Asheville – No April Fools Joke Here
(March 31st-April 1st)
I’ve heard the stories. A hippy oasis in the middle of Appalachia. Unique in North Carolina, especially in Western North Carolina. Great food, great live music, beautiful scenery. And of course, home of the famous Biltmore Estates. I can’t, with a straight face, sit here and tell you that those things aren’t completely true. But that wouldn’t be the whole story of Asheville.
After a long first day on the road, we packed up our plethora of stuff back into it’s secure place in ‘Roberta’, the pet name for the RV we’re driving, said our goodbyes to the nice owners of Rocky Top Campground, and began down the road to a place I’ve been trying to visit for years now. The drive out of Eastern Tennessee into Western Carolina is one of breathtaking beauty.
Rolling hills, green pastures, rounded Appalachian mountain tops, windy highway roads almost beckoning you to see what’s around the next bend. (For more pics see @ChalcraftyAdventures on Instagram) It was a short sub-2 hour trip into the northern part of Asheville, where we were scheduled to stay the first of our two nights in the city at Campfire Lodgings. Campfire is set up in the mountains outside the city, with stunning views of the surrounding scenery.
This was the first opportunity we had to actually enjoy an RV campground in the daylight, as our first stop saw us pulling into Rocky Top right as it was closing, and as the waning light of the sun disappeared behind the Tennessee hills. After we set up, we decided to go for a hike in the woods around Campfire. Within 30 minutes, we saw a large wild turkey that wanted nothing to do with us as it meandered through the forest, a doe staring at us through the trees, and a family of hawks (not sure what kind but they were large) circling the forest for their next meal.
After our hike we decided that with a name like Campfire Lodgings, it was a must that we start a fire at our camp. I cooked Columbus’ own Schmidt’s Bahama Mama sausages over the fire, while Morgan prepared fried potatoes and veggies on the RV stove. A special thanks to our friends Mark and Alyssa for the parting gift of some delicious bubbly, which we enjoyed every drop of with our rustic campfire dinner.
Without a doubt, the best part of our stay at Campfire was the sunset over the mountains.
We’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit, which means we’ve seen a lot of gorgeous sunsets. This one was near the top of the list. Something about being in the middle of the woods, on top of a mountain, with the smell of open-fire cooking wafting in the background made it extra special.
When you stay at RV parks, you have the ability to meet all different sorts of people. Our neighbor on this night was a man in his early 50s named Stormy. He stays at the campground for months at a time, helping out with chores and management duties, all while living the RV life. He told us stories of backpacking solo into the middle of the forest in the western US for weeks at a time, kayaking the New River rapids, and also of the family of bears that live on the grounds at Campfire. Apparently there is a mother black bear and her cubs that frequent the area searching for an easy meal. We were advised to thoroughly clean up after ourselves in terms of our dinner, unless we wanted large fuzzy four-legged visitors outside our door in the middle of the night. Luckily, we didn’t have any frightening bear encounters, although I was slightly disappointed we didn’t get the see them.
The next morning we began to pack our things and decided to shower before heading into the city for a night at a hotel. Unfortunately, the showers at our camp were out of order, so we were forced to use our RV shower for the first time. For the experienced RVers reading this, feel free to make fun of us for the next statement, but we didn’t realize that you need to keep your RV on a level platform in order for the water in your shower to make it down the drain. There’s this thing called gravity. You may have heard of it. If not, google Sir Isaac Newton, and he’ll tell you all about it. We didn’t take that into account when we parked. Also, in order to conserve water, you should turn the shower off when you’re washing your hair and scrubbing your various body parts. Otherwise, your water tanks will fill up quickly and you’ll have to dump and refill more often. Taking all this into consideration, you can probably deduce that our showers consisted of brief periods of getting wet, followed by moments of scrubbing and shivering sans any water flow, followed by trying to ninja kick water down the drain so the shower didn’t flood the RV cabin. Easily one of my more memorable showers, but a lesson learned nonetheless.
After our RV ‘spa session’, we headed back down the mountain to see what the city of Asheville was all about. For the hardcore RVers, you may be shaking your heads at the fact that we left a perfectly good RV park for the comfort of a hotel. It’s true, during this road trip we’re going to be frequenting hotels and friend & family houses in various cities, leaving the RV life behind for 24-48 hours. There are multiple reasons for this. First and foremost, most RV parks are located outside of cities, and the point of this trip is it get to experience the cities, as well as the country landscapes, and exploring cities can be hard if you’re staying in an RV. It also gives us a chance to shower in a nice place, and take proper care of our dogs in a reliable climate controlled environment.
The last thing we want is to head out exploring and have our RV air conditioner break down, only to come back to 2 dogs who are not happy with us, or worse. There will be times when we will have to rely on the RV for this purpose, but reducing those times reduces our chances that something like that could happen. Our dogs are our family, and we treat them as such.
After checking into the hotel and getting the pups settled, we headed out on foot to grab some lunch and see the sights. Since we were staying in the middle of downtown, most everything we wanted to see was within walking distance. As with most cities, Asheville has a few ‘main roads’ that you need to check out. Lexington Ave is one of those roads. LAB, or Lexington Ave Brewery, is a great place to grab lunch, catch a live band, or bring your dog to lounge on their open-air patio while you sip on one of their in-house brews.
We sampled their beers, a bit of their food (DELICIOUS). and headed next door to The Southern for more food and brews. The Southern has a great happy hour, but only for food. Alcohol happy hours are illegal in the state of North Carolina. Who knew?! Apparently, if you offer a special on drinks, it has to go all day, not just for specific times. I’m guessing this has something to do with NC’s slightly more conservative nature, but Asheville finds it’s own ways to get around these ‘rules’, per usual for this city.
The locals in Asheville were extremely friendly, a bit hippy in nature, but with that Appalachian charm. It’s a southern town, but in a different way. Southern mixed with mountain with a dash of San Francisco. I like all those things. I loved Asheville, and I know that we definitely would love to visit this place again with a group of friends to take in all the town has to offer over a long weekend.
After our mid-afternoon lunch and drinks session, we walked back to our room to relax and check on the dogs. We had fully planned to go out and see live music that night, but unfortunately we were both feeling a bit under the weather when we started this trip, and it finally caught up with us. For the sake of the rest of our adventure, we decided to go to bed early. No need to get even sicker when you have 49 days left ahead on the open road. After a good night’s sleep, we gathered our stuff and set course for the Biltmore Estates, just a few miles south of our hotel. The Biltmore deserves it’s own post, which will follow shortly, but needless to say, it’s huge and lives up to the hype. More to come on that…
All in all, Asheville is no April Fools joke. It’s the real deal! Absolutely cool in an unassuming way. Food – check. Beauty – check. Good people – check. We hope to head back in the very near future.