This past spring, I had a sudden urge to try traveling alone. The feeling was a little out of character for me – I’m extroverted by nature, and I normally love having someone else around to talk with. Also, there is something very powerful about sharing a new experience with someone, even if you barely know them! Nonetheless, I decided to take a short roadtrip on my own, and in hindsight, I’m really glad I did! If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you give it a try.
My initial itinerary was all over the place. At the time I was living in Atlanta and had seen very little of the southern United States. Where did I want to go the most? Memphis? New Orleans? Nashville? I did a little research (thanks, Pinterest), and quickly added Asheville, North Carolina, to my must see list. It had all the things I was looking for: beautiful scenery (hello, Blue Ridge Mountains), great places to eat, and a thriving arts scene. Seemed like a home run. I made a list of things I wanted to see, booked a place to stay and packed my duffel bag.
I started my trip at around 6 in the morning. There’s something really nice about long drives, especially when I can watch the sun rise from my windshield. My first stop was Craggy Gardens, which was about 4 hours away. At the last minute, I found out some friends were hiking there and I decided to join in. The park is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was a must see on my itinerary. The views on the drive up were stunning! Along the parkway, there are several overlooks where you can stop your car and take photos.
The hike was fun, but a little long. We got lost quite a few times! If you want to visit this park, be aware that the trails are not very clearly marked. Also, bring (or snap a picture of) a map of the trail – that would have saved us a little trouble. It was early March, which is still a little chilly for the Asheville area. I'd recommend bringing several layers to keep warm! At the park entrance I was shivering from head to toe, but once we got moving, I warmed up considerably. Also, if you go in the early spring, there will likely be some ice on parts of the trail. You can get by if you tread carefully, but it's a bit treacherous at times. All in all, we had a fun hike and got great exercise!
After leaving the park, I went to my Airbnb. This was my first experience staying in someone else's home, and I loved it! I only spent about $40 a night for the room, which is cheaper than a hotel room would have cost me on my own. My host, Robin, was really kind and made some small talk with me while I ate a Subway sandwich at her kitchen table. She had another guest staying with her named Travis, and he offered to go with me to some of the local bars in town. We went to Hi Wire, Burial, and Twin Leaf. I’m not a big beer fan, but I even I found a few brews that I liked (they were all dark, German, and named things I can't pronounce or remember)! All in all, it was a nice introduction to the city.
Since it was the weekend, I couldn’t say no to some Southern brunch for breakfast. If there’s one thing I miss about the South, it’s the food. I went to King Daddy’s for some chicken and waffles. I took a recommendation from the waitress and tried the Korean Chicken with the Belgian waffle. Best of all, this meal was only about $10. Happy stomach and happy wallet.
After breakfast, I hit downtown to explore. I hunted around until I found a parking garage with a flat rate of $6.00 for the entire day (I hate garages with hourly rates. They bleed you dry if you plan to spend all day walking around). There was so much to see that I wandered around for hours just soaking everything in. This is by far the best part about traveling alone – you can move at your own pace! I also stopped whenever I saw interesting art or graffiti. One of the most interesting street murals I passed said “BEFORE I DIE:” in big chalk letters over a black background. The creator had left chalk behind so people could write down things they wanted to do, see, or experience in this lifetime. There were tons of other murals painted on the sides of buildings and shops. Everywhere I looked, I saw zany pops of color, and I absolutely loved it.
Live music was everywhere that afternoon. First I saw a huge marching band in the street and then throughout the day I passed all sorts of people busking in the streets: banjo players, country singers, a saxophonist, bluegrass bands and more.
By afternoon the weather had warmed up, so I grabbed a smoothie at Double D’s Coffee and Desserts, which is a coffee shop built inside a refurbished double decker bus. The decoration inside is really funky and colorful! You can even go sit in the upper part of the bus and drink your coffee. Just be aware that they accept cash only, so either come prepared or find yourself an ATM! They tea too, for those who are not fans of coffee.
For dinner I went to Jerusalem at the recommendation of the friends I hiked with the previous day. They serve Moroccan and Mediterranean food and the prices range from $11 (for something smaller like a sandwich) to $18 (for a huge platter of meat). The hummus there is superb. Apparently the weekend brunch menu is delicious also, though I didn't get to try it.
At end the day, I came back to the Airbnb and got some snuggles from Polly, Robin’s cat. To this day, Polly is the only cat I’ve ever really gotten along with. And she didn’t make me sneeze! Miraculous.
It was a little sad to gather my things and leave Robin’s house on Monday morning. I ate a stale pop tart for breakfast (neither filling nor nutritious, but economical!) and hit the road. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to say goodbye to Polly, but I got a nice note from Robin and Travis.
My last stop was the River Arts District. I believe I started at the north end of Roberts Street, but don’t quote me on that. I parked up on a gravel lot at the top of a hill and walked down to the Good Vibes silo. You’ve probably seen it before:
I ducked into a couple art studios. My favorite was called Riverside, (I think?) and it was there that I met Julie Miles and talked with her about her paintings. A few were inspired by her grandfather, who worked on a farm most of his life. I think I still have her business card somewhere. Whenever I see someone else’s artwork, it lights this fire inside of me. Sometimes my creative muse goes dormant for weeks at a time, and an experience in Asheville was what I needed to bring it back to life.
Another realization I had when looking around the art galleries: when I draw and paint, I often focus on recreating what I see as accurately as possible. But I forgot that the beauty of art lies in filtering reality through your own creative lens. It doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, it’s more interesting if it’s imperfect in some way.
For lunch I grabbed tacos at White Duck – SO DELICIOUS. Their menu had taco creations I’d never even imagined. I honestly stood there for 10 minutes trying to decide. Some kind people behind me recommended I get chips and queso on the side with my order. It was a little more expensive but WORTH IT (and that's high praise from a self-proclaimed cheapskate). I decided on the Thai peanut taco and the shrimp and grits taco. I also spent some time admiring the funky décor. I think I’ll draw inspiration from Asheville when I decorate my home one day.
Overall, I loved my weekend in Asheville and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun roadtrip destination! The food, music and art exceeded expectations. Plus, there's plenty of fun things you can do for free! The next stop on my spring break itinerary was Charleston, and I’ll be back later to share my adventures from that leg of the trip.
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