A couple of days ago, Mark and I finished our three-day, 1300 mile (2100 km) road trip from Florida back to New England. We mostly reversed the route we followed towards the sun mid-December. This time, however, the temperature dropped consistently with every state we passed, and the days grew shorter.
Since we kind of had an extra night to spare on the way back, we decided to check out Asheville in North Carolina. Friends and family had recommended this artsy town to us as a place we would like, because of its alternative atmosphere and beautiful mountainous surroundings. In anticipation of a long-term house sit assignment in Asheville (any pet owner living there and planning a vacation? :-)), Mark and I stopped briefly to soak up the vibe. It was January 2nd and the streets were quiet. Finding a parking spot was easy and affordable. The sun was shining and we were ready for a stroll. Once we left the car, the frigid air enveloped our bodies. Where did I put our wool hats? The winter clothes were buried underneath our Florida stuff… After surviving the initial shock of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (as opposed to 80°F in Florida), we buried our hands in our pockets, pulled our hoods over our ears and set out through downtown. This would have to be quick!
The town center is small and hip. After 11am, the stores opened and the sidewalks became busier. We passed the Pinball Museum and warmed ourselves in the well-heated Basilica of St. Lawrence. We spotted a few theaters, some funky statues and shops, and entered an old Woolworth department store that was converted into some kind of art gallery, sporting boots with local artwork. Some “window shopping” revealed nice artisanal pieces, like ceramics, jewelry and paintings, but we were both most impressed with the photographs infused into metal (metal prints) by Walter Arnold. If only we would have a place to hang some art, or some money to purchase one of those prints!
After an hour, we felt satisfied with our city explorations and after quickly checking Asheville’s highlights on TripAdvisor, we pointed our car towards the Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic drive and national park running north-south. The idea was that we would take an alternative, slower, but prettier route for a few hours. I was excited about the possibilities of being in nature again, taking photos from the car (yes, I am lazy), maybe a walk somewhere (OK, maybe not that lazy) and feeling “adventurous” again. Imagine our surprise and disappointment when after ten minutes on the parkway (fold-out map with sites in hand), we were blocked by a road closure. Yep. A gate with a big sign “Road Closed” stopped us from progressing any further. Now what?
We left the national park via a side road and made a two-hour detour, in the right general direction, before entering the Blue Ridge Parkway again, further north. Here, near the closed Linville Visitor Center, we went on an hour-long walk, with tons of other tourists. to see Linville Falls. It is low season, but the sun brightened this holiday weekend. The viewpoints were nice, but it was cold and busy. Exercise: check! Back in the car, we could stay about another hour on the parkway, and take a few photos, before darkness would start setting in. Then, we had three more hours of driving ahead of us, to reach Roanoke, Virginia, where we had booked a motel room.
The last day on the road was a long one again, but we arrived safe and sound in Kent, Connecticut, with all our belongings. Seeing snow along the roads and noticing a temperature of 32 degrees F (0°C) on the dashboard could not dampen our moods. We are both ready to settle and hibernate in the woods for three months!