Our good news is that we now have confirmed flights out of Dulles Airport in Washington on Sunday evening (November 17). We will have a six hour flight on Alaska Airlines to Los Angeles and then a sixteen hour flight from there to Melbourne. Thank heavens for business class!
Yesterday, we drove a short part of the way to the city of Asheville in North Carolina. There is an airport here (but not our preferred starting point for heading home) but it has more facilities than Sylva. We planned to prop here until we learned what the insurance company was going to do for Jill about flights. I found an email from them at 3.00 am this morning and I was on the phone immediately to Qantas to rebook my ticket on the same flights. All went well and we feel like we are now on our way. We now have two days to drive to Washington – about 240 miles / 4 hours each day.
Our drive up to Asheville yesterday ws quite short so we took some time to do a little more sightseeing along the way. Our first stop was at Big Bob’s Creek Picnic Ground where there are many photo opportunities. It had been snowing here and even though there was a very thin covering of white, it added to the atmosphere nicely.
I found a little foot bridge that crossed the creek at the start of a walking trail and it was easy to get some nice images.
Back down the valley, we found a general store and some old farm machinery by the road.
Back on the main road, we found our second photo destination. I had read about a little road in the Maggie Valley named Hemphill Road. It was very photogenic and we stopped many times along the way as we saw things that looked photo worthy.
We arrived at our hotel around 4.00 pm and settled in for the night. Jill is still having trouble eating normal hotel food and I was happy to see a supermarket across the road where I could buy something suitable for her to eat.
We had a very slow start to the the day today (especially after my 3.00 am telephone calls to Qantas and Alaskan Airlines). I grabbed some breakfast and then came back and helped Jill shower and get dressed for the day.
We filled in a few hours with a drive around the area. We began by going downtown where we found the City Hall and Courthouse. They have some interesting architecture. Before the arrival of the Europeans, the land where Asheville now exists lay within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation. The history of Asheville, as a town, began in 1784. In that year, Colonel Samuel Davidson and his family settled in the nearby Swannanoa Valley, redeeming a soldier’s land grant from the state of North Carolina. By 1860, the town had a population of approximately 2,500 people. It remained relatively untouched by the Civil War, but contributed a number of companies to the Confederate States Army, as well as a number for the United States Army. It now has a population of over 92,000 people.
We drove for a little way along the Blue Ridge parkway but large sections are closed. The National Parks Service doesn’t have a specific date on which the road is closed; just closing some sections temporarily that are made dangerous in some way e.g. ice and snow. Today, we could drive about 25 kilometres to the south and about 10 kilometres to the north before running into barriers. We found some overlooks with good views as well as some tunnels under a few of the ridges along the road.
The obvious place to visit here in Ashville is the Biltmore Estate. We could see the house in the distance from the Parkway. The Biltmore Estate is an historic house and museum. The main residence, is a Châteauesque-style mansion built for George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895. He made his wealth though building and operating railways and ferries. The property is the largest privately owned house in the United States and is still owned by George Vanderbilt’s descendants, Jill’s health did not permit her to walk around the house and its grounds and besides that it was quite cold so we didn’t visit it today – maybe next time!.
Instead, we ended the day with the finding of a much more humble residence. We passed an interesting site where a man named Zebulon Vance was born. I’ve never heard of him but he was a famous politician, civil war general and one-time Governor of North Carolina. The historic site is near Weaverville about nine miles north of Asheville.