Wednesday, October 5, 2016

When Plan B works out fine

Maggie's wedding was over. Mary had gone back to her life in Brooklyn. And then Jack left for graduate school in Berlin.  It had been such a joyful time hosting Maggie and Nate's wedding, and all of a sudden, Ed and I found ourselves left alone to adjust to our once-again quiet life at Farm Dover.

We decided a trip was in order. We thought about flying out to Portland to visit family and then driving down the west coast into northern California so I could see a Redwood tree or two. Just as we were about to book our flight, we checked the weather and discovered we were in for a solid week of cold rain. Suddenly, it didn't sound like such a fun trip.

Plan B: Throw our tent and sleeping bags in the car and start driving east. Stop when we want to stop. Go when we want to go. Come home when we've seen enough.

That's just what we did. Last Tuesday, we closed the gate on the farm and headed east toward Asheville, North Carolina. Once on the road, we Hotwired a hotel and ended up at the Hotel Indigo, a modern hotel located in downtown Asheville. We walked around the cooler-than-cool downtown, visiting two used bookstores and a craft brewery. For dinner, we scored two seats at the bar of the highly popular Cúrate, for some traditional Spanish tapas.  I'm still thinking about the rossejat negro: ink squid pasta garnished with aioli and salsa verde.

The next morning, the weather forecast looked dry and so we went looking for a camp site. After exploring the tiny town of Brevard, we picked out a camp site at the nearby Davidson River Campgrounds, in the Pisgah National Forest. It took us five minutes to set up our tent and then we were off for a 4-mile hike around the Daniel Ridge Loop, ending at the 150-foot Jackson Falls. Dinner that night was brats and corn on the grill. Almost as good as that ink squid dish from Cúrate!

The next day we lunched at Rezaz, a Mediterranean restaurant in the Biltmore Village recommended by Maggie and Nate, who heard about it from friend Patrice.  From there we drove north along the Blue Ridge Parkway, stopping just before dark to set up our tent at the Linville Falls Campground.

And since we were right by it, the next morning we hiked over to see the falls. Glad we did. It is a spectacular three-tiered waterfall plunging into the Linville Gorge, better known as the "Grand Canyon of the southern Appalachians." Because we got such an early start, we had the falls to ourselves. Very nice.

We continued to make our way east, breezing through Blowing Rock and Boone, before stopping mid-afternoon in Winston-Salem. Neither of us had ever been to Old Salem, the living history town that recreates the Moravian settlement of Salem from 1766-1840, so we picked it for our afternoon adventure. Good choice. We wandered up and down the streets, checking out the gardens, bakery, tavern, college and cemetery.

We liked it so much that we came back the next morning for the Farmers' Market and to tour the MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts).

From there, you guessed it, we headed east – as far east as we could go and still be in North Carolina. The Outer Banks, here we come. While Ed filled the gas tank, I searched online for a place for us to stay the night. I was warned that 95 percent of the rooms available on the islands were already booked. In a slight panic, I called one of the motels that looked very nice on my ipad and was assured that they had a room we could have. I couldn't believe my good luck! I told the motel owner to hold it and we would be there before dark. We pressed on.

We both started laughing when we saw the sign. It looked like something straight out of the 1960s -- a motel that had not been updated since shag carpeting made its debut.

Oh well, it was (pretty) clean and the bed was more comfy than I expected. Sunday morning we attended the Roanoke Island Presbyterian Church and then went looking for the Lost Colony (didn't find it) before heading to Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers National Memorial, another unexpectedly great outing.

We stayed for a National Park Service Ranger presentation that had me in tears by the end. The Ranger's message was that Wilbur and Orville considered the "impossible" merely a challenge -- and we should to. I really want my four flying nieces to see this memorial and hear this message, but the Ranger reported that the visitors' center is closing for two years for renovations. Maybe some day...

We stayed our final night at the Cape Hatteras Campground. We walked on the beach until it got dark and then headed to dinner at a seafood dive just up the road. The next morning we looked at each other and agreed it was time to head home. Matthew (the storm) was headed our direction and it was time that we turn west and make our way back to Shelby County. We had two choices: backtrack all the way up the Outer Banks or take a ferry to Orcracoke Island and then another one to the mainland. We chose the ferries. Another good choice.

We spent one final night on the road, stopping in Durham and finding an old-school BBQ restaurant for dinner. Can't say much for the decor, but the BBQ, collard greens, and chess pie were mighty fine.

It was a good trip, full of surprises (good and not-so-good). I'm glad I have a partner to go along on such unplanned adventures. Not everyone would like them as much as we do.

And, as always, it was great to back to Farm Dover...

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