Log 6- North Carolina

08/22/08

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May 4, 2005
3J1-0A7
Newberry South, Carolina to Asheville, North Carolina

 

I'm up early and greeted by a clear runway with no fog.  It's still before sunrise and it looks like I might get an early start for a change and avoid flying in the gusty mid-day winds.  For most of the trip it has either been too cold in the morning or foggy so I've rarely had the pleasure of early morning light.   

It's a bit chilly so I dig out my gloves and hat which I have not used in several weeks.  I fire up the engine and wait patiently while it warms up before taxiing out and lifting into the beautiful morning.  I've planned to follow the highways again but there are areas with fields below instead of forests so I'm able to fly a more direct course and not feel so constrained. 

Flying is partly about the freedom to go wherever you want and having to follow the roads certainly crimps my style.  The countryside below me is spectacular in the sharp slanting rays of the early morning sun.  Today's flight climbs into the Appalachian mountains at Asheville, North Carolina, gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I departed from 500' above sea level but will climb to over 3,000' before the day is through. 

As I fly North I climb with the terrain until in the distance I see the mountains and despite the clear day and 30 mile visibility I can immediately see why they are called the Smoky Mountains.  I can see several ridges with the more distant ridges appearing as a layer behind the ones closer to me.  Each ridge is more grey and washed out appearing than the one in front of it and it reminds me of the mountains I had seen near Guilin, China which are made famous in so many Chinese paintings.  

I have been over mixed open fields and forests since leaving the road 15 miles back but now I want to rejoin the highway before I climb up into the mountains themselves.  I am now freezing cold in my open cockpit with the outside temperature at 50 degrees.  After 10 more minutes of flying I see where the road is marked on my GPS yet in front of me I see nothing but unbroken expanses of forests.   I see no likely path for a road at all just a steep shoulder of the mountain before me so I add power and keep climbing. 

The highway is in such deep trees that I am right on top of it before I even see it, and it looks like an impressively steep climb for the cars below me.  I wonder how Dee is doing on the first big hills we have seen since leaving New Mexico so many miles ago.

In minutes I reach a level plateau with the road running into a beautiful broad valley surrounded on both sides by higher mountains.  I'm very close to the busy Asheville airport but they still have not answered my radio calls and I cannot enter their airspace until I have made radio contact.  I circle once just on the edge of their control area but now I am really freezing, have a ferocious need to pee and am getting frustrated that no one is answering my radio calls.  Rather than mess with the radio or climb higher to assure they can hear me I decide to land at an airport I had just passed a moment ago.  I crank a steep turn, announce my arrival and in minutes am on the ground at tiny Hendersonville airport. 

As I taxi up to the building two men come out full of questions about the gyro but I rush past them headed for the restroom.  After a long break I answer all their questions and tell them about our trip. When the manager learns we are getting ready to leave the gyro in Asheville to explore the Smokys in our motorhome for a few days he suggests we leave the gyro in a hangar here instead of 10 miles away at the big airport.  It sounds like a fine plan so I call Dee on her cell phone and give her directions to the new destination.  She arrives 40 minutes later by which time I am just beginning to warm up. 

After a bit further drive we spend the day enjoying downtown Asheville.  One of the locals had described it as, "a place where the kids have tattoos and piercings in places you don't even want to know about."  Dee and I however found it wonderful.  The downtown is exciting and vibrant.  We followed a walking tour from a brochure we had that took in dozens of pieces of urban sculpture, historical landmarks, parks and interactive exhibits.  We enjoyed seeing purple, orange and green hair and it was a real pleasure to find a city with its own character rather than another small town defined by strip malls and Walmarts.

From this Yankee's viewpoint, Asheville provides a much needed balance for the conservative south.  

Neither of us had ever seen this part of the country and we greatly enjoyed our week hiking the Appalachian trail, mountain biking in the Smokys and driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

 

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This site was last updated 10/13/05

Copyright Rob Dubin 2005