We had a tight schedule. Bouldering at Rumbling Bald in North Carolina and then a free dinner at the local Episcopalian Church in the next town over. We were expecting some great bouldering, some delicious food and new conversation with the community members later at the church. We ended up with a whole lot more!
After working some pretty technical problems while bouldering (*sidenote: things are going much better these days!) we noticed that the time was drawing near to get over to the nearby town and seated at the table for a free community dinner that the local church was hosting. (No matter how good the climbing/bouldering is; we never miss free). Knowing we were staying for a few days in the area, we didn’t feel any qualms about leaving while it was still light out.
Ten minutes later we were at the church and slowly pulling into the uphill driveway. George (who we later met formally) was waving to us from a bench facing the road; placed there, I’m assuming, to help direct people in and welcome them. Leaving his position, he came up to us and started a conversation about our car- a hot topic to most people- and our trip. He then told us to hurry inside and get some food while there was still food to get.
Inside we were greeted by practically everyone. Hope, George’s wife, ushered us over to the food table which was loaded with homemade delights. Baked lasagna, green beans, cold caesar salad with extra fixings, rolls, and even Alma’s home made apple pie. As I loaded my plate, I was worried that my eyes may have been bigger than my appetite, but there was no cause for concern as I easily cleaned my plate.
While there, we got to talk to a very welcoming bunch of people. I just love the South and North Carolina is one of my favorite places in this area. These people were genuine southern mountain folks. We heard stories from Jimmy, who was born in 1928 and whose mother had just passed away in 2009 after living for 101 years. We talked to George and Hope who asked us question after question with attentive faces about our trip and were positive about what we were doing. We learned that Alma was famous for her pie crusts and said if I followed her recipe and it didn’t turn out right, well, then, I didn’t put enough love into it.
Gotta love these people.
We were saying our goodbyes for about fifteen minutes before we actually got in our cars to leave, stomachs full and smiles on our face. What a positive, uplifting experience! it’s so great to meet people who live up to their beliefs and share their love and resources with others- especially strangers. And that’s what I was thinking even before the most surprising thing happened.
I was remarking to Steve how unexpected it was to see such scenery in the south, the view was more like one would expect out west (minus the trees) or at the most, in New Hampshire. I decided I needed to stop along the side of the road to take a picture of the amazing mountains around us. While we were stopped, three people from the church honked and waved as they drove past and a few more pulled over to make sure that we were okay. And then up came George in his white pickup truck, with the same friendly smile that seemed to be a permanent fixture on his face.
“Where are you all staying tonight?” he asked with a bit of concern in his voice. I responded that we had found a place where we were comfortably situated near the climbing area.
George nodded and then replied, “Well, my wife and I own the Lake Lure Inn. If you want to, we’d love to comp you a room for the night.”
I’m not sure what my facial expression looked like, but I knew what I felt: relief, excitement, and thoughts of being able to take a shower. Oh, and not shivering through the night as this eastern humidity soaks through anything warm you may have around you. I told him we would be thrilled to stay if that was okay with him and he said, “Just tell the front desk who you are. Everything will be ready for you.”
Steve was a little frustrated when I returned to the car for having sat there so long, but that dissipated when he found out about the fortunate event of my having stopped to take a photo. He was just as thrilled as I was to be staying in a hotel and not having to worry about setting up a tent. Not only that, but Lake Lure Inn is the nicest one in this area, has a wonderful historical past that they keep very much alive, and is situated right across from the lake the inn is named for. Did I mention this area is where Dirty Dancing was filmed? That gives me a segway to my next surprise.
Not only were we given a place to stay, but we were given THE place to stay- the suite (living area and jetted jacuzzi tub, California king bed) Patrick Swayze stayed in during the filming of Dirty Dancing. Now, I’m not a huge celebrity person, but despite my overall enthusiasm for stars, it is kind of exciting to be staying in the same room as a major Hollywood star stayed in during the filming of a major Hollywood classic. When we walked in the room, we just grinned. This was definitely a step up from our tent.
We returned to our car to gather some things so we could start working (free Wifi here). As we reentered the hotel, the front desk addressed Steve. “Mr. Stephen Weiss? This is for you.” The clerk lifted a large plastic bag up over the counter for us to see as we headed his way. Inside the bag was a bunch of goodies: Newton Fruit Thins, apples, a box of Ritz crackers (how did they know we just ran out?) and a giant jar of JIF peanut butter. A note included hoped that we would enjoy our stay and was signed by our benefactors, George and Hope.
We were overcome by all they had done for us. George, Hope, and the congregation of the Episcopal Church are all examples of what a community should be. These people have added immeasurably to our trip experience and we are grateful to them for their hospitality and love for others.
If you are in the Asheville / Lake Lure area (which you should visit! Fantastic climbing/bouldering and 75 films were done here- that says something!), make sure to stop in on Sundays at the church (dinner is 4-5pm and is free, though there is a place to make donations if you feel so inclined) and visit/stay at Lake Lure Inn. The Inn is right off the main road and across the street from the lake. The place is chock full of original artifacts from the turn of the century and a few decades in. Notable guests include Emily Post, F. Scott Fitzgerald and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. There is also a bar and restaurant as well and fresh baked pastries, coffee and fruit are served to guests each morning. If you’re into ghost tales, the place is supposedly (I saw photos!) haunted by the founder’s owner, Lucius, and WWII soldiers who stayed here during the early years in the 1920′s and 30′s.