The town's most cleanest hotel in the town has a nice continental breakfast and Barb and I load up. Our itinerary this morning?
A run (Barb) & a ride (Jamie) near Lake James. Did I feel a little lame only riding as many miles as Barb ran? Nope. Earlier that week I biked as many miles as years I have lived. And, I'm not training for a 50 mile race either. Had it taken me as long to ride the same distance Barb ran, some lameness would have been warranted. I finished my 12 mile ride with a respectable amount of time left over to read a book while sitting on a beach by the lake.
This post is low on pics so here's a pic of Lake James, or some body of water on the approach to the ride/run site.When wev'e both finished up our respective workouts we pop in the lake (in our workout clothes), race back to the Hampton Inn to clean up (because the hotel is that clean) and we're on to Asheville. I've been a few times before but never in my car. I-40 gets a little mountainous towards the end of that trip and wheeee that was a lot of shifting for the freeway.
We park in a space with a meter but there is no indication of the rates or hours for the spot. Out of nowhere, an older woman appears with all the parking information about Asheville one could want. But then she starts randomly talking about her cell phone plan. I feed a few more coins into the meter in case I've been misinformed.
And then it rains. Ah, rain. After laughter, that would be the second theme of the trip (we don't know this yet). But it's just a drizzle.
Now, Barb and I are both pretty on top of it type people but neither one of us has as much information on the REI adventure as we would like in part because it wasn't available online and in part because we didn't have time to investigate further (we were busy finding a clean hotel).
Our first question is what time do we have to show up at REI. There was a four hour gap between the times Barb and I recalled so we look for internet and end up at a neat little coffee shop.
My second question was less straightforward, but probably more crucial in terms of reducing my stress level. How far away was I going to be from my car? Were we leaving our cars at REI and driving as a group to a campsite? Was it car camping? Pack in, pack out? There were several things we brought for the trip that wouldn't be needed on this leg but I was wary of leaving them too far behind (my bike our computers, etc). That's the logistical, rational part.
The other part of my concern is harder to admit, but honest. I needed to know how removed I was going to be. I'm not talking about not having access to email or Word With Friends on my i-Phone (even though at present I haven't returned any moves on all my games in weeks). It goes a little deeper than that.
I went to summer camp for 13 years and slept in cabins, tents, under the stars without much access to the outside world. And that was the joy of the experience. Camp was my world.
Two years ago I upped the ante on intrepidness and attempted to hike Mt Kilimanjaro. That was five nights on a mountain in east Africa at high altitude combined with anti-Malaria drugs with side effects I did not tolerate well with no proximity, let alone access to the outside world and only my sister for comfort and conversation.
It was too much for me.
In fact, at the end of the trek I donated a lot of my equipment in part out of charity, in part to lighten my load but in part because I never saw myself being that far out in the "wilderness" again.
Western NC is a far cry from Africa but still I was just a touch nervous, mostly because of not knowing what to expect.
So back to the REI logistics. We log onto our computers in the coffee shop and learn that we have to be there at 6:30. Which was neither of the times that Barb and I remembered but do-able. We do wonder where the other times we remembered came from though.
I take the remaining time in the coffee shop to read about the details of the trip and get more info about the aforementioned logistical questions and concerns.
I read the following line in the description "Trip takes place rain or shine" and I kid you not - at that very moment there is thunder, lightening and torrential downpour. Without saying a word Barb and I look at each other and just start laughing hysterically. That is why I know we will have fun rain, or shine, or thunder, or flooding. That is why we are friends.
We know we need to get dinner, and coffee shop muffins just aren't going to cut it. Barb looks online and finds a place called Earth Fare. There's something vaguely familiar about the name, but heck, there are tons of crunchy markets out there and I can't place it. Then we have to figure out how to get there which presents another challenge when Barb is navigating.
We get on the highway but between the rain and construction Google maps on our iPhone fails us. But, my memory does not. I have been to Earth Fare in Asheville when I was in Asheville for Lindy Focus. And all I need to see is the edge of the kinda depressing concrete shopping mall from the highway and I find it. Thanks goodness for me.
Hooray! Victory. The place looks dark, though. But it's not closed, because there are tons of people outside. I joke "maybe the power went out." But when we attempt to enter the store and realize I was spot on. Power out. Closed.
We're troopers, we're not discouraged. We'll settle for something a little less healthy but decide to head towards REI and keep our eyes open for options.
Back on the highway. It's still raining like we should be on the lookout for an Ark. Barb, ever the optimist says "Here's what's going to happen. It's going to rain like this for five more minutes and then it's going to clear up." Amazingly, we do get out from under the storm cloud in about that amount of time and go from torrential downpour to a sunny day. If Barb rubbed a lamp and talked to a genie that day I wanted to discuss options for wishes #2 and #3 because it could not have been her will alone that caused a dramatic shift in the weather like that.
We grab pizza for dinner. Beer for Barb. And a Xanax for Jamie, washed down with a glass of wine.
Onto REI. First we meet Lindsay. She isn't wearing an REI shirt, or pin, or hat on anything (I, on the other hand was dorky enough to wear the REI Adventures t-shirt that had been mailed to me earlier that week. Remember, summer camp. 13 years. uniforms) but it only took a second to figure out she was the guide based on her chill, calming presence. And she has really curly "boing thought Ramona, boing" hair which I also liked.
Then Deb shows up. Deb is from Portland, OR. I have an affinity for Portland OR so I immediately have an affinity for Deb. And then Elizabeth arrives. She's a little quieter than the rest of us but is clearly "good people."
So far, I'm liking the group. Then, we learn, are the group. And that we'll be driving to the campsite. I'm thrilled. Small group, all women and car nearby. And, it's not raining (at the moment).
Lindsay asks if any of us need any additional gear. The marketing person in me thinks it's brilliant to start the adventure in the REI Store. Earlier, Barb and I discussed the concept of including links to REI gear on the online packing list. In the end, the only thing any of us need in the store before we head out is the bathroom.
We arrive at the campsite.This is total car camping. Showers and civilization around the block. Speaking of my car, which seems to be a character on this triphave I mentioned how much I love the hatchback? None of the pics I took really do justice to just how much the thing can hold but this is a lengthy, rambly post with tangents that needs another picture.We grab some chairs and sit near the firepit. I have a camp chair from REI I like so much, it actually resides in my living room at home as additional seating to my really uncomfortable couch. I have brought this piece of home with me and given the ease and flow on the conversation with the team, I feel like I could be at home my living room.
Until we all feel a little drizzle. With that, we retreat to our tents.