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I’ve always enjoyed a road trip with the family, and Mr. D and I traveled frequently with the kiddos through the years. In the Dodge Grand Caravan, aptly named if you’re hauling 5 or more anywhere. Miles and miles. Across the USA. Kids in diapers…kids potty-training…kids with questions…and questions…hungry kids, and then kids that turned into teenagers. We tried to always appreciate the journey, not just the destination. So when grown-up Baby Girl Elizabeth suggested a road trip on one of her visits to Charleston, I thought “why not”?
We’ve taken few road trips with our adult children. Usually they are trips that are getting us from point “A” to point “B”, with not much “down time” or sightseeing involved. Mr. D and I road trip with different styles….he absolutely wants to get there YESTERDAY even though we left TODAY, and I want to stop at any place that might look remotely “INTERESTING”. Somehow, through the years, with our different styles and some “planning”, we always got to where we were going. Now, Elizabeth was thinking of a “FUN” RoadTrip, something she could do to “test” her first time being away from her daughter, Avalynn Rose, overnight.
I knew that planning a trip to Asheville, NC from our home in Charleston, SC would be a fairly easy road trip, arriving in about 4 hours with good weather and a few “stops”. It was easy to get Elizabeth excited about it….a trip to the Biltmore house, Blue Ridge Mountain View’s, wine-tasting, eating North Carolina BBQ, and a stay in a cozy, cabin community where we could “nap” at will, day or night. Elizabeth and her family live in St. Louis, and every chance they get, they make plans to fly to Charleston for some “Gigi & Granddaddy” together time. This trip would be a bit different….Granddaddy would be enjoying some quality time with 4-year-old Avalynn Rose for two nights, while we relaxed and did whatever we wanted to. Away from home. Away from Avalynn. Overnight. Two Nights. As a surprise, Elizabeth bought these cute RoadTrip shirts for us, what fun it was to tell others we met that we were taking a “mother/daughter” trip together while on our trip!
Mr. D has been special to all that love him, but in his role as “Granddaddy” he excels! He’s a wonderful cook (especially PANCAKES, FRENCH TOAST & BIG BREAKFASTS), a great recliner “snuggler”, a reader of books, and he loves to pitch a ball to kids and help them perfect their skills. Avalynn could hardly contain her excitement of a few days being the CENTER of Granddaddy’s world. Elizabeth on the other hand, was trying not to break out into a rash of hives, and made notes of “things to remember” for Granddaddy as if he never saw a child before, much less cared for one! Ha! I tried to busy myself with car packing and cooler readiness, giving Elizabeth the necessary time to feel comfortable with the arrangements, before we actually buckled ourselves into the car and left the driveway.
Now, I want you to know how BRAVE this was for Elizabeth…sweet Avalynn entered into the world just about two months early, weighing less than 3 pounds, and stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at St. Louis Children’s Hospital for nearly 10 weeks. Separation from her MOMMA was going to be the hardest on Elizabeth, for sure. Avalynn has grown into the name the NICU nurses gave her…”Tiny Tiger”…fiercely independent and quite the fighter, but with a bond to her MOMMA that’s stronger than steel. I’m one of the few people that actually “gets” the emotions that Elizabeth is struggling with, having had my own seat in the roller coaster ride of family building. Elizabeth needed this trip more than Avalynn did, but she wouldn’t realize it until it was over, when she could look back on it and see the benefits for both Mother, Daughter, and Granddaughter.
I booked a cottage for us just 6 miles from downtown Asheville, and 8 miles from the Biltmore Estate, tucked in the mountains. The Pines Cottages are “vintage”, an original Cabin Court, a place for motorists to stay over for the night from the 1930’s. Our #9 Cottage had a fully stocked kitchen, bathroom with a shower, king bed, tv, DVD player, and BEST of all, a rocking chair porch, where Elizabeth and I could sit and enjoy the view and just talk. The cabins and cottages are quirky, old, homey, and clean. They have screens on the windows to allow ventilation, air conditioning, and heat. We watched almost NO TV, but sitting, reading, and napping was enjoyed immensely! We brought our food goodies and used the refrigerator, made coffee, and ate when we wanted to what we wanted. Real Rest. Real Relaxation.
Here’s the link if you want to check it out for yourself:
After settling in on Friday night at our cabin, with a bag of Oreos and some milk, we planned our visit to the Biltmore Estate Saturday morning. We planned on getting there when they opened, having purchased our tickets on-line before arriving. This REALLY saves time, and we were able to park quickly, and enter right inside to pick up our audio-tour gear and get started, not stand in a LONG line just to purchase tickets!
With over 200 rooms, the Biltmore Estate is not a few hour experience…it’s mostly all day. There are numerous add-on tours you can do, and plenty of sites to see on your own. The first time I visited the Biltmore, the winery was new, and about the only site to see and sit after the walking tours. This trip with Elizabeth had not just the winery visit, but a quaint “town”, Antler Hill Village, had built up around the winery. Elizabeth tends to like sweet wines (think Moscato!), but she was “game” to taste-test at the wine tasting. There are complimentary tastings, but we opted to sit at the wine bar, buy our wine glasses and enjoy the tasting and company nonetheless! We nibbled on cheeses and truffles, saving “some” room for lunch!
After the tasting, we went on to taste a few pretzel dips (we can’t resist DIP of any kind!), buy some wine, and stroll the grounds a bit. The gardens are beautiful any time of the year, with formal, and informal gardens…something for everyone! America’s foremost landscape Architect, Frederick Law Olmsted designed the gardens including America’s first managed forest. Beautiful. I love the Italian Garden and the amazing Rose Garden, with hundreds of varieties of roses! It was a lovely August day and we wanted to take advantage of it!
We decided on lunch on the Biltmore grounds and settled on Cedric’s Tavern. After all of our “snacking”, we both decided on the lighter fare of soup and BREAD, certain that a nap awaits us before we ate again! Without any kids in tow, we didn’t stop at the Biltmore Dairy, a truly FUN place if you have young’ins that need some energy run off! It’s been a working dairy on Biltmore since the late 1800’s and has turn-of-the-century games (think sack races!) and lots of seasonal activities for the whole family.
We ended our Biltmore day with a drive through the grounds, and then a walk on a trail back to the car. We spent about 6 hours exploring, and it was well worth it! I sensed that Elizabeth was finally relaxing, a few messages to Granddaddy confirmed what she already knew…Avalynn was enjoying her time with Granddaddy and her day was as full as ours! With a promise to Skype later, we drove back to our cabin in the woods, changed our clothes, propped ourselves on the bed, each with a book we were interested in, and fell asleep within minutes.
Our day had been filled with new experiences shared together, sites to see, good food, lots of laughter and hugs, wine tastings, and even a much-needed nap. Tomorrow we would pack-up again, as we had on many other road trips when Elizabeth was a child, only this time, the memories of this trip will only be ours, our “Momma/Daughter Date”, a chance to slow down and REALLY enjoy each other’s company. We’re looking forward to the next one!