On Saturday, April 23rd, I set out in my little blue Mazda3 with one destination in mind: Asheville, North Carolina. Lilly (my Mazda’s name which I will hereby refer to her as, just to give you a heads up in advance) and I zoomed up the Florida Turnpike and onto Interstate 4 at just after 8am on that sunny morning. While the weather in Florida that weekend morning was fairly nice, I yearned for the slightly cooler temps and the wonder that is Asheville.
The drive up to Asheville from the Orlando area is less than thrilling. That is just the honest truth of the matter. There isn’t much more to see other than trees, road ahead and below you and of course billboard after billboard. If you are seeking a place to stay for the night, Florida oranges, grapefruit or any number of other touristy oddities, those billboards may just be what you are seeking along your interstate journey. For Lilly and I though, the only thing we looked forward to seeing sign-wise was one indicating how many more miles it was until I hit the mountain town of the Land of the Sky.
The first wave of excitement went through Lilly and I once we finally drove out of the state of Florida. Cheers overcame the car’s cabin all around. Okay, that was just me, but it was quite the vocally joyful cry. I think I’m safe in saying that Lilly agreed with me that escaping the Sunshine State was a darn good idea. She may be just over a year old, but she has come to learn early on that this state is one to run far away from. She has had more than her fair share of close calls from Florida drivers who seem intent on getting too close to her bumpers.
To my contentment, the peach state was uneventful. I fed Lilly some slightly cheaper gas (I say that lightly as the prices between Florida and Georgia are very similar) and we continued onward toward interstate 26 and the glorious Carolinas. I hit my one and only road bump in regards to a delay in the final minutes between Georgia and South Carolina. I literally crawled into the most southern Carolina state. At times, even feeling as though the interstate had actually been turned into a parking lot. You know something is off when you can check your email as you sit stopped on a road which has no traffic lights.
Once I got moving again, I kept a good, fairly consistent speed as I made my way through the Palmetto State. Lilly and I did stop for a couple of breaks which included eating the lunch that I had packed (eggless egg salad!) and the ever-fun rest stop restrooms. I’ve come to learn that most of the rest stop facilities are actually cleaner than ones you find inside your neighborhood mall or shopping center. Considering the amount of folks that must pass through these rest stops on any given day, I find that to be a pretty remarkable thing. Now, why can’t malls and stores that take in hundreds or more dollars each day do the same thing? Are shoppers really messier than a road traveler?
I tend to get a wee bit antsy toward the last hour or so of my trek through South Carolina. I know that I’m oh so close, yet so far. You know how that saying goes. Nothing seems to calm my ADD during those last minutes until I cross into the Tar Heel state. Okay, that’s not exactly the truth. Those beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains ahead in the distance do the trick quite nicely. Spotting them eases my driving exhaustion and instantly brings a big smile to my face. Yup, the mountains truly do have the magic touch. Well, at least they do for this girl.
Crossing over the state line into North Carolina, my excitement for my upcoming week in Asheville hit me all at once. Flipping on a local radio station, I began to sing aloud as I made my way through the windy turns that lead past Henderson county and into the Paris of the South. I knew that I had finally arrived and could not have been happier. Asheville, Lilly and I had made it and we could not wait to soak up each and every drop of the beauty that was now all around us.