Yes, I’m going to force you to look at photos of my road trip to Asheville, North Carolina.
Click “more” to see.
This is Natural Bridge, just a few hours outside of Washington on Route 81. To get an idea of how big the thing is, take a gander at those small collections of pixels along the walkway. Them’s people.
Natural Bridge is often cited as a fine example of free market environmentalism — Thomas Jefferson bought the land around the bridge from King George and insisted that it be preserved after his death. It’s pretty amazing. Route 11 runs over the top of it. Unfortunately, it’s also been subjected to some of capitalism’s less savory elements. The perimeter of the bridge is schlocked out with miniature golf courses, a wax museum, and something called “The Haunted Mansion.”
Yes, that’s a black guy holding up the Rebel Flag in downtown Asheville. He was the second one I saw that day — part of an outfit called “Dixie Tours.” The monument behind him is dedicated to Zeb Vance, an honorable Whig and friend of liberty who, like many, was born into the pre-Civil War south and honor-bound to wind up on the wrong side of history.
Fireworks in Asheville. The Fourth of July brought out an odd mix of granola kids from UNC-Asheville (a fairly reputable art school, apparently), mountain folk come down to see the fireworks, and tourists from pretty much everywhere east of the Mississippi. It’s an artsy town with lots of galleries, coffee shops, and bookstores. Most menus are an eclectic mix of deep-south grease and trendy campus vegan eats. I hear there’s some excellent fine dining, too, though most of the better restaurants were closed for the bulk of the Fourth weekend.
Delightful little piece of public art — a cast-iron cat slinking along the precipice of a private balcony. There was another clinging halfway up a nearby lamp post. A bit more creative than, say, this crap.
This is the Biltmore Estate, the largest private residence in North America. It was built around the turn of the century by George Vanderbilt, who thought that, as American royalty, he needed his own castle. It’s absolutely stunning. 250 rooms, 65 fireplaces, and original impressionist paintings dotting the hallways. More impressive than the buiding itself, I thought, were the grounds. 8,000 acres of mountain contryside, including a 3-mile driveway, 100 miles of trails, hundreds of head of livestock, a raftable creek, corn and wheat fields (that I saw), and a winery — all lush and green and exquisitely well-kept.
Hackneyed libertarian observation: I couldn’t help but think that in most ways the average American today lives better than a baron like Vanderbilt did just a century ago, even by Biltmore standards. Okay, so I don’t have aweing mountain views and milion-dollar tapestries in my one-bedroom Alexandria apartment. But much of what made the Biltmore so modern for its time — a swimming pool, a bowling alley, plumbing, a “fitness room,” elevators, refridgeration — most all of us at least have access to today. There aren’t many periods in human history when you can say that within a hundred years, that average man will live as “royalty” does.
You could kill a week just on the Biltmore estate. It hosts concerts throughout the summer (Al Green and the Blind Boys of Alabama are coming in September). During Christmas, they deck the place out, and getting a limited-admittance slot is apparently the hottest ticket in the Smokies foothills.
Grapes hung from the entryway to the Biltmore gardens.
Amusing story. Apparently, the Vanderbilts were none to happy when a McDonalds opened just outside the entrance to the Biltmore Estate. So they cut the franchise a huge check to class up its act. The result? What we’re supposed to believe is the “World’s Classiest McDonalds.” I didn’t visit, but a cabbie said there’s a baby grand piano inside.
One of the many gee-whiz overlooks along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
View from the peak of a mountain you can hike up from a stop along the highway. Check the road winding between the mountains. Just a wonderful drive. (Alas — poor XM reception, though.)
Shot from the car while driving through Tennessee. Please don’t ask why, when traveling from Asheville, North Carolina to Washington, D.C., I would have been able to snap a picture of the Tennessee countryside.
I’d rather not explain.
A great trip. A little hot for my taste. But that’s July, I guess. I’d like to go back in autumn.