Day 108 – Knoxville to Asheville

On our third (or second, I never know?) to last day of our trip, we drove from Knoxville to Asheville, via Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Great Smoky Mountains to get on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Pigeon Forge is close to Dollywood and despite my fascination we didn’t end up spending $70/each to go and see it. What we didn’t expect is that for mile and miles around the place there’s lots of what I can only describe as tat. Oodles of crazy golf, rides, bad theme parks and for some reason, pancake restaurants, line miles of the road and makes for very slow going. The one highlight of that part of the trip was that we stopped at a KFC to try out the American version. Brian had some chicken strips that were ok, while I had the Famous Bowl, which consists of mash & gravy, with chicken chunks and cheese on top and it was awesome! I’ve always liked the mash and gravy and KFC but unfortunately it isn’t something you see that often anymore. From Pigeon Forge we drove via Gatlinburg, which is very congested and full of tourists – we realised too late that there was a bypass that means you don’t have to drive at snail’s pace through the town.
We didn’t go into Cherokee, rather turning off before it for the start of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which we ended up following all the way to Asheville. The drive is fairly slow with the speed restriction at 45mph, but even so we got to our motel (Super 8 Asheville) just after 3pm. Of course we took loads of pictures on the drive and it is very picturesque and exceptionally green. We were unfortunately just too early to catch the fall colours which the area is famous for, but it was still a very nice drive. The Super 8 was ok, but not really in a great position to walk to downtown, and as I wanted to do some shopping, we took the car to a local mall before driving into downtown. I was very excited about my two pairs of Nikes I got for $139, as opposed to the £125/pair they are priced at at NikeTown in London! We walked around downtown Asheville for a bit and there are loads and loads of options for eating and drinking, which makes deciding where to eat quite hard! We chose Farm Burger in the end as I read that their burgers are quite good, and they were. I liked their concept of building your own burger (not revolutionary, I know) but to me in makes perfect sense to let people build their own combinations, rather than having a massive menu with different options. The burgers arrived very quickly and were very nice, though not as good as the ones we had the night before. As we left the burger place it starts p8ssing down, which forced us into the nearest pub (Foggy Mountain Brew Pub) for a cheeky drink before driving back to the motel to leave the car and heading to the local pub called Mack Kells Pub & Grill.
I’d read some rather disturbing reviews about the place (check it out on Google), but it looked quite busy so we decided to give it a chance. At the door some burly bloke asked us whether we were members!!? We said no and he made us sign a logbook or something after checking our IDs – I have no idea what that was about, but trust me when I say the place is nothing like anywhere else I can imagine where you’d need membership to get in! It is in fact probably what they call a ‘dive bar’ with lots of loud and not so loud locals getting drunk and partaking in the 50c chicken wing deal. It ended up being ok, and we only stopped in for a couple of drinks and nobody bothered us, so it was all good. I was kind of disappointed in Asheville as I expected a bit more, but it is probably the fact that we didn’t stay in the centre of town that meant we didn’t enjoy it that much (another place with VERY high hotel prices for centre of town). The town seemed like quite a ‘young’ town with a lot of arty and hipster types around, which creates a nice vibe. Almost forgot, there was a woman walking around the streets topless in downtown – though Brian completely failed to notice her!

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