As my mom and I drove east out of Boulder on Highway 36, my view of the Flatirons faded, and I began to look forward to a windy stretch of I-40 east, between Knoxville and Asheville, that snakes through the blue, Great Smokey Mountains. After driving through Kansas (though I tried to remind myself of Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic) and lunch options of McDonalds versus Dairy Queen in rural Kentucky, to call pulling into downtown Asheville after some 1,500 miles a welcome relief, would be an understatement. I could have spent all day in this artists’ hub, but as the final destination (for now) was Charleston, SC, my mom and I only spent a couple of hours taking in the town.
First, we walked up Haywood St. to Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, an independent gem where I picked up Annie Dillard’s new novel The Maytrees. Dillard has a restricted, yet descriptive mastery of the human language, and in particular, a virtuoso knack for detailing nature. We then had lunch at The Early Girl Eatery on Wall St. A mindful foodie haven of southern cooking, one could not go wrong ordering anything off the menu, with vegan, vegetarian, and local, farm raised meat options to choose from. We had the BLT with Fried Green Tomatoes, the vegan Carrot Ginger Soup of the Day, and the best homemade applesauce I have ever had. This was easily the highlight of the trip (though I wish that were saying more). Walking back to the car, we stopped by a street vendor, Products Unlimited, whose proprietor looked more like a college professor…or maybe my college professors looked more like street vendors? Situated on the corner of Wall St. and Battery Park, the small cart offered bright, colorful children’s clothes and Tagua miniatures, a cruelty-free plant alternative to Ivory, from Ecuador and Peru. All fair-trade, of course. I picked up the cutest little red, flower-embroidered dress for my adorable 8-month-old niece, Cecilia (that’s right, it’s Aunt Rachel).
Whether you have a day, a couple of days (hiking opportunities abound), or a couple of hours amidst a cross country, post-college road trip home, Asheville is a mindful place to spend some time.