Living in a small town I often get that feeling of entrapment that sends me on a two to five hour car ride to another small town where I eat, drink, and eat some more among strangers. Granted, this is not much different than eating and drinking among the familiar faces of my town, but it helps keep me sane. Though I’m not flying crosscountry once every few months, I am certainly contributing to my carbon footprint when I road trip for the weekend. When all is said and done, I have used up at least two tanks of gas, signed up to twenty different receipts on that glossy paper, ordered a coffee in a non-reusable cup after underestimating how much caffeine it takes to fuel two people for four hours of driving, and gathered approximately 5,000 of those paper pamphlets displayed in those amazing stands that inform tourists of local attractions. Not to mention the fact that I have also spent way more than I can actually afford and eaten my weight in every new food I can get my hands on.
At the end of all of these mini vacations I walk away with great memories and that refreshed feeling that can only come from actually getting away from all the stress and uniformity of my every day life. Without these little getaways with my best girl friend, I would not be able to function. I would be an unproductive, unhappy, mean lady. With cats. And ugly sweaters. And maybe larger love handles. So, let’s consider my weekend escapes to be self-prescribed medicine. I can’t give it up and risk my sanity, so I just have to be smarter about the choices I make so as not to put a larger hole in the ozone layer. Or my wallet.
This weekend I went on an overnight trip to Asheville. My bestie and I (yes, I said “bestie”) planned on a two to four day backpacking adventure on Grandfather Mountain — a mountain that we tried to climb last year. Last year I developed what seem like an 1800s Whooping Cough halfway up the mountain and we decided to turn around and eat Mexican food in a small, redneck town down the road from the trailhead. When my friend tried to climb the mountain a year before that, she and her hiking buddy chose the weekend that a large blizzard hit the entire East Coast. We don’t have very good luck individually so I am not sure why we think our friendship is a good idea. This year, we have been loading up on Vitamin C and I have been working out like a mad woman to prepare to make that mountain our bitch.
Why didn’t we, you ask? Oh, well it all started when I discovered what I thought was a pimple on my leg. Of course at the time it did not occur to me that a pimple on my leg was almost impossible, seeing as how I don’t even get pimples on my face. I let this “pimple” get bigger and bigger without thinking anything of it because I figured if it wasn’t a pimple it was probably a spider bite or something harmless. Wrong. One hospital visit, a weird nurse, and a long needle later I have a giant infection that I need to keep wrapped and medicated all day every day for weeks. Good job, me. My complete lack of concern over the development of scary markings on my body has finally come back to bite me in the ass… well, the leg actually. Oh but wait, there’s more. The genius doctors/nurses/people in scrubs at St. [fill in with a typical Christian name]’s prescribed me not one, but two, prescription antibiotics that I am evidently allergic to. And one week after I was taking those antibiotics, my body decided to stop fighting the allergic reaction and give in, displaying the large defeat with hives all over my body. Want to know how itchy hives are when they are covering every inch of your skins? Very. Wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-scratching itchy. Use-every-day-objects-to-scratch itchy. Rub-your-body-against-wall-corners itchy. So we decided it would be hard to climb up any mountain with a hive-covered, antibiotic-taking, epi pen-carrying me. Plus I’m afraid of bears and heights.
Robyn and I decided that a roadtrip to another small town would be the best medicine for our feelings of entrapment and my hives. But before we hit the streets of Asheville, we decided the trip would be nothing without stopping to say hello to Grandfather Mountain first.
Our drive up to Grandfather Mountain was perfect. The weather was heavenly, we were listening to our Mountain Music playlist, and we were in the mood to have an amazing weekend. But — like all other road trippers out there — we needed some snacks and caffeine. For caffeine we stopped at Starbucks for a drink (and a small pastry, of course). But Robyn and I made the decision early on that we would be scoping out some fresh Hot Boiled Peanuts (if you are not drooling then you are clearly not from the South or have never been to the South). So, we made a stop at the shadiest roadside fruit stand we could and purchased some boiled peanuts from an old man and his sister/wife/cousin/daughter.
Sustainable choices made so far: driving, stopping for local snacks
Unsustainable choices made so far: Starbucks plastic coffee cup and paper pastry bag
When we got to Grandfather Mountain we each paid $18 to get admission, pamphlets, and a Guided Tour on a CD. We drove up to the top of the mountain, crossed the mile-high bridge, and immediately decided that we needed to get away from all the annoying people with annoying dogs and children. So, we headed back down the mountain to find a nice spot for lunch. We brought fresh vegetables, beans, rice, and a camping stove to put together a cheap and delicious meal at a picnic table. No to-go cups, no trash, and lunch with a view.
For the next couple of hours we entertained ourselves with all the kitchy mountain attractions including a Nature Center, wild animal exhibits, fresh fudge shop, gift shops, and — best of all — the Forrest Gump Curve (where we got our cardio for the day in while we tried to get the perfect shot of us running just like Mr. Hanks — well, Mr. Hanks’ brother according to our free Guided Tour on the CD).
Sustainable choices made so far: driving, stopping for local snacks, cooking lunch instead of buying it
Unsustainable choices made so far: Starbucks plastic coffee cup and paper pastry bag
After our wonderful time spent on the mountain, it was time to hit the road again for the short drive to Asheville. We booked a well-priced hotel within four miles of Downtown Asheville for easy access (and because it was the best thing we could afford on our college budget). We did what everyone does when they get to a hotel room: turned on every light, turned on the TV, took our pants off, and laid on the beds. It may not have been the most sustainable choice, but we sure did get some good relaxing in. After some much-needed chilling, we got all dolled up for a night on the town.
Before sitting down to dinner, we enjoyed some free and awesome entertainment when we stopped by the drum circle that was happening in the center of Downtown Asheville (it was amazing and totally hippie-dippie). We chose to eat at Tupelo Honey, a restaurant recommended by a lot of people. We enjoyed local vegetarian food, drank local wine and beer, and stared at the beautiful selection of local bearded men. It. Was. Amazing. I was in food heaven while we were there and a food and wine coma for the rest of the night while we did our own Tour de Asheville, stopping at a handful of bars (and a Mexican restaurant by accident — that was odd).
Sustainable choices made so far: driving, stopping for local snacks, cooking lunch instead of buying it, local entertainment, local restaurant for food and drinks
Unsustainable choices made so far: Starbucks plastic coffee cup and paper pastry bag, electricity mayhem in the hotel
The next day started with a well-deserved sleep-in and was immediately followed by a day full of typical tourist moves. We ate lunch at a local Mexican place, shopped in homey little stores, ended up at a street festival slash gay pride celebration, and ate everything we could get our hands on. But what would a vacation be without loads of seemingly unnecessary souvenirs? Nothing, I tell you. I did pretty well, scoring a locally made jar of bath salts for the lovely lady that recommended Tupelo Honey, some oven mitts from a sweet, old lady who sells handmade kitchen things (with a slight attitude), and some fabulous sunflower earrings from a fabulous local artist.
Overall, I was extremely satisfied with our weekend getaway and decently impressed with how many sustainable choices we made without even trying too hard. We supported local restaurants, local wine, and local artists. We even ended up at a Pride Festival where we supported the local gays.
Sure, I could make some improvements for next time. But for now, I will look back on my wonderful trip with a guilt-free attitude and loads of memories made.