Days 142-148 – Asheville, Week 6

I’m pleasantly shocked to wake up on my birthday to find the weather is sunny and headed for the high 50s. I’m used to a grey, wet, windy day for my November birthday.

Of course, I’m also pleasantly surprised to see a small birthday cake on the kitchen counter when I wake up. I mean, it was expected, because I always request (demand?) a chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream icing for my birthday breakfast. The first couple of years Walt and I were together, he balked at providing cake for breakfast but now he’s come around. (His objections were less of the “cake for breakfast is not very healthy”variety and more of the “it’s traditional to eat birthday cake after your birthday dinner.”)

I’ve told many people over the years of my birthday-cake breakfast (thanks Jean for the suggestion all those years ago) and you’d be surprised at how many say “I’ve never thought of it” then immediately start rationalizing why it’s a good way to start the day – “you get to burn off your cake calories during the day” or “it’s really no more calories than a glazed pastry” or some such rationalization. A fair number of them have tried it, too, although only Jean and I consider it a ritual part of our birthday experience.

I don’t care who else does it. Cake and coffee make me happy, any time of day, and I’m going to continue to do it as long as Walt’s willing to provide the cake. Although, honestly, I have no objections to providing my own cake. I was single for many years and I’ve bought my own cake more than once.

In recent years, Walt has baked my cake from scratch but since we’re in a rental home, I didn’t expect it. The cake from our local bakery works just fine for me.

After we’ve tanked up, we head for our golf lesson. As I’ve said, it’s another beautiful day so afterward we decide to explore the historic Grove Park Inn. We walk in to a huge lobby with two towering fireplaces built of enormous boulders, huge windows and a patio overlooking the golf course and Asheville. I’m reminded of the lodge on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Lodge. They’re all historic, hand-built structures with grand lobbies and huge stone fireplaces, although we’ve never seen boulders as big as ones used in the Grove Park Inn’s fireplaces.

We wander around, checking out the restaurants, shops and views, before heading to the concierge to make dinner reservations in a couple of weeks. We already have reservations at the Red Stag Grill tonight for my birthday and we’re very much looking forward to it. The grill is part of the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Biltmore Village and we’ve made Thanksgiving reservations so we’re eager to check it out in advance.

The Red Stag, known for its game dishes, does not disappoint. I have a yummy duck breast and a version of Oysters Rockefeller that is the best I’ve ever had (and I’ve eaten a lot of variations). Walt’s lamb two ways – braised shank and roasted rack – is even better. We top off dinner with a flourless black forest cake. We weren’t going to because we still have birthday cake at home but our server had asked in the beginning if we were celebrating anything and tells us now that since it’s my birthday, I get dessert for free. We can’t pass that up, obviously.

We get up the next morning to continue to work on the birthday cake for breakfast before heading out for a challenging 6-mile out-and-back hike to Green Knob. It’s challenging not because of the distance but because of the 2,500 feet of elevation gain in 3 miles. It’s also challenging because instead of just going up for three miles, we go up for about 1 mile, then down a few tenths, then up some more, then down some more then hit a long uphill. The guidebook I have says we can climb up to the top of an old Civilian Conservation Corps (built in 1932 but restored in 1996) fire tower. The tower is still there and we can climb the stairs but the access hatch to the deck is firmly padlocked. We have a snack in the sunshine before heading back down to the car.

Normally the trip down goes much faster but since this hike includes up in our downhill and some steep, leaf-covered sections that are a bit treacherous, we take just about as long to get to the car as we did to get to the top of the knob.

Still, it’s a gorgeous day in the 50s and sunny. We drive back along the Blue Ridge Parkway, enjoying a fabulous sunset.

We spend the next day just going to the gym and eating cake. Walt has to pack for a short trip for the funeral of a friend. I’m staying behind. I amuse myself by going to the gym, cleaning house and watching chick flicks.

Walt’s not worried about leaving me alone per se but he does worry that I won’t eat well while he’s gone because he knows I hate to cook and won’t do it. It’s just two days and I have cake. I fail to see where there’s a problem.

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