Week 12.5: Drinking & Driving in Charlotte & Asheville… Respectively.
Welcome back friends! If you didn’t see it, we just posted a… post… about our RV renovations, where you can get a glimpse of our high-ambition, low-skill interior remodeling. The renovation was certainly a learning experience, and as the days go by, and our memories fade, it’s something that we might take up again in the new year. The bedroom won’t renovate itself! [Ed. note: Heather added those last two sentences unilaterally. They do not represent the opinions of all Nothing Mundane affiliates.]
Returning to our road trip, we traveled from Richmond, Virginia to North Carolina, “Ol’ Northy,” and the metropolitan regions of Charlotte and Asheville. Our mission: have fun and mooch off our friends.
We’ve been to a lot of places on this road trip, and sometimes it can be difficult to find a good place to eat or fun things to do. Well, we stayed in Charlotte with our friends the Casses, and one of the great things about visiting people is that they already know the cool things to do. For example, we had dinner at a pretty sweet bar and grill called Lebowski’s, where the food was good and the excuse to run a picture of Jake’s “The Dude” Halloween costume was made plausible.
A surprising favorite stop in Charlotte was the Lost Duffer mini-golf course, which we tried on a whim. The first half was hilariously easy, each cup placed at the bottom of a hole resembling a giant funnel, but hey – you don’t play mini-golf to feel humiliated. The second half of the course then went underground, into an “abandoned mine” that was definitely not “the basement of the building.” It was dark enough that we sometimes had to play by phone flashlight, and the holes were humiliatingly challenging, but hey – you don’t play mini-golf to feel successful.
The whole experience was charmingly insane, and we would definitely go back.
We also toured the hip areas of Charlotte, stopping in for some iced coffee (served in a mason jar) which we foolishly ordered “to stay.” Have you ever just sat around in a stylish coffee shop, drinking delicious coffee out of a mason jar, with nothing to do but talk to your good friends you haven’t seen in ages? So boring. We quickly pivoted to a game of 2-player reactor.
Let’s face it, human interaction is overrated, and if we’re being honest, we drank and/or gamed our way across the city. We had great German beers at a local beer hall, combined with the first of many games of Carcassonne (a Nothing Mundane favorite and a great addition to any board game collection). One highlight of this beer hall: there was a corporate event being held there, and although almost everyone was dressed normally, one guy showed up in full German mountain-man regalia.
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have!
One thing we’ve found on this trip is that, thanks to the craft brewing revolution, you can get fantastic beer anywhere these days. (The tiny grocery store in Marfa, Texas – population 2,000 – had an entire refrigerator devoted to microbrews.) And in a big city like Charlotte, the options are endless – we visited several great breweries just within a few blocks of each other. Not a bad time to be alive!
Also, there were donuts.
We made one final sightseeing stop in Charlotte, heading to the Wing Haven Garden and Bird Sanctuary to make some avian friends. The founders of Wing Haven were a husband and wife who gardened extensively, nursed baby birds back to health, and did many other do-gooder type things. This resulted in a bird sanctuary that was overflowing with beautiful birds, right in the middle of the city.
At least, that was the impression given by the mandatory 15 minute introductory video, which looked suspiciously like it was shot in the 1970s.
Here in the 2010s, the founders passed away many, many years ago, and in the course of a half-hour walk around the property, we did not see a single bird. We didn’t see any wildlife at all, actually, not even a squirrel. We can’t complain too much, since the garden was pretty, and admission was free. But would it be too much to ask for them to tie a bird to a tree or something, just to keep up appearances?
Is that a bird on the ground? Oh… no, just a rock.
We hung out with the Casses for a few days, but before we left North Carolina for good, we took a day trip west to visit Asheville. Asheville is a quirky, fun mountain town with fantastic 1920’s style art deco architecture, thanks to a decades-long economic depression that prevented any new buildings from being constructed. Nothing preserves like bankruptcy!
Those days are long gone, and Asheville today is pretty trendy. The brunch spots were jammed, but we persevered, and ended up having the best fried chicken biscuit of our lives at Southern Kitchen. There were loads of cool shops, too – we wandered into a quirky gift store that had a display on RV living. (We are trendy by association!) It’s also extremely liberal, and it strongly reminded us of Ithaca, New York, where we lived for three years – particularly when we wandered by a streetside hippie peace festival, which aimed to stem the power of corporations via tambourine.
However, there’s certainly still a bit of Appalachia present. Outside of one restaurant, we saw a guy in a bluegrass band playing an actual washboard, which is all it takes to make our day.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Our final adventure in North Carolina was on the way back from Asheville, as we drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway. We only saw about 35 miles of the Parkway’s 470 mile length, but what we saw was insanely beautiful. The scenery is gorgeous, with pristine rivers, lakes, and forests in front of endless mountains ridges.
We can’t possibly recommend this one enough, with one caveat: the Asheville-to-Charlotte leg doesn’t have a clearly defined end point, so be careful where you exit. We left the Parkway at a random point, and found ourselves more or less on top of a mountain in the deep wilderness, driving down the most switchback-y road in the history of switchbacks. It was cool! But it also took us an hour to go about 3 miles.
What’s next: Currently, we are in Phoenix, Arizona, “Ol’ Phoenie,” which is surprisingly pretty but disappointingly cold. Tomorrow, we’re ditching the RV for a month and beginning a 5-day, several-thousand-mile drive back to the Northeast for the holidays. We’re planning to stop in El Paso, Roswell, Oklahoma City, Memphis, Nashville, and who knows where else. Wish us luck!
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