Travel

Asheville Calling

Remembering the ultimate road trip—and looking ahead to new adventures

photo: Diarmid Weir/Alamy Stock Photo

The hundred-foot Catawba Falls near Old Fort, North Carolina, just east of Asheville.

In the autumn of 2001, I gave myself an enviable assignment. I hit the road for four months to follow the fall migration of the striped bass from Maine to North Carolina. The migration is a natural spectacle (and a fisherman’s dream), as tens of millions of stripers course down the coast to their wintering grounds, accompanied by whales, freewheeling birds, and baitfish on the run. I left New York City, where I lived at the time, in an SUV loaded with fishing gear, a tent, waders, a wet suit (for free diving), a kayak on the rack, and a notebook filled with names and numbers of folks I planned to meet with along the way. Soon I was setting my alarm clock to the rhythm of the tides and the pulse of the bite. 

As with any road trip, there were many highs and some lows. I learned of the World Trade Center attack on September 11 while sitting in the parking lot of a Laundromat in Portland, Maine, waiting for a load of clothes to dry. At that moment I nearly pulled the plug on the entire endeavor, a quest for fish suddenly seeming so trivial. But it turned out the water was one place folks looked to for a salve during the aftermath, including me, so I pushed on. In December I found myself on a motel balcony on the Outer Banks overlooking the vast Atlantic. The fish were out there, but the world would never be the same. That adventure would become my first book, On the Run: An Angler’s Journey Down the Striper Coast

In more recent years my road trips have become far less ambitious and usually involve my kids and a couple of dogs. And with the end of the pandemic in sight, my family and I are aching to hit the highway. The kids love St. Augustine, Florida, and my wife, Jenny, has Sanibel Island on her list, but we’ve all agreed that Asheville, North Carolina, will be our first destination. Besides planning to hit a trout stream, I’ve enlisted senior editor CJ Lotz, G&G’s resident Asheville expert, to inform our trip. She delights in touring the grounds of Biltmore, slipping off into the greenhouse, where orchids hold sway, or ogling the rose garden. As for hikes, she says, Asheville is basically your oyster, whether you’re after waterfalls, scenic overviews, or lush greenery. In town we won’t miss Malaprop’s, one of the South’s finest independent bookstores, or East Fork for pottery. We’ll cap the day with dinner at the Market Place and a stop by the Grey Eagle, a pillar of Asheville’s bustling music scene. As my kids would say: Are we there yet? 

David DiBenedetto
Senior Vice President & Editor in Chief