Road Trips to Asheville & Finding a New Path

Road Trips to Asheville & finding a new path . . . that sums up the first part of my week!

Blue Ridge Parkway, Craggy Gardens, Asheville NC, Blue Ridge Mountains
Craggy Gardens area of the Blue Ridge Parkway – Blue Ridge Mountains – outside of Asheville, North Carolina

I took a road trip this week. I didn’t end up in Charlotte as had been originally planned. It’s a long story. I spent two nights & three days in Asheville (and made a pit stop in Hendersonville). It was a really great few days away. But it was nothing like I planned or expected.

I stayed at the Log Cabin Motor Court – between Asheville and Weaverville. The Log Cabin Motor Court is a National Historic Landmark – originally opened in 1917. If I remember correctly, the cabins were built in the 1930s. These rustic cabins were a delight and if I go again, I might want to stay in one of the cabins with a kitchen. I previously stayed at the property next door (The Pines Cottages) and ADORE that place too, by the way.

Though my intention had been to spend Tuesday sight seeing & eating out at some restaurants I’ve been looking forward to trying, turns out I didn’t feel so great. But that ended up being a good thing. I rested in the cabin, wrote (more on that later) and napped. I didn’t turn on the TV or music (the entire time). It rained and it was a glorious nap – one of the best I’ve had in ages. 🙂 I didn’t eat out a single time. WHAT? That’s nuts. I literally ate what I could eat from my little log cabin. It was perfect.

sarah addison allen, other birds, magical realism

On Tuesday evening, I headed to UNC Asheville for the book launch of Sarah Addison Allen‘s latest book, Other Birds. Sarah is one of my favorite authors. This is her first book in 7 years and I’m thrilled she’s back! If you want a chance to win her book (not an autographed copy), you can enter a contest, here. Sarah’s writing is (though I don’t write magical realism) the kind of writing I aspire to. The way she writes the settings of her books is one such example. Her settings become a character themselves. I’m sure the “Dellawisp” is too. I’m looking forward to reading it this weekend (I started it before driving home yesterday).

The event, “Sarah Addison Allen in conversation with Wiley Cash” was a joy to be at. I was surrounded by huge Allen fans – who were just as happy as I was, to be there. Wiley Cash, who teaches fiction and literature at UNC Asheville, is now on my “TBR list” too. I look forward to checking out his books, too. He was hilarious by the way. I had a really wonderful night.

On my drive up to the mountains, I began to re-work my now finished novel “A Thousand Years.” As I drove and the closer I got to the mountains (where the book is set), the more clear it became – I had much to slash and re-write from this book. So much so that by the time I got to the event on Tuesday evening, the book didn’t even have the same name. I don’t know what it will be called, but it’s not “A Thousand Years.” My protagonist is the same, the name of her love interest may remain the same but it’s an entirely new character. The town remains the same – but much else has and will be different. I am 100% certain of this and I’m entirely confident in the new direction. So much so that while I was away (and last night before going to bed) I wrote more than I have in quite some time.

On Wednesday, I checked out of my cabin drove to the Blue Ridge Parkway, spent some time there, had a picnic at Craggy Gardens Picnic area and then made a pit stop in Hendersonville, before driving home. If I move, west may be best – for me. Western Carolina definitely seems more my speed. While I was up on the parkway, it was 62 glorious degrees. It made me long for autumn.

On my drive home, I stopped in Hendersonville, at Justus Orchard. It’s a lovely little spot. If you’re in or visiting NC, it’s a great stop if you’re in the mountains. They have some activities for the kids, goats, u-pick apples, a small store, and their famous apple cider donuts. The cider was delicious by the way. I’m looking forward to eating my honeycrisp apples!

This trip was definitely needed, restful, and honestly – enlightening. I had no idea that what came from these few days away is what would happen during this trip. It was a gift, in many ways. While I’d expected to interview for a job and consider a move, it became something else entirely. The writing boost was the icing on the cake.

Sometime this weekend, I want to share a few of the things Sarah Addison Allen shared in her talk – including the answers to one of my questions. For now, it’s time to sign off and prepare for a long weekend of reading (Other Birds, of course) and writing. I hope you’ve had a great week so far.

Road Trip Time

Asheville NC, Asheville NC skyline, explore asheville website, elaina avalos
Asheville, NC skyline – Photo credit.

It’s road trip, time. I’m heading out to Charlotte & Asheville this week. I’m looking forward to a little break from the norm. I have no idea what I’m doing – except for one exciting event on Tuesday evening in Asheville. I hope to share more about that later. What I will tell you, is that I’m ridiculously excited about it. I ordered a ticket for it (the second I heard about it). I had no clue if I could make it, however. Asheville isn’t exactly a quick trip (over 6 hours) on a Tuesday evening – in a typical work week. But I just had to order the ticket – hoping I’d find a way. All the pieces fell into place and I will be four hours closer on Tuesday, now. Have I mentioned I’m excited? 🙂

Charlotte NC, Queen City, Charlotte, elaina avalos
Charlotte, NC – Photo credit.

My quick few days in central & western NC are kind of blank slate at the moment – except for Tuesday evening. I had a few recommendations for places to eat or check out. Here’s some of the recommendations:

Charlotte

Amelie’s French Bakery — The menu looks awesome! There’s a location in NoDa.

NoDa — Charlotte’s North Davidson neighborhood. This arts & entertainment district is right up my alley.

Leah and Louise — Wow. This menu looks amazing. Leah and Louise is in Camp North End which was recommend overall. You can find more info, here.

Asheville

Chai Pani — I’ve wanted to go to Chai Pani since I saw the restaurant on “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love, early this year. Now that the restaurant has been deemed “Outstanding Restaurant” for 2022, by the James Beard Foundation, it may not be easy to get into, but worth a shot. The Chicken Pakoras sounds amazing! As do the Uttapam! Butter chicken is one of my favorite Indian dishes. So, that might be hard to pass up. But man, I just saw that Chai Pani appears to be closed on Tuesdays so that stinks.

Grove Park Inn (for lunch or dinner) — I think the view might be the draw . . .

Asheville NC, Grove Park Inn, Asheville, elaina avalos

Mela — More Indian food (which I love)

Rosetta’s Kitchen & Buchi Bar — Vegan soul food! What??? Oh my. Sounds amazing.

Bouchon — French food always sounds good. Beef Bourguignon sounds pretty delish right about now.

Tupelo Honey — I wouldn’t hate trying this place. However comma – it’s southern fried kind of food and it doesn’t appear there are many gluten free options (which are available other places).

If you’ll be visiting my adopted home state, anytime soon – I highly recommend checking out NC Tripping! Their site is a treasure trove of info about The Old North State. Here are a couple of their guides for Asheville & Charlotte (open in new tabs).

Got any other recommendations?

It’s the Little Things

Trader Joe's Flowers, Trader Joe's Daffodils, Daffodils, Elaina Avalos

It’s the little things that mean the most, sometimes. The joy – for me, is in the hike in the forest, when the only sounds around me are the birds, or the wind through the pines, or in the view from my kitchen window.

In no particular order, here’s where I’m clinging to the little things & the way they bring me joy & delight . . .

1. Fresh daffodils in my favorite vase.

Kitchen Window View, Trees, Woods, Elaina Avalos

2. The view from my kitchen window.

3. The hope that God’s plan, which I can’t fully see yet, is far better than my own.

Your Plan and God's Plan, Elaina Avalos

4. Memories of our chats (and maybe even arguments) are priceless to me now. Your defense of me, support, our conversations, and your eyes (maybe also your cologne) – are the best thing in the absolute mess of the last few years. I miss the joy I felt being around you. I truly miss you, my friend.

5. My quiet home.

6. Being heard.

7. Sunsets.

Eastern NC sunset, Carolina sunset, ENC Sunset, Elaina Avalos

8. New to me songs…

Honestly, it’s the sweet moments, in my quiet house, with these little “things” – that have helped me feel like I’ve finally returned to myself.

So what are some of your favorite “little” things?

50 by 50

Anne Lamott, Elaina M. Avalos, elaina avalos, 50 by 50

In April 2026, I will turn 50. This year feels like a big birthday, as I turn 45. But gosh, there’s a lot I’ve still got to do before hitting 45 and six weeks won’t do it. So, after a friend posted about her 40 before 40 (that she’s now added a few more items onto for 50 before 50), I’ve decided that I’m going to join in the fun. I am not sure how long it will take me to come up with the full list. Some of this might be ridiculous stuff, big stuff, or things that only matter to me, but I’m starting to work on this list now. I may keep some private. But, I’ll share periodic updates. What would you add to my list? Have you ever done something like this for a milestone birthday? I’d love to hear all about it!

1. Start camping again.
2. Travel to France or Scotland for my 50th birthday (I mean, I’ll take sooner too).
3. Trip to the NC mountains in the autumn.
4. Trip to upstate New York to meet family & see where my grandparents grew up & my mom lived.
5. Fall in love.
6. Start a family. I hear I’m kind of late on this one. Whatever.
7. Get a book contract.
8. Learn Spanish. Like really learn Spanish.
9. Take a dance class (salsa, ballroom, etc).
10. Go to the Pat Conroy Literary Festival in Beaufort, SC.
11. Attend one of the wine dinners at the Beaufort (NC) Wine & Food Festival.
12. Take at least one random (can be a quick day-trip) road trip every few months.
13. Eat at Chef & the Farmer again.
14. Take a few of Chef Marcela’s cooking classes.
15. Western NC Winery Trip (preferably soon). 30 April-01 May 2021
16. Get back to Wolf Trap for a summer concert.
17. Convert website to business plan & learn (really learn) SEO.
18. Make good use of my ridiculous Pinterest time investment.
19. Get a little better with time management (don’t laugh).
20. Finally make a decision about what I want to be when I grow up.
21. Live in a pretty little home with my dream backyard & grow lots of veggies, herbs, and fruit.
22. Hit my target weight (and stay there). I’m on my way having lost 18 pounds so far.
23. Dedicate more time to painting & crafty mccrafterson activities.
24. Cook my way through Deep Run Roots by Chef Vivian Howard (see #13 – that’s her restaurant).
25. Cook my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I own both books but haven’t cooked enough in either.
26. Get a tattoo.
27. Go skydiving.
28. Get a wedding planning & event planning certificate.
29. Go to Indochine (Thai/Vietnamese restaurant in Wilmington, NC).
30. Visit Ocracoke Island & go shelling.

Okay, I think I have to take a break there. I am sure I have more things to add to my list!

Abby the Wonder Dog

Boxer mix, Abby the Wonder Dog, Elaina Avalos, Elaina M. Avalos

I have a dog. Her name is Abby. But I call her by many other names. See – I have this problem. It involves nicknames. I usually end up with about a bazaillion nicknames for kids and animals. Abby has a boatload. She is Booty Boo, Boo-Boo Bear, Boo-Boo, Abigail Ann, Abster, Busy Body, Ab, Weirdo, Stinky Pete, Abby the Wonder Dog, and occasionally – well, occasionally she is kind of a brat – so she gets a name of my choosing at those moments. Ten years ago yesterday, on April 2, 2011, I adopted her at the Morongo Basin Humane Society in the desert of California. The shelter is in Joshua Tree – just a quick drive from the cute little house I rented, near the downtown of that weird and wonderful little town.

Abby is something special. She’s crazy and weird. My life would’ve sucked these last 10 years without her. Abby was originally “Irene.” Her sister is the dog I originally thought I’d come home with, after seeing them online. But Abby stole my heart. This is Abby on that day 10 years ago.

Abby is a boxer mix. She was abused and neglected. I’ve been trying to prove to her, for ten years, that she’s good now. She believes me and then she doesn’t. She believes me when she has entire pieces of furniture that become hers (a love seat and now a chaise lounge). She believes me when she gets her very own blankets and comforters, and makes herself comfy atop her throne, on my couch. She gets small amounts of wet food on her dry food because she is an inconsistent eater and I want to keep weight on her. For quite a few months, I made her homemade food in the crockpot when she was feeling yucky.

She is extremely bossy. But about weird things. Like sleep. She is obsessed with it. And if I stay up too late, she does things like this:


Other times, I get this look. I don’t know what I did. But whatever it was, she was not amused in the least.

And then, other times, she still seems to think she’s that little starving pup out in the desert. When they were found, her sister had a brand mark on her side. They were both emaciated and scared of everything (I’m not exaggerating). But they’d been in someone’s home because she was mostly potty-trained, knew some commands, and knew the second we walked into my house that the couch was super comfy. I told her to get off the couch and she made this face like, “But I’m cute. And it’s comfy.” So . . . I said it again and she complied. She’s smart as a whip. In her boxer-ness, she is a born entertainer and loves to be silly. I think she is mixed with pit and though this sounds weird, greyhound. Greyhound people always tell me this. The way she runs, I truly believe it.

Abby loves:
– Kids. She misses my boy, so much. She didn’t forgive me for his absence for at least a year. She adored him. She accepts me again – finally.
– Being a caretaker, protector, dogmommyboss.
– Water & snow.
– Running is her favorite thing ever.
– Sleep.
– My mom.
– Car rides (now – she used to puke and shake like a leaf every time we got in the car before).
– Telling me when it’s time for bed.
– Chilling outside. Especially when she could nap in the sun, on the deck.
– Naps (she was meant to be mine).
– The beach – if no one is there.
– Hiking the Neusiok Trail with me.
– Adventures.
– Grown people who know how to ease her into liking them – in very small & specific doses. Haha.
– When I sit on the couch and read or write (as long as I’m not moving around).
– Making sure I’ve eaten. Haha. She will not eat until I do. She is precious.

Abby doesn’t love:
– Noises (hahaha ha).
– Black trash bags (I kid you not).
– The dishwasher running in my apartment.
– The Fed Ex/mail/UPS truck.
– Men. Except for ones I’m fond of, that treat her like the princess she is, & then she likes them more than me.
True story for the above. Her trainer was the wife of one of the Marines in my squadron. He wasn’t a big fan of most of the dogs that came & went but he and Abby bonded. She adored him. They would run together. When he emailed me from Afghanistan about something work related, he literally started it, “How’s Abby?” Hahaha. Not…how are you? How’s Abby? Haha.
– When her schedule is off.
– When I’m working around the house. The more stationary her people are, the better.
– She acts horribly toward neighbors (barking & growling) but then when they pass by she wags her tail and acts like she wants to follow them. Like, “I’m sorry I had to act crazy, just protecting my Elaina. Be my friend.” Lol.
– She is fairly dog aggressive. Except our neighbor’s dogs at one of our houses. She loved the dogs on both sides and they’d “play” through the chain link fence.
– She hates dog toys with squeakers so I have to buy her stuffed toys in the kid’s section at Dollar Tree.

She’s adorable & funny. I’m so grateful she crossed my path. Even though her quirks make things challenging sometimes (i.e. afraid of dishwasher, trash bags, random people and dogs).

Last night, I brought Abby a couple of new “babies” and a sweet treat for our 10th adoption anniversary. 🙂 In typical Abby style, she ignored her ice cream until she’d had time to play with her new toys. Once she’d played for a bit, she came back to the ice cream and licked the bowl clean. So funny. Food is always second to all of her other favorite things.

She is a delight. She has brought many happy moments to my life the last ten years. She’s my best girl.