Time: 3 hours
Today the front definitely caught up with me, physically and mentally. The temperature dropped significantly and the wind switched out of the north. When I left Knoxville it was raining and it didn’t stop until about 7 PM. The drive through the Smokies was probably very pretty but most of my attention was focused on staying on the road. The trucks carrying a nation’s goods are thick on this section of I-40 especially leaving Knoxville east up through the split with I-75 to Lexington. Even with three lanes and a truck restriction that keeps them out of the left one, it can be a little tricky getting around them in a pouring rain.
I-40 through the Great Smokies had fewer trucks and was striking even in winter. The river runs beside the road all the way through and when you can glimpse it through the trees, you can see why this is a popular destination for river rafters. I did get to use my new umbrella purchased yesterday in Knoxville but its magical rain-stopping powers seem to have been left behind in that city as it just kept raining. I walked around the North Carolina Visitors’ Center wishing the weather had been slightly better. I’m not sure any pictures would have been worth it but it was hard to find out in the rain. Ansel Adams said of the Great Smokies “They are beautiful but they will be devilishly hard to photograph.”
Once in Asheville, I visited the Asheville Vistors’ Center to get my bearings. I struggled with whether to even stay in Asheville and if I did, what to do. The Biltmore is here and that’s been highly recommended by many people. But the town itself is neat and has other things to do. I knew the Biltmore would take most of a day and wasn’t sure I was committed to that. In the end, I decided to see the Biltmore on Thursday because my body basically said it was today would be a day of rest.
I took a nap at the hotel and then went out for dinner at Tupelo Honey Cafe in downtown Asheville. It’s a fantastic little restaurant with excellent Southern food including a decently sized gluten free menu. I had Cajun Catfish on Goat Cheese Grits and it was very good. Dessert was a sweet potato crème brûlée which was heavenly. After dinner, I walked around downtown Asheville as the wind blew 30 MPH out of the north. I had a good coat but it was bitterly cold. I decided I wasn’t up for a drink anywhere and headed back to the hotel.I got back to the hotel around 8 and was asleep by 9. Guess 4 days of constant vacationing is my limit. Tomorrow will be the Biltmore then at least 4 hours on the road north so I can get a little closer to DC for Friday morning.