Getting Closer

Getting Closer
Getting Closer

Monday, December 10, 2007

Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway


I’m a bit late getting started on week two of our travels, been having too much fun, I guess. Last I wrote, we were in Nashville in the fog. At the moment I am sitting at the Bad Fork Valley Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville. Lots of “villes” around Tennessee and North Carolina. It was foggy this morning but right now the skiews are soft and shapely, with fluffy misty clouds and the classic faded blues and grays of the Smoky Mountains. Layer upon layer of shape and soft color that almost isn’t color at all unless you look closely stretch out to the southwest toward the late afternoon sun. Looking up close are thick piles of brown leaves on the forest floor and more layers of bare trees thickly blanketing the mountains. The rhododendrons beneath the trees are thick and glossy green covered with fat buds waiting for spring, and they look as though they have been pruned carefully by some crazy obsessive mountain gardener.

I have the chance to write at this moment because we are waiting for two wreckers to clear the parkway of a Hummer that went over the cliff yesterday. I took photos of the Hummer, and the amazing thing is that both passengers walked away, or up as it may be, up a very long and very steep mountainside. Everyone here is standing around watching and waiting for the road to open up again.

But I digress. Where was I?

This morning we woke to still more fog. After three days of fog and gray skies we were rather tired of it, but we started up the generator and heard the good news that the fog was supposed to lift and today was to be a record high day. We were a bit worried about the baby car so decided to take it to a AAA recommended repair shop across town and set off in the fog with the GPS leading the way. Found the station and left the car there, headed for a great southern spot for biscuits and gravy, and watched the fog lift.

The Biltmore is the big thing that everyone says you should do in Asheville, but after looking at the 55 per person price of admission we thought better of it. Some other trip we can do that. We decided to check out down town Asheville and then drive the Blue Ridge Parkway.
At breakfast we found one of those great city maps with the easy streets and pictures of all the things to do and found a walking tour of Asheville that was perfect.

What an amazing, beautiful, fascinating, lovely city. Superlatives don’t come close to describing how I felt about Asheville. It’s just so artistic and full of energy and creativity without being all snobby and full of itself. As one of the websites said about the city, it never succumbed to urban renewal and so has an incredible array of architectural styles throughout the city that are unique and representative of the period. We walked through what they called the Frontier Period, the Gilded Age, the Thomas Wolfe Period, and the Era of Civic Pride. The most amazing thing was that there were so many streets and blocks that were vibrant and alive and full of restaurants and shops and churches and businesses and every on of them seemed like “Main Street”.

I think the most magnificent was the old Federal Building with its huge skylighted windows and Christmas decorations. There was even a fresh market inside that building for the people who lived there. There were other really tall old buildings that were all new and clean looking in spite of their age that were converted to apartments for people over 62 with the rent based on their income. It was amazing to see lots of older folks downtown hanging out in their mobo chairs with their little dogs. One lady told us about the apartments and said she loved living there. It is a truly vibrant city full of art and energy and fun.

After walking downtown for a few hours we headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway. The road is actually 469 miles long but we only got in on the last part here in North Carolina. The Parkway is a great idea that is actually a National Park that is a roadway made just for touring and gentle beautiful travel. A book I bought is called the “Guide to America’s Most Scenic Drive” and I think maybe they may be right. Almost. Mo and I both still agree that Highway 1 along the California coast is the most scenic drive we have been on, but the difference is that this one is a National Park and is made just for cars and tourists, no trucks, and no commercial traffic is allowed. What a great idea that would be for Hwy 1, except there are towns on that road and I suppose that might be a problem.

We ended the day back here in the Wal Mart parking lot with toasted cheese sandwiches and a glass of chardonnay sitting in our lawn chairs in our ready made patio in view of the Wal Mart sign as we watched the sunset. We even have a lovely park right behind the parking lot that has a greenway paved path all along the river here. Free parking with a patio and a park. Sure can’t beat that one!