05 July 2010 (Week Two)
Now that we have finally caught up reporting on our activities leading up to us arriving here in Asheville we are already hitting the road again, this time for a few days of backpacking in the nearby Smoky Mountains. As we alluded to earlier, we really like it here in town. Here is what we have been up to:
We arrived a few afternoons ago to the Bon Paul & Sharky’s hostel in West Asheville. We had reserved in advance for a “camping” spot, learning quickly that we would be sleeping in some scrappy grass in the backyard of a house, in between a parking lot and noisy Jacuzzi. We set up our little tent and mattress, unloaded our perspiring cooler (it is hot!) and soon set out on bikes up and down the hills into town.
Asheville is a pretty, peaceful place. We made it to the town center in time to see crowds of locals and visitors perched on the greens for the free weekly bluegrass concert put on in July and August. All around are little bluegrass picking parties and jam sessions and we smiled at our good music fortune. Little did we know what we had coming up! After awhile, we started to stroll, pleasantly overwhelmed by the amount of local food and business information we were bombarded with. From newsstand publications to bumper stickers and a city wide store front window campaign we learned that Asheville and the whole Western North Carolina (WNC) region is dedicated to supporting local business and bolstering local farming. From what we can see, the city is thriving on these efforts, and the people around us seem healthy and happy.
We pass by numerous lively venues and are attracted by a sign that says The Asheville Country Review. Some of the band members are setting up for that night’s show and suddenly I notice Adam is getting excited about something. On our way into Asheville we had just been discussing our favorite contemporary bluegrass group, Town Mountain, who are local to this area. We were sad to know they didn’t have any Asheville shows coming up, so were more than surprised when Adam recognized their banjo player in the bar. It turned out that The Asheville Country Review is made up of three members from Town Mountain and some friends and now we are going to see them perform. What luck!
Over Carolina peach ice cream and local beer we listened to their performance of some 1970’s style electric country and were satisfied. Looking around the room we also felt, for the first time in a long time, like our unkempt hair and beard (Adam only) and practical but not very stylish clothing were not attracting the watchful attention of anyone in the bar. In fact, people were dancing in their Chacos and sporting more hair than we could ever hope to grow. Awesome.
Exhausted from the day’s drive, we decided to head “home” and get some rest. Wishful thinking. Settling in to our tent, we realized that between the truck engine volume of the Jacuzzi motor, the giggly voices of its inebriated bathers and the electric parking lot lights looming over us that tonight would not be the night. Eventually drifting off in the wee hours, we were forced from our tent by the hot morning sun far too early, setting the tone for day two in Asheville.
We rose for Independence Day groggy and set about catching up on a few days worth of stored words and pictures from our farm visits. Breaking only for a light lunch, we took the whole heat of the day as relaxation time, planning the four-day hike in the Smokys that we will start tomorrow morning. Finally, in the relative coolness of the evening, we set out into town again, returning to the main square where an even larger crowd was gathered, this time for the 4th of July festivities.
We had an all-American evening. We strolled amongst funnel cake stands and street musicians playing folk tunes. We drank flavored sodas (made with local cherry syrup) and ate cake at the wonderful French Broad chocolate shop and lay in the grass to watch an incredible fire works display, oohing and ahhing with the crowd around us.
Patriotism can come in all shapes and sizes. The kind that we experienced this Independence Day was some of the purest. Simple and neighborly and happy to live in a country where thousands can lie in peace and enjoy folk music and fresh ice cream and fireworks without worry. At least for the evening. Mountains and stars and cicadas encircled us completing the picture of American the Beautiful. We will leave this place refreshed.