My husband and I have been sending our dog Mindy to our pet sitter’s house one weekend a month in order to get her used to the idea that we may wish to take a vacation without her sometime. After about four months of this, it suddenly dawned on us that we could take advantage of this temporary dog-free lifestyle and actually go out somewhere for a whole day or even a whole weekend. This month we decided we needed a modest plan to crowbar ourselves out of the house for an entire day.
Our dog guy came and picked up Mindy on Friday morning. It felt like receiving a Get Out of Jail Free card moment. We launched our escape from the confines of the Hobbit House and jumped into the car. Then wondered where we should go. What might possibly keep us out all day without a dog in tow? The movies? Ikea? The art museum? We finally settled on hitting up our favorite thrift shops and squeezing lunch into the mix. I said it was modest, also a bit scroungingly last minute, but satisfyingly agreed-upon by both parties.
Since we hadn’t ventured very far from our West Asheville neighborhood in a while, we cast our minds back to the pre-COVID, pre-dog days of adventure for an itinerary of thrift shop stops guaranteed to be both invigorating and gas thrifty. I did not want to be driving from one side of town to another all day long. Out of the dim memories of the good old days, Biltmore Village arose as the perfect target area for finding a collection of thrift shops and a decent lunch. Then we had to remember how to get there. It was a triumph by my geographically-challenged self that I was able to chart the route we should travel without consulting one single map, though I confessed to my partner in expedition this successful path finding was a fluke (and not the least bit of a crapshoot) as I had recently been planning a trip just south of there for the following week. He approved the plan. It felt good to be so trusted with the choice of byways in this maze of a city.
We drove directly to the central portion of Biltmore Village and lamented (as one does in Asheville) about the lack of parking spaces. We spotted one of those angled ones, but were traveling in the wrong direction on a narrow street and weren’t able to turn into it. We passed the prize and looked for a way to change direction without playing Mario Kart with our only vehicle on that constricted roadway. A sweat-inducing turn around via a convenient driveway put us in a better position to grab the only open spot. Another car came from the same direction we had previously been traveling, desperately attempting to swing into what we believed, after all that work, was our space. We waited patiently for the driver to realize their own lack of spacial awareness as they attempted to maneuver a medium-sized car in that tight configuration. They finally reached the same verdict we had only moments before and gave it up. We swung into the spot as they made the same turn around trick. I won’t say we were smug, but we were relieved not to have to waste a good portion of our dog-free day looking for parking.
Biltmore Village is a lovely little section of town full of shops and restaurants near the Biltmore Estate. Lots of places have the name Biltmore built right into them, which tends to confuse people when they are trying to find something without the clarification of which Biltmore thing is being referenced. Having lived here for four years, we know to ask for specification as to which Biltmore area we should be aiming for. We had been to the Village twice before, so we felt like real Asheville residents instead of bumbling tourists.
We headed directly to a Mexican restaurant where we had previously dined outside on a large, two-tiered patio. When we sat down at our table, the first thing we remembered about the place is that we had brought Mindy with us the last time we ate there. We sat under an umbrella-ed table and instantly pointed to the table where we had previously dined with our dog. I denied a state of wistfulness. As we ate our meal, the wind picked up and lifted a couple of the umbrellas from the tables on the level below us, tossing them directly into the faces of some upper-tier diners. Being a respectable establishment, the restaurant employees began removing all the hazardous projectiles from the patio. I dared them with my eyes to snatch the shade-providing threat from our table, which would leave us in peril of potential overheating or nasty sunburning. They left us alone to finish our meal in the shade.
After lunch, we meandered along the streets of the village and popped into Williams Sonoma for the purpose of drooling over the stand mixers, cast iron cookware and pricey dishes. We remembered our thrift mission and began the conversation of whether or not we could walk to our first target. After turning down a few streets in what we believed was the right direction (but wasn’t), we walked back to the car and its nav system and gave up our much-admired parking space. Consulting our online map, we found the first store on our itinerary.
We poked around in the WNC Bridge Foundation Thrift Store and Estate Sale Services building. I always feel such joy when roaming around there since there are always treasures to be found for a pittance. The name is a bit long to say, so we just call it The Thrift Shop. On my last visit, I bought a boa (the scarf not the snake). I couldn’t find anything on this visit to excite my questionable sense of taste, so we decided to move on. After leaving, we drove to The Regeneration Station, a large barn that specializes in rehabbed furniture and other delightful stuff. We first found the place when we visited Brother Wolf Animal Rescue to adopt our Mindy. I asked my guy if he thought we should find Mindy a brother or sister since we were right there next to the shelter. I’d had a sangria at lunch and was feeling open to new experiences. I was reminded of the howling and barking and insanity of the pooch currently in residence and of our fleeting moment of freedom. Oh yeah, onward to the barn.
The barn is a big warehouse, blocks long, with many aisles that run its length. And it is not airconditioned. We strolled casually with intermittent stops to marvel over the cleverness of repurposed articles and recycled doodads. The heat of the day began to mix with the wine in my bloodstream. I desperately needed to lie down and take a nap or, at the very least, stop wandering around in circles in this humongous sauna of a warehouse. We found our way back to the car and proceeded to drive toward home.
Then there it was…the ReStore! An offshoot of Habitat for Humanity that sold everything you can think of that can be removed from a house. Need an old toilet? How about a door or some plumbing? Don’t come here looking for clothes or a boa. But if you happen to stop by, go all the way to the back of the store where there is a large selection of books and music! Not what you’d expect from a place that sells light fixtures from the 1950’s and sewing machines from just about any era. Needless to say, I perked up at Restore as we wound our way through the shingles and baling wire. I bought a frame for a dollar. I wanted a table, but it needed some repair beyond our range of fixing ability.
Back in the car, we remembered the labyrinth one must navigate to find the exit from the parking lot. What looked like the way out was just another way in. We had to drive around twice and stop a couple times to make a semi-educated guess as to which path to take toward a possible exit. When we thought we had finally found our way, a truck and trailer blocked the turn we wanted to make. We gave the lot a third go-round and, learning from our mistakes, finally made it to the elusive exit. Once home, the silence of our abode felt palpable. I immediately flopped on the couch, exhausted from our all-day excursion. There was an empty spot usually occupied by a snuggle pup who had a propensity for biting my foot when I shifted to a more comfortable position. The lack of her felt enormous. Is it possible I missed that crazy mutt?
Sore toes, happy heart,