So, two nights in West Asheville. Not much going on there it seems.
But that, dear reader, is not why I am here. Nor am I here because of the Rodeway Inn, (which looks good in the light of Extended Stay America, but in no other way). It all served a purpose, though, a bed during a busy time between two festivals – Black Mountain and Mountain Song. Both highly rewarding and in the most picturesque settings. Between these I saw Kevin Gordon for the first time, Elizabeth Cook showcase her new record, Todd Snider in both acoustic and jam-band mode, the classy Steep Canyon Rangers in their home town at their own festival, the bravura performance of the The Kruger Brothers with The Kronos Quartet and, above all, Darrell Scott‘s emotional hour on stage at the Brevard Music Centre.
All this was ringing in my ears the next morning as I packed the car and checked for damage to my vehicle in the hotel car park – all good.
I drove over to the adjacent Asheville Outlet Mall for some shopping. Nothing was open, so I headed to the Starbucks store for coffee and brunch. While sitting there spilling these very words, a young woman sat down two tables away and asked if I minded if she sat there. Now, when you are on the road alone you keep alert for potential engagement with locals, thought about it and did nothing. After a while I noticed that she was quietly reading the bible, engrossed even. I eventually finished my article and walked up and down the somewhat sterile, but bargain-laden stores and picked up some items for the Australian summer.
It was just about lunch time and I decided that I would get another coffee, to go as I needed to motor on. The young woman was still absorbed in her Holy Book.
I made a decision to drive by The Biltmore Estate and check it out, as it was only ten minutes away. I followed the steady stream of cars through the outer game and absorbed the windy, narrow road, first alongside a pretty stream and then into a massive plain and the ticket office. I had little time, really, so I headed back out without even laying eyes on it. But this is what I have uncovered about the property.
The Biltmore Estate is a very large (6-acre) private estate and tourist attraction in Asheville, North Carolina. Biltmore House, the main house on the estate, is a Châteauesque-styled mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet (16,622.8 m2) of floor space (135,280 square feet (12,568 m2) of living area). Still owned by one of Vanderbilt’s descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. In 2007, it was ranked eighth in America’s Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.
Definitely time to go. The drive was pretty and relaxing. The undulating terrain was too hard for my Hyundai’s cruise control, so I turned it off. Up and up I went until I reached the top of Sam’s Gap where the Tennessee state line appeared,somewhat precariously placed.
I stopped shortly after. Buddy and Jim were due on Outlaw Country in a while, so I padded time – re-fuelled the car, cleaned its windows, checked the store and the restroom, stood outside and sucked in the beautiful air and surroundings. The rest of the drive was thoroughly enjoyable. When Buddy and Jim start talking to another musician, in this case Dwight Yoakam‘s former guitarist Brian Whelan, I am in heaven.
As I approached Bristol, I tried to recall my last arrival here in 2014 where I had an inspiring time – the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, learned about The Big Bang of Country Music, visited the nearby Carter Family Fold and just enjoyed the town itself.