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  • C Bracknell

May 2016 Asheville Visit

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Back in April, we went down to Asheville to help my sister and bother-in-law clean out his parents house so they could sell it. Afterward, we drove to Greenville, S.Carolina to see their second home, visit their son, and his wife and baby.

On the way home the next day, as we traveled back through Asheville, we decided we wanted to come back to see more of the area, such as the botanical garden and the NC Arboretum.

We had traded our 13 feet camper for a 17 feet one and was itching to try it out. Our plans was to leave after church and make the three hour drive to a campground on the French Broad River a little outside Asheville in Woodfin.

Sunday, May 1

The weather forecast had significant periods of rain in it, but each time we checked it, it changed a little for the better. We made the trip without any rain during the drive and the only hitch was a disabled truck on I-81 outside of Bristol, which backed up traffic and delayed us for about twenty minutes.

Interstate 26 from south of Johnson City to Asheville is always a beautiful drive, especially in the spring and fall. In mid-spring all the trees and grass has a fresh tender look about it. The big mountain range to the along the North Carolina border loom large. Much of the Appalachian Trail follow that ridge. There is one giant climb at Sam's Gap at the state line that one really feels when pulling a camper. It is also at Sam's Gap where AT crosses coming up from Hot Springs.

The campground was right down on the river. Our GPS directed us in, but we had to go past the entrance and go up the road a ways to turn around because the driveway had a hard angle back to the right and I knew the camper would not make that kind of turn. When we arrived back at the campground, I let Rhonda out to go and register after we got off the road. There was no place to park or hardly to stop up near the office. As I got down near the first sites, the owner came down to direct me in to one of the few sites they had left. I had call about four hours earlier to may sure they had something.

We were soon set up and took a walk down the road along the campsites to stretch our legs after an almost four hour drive. The guy next to us had come up from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to be near his son who had just relocated in Asheville after college. He said he had been there almost a year. The couple on the other side was staying a conversion van.

We ate supper inside because there were a few gnats bothering us when sitting at the picnic table. Our neighbor told us that our site and the one next to us had been rehabed by putting in gravel, a concrete pad and a new picnic table. We tried to tune the TV for some entertainment and weather reports, but down on the river there was no reception.

This was our first night in the new travel trailer. We upgraded because we, after three years in the other camper, decided we wanted three things in a camper. First, we wanted a bed that we both could get up from either side. The previous one had a bed that was oriented from side to side. The inside person would have to crawl over the other person to get up, or the outside person would have to draw up their feet and legs. The new camper has a RV queen size bed (which means it is a few inches shorter than a standard queen). I was concerned that my feet might come uncovered, but it work out with no problem.

The second thing we wanted was a dinette that could be left set up full time (it can also made into a single bed). It is so handy to use it for board games, cards, laptop use, watching TV and of course, dining. When situations are right, I like eating outside at the picnic table under the awning, but if it is rainy or drizzly, or real cool, then eating inside is good. I had build a small pedestal table for the other camper that we stored under the bed, but is was small and not the best for two to sit at. It still beat setting up and taking down the main dinette that was also the platform for the bed.

The third upgrade was a sink in the bathroom. The other camper had a small tub/shower and toilet, but not a sink. Our current bathroom has a nice vanity sink and a mirrored medicine cabinet with storage on both sides. There is also an electrical outlet. The old one did not have an outlet or a mirror.

The former trailer only had one inside outlet. I added an additional one by branching off the outside outlet and placing it on the opposite of where the factory installed one was. The new camper came with five (5) inside outlets. I added an additional one up behind the TV to free up one of the plugs by the counter. I put in a receptacle and ran a heavy duty cord through the cabinet to the microwave outlet.

The new camper also has “blue tooth capability built into the radio system. The one previously had slots for a memory card or flash drive. I miss that because it was a little easier that connecting to the Bluetooth. Both have a plug in spot to add and auxiliary device such as a cd player or mp3 player. The 2016 model has a switch to cut off the outside speakers. The old was probably wired wrong, because I could not completely mute the outside speakers. The would certainly be a problem if there were other close units; which is often the case.

Monday, May 2

Monday morning started out great. We had a good breakfast and headed out to the botanical garden on the edge of the campus of UNC Asheville. We stopped at a Dollar Tree before getting on the interstate to pick up a writing tablet, some mother's day cards, and a Mountain Dew. It was a perfect morning for walking through the gardens. There were lots of wildflowers blooming and they were nicely labeled.

Back about thirty years previously, when I was in Asheville for a convention, there was a great barbecue place call Bill Stanleys. They had bluegrass bands playing in the evenings (or maybe just weekend evenings). I learned it was no longer around. We saw a place on the tourist map that was just a few blocks away called Luella's and headed that way. After a shared plate of pulled pork and smoked turkey with collards and fried okra on the side, we headed to the visitor's center on Montford Ave.

There was a trolley tour of the city, so we decided it was the quickest and best way to get a good look at and some history of the city. The driver/tour guide was very knowledgeable and entertaining. We started off with a ride through the historic Montford historic district. It had began as a separate village from 1893 to 1905. Most of the houses were the Victorian style built before 1925. Our first stop was beside two B&Bs both with unique architectural of that period. Highland Psychiatric Hospital was on the edge of the neighbor where F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, Zelda , died in a fire along with eight others in 1948. Also, a number of famous people came to Asheville in the first half of the twentieth century to be treated for lung related ailments and diseases.

We got off the trolley at Pack Park right in the center of downtown, where Broadway and Patton Avenue near the monument of Governor Vance. We walked around the downtown streets for an hour and reboarded the trolley to finish the tour which took us by the town hall and courthouse (unique architecture), Thomas Wolfe house, the Grove Park Inn, the art district down on the river and Biltmore Village. The village was built by George Vanderbuilt for the workers who were building the Biltmore House. While crossing an intersection in the village, the trolley hit a dip and it sent Rhonda crashing to the floor. She hit her arm on our seat arm rest and her head on the adjoining seat. She got a scrape and a bump, but it turned out not to be long lasting.

Back at camp, I mounted the bike rack and move the bikes from the camper rack to the truck. Our plans for the next day was to located the French Broad River Greenway and the old NASCAR track at Carrier Par and ride on both.

The race car track was the Asheville Motor Speedway from 1960 to 1999. There were some big name drivers racing there in the sixties and seventies. It was a third of a mile oval track. The city of Asheville dedicated as a park and greenway in 2010.

Tuesday, May 3

It rained heavy several times during the night and it took it a while for the threatening clouds to move out. Our GPS helped us to locate the park down near the art district. We parked at a lot about 75 yards from the track. The greenway ran right beside it along the river for two miles from Hominy Creek Park to FBR park. On the return trip, we saw two guys on stand up paddle boards going down the river. The river was up due to the rains and it must have been right for the activity.

We rode to Hominy Creek Park first and then returned for a few spins around the track. The chain link fence gate was locked, but there was access to the infield using stairs and/or a ramp and walkway that went across the track from above the start finish line. From the infield we got on the track. The inside lane was for walkers and runners and the outside two lanes were for bikes. I rode about 10 laps. During one of the laps, I pumped the pedals vigorously to attain a speed of 20 mph; a far cry from the 80 plus miles per hour of the race cars.

After riding the track and the rest of the trail and up and back, we had lunch back at the truck. I loaded the bikes and we sat down on the wooden barrier surrounding the lot and ate tuna salad, crackers and fruit.

Down the road a short distance was a significant part of the art district. It was primarily old warehouses and former factories along the river being used as galleries for artist. It partly came about because river flooding cause the facilities to be abandoned. We checked out some real neat art spaces and talked with some of the artist doing paintings, baskets, pottery, and fabrics (felting, knitting and weaving). There were some wood carving and metal artist in the area that we didn't visit.

From the art galleries, we headed out toward the Blue Ridge Parkway off Brevard Road to the N. C. Arboretum. The first Tuesday of each month is half price for parking (the only fee). We saved six dollars. We spent several hours walking through the gardens. The gardens were located on a beautiful site of 434 acres in the Pisgah National Forest next to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

There was fountains, fantastic landscaping, a bonsai exhibit, the National Native Azalea Repository, the stream garden, the quilt garden, the holly collection, the model train exhibit (G scale), plus the education center, the Baker Exhibit Center and biking and hiking trails.

There were Metasequoias (giant trees) planted in 1950 and now said to be the tallest in the south (over 100 feet in height). Unfortunately, we did not realize they were there and we missed them. There were a couple of other things we missed. Guess we did not do enough research ahead of time. We may need to go back.

On the way back to the campground, we stopped at a seed and bulb store called the Eden Brothers. They had about eight isles of three tiered shelving with bins of packaged seeds; both flowers an vegetables in small envelops and larger plastic bags of seed by ounce or the pound. We also stopped at an Ingles for salad fixing, and some roasted chicken for supper and hamburger to grill the next evening. Rhonda found her favorite brand and flavor of seltzer so we got two cases.

I moved the bikes back to the camper, put the bike rack back in the truck and put the heavy duty hitch back on the truck. We ate supper inside again because is was getting breezy and cool. Before bedtime, we tried to watch a movie, but I could not find the remote and the low end DVD player did not have the manual play button.

Wednesday, May 4

The next morning, Rhonda made cheese garlic biscuits that we usually have with chicken stew. We also had a standard can of sausage gravy. We ate all we wanted and still had some left. We had gotten a new next door neighbor who camped out of this Toyota pickup. I saw him up and heading for the shower, so when he returned I offer the leftover to him. He thanked me, but left before I could find out if he liked them. He had told me the evening before that he was heading out to Wyoming to the Grand Teton National Park, where he had been working last year. He had left an old travel trailer out there and was going back to live in it while he worked for the park.

I did the break down thing and we headed up to Erwin, Tennessee to ride a four mile trail along the North Indian Creek and the Nolichucky River. It was a much nicer trail than we had expected. We started bear the middle and did an up and back in both directions for an eight mile ride. We met a group of a half dozen ladies on the trail from Kingsport, Tn who were on their regular Wednesday ride.

After lunch at Taco Bell, we headed out to find the Rock Creek Forest Service Campground. When we arrived, we found the gate to the campground was locked. The website said it opened on May 1st. I was quite aggravated. It one of a number of time I have found the forest service to be lacking in the area of customer service. I think it would have been easy for them to put an alert on the website to say it was not yet open. They could have possibly attached a temporary sign to the directional sign down at the intersection in town saying it was closed.

I had done some research on another campground in the area of the Nolichucky River. The GPS sent us in that direction. At the river, we went up a narrow road for about a mile. The road was not much wider than the truck and camper. I was concerned what we would do if we met someone. Up at the campground, we discovered that they did not have sewer hookups or a dump station. There had not been any back at the FBR campground either and I want to empty the tanks to get rid of the weight. We decided not to stay. The campground was mainly for those rafting down the river. There was a raft company there with several old school buses that transported the people and rafts. I definitely would not have wanted to meet one of those on that narrow road.

We headed back out to the interstate and north toward Johnson City. Just past Erwin, we saw a sign for the Wood Smoke campground, so we decided to give it a look.

It was an extremely neat facility. It was laid out up a small hollow with a row of sites on each side. The owner said it was built seventeen year ago and had the appearance it had been well cared for. Only about a quarter of the sites were occupied. I would rate it in the top 10 of the hundreds of facilities we have stayed at over the years. It fit nearly all the criteria; level, easy to enter sites, covered shelters at many sites, clean, neat and spacious bathhouse, quiet and wifi close by.

We had another great trip with better weather than we thought from hearing forecasts. We made it home by lunch. After lunch, we began the task of unloading. Our next trip will be at the end of the month to Pigeon Forge with friends that we will be attending a spiritual conference for two days and then some activities in the area.

*When we went to empty the waste tanks at the Wood Smoke Campground, we found out there was no sewer hose stored in the bumper. A camping neighbor gave an extra they had. We called Johnson RV when we returned and discovered that they fail to give us the starter kit which included the sewer hose, a water hose and pressure reducer, a electrical converter plug, biodegradable toilet paper, and tank chemicals. When we went to pick them up, I found the DVD player remote in the old camper still on the site.

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