With the pandemic continuing to rage on, I really didn’t think my brother and I would be able to pull off having one of our annual get togethers—our BroGo (Brothers Going on a trip together) as we call them. For these trips, the two of us travel to some location of interest, often where there is also a high concentration of craft breweries. We are both beer lovers and enjoy trying unique beers that we cannot obtain in our hometowns.
Living more than 1,000 miles apart, we talk or Zoom with each other fairly regularly but only are able to get together once or twice a year. On many of these calls, we would talk about the measures we were taking to stay safe and how our travel had been dramatically curtailed because of the pandemic. But in July we began to talk about the idea of a trip and then in September actually picked dates and booked a rental house in our favorite place in the world—Montreat, NC—the peaceful mountain town where we vacationed every year growing up.
This marked my very first trip this year and when I got out my suitcase and laid it on the bed, I just stood there thinking I couldn’t remember how I usually packed it. For years, I had used a soft-sided, wheel-less bag that with three main zippered sections, made packing a breeze. But as my body aged, this bag seemed to get heavier each time I traveled and so I opted to return to a wheeled carry-on bag purchasing one in 2019.
But since I would be traveling by car, it wasn’t as critical to pack efficiently as I normally would when traveling by air with just a single carry-on and a small backpack. So, this trip there was really no limit to adding additional boxes and bags for my trip.
My 500-mile trip up was uneventful with only two stops, once at a rest area for my picnic lunch and once for gas. After picking up the keys for our rental and declaring I had arrived to my brother who was still on the road…
…I decided while I awaited my brother’s arrival to take advantage of the other reason, we had picked this particular location, the incredible number of craft breweries in and around Asheville, a city less than 20 miles away from Montreat.
We had talked before traveling about all the precautions we would take to keep ourselves safe from exposure to the virus—no eating indoors at restaurants or enjoying a beer indoors at a craft brewery.
At a Black Mountain craft brewery, I found a spot 20 feet away from any other person to enjoy my beer, not knowing at the time that this would be the first of what we would encounter to be incredible steps taken by each establishment to ensure safe, social distancing for all patrons (if only the rest of the country did the same).
After arriving later that night and staying up rather late for two senior citizens (well almost two seniors) catching up with each other, we arose early enough the next morning to witness the sun cresting over the mountains and dawning on the first day at our mountain retreat.
Then after breakfast and a shower, we headed out to take photos of our favorite spots in Montreat.
We then made it into Black Mountain, the small town about five miles away for lunch. After checking a few restaurants with outdoor seating but with long waits, we found another one where we were able to snag a table with no others around.
Fortified with a great salad, we then ventured over to a small craft brewery that we had not been to before. Although small, we still were able to get a spot on their back patio to enjoy another great beer.
In addition to trying unique beers at these craft breweries, we knew we were also going to be able to choose from a huge selection of craft beers at the local grocery store. Heading there next, we made a beeline for their beer section. When we turned the corner and found the aisle of “Make-Your-Own-Six-Pack” stocked almost exclusively with local beers, my thought was “We are in Heaven”.
We made our selections and headed back to our house to sit outside and watch the sun set on the mountains.
The firepit seating area (just to the right of the house in the photo below) provided the perfect place to enjoy one of our purchases while watching the sunset and just as dusk settled in, catch sight of a couple of black bears running across the road to forage for food in a garbage can 300 yards away.
Not knowing how well restaurants would practice social distancing prior to traveling, I had suggested to my brother that I bring breakfast food and all the ingredients to cook at least two dinners with the first night being Italian cuisine (which of course we enjoyed with another of our recent beer purchases).
The next day we were thwarted in our attempt to climb Lookout Mountain, a summit we often ascended growing up, when we encountered a huge crowd at the trailhead that would have made it impossible to social distance on the trail. Given it was a weekend morning, I suggested we come back during the week when hopefully there would be few other adventurers. So instead, we hiked from there all the way to the campgrounds where we both had vivid memories of camping with our family growing up.
Returning to the house for lunch and a much-needed shower, we then embarked on another photography shoot capturing more photos of the sites we remembered growing up. After a second evening enjoying sitting out at the firepit sipping on yet another delicious IPA (India Pale Ale, our favorite beer) and having a stimulating conversation, we went inside to partake of my delicious grilled steak dinner, featuring fillets I had purchased from the same meat market in Memphis that I had been going to for over 40 years.
To Be Continued…