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10 days, 10 states: Drum circles and Hogzilla in North Carolina's "cess pool of sin"
"A cess pool of sin" -North Carolina State Senator James Forrester, in reference to the city of Asheville-
On a cold autumn evening in downtown Asheville's Pritchard Park, I find myself in the company of an inebriated man doing his best to imitate a silverback mountain gorilla. With his arms hovering just above ankle level, the bearded, shirtless gentleman plows his way through the forest of people collectively losing themselves in the rhythms of the Friday night Asheville drum circle.
Much as I encountered during my stay in Austin, Texas, Asheville is a progressive bubble of free-thought and cultural diversity in an otherwise conservative surrounding. Nestled at an elevation of 2,200 ft. in the Appalachian Mountains, Asheville is the final stop on my "10 days, 10 states, 10 great American sights" road trip, and I couldn't be happier to be here.
Though I consider Asheville to be one of my favorite towns in all of the 50 states, not everyone is as accepting of the drum circle dancing, microbrew swilling, buy local promoting mentality that's so alive and well.
In much publicized comments made by State Senator James Forrester, the Senator vehemently championed the notion that the city of Asheville was a "cess pool of sin". Unfazed by the verbal bullet, the cheeky citizens of Asheville have instead latched on to the catchy alliteration and have begun selling t-shirts, bumper stickers, and mountain themed memorabilia that glorify their supposedly sinful existence.
Sipping on a pint of Wee Heavy-er Scotch Ale in the city's lively downtown district, I write the sinful activity off as research towards familiarizing myself with the city's well known microbrewery culture. Though Asheville boasts a modest population of just over 80,000 people, no less than 9 breweries operate within the immediate region. Thrice garnering the title of "Beer City USA", Asheville also made the list of Gadling's official "24 greatest cities in the world for drinking beer".
Options such as inside of the purple painted LaZoom comedy tour bus.
Notorious amongst locals as being a slow moving historical tour that strangely enough involves an angry, bicycle-riding nun, the tour is also famous for having a license allowing history buffs to drink beers while on board. Genuinely funny and staffed by energetic Asheville locals, it's the history class you've always dreamed of.
Drinking on a moving bus? Definitely sinful.
So where else can I find this supposed sin in this supposed cess pool of a town that I just happen to love so much? Well, if gluttony is a sin, then a trip down to 12 Bones Smokehouse is probably the first place I would look. With a work week that would make even the French envious, 12 Bones is so popular for their southern style BBQ they're only open for business five hours a day, five days a week, all of which have a line stretching deep into the parking lot. In well documented photos adorning the walls, even President Obama isn't immune from racing down to 12 Bones for a lunchtime BBQ fix.
My 12 Bones item of choice? A "Hogzilla" sandwich that consists of pulled pork, a whole sausage, multiple strips of sugar bacon, and melted pepper jack cheese on a hoagie bun. Add in a side of baked beans and collard greens, pay a meager $7.50 for the privilege of calling it your own, and partake in a gluttonous feast so good it might even be in the neighborhood of sin.
Good BBQ. Good beer. Beautiful mountains. Quirky locals. Fresh mountain air. Asheville, North Carolina is decidedly my kind of town, and if this is the definition of sin, then throw me deep into the cess pool.
Kicked back in a lounge chair on the banks of the French Broad River, the third oldest river in the world, I breathe a deep, 3,600 mile sigh that's half contentment, half exhaustion. Over the last 10 days I've bathed beneath waterfalls in Umpqua, Oregon, and stood outside of the oldest house in America in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I've hiked the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, Utah, and trekked deep into the foliage of Georgia's Tallulah Gorge.
The result? Affirming the notion that of all the countries in the world to set off on a road trip, there are few better places to start than right here in our own backyard.
This is the final stop on Kyle's "10 days, 10 states, 10 great American sights" series, but by no means the end of the adventures. Stay tuned to Gadling for where he might pop up next.