After six months of rest in Savannah, Georgia, Kim and I have resumed our road trip across the United States. We spent last weekend loading the RV (and shipping stuff home — expensive!) Then, at long last, on the morning of Tuesday the 29th we headed west.
Or northwest, I guess.
Here’s Bigfoot, patiently waiting to be pulled out of storage
The Return Plan
When we left Oregon last spring, we didn’t have much of a plan. We wanted to see as much of the country as possible, but our route was up in the air. On the return trip, we have a bit more structure.
For one, we can eliminate the places we’ve already been. That means there’s a lot less territory to cover on this leg.
For another, we have a better idea of the kinds of places we like to visit and how we like to visit them. We like national parks. We like funky towns. We like music and food. We like history. We don’t like big cities and we don’t like generic middle America. (What’s the point of spending time in a city that could be any other city in the country?)
During the two weeks before we left Savannah, I spent time reading about the places we’re going. This, in turn, led to me trying to calculate the optimal route. We think we’re going to make a sort of S through the south during April and May, explore the state of Texas in June, then make our way into the Southwest again. In August and September, we’ll hover around the Pacific Northwest. If our housesitters find a place before October 1st (our target return date), then we’ll probably make a bee-line back to Portland.
Based on all of this, we have a rough schedule mapped out. (This is something we didn’t do on the first leg last year.) We know roughly where we’ll be when. The first three weeks are actually scheduled — we’ve booked our stops in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky. And stop number one was Asheville.
Asheville, North Carolina
“You have to visit Asheville,” our friends told us before we left Portland a year ago. “It’s a funky place. There’s lots of beer. You’ll love it!”
“You have to visit Asheville,” folks in Savannah said when we told them we were traveling the U.S.
“You have to visit Asheville,” readers have been emailing.
Got it. First stop: Asheville.
Asheville is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. Even in early spring, with the trees still bare, the place is beautiful. (We kept imagining what it must be like when all the trees have full canopies. And how amazing the colors must be in the fall.)
The Biltmore Estate is the best-known attraction in Asheville. George Vanderbilt — one of the lesser heirs to the Vanderbilt fortune — built this 179,000-square-foot mansion in the 1890s. For several decades, the sprawling grounds served as home for George and his family. Today, it’s a huge tourist attraction. It’s fun to stroll the grounds and imagine what it must have been like to live here one hundred years ago: sort of like Downton Abbey in the Carolinas.
Like Downton Abbey in the Appalachians…
My favorite part of our stay in Asheville was the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile road that runs along Appalachian ridges in Virginia and North Carolina. I like scenic drives, and this is one of the best. Part of the charm is that no commercial signage is allowed along the road. (And I think there are restrictions on commercial buildings too.) Instead of being constantly bombarded by signs and shops, you’re treated to wonderful views of unspoiled wilderness. I like it.
Kim and I also enjoyed the good food and the good beer. We enjoyed the beer a little too much, I think. We were in Asheville four nights, and we spent four evenings at four different breweries. Yum!
We enjoyed the rock garden at Green Man Brewery
Because we each gained weight (and girth) during the trip east last year, we’ve agreed to not stock alcohol in the RV. We think this will help keep the calories off. But it doesn’t help if we find a brewery for dinner every night! (Another difference? Last year, we tried to keep costs down. This year, that restriction isn’t in place. We’re not planning to go crazy with money, but we’re not intentionally trying to restrict our spending either.)
Getting a Feel for Things
Another aspect of this first stop was re-learning what it’s like to live in the RV. How do things work? Where do things go? What do we do to give each other space? We had a tentative first couple of days, but now things are humming along nicely.
We also had to perform a bit of maintenance. There were a few loose ends left over from September, and a couple of new things that had cropped up during the winter. Kim was very pleased with herself when she figured out how to replace the headlight (something I hadn’t been able to do). She insisted that I take this photo:
Kim was very proud to have solved this problem
Now it’s time to head over the mountains to Tennessee. We’re both eager to see what life is like in the Volunteer State. Our first stop will be Pigeon Forge at the base of Great Smoky Mountain National Park — and home to Dollywood. Kim is a huge Dolly Parton fan and has been looking forward to this particular place for the entire trip.