November 13, 2012

Asheville, NC via the Blue Ridge Pkwy

Saturday morning we joined the Blue Ridge Parkway just before the border with North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile long two lane stretch of scenic highway that runs along the Blue Ridge Mountains, a major chain of the Appalachian Mountains. The north end of the highway actually picks up where the Skyline Drive drops off. The road ends when it runs into the Smoky Mountains National Park, just west of Asheville. We’d done some reading on the Blue Ridge Pkwy and found out that the most scenic portion was right after crossing the North Carolina border, heading south. Since this road is narrow and quite hilly, we decided to skip the first 200 or so miles of it and jump on for the prettiest parts.

The North Carolina border with Virginia on the Blue Ridge Parkway
The North Carolina border with Virginia on the Blue Ridge Parkway 
The parkway literally runs along the mountain ridge, so you get beautiful sprawling views on both sides. There are pull offs for overlooks pretty much every mile, and most have picnic tables so visitors can enjoy lunch with an incredible view. Surprisingly we saw very few cars on the parkway that morning. We pretty much had the road to ourselves, which was nice because we were towing the trailer.

Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway 
The views off of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The views off of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The views off of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The views off of the Blue Ridge Parkway
At one of the scenic overlooks we were joined by an older couple. The gentleman noticed our Arkansas tags and asked if that was where we were from. We got to talking and it turned out he was from Arkansas himself. He was born in Little Rock in 1930 (this man didn’t look a day over 60, I swear!). His grandparents owned a cabin on Pinnacle Mountain, and he and his wife had spent their honeymoon there in the summer of 1952. He’d recently been back with his brother and they had not been able to locate the cabin. A park ranger finally directed them to some cabin ruins he knew of, and after hearing the history behind the cabin, he decided to approach the park system about restoring the cabin as part of the park’s history. They sent letters back and forth clarifying the historic details, and most recently the cabin has been rebuilt. How neat is that?

An hour before dark we decided to take jump off the parkway and take the interstate to Asheville. We found an RV park right on the French Broad River, just minutes from downtown. After a quick walk with the pups along the riverbank, we drove into town. The streets were bustling with people. The city had a really good vibe about it; everyone looked like they were having a good time. We decided to walk around and find a place to eat. At some point we stumbled on Salsa's restaurant, where there was a large crowd gathered around waiting for a seat at one of the tables inside the crowded dining room. We figured it must be a good place for dinner, given its obvious popularity, so we joined in with the crowd and waited for a table, while drinking margaritas at the outside bar. Well, the wait was worth it. We had an excellent dinner, and maybe a couple more margaritas.

Salsa's restaurant in Asheville, NC
Waiting outside Salsa's for our table 
The Pork Relleno Plato at Salsa's restaurant in Asheville, NC
Our yummy Pork Relleno Plato at Salsa's
After dinner we got a tip from a nearby table to get dessert from a café around the corner from Salsa. The café was called French Broad Chocolates. It turned out this was another local favorite, because when we walked up the line was spilling out the front door and into the street. I grabbed a table while Sky stood in line. We picked out a piece of the three layer chocolate cake, paired it with a pot of mint tea, and then enjoyed the next two hours at our table, listening to the live band. We had an excellent opportunity to people watch; during the two hours we were in the café there was a constant stream of customers coming in to pick out their own dessert.

Desert at French Broad Chocolates in Asheville, NC
Dessert at French Broad Chocolates
Sunday we biked on the greenbelt to the River Arts District for the Artist Studio Walk. The Art Walk happens only twice a year in Asheville, so we were lucky to be in town during one of those times. The Riverside Arts District is a bohemian neighborhood where artist studios populate converted factory and warehouse buildings. For the Art Walk, most of the artists opened their studio doors to showcase their work, show visitors their work spaces and to give live presentations of them performing their craft. The event was free and the city donated trolleys for the afternoon to deliver visitors from studio to studio. Some of the studios offered up wine and appetizers, while others put out cookies and hot cider. We had a great time walking around, meeting the artists and watching the live demonstrations. We stayed out until just before dark and then biked back to our home on the river.

At the River Arts District in Nashville, NC
At the River Arts District in Nashville, NC 
An artist shows us how she does her craft
An artist shows us how she does her craft 
At the River Arts District Artist Studio Walk in Asheville, NC
At the River Arts District Artist Studio Walk 
At the River Arts District Artist Studio Walk in Asheville, NC
An artist's workspace
To see more pictures of Asheville and the Blue Ridge Pkwy, click here.

Happy North Carolina Experiences,

M.

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