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On the Road with Bryan

September 2009 - Posts

  • Day 102: Asheville, North Carolina

    I liked Asheville so much I stayed an extra day. In the morning I went for a jog through the neighborhoods on the west side of town. It was beautiful out, warm and sunny but not too hot. Everything was lush green - the trees were full of leaves and the lawns were full of grass. I found a hydrant for sale:

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    You don't normally find fire hydrants in such nice condition, so feel free to call if you're in need

    I headed downtown and went to some cafes and a cool local bookstore - Malaprop's. I bought a couple books and read them in a park. Asheville has a good community feel. It's not a big town - around 75,000 - but it feels like a bigger town because the people come out together. I ran into Jim from the hostel and we went to a couple bars. At the second one there was a strange Irish bluegrass family band playing. They sat in a circle and each of them played a different instrument. It was pretty strange.

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    I ended up having a pretty slow night hanging out at the hostel and playing guitar with Nisha.

  • Day 101: Smoky Mountains --> Asheville, North Carolina

    In the morning I hiked up to lookout rock - a tower built on the tallest point of the rim as a forest fire lookout. It gave pretty good views of the long flat valley to the southeast,

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    northeast,

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    and the industrialization and development creeping in from the west:

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    The Smoky Mountains have always appeared 'smoky' due to condensation trapped in the valleys by the mountain ranges. In the last several decades, smog from nearby industry and auto traffic have caused a 40-60% increase in smokiness (so says the sign at Lookout Rock).

    I drove back through the National Park on Highways 73 and 441. Traffic was heavy through Cherokee, with lots of tourist shops and street vendors. It looked like some type of Native American festival was going on.

    I finally reached Interstate 40 and quickly made it to Asheville. I'd heard good things about Asheville all the way back in Montana. It was kind of early and I ended up heading downtown and hanging out at a cafe. I tried to find a good spot to camp but there was nothing nearby. I ended up staying at the hostel in west Asheville. Everyone was really nice and I ended up making some friends: Casey, who was down from Brooklyn for a kayaking trip in the mountains; Deborah, from Colorado, moving to Asheville to do some forestry research; Jim, an architect from Atlanta who had traveled solo through Mexico; Nisha, a New Zealander who had just moved to Asheville.

    Casey, Deborah and I went out to check out the town and found a pretty good Mexican place for dinner and some neat bars afterwards, including a great example of an authentically-named Irish Pub:

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  • Day 100: Smoky Mountains, Tennessee & North Carolina

    I left Memphis the next morning and drove east along highway 40 through Nashville. Memphis calls itself 'the home of the blues,' while Nashville calls itself 'the home of country.' I drove through the main strip and it looked about how you'd expect - lots of music venues and bars, lots of tourists walking around snapping pictures. I didn't feel like stopping and pressed on eastward.

    When I turned off of Interstate 40 onto Highway 73 I could see the Smoky Mountains ahead in the distance. They were indeed pretty smoky-looking:

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    I continued along highway 73 through Townsend and into the national park. There was no fee to enter. The road became very windy and I got stuck behind RV's and buses moving like baby carriages around the corners. Back and forth, back and forth. It took quite awhile to get to the Elkmont Campground. Of course, it was full. The ranger said that all the campgrounds in the park were full, but that if I would backtrack 40 miles around the edge of the park I might have some luck at the Lookout Rock campground. So I headed back west along highway 73, through Townsend and Kinzel Springs and took Foothills Parkway south.

    The road climbed uphill towards the lookout and as I drove along the sun was setting to the west and at a turn-off I stopped and admired the view. Sorry, didn't get a picture this time. Anyway, there were still a few spots open at the campground and I set up and made dinner in the dark. Around me the forest was quiet and for the first time in weeks it wasn't scorchingly hot. In fact, it was almost cool outside. It was pretty nice not to have to sweat. I took my time making food - I had picked up some vegetables, black beans, salsa, cheese(of course), etc. and was making burritos. I noticed a flash of light out of the corner of my eye. Then another. I looked more carefully and there were many flashes of light, all through the woods. Fireflies! I had never seen fireflies before. I sat there and watched the fireflies and ate my burritos in the cool night, then went to sleep.

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