Day 55 - Downtown Asheville - Where The Stores Look Like Art Museums

Published: July 19th 2017
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Since yesterday was spent riding all around Asheville, the plan today was to ride the bike through the tunnel (how cool is that!) and into downtown Asheville some 3 miles away. Since Asheville is an artist community, there was nothing open until 10:00, and in fact some of the galleries didn't open until 11:00, so it was our excuse to sleep in today. So we had breakfast at the hotel, just before it stopped at 9:00 and headed out to Asheville about 9:45.

We weren't sure about parking, and were expecting to find a parking garage, but as we pulled in to the corner of Patton and Broadway, there was a spot available right on the street. There was a 2 hour limit, but we had lots of change we had accumulated over the trip, so we loaded it up and would come back periodically to top it off. It had been almost 20 years since we were here last, and we were concerned that in that time Asheville may have become over-commercialized. But somehow, the community has been able to resist the greed of the 21st century, and the place remains about what we remembered from 20 years ago. The Art District is still lined with cafe's and galleries and interesting little shops. Inside these shops and galleries, the merchandise is overwhelmingly provided by mostly local and some national artists and none of it was that typical tourist junk.

We started by visiting some of the galleries and we were really surprised by the quality of the work. There were not a lot of paintings, mostly sculpture and jewelry with a lot of the work in cast or cut glass. The designs were much different that we had seen elsewhere across our trip, and in some cases, the quality and selection of works in the galleries were better than we had seen in many of the art museums on our trip. Most of the prices were reasonable, except for some of the larger glass pieces which are always expensive.

There was a place called the Woolworth Walk that we especially liked. It was a two story old Woolworth's Department Store that had been converted into a series of small booths with each booth containing artwork from a specific local artist. Most were unmanned, so you just too the piece you wanted and brought it up to the cash register in the front and paid for it. Very interesting setup! We weren't really setup to carry around artwork on the motorcycle, but Jody did manage to pick up some interesting earrings, and of course some local t-shirts. The Woolworth's original soda fountain was still in place for lunch, so Jody and I ate there. They even had fried bologna sandwiches on the menu, so of course I had to have one. I used to love these when I was a kid.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering from shop to shop, gallery to gallery, and it was a very relaxing afternoon. The shopkeepers were all friendly and helpful and liked to show off their artwork. Periodically, we would wander back to the bike, get something to drink out of the cooler, and feed the parking meter. Jody and I would talk about what we and seen and new ideas Jody had for her own work, inspired from what she had seen. We collected a lot of business cards from the shops so we can go back online later and check out their websites.

One thing we noticed about Asheville, is that there were not a lot of children downtown. The locals seemed to be a combination of young free spirits and older more established shopkeepers, but there were not a lot of young families with children either as locals or as tourists. There also seemed to be a large music scene of local talent with posters of local bands and clubs and show dates evident everywhere. Being an artist community, there was some evidence of a large LGBT community, but this being North Carolina, most of this evidence was subdued. Hopefully, someday North Carolina will get it's act together.

We finished our wanderings in downtown Asheville at around 3:00. We had seen most of the shops and galleries, our change for the parking meter was running out, and Jody wanted to get back to the hotel to do laundry before dinner. We talked about heading back downtown after laundry for dinner, but in the end we settled for Chili's across the street from the hotel. Tomorrow we are off to Gatlinburg! We plan to ride the last 80 miles or so of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then head for Deals Gap and ride the Tail of the Dragon.

7.7 Miles Today

8670.8 Miles Total

0.0 Gallons Today

219.394 Gallons Total

Additional photos below
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