Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Day Three: Durham, NC to Knoxville, TN

Woke up in a Days Inn and threw open the curtains to see a beautiful parking lot and a slightly dingy Waffle House. It was time to move. We headed west on I-40 through Winston-Salem, then took a scenic highway, 421, into the Pisgah National Forest. We drove through small towns, including Daniel Boone’s birthplace. We stopped to take a hike at Sugar Mountain, a ski resort small hill with a chairlift on it. We hiked about halfway up before the slight drizzle turned into a deluge. We ran down the mountain and back to the car. 
 We continued driving through the national forest, passing caverns, antique stores, country farm stands, and a few dead animals. A sign for cider and pie triggered a sharp turn off the highway. We walked into the hidden gem of all roadside stores, Linville River Mercantile in Linville, NC. A couple greeted us and let us know what they had to offer; home baked pies, apple butter, and jam, they were even honored for homemade goods in North Carolina. After perusing the selections, we settled on a slice of banana cream cake. We ate at the small counter and chatted with the owner about his business and our trip. After getting our fill of sugary Southern hospitality we got back on the road, next stop: Asheville.
 Asheville, NC is known as Beer City USA, it has won the award for the past two years, beating out Portland, my home town. The two are apparently competitors in the world of microbrews. I was not disheartened by the eagerness of people to point out Portland’s loss, the pervasive hometown pride was endearing. We popped into Bruisin’ Ales, a store selling over 800 types of beer. Our cooler wasn’t empty, but we couldn’t pass up this opportunity to try unique brews. When in Rome? We spent a good while in the small store reading labels and chatting with the guy manning the store. He gave us some great recommendations of local brews to add to our collection as well as a perfect spot for a dinner that would be on the healthier side, after our lunch of banana cake we were craving some nutrients.

We left the store with a custom six-pack of beers, a T-shirt for Joey and a map of downtown Asheville. For the next two hours, we walked the streets, hopped into stores, boutiques and strolled in the park. A collection of street drummers congregated in a plaza playing percussion that echoed down the street. They were closer in age to my grandpa than to me, and it was great to see then having such a good time entertaining the crowds, although the woman dancing to her own beat seemed entirely oblivious of the people watching her.
The Jack of the Woods Pub was a short walk from the drummers and we stepped inside to sample some of the local goods. I had a Craggie Antebellum from the Craggie Brewery in Asheville. Joey ordered the French Broad Brewing Gateway Kolsch, also from Asheville.
The Craggie on the Left and the French Broad on the right
Jack of the Wood
The restaurant recommendation led us to the Laughing Seed, Revolutionary Vegetarian. Our meal was phenomenal and the perfect recommendation because we both admitted that we would not have chosen this restaurant on our own. For an appetizer we ordered the sweet potato dumplings; a mixture of sweet potato and spices in crispy wonton wrappers and topped with an Asian sesame sauce. We were starving, and the crunchy, soft combination of the dumplings hit the spot. I am a sucker for Asian dressings with sesame flavors. 

For entrees we shared two dishes, the first an Asian salad with lettuce, veggies and wheat soba noodles in a peanut sauce. The second dish was one of the house specialties, the Indian plate. It came with lentil curry, and spiced mixture of veggies, including okra, brown rice, wheat naan, pickled vegetables and a spicy compote. I loved the infusion of southern flavors into the Indian dish. This was my first time eating okra and I loved it in it’s Indian clothing. 
The meal left us perfectly satisfied and happy that we experienced some cool offerings of Asheville. This town surprised me, I was not expecting to find this enclave of hippie culture in Southwest North Carolina.
After dinner we moseyed back to the car and drove for a few more hours, ending up at Knoxville for the night. We crossed the 1000 mile mark at 8:24 pm, a big moment.
Total mile count: 1,109

1 comment:

  1. I want that banana creme cake! I'd love to get to NC and TN someday... Enjoy the rest of your trip!