ASHEVILLE, NC – Our Family was without internet access on Days Two and Three, so this reporter was unable to write about their adventures, but they managed to score a campground here on Day Four with WiFi, so our journey can continue.
Day Two (Saturday) dawned with the Family packing up quickly in order to travel across Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Naturally, it was a dreary and gloomy morning, but for some reason it was dry.
“Laurel had her head out the window most of the morning,” Greg remarked. “Funny thing, she’s not the only member of the family to do that…Michelle took a similar photo just a few weeks before…”
Like any eagle-eyed reporter, I asked Greg about the different mirrors. “Don’t bring that up,” he said.
Michelle had no such hesitation. “Oh, I’ll tell you about those,” she said. “Greg bought these strap-on tow mirrors…” Here she stopped to snicker. “He’d read good reviews, but the first time we used them, when we went to Columbia, one of the damned lenses broke off in my hand, plus they generally sucked, so he had to take them back and purchase REAL tow mirrors.”
Greg pulled that 30-foot travel trailer through mountain roads, around 90-degree turns, and beneath jutting outcroppings. As you may have inferred, it was slow going. Greg pulled off at every turn-out to let motorists by. They were so grateful – everyone waved – and we know from past experience that not every slow motorist does that. At one point, a motorcyclist coming the other way raised his hand at the Family. “Oh, look,” Michelle remarked, “He’s waving. Isn’t that nice?”
“I’m not sure whether he’s being friendly or trying to warn me I’m about to peel off the top of the camper on these bluffs,” Greg lamented.
Either way, Greg pulled that trailer through the Smokies like a champ. The camper remained unscathed.
Naturally, the Family had to stop at Laurel Falls, where they endured a 2.6-mile round-trip hike. Laurel had forgotten her socks at home. Every. Single. Pair. So she wore Ethan’s in order to make the hike. “What?! They FIT!” she exclaimed.
Michelle suffered. “I don’t know if it was the beer the night before or not enough breakfast the morning of, or both, but UGH,” she said. “Walking uphill for 1.3 miles was not my idea of a good time, though I’m the only one in the family who runs recreationally.
“And then,” she continued, “as insult to injury, not ONE SINGLE PHOTO of the Falls themselves turned out. The camera was trying to overcompensate for the dreariness of the day, and Greg and I were nervous wrecks trying to keep the kids close so they wouldn’t tumble down the ravine. We did get some photos of the mountain laurel, though, so here you go.”
The family piled back into the truck and Greg pulled the trailer a little further to Newfound Gap, where they miraculously found a parking spot and climbed a few steps (Michelle rejoiced) to the overlook. Newfound Gap is at the Tennessee – North Carolina state line, and the Appalachian Trail runs through, too.
The kids posed on the Appalachian Trail:
“By the way,” Greg said, “Could someone please tell Grandma Smith the kids are fine, that there were no murderers on the Appalachian Trail that day? Thanks.”
The family was in a big hurry to get to Asheville and drop the trailer, because they had a date with some barbecue. “Well yeah,” Greg grumbled, “Michelle only fed us cereal for breakfast. HEALTHY cereal. And we weren’t even scheduled to get to Asheville until two!”
But first, they had to navigate through the east side of the park. The east side is bordered by a Cherokee reservation, which the family enjoyed. “The street signs are all translated into Cherokee,” Michelle noted, “but of course it was kitschy and, well…”
“Yeah, I think that says it all,” Greg added.
They’d heard good things about 12 Bones, and wanted to give it a shot. The weather was gorgeous, and the restaurant had its screened walls exposed. At two p.m., it was packed, but our Family got a seat and enjoyed some barbecue. How was it?
“Delicious,” Laurel said. Several times.
“The corn bread, it had sage in it,” Michelle observed. “It was SO GOOD. This is a restaurant that doesn’t consider its sides an afterthought. Oh, and that crummy photo of the facade? Yeah, taken from a moving vehicle. Sorry ‘bout that.”
Afterward, on a promising tip from a generous beer connoisseur, the Family visited Bruisin’ Ales, the premier beer shop in Asheville. They intend to take photos of all the beer they bought that one cannot find in Missouri, but they’ve been too occupied ingesting it to bother posing it for a photo op. But readers should remain hopeful. “Maybe later,” Greg says. “If I want to go line it up. I know Michelle isn’t going to do it. She’s just going to keep talking about it until I do.”
And because few vacation days are complete without it, the family stopped at CinTom’s Custard before returning to camp. “It’s good, but it’s no Ted Drewes,” Greg said.
Day Three was simply gorgeous. The Family slept in, then enjoyed sausage and pancakes. “I swear,” Michelle said, “those kids would NOT quit asking for more pancakes. We thought it’d never end.” Greg agreed. “The only way to get them to quit was to tell them we were planning a bike ride.”
And they did. Our family rode bikes down to the lake, where they swam. And swam. And swam. And generally had a good time (and a picnic)!
“It’s funny,” Michelle noted. “Last week I told the kids that when I was young I almost never swam in a real pool. I spent my swimming time in creeks. When I told them that, Ethan said, ‘ewwwwwww,’ but he didn’t seem to have an issue with Lake Powhatan. He did, however, have an issue with a little girl who tried to touch his boat.”
“It was MY BOAT and I am the ONLY ONE who can TOUCH IT! HMPH!” he exclaimed, arms crossed, scowling.
After a leisurely swim and picnic, the family biked back (uphill) to camp, stopping only for a friendly visit with Smokey the Bear. “Some people say Smokey Bear, but I will always add ‘the,’ it’s like the Oxford comma. I cannot respect you, him or anyone else if it’s left out,” Michelle said. I cannot imagine why she shot a pointed look at this reporter when she said that.
After swimming in a lake, Michelle was more than ready for a good hot shower. “Yeah, I know I said I spent a lot of time in creeks as a kid, and the lake really didn’t bother me, but, well, you know,” she whispered.
Our friends needed to clean up anyway, for they were going into town. They were excited about the Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company, where one could eat pizza, drink beer, and watch a kid-friendly movie. Seeing as how that movie was “Furry Vengeance,” each family member could only muster up excitement for 2/3 of the options. Still, they had a good time.
Laurel even got to practice her haiku on the word art wall.
Yes, the Family had a wonderful time. “Well, mostly…we ate pizza and nachos. Now, I love pizza, and I love nachos,” Michelle said, “but back at camp that night, I most assuredly DID NOT LOVE the combination.”
Even so, it was a good time, and because the Family was pulling out of Asheville the next morning for the long drive to Charleston, we turned in early. Even this reporter.