day three, Asheville

I saw a beaver at a brewery. Right at that boundary line between urban and natural settings, roadside parking meets a steep slope down to a river, and I saw a flash of his fat little butt and I went closer to look and he had the same instinct – came back to look back at me. It’s not the greatest picture, but here he is.

Then I did some more walking around town including a purposeful visit to Malaprops – I had passed by during my walk on the urban trail, but this time I went sans Hops. I just wanted to look around. They have this great idea, though –

so I wanted to reward it. I bought a book. It turned out I had already read that book; I exchanged it for another book. I had already read that one, too. I picked out a third and approached my new friend at the register, and asked her, what happens if I go three for three? And she replied with her sweet Southern accent, “Well ma’am, we will just have to escort you from the store.” Luckily, third time’s the charm. This just tickled me. As she pointed out, I’m their people.

Hops and I enjoyed a little evening time at Green Man Brewing while waiting for the night’s big event. This was a pleasant place to sit and enjoy a beer or two – dog friendly – and I showed the bartender my green man tattoo, which however I cannot show you here because I don’t seem to have a picture of it. Hmm. Here are some Green Man pics from the brewery, though.

Then on to The Orange Peel for Tank and the Bangas! I was super excited about this happy coincidence, that they fit my schedule so nicely. I’ve never seen them live. But first, I enjoyed opening sets by Maggie Koerner and, especially, Alfred Banks – I bought a cd by the latter. All three acts come out of New Orleans. Now, when Tank and the Bangas came on, I was really stoked. In part, I have to hand it to this Asheville crowd. They responded when asked to sing along, to respond, even just to crowd into the stage for the first opener’s first song. I think a Houston crowd would have been too cool. Anyway, the energy was great, and that is completely true of Tank and the Bangas as well: ten members onstage, all of them moving and shaking and dancing and jamming along in their own ways. It was an energetic, upbeat, gorgeous show. I’m so glad I got to see this!! Do make it a point if they come your way.

best I could do with my phone

day two, Asheville

I can see it’s going to take me some time to take this town in.

A fine morning: I put in some work, and then headed into the woods. Hops and I took a short hike and I rode some trails in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest, which (as far as I can tell) is part of Pisgah National Forest. The trails were not terribly technically challenging, but the climbing was a challenge for me. And descending so fun!

climbing in Bent Creek

For comparison I went back and looked up a similar picture I took in 2015 or thereabouts…

in the Chuckanut Mountains of Washington state, near Bellingham

I put in some more time reading (oh, this life) and then met up with some friends for dinner and drinks – Larry, from just last week, and our friend Velicia are in town for a conference this coming weekend.

And I spotted this list of live shows coming up, which is part of what’s making it hard to leave town.

Lucinda! Todd Snider! Tank and the Bangas! (as always, click to enlarge)

Good problems, friends. Good night for now.

trail’s end

day one in Asheville

We woke up near Catawba Falls in the Pisgah National Forest and so started our day with that hike, a 2.5-mile round trip gently up to the falls, where the air got cool and crisp – it was a perfect day.

Driving into Asheville, we started with a walk around Biltmore Village. The Biltmore Estate itself is supposed to be a sight to see, but at $65 to enter, I feel like the old class struggle the place represents is being perpetuated. No thank you. The Village is free to walk around, so we did. It’s nice enough, with old brick sidewalks and some fine architecture, but it’s all retail now, of the Brooks Brothers – Ruth’s Chris – Lululemon variety. We had a little dog walk and moved on again.

Lunch was the Purple People Feeder food truck at Wedge Brewing – I was delighted with my veggie-and-rice plate, and Hops got some steak fat (!) on the house; the beers were delicious, and it was a really fine outdoor space. I’m sorry I didn’t get any pictures! From there, we felt replenished to move on to Asheville’s Urban Trail, a historic walking tour of downtown. I used this map on my phone, cross-referencing with Google maps. It’s not the best guide; we definitely missed some of the sites, and some of them were a little underwhelming. My advice to future travelers would be to use this tour as a vague guide, but feel free to roam around. Some of what I found on my own was cooler than what was on the list of sights to see. That said, Asheville does have a rich historic downtown, teeming with people on foot (I love it!), and I’m glad we spent a little time.

By the time we finished, though, Hops and I were both pooped. I don’t know how many miles we walked today, between the Falls hike and the Village and this Urban Trail, but it was enough (Asheville’s downtown is not flat). I wanted to hit one of the downtown breweries but got frustrated looking for parking (tired, hungry), and ended up heading back to the River Arts District, where we visited Wedge earlier. This time we landed at New Belgium’s Asheville location. I’ve visited them in Fort Collins, and found this one very similar in layout (that was 15 or so years ago, so take that as you will). It’s well designed for visitors, with a large, glass-walled taproom, decks with views, a huge park space out front filled with dogs and kids and bikes as I arrived around 6pm on a sunny day. The brewery is a separate space; they do tours but they keep it a bit apart, which seems like a good plan to me.

I had another fine vegetarian meal from Bun Intended food truck, and slaked my thirst.

it was a long and thirsty day, but a good one.

Boone and on

A new state!

Hops and I rolled into Boone, NC in the afternoon, checked out the town a bit before bed…

And the next morning, I rode the gorgeous trails at Rocky Knob.

By the time I finished, though, I was very dirty and very cold. We fled to lower elevations, finding a perfectly lovely spot in the Pisgah National Forest.

While I enjoyed Boone very much, the presence of ski equipment (cold!!) and lack of visible diversity make this a place I’d visit, not live.

Asheville tomorrow, though…

good night. (night sky near Catawba Falls)

Johnson City, Tennessee

I have had the loveliest stay with Larry, Karin, and Karin’s sister Ta. For one thing, I was way overdue for some hygiene-related comforts. Hops is soooo glad to be here.

Hops on a couch. his happy place.

I spent a day with Larry, thrifting/antiquing/picking – he runs a few antique booths and does vintage clothing sales online. I was very firm about not buying anything – because I live in a van – but did end up dropping $4 on a jacket that fit me perfectly. Ah well. He also gave me a very nice driving tour of town, on a nasty day to do it any other way. I’m impressed with Johnson City overall. It checks many of my boxes: walkable/rideable; a little local culture in the form of art, theatre, bookstores; a little ethnic diversity; a university; local trails. Larry’s selling it.

Day two, we headed out for a pretty serious brewery/pub crawl, facilitated by much nicer weather.

On my way out of town, I walked the sculpture garden at Founder’s Park.

It was another beautiful day, and I was a little sorry to see Johnson City go. I wish I’d ridden some trails, and checked out some local theatre. Maybe next trip. But North Carolina was calling…

still crossing Tennessee

On a final full day’s drive across Tennessee, I’ve continued to enjoy the scenery very much. Also,

  • I sort of regret not stopping in Sparta, Tennessee because it looks like a neat little town. I should have stopped and walked around.
  • Spring City has a Hammer Time Fitness, a Blistered Chicken Saloon, and a road called Ideal Valley. Whoever is in charge of naming things in that town is doing a good job.
  • And in the town of Maryville, there is a West Coast Tattoo. Which makes me scratch my head.

I made a point of going to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where Cade’s Cove had been recommended to me. Thanks, Sharon! It was a really amazing drive.

But after a long day, it was soooo nice to come “home” to see my buddy Larry

and meet his lovely wife Karin.

Showers! Laundry! Friends, and Hops on a couch. Thanks, bud.

crossing Tennessee

I am overjoyed with the free camping in Tennessee! We found the most lovely site on the Natchez Trace Parkway, where we were able to park for free, use a flush toilet and a picnic table, and access the Natchez Trace hiking trail. It scarcely warmed up to freezing during the several days we spent here, though, so we spent almost all of it inside the van. Hops’s water bowl froze solid overnight, again. Brrrr.

But we got out for a lovely hike; I did about two miles, and Hops did at least double that, running back and forth as he does.

I think he took on the extra mileage to stay warm.

The next day we drove east again, with a little company

and the heater on full blast. We found another lovely free campsite! This one had no bathrooms, but a very nice view of Watts Bar Lake; it was even warm enough to sit outside for 30 minutes or so before we had to bundle back in. Brrrr.

In another day or two we have a proper host who may let us come indoors, and it’s about time.