The one downside of our lives in Charlotte is that we are separated by many miles from our daughter Jessica. This distance between loved ones is not an unusual circumstance in the mobile environment we call America; indeed movement towards a better life or more profound opportunities has driven our growth as a country since its earliest times. Born and raised in Los Angeles, I’m the product of parents who were not native Angelinos, both migrating to the west coast at different stages of their lives, my father from Wisconsin as a young lad of eight or so, my mother from rural Ohio as a young adult.
We try to see Jessica as many times a year as we can, money and distance being the primary obstacles to constant contact. For the first six years of our time in Charlotte I was ringing up 25,000 flying miles a year on United, with Joanna and I alternating trips to the West Coast to double the amount of time Jessica got to spend with one of us. It’s not as much as we would like, the three to five times a year we get to see each other, but it is probably more than others in our situation can manage and for this we are grateful.
When we last visited Jessica and Kris in Oakland in March, we made plans for them to fly to see us in Charlotte over the 4th of July weekend. As is our habit, we’d come up with a non-stop weekend so full of activities we’d barely have time to do anything but drink beer and eat good food. We picked them up at the airport on Thursday the 2nd and went straightaway to the Flying Saucer for a welcome to town drink. No surprise there as our followers will attest, it is our go to outlet for a great selection of constantly revolving craft beers on draft and in bottle form.
We then made our way to Village Park in Kannapolis to join up with a social group we belong to, the Piedmont Adventure Club, for a picnic and evening with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra playing patriotic music followed by a large fireworks display. We’ve done this event almost every year since our arrival here in Charlotte and it is always enjoyable.
A highlight of the kids visit would be a return to Asheville where a 2008 visit with Jessica included a day at the Biltmore Estate. She and Kris had gone there last May just before we left for Europe and also visited the Biltmore Estate; this left us free to forgo visiting there and plan a more open itinerary, one with lots of potential for fun, food, and beer.
We left late in the morning on Friday the 3rd for the two hour thirty minute drive, a little longer than normal as we were taking a recommended route that would line us up with a southern approach to Asheville for a stop at the new Sierra Nevada Brewery and Taproom located near the airport. We arrived early in the afternoon to find a jam packed parking lot and a two hour wait to be seated in the restaurant. Not starving we decided to skip food and instead found an open table on the patio, ordering a round of beers from the outdoor bar situated there.
The setting here is beautiful, backed up against the Smokey Mountains with the French Broad River lazing past in the distance. It’s refreshing to visit a mainline brewery like Sierra Nevada, whose products are readily available in your local market, as you get a chance to try variations of their brews you can’t find outside of the brewery.
We closed out our tab, made a quick stop at the gift shop for some logo merchandise and a growler of a strong IPA and headed out for our home for next two nights, a house loaned to us by a friend of Joanna’s. We’d tried to book a place through Airbnb, reserving a house back in March. Our reservation was cancelled in May due to changes the landlord thought were going to occur in Asheville City Law. We tried unsuccessfully after that to book another place (I won’t go into the permutations that went down, enough to make me skeptical about the service altogether) so we were relieved when the offer of the house loan came through.
We unloaded the car and set up shop, then made our way to downtown Asheville and the beginning of what would be a day or so of brewery hopping, window shopping and hopefully, a good meal or two. We secured street parking on Biltmore Avenue just up and across the street from the Orange Peel, Asheville’s famous concert venue. From there we walked five blocks west to Hi-Wire Brewing. One of Asheville’s many small such concerns. We enjoyed a selection of their brews, none being big beers but all having a good solid foundation, imminently drinkable.
Feeling a bit peckish, we walked back to Biltmore Avenue to try out a recommendation from our Asheville hosts, Wicked Weed Brewery. Even though it was pretty early there was a wait for a table and so we spent fifteen minutes or so outside on the patio, then went inside when called to be seated in the front dining room. Known for their west coast hoppy and Belgian style ales, the selection here is indeed unique and satisfying.
Settled in at a table and with one round ordered, we started with a few appetizers, including fish & chips, an artisanal cheese platter, and the house rillettes. Each was imaginatively prepared, with the fish and chips the winner by far. We finished by splitting two burgers, the Carolina bison (with haystack shallots and blue cheese coleslaw) and lamb (with cucumber, red onion, oil cured olives, and Greek yogurt). Both were fine examples of their craft, the lamb surprisingly mild, almost to the point where it was difficult to discern it was that type of meat. Our one regret was that we’d neglected to substitute out one of the orders of French fries that come with each; having had them with our appetizers it would have been nice to have sampled another of their unique side dishes.
Finished and full of good food, we paid up and then walked back towards Hi-Wire, turning right on Coxe Ave. to walk past Asheville Brewing Company (Joanna and I visited some time back) and the Thirsty Monk ending up at Patton Ave, a main east/west street that runs past Pritchard Park, home to Asheville’s infamous Friday night drum circle.
This is a very popular part of Asheville, one we’ve spent time in before. We walked past the park and stopped in at the Woolworth Walk, a local gallery filled with different artist’s consignment booths situated inside the old Woolworth’s store built in 1938. We slowly walked through both floors, examining the various displays and eventually exited to threatening skies. We beat a hasty retreat back to Biltmore Ave, turned right and about a block down the street ducked into the Mast General Store there to escape the rain.
After some serious browsing, the skies let up and we finished walking back to the car, returning to the house after a successful first day in Asheville, closing out the evening with some of the high gravity IPA we’d purchased in the growler at Sierra Nevada. Some days are just good and this was one of them.
Flying Saucer: http://www.beerknurd.com/stores/charlotte/
Piedmont Adventure Club: http://www.piedmontadventureclub.org/
Charlotte Symphony Orchestra: http://www.charlottesymphony.org/events/7F46754B-9103-4012-AFAC-AFD0FA0890A0/
Sierra Nevada Taproom: http://www.sierranevada.com/brewery/north-carolina/taproom
The Orange Peel: http://theorangepeel.net/
Hi-Wire Brewing: http://hiwirebrewing.com/
Wicked Weed: http://www.wickedweedbrewing.com/
Woolworth Walk: http://www.woolworthwalk.com/