July 3, 2012
Atlanta, GA to Montreat, NC (via Tallulah Gorge and Asheville)
We set out for Montreat, NC to attend a family reunion on the Fourth of July. Atlanta was hot. I bought a cup of lemonade for 25 cents from three kids at a lemonade stall in Toco Hills and headed northeast on I-85. The traffic crawled and we kept the AC on high. Instead of keeping on to Jefferson we turned onto I-985 between tall trees and drove north into the national forest. We stopped at Tallulah Gorge. Big green trees lined the South Carolina side over Tugaloo Dam on the other side of the basin that snaked between the mountains below our hilltop. Dead trees sat over rock outcroppings and the sunlight shone gold on the water pooled at the dam. An older couple stopped near us and stood by the railcar that used to carry workers down the incline into the gorge.
We crossed the state line near Franklin, North Carolina and passed through former Cherokee country on a four-lane highway with little traffic. We climbed northeast toward Asheville into lush green slopes. We passed a beautiful prep school on a hill of manicured grass where children ran up the slope overlooking a field of crops and mountains trailing with mist.
Near dark we arrived in Asheville. Near the French Broad River we came into West Asheville, which looks like East Atlanta. Graffiti, leaflets, stickers and street art adorned dive bars, a record shop, and a gas station on two street corners. A lounge was spilling people onto the street. Across the road was the squat, nondescript bar “The Admiral,” which serves local and seasonal specialities. Most small plates cost about $12, and large plates about $23. We ate three small plates: local flounder with first of the season tomatoes, sweetbreads on mashed potatoes, and pork belly with carrots. Sweetbreads, I learned, is not bread at all, but the pancreas of a lamb, and delicious. The fish and pork and even carrots were outstanding.
We arrived in Montreat around midnight.