Vacation Part Three: Beagles Love Blueberries

After leaving Charlotte, we made our way to Kaitlin and Brian’s. Driving to their house from Charlotte is fairly short and a pretty amazing thing happens on the way there. Out of what seems like nothingness appears the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s like one second you just see highway and flat land and sky, and the next there are these beautiful mountains and all of a sudden you are driving up them and around them. There is very little transition from flat land to mountain and it seems to happen very quickly with little warning. You don’t really see them in the distance as you’re diving; they are just there when you least expect it. The Blue Ridge Mountains are very beautiful and I am somewhat jealous that Kaitlin and Brian get to see them every single day. In visiting them there, I realized a few things: I think where we currently live is pretty beautiful too and wherever Kaitlin and Brian find themselves living in the future, I am sure it is going to be just as beautiful and just as great a place to visit.

Monday & Tuesday
Our first day there was actually pretty uneventful, which was nice. We went grocery shopping and had lunch. It rained in the afternoon, as Kaitlin said it would, so we hung around the house and waited for Brian to get home from work. We had dinner, watched a movie and went to bed. It was nice to spend some time catching up with our friends who we don’t get to see or talk to that often and just relax with them. They are very busy people and I am sure they probably enjoyed just staying in for the night, I know I did. The next day, Kaitlin, Brad and I decided to go for a three-mile run while Brian went for a bike ride. Since they live in the woods there are obviously no sidewalks, which is where Brad and I have done 99% of all of the running we have ever done. So we ran on a windy road with no shoulder as oncoming cars carefully maneuvered around us in the fog. It made me feel like a badass runner.

After our dangerous run, we decided to head into Asheville and go to some of the shops and visit Brian at work. After walking around the city, having a few milkshakes and buying nothing, we met up with Brian and tried to catch the sunset from the Blue Ridge Parkway. By the time we actually made it up there, the sun had already set over the mountains and it was starting to get dark. We turned around and headed back home. I’m not exactly sure, but I believe it was this night, as I was just about to fall asleep, Kaitlin started yelling for Brian to come up to their room and “Get it out of here!” Her frantic scream made Brad and Brian very curious so they came upstairs to investigate and I stayed in bed because I knew I wouldn’t get whatever it was out of wherever it was. Brad warned me not to get up and look while Kaitlin said I absolutely had to, so I rolled out of bed into the hall. I should have listened to Brad because in a jar, Brian was holding the biggest effing spider I have ever seen outside of a cage; a wolf spider. They say that they have never had a wolf spider in their house and that was the first time one had ever made an appearance there. It freaked me out so bad I couldn’t fall asleep for over an hour. Every night after that, I had Brad search the room for gigantic wolf spiders before he turned the light off.

Wednesday
On Wednesday, Brad and Brian went to a brewery to make beer with one of Kaitlin and Brian’s friends who we met at their wedding and thought was very cool. I know very little about their experience there so if you would like to know about it you’ll have to ask Brad or Brian. Kaitlin and I started off the day by going for a run and then a fairly long walk. We didn’t really know what to do with the whole day to ourselves but we decided to go for a hike and pick blueberries. It was really awesome to spend time together, just us because we aren’t able to do it that often. Kaitlin wanted to hike to a certain area before we had lunch so we picked blueberries and blackberries as we made our way there. To our surprise, there we not very many blueberries along the way and we suspect it was because we saw quite a few people walking back toward their cars with containers full of them. We passed two men who said they had gathered four gallons of blueberries on that trail; no wonder we had trouble finding them, those two guys took them all! After a while, we stopped and had lunch at a certain point on the trail; I can’t remember where Kaitlin said it was. But as we were sitting there, I noticed a post along the trail with some graphics on it. As I examined it, I began to think about what an important and amazing thing graphic design is, and how lost people would be without it. It was really something to be standing there, on a trail in themountains and to see graphic design in a place where it is least expected. Most people think of advertising or a business card or letterhead, but graphic design is everywhere; it is in New York City on a billboard and it is on a trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Seeing that made me feel like what I do is really important and made me realize how powerful graphic design is. A thunderstorm followed us all the way back to the car, which really interrupted our blueberry picking, but we made it back to the car right before it started to pour. We drove into Asheville, and went to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge, named after the river that runs through the area, not a woman from France. We shared a few truffles and a cold sipping chocolate and I bought a small box of truffles to take home because I loved the little rigid box they came in. I could have bought the box for like three bucks or something but in addition to loving rigid boxes, I also love chocolate.

Brad and Brian met up with us there and we did not offer to share our chocolates, we made them buy their own; what mean wives we are. After ordering a second sipping chocolate, we decided that the first was much more satisfying and we soon regretted having the second one. We continued on to pint night at the Thirsty Monk, where we did not stay for long because Kaitlin and I decided to go home because we did not feel well after all of the chocolates we had just consumed and Brian thought the other Thirsty Monk would be a better place to go. So we split up again and as Kaitlin I were heading back to the car, I took a few photos of some interesting (or what I found to be interesting) things around the city. I really like the city because of its visual aspects. I mean the people are cool and everything but something about it is very visually appealing to me. Not all cities are like that and I think that is one reason why I find it such an enjoyable place to go. As we were driving home, Kaitlin and I had a great conversation about where we are in our lives and creativity and a lot of other things. It was a really wonderful, exhausting day and I knew we had a pretty eventful day planned for Thursday, so when we arrived home I basically went straight to bed and passed out as soon as I lay down.

Thursday
We woke up fairly early on Thursday morning due to the fact that it was our last day there and we had a pretty packed day planned. We started the day by driving into Asheville and going to the Early Girl Eatery which has the best vegetarian biscuits and gravy I have ever had. On our way there I spotted a little shop called Bake It Pretty, from which I had ordered the button molds for my sister’s baby shower favors (see Recent Work post). After we consumed our delicious breakfasts, we took a walk down the street to look inside the windows of the Bake It Pretty shop. At that point, they hadn’t officially opened yet and were still getting the shop together so we just looked inside the windows and headed back to the car. Kaitlin and Brian were asked by a friend of theirs to babysit two very adorable kids for about an hour, so while they were gone, I attempted to make some pesto for dinner and Brad attempted to do a little work on his laptop. As I placed the basil leaves in the food processor, I was distracted by a brown and white spotted horse just outside the window and asked Brad if he wanted to take a quick break to go chase after it. He did, so we went outside.

The horse did not want anything to do with us so we headed back inside to finish our work. Amidst the horse distraction, I somehow misread the measuring cup and added three times as many nuts than the pesto recipe called for. As I added the oil and hit the blend button, I noticed that this pesto was not green; it was brown. After calling Brad into the kitchen we determined the following:

1. I got distracted and added too many nuts
2. There were no more basil leaves left on the basil plants
3. Brian left me a giant size measuring cup that had no lines below the one cup marker
4. We couldn’t just waste 5 cups of basil leaves

So Brad hopped in the car and went to the store to buy more basil and oil, and needless to say, he did not get any work done. When Kaitlin and Brian got home there was approximately four times the amount of pesto they had originally expected to come home to. We put it in the fridge for later and headed out on our hike. We had originally planned to do a much longer hike, but in order to pack everything in we wanted to do, we decided to drive most of the way and then hike to the top of one of the mountains to check out the view.

It was a pretty steep hike and I am somewhat glad that we decided not to hike the whole way because I probably would have passed out halfway up. Once we made it up there, we enjoyed the view for about ten minutes before a thunderstorm decided it was time for us to leave. We got back to the car and continued to our next destination which was a cool (downright cold) little waterfall and swimming hole called Whale Back Falls. Brad and Brian were first to jump in and slide down the rocks into the water. Kaitlin and I were a little more hesitant but after a few minutes of standing there watching ten-year-olds jump in, I decided I was just going to do it; so I did. It was freezing but refreshing and super fun so I went down the little waterfall slide and swam to Brad who was sitting on the whale-shaped rock in the middle of the water (hence Whale Back Falls). We all jumped in again and decided it was time to leave. We changed by the road which was funny because people were driving by, but really, where else were we going to do it? We hopped in the car and headed up to Black Balsam to pick some blueberries and watch the sun set over the mountains. We picked blueberries for at least two hours and the sun didn’t really set so-much-as it disappeared behind some clouds. We filled up our blueberry bucket and a bag we brought along and as we headed back to the car, we offered some berries to a photographer and his buddies who were camping out to watch the meteor shower that was supposed to happen that night. They didn’t take any berries but they did tell us that the meteor shower was supposed to happen at one o’clock in the morning, so we all decided we would go home, have dinner and stay up to watch the meteor shower. By the time we got off of the parkway and down the mountain, it was around nine o’clock at night. We stopped at a store to pick up some bread and some caffeine, went home, had dinner and went to bed. We did not see the meteor shower.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday
On Friday, Brad and I woke up and got all of our stuff together. Brian went to work so we said goodbye to him, Kaitlin helped us pack the car and we were on our way back to my dad’s in West Virginia. We had to drive through Asheville to get to where we needed to be so we decided to stop in and buy a nice fleece shirt at Brian’s place of employment. As we were almost out of North Carolina, we decided to stop at an overlook and get a couple of pictures of the mountains. We continued on into Tennessee where we saw a little black bear run across the highway, which was really cool because first of all he made it across and secondly, I have never seen a bear before outside of the zoo. I called at least four different people to tell them what we had just seen but no one answered. I told my sister about an hour later but the excitement had worn off and she didn’t sound as surprised as I thought she would be. During the drive, Brad and I talked a lot about where we thought were going; not literally, like to my dad’s, but in the future and what we really want to do with our lives. It was fun to spend a lot of time together without thinking about work or if the house was clean or any of that. We made it to my dad’s, went grocery shopping and then he took us down to the New River to go swimming. As we pulled into the parking space by the river, a woman in a big van pulled up next to us and basically parked with her two front tires in the water. Her doors opened, she unloaded about seven teenage kids, they scattered everywhere and she made her way into the water while blowing up a raft. She had a little yippee dog who kept snipping at my dad’s dog and at one point one of the kids grabbed the dog by the head and it yelped. The woman had the kid bring the dog to her on the raft where she proceeded to give the dog a bath, soap and all, in the river. Needless to say, we quickly got out of the water before the dog’s dirty soap water made its way toward us. No too far from where we went swimming, my dad took us to a little “town” that was once a bustling train station. We walked along the railroad tracks and I took a lot of photos here because it was a very old and interesting place.

The next day, we decided to go to a flea market before heading to the lake to go swimming. I find the flea markets in West Virginia interesting because the people there have the weirdest old things. I took a lot of pictures here too, because a lot of the stuff there really made me wonder how these people acquired these odd items and how they thought they would ever sell them.

West Virginia is a strange place to me.

We drove to the lake from the flea market and we parked the car in the lot where people launch their boats. As we are walked down a little road to the water, there was suddenly a sign that said “Road Ends in Water.” What? So my dad explained to me that they drain the lake in the fall to allow for white water in the river for rafting and when the water goes down, the road keeps going for a while. It is an odd thing. So we floated above the road in the lake for about an hour. We went back to my dad’s, took a nap, ate dinner, packed the car and left his house around nine o’clock at night, headed for home. We were going to leave West Virginia on Sunday morning but decided we would rather be home earlier on Sunday even if that meant stopping to rest along the way. Brad has the hardest time driving in the dark, which is partly why I drove at the beginning of our trip, but he offered to drive. With a whole pack of caffeine gum and a thing of coffee, he was able to stay awake the entire time. I drove briefly through Pittsburg but had a difficult time keeping my eyes open so he took over again. We drank caffeinated beverages, had some Combos and rocked out to music so loud I’m surprised we aren’t deaf. Hearing or not, you have to do what you have to do in order to stay awake at three in the morning in the middle of Pennsylvania nothingness. We arrived home at around six in the morning and went to bed. All in all, we had a great vacation and it was exactly what we both needed at exactly the right time.

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