I don’t know exactly when I started wanting to visit Asheville. I think I heard it described as The Hipster City of the East. And I know it’s meant to be beautiful. So when I realized that Asheville was only an hour away from Spartanburg, I knew I had to check it out, despite the fact that I didn’t know anyone there.
In general, I don’t mind traveling alone. I like the endless stretches of road with just me and my music (or audiobook). And while I really enjoyed my day in Asheville, I think I can pretty conclusively say that I would rather explore a new city with someone beside me. For one thing, it divides the responsibility for deciding where to go and how to park.
I found hourly parking downtown, and while I had made a list of places to visit, I had no idea how close any of them were to each other. So I wandered around, which was made infinitely better because the sun was out in full force. It was an absolutely stunning day. I visited the St. Lawrence Basilica, then stumbled across not one, not two, not three, but FOUR used bookstores within a couple blocks. Now that is a city for me. One was even a bookstore/champagne bar, but since it was 11:30 a.m. and I was alone, I thought getting a drink might seem a little pathetic.
After an hour, I found Tupelo Honey Cafe, and I waited for a table outside. The waitress suggested I ry a side of lemon blueberry quinoa, and holy cow. It was crazy delicious. At the table beside me, a group of four talked loudly, and I was momentarily sad for myself. But I chose to enjoy the freedom of reading and eating on my own time, and it kind of worked.
At 1:30, I drove a couple miles away to grab coffee with a friend of Roy’s. Before I changed plans to stay with family, I was going to stay the night with Danny. She was nice about letting go of her hosting gig, and we had coffee instead at this cute little place (High Five Coffee) where you can sit crosslegged at a tree trunk table. It was only a little weird, hanging out with someone I didn’t know even slightly, but Roy’s friends are always cool. Danny is studying counseling, so we were never short of conversation. Then she gave me directions to beautiful nature, and I set off again!
I drove through Mt. Pisgah State Park, down windy roads with overhanging trees. I met up with the Blue Ridge Parkway and shouted “WOW” out my car window at regular intervals. I found some overlooks, took a bunch of pictures with a selfie stick (thanks Lindsay!), and again felt nostalgic. Maybe it was because I’d just hung out with one of his friends, or maybe it reminded of our trip through the Columbia River Gorge, but I found myself missing Roy. I wanted someone in the passenger seat. I wanted someone to point at things and say “wow” with me.
A decade ago, when I was obsessed with wanting to be married, I planned on avoiding traveling until I could go places with my hypothetical husband. I wanted someone to share my memories with for the rest of my life. Luckily, my love of traveling soon overpowered this impulse, because I would MUCH rather travel alone than not travel at all. And although I don’t need to travel with a husband, I DO prefer traveling with friends and family to exploring on my own.
Luckily, this road trip has no shortage of friends and family! So when I headed out of the mountains at 6:30, I set my GPS for my second cousin’s house, kick-starting the portion of my trip where I connect with extended family and realize how awesome my family line is (which will be tomorrow’s blog post).