Monday, September 19, 2011

Journey to Asheville


Claudia, Stephanie Marshall (Claudia's Asheville friend and gracious hostess) and me.


Claudia and I. Still smiling. Still walking. Barely.

The real reason for the trip...

On Friday, my dear friend Claudia and I loaded up a rental car and made the trek to North Carolina. We landed in Asheville and spent our Saturday morning running the Asheville Citizens-Times Mini Marathon. We imagined the course would have a hill or two, but had we known the magnitude of the incline and the frequency of our ascent, we never would have crossed the Mason Dixon Line.

Our confidence soared as we raced through the first flat mile. Around the first mile marker, a fellow runner exclaimed, "I can't wait to tackle Lookout Road."

Claudia and I exchanged glances, imagining "Lookout Road" to include a hill or two.

We'd find out soon enough. The hills we ascended to arrive at Lookout Road were certainly strenuous, but appeared meek and amateurish compared to the much anticipated Lookout Road.

Lookout Road was a mile (clocked on my watch) up hill. I huffed, puffed, wheezed and complained the whole way. When we arrived at the peak, a medical entourage lay in wait. A bystander cheered us on and shouted, "You made it. That's the last hill until the finish line."

Soaking in his words, we mustered up renewed energy and surged towards the finish line. That's when I felt lied to. At mile 12.7, we turned a corner and eyeballed a truly heinous final incline. I cursed that man's name the entire way to the finish line.

Since our finish, Claudia and I have limped and ached. We laugh at the fact that we drove eight hours to experience utter pain. (Although, I have to admit the views were breathtaking.)

After the race, we celebrated at the Tupelo Honey Cafe.

On Sunday, we hiked in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

We topped off the weekend with a girl's night. Dinner at Salsa's. Dessert at a chocolatier.

The other reason for the trip....

Of course, we journeyed down to Asheville for the race, but a side benefit was all the girl time. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Claudia and her childhood friend, Stephanie.

Some highlights of the weekend:

1) The Tupelo Honey Cafe.

Recommended by Stephanie, the cafe offered a genuine Southern dining experience. The cafe's mouthwatering buttermilk biscuits paired with blueberry jam and Tupelo honey won our hearts. I devoured a grilled pimento cheese sandwich served with okra. Claudia sat next to me, sipping a sweet tea. Stephanie's po boy sandwiches included fried green tomatoes. Delicious.

2) Hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Just miles away from Stephanie's house sat the Blue Ridge Mountains. We packed into her van, and meandered through the peaks. We stopped at Craggy Gardens and took the short hike up the mountain. At the top, we spread out blankets and unpacked sandwiches. The view was breathtaking and the company divine.

3) Southern Hospitality

Stephanie and Brian Marshall opened their home to us this weekend. They showed us true southern hospitality by making us feel welcome and like part of their family. They prepared wonderful meals, gave up their beds (the boys even slept outside), and did our laundry. I loved hearing their polite children say, "yes ma'am" and "no, ma'am." Precious.

4) Spending time with Claudia

For a decade, she's been my runner partner and most importantly my dear friend. I love having a friend that knows me well, and loves me all the same.

Special thanks....

1) Chris:

He juggled a packed schedule and four sons all weekend. Every time we spoke on the phone, he sounded upbeat and encouraged me to enjoy my time off.

When, I arrived home, he said, "I appreciate you even more after this weekend."

That's really all I ever want to hear him say.

2) My parents:

They helped with the boys two days this weekend. Their extra set of hands were greatly appreciated by Chris. I know the boys adored the time with their grandparents.

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