Sunday, August 24, 2008

My vacation in the mountains!

Laura is in college now, and Mom and I took a week off to enjoy our last bit of summer with her on our long drive down to get her settled into her new home. Our week of vacation down to North Carolina had many memorable moments.
Our first stop of the trip was the New River Gorge Bridge overlook in West Virginia. We saw white water rafters in the river below, along with families at the beach higher up in the calmer waters. There was a coal train on its way from the mines. And many other onlookers experiencing in the breathtaking view of the bridge.

Our second stop was in Bland county Virginia. Immediately after we emerged from the second tunnel heading south into Virginia, the tire started thumping. I looked into my side mirror and saw the biggest rubber band I've ever seen flying through the air away from our car. Mom pulled over, calm as can be...and then realizing what had just happened, got a good rush of adrenaline.
We all waited for our tow truck on the side of the road with cars and trucks whizzing by. I got a lot of good pictures of the thruway, and the rocks along the roadside. A Virginia Department of Transportation worker named Jim came by to keep us company while we waited. He told some wonderful stories of his experiences on the road. He also warned us not to wander off the grass in order to avoid coming across a rattlesnake or an unsuspecting copperhead! The ordeal was exciting. No one was hurt, and getting the tire fixed only put us 2 hours behind schedule. Laura and I got a chance to stretch our legs and explore the very quaint town of Bland.
The third day of our trip, we visited Black Mountain. The three of us had a wonderful time visiting all of the shops. We stopped in this music store, Acoustic Corner, where Mom and Dad had bought Laura's mandolin on their previous trip down. The shop is filled with folk and bluegrass instruments, music and books. It was a dream come true for me! They had a beginner's banjo at a very reasonable price that I was going to buy, and Mom stepped in and picked up the charge. What a great gift! I've been wanting to learn the banjo for so long! If you are in the Black Mountain area, I highly recommend the Acoustic Corner. They are incredibly knowledgeable, and seem to have a great passion for promoting their local music.

The next day, the three of us explored downtown Asheville. We explored the Woolworth walk, which was full of local artisans. We purchased sweets from the Chocolate Fetish-a must see for any chocoholic, and then had an enjoyable lunch at the Bier Garden. This photo was part of a sculpture series that we passed by. I love the rich mountain culture!

We visited Laura's college a day before she was due to drop off her belongings so I could see the campus before the rush of kids arrived. She is going to Warren Wilson College, which is a working college. The campus is run by all of the students. Each student is required to work 2 hours a day to maintain the farm and campus. The school harvests it's own crops to use in the dining halls, sells it's fresh produce to the students, and also to the local towns to make money for the school.
I got to see part of the farm. The lone goat that guarded the chicken coop was very happy to have our attention, despite his unwelcoming sign. We were also greeted by a crowd of piglets. They were so cute and animated. I got some great pictures of the little guys.

Besides the farm, the campus was incredible. Warren Wilson is a very small college nestled in the mountains. The buildings were just beautiful, and the view couldn't be beat. I think Laura picked the perfect college and will be in a wonderful place for the next four years.

On our last day with Laura, we visited the Folk Art Center in Asheville and saw a wonderful display of the local craft. There was a graduate craft exhibition on display and the craftsmanship and designs were superb in all mediums.

And finally, after dropping Laura off at college, Mom and I visited the Penland School of Craft on our way home. It has been a long awaited visit for me and was definitely a highlight of our trip. We saw the amazing work of students and teachers in the visitors center and gallery. I also spoke with the assistant blacksmith on campus who teaches a course on making your own steel forming tools! I have been dreaming of attending workshops there since I began my metalsmithing journey over 6 years ago.

This is where I would love to spend a summer! In the metals building!
And lastly, we were greeted by a happy grasshopper on a beautiful flower outside of the penland visitor center. I believe he was bidding us a safe journey home!

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