Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summertime Asheville

Asheville, city of 80,000 people in a metropolitan area of about 400,000 people, Buncombe County seat, home to a campus of the University of North Carolina, this is a bustling city, always high on the most livable lists, filled with hip young people and at the forefront of fads. Cycling is de rigeur, but not just as Lycra hobby or sport, but as a way of life.It is a tourist attraction, and a town that also attracts young people who want to have children and raise families in a wholesome urban environment.This is the heart of the community supported agriculture movement in North Carolina, home to brew pubs and street fairs and agricultural coops and farmer's markets.Want a lute? Or a lute lesson? Just look around on the street you never know. It may be a ukulele or a banjo for all I know but it looked like a lute is all I can say in my defense.Asheville is clean and prosperous and until not too long ago wasn't too expensive to live in. I did see apartments in the Kress building downtown going for $500,000 or $1800 a month lease-to-own, but perhaps there are bargains to be had if you look.To live in Asheville means braving winters with night time freezing temperatures though summers are sunny and green and delightful. Asheville is the sort of urban renewal program that is pushed by proponents of moving away from suburban sprawl. Shops on the ground floor and apartments above is normal around here. People use sidewalks to walk. Imagine that.
Or sit.There is always something to catch the eye as you stroll in downtown Asheville.Hip scooters, a pretty Vespa. Learn this message in Asheville, it's everywhere:
Organic isn't enough anymore. Now the mantra is to consume locally sourced everything. restaurants list their local ingredients and the sources of their foods. Supermarkets tout their local sources of supply. It's back to the earth with a vengeance. Soy is out- it travels too far to become your food. Local is in. eating meat is okay now, as long as it is local and humanely raised.Big box stores and chains don't stand a chance here where locals shop locally and expect to find locals staffing local stores. Like all fads it is driven to exasperation in Asheville, to the great benefit of those of us who appreciate this way of life. One hopes it will catch on all over the place.
Any store that parks a working Road King on the shop floor has my vote.Layne and I agreed we need this relating to chickens.She was going to buy me this t-shirt but when I said "Nice" and shrugged my shoulders she begged off and said I had too many shirts as it is. That was close...Summertime is lovely.These kinds of store names are very common around here. Everybody (except me) has to believe in something apparently.Tops is a fabulous old fashioned shoe store with clerks who know their business and all the brands of shoe you know and some you don't. I buy all my shoes here and they are quality products.
Street life in Asheville.
One big disadvantage of north Carolina is the helmet law. Naturally this is a southern state so there are no pretensions to universal health care but they do require the noggin to be covered at all times. Even when puttering on a little Ruckus.
Hip people riding expensive bicycles wear helmets too though happily for adults this is not mandated.
Get this: tags are not required for 50cc bikes. Weird but true. Wear a helmet not a license plate.Some thoughtful people are predicting a rather imminent end to our industrialized way of life so the notion that eating local is the best way to go may, in their minds, become he only way to eat as the cost of oil gets higher and higher. In Asheville they are getting ready far quicker than the rest of us.
At Mast the outdoor store they speak of themselves as outfitters, as though they help people to prepare their polar expeditions. To me,it's just a toy store, a camping shop with knick knacks and rugged looking clothing for the urban trekker. The women in the company had fun.
There it is, a town with frigid winters, warm summers, tons of outdoor activities close by, dog friendly as far as I could tell thanks to the many sidewalk tables, and lots of third spaces for citizens to hang out in. Vegetarians, Buddhists and cyclists preferred.
We left town to take Highway 19 to Burnsville and the family mountain retreat at Celo.
21st century progress is being felt here with a four lane highway under construction. Commuters out here want easy drives, not organic cycling shorts. Progress with an old fashioned capital P. Peak Oil be damned.