Start in downtown Asheville with a visit to the Thomas Wolfe Memorial. This 28-room Victorian boarding house is novelist Thomas Wolfe’s boyhood home and setting for his classic Look Homeward, Angel. A visitor center offers audiovisual presentations, exhibits and gift shop. Hourly tours of the historic Old Kentucky Home are available.
From the Wolfe Memorial, get on I-26 west, then exit at Hwy. 191 to indulge in a big mountain-style breakfast at the Moose Café on Brevard Road. After breakfast walk off those calories next door at the WNC Farmers Market, now open year-round for those looking for the freshest fruit and veggies around – be sure to stash a jar of sourwood honey or blackberry jam for later.
Continue on Brevard (Hwy 191) to the NC Arboretum, stroll through cultivated gardens including the Bonsai Exhibition Garden, garden tours and art walks on 434 beautiful acres. Go ahead and take that 10-mile forested hike and get close to nature while burning off that second helping of biscuits and gravy!
Take a right out of the Arboretum to the Blue Ridge Parkway, turn left (north,) and stop in at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center (milepost 384) Here an impressive I-wall interactive display shows communities and attractions along the Parkway, and a high definition 24-minute movie depicts the history of the Parkway and the culture and heritage of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. Additional highlights include museum-quality exhibits, a great gift shop, and a 45-minute loop hiking trail.
Continue north two miles to the Southern Highland Craft Guild at the Folk Art Center (milepost 382) where craft artists from throughout Southern Appalachia exhibit and sell their handmade products. Craft demonstrations happen daily beginning in March. Maybe you can’t get that hand-forged iron sculpture on the bike but a sterling silver, copper or brass piece from Stuart Nye Hand Wrought Jewelry always looks cool! (And if you want the iron sculpture, it can always be shipped!)
Next step back in history once again with a visit to the birthplace of North Carolina’s Civil War governor, Zebulon B. Vance. To get there, continue north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Bull Gap and Ox Creek Road (milepost 375). Follow Ox Creek Road until it intersects with Reems Creek Road; take a left to Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace Historic Site. This 1830s reconstructed farmstead is a North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Historic Site.
Depart Vance Birthplace take a left onto Reems Creek Road and follow the sign to the small town of Weaverville. Enjoy the shops, art galleries and restaurants. Stoney Knob Café has been a favorite since 1962. Diners describe it as hip, funky and exotic. The Well-Bred Bakery is popular at any time of day.
Return to the Blue Ridge Parkway and travel north to Mount Mitchell State Park, accessed at milepost 355. Mount Mitchell is the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi, and the observation platform at the summit offers spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains (weather permitting. Note: It can be as much as 20 degrees cooler at that elevation, with clouds hanging about. But there is a museum, gift shop, and restaurant even if the big mountain is socked in.)
Continue north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to milepost 343, Highway #80 East, a curvy mountain road a real biker will enjoy! Take Hwy #80 to Hwy #70, turn right and travel into the small town of Old Fort, home of the Mountain Gateway Museum. This frontier museum houses exhibits and artifacts depicting western North Carolina pioneer lifestyle, including two restored log cabins. Visitors will often find music, storytelling and hands-on activities.
Interstate 40 is two blocks from the Mountain Gateway Museum. Eastbound will take you to Marion, Morganton and Hickory. Westbound will take you back to the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina.