Days 101-107 – Asheville, Week 1

It’s not hard physically to settle into our new temporary home.

After we unpack our car, we go to our storage unit and pick up our hiking gear. We put everything away, settling into closets, dresser drawers and the vanity, before going grocery shopping. We stick to the basics: some meats for dinners, pasta and sauce, sandwich fixings, eggs, butter, chips, beer, wine, coffee, milk, fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt.

We spend most of the next day doing laundry – we haven’t done it in 2 weeks, plus we have stuff from our packs that needed a washing. Then we walk down to the Biltmore Village to explore the shops. There’s an interesting mix of chain stores – Talbots, J. Crew, White House/Black Market, etc. – and locally owned boutiques. I’m more interested in the boutiques, finding some cute dress stores, a neat stationery/pen store selling unusual clocks, an estate jewelry store and a great bakery (chocolate-orange cookie, anyone?).

After a little online research, we’ve chosen a nearby gym to join for three months. We realized toward the end of summer that while our legs are in pretty good shaping from hiking, our arms need attention. Plus, we’re not going to be able (or want) to hike every day so having a gym nearby will help keep us in shape. A few years ago, I hired a personal trainer who focused on deadlifts, chest presses and squats. I enjoyed working out with free weights much more than using the machines or body-weight exercises (step-ups, anyone?). I spent six months working out twice a week with him and didn’t see any reduction in weight, although I did see an increase in the amount of weight I could lift. Then Walt and I hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc circuit and at the end – after having eaten Nutella every day for breakfast, chocolate and cookies at every mid-morning break, and wine with every dinner – I had lost a few pounds. So, I’m a believer in the equation that hiking plus weight training equals weight loss and greater strength.

After signing up at the gym, I drop Walt back off “home” to await the delivery of our golf clubs and clothes from D.C. I head off to a nearby HomeGoods store. While our house is very well furnished, we need a few small items like a laundry basket, a mat by the front door for our shoes, a tray for the top of the vanity. It’s hard to keep myself focused on what I need. I keep looking at dishes, glasses, pillows, candle holders, etc. All things we have in plenty in our pod.

When I get home, our stuff has arrived and we spend more time unpacking and sorting.

We had picked up the local weekly paper in Biltmore Village to determine our options for the weekend. We decide to visit downtown Asheville for the First Friday Gallery Walk. There are very avant-garde art galleries, jewelry shops, fun little boutiques, all participating. We are intrigued by a few things but aren’t tempted to buy anything that we will just have to take to our storage pod in three months.

I’ve also spent some time in the past couple of days looking up hikes nearby, so we head off (on a Saturday because it’s our first available day) to John Rock and Cedar Rock Falls in the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. It’s a pretty easy 6-mile loop with great views of Looking Glass Rock and the Great Balsam Mountains and a really pretty waterfall near the end. It’s still pretty warm – temperatures in the 70s and humid. We did not miss the humidity when we were out West.

The views are as nice as advertised. Even better, as far as I’m concerned, because most people just hike up to John Rock and back instead of the 2 ½ mile longer loop, once we leave the rock, we have the trail pretty much to ourselves. The waterfall is delightful and, since we’re in no hurry, I take off my shoes for a little toe dipping. I do love wading in cold water and this water does not disappoint!

We had noticed on our way to the parking lot an ice cream stand off a main road. Happily it’s open on our way out (score one for hiking on weekends and score one for Asheville) so we stop for soft ice cream cones. Yeah!

Despite some initial misgivings that I might be bored now that we’re not moving every day or two, time is moving well.

We take a down day on Sunday to Internet surf for more hikes, catch up on the news and go to the gym. Monday we head for the nearby town of Black Mountain to check it out. It’s got quaint little shops, antique stores, restaurants, etc. It’s not nearly as large as Asheville but it’s nice. We enjoy a great lunch on the veranda of the Veranda restaurant and check in at a local real estate agent, who agrees to help us try to narrow our search. She points us in the direction of a few local communities and we head off to see what they’re like.

As I’ve mentioned, we want views but we don’t want to be far away from the grocery store. We also have a very modern house design in mind, which complicates our search. The first gated community (there are a lot of gated communities here) we look at is very nice but the houses all have a very similar Craftsman home look. The houses are pretty; they’re just not want we want. The second gated community is even nicer and we see a couple of building lots that have stunning views. We might be able to build a modern house here but the drive from the community to the grocery store is half a dozen miles down a narrow, twisty mountain road. I can’t see us making this 15-minute drive every time we want peanut butter.

At least we end the day knowing of some places we can rule out and, as we continue to look online, we now know of some areas we can rule out.

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