mountain and stayed three days at Housatonic Meadows State Park. I brought my bike and did all my shopping at Cornwall Bridge ...

« Last Edit: February 17, 2022, 11:58:48 am by BobG »

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #8 on: February 17, 2022, 12:02:49 pm »
Cornwall Bridge has a nice country store. The Cornwall Country Market was alive and well three years ago with everything you'd possibly want from a general store. I attended a wedding at Mohawk Mountain and stayed three days at Housatonic Meadows State Park. I brought my bike and did all my shopping at Cornwall Bridge ...


That was ordinally Monroe's General Store, I went to school with their son. If you were at Mohawk Ski Area you drive by the house where I grew up. A great area in the way back. Still beautiful country although a lot more "city folk" these days. I skied there from very young and worked there from the day I turned 16. My sister was the first one to have a reception in the "new" lodge when it was first built. :) Cornwall grade school used to bus us there once a week for free ski lessons.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2022, 10:14:40 am »
I can never seem to upload photos to posts, so here is the link to the 1999 photo of the W. Cornwall covered bridge:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/105349603@N05/51891907862/in/dateposted-public/
« Last Edit: February 20, 2022, 10:16:43 am by BikeliciousBabe »

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2022, 11:50:09 am »
I can never seem to upload photos to posts, so here is the link to the 1999 photo of the W. Cornwall covered bridge:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/105349603@N05/51891907862/in/dateposted-public/
For a little background, one of the reasons I started to bicycle to high school was our school bus originally passed over that bridge on the shortest route to the 6 town regional high school in Falls Village. There has been a major ice jam in the Housatonic River that had to be blasted as it was piling up against the bridge threatening to destroy it. After the ice jam was cleared the bridge was inspected and deemed unsafe to carry the load of a school bus. That resulted in the bus ride now taking almost an hour to get to to the school on alternate roads. Basically I could get the quicker by bike. A few years later a steel superstructure was built into the bridge to allow it to handle the weight while preserving its historic charm. If you follow the Housatonic River south to Kent, CT. you will find Bull's Bridge, also a covered bridge. The AT runs close by. https://housatonicheritage.org/Places/bulls-bridge-scenic-area-trail-covered-bridge-kent-conn/
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2022, 08:45:17 am »
I've ridden MA 23 and then dropped down from Monterey, MA to N. Canaan via the New. Marlborough area twice using backroads. At least one of them unpaved.  Really nice riding.  Last year I stayed on MA 23 through Great Barrington and went into NY to pick up the Harlem Valley Trail south of Hillsdale, NY.  Spent the night at the Copake section off Taconic State Park.  Really nice campground with a brand new bathhouse with individual shower/bathroom rooms.  While I was getting a paper and beer at the store at the park entrance (the old railroad depot has been converted to a store/cafe) I happened to meet one of the co-authors of "Younger Next Year."  The recently-opened northern section of the trail is amazing.  A friend of mine and his wife just happened to ride it the day before I did and had to stop and wait for a bear to move from the middle of the trail.  I have also ridden U.S. 44 from N. Canaan to Millerton a few times.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2022, 08:54:36 am »
I've ridden MA 23 and then dropped down from Monterey, MA to N. Canaan via the New. Marlborough area twice using backroads. At least one of them unpaved.  Really nice riding.  Last year I stayed on MA 23 through Great Barrington and went into NY to pick up the Harlem Valley Trail south of Hillsdale, NY.  Spent the night at the Copake section off Taconic State Park.  Really nice campground with a brand new bathhouse with individual shower/bathroom rooms.  While I was getting a paper and beer at the store at the park entrance (the old railroad depot has been converted to a store/cafe) I happened to meet one of the co-authors of "Younger Next Year."  The recently-opened northern section of the trail is amazing.  A friend of mine and his wife just happened to ride it the day before I did and had to stop and wait for a bear to move from the middle of the trail.  I have also ridden U.S. 44 from N. Canaan to Millerton a few times.
Route 44 is a rough ride. I owned a house on that road in East Canaan and worked up near the Blackberry River Inn. Old concrete slab road with lots of truck traffic. Shoulder are pretty good in most spots but some tight corners going into Canaan from East Canaan. If you go that way again ping me and I can turn you on to some gravel alternatives. My sister lives in Canaan and bears are all over now. She had a sow nursing a cub on her front lawn and bird feeders need to come down every night. 20 years ago we had an occasional bear sighting, but plenty of bob cats and, although the state denied it for years, mountain lions living on Canaan Mountain.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline BobG

Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2022, 09:35:43 am »
Back in the late 60s, early 70s I used to ride from southern NH to VA often to visit family in the Spring after the college year ended, staying at hostels every night. I would stay at the former Bantam Lake Youth Hostel near Litchfield CT. I'd then wind around to Bull's Bridge and then take US 44 to Poughkeepsie. Not pleasant but I remember an adequate shoulder on 44.

If I recall right the route was Antrim NH > Guilford VT > Lakeside CT > New Paltz NY > Branchville NJ > Quakertown PA > Brickerville PA > Arlington VA. Maybe another stop I don't remember between Guilford and Lakeside. Some long days in there! It was back when I was a fit 20 something on a light bike with sew-up tires.

correction: That may have been  backroads from Wingdale NY > NY 55 > Poughkeepsie that I took, not US 44. It was 52 years ago!
« Last Edit: February 22, 2022, 02:20:06 pm by BobG »

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: The Letha Store
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2022, 09:58:33 am »
Back in the late 60s, early 70s I used to ride from southern NH to VA often to visit family in the Spring after the college year ended, staying at hostels every night. I would stay at the former Bantam Lake Youth Hostel near Litchfield CT. I'd then wind around to Bull's Bridge and then take US 44 to Poughkeepsie. Not pleasant but I remember an adequate shoulder on 44.

You were riding 44 in NY at that point, but yes it has good shoulder in most places but is a major truck route through Northwestern Connecticut. There are numerous lime quarries in the Canaan area and there is a plant in town that Pfizer used to operate https://www.google.com/maps/place/Specialty+Minerals+Inc/@42.0253886,-73.3227545,17.64z/data=!4m13!1m7!3m6!1s0x89e7825103f96f6b:0x12be3d0f67b3a58c!2sCanaan,+CT!3b1!8m2!3d41.9640877!4d-73.3001233!3m4!1s0x89e77a2aedd49b6b:0xb21a7d8de83ee0c1!8m2!3d42.0260898!4d-73.3206107. There are no interstates north of Waterbury, CT, but RT 8 connects to RT 44 in Winstead - so about the only viable truck route in NW CT.

The Bantam Lake Youth Hostel is where my father took me around 8th grade to get me interested in bike touring. Strapped with 5 kids, he lived vicariously though us for adventure. I got my first 10-speed (Peugeot U08) for 8th grade graduation. One on our standard trips was up to the AYH Hostel on Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield MA. It was on a return trip from there that I had my first close encounter (contact actually) with a moving vehicle. Still have the scars on my left index finger :) to remind me. Driver thought my parents were totally irresponsible to allow me to bike tour at 14. Little did they know that my parents also dropped me with a friend in the Adirondacks for 2 weeks with a canoe and picked us up 100 miles away!
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966