Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Asheville: Portland of the East

11/11/11: Uber Veterans Day

In order to commemorate this once in a century occasion, we loaded up the car and drove to Asheville, North Carolina. We'd never been to North Carolina before, but the real reason we were headed east was to visit a friend currently living and studying in Blacksburg, Virginia. Asheville is not exactly half-way (at all), but it was a cool location that we all wanted to explore.

Since Jon had Veterans Day off (as he should), we left on Thursday night. We made it all the way to Knoxville, Tennesse--six hours away, plus a time change--before stopping for the night. Further confirmation that Tennessee is a long state.

I'm a fan of maximizing travel, trying to do as much and see as many people possible in one trip. So, the next morning, we met a high school friend of mine and his wife for breakfast. It was nice to catch up, and the big breakfast powered us up for the last leg of the journey into North Carolina. I'm glad we got to drive that part in the daytime because eastern Tennessee/western North Carolina is quite beautiful.

When we arrived in Asheville, we headed to our vacation rental. I was impressed by the organization of this house and immediately began taking mental notes for when we have our own brewery/B&B someday...when we retire and are independently wealthy, of course.

The view from our rental house
Shortly thereafter, our friend arrived in town and we began our tour de breweries. It was at this point that we began to suspect that Asheville is eerily similar to another beer town: Portland, Oregon. Both locations have incredible scenery and provide lots of outdoor recreation. The population leans toward the eccentric and the beer flows like water. We were hooked.

We made it to about four breweries the first afternoon/evening, appreciating the time to catch up in such a laid-back atmosphere. By laid-back, I mean that a couple of the breweries are actually located in warehouses. Our house had the feel of being out in the woods, yet we were still fairly close to town, so when we went back out for dinner, we actually walked downhill.

The next morning, we headed out to Mount Mitchell and even drove for a bit along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I confess that the winding, uphill roads were a bit much for me, although I guess one could argue that the copious amount of beer I drank the day before had just as much to contribute to my queasy stomach. Regardless, the scenery was beautiful, and we were rewarded with some incredible views of the Smokey Mountains when we reached the top.

View from Mount Mitchell
We continued to "fake" hike a little more by stopping at a couple more locations along the road back down and following the paths to additional scenic viewpoints. Jon and our friend did not let the rock barriers stop them.

Deep in thought
When we got back to Asheville, we had a goal to accomplish, so we hopped on our bikes and went in search of more breweries. It's not that I'm not a bike rider--I sometimes bike commute to work--but I was definitely the most inexperienced of the group. Plus, the memory of falling off my bike in the middle of the street in front of our building a month prior was still fresh in my mind (darn trolley tracks). However, the guys didn't leave me in the dust, even as I cursed them for leading me into traffic, which I hate. At any rate, we found more breweries, and at the end of the night, we got a free work-out by having to ride a steep hillclimb back to the house.

And just like that, the weekend was over. We had a long eight hours back to Memphis, but despite spending that much time in the car, we really enjoyed our trip. Asheville is a great town, and as always, it was wonderful catching up with old friends.


DWL said...

Fun Fact: Jenny Glass grew up in Kingsport, TN. Her hometown is closer to Canada than Memphis.

Spoon said...

That is a fun fact. Tennessee is ridiculous.