Asheville: Day 1

Note: this entry hopefully marks a slight detour in the purpose, or theme, of the blog. Still vegan, still passionate, but I want to write a little bit more about my life, and some of the things I do. This isn’t for some zealous, narcissistic reason, but that I think adding a personal touch to a blog inundated by heavy politics and animal rights issues might be a breath of fresh air. You’ll see more of this theme in the coming weeks, so leave your thoughts, whether positive or negative, in the comments!

After a lengthy seven hour drive, during which I met 1) a man who asked if I was devil-worshiper, and 2) a man who was a fan of Dan Barker, my partner and I arrived in godless Asheville, North Carolina. Note that both encounters were prompted by my Remembering Never “No God, Know Peace” shirt, so the juxtaposition of religious KY vs. secular NC (at least, Asheville) was humorous, if not sad.

Asheville sits between the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the larger Appalachian Mountain range. Within the Blue Ridge Mountains are the Great Smoky Mountains, and Shenandoah National Forest, as well as Pisgah National Forest, one of the closest to Asheville. As far as beauty goes, you can’t do much better than the scenery here: the mountains rise up high in the distance with beautiful trees covering the landscape year round. Asheville’s history, like many US cities, is dotted with European conquest and bloodshed. The Native American tribe of the Cherokee were the previous residents of the land up until the late 1500s, and only recently has the area bestowed any recognition to the once prior stewards of the land. Asheville’s growth started in the late 1800s due to railroads, George Vanderbilt II and his Biltmore Estate (the largest private residence in the US, to this day), and a bounce back after the depression.

Today Asheville has a reputation for eclectic people, vegan food, and from what I can tell, a healthy dose of anarchy. Within minutes of parking, I saw a CrimethInc sticker on a parking meter, a “Vote Here” sticker on a trash can, and we hadn’t even walked into Firestorm Cafe yet! As you can guess by the name, Firestorm has a liberal, leftist agenda, much like Earth Crisis. Worked owned and operated, they sell exclusively vegan food, coffee drinks, and delicious desserts like chocolate cupcakes and “gingerqueer” brownies. The mood is chill, with everyone from vegans to crust punks to hippies wandering in and out, looking at the anarchist lit, using the wifi, and enjoying life. Surreal, and awesome, all in one.

After wandering the city’s “hip” district, running into a Really Really Free Market (yes!) and buying a “pop-out Boston Terrier,” we hit up Climb Max, Asheville’s sole indoor climbing gym. A little background on my climbing interest: I learned how to rock climb (i.e. belay and tie the right knots) a couple years back at Iron Works in Berekely, CA. That spoiled me, as the routes are clean, well-marked, rated properly, and the gym is super rad. By comparison, almost any other gym is going to be inferior…but still! Mark your shit, people. If tape is falling off the walls, fix it. Keep things clean, rate the routes, and make everything visible. These, to me, are the basics of a having a rad climbing gym.

It was fun to climb at Climb Max, but it’s mostly bouldering, with a spare crash pads and tape going every which-way. What is neat is that the main top rope set up is outside, literally, so passersby can see the action. There were four routes outside, decently marked, but with the dim evening light most were almost impossible to see. In conclusion: I love rock climbing, and I love local businesses, but that doesn’t excuse poor business practices (this is evidenced by Firestorm who are decidedly anti-capitalist, yet highly “professional!”)

Dinner was at Rosetta’s Kitchen, an all-vegetarian diner open late near the river in Asheville. Walking in you see lots of tattoos, “buy local” insignia, and a full wall of literature on everything from reclaiming your sexuality to quitting your job. It’s this kind of stuff that really makes me like the city – this hyper-leftist, anarcho-vegan attitude that seems to be just around the next corner. Food-wise Rosetta’s was the shit; we had a grilled portobello sandwich, “tempalo wings” made with local tempeh, and vegan chocolate cheesecake. They had some all-natural root beer that really was all-natural! Sugar, a bunch of spices, and carbonated water. So good.

Rosetta’s is also awesome for the following reasons: 1) they have a “sliding scale” dish consisting of beans, rice, and veggies that you can buy for $2-$6 – the idea is to not have to turn anyone away who is hungry 2) they have their own line of vegetarian/vegan burgers and other frozen goods sold in local health food stores (Earth Fare, for instance, which is amazing) 3) they’re open until 3am on the weekends and 4) both online and in-store, they offer “community connections” – a way for people to find out about new, progressive events in Asheville, which they actively support.

So far, Asheville is rad, but more vegan food, exploration, and forest trails await!

Photo credit (top): Joshua Cole

  • runrevolt

    Whenever Michelle and I are anywhere near Asheville, we make a detour straight to Rosetta’s. Truly fucking awesome.

  • Andrew Johnson

    Asheville sounds almost perfect! I need to make it out to NC, apparently. I’m sure – with a little help – they can bring their gym up to par, thus making the city perfect.