Time for Work

Our 1st WorkAway & Couchsurfing Experience
North Carolina & Tennessee – 23 Days
7/18/13 – 8/10/13

We stopped in Saluda, NC a very quant town with a lot of charm. We visited the organic produce stand and I picked up a pint of the most delicious cherry tomatoes! Then we strolled down to where we saw those men eating ice-cream cones earlier, because monkey-see-monkey-do! We stood and chatted with those two local ol’timers while we ate our cones, they told us all about the history of the area and the changes they’ve seen over their years.
We arrived at Jonah’s house before he did. He told us to go around to the backyard and enjoy the pond. We walked past the ’66 Volvo packed full of blankets and milk crates, the rotted piano that had been sitting outside for far too long, the piles of long-forgotten but once thought useful milk jugs and fabrics. We arrived at the pond, a small, 2-tiered stagnant pool, and were instantly surrounded by tiger mosquitos. We went back around and sat in the truck, doors open because of the heat, but it was too late we were already on the mosquitos’ radar and they were hungry. We swatted and cursed, got out and back into the truck for another 15 minutes when Jonah’s bio-fuel VW pulled up.
Jonah was in his mid-50′s with wild and greying hair. He had a kind smile and apologized for the mosquitos, he admitted he should be doing more to control them. He invited us in and proceeded to give us the tour of his roughly 2500 sq. ft. home. It was dark and historic with collections of collections here and there. There were 3 wings made into apartments with a bathroom and kitchenette each and then the main [common] area. We stood in the kitchen for a bit telling our stories. Apparently Jonah had missed the “Tom” part of my introduction email and I sensed he was a little disappointed. You see Jonah saw the movie Serendipity years ago and has since been living his life in accordance. He found it all too serendipitous that the movie was his life story up until the time he saw it, and so he used it as a guide to how he should live the rest of his life; therefore, he was on a “Sarah Quest”. You can see Jonah’s wheels turn with every ‘clue’ from the movie; I spell my name S-A-R-A and his Sarah would have an “H” so he felt a little better, although I did see him grimace slightly when I confessed I dropped the “H” in 6th grade. He informed us that in order to spend 1 night in his house we would be required to watch the movie, neither of us had seen it and we were utterly lost up until this point. After too long we broke free for dinner with the promise of watching the movie upon our return.

West Asheville is a cute little town that we thought was Asheville. {We will realize this in the near future when we find ourselves in the real Asheville}
I like West Asheville, it is the perfect suburb to its hip neighboring city.
We found a hipster restaurant (dogs allowed, beards encouraged, and the PBR flowing), after a good wait we finally sat down to some food.
“What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know, we can’t stay here 2 weeks.”
“We shouldn’t even go back after dinner!”
But we did. We watched the movie, pausing for Jonah’s commentary, and then talked for an hour or so about life and the way things happen.
He is a very interesting guy with a real foundation for something great. If anyone is looking for an intentional community in the Asheville area, I would suggest meeting Jonah. He has a beautiful commercial space on Main St, a bunch of living quarters, there is land for a farm and he already has a metal shop set up and waiting, all of this just needs the right people to work together and there could be something great here. Jonah seems to have a heart of gold and he has big plans.
But it was time for Tom and I to move on.

Falkor!!

Falkor!!Fortunity, West AshvilleFortunity, West Asheville

We went to breakfast at Biscuit Head, next-door to Jonah’s Fortune building. We chatted about the sociology of life while munching on awesomeness.
Filled up and happy to be on our own again we went to Asheville to see the city. We walked around and visited some shops before moving on.
We don’t find ourselves staying too long in any city it seems. When you subtract the shopping and eating, there’s not much else left. You can hit the necessary spots in a couple of hours, mas o menos.
In Jacksonville a friend told us we would love Maggie Valley so we went that way but we didn’t see anything she was talking about so we were off again.
We kept on until we hit the Blue Ridge Parkway where we looked for Mile Marker 420. Originally Craig said there was “free camping all along the Parkway” which sounds pretty self-explanatory but now we were wondering if we were ever going to find it. Finally we did but quickly realized the camping was in the woods – duh, who camps on their vehicle?
We set up towards the end of the road and made some soup to warm ourselves on this chilly night in the mountains. We watched a beautiful, smokey sun set fire to the sky and then made our way up to bed where we had the fleece blanket making it’s first appearance since we bought it.

Not too bad of a camp after all

Not too bad of a camp after all

We were awoken a few times in the morning by small crowds gathered to say things like, “Never seen anything like that, huh?”, or, “I wonder where they got it, maybe they made it.”, and other questions we’ve come to answer oh so many times since getting the RTT.
Finally at 8am I passive-aggressively answered someone’s question as if to say, “We’re trying to sleep up here!”
“Oh, they’re in there!”
Once we were on the ground a guy named John came over with his coffee and chatted us up. He told us where we could get gas (we were on E!) and in conversation told us about a man who’d just moved here, he was fixing up a cabin in the woods. John described him as an older man with a long, white beard, “a real great guy”.
We headed off to find fuel and to the Ranger’s station for water and maps. Upon leaving we were approached by an older man with a long, white beard, “Hey, you going hiking up here?”, he asked excitedly. We told him that we would tomorrow but now we were looking for a better camp for the night.
We exchanged travel stories and learned he was on a walk-about of sorts form California but when his gear got ripped off he was about to throw in the towel, and that’s when a friend’s son invited him out to his place in Asheville. Pete told the son his sad story and subsequent plan to call it quits and the man insisted he stay in his cabin in the woods!
So funny that we run into this guy! He tells us how he is fixing up the cabin and it’s really great and that we should come by and visit. We told him we just might do that tomorrow!

More water...

We love all the waterfalls!I just can't stop myself!Water over rocks is one of our favorite things!I just can't help myself!I just can’t help myself!

After driving around for a long time looking for a vacant camp on Saturday night in the middle of July, we finally had to make the decision to park in a corner of someone else’s camp parking lot. We got as far from them as we could and agreed it would be okay for the night.
After an hour or so Tom went to look at their camp only to find both tents wet and dirty with a sign that read “free tents”. We had found a deserted site that everyone else had probably passed up because the tents made them think it was taken! Woo-hoo! We checked out the tents and as much as I loved the white and burgundy Swiss tent, agreed that it was no use to us.
We made dinner and listened to the country station – oh yeah, we love country music now. After some time I cranked the battery only to find it dead. We are so totally ITMON and our battery is dead. Luckily we remembered that we have a full auxiliary battery and jumper cables – phew!
In the morning I went for a run on the cool forest road. It was a nice refreshing temperature in those woods, just perfect! We feasted on potato-squash hash and eggs and Tom dug us holes. I took a solar shower and just relaxed for awhile watching the group of 10 butterflies that were hanging out with us. When we got bored we drove out to find Pete’s cabin.

So many butterflies!

So many butterflies!

The ride down 151 was awesomely beautiful! It wasn’t just the carsickness taking my breath away. When we pulled up to what we thought was Pete’s cabin he appeared to invite us in. I love following back country directions, using landmarks such as “the big pine leaning in the road” or “at the sharpest part of the road”.
As we walked in the front door I saw the tiniest puppy on his bed, “Awwwwww!!” I swooned and sat down to cuddle the little creature. Heavenly animal love!

AH! Puppy love!!

AH! Puppy love!!

Pete showed us around his cool little cabin in the heart of the Pisgah. We swapped stories and he showed us his pictures from his visit to Bryce and Zion. John was right, Pete is a really great guy. We had a nice visit with him then we were on our way again. We went into Asheville to do some food shopping then back into those woods we were calling Home.
We were in a different area looking for camp but it was dark and pouring rain. We drove along a service road (appropriately named Wash Creek Rd), the wipers were on full-speed but barely clearing the windshield, our headlights were illuminating more rain drops than road. Luckily we saw the giant tree laying across the road before we drove into it.
“Now what?”
We both sighed.
“I can move it.”, Tom said as he jumped out of the driver’s seat.

Hmmm :/

Hmmm :/

A few minutes later he returned to fetch his new saw (which is really a big knife as far as I’m concerned). I watched him climb around that tree in the rain for 20 minutes sawing branches off, trying to move the trunk off the road all to no avail. He got back in the truck and admitted defeat. We backed up and then down a little side road, Tom stopped a few yards in and said he didn’t trust to go any further because he could barley see. We figured we’d be okay there, no one was getting down the other road anyway so we weren’t anymore in the way than that tree was. We quickly popped the tent in the downpour, we barley had enough room!  At one point I lost my glasses in the mud and had a Jurassic Park moment, the part when Newman is flailing around looking for his glasses after crashing the jeep – I swear I expected to come face to face with a dinosaur when I finally retrieved them!
Luckily I didn’t, and I went up to bed where I feel asleep to the buckets of water being poured on our canvas walls.

This will have to do

This will have to doThis is the road Tom didn't want to back any further down in the pitch dark, rainy nightThis is the road Tom didn’t want to back any further down in the pitch dark, rainy nightUpon further inspectionUpon further inspection, it’s a good thing he didn’tYeah, that would've suckedYeah, that would’ve sucked

After breakfast we headed out to town and hit up The Bar of Soap, what an awesome laundromat, and with a bar! I couldn’t get over the cuteness of the name and the cleanliness of the machines and their delicious organic coffee with the raw spaghetti stirrers. We used their wifi long after the laundry was done and the coffees had turned into beers. When we finally exhausted the internet we found a KOA and snuck in to take showers. Clean and refreshed we headed back into the forest for camp. We followed the river along Yellow Gap Service Rd and found a site that we could drive down into.

I love these Smokey Mountains

I love these Smokey MountainsOur new front yardOur new front yard

We cleaned out our fridge and had soup for dinner again, it sure is getting chilly in these woods!
Not much warmer in the morning I made “cowboy coffee” (as our friends Donnie & Renee in LA called it), grinds wrapped in a filter tied with floss, you dip it like a tea bag.

Cowboy Coffee!

Cowboy Coffee!

I went for a nice run and then we bathed in the river. Holy crap,
C-H-I-L-L-Y!
I spent some time filming and photographing the mass of butterflies dancing around our camp, I’d never seen so many butterflies in one place!
It was so perfect, all alone in the vast woods, the fast running creek in front of us and butterflies landing all around.
I could live here.
I love this place.

IMG_4911

Butterflies and Daddy Long-legs

Butterflies and a Daddy Long-legCan we stay?Can we stay?

I cleaned the truck out and then we drove into Brevard to see what it was all about.
We didn’t have much interest in the music festival that night so we went back to our original camp on Headwater Rd. Tom tried like hell to get a fire going with nothing but wet wood and some newspaper while I made some salad and hotdogs for dinner.
Anxious to meet our new hosts we had some breakfast and headed out to the farm in the morning.

We were surprised to see Micha & Maya were in their early 30′s, relieved even. There was another Wwoofer there who was early 20′s, Adam was set up in the guest camper already so we had previously agreed that we would stay in our tent. We decide on a semi-private area in the back yard and got settled in before going on a tour of the farm.

Home on the farm

Home on the farm

Maya had noticed that the groundhogs were knocking over her potted plants and needed to keep them out so we got busy making an enclosure from recycled tin roofing.

No more critters here!

No more critters here!

After a few hours of hanging out on the porch dinner was ready, venison stir-fry! It was so delicious! “I could eat this everyday we are here!”, I exclaimed. A few more hours of chitchat and we realized this place was going to be pretty damn cool.
The next morning we found ourselves reconvened around the coffeepot at 9:30. About an hour later we split up, the boys going off to do some weed whacking and Maya and I out to mulch the market garden. It had gotten pretty warm by Noon so we had lunch and our hosts decided that was enough for the day. We went back to our respective camps and after a couple hours of reading Tom and I were bored so we went out to the blueberry bushes and weeded for a couple of hours. When the rain came down hard we took turns showering in the runoff from the tent. We had dinner and watched a movie in bed.
Saturday was pretty overcast so we went to visit Adam selling his tie-dyes at the farmer’s market. Tom and I wished we had some marketable skill as we walked around looking at everyones wares. We came across a table of glass beads and some pretty cool looking metal jewelry. We were telling the guy how we thought glass bead making was within our limitations and how we were thinking about taking a class at the Folk School. As we fingered his beads he talked us through the process which quickly told us this was way harder than we thought. Upon telling him this he suggested copper enameling and held up a pendant for us to see. He explained how easy it is and how it was totally something we could do on the road. We were hooked. We told him we were staying with Micha and Maya and he said he could use some helping hands around his place and that he’d be glad to teach us everything we needed to know about glass on metal art. Yay!
It was settled, when we left the farm in 2 weeks we would go straight to Paul’s and do a work-trade for lessons, we were so excited!
We went back to the house and Tom got to weed whacking and I started weeding the raised beds.
We sure have run into a fair share of creepy crawly spiders since being out here! Tom found a huge mama and I ran into a black widow sitting with babies on a bed of insect carcasses. Not really cool when you’re elbow deep in weeds! (Except, it was totally awesome!)

Little did I know they are only going to get bigger from here :/

Little did I know they are only going to get bigger from here :/

It felt so good to take a proper shower at the end of the day. After dinner everyone left to go to a party but Tom and I hung back and took advantage of the internet. Over the course of the night I started getting really homesick and I missed my sister terribly. Tom consoled me and suggested we take a trip to see her! Somehow we justified the 13 hour drive by saying we’d never be that close again.

Around Noon we all had had enough cups of coffee to get us in motion and the guys and I went out to the barn to see about fixing the fallen lean-to. We cleared out the space and replaced the rotted header boards with new ones.

Before

BeforeAfterAfter

The next day Maya left to help her Dad for a couple of weeks so I was left with the boys and we set to work re-roofing the lean-to. After about 20 sheets of tin and 150 nails, we had completed our mission. All that’s left now is to raise it back up!

IMG_0314

IMG_0316
Micha made a slammin’ kielbasa and rice dish for dinner, I seriously couldn’t get enough of it!
The next couple of days were rainy so we didn’t do too much, just some misc odds and ends. Finally by the end of the week we went out to tackle to weeds that were overtaking the blueberries.

Blueberries Before

Out to tackle the last 4 rows of weedingBlueberries After2 Down!

After a couple days hard work we all went to town to visit Micha’s friends where we got pizza and beer and had a great time.
I love the people in Brasstown! That night we were introduced to the music of Sammy Ensley, we burned his CD and he’s been playing on our iPods ever since. Saturday we went to the farmer’s market to confirm with Paul and we hung with Adam for a bit while he sold his tie-dyes.
Sunday we had access to a bobcat and it was time to raise the roof! Success!

Raise the Roof!

Raise the Roof!

Being it was our last night we did laundry and repacked the truck.

It was sad to leave on Monday. We really enjoyed staying with Micha and Adam, they were both great and we were surprised at how fast the 2 weeks went. But alas it was time to move on.
We went to town and got some groceries then met Paul to get our chore list in order. After the tour we figured we might as well get straight to work. We did most of what needed to get done, took camp showers and hung out with Paul and his family while they made dinner. It was so nice of them to feed us, we weren’t expecting that at all!
We finished up our work by the afternoon and then spent a couple of hours in the studio learning how to enamel! It was so cool, and fun, and seemingly easy! Paul even hooked us up with a tool kit to get us started, everything we need!!

My very 1st copper piece

My very 1st copper piece

Tom's very 1st piece

Tom’s very 1st piece

One more dinner and a couple more hours of lessons then it was time to leave Brasstown, and with heavy hearts (and a little poison ivy) we did.
This is such a great town filled with such great people. It’s the first place we’ve been that we could see ourselves coming back to. Between Pisgah National Forest and Brasstown, we really love the these Blue Ridge Mountains!

Silly country dog

Silly country dog

We <3 Brasstown!

We <3 Brasstown!

We drove through and walked around Nashville for a bit and figured that after 2 ½ weeks of free camping, a hotel room was in order.

It seemed like a good idea at the time...

It seemed like a good idea at the time…

In Murfreesboro, TN we checked in for 2 nights and caught up on laundry and internet. We visited Tom’s uncle for a while and retrieved some items we had had delivered to his house. Then we visited with another of Tom’s cousins for a bit before heading out to find free camp somewhere.
We ended up at Cordell Hull Lake, a small horse camp. We set up next to the dingy water and messed around with some copper only to leave us confused and frustrated, it wasn’t anywhere near as fun and easy as it was when we were with Paul!

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