The Beautiful Savannah, Georgia

Savannah itself is a gorgeous, old city filled with beautiful architecture, history and sights. Its proximity to the sea made it a strategic port city in the American Revolution and the Civil War. Like many port cities, it’s managed to thrive over the years and is a great place to visit, no matter your tastes or interest.

We stayed about 15 miles west of town at Savannah Oaks RV Park but came into the city a couple times during our two week stay. We walked around seeing sights and beautiful trees, and/or ate at a local restaurant or two. One day, when I had a lull in work, I came downtown and just walked around taking photos. For some reason I parked about 20 blocks from the water but I got to see dozens of beautiful houses and parks along the way. I stopped downtown for some delicious tofu tacos at the Kayak Kafe and nosed around the comic book and toy store, Planet Fun. I think I’ll make this a regular habit as we travel around. I love architecture and often find a few old cars and gritty places  in these old cities as well.

Nature

Savannah is surrounded by some beautiful nature and wildlife. We visited the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge where we drove a large loop through miles of wetlands, and for free. We saw numerous birds, turtles and alligators enjoying the sunny weather and were able to pull over nearly whenever we wanted to stop and take photos.

When we were in Savannah about 4 years ago we stayed at Skidaway Island State Park and had a really memorable time. It was fall and the campsites were covered in leaves, leaves filled with giant millipedes that we had to constantly be careful not to step on, not to mention frequent baby skinks (lizards) trying to hide in the leaves. We swept a path to the truck and tried hard not to step on anyone. When we went on hikes then, we frequently ran into little tree crabs skittering across the path and around the tree trunks, but this time it was spring and too cold yet.   Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay there this time due to internet restraints, but Savannah Oaks RV Park worked out pretty well with a beautiful swamp, deafening frogs and access to the Ogeechee River. Its proximity to the sandy road we had fun riding our bikes on was a big bonus as well.

Skidaway Island features about 6 miles of trails that go between brackish marshland and gorgeous forest. The area has some history as well, as a place where moonshiners brewed their batches, and a strategic military holdout during the Civil and Revolutionary War. Their visitor center has a skeleton of a prehistoric giant sloth and you can go back-country, tent or rv camping. My favorite thing about the park is the trees living right at the edge of the marsh. Their roots are crazy and twisted, planting frightening things in your imagination (or maybe just mine).

tree skidaway sherlock

East Georgia Dirt Farms Down Sandy Roads

It took us a while to find a dirt road around here but when we did, we found a great one. Starting with a muddy construction site, the road soon turned to semi loose sand and we rode for miles exploring at will till heading home just before dark.

Aside from a short ride down a packed sand road outside Destin, it was our first good sandy road. Our wheels felt slippery and out of control at times, only remedied by more speed.*

Sadly we wont have time to ride again before we’re off to Raleigh Wizard Con, then Alabama, but we had to share. It was a great boost of confidence in our ever improving riding abilities.

We’re hoping to hit some actual trails in Alabama outside Oxford. Hopefully more photos soon!

*For those interested the road was called Pine Barren Road and is west of Savannah about 15 miles off Fort Argyle Road.

Sandy Road
Sandy Pine Barren Road
Stopping to check out a farm
Stopping to check out a farm
A real Georgia dirt farm
A Real Georgia Dirt Farm
Huge pinecones!
Huge pinecones!

Asheville, NC is a Cool Little Town

In fact, Asheville was recently rated the coolest town in the US by the Matador Network.  It’s a definite oddity in the South and a rarity for the entire country that a city so laid back, beer friendly and vegan friendly would exist in such a compact package. My closest comparison would be Portland, Oregon or Austin, Texas , except they’re both much larger cities, and Austin is a sports crazy college town.

When we decided to stay there for a few months over the winter we didn’t know what to expect with the weather, but we knew we’d never go without good food, beer, live music or outdoor activities. The weather was mostly reasonable and we even rode our bikes well into November. We expected much more snow, and we never did go skiing.  I always think the cold is much more worth it if there’s at least a few inches on the ground but it wasn’t until Winter Storm Remus in mid February that we finally had some. By then we were over it and ready to move on, but Sherlock enjoyed it.

We visited just about every brew pub in downtown and most the restaurants that served vegetarian or vegan food. We went to the Smoky Mountains a few times, for short hikes down snowy closed roads or driving through the main part of the park during flurries. We drove part of the Blue Ridge Parkway many times on our bikes, and a few time in the truck and hiked some pretty decent trails. We also saw a couple great bands at the famous Orange Peel venue in downtown and several movies at The Carolina, a movie theater with couches, beer and pizza (something we have missed about Portland). When the weather was bad, we caught up on video games and movies – one of my favorite parts of winter.

asheville-alley
I love Asheville alleys
asheville-street-1
One of my favorite streets, featuring two record stores, Rosetta’s Kitchen vegan restaurant and several vintage clothing stores.

 

sneaky-street-art
Street art in the strangest places.
pickers
The picking ninnys (my own title for it).
church1 obeliske fine-arts brick-building

Asheville is very dog friendly

Another thing I like about winter is that I can pretty much take Sherlock anywhere with me, even if I’m just running errands. We adopted her just at the weather was getting hot last year and she couldn’t go anywhere with us most the time. When she did, it was usually a hike that she could barely enjoy because of the heat. She LOVED the cooler weather, snow, ice and riding in the car just about every time I left the house. I would usually taker her to a dog park near the campground after groceries, til she got kennel cough, then I took her less…but she still went on many hikes and walks around the very dog friendly downtown area.

While walking around taking photos one day, the week before we left, I kept an eye out for dog friendly places. I found Malaprop’s bookstore and cafe where I could take her in, get a coffee, and browse around the books with a coffee and a dog in hand. I found another cafe with a “dog friendly” sign in the window where, even though I didn’t really need another coffee, I bought one anyway just so I could taker her inside.  Lastly, an art store, who didn’t have a sign but allowed her in anyway, so it seems if there isn’t a sign, you just need to ask.

Although most of the city doesn’t have sidewalks the downtown area does and is very pedestrian friendly, bike friendly, motorcycle friendly (aside from the steep hills to stop on) and is safe and easy to walk around.

sherlock-bookstore
Malaprop’s Bookstore and Cafe – http://www.malaprops.com/
sneaky-street-art2
Artsy Alley
art-store

If I was to spend another winter in the South, I would again suggest Asheville. There’s not many places that I can imagine spending so much time in at once anymore, and with Asheville we were never bored.

My Top 5 Beers in Beertown, Asheville, NC

This was our second time in Asheville, the last over 4 years ago – and my, how this city has changed! We weren’t here very long last time, but what I do remember is that we loved the vegetarian scene and laid back (dare I say ‘west coast’) attitude. The city seemed small, approachable, less crowded and even more laid back; now it seems too big for its own britches (as they say). Just about every restaurant and brewery downtown has a line or 20-40 minute wait most weekends (and weekdays as well in the fall). The sidewalks can get pretty crowded, to the point where if you want to stop and look up directions on your phone, you first look for a place where you wont get trampled. The traffic is astoundingly bad some times of day, especially the I-240 over the top of downtown where everyone’s getting on and off at the same time ( and 50cc scooters seem to think it’s a normal road). Though no matter how many things about this city are still in the evolutionary/prepubescent stages of a small city growing into a big one, it is worth every bit of the hassle if you love beer and great food. It truly is Beertown USA.

There are around 20 Asheville breweries and distilleries just in the city, and many more nearby in Waynesville and Black Mountain. We didn’t make it to every single one but we frequented or visited almost all of them in the downtown area at some point during our stay here. We’ve been all over the country over the years, and we’ve both always been into craft beers – in my opinion Asheville has the best beer selection and some of my official favorite beers in the world. Unfortunately some of them are seasonal but worth checking out if you come to this area during the fall/winter – aka  “crazy season” (between the leaf peepers and the beer tourism… book a place to stay way ahead of time).

My Top 5 (Kat):

1. My all time favorite, since I really love dark beers and fall spices, is the Ninja Bread Porter from Asheville Brewing Company. A pint of that and a vegan pizza at their diner style brew pub will make my week. It’s a thick brew with, as you guessed it, ginger bread seasoning. Unfortunately it’s seasonal but they have a Ninja Porter year round, which is tasty, but not quite the same.

2. The Coconorm Porter from Thirsty Monk is a coconut flavored beer which came out December 2014, so I probably had one of the firsts. I had it again last weekend, so it’s still around, and will hopefully just become a year round staple! It’s thick, sweet and very coconutty, so if you like coconut, it’s your thing!

3. The Belgian Elvis Peanut Butter Stout from Thirsty Monk is loaded with peanut butter with hints of banana, yes, banana, and is a surprisingly original beer. I loved it, though… it’s a small meal and very heavy so be prepared! Great thing about many pubs in Asheville is the half pour option on some beers – and flights, of course flights (basically 4-6 half pours). When you want to try a few beers or only want 10oz of a 10% ABV beer, it’s a handy option.

4. Cold Mountain Winter Ale from Highland Brewery is a major, major, favorite in the area. I swear if it was any more hard to find people would riot over it. They only make a limited amount each year and they distribute it sparingly to surrounding breweries. I finally got one after hearing about it for weeks at Jack of the Wood (Green Man Brewery) and again at midnight on New Years Day at The Thirsty Monk – but we literally had to wait til midnight for them to tap the keg (blackmail!). It is a really tasty beer with an almost shockingly flavorful aftertaste.. it goes “ok, ale… ok, better than most ale, Whoa, what is that?!” and then you (I) fuss around my brain to explain the flavors, which without any knowledge of the beer I guessed “caramel” but it was in fact vanilla and hazelnut. Beer gurus are tearing their hair out right now as I try to explain this ‘emperor of beers‘ in a simplified way (I don’t intent to talk hops) but for the rest of us, who just like or don’t like beers, I’m telling you this one is pretty amazing (but I won’t be getting in a fist fight over it).

5. The Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout by Foothills Brewing (found at Pack’s Tavern) has got to be my favorite local chocolate stout. There are always plenty of chocolate stouts and I’ve tried at least 3 or 4 in the area. I’m not the biggest chocolate fan to begin with but I like a creamy stout so chocolate it often is. However, sometimes they’re a bit bitter for my taste, which might not be how others would describe them, but I basically like Young’s Chocolate Stout and this one (and a few other’s I never wrote down). Hiccup also likes it and wouldn’t let Ross get a taste.

sexual-choc-2

Sunday was our last weekend day in town so we had a little Brew Pub Crawl of our own and visited a few places we hadn’t been yet. Since most the beers I drink have a pretty high ABV (alcohol by volume), by the 4th pub, and having helped Ross with his 9.5% ‘My Blueberry Nightmare’ ( Blueberry Beer soaked in a Whiskey barrel) we decided it was time to go home. As far as breweries downtime we only missed two, so we did pretty well over the last few months.

Hi-Wire was one we visited last because every time we walked by in the past, there was a line and a crowd of dizzy, smiling plain-laden men outside. We missed Burial Brewing also because of a long line that turned us off from trying ever again and there were a few that were just too far to walk to in the cold.

Drinking with the Mash Tuns
Drinking with the Mash Tuns at Hi-Wire
Hiccup Enjoying a Black IPA at Hi-Wire Brewery
Hiccup Enjoying a Black IPA at Hi-Wire Brewery

B eer Lovers should stay at least a week or two if they really want to experience it all. Many of the breweries have tasting rooms and tours if they don’t have pubs (and even if they do) and you can drive to many breweries in the surrounding towns as part of your trip. If I ever get beersick (that came out wrong…read as homesick) for amazing beer, I’m flying here and putting a tent up in this very campground.

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