Adventures in Asheville – Part 1

Pack Square

…or when good trips go bad…and back to good.

At Mellow Mushroom
If you like quirky, hip places, be sure to visit Mellow Mushroom.

So as you know, on our adventure to Cumberland Gap NHP, we boogied out earlier than planned, mostly because of campground issues. Little did we know it was going to get worse before it got better.

Before we set out on this journey, we knew we might like to swing through Asheville for a quick look-see. With that in mind, I gave a cursory search for campgrounds in the area and had one in mind in case we decided to go for it. Against my better judgement, and because of the slim options available near the city, I picked a private campground knowing it would probably only be an overnight stay.

I’m really pressed to adequately describe the crapfest this place was. Sure the RV sites were prim and well-tended but by the look of the tent sites, I thought I was being Punked. These sites made the Wilderness Road campground look like the Four Seasons…except that this slum was quadruple the rate. Throw in a truly inhospitable owner and you can probably guess Camp Granola kept on rolling. We slipped through another campground down the road only to find it to be what I can only describe as a squatter’s commune. Ummmm…no thanks.

Plan B…

We were in quite a spot at that point obviously. It was getting late to be setting up camp even if we’d had a place to stay but we had yet to solve that problem. Throw in that we hadn’t restocked our food (since we were planning on doing that after we set up camp) and that my boys were growing restless and hungry. All the makings for a good time right? Oh, don’t forget we have a dog with us. That always makes things easier.

Pack Square
Asheville at night was a delightful discovery.

So, tired as we were after a few sleepless nights, we had to collect ourselves and come up with a Plan B. So I just drove down the interstate and picked an exit. Turns out it was the right exit.

My version of Plan B was to hit a hotel and see if they could help me find a campground. I happened to pick and exit that slid me off to “Resort Avenue” or some such. So I roll us into this resort hotel to try to regroup…and you really have to get the visual here of dirty, smelly, hippie-lady in a do-rag and her grubby urchin (George accompanied me) walking into this place. If I didn’t turn heads I certainly turned noses.

Pot of Gold…

So crazy camping lady waltzes into the respectable hotel intending to ask about campgrounds and instead asks if they allow dogs. Without much hope mind you, but she asks anyway. Imagine my shock and epic relief when the answer is yes. Alrighty, apparently we’ve stumbled onto Plan C and it’s a winner…and an expensive lesson in planning.

So not only does the hotel allow dogs, the enormously helpful clerk also points out a handful of restaurants with patios that can accommodate dogs as well. Well done Asheville!

On our way out to tell Jester and Fred the good news, George pipes in with “Mom, all I heard was ‘Blah, blah, blah…Mellow Mushroom…blah, blah blah.” So you guessed it, Camp Granola let the tension of our mini-crisis melt away at Mellow Mushroom, our favorite pizza joint. But not before yours truly took a shower.

I’m going to go ahead and give a mega shout-out here to the place that saved our vacation. So big-time thanks to the folks at the Asheville Crowne Plaza for not only allowing dogs but for having such knowledgeable staff that they were able to help us find a dog-friendly restaurant. Because what would I have done if I hadn’t gotten obscenely lucky in my choice of interstate exit? Given our state of mind at that point, I probably would have found us a place for a quick dinner (probably fast-food) and continued driving…all the way home in all likelihood.

Getting back on track…

So averting a vacation near-disaster, we had a leisurely dinner at our beloved Mellow Mushroom as the sky turned dark. With everyone relaxed and fed, we walked the streets of Asheville to get a feel for the city. And this, my friends, is a lesson in how quickly things can turn around because all of the drama of the previous couple of hours was gone and we were back in vacation mode. And it must be said that it’s a great city that you can roam around at night with two kids and a dog and have a complete blast.

Fountain Frolic
A glimpse of one of the best nights of Fred and George's lives.

In our wanderings, we discovered the wonderful Pack Square and spent remainder of the night frolicking amongst its statues and the fountains of the adjacent McGuire Green. When Fred and George discovered the splash park in front of the courthouse there was no holding them back as they ran headlong toward the water. The last dry words I heard Fred utter were something like “I’ll only get a little bit wet.”

Famous last words of course but that night will be forever engraved in their memories as one of the best of their lives. And their enthusiasm prompted others to join in who had been standing on the sidelines, holding back. One boy who was with his parents slowly joined in the fun only to be followed by flocks of teenagers. Over the course of the evening I lost count of how many fully-clothed children and teenagers set good sense aside to embrace the spontaneity of jumping through fountains.

Fred and George started a mini-movement and I’m happy we had the foresight to let them. This wasn’t as simple as it sounds though. It was actually quite windy and cool that night so I certainly had my reservations. As a mom, you want them to play with abandon. Yet you know once they stop playing and the biting wind wicks away every last bit of warmth from their soaked little bodies that their ability to cope will be severely undermined.

But through chattering teeth and veils of dripping hair, both boys resoundingly agreed that it was totally worth it. Indeed.

When’s the last time you had an unsensibly good time?

And now for your moment of green…

Tumbling Water
Smoothing over the edges in Asheville...Huzzah!