I always wonder how on the interstates they pick which cities make it on the sign that says however far away you are. Sometimes the listed cities make sense. Other times you’re left wondering how many more miles away you are from your destination, while you know you’re 26 miles away from some podunk hamlet. So at a truck stop in South Carolina I asked some bearded guy who looked like a trucker how far away we were from Asheville.
When he turned around and I got a close-up on him I realized he was every regionally insensitive stereotype of the South you could imagine right down to a t-shirt with a confederate flag. “Asheville. That’s about 70 miles away.”
“Really? We’re that close?’
“Yep, you just got to look at them mile markers and when they go down all the way to zero you’re in Asheville.”
I couldn’t believe how close we were. Only an hour away. But as the number on the mile markers got to single digits I started thinking my memory was faulty. I remembered the drive into Asheville being beautiful, but up to this point it was forgettable. For a while I wondered if I confused in my memory banks the drive into North Carolina with one of the trips I took out west. But then I saw one of those road signs that had Asheville on it and we were 70 more miles away.
I’m sure it was an honest mistake, but somehow I could imagine the guy at the truck stop yukking it up with his friends, “Did I ever tell you about the time I told the city slicker Asheville was 70 miles away when it was really 150. I wish I saw the look on his face when he figured out I pulled a fast one on him.”
On the bright side the drive did get beautiful. there were mountains and leaves changing colors. Two sights I hadn’t seen in years and my daughter had never seen. Leaves of yellow and orange and red falling from their branches.
We got out at a rest stop past the North Carolina border where my daughter got a chance to try walking uphill for the first time. She loves roaming around. On this trip she learned a new trick. If she does not want to be picked up or even have her hand held as she’s walking, she bows down from her waist lowering her center of gravity. It can do wonders for your back when she catches you in the right motion. I’m sure she’ll be yukking up about it one day at the playground.
We made it to our hostel and walked around downtown Asheville where I was able to do some serious vegan eating, southern soul food style. Biscuits with mushroom gravy, sweet potato home fries, greens, corn bread.
The next day we drove out past the border of Tennessee around the Appalachian Trail to see a family friend. We saw beautiful vistas and autumn colors that are not a part of our subtropical lives. As the day grew later my Love Interest got worried. This was a Friday night and the place we stayed at the night before did not have any vacancies, so we were without a place to rest our heads. As we drove back towards Asheville I stopped at a motel where the receptionist was on the phone talking about the rate on the room.
It was more then I wanted to spend, but I figured when he hung up I would ask if he knew a cheaper place in the area. But first an older man seated in the chair reading a magazine asked him, “Do you know a place around here I can buy some beer?”
“There’s the gas station down the hill.”
“Will they have microbrews?”
“They should. Which ones are you looking for?”
“Good ones. You know which ones they have?”
I used to think I would live out in the country or in the woods or in the very least a small town. But being in line listening to this type of slow motion conversation I wonder if I would have the patience. Finally, the guy went to look for his microbrews and I could talk to the clerk. He was filled with foreboding news. According to him he just sold his last room and nowhere around here would have vacancies because of people coming into Asheville to see the leaves changing colors. He recommended driving into South Carolina 100 miles away.
I figured he couldn’t be right. Sure enough the next hotel we stopped at had a vacancy. For $350 a night. If you’re a regular reader here you know my eyes popped out of their sockets. The lady at the desk gave me a list of hotels in the area and the cheapest room was $200. I got back to the car and warned my Love Interest maybe we would have to drive to South Carolina. But the next exit we tried another motel and found a room for the right price.
They might be friendly in the South and they sure got pretty leaves, but they aren’t trustworthy when it comes to distances and motels.