Western NC | 5.23.11

MURAL ON SIDE OF BUILDING IN DOWNTOWN BLOWING ROCK, NC

We finally made it to the western part of the state. It was worth the wait! It’s about a 4-hr drive across NC, east to west, quite a switch from Montana. Where do I start?

BLOWING ROCK: A small mountain town, reminiscent of Sisters, Oregon, with hills. I need to back up. The closer we got to the mountains, the less we noticed the humidity and the AC in the car wasn’t needed. We liked that. Back to Blowing Rock (named after a rock, duh, and a monument – will research it). Lovely, charming, interesting, visually appealing, nice balance of old & new buildings, shops selling everything from cupcakes to carpets and everything in between, and lots of green spaces. Loved it! Blowing Rock is on our short list of just-plain-cool places in NC, that’s for sure! Population is less than 2,000 and median age? 50.7! Would love to retire there! More to explore, though.

BOONE: Maybe 15-20 miles from Blowing Rock, and the highway led to Boone, home to Appalachian State University (part of the 16 state universities in the NC system, which I work for). Very definitely a college town, a beautiful college town, surrounded by mountains. Reminded us of Bozeman and Missoula, MT. Lots of building going on all over campus, very well-reputed university, and it would probably be a great place to live if I worked at the university, but don’t think I would want to live right in Boone as a retiree. College towns have lots to offer, but being constantly surrounded by students could get a tad tiring. Very agreeable climate with warm days and cool evenings in the summer. They do get snow there in winters. And Gary did sell the snowblower before he left MT…

ASHEVILLE: The drive from Boone down to Asheville was, well… just spectacular. Gorgeous scenery, mountains, hills, valleys, looked like many places in the NW, where we lived for so long. One difference – the population; there was some structure every 1/4 to 1/2 mile or so, a house, a shed, cabins, produce stand, barns (some with large, classic patchwork quilt designs painted on the front or side – loved that). We stopped at a roadside anvil art gallery where all of the pieces were metal sculptures, wall sconces, chandeliers, etc. Weather was wonderful. Asheville came into view about 6 p.m. that evening. I was surprised by the tall buildings downtown and delighted that the downtown was so vibrant and full of shops, coffee houses, restaurants, diners, interesting architecture, galleries, etc. Because Asheville is in the Appalachian region, the folk art / arts & crafts influence is alive and well in this city. We’d heard from many people how wonderful Asheville is and they weren’t exaggerating. The biggest draw is the gigantic Biltmore House, on about 5K acres right in the town, built by the Vanderbilts. We didn’t take the tour, but will do that another time as it’s about a 4-hour tour and we had Remy in the van with us. I hope I have enough room on this blog for the photos I want to post! Great trip and we can’t wait to return.

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