Asheville Snapshot

ASH-13-3In western North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains, there is a small city that looks like the east coast but feels like the west coast.  It’s Asheville, a dot of blue in a sea of red, with restaurants full of foodie delights, locally crafted beers, and hipster waiters—all looking disturbingly similar with their shaved heads and carefully coiffed bushy beards.

We left the trailer at our Georgia campground and drove to Asheville for an overnight at a bed and breakfast—a birthday present for me.  It seemed like the height of decadence—taking a vacation from our never-ending vacation road trip.  But after six months living primarily in campgrounds, it was oh-so-very-sweet to have a night in a city, with a bathtub to boot.

20141113_090157

Asheville is unique.  Surrounded by the wooded, gentle peaks of the Appalachians, it’s an art deco town nestled in a valley created by the French Broad River (love the name).  Long touted for its healthy mountain air, Asheville was a center for tuberculosis (then commonly known as consumption) treatment in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and a draw for a wide variety of alternative style folks in the past few decades.  It’s one of those places that attract the wealthy, talented, and quirky.  It’s the town where Thomas Wolfe grew up, Zelda Fitzgerald perished in a fire, and the Vanderbilts built a Gilded Age estate.  And, its fifty years of economic hard times after the Depression meant that there was little new development downtown, which resulted in largely untouched architecture since early last century.  An unintended but wonderful consequence that gave the town a time-capsule feel.

ASH-12-2

20141112_122829

ASH-15-3The Asheville area has a schizophrenic quality.  Hendersonville, on one side, was home to the back-to-the-land Mother Earth News, while, in the other direction, Montreat, a beautiful, but eerily perfect-seeming woodsy enclave, was home to Christian religious retreats and Billy Graham.  In 2009, Asheville elected a “post-theist” city councilman and then sought to remove him based on North Carolina’s prohibition of atheists in elected offices (they eventually abandoned the effort).  The odd mix of people seems to work and keeps things interesting.

20141112_181548

20141112_122817We spent our first afternoon exploring some of the area around Asheville, including taking a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  A true throwback, it is a roadway started by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s that winds for hundreds of miles high through the mountains, with no clutter of signs or buildings and with limited access, sometimes without an exit for thirty miles or so.

The stone bridge is the Blue Ridge Highway as it passes near Asheville

The Blue Ridge Highway runs over this stone bridge near Asheville

No distractions, just road and woods.

No distractions, just road and woods.

IMG_3960

The Blue Ridge Parkway has lots of tunnels in this area and roadbed carved out of hillside rock

The Blue Ridge Parkway has many tunnels in this area and a roadbed blasted out of hillside rock

ASH-16-2

In the afternoon, we settled into our B&B, which used to be a convalescent home for tuberculosis patients.  It was in a huge old house, with several outbuildings and, most importantly, within walking distance of downtown.

We spent most of our time walking around and eating.

20141112_122631We had excellent meals at two dog-friendly restaurants, sitting outside and watching the world of Asheville passing by.

Zoe has city manners now.

Zoe has city manners now.

The most bizarre spectacle was the pubcycle.  We could hear loud laughter and music before it appeared.  Then a contraption rounded the corner and headed up the street—an open-sided vehicle with six people on each side, facing each other across a bar, all while propelling themselves down the street by pedaling.  Unfortunately, I did not get a good picture, but these will give you some idea of this party-while-you-burn-calories vehicle.

pubcycle

Pubcycle.  Everyone was sitting on a bike seat and pedaling while they drank.

It drove by several times

From galloping consumption to pedaling consumption

It was fun to be in the city at night.

20141112_173956

Our restaurant view. We had the outside seating to ourselves. It was a little cold for most people.

Pork parts

Pork parts

Santa smoking.  It's not a good nighttime shot, but the fuzzy quality makes it look like a painting

Santa smoking.

The temperature dropped when the sun went down and our walk back to the B&B was pretty chilly.  But we got to indulge in our first hot baths in six months.  What a luxury.  The next morning, we had a group breakfast in the ornate dining room and I further indulged in a sauna before we left.

Zoe got to sleep on the couch

Zoe got to indulge too with a sleep on the couch–with a blanket for that purpose provided by the B&B

Waiting for a three course breakfast

Waiting for a three course breakfast

We had intended to do more sightseeing and hiking that day, but it was frigid outside.  So we decided to drive back to Georgia by a scenic route through the mountains.  Big mistake.  We drove onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and headed up to over 5000 feet in elevation.  Unfortunately, that was high enough to be well into the cloud cover.  In all my years of driving, it was the worst visibility that I’ve ever experienced.  We could hardly see the road right in front of us.  After creeping along for about ten miles, and continuing to climb, we decided to turn around and head down into the valley.

Two days was not nearly enough time to explore the area.  We did not even get near the Biltmore Estate, did not take any hikes, and did not have time to visit the homemade potato chip store.  We will be back.

IMG_3962

 

16 thoughts on “Asheville Snapshot

  1. Great post! Bill thinks he has been in the area… he’s been on the Blue Ridge Parkway at least. Your pictures make me want to get up and go! Instead we are hunkering down for winter in these parts…

    • Thanks. Asheville is a great little city and well worth a visit (or several). Believe it or not, it’s winter down here in Georgia, with temperatures in the teens. We had to make sure our pipes didn’t freeze last night. We are looking forward to hitting some warmer weather.
      I hope you manage to get some travels in this winter. Stay warm!

  2. That pub cycle is very different way to get your alcohol. It is so good to treat yourself to a little decadence when you are on the road full time. You would certainly enjoy the break.

    • It’s difficult to get much city time–especially at night–with an RV. It was a real treat to be able to have a leisurely dinner and walk around the city at night. It also didn’t hurt that our B&B suite was quite a bit larger than our trailer!

    • Yes, it was the perfect place for an overnight. We really enjoyed Asheville and are looking forward to returning for a longer visit. What campground did you use and do you recommend it?

      • We stayed in one of the premium sites at Campfire Lodgings with a beautiful view of the mountains.We were there in 2009 so things may have changed since then. It was pricey but I would recommend it. The way the sites are laid out it felt more like a state park than a private park.

    • Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It was a real treat and especially nice because the weather has been so cold that we have been confined inside our small trailer more than usual! Asheville is marvelously quirky and we are looking forward to returning for a longer trip to really explore the area.

  3. Oh, one of my very favorite towns! When you go back, if you don’t mind a bit of “local quirkiness,” I recommend Wilson’s RV Park right there on the French Broad River. Location cannot be beat, and a bike path runs right through the park. Very small and some freeway noise, but overall good sites right on the river. Also, if you are there from April thru Oct, don’t miss the Friday night drumming circle downtown. It’s a hoot! And lastly, I recommend the potato chips with crumbled bleu cheese, drizzled with lavender honey. 😉

    • Yes, isn’t Asheville great? Many people told us that we would like it, but sometimes high expectations are dashed a bit when you get there. Not so with Asheville.

      We love local quirkiness, so will definitely check out Wilson’s. I’m a purist when it comes to potato chips, though, (it’s all about the potato and the oil!) so I’m not sure about the bleu cheese and lavender honey. But I’m game to try almost anything. Thanks for your recommendations and for dropping in on the blog.

    • Interesting, David. I just did a little research and it looks like they herded diplomats, high-level businessmen, and other enemy nationals (including Japanese) into the hotels in the area until they could be exchanged and repatriated. Better treatment than the normal internment camps apparently.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s