The wild and winding roads of western North Carolina zigzagged us across the parkway and into Tennessee (but more on Tennessee when we give it the full treatment in a couple months) and then into the more central part of the state where we stayed on Lake Norman. It’s been an incredible week and here are the highlights:
Seeing old friends
We stopped near Cullowhee where my old grad school buddy, Jonathan, lives with his wife—a talented musician, Susan Pepper—and their kids. I remember Jonathan as being a keen intellectual and a kind hearted human. I didn’t remember him as a gourmet cook. My god! We ate like kings. Each night he prepared meals using Mennonite recipes and ingredients he grew, raised, or harvested himself. Homemade biscuits and roasts. Pumpkin pie. Roasted vegetables and collard greens. It was like having Thanksgiving again. The views from their property were amazing and he guided us to local sights like Judacola Rock—some of the most significant petroglyphs in North America. The caretaker met the caretaker for this historic site, Jerry, who is quite a traveler himself. Turns out, he is also a friend of Jonathan’s.
Yes, we started in Virginia on the Blue Ridge Parkway. But America’s greatest strip of asphalt just somehow gets more beautiful as you go. We’ve probably traversed 2/3 of the parkway in pieces now and I am determined to come back someday and drive it all in the spring and again in the fall.
Making new friends
Giant white pickup truck drivers who love to tailgate aside, North Carolina is an incredibly hospitable state. We had driveway hosts near Asheville who made us feel right at home and gave us great local recommendations. Then, once we made it out to Lake Norman, we interviewed Ces—a woman with an honest to god fleet of jaw dropping buses.
Both Ces and her husband, Doug, were so welcoming and so kind to us. After the first couple hours it felt like we were talking to old friends. We went for a ride in one of the splitties and saw Christmas trees. They invited us into their home (where I am writing this right now, actually) and fed us. Which brings me to…
Between Jonathan’s garden and the dinner we just had with Ces, I think North Carolina should be nominated for some sort of foodie award. Ces asked if we knew anything of North Carolina barbecue. I didn’t. I figured it’s like BBQ anywhere else and people just say it’s different. Holy cow. Holy pig. Holy bacon-wrapped-jalapeno popper. Burnt ends. Vinegar based sauces. Broccoli salad. North Carolina, you’re doing it right. They also took us to Brickhouse—a local restaurant in a renovated cotton mill. The food was great. But the company—the mix of old and new friends—that has been the real treat.