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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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,