Saturday, March 17, 2012

Asheville revisited

Asheville is a great town, but getting there this time ranks as our new number one most annoying drive in two years of travelling. Third place goes to the last few miles of our drive into St. John, New Brunswick.
Second place goes to our drive from Astoria to Troutdale, Oregon (through Portland). This drive was the worst because of multiple and agonizing traffic jams between Columbus and Asheville, North Carolina, on Interstate 26. For reasons that will remain unknown, traffic came to a stop in the mountains. We crept along for 1/2 hour or so, then it picked back up. Not for long. Another creeping session. Seemed over, but no. The closer we got to Asheville the worse it became. Ultimately I looked out over several bends in the highway and saw zero movement.
So, barely containing my road-rage, I somehow managed to cut across the lanes of stopped traffic and onto an off ramp, and, ignoring the protestations of Madam Garmin, feel my way around the east side of the city and pick up the highway over there. It worked great, but by that time we'd already suffered 1.5 hours of delay. What should have been a 3.5 hour drive took 5. I hate traffic jams under any circumstances, but I really, really hate them with 11000 pounds in tow. was with great relief that we pulled into our campsite,
15 feet away and parallel to the French Broad River. It's constant gentle rushing soothed my soul. Well, that and a stiff santo libre! (That's dark rum, Sprite and a wedge of lime).

The rest of our stay was great, a sequence of sights and experiences that reminded us why Asheville ranked so high on our list of favorite places. Such a funky, relaxed and hip little city, bursting with culture and spirit, its inhabitants free-spirited and healthy. We went into town on the first day, an unseasonably warm Saturday, and Saint Patrick's Day to boot, and found the place hopping. The street musicians were out...

...and impressed us with their quality and originality. We had a tasty lunch at the far-out Mellow Mushroom:

There we learned what Ronald McDonald looked like back in the 60's before he got all corporate:

Also while in Asheville we did laundry at (why didn't anyone think of this before?) a laundromat/bar, called Bar of Soap. We took the dogs to a very well patronized dog park, where Toby engaged in a butt-sniffing contest and some mud wrestling, leaving much less white than he went in:

The summery weather was perfect for a stroll through the North Carolina Arboretum, where the daffodils were still in their glory, and the magnolia and redbud(?) trees were popping:

A trip to Asheville wouln't be complete without some mountain biking, and we both took to the trails at Bent Creek. It was very hot and hilly, so Nancy joined me for a short loop before I went back out to ravage the trails on my own. No pics this time, so imagine if you will, fast and swoopy winding trails, each climb rewarded by a rocketing descent, and punctuated with freqent drainage berms for plenty of opportunities to take flight. It felt great to get back in the saddle and tear up some single track.

Capping off our 2012 Asheville experience was a top-notch BBQ dinner from 12 Bones. We missed this last time because they don't stay open for dinner, but happened by on our way to the dog park and had to pull over to stock up for the evening meal. Crazy-good baby-back ribs, seriously tasty mac-n-cheese, and finally a reason to eat grits - all loaded up with cheese and jalapenos. Still, the ribs, oh, the ribs... If I ever find their equal I'll be sure to let you know.

Gotta love Asheville. I said it before, and I'm sayin' it again. This is a place worth spending a lot more time...

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