We had a very pleasant finish to our vegecation, with a final swim in the ocean and one last meal of fresh fish (swordfish steaks). Sadly, Ken was unable to grill them, because a storm blew in and it absolutely poured in the evening! I panfried them, and they turned out well...but not as good as grilled. I think it is kind of funny that it rained the first night we were there, and didn't rain again until the last night. Thank you, weather gods! Oh, and we found out later that tornadoes were in the area and came fairly close to us! The skies definitely looked ominous, but I didn't realize they were that bad. Yikes!
We hit the road at 10 AM, made our way up to Jacksonville, past Savannah, through South Carolina (Hi Bob!), and on into Asheville, where we're spending the night. It was really interesting to come through all the various ecosystems. I found the channel islands of Georgia fascinating, and loved seeing the large swampy areas with channels and tributaries. The palm trees and swamps of Florida and southern Georgia gave way to hardwood and pine forests in South Carolina, which eventually gave way to rolling hills, and finally the Smoky Mountains. We had sun the whole way until we started our ascent into the mountains and ran into a very intense thunderstorm...which we got through quickly and then had more sun! Ken and I remarked on how interesting it was to come through so many different areas and environments in just the space of several hours. What an amazing and wonderful place we live in, and how cool to get to enjoy so much diversity!
I was also pleased to add South Carolina to my list of states I've visited. As much time as I spent in the South as a kid, we never went through South Carolina, and I never went to Myrtle Beach or other places like that. I would like to come back and visit--it's a lovely place.
It had been some time since I've been to the Smokies, and ohhh, it's still so pretty, and one of my favorite places I've ever been! Asheville is lovely, and I think it would be a neat place to live. I just scoped out Biltmore House and bought tickets online, so that's our plan for tomorrow. The gardens, the winery, a tour of the house, and then a couple more hours on the road. I'm excited to see Biltmore again, and when Ken and I were having dinner tonight, I was talking a little bit about George Vanderbilt. Ken didn't realize that Biltmore was built by a Vanderbilt--I thought I had mentioned it, but perhaps not--so is even more interested in seeing the place. Hmm, wonder if I can find a book about the place in the gift shop? I bet I can!
Oh! We had a scary moment when we first got into town. We were planning on staying right in the area of Biltmore Village, not far from the estate. Several hotels there, so we should have no problem, right? At our first attempt, a Double Tree, Ken learned that there is a major outdoor festival in town this weekend, with three to four hundred thousand people expected in the city. Bruce Hornsby was performing at Biltmore tonight, and every hotel room at that exit was booked. Uh oh. A woman at one of the hotels recommended an exit a few miles down the road, and we were able to book the penultimate (I told Ken I was so excited to be able to use that word!) room at the Holiday Inn. It's a very good thing that we made great time today, and got into town earlier than we expected. If we'd gotten here at 8 PM, we would probably have had to go even further down the road.
Time to relax and get sleepy, so we can get a fairly early start tomorrow. Hopefully more tomorrow night!