|The ROBOS on the steps of the Grove Park Inn|
Enter The Flying Bike (aka Touring with Torin). Torin is an old hand at e-biking. He commuted to work in Asheville on his electric bike for six years before finding an e-bike business opportunity on Craigslist when looking for a new battery. It seemed meant to be.
|Interior of Basilica of St. Lawrence|
The Basilica was designed by Rafael Guastavino, a Spanish architect who was a contemporary of Gaudi. While you may not know his name, I suspect you're familiar with some of his designs. Guastavino is credited with creating the ubiquitous subway tile design that graces many a shower. This likely comes from the faience tile work Guastavino did for the New York City subway station when it was built in the early 1900s. His most significant work for the subway system was the City Hall station, now used as a turnaround for the 6 train. Guastavino and his well-trained son are also responsible for the McKim Building at the Boston Public Library and the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station. For some great pics of his work, click here.
|Our guide Torin|
From there we were off to the glitz and glamour of the Grove Park Inn. No trip to Asheville is complete without taking in the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from the hotel terrace.
Torin shared a couple of noteworthy tidbits about the Inn with our group. The sprawling structure required 200 tons of stone for its still-original exterior. If I understood Torin correctly, most of the stone was hauled up the hill by mules. (Talk about being a beast of burden.) And here's the kicker -- the Inn was built in just 362 days. The story goes that Henry Ford bet E.W. Grove the Inn could not be built in under a year. Grove employed 400 men who worked ten hours each day to accomplish the feat. Their daily pay of $1 was the best in town. Sadly, I failed to ask what Grove won for besting Ford other than some serious bragging rights.
|Dinner at a picnic area on the Blue Ridge Parkway|
Male fireflies hover one to four feet above the forest floor with their two lanterns on (unless, that is, they are in "private mode," in which case only their lower light is on). Their lanterns can emit light for up to a minute. Female fireflies stay in the leaves where they will nest for their gestation period. Perhaps it is because they are frequently hidden from view that females can have up to nine lanterns.
I got a bit nervous when we were warned we might not actually see any fireflies on our walk through the forest. It was early in the season (which only lasts two-three weeks), and fireflies aren't fond of temperatures under 60 degrees. The Cradle's location at an elevation of 3200 feet made it cooler than it was in Asheville. But my fears were abated when walkie talkies started sounding off as guides already in the forest reported, "I have visuals." Whew!
|The ROBOS and our vehicle|
All too soon, it was time to bundle ourselves back into our ten person passenger van and head home. I'm proud to report that I did much of the driving, including on the winding road back down the mountain. It was no harder than riding an electric bike, except when it came to parking.
A huge thanks to Pam for organizing the ROBOS' South Carolina adventure with near military precision. The planning paid off, with every day full of friendship, the beauty of nature, and new experiences. Who could ask for anything more from a getaway?