University City

Saddle up at love valley

Love Valley

704-592-2622. www.townoflovevalley.com.

Love Valley is a town where the main street is (intentionally) dirt, sidewalks are made of plank and there are hitching posts (not parking meters) in front of stores. It is a curiosity in may respects, and an attraction for people who like to get around the way Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy did: on a saddle.

One lover of the romanticized Wild West was the late Andy Barker, a Charlottean who always wanted to be a cowboy but instead became a contractor. After World War II, he bought land in northern Iredell County's Little Brushy Mountains and set about creating a community that looked like a set from a Hollywood Western.

Love Valley, incorporated as a town in 1963 (current population: maybe 170), has maybe 30 businesses - mostly catering to campers and day-visitors who love to ride horses: You can bring your own horse or rent one.

Half a mile from Love Valley's main street, Carouso Farms (704-592-5517) offers guided trail rides: $25 for an hour; $45 for two hours; $65 for three.

Love Valley has about 75 miles of riding trails. Rodeos and other rootin'-tootin' events are staged spring through fall.

Besides blacksmiths and stables, there's an old-fashioned hardware store, Moonshine Gifts & Ice Cream, and a general mercantile where you can buy anything from saddles to Spam to suds. Hours and days of operation vary; most places are open Fridays-Saturdays.

Love Valley has a saloon - with swinging doors, of course: The Silver Spur, open Tuesday-Sunday. Starting in March (tourism picks up in warmer months), there'll be live music Saturday nights. Just tie your steed to the hitching post out front.

Travel time from Charlotte: 60 minutes. There's parking at Miss Kitty's B&B, behind the saloon and elsewhere.

Directions: Interstate 77 North to Statesville, then I-40 West 2 1/2 miles to N.C. 115; take N.C. 115 North; take a slight left and continue north on Mountain View Road to Love Valley Road.

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