Day 90 (8/29/14): Asheville, NC
Wow…we’ve been on the road for 90 days! Traveling has definitely become a way of life. There’s always more to see! For example, we realized that we were staying only about 90 miles from Asheville, NC. We had heard good things about the town of Asheville, so we took a day trip there today. On the way, we passed two different sections of the French Broad River, thought to be the third oldest river in the world, first in Tennessee then in North Carolina. We also drove through the Cherokee & Pisgah National Forests. It was a lovely scenic drive with jagged rock peeking through the green hillsides along the freeway.
Once we reached Asheville, we went to the Biltmore Estate. We were excited to tour the mansion and impressive grounds. That was, until we discovered that it would cost us over $60 per person! Talk about capitalism at it’s best! Hopefully the price is worth it for other people. It includes a self-guided tour of the Biltmore House, access to the gardens and Antler Hill Village, an exhibition and a guided tour of the winery with a free wine tasting. We just couldn’t justify spending that much though.
Next we headed south of downtown to have lunch at Daugherty’s American Kitchen & Drink. We were hoping to be there in time for Happy Hour but were sadly disappointed to learn that the state of North Carolina doesn’t allow Happy Hours. Boo! 😦 Instead of taking advantage of a Happy Hour menu, we ordered the Potato Spring Rolls as an appetizer. They were basically deep-fried cheesy mashed potatoes, and they were phenomenal! The cubed chunks of bacon topping the dish added a nice smokiness while the Sriracha sour cream amplified the intense flavors. O…M…G…were they good! I wish we would’ve each ordered a second helping of them for our entrees.
Instead, I got the Fried Chicken Biscuit Sliders, and Justin got the Fried Chicken plate. We were expecting the other dishes we ordered to be just as good as the appetizer. However, they didn’t even compare. Maybe the Potato Spring Rolls are just too good, making everything beyond them simply disappointing. Perhaps if we hadn’t eaten the spring rolls, the rest of the food would have been more enjoyable. Unfortunately though, the sliders were dry, and the collard greens were too sweet with a weird chewy texture. If you ever eat at Daughtry’s, I recommend getting the Potato Spring Rolls last, maybe even for dessert, that’s how delectable they are!
After eating, we checked out Asheville’s downtown, which we were pleased to see is surrounded by pretty green hills. We were expecting Asheville to have just one main street, but the downtown was actually bigger than we thought it would be. There aren’t any skyscrapers, but the downtown is large enough to keep things interesting with several charming streets featuring eclectic brick storefronts. The roads were tight though with street parking. It felt like we were dodging cars left and right.
However, despite the congestion, we liked the vibe of downtown Asheville. The streets had a lively energy with a good mix of people strolling the sidewalks while window shopping or heading to one of the many cafes. Also, a local told us that they like to say “Keep Asheville weird,” which leads us to believe it must be somewhat artsy like Portland or Austin but on a smaller scale. Asheville could be a potential place for us to live.
Day 91 (8/30/14): Pigeon Forge, TN (Dollywood)
Since Justin has had a love of country music since early boyhood, he’s always had a subconscious dream to visit Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s famous amusement park. This secret desire was discovered when we realized that we were staying just 12.7 miles away from Dollywood! One thing we like about Dolly Parton is that she went back to her hometown and helped the economy by opening an amusement park nearby. She’s also currently building a hotel called Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort close to the amusement park. It should be opening in summer 2015.
We arrived at Dollywood this morning shortly after the park opened wanting to spend as much time there as possible to get our money’s worth. To be honest, I was expecting it to be small and hokey with mostly little kiddie rides, but the park was actually pretty large with numerous roller coasters. The park was also nicely maintained and clean with lovely trees and flowers.
It was a hot and humid day, so we took advantage of the lack of a line for Daredevil Falls. We ended up going on the log water ride three times in a row. The exhilarating 60-foot drop over the waterfall at the end of the ride ensured a thorough soaking. We were happy to be drenched though to help us stay cool in the heat. In addition to the water ride, we also enjoyed several of the roller coasters.
I used to love roller coasters as a kid, but the older I’ve become, the sicker they make me. The Mystery Mine seemed innocent enough though, so I gave it a go, but the simple exterior for the ride was extremely misleading. It ended up being a wicked roller coaster with a straight shot up followed by an 85-foot drop straight back down! There was also a loop, which reminded me why I usually avoid roller coasters. Loops tend to give me intense motion sickness. However, despite the loop and ridiculously scary steep drop, I actually had a blast on the coaster!
I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle any more loops for the day though, so Justin had to ride a few roller coasters on his own. He did the Wild Eagle, America’s first wing coaster with numerous upside down twists and turns, which he loved and rode by himself three times back-to-back. He also rode the Tennessee Tornado, a triple spiral-looping coaster with a 128-foot drop at speeds of 70 mph! This one did him in. No more loops for Justin either! Haha!
We went on a few other non-spiral coasters together. Thunder Head was super fun and the best wooden roller coaster I’ve been on! It seems like all other wooden coasters I’ve ridden have been super jerky, but the Dollywood one was great! We also rode the new FireChaser Express, the nation’s first dual launch coaster. It blasts you forward to what you think would be the end of the ride, but then it suddenly launches you backward all the way to where you started! Good times! After we did all the rides we wanted to, we had fun watching the Great American Country Show, a live country variety show in which different performers sang the current top 10 country songs.
Our Dollywood experience was complete by touring Dolly Parton’s old tour bus and museum. Now that we’re living in an RV full-time, we had a real appreciation for being able to go inside and see the “Home-on-Wheels” motorhome she used to tour in. Even though it’s outdated, it’s still much more plush than our trailer. Haha! We also enjoyed walking through Chasing Rainbows, the Dolly Parton museum, where we learned about the history of Dolly’s career and success.
Did you know that she’s received two honorary doctorate degrees? So that’s Dr. Dolly thank you very much! 🙂 I thought that was really interesting and had no idea that she has two doctorates until I saw them in the museum. I also loved seeing all the flashy costumes and outfits she’s worn throughout the years! Who knew we’d end up having such a great time at an amusement park? This was a really wonderful day! Rather than sight-seeing, it was nice to have a day focused solely on us having fun together!
Day 92 (8/31/14): Knoxville, TN | Cartersville, GA
As we headed out of Tennessee on our way to Georgia, we drove through downtown Knoxville. When we had passed Knoxville while driving to Sevierville, we were disappointed that it was smaller than we thought it would. We still wanted to see the downtown area up close though. Unfortunately, we had the trailer in tow, so we couldn’t get around the streets very easily, but at least we got a peek at the heart of Knoxville. While the buildings seemed slightly older and had some charm with their brick exteriors, we didn’t get the eclectic vibe we’ve been looking for.
We kept driving southwest and stopped for gas in Cleveland, TN where gas was just $3.09/gallon. Overall, Tennessee has had the cheapest gas. That’s definitely a plus for Tennessee in addition to there being no state income tax! Shortly before reaching the border for Georgia, we passed Chattanooga, TN. We had forgotten about Chattanooga and have always been intrigued by it. Since we’re seriously considering the state of Tennessee for our next home due to the lack of a state income tax there, we wondered if we should give Chattanooga a chance.
Once we reached Georgia, we noticed that the trees multiplied. I’ve always loved trees, but the amount of trees lining the freeway was almost suffocating. They were so dense and tall that we couldn’t see anything through them. We could only see the road in front of us and the sky-high billboards that towered over the trees. We’ve never seen signs that high up. It was as if they were dangling in the air among the clouds. Perhaps the signs have to be constructed much higher than initially necessary in anticipation of the trees growing even taller. Also in Georgia, gas jumped up 30 cents more to $3.39/gallon! Good thing we filled the tank up back in Tennessee!