Sunday, March 24, 2013

Unexpected Vacation

Or, Score One for Facebook!

Blogs are a highly-edited, inherently subjective snapshot of our lives.  Sometimes I’m surprised at the comments I get describing me as energetic and hardworking, or my life as busy and exciting.  Because truth is, I’m quite content to pass an entire Saturday on the couch, with tablet, book and snacks at my fingertips.

Once in a while, though, life lives up to the blog.

Last week was proceeding as normal…twiddling my thumbs at work, looking forward to some Miss Chef time, thinking about poking around in the garden this weekend, and spending too much time playing games on my phone and tablet.  Piddling away on Facebook, I noticed that a college friend had posted a picture of her dog walking down a path in the woods, with a place stamp of Buncombe County, NC.  I recognized that as the Asheville area, where Miss Chef and I have passed many a happy weekend.

“Hey,” I commented on her picture, “Them’s my mountains!”

To cut a long story short, Friday evening found us packing up the car—and Rosie!—and heading west to Becky’s rental cabin in Mills River, between Asheville and Hendersonville.  Apparently, it doesn’t take much to get us going when the mountains are the destination.  It was of course much easier that we didn’t have to worry about finding care for Rosie, but more on that later. 

We arrived before 9:00, and decided to make the short drive to the historic downtown area of Hendersonville for a few drinks and, as it turned out, a late dinner.  We chose the Black Rose, where we enjoyed traditional pub fare—shepherds pie, bangers and mash, fish and chips—and a great selection of local beers.  We were too busy chatting, catching up and sharing stories for me to think of pulling out my camera, so for once, no food pictures!

We headed back to the cabin Becky was renting, where we settled in for more conversation, heavily focused on our dogs.  Becky had discovered this mountain retreat for dog owners, called Barkwells, during a quest for a place to stay with her new beagle, Pickle.  She had decided to take a week away, just the two of them, before starting a new job back in Chicago, and she was delighted with this place.  Each cabin is provided with dog beds, towels, and sheets for the furniture for dogs that “like to live on people level.”   We had a small fenced yard at the cabin, and the entire 8-acre property is completely fenced, so in the morning we could let the dogs run free, chasing smells, meeting other dogs and staring at the small flock of chickens and goats in a separate enclosure.

Barkwells 03


Rosie loved the big, covered porch with its view overlooking the central pond.  As you can see in the video below of some of the residents romping, it was cool and damp, but otherwise I’d expect that pond to be full of water-loving canines.  (There’s a draggy pause around :30; that’s my phone camera, not your connection.)

I did notice Rosie was the only mixed-breed in residence, though I think I was the only one to notice.


We were up early, because Miss Chef insisted that Saturday morning not go by without a visit to the Asheville farmers’ market.  This area is pretty crunchy-granola when it comes to green living, local eating and the like, so we expected a thriving market with tons of local growers and customers.

What we found was this:



Nearly empty, with mostly commercially-produced food, some t-shirt and bumper-sticker booths, and a few local crafts.  The stand that Miss Chef is looking at boasted all kinds of “Amish” products—a bit suspect, seeing as there’s only a single church district in the state, and their main industry is furniture making.  Nevertheless, there was an enormous offering of Amish jams and jellies, Amish pickles, and a “new product!”—Amish dip mixes to be stirred into sour cream or some such.  Perhaps designed to dip your Amish pretzels and Amish tortilla chips in?  Having grown up in an area with a large, vibrant Amish community, I viewed all this with a jaundiced eye.

Needless to say, we walked away quite disappointed with Asheville’s farmers’ market.  These were not farmers, they were vendors, resellers of mostly commercially grown and produced food.  I know we missed the boat somehow—there are a number of tailgate markets that run April through October, and I’m betting those are more like what we were looking for.  And perhaps Asheville’s support for local and organic foods means they are more available in local stores or co-ops, so a Saturday trip to the market isn’t necessary.

Regardless, Miss Chef and I once again gained appreciation for what we have in Charlotte—two year-round markets with a huge selection of seasonal produce, meats, dairy and baked goods.  Not to mention the warm connection to many of the farmers who grow what we eat.

I was happy to get back to the toasty cabin, where Becky was getting the place ready to check out.  We helped by taking the dogs out for a romp, and promptly losing Pickle as she rounded the corner of a cabin.  Beagles—they just follow their noses!  Still, there was no rush, we knew she couldn’t get off the property, and Rosie was having a great time sniffing, peeing and re-meeting a pair of labs who were escorting their owners, too.  We eventually found Pickle by another cabin, and got to chat with one of the owners of the place, before finally loading up the cars and heading out.

We all piled out at the French Broad River park, which had a small fenced dog area, nothing like the enormous, pretty dog park I’ve brought Rosie to a couple of times in Charlotte.  Still, it was another chance for them to sniff, pee, romp, and in Pickle’s case, dig.  Then it was off to the small apartment Becky was renting for her last night in Asheville, where we dropped the dogs off for a nap, before heading into town for lunch.

At, where else but C├║rate!

Curate 03

I think Miss Chef has made it her personal responsibility to introduce everyone possible to this restaurant.  This is our third or fourth visit; last time we introduced Chef Luca and his wife Jessica during long, boozy celebration.  This was lunch, though, so it was a bit shorter…and a bit less boozy.  Just a bit, though.

Afterwards, we spent a little time strolling around uptown Asheville.  There’s always something new and funky to discover.

Asheville 03 (4)


A stop in at Mast General Store was a must for me, and Miss Chef and Becky wanted to visit a brewery we’d driven by earlier.  After a couple of false starts—including a quick coffee in a shop run by a low-key missionary radio station—we finally ended up at Green Man Brewery, one of the original in a town that now bills itself as Beer City.

There’s no need for a tour in this place, because it’s all right in your face as soon as you walk in!

Green man 03 (2)


Green man 03 (1)


I like this last one the best…I call it the Emerald City of Beer!

Green man 03 (4)

Eventually we remembered that we had dogs, and they probably didn’t appreciate being left alone in a strange place while we ate and drank our fill, so we headed back the girls.  One last stroll around the neighborhood, and then it was time for Miss Chef, Rosie and I to load back up and head home.

Often the weekends with the fewest plans end up being the most fun.


  1. An excellent read! I really enjoyed this. Mickey and I would love a doggie getaway, and I'm always up for a brew pub.

    1. It was surely a nice break from the last couple of months. I'm sure Mickey would have a great time at a place like this, and it's nice not to have to worry about the canine when you're on vacation.

  2. I'm lousy at being spontaneous, but every time I manage to let go of my need to plan, plan, plan I am reminded of how lovely such adventures can be! And now you have reminded me again.

    I'm so glad you and Miss Chef (and Rosie!) had some quality time together!

    1. I even told Becky that's one of the reasons I appreciate having Miss Chef in my life--without her, I probably wouldn't have gone. To much to "do" at home. ;)

  3. That sounds wonderful - I especially love the resort for people with dogs!

    1. It was great letting Rosie walk with us without a leash. She slept all day Sunday!

  4. That last sentence you wrote there? That is so, so true. There are no expectations to live up to and you can follow your nose to the fun, just like your friend's beagle :) Glad Rosie had a good time too!

    1. Man, I wish I could bring her there every weekend!

  5. I'm overdue for an Asheville trip. I recognized that bench. I think it's off to the side of a bank building or something near the park in the square area... or something like that.

  6. A resort for doggie people....bliss xx


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