Road Trip Log: Appalachia (KY, TN, NC)

A sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, NC
A sunset over the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, NC

There’s something about mountains that really magnetizes me to them. When I was little, I had these dreams that mountains magically appeared in my backyard. Having grown up in the Midwest, the greatest changes in elevation I was used to were tires popping into potholes. Mountains beckoned me last summer as I drove east from Seattle through the Cascades, and then again into the Rockies of Montana and Alberta. I knew I wanted to see the Appalachians this time around.

These are the Cascades in Washington. Don't get too excited.
These are the Cascades in Washington. But what if you woke up and saw them in your backyard out of nowhere?!

Heading south from Cincinnati, the other side of the Ohio River is Kentucky, a land of good basketball teams and fried chicken. I didn’t spend much time there, as my next planned stop on the tour poster was Kingsport, TN, and I intended to get there quickly so I could spend more time with my kin there. But there are a couple notables from Kentucky.

Florence, y'all
Florence, y’all
This cloud was impressive.
This cloud was impressive.

I took the route south through Lexington, KY. I got into some rolling hills and forest in southwest Kentucky, part of Daniel Boone National Forest.

The 6 hour alternate route looks boring, but I could be wrong about that.
The 6 hour alternate route looks boring, but I could be wrong about that.
2015-04-11 19.53.36
Wooded, rolling hills

There’s a fascinating part of this trail that goes through three states in a very short distance, called the Cumberland Gap. You’ll be in Kentucky, then Tennessee, then Virginia, all in a matter of minutes.

KYTNVA

Welcome to Tennessee!
Welcome to Tennessee!
Haha, just kidding! You're in Virginia now!
Haha, just kidding! You’re in Virginia now!
Sunset over Cumberland Gap
Sunset over Cumberland Gap

The sunset beauty around the Cumberland Gap behind me, US-58 through Virginia felt like a roller coaster in the dark, a Space Mountain. Along US-58, I experienced my first DUI checkpoint, two flashing blue cop cars on each side of the highway. “Uh, Officer,” I said, “What is this?” He flashed a light in my eyes, looked at my clearly-not-Virginia license, and let me through. Apparently I was not drunk.

US-23 south spiraled through some more mountainsides, passing by Food Lion, Food City, and Food Country stores, and then I was in Kingsport, TN. A few wrong turns through town and I finally made it to my kin’s renovated farmhouse on a hill. I was welcomed with sushi and a local IPA. Feeling full in all regards, I fell into pillowy bed and collected four times as many sleeping hours as I had the previous two nights.

Cozy farmhouse living
Cozy farmhouse living
2015-04-12 11.26.26
Neat old bathtub and the second cat on my journey, Gabriella

I started my day nice and slowly in the fairly luxurious “spare” bedroom. The room had a couch where I typed up the previous entry, a coffee nook with several K-cup flavors, a bathroom with all the amenities. I doubt I’ll stay in any room that nice for the remainder of the trip.

Accurate.
Accurate.
This is what you find under "Southern hospitality" in the dictionary.
This is what you find under “Southern hospitality” in the dictionary.
Lazy Sunday southern breakfast
Lazy Sunday southern breakfast

My kin and I went on a hike after breakfast around Bays Mountain. I love hiking through the woods. Plenty of fine vistas around the Kingsport Reservoir, which was historically the fresh water supply for Kingsport, TN.

View from behind a naturally occurring dam at the Kingsport Reservoir atop Bays Mountain
View from behind a naturally occurring dam at the Kingsport Reservoir atop Bays Mountain

I drove south to Asheville after a warm goodbye to my kin. It feels good to know I have such a comforting place to stay in Appalachia.

After I parked near my friend W’s house in Asheville, I ate dinner at Plant on Asheville’s north side. Some of the most delicious food I’ve had, let alone vegan food.

Lemongrass seitan, with a winter squash puree, baby bok choy, fermented black lentils, cashews, and pickled daikon radish
Lemongrass seitan, with a winter squash puree, baby bok choy, fermented black lentils, cashews, and pickled daikon radish

I walked south through Asheville’s downtown to the River Arts District (RAD). I immediately felt at home seeing a high relative density of plaid shirts worn. Asheville is a very pretty city. So many colors!

Modern architecture reflecting sunset
Modern architecture reflecting sunset
2015-04-12 19.52.48
Turquoise and periwinkle buildings
2015-04-12 20.03.29
Blue, olive, and yellow buildings

I decided to get a beer at Wedge Brewing, a beer garden and brewery in the RAD I heard good things about. I thoroughly enjoyed their IPA and their peaty Scotch ale. Both cooled me down from how sweaty I’d been walking that way.

Eventually my friend W made it to Wedge and we caught up. It was nice to sit outside with beer and chat, something I haven’t been able to do in the Midwest since last September. We headed to Wicked Weed Brewing afterward and enjoyed some sour beers produced by their offshoot Funkatorium.

I had fragmented sleep on W’s futon because a cat named Hazel wanted to rub her head on my hands and face at all hours of the night. She was darn cute, so I let it happen. I’ve met three cats along this road trip so far, and I hope to meet more.

Oh, good morning to you too, Hazel.
Oh, good morning to you too, Hazel.

As I write this, I’m sitting at Izzy’s Coffee Den in downtown Asheville, NC. I’m planning out how I want to get to my next “planned” stop, Dallas, TX. Something like 14 hours of driving that I hope to split across a couple days. I hope there will be music blue, green kudzu, and barbecue along the way.

Ain’t no mountain high enough,
Art

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One thought on “Road Trip Log: Appalachia (KY, TN, NC)

  1. We were so honored and pleased to have you stop by our home! You are most welcomed at any time, especially when you say such nice things about our Tennessee Home! You are quite an awesome man!

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