There's one thing that's hard to miss when you cross into North Carolina from points north: Boiled peanuts are everywhere. This is most evident as you're driving off of the Blue Ridge Parkway southwest of Cherokee, NC. Stands boiling peanuts are everywhere, and all that's missing are the bumper stickers so abundant in the South Carolina Lowcountry saying, "I brake for boiled peanuts."
I love fresh boiled peanuts. They're hard to miss on the highway, but I've managed to resist them so far. We'll see how long my resolve holds out.
The last few days in our trek to Miami have been spent seeing friends in Asheville, leaf-peeping on the Blue Ridge Parkway, searching for stealth campsites, more searching for stealth campsites, ignoring an anti-gay slur or two in southern Virginia and driving the backroads through the southern Appalachians to north Georgia, where we'll be hanging out for a few days before we begin our final push to Miami.
Asheville is a thriving little city in the mountains, Western North Carolina's regional hub for commerce, progressivism and bluegrass music. I've always said that if I'm ever forced to move back east and I have a choice of where to live, Asheville would be the only acceptable place. Now, I'd consider others, of course, but Asheville always impresses. If you could cross an up-and-coming arts scene of Santa Fe with a slightly less Eastern-inspired Boulder, double the number of mandolins and banjos per capita and drop the elevation by a few thousand feet without cranking down the scenery, you'd have Asheville. I can't wait to return someday soon.
Next stop: South Carolina, Savannah and Miami.