Ashehville, North Carolina, nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains with a population of 86,000 wasn’t on our radar as we contemplated our next stop. In fact, we hadn’t even heard of it. But a last minute change of plan due to the Pope’s imminent arrival in Washington DC and a chance ride share meant this was our next destination. Known for its vibrant arts scene, fine dining and outdoor activities this former home to the native American Cherokee is a tourist hotspot with thousands of visitors each year.
Tracy’s research skills went into overdrive and found us great accommodation, first at a local Bed and Breakfast called Green Cottage on the edge of town, where we would stay for a couple of nights, before moving downtown to an AirBnB in a traditional American home which was separated into two different apartments. We first stayed in the larger downstairs flat for a few nights before moving upstairs for the remainder of our stay. Although preferring to stay in one location we had to do this to fit in with booking dates due to our last minute change of plans.
We once again found our ride share on Craigslist. We answered an advert from a young man called Alex who was travelling through Philadelphia to Asheville for a job interview and looking to share the cost of hiring a car and fuel for his journey. Although slightly off the beaten path in Atlantic City we contacted him about the possibility of a lift. We agreed a price and though adding two hours to his drive arranged to pick us up at our hotel to embark on the seven hundred mile, ten hour road trip.
This would be our third ride share through Craigslist and to say the least it been an education. We’ve had time wasters, scams, people not replying at all and offers of sex as full or part payment. One ad poster offered a “naked driving option” included…. for a fee.
For those of you who don’t know, Craigslist is a classified advertising website similar to the UK’s Gumtree. Founded in the US covering worldwide locations it has category’s devoted to jobs, housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, services [including rideshare], community and discussion forums. In short pretty much anything you want to buy or sell, gain for free or just give away.
Of course it’s not all strange and funny adverts and replies, Craigslist has been linked to approximately 86 murders since 2007 so you have to be careful and trust your instincts. Look for links to social media, references etc. And where possible talk over the phone as direct contact can help you guage the type of person you’re dealing with.
The trip was good if not long and after two or three comfort stops along the way we arrived safely at Green Cottage BnB just after 9pm. Too late to head out we ordered a pizza before settling in for the night.
The next morning we were up sharp for our vegetarian breakfast of fresh fruit, muffins and scrambled eggs before heading into downtown Asheville to explore our new surroundings. Asheville’s reckoned to have the highest concentration of brewery’s per head of population in the US and this seemed to be the case as around every corner low and behold – a brewery. There was also dozens of fine dining restaurants at very reasonable pricing, our favourite being a place called Chai Pani serving delicious Indian street food.
For the outdoor type there’s the Great Smoky Mountains and several hiking trails just a short drive away and if looking around acres of ground at stately homes is your thing then Biltmore Estate, the largest in the the US is a must.
For Hamish there was a large back yard to waste the hours away squirrel watching. We were happy to mosey round town enjoying the Southern hospitality, sit on the porch at our apartment watching to world go by and generally relax. Our host, Reid took us out one evening to a place called The Wedge, a place popular with the locals and treated us to pizza and beer.
A fantastic, if unexpected, addition to our travels and if we find ourselves in North Carolina again will definitely return to Asheville for a second look.