The Small World of Asheville
Trip Start Feb 10, 2009
10Trip End Aug 19, 2009
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After finally leaving Sarasota (which I only ended up doing two days after Laurel left and the ride I caught was with two of her friends) I aimed for heading up the east coast to Asheville, NC
After this set of lively rides I arrived in Asheville to stay with my couchsurf host, a girl named Abby. This gal was a baker by trade, lived in a beautiful house right near the French Broad river in West Asheville, had a huge backyard with a vegetable garden and an area for chickens (the chickens were still growing up in a kiddie pool in the living room. I seem to have been staying with a lot of people with baby chicks in their houses over the span of this trip; this was the third one.), had four amazing housemates who were fond of spending nights out in the back by a bonfire singing sea shanties, and was generally a badass girl to boot. (I found out that their rent for the house was a whopping total of something around $300 per person a month
The first day I was there we went hiking up the towering Mount Mitchell, the absolutely tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. Maybe I'm a little too much of a west coaster for my own good, but when we got to the top and saw the geological marker reading 6684 ft. I was a little under-impressed. Compared to the Sierras and Mount Whitney these are barely foothills; I don't think you can even find a trail to start hiking up Whitney much lower than 8,000 feet. But, beyond my snobbish west coast pride over the size of our mountains, it was easy to see how absolutely gorgeous these mountains were
After a few days of drum circles, art galleries, bike rides around town, and loads of independent book shops (which are my bane when travelling - I spend all my money and all my time in every indie bookshop I find) I wandered my way into a tiny little alleyway having an art fair thing and drifted into a tiny, cute little studio with a bunch of people muddling around talking. Turns out I had wandered in to a raw food cooking workshop where we proceeded to spend an hour learning how to make everything from nut milk to raw crackers to raw bean dips and morning perk-up drinks. Hurray for smalls, hippy towns. Then, ofcourse, we spent far more than an hour schmoozing and enjoying the surprisingly tasty food we had just not-cooked. A gal I was chatting with told me about the Asheville Movement Collective, a group that gets together a couple times a week to take their shoes off, turn on some music, and wordlessly dance for two hours straight - dancing, moving, contact improv dancing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ql0ISYdCypQ&feature=fvw). One of my favorite things in Berkeley had been an incredibly similar weekly dance jam so of course I decided to check out Asheville's version
After raving about how great this dancing group was Abby promised to take me to her favorite dance spot in Asheville: a little dive bar (complete with tacky neon Budweiser sign blacked out so that only the letters "dwe" showed, effectively looking like a neon sign saying "dive") that played only 45s. I've got to say, there are few things quite as cool as dancing to music from the 50s and 60s that you've never heard of, spun entirely on LPs. Plus, this one girl, dressed to the nines in classy 50s secretary wear, took a fancy to our group of friends and danced with us for most of the night. Cool girl, talked a bit, didn't see her again. Two days later I head over the next house I'm couchsurfing at, a punker/co-op-esque house that is raising chickens (once again) and slowly dillapidating while the debaucherous residents take little notice. It's residents: Havely (my Couchsurf host), a tall skinny banjo-playing physicist gal, a dancer turned stripper, a dred-locked gal who had been going to Rainbow Gatherings since age 3, a stripper pole, and the girl from the dive bar. Total random coincidence. You've got to love small towns.
I stayed there for a few days hitting up farmers' markets, live music shows, chatting with an old black man from South Carolina fishing in the river on a sunny afternoon (needless to say, he was awesome), and generally falling in love with Asheville. It is in such a beautiful area, has an amazingly lively arts and music scene, and still has a wonderful small town feel to it. Even though I've spent most of my life growing up in large cities I definitely feel an affinity for small towns and felt really drawn to Asheville while I was there and am sure I will be back some time. But, as the world rolls on, unfortunately halfway through my planned stay my grandmother died
She was an amazing woman who at age 93 had just moved across the country out to the west coast, so I was looking forward to spending time with her and hearing all the stories of her life after my travels. On a whim I called her one night and managed to talk with her for much longer than she usually likes to stay on the phone. Two days later she died. I can't possibly do justice to a woman like my grandmother by eulogizing her here, but I will say that she was one of the strongest charactered people I have ever known and I am sure that is how she managed to keep going until age 93 and why she passed away exactly how and when she wanted to. She was an impressive woman and I can only hope to learn more about her incredibly rich life through the stories she left behind now that she has passed on.
That brought an end to my time in North Carolina as I headed out to New Jersey for her funeral. Despite the sad cause, it was still nice to see all my extended family in the midst of all these travels and interactions with no one but strangers. I know I will return to Asheville some day and so despite having to leave prematurely, I'm glad to have at least discovered another solidly good place in this country.
Thus concluded my brief stay in North Carolina. Onwards to New York City - not quite the place to be while recovering from a funeral.