Our Trip to Asheville, North Carolina

Funkatorium in downtown Asheville

Mike has always wanted to go on a road trip. For years I was adamantly against it. The thought of sitting in a car for hours or even days on end sounded like the most uncomfortable, miserable option for travel. But when I started to think of it as an opportunity to see parts of the country that might be typically overlooked, I started to change my tune. What could be there? What might we find?

We’re also obviously still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, so traveling by car gave us more of a sense of control so we could travel with all the precautions we needed to. (Speaking of precautions, I think everyone’s got their go-to for masks these days but I’m sharing this pack of 50 we got for under 20 bucks from Amazon.)

Before I get into the details of our trip, I figure a lot of you might be considering traveling this summer or fall and are curious about what it was really like doing so during COVID-19. Here’s what I noticed, from New Hampshire through all 11 states to North Carolina:

  1. Masks were worn nearly everywhere, but more so in enclosed spaces rather than open air.
  2. Many gas stations and rest stops had posted: “No Mask, No Entry”. Same thing with hotels. People were abiding by it.
  3. A lot of drive-thrus didn’t take your debit/credit card and instead would hold out the card scanner through the window.
  4. Elevators were marked with tape for where to stand if two people were in it together.
  5. Restaurants were utilizing electronic menus only where you’d scan a bar code and all the menu options would appear on your phone.
  6. One restaurant in downtown Asheville (Funkatorium) had the option to pay our check electronically, as well.
  7. Seating both inside and out everywhere was limited.
  8. Some bathroom doors had this foot pull thing installed so you didn’t have to touch the door handle.
  9. Floors were marked with arrows to direct traffic flow.
  10. Most shops in Asheville itself had hand sanitizer at the door and at the registers. Signs encouraged people to use it often.
  11. Lots of “clean” and “used” pen jars at registers.
  12. When eating outside (like at a brewery), masks were required at all times other than when seated and “actively eating and drinking”.
  13. Plexiglas was at many of the registers and employees wore gloves.
  14. Sidewalks were often marked for social distancing.

The Road Trip!

Stop 1: Allentown, Pennsylvania to see my Nana!

Classic, all-American food. My great aunt and uncle Connie and Fred Wert have owned their restaurant for more than 45 years and now their children run it! It was so cute to see all the locals coming in, the wait staff knowing them so well.

We hadn’t seen her since our wedding almost three years ago so we popped in for a quick visit. Mike and I had lunch at my family’s restaurant, Wert’s Cafe, then headed two hours south to…

Stop 2: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

I couldn’t stop staring out at this field, thinking about what happened on these grounds hundreds of years ago. The battle that ultimately ended the Civil War happened right here. Out in the distance is the south, where the Confederate army was approaching from. Where I’m standing to take this picture, the Union prepared themselves and watched their enemy come over the hills. It was July 3rd, 1865. Imagining that day, how these soldiers must have been feeling as they steeled themselves, watching their enemy come to defeat them…it’s hard to describe. Being in a place like this makes history real. I could see it, touch the ground and the trees that were probably standing as thousands died, both sides fighting for what they believed was right. We paused here and walked the grounds for about an hour.

Stop 3: Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Downtown Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, are two little towns you probably have never heard of. They’re nestled in the mountains and it took a LOT of windy driving and dirt roads to get here. You’d never know what you were about to stumble upon, and that’s the coolest part of a road trip! I would recommend a visit here if you love the outdoors, hiking, or just looking at mountains and not climbing them.

A local park in Boone where we had dinner Thursday night.
Bass Lake was under 2 miles around and an easy walk.
My friend Jackie and her daughter, Zoey! We met at our first teaching jobs almost 10 years ago. They were in town from California visiting her sister. I’ll show you their insane mountain tree house in a sec!Fun fact: She and her husband Joe are the ones who introduced me and Mike in 2012 🙂
Mike’s beard is very appropriate for this mountain setting

On Friday night Mike and I had dinner with Jackie’s family at her sister’s house. The story behind it is pretty wild. First, a view from their deck to give you an idea of the setting:

That road down there is part of their driveway! It winds all the way down. Mike and I parked at the bottom and walked it (carefully) which was the only exercise my butt has gotten in like 4 months.
A view from the bottom of the driveway.

You see that tree house on the right? Jackie’s brother-in-law, Austin, lived there on his own for years before meeting and marrying Ally, Jackie’s sister. There’s no electricity, heat, or running water there but listening to him describe what it was like to live that way, he makes it sounds so doable. Made me wonder how I’d manage if I was him.

Ally and Austin’s home that they share with their dog Coda and daughter, Amaya

At the top of the world’s longest driveway is THE tree house. Austin pretty much built the whole thing with no background in construction. I wish I got some pictures of the inside. There’s so much beautiful reclaimed wood inside that he either found, salvaged, or got from neighbors. Although they have running water and electricity now, they live very simply. No internet is to be found up here, and we cooked our dinner over an actual fire. If I was a kid again, I think I would LOVE growing up like this. Do you think you would?

Stop 4: Asheville

On Saturday morning Mike and I left Boone for our final destination: Asheville! About an hour and 45 minutes through the mountains, Asheville is a combination of quaint, trendy, and hipster. Parts of it reminded me a lot of Brooklyn, while other parts were similar to Back Bay in Boston. A lot of the city was still closed because of Covid, but below are some pictures of where we ate and explored!

Sunday morning while Mike was golfing I strolled the streets by myself. Early Girl Eatery was lovely and accommodating when I asked for a breakfast sandwich to go that wasn’t on the menu.
Out back at Twin Leaf Brewery
Tons of cute outdoor seating options everywhere!
Saturday night Mike and I grabbed dinner here. I got their house salad (which had blueberries and peaches and was DELICIOUS) and a slice of their Roman-style pizza which is square pizza with a thicker crust.

Stop 5: The Biltmore Estate

Although it’s in Asheville, I had to give the Biltmore its own section. We went on Sunday and was the last major thing we did on our trip before going home. The Biltmore Estate was built in 1895 by George and Edith Vanderbilt and is a massive 250-room castle. Not only that, but the property itself is 8,000 acres (!!!) and includes 5+ flower gardens and also an inn, winery, and hotel.

The Library Terrace
One of the views from the library terrace
Wild to think that at one time, the Vanderbilt family was lounging on that balcony. NBD.
Heading towards the garden! I thought there was only one but there’s about five, all with different names.
So beautiful!
Also obsessed with the brick herringbone pavers
Raspberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream

We meandered around the property for a little while, grabbed ice cream, then headed into the house for our 4:45 time slot. Masks were required and only 10 people per room were allowed. A few pictures from the inside of the house are below if you’d like to see!

Front main entrance
Fun fact: Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt didn’t share a bedroom, so this room joined the two spaces. They would have coffee, read, and play games in here.
Meals were usually eaten in different rooms.
Main dining room
We got to see the basement, too, which includes all of the servants’ quarters, kitchens, food storage and their dining rooms. There was also this POOL and a bowling alley down there!

And that, my friends, was our trip! I would definitely do a road trip again–I think we want to head west next time. Have you ever gone on a road trip before? I’d love to hear about where you went. As always, you can connect with me over on Instagram @cobbleandbrick.

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