Flashback: From Beer City to the Blue Ridge

A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness... all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find...that we do not take a trip: a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-grass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away.
— John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley, 1962.

Acting on a tip from a pair of coffee shop owners on Tybee Island, we diverted our route and headed to Asheville, North Carolina. A huge departure from our previously imagined trek up the eastern seaboard, Savannah left us craving nature and cooler weather. But we hit a snag: it was a weekend. In a beautiful area in close proximity to a city. Campgrounds were booked solid. Walk-in spots had people waiting. So, we opted for an RV park. The place we unhitched was most definitely the most beautiful RV park we've come across. In the evenings at sunset, the whole (small) park congregated to watch the sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains, evening beverages in-hand.

 Campfire lodgings near asheville, nc

Campfire lodgings near asheville, nc

The next morning, we woke up ready to get beer into our bellies. We cooked a breakfast at camp, and slowly made our way into town for lunch at the White Duck Taco Shop where we channeled our SF line-waiting skills and ate crazy tacos like Korean Beef Bulgogi, Duck Mole and Jerk Chicken.

 Many good vibes to be had in Asheville.

Many good vibes to be had in Asheville.

There were so many breweries to choose from in Asheville that it was like Disneyland for a beer-lover. Thanks to our wonderful friends and camp neighbors, we managed to hone it down to a few choice places. Wicked Weed remains a favorite for both of us -- the beer was good, but the experience was like none other. Guys are cleaning the tanks and working the brewery just feet from where you sit on the patio, drinking your Summer Shandy. The sounds, the sights, the smells... all of it builds to create a great beer experience.

In the end, we were sad to leave Asheville, but we were off to camp deeper in the mountains, opting for the obvious and scenic route on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway to camp

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway to camp

We drove slowly up the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping to explore small towns that piqued our interest along the way. My favorite of these stops was where we stopped for brunch: Knife and Fork in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. My dish had "chicken of the woods" mushrooms that -- for real-- tasted like I was eating bites of chicken. My mind was blown. The food was all locally sourced, the trout freshly caught nearby. It was a Sunday, and the rest of the town was sleepy, every last store was closed.

After lunch, we shoved on and stopped in Avery County (because, obviously) at a winery for some live music. A disappointing stop, we were eager to get to our campsite at Stone Mountain State Park so that we could cook on the campfire and get some rest so that we could hit the trail early in the morning. 

 Hiking in the blue ridge mountains. Stone Mountain STate Park, NC. Pictured: 

Hiking in the blue ridge mountains. Stone Mountain STate Park, NC. Pictured: 

We packed in a lunch and sat in the middle of nature, right near a waterfall. We pointed out crazy centipedes, frogs and chipmunks to A as we hiked along. Once we passed the huge "waterslide," no one else was on the trail. It was glorious.

The thing about planning a journey of this magnitude is that it is, by its essence, unplannable. Steinbeck so beautifully wrote about this in his 1962 memoir, Travels with Charley. The diversion to Asheville was beautiful, and fed our souls in ways we needed most. But it means now that our whole itinerary, as it was, is scrambled. We're now planning as we go; in our letting go we've found the most fun, the most reward, and the most rest. 

So far the 'Flashback' series is working out ok -- it's taking the pressure and stress out of getting posts up ASAP, but I'm still trying to find a balance between ruminating on a place we've just been and actually having enough detail to keep the posts interesting. Let me know what you think in the comments!