Monthly Archives: April 2019

High on Hendersonville

Beyond the Peach State

Photos courtesy of Henderson County Tourism Development Authority and Sam Dean

The second largest city in the western North Carolina mountains has a first-rate playlist of things to do.

Cideries, wineries and breweries. Stunning waterfalls, white squirrels and countless trails to explore. An iconic general store, a performing arts playhouse and an accolade-winning B&B. Local wisdom shared through mountain lore, beer adventurers and a S.A.G.E. All of these things and more beckon travelers to Hendersonville, North Carolina and nearby Mills River.

“The different tourism businesses ‘cross pollinate’ to support each other,” says Beth Carden, the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority executive director. “And there are so many self-guided activities that people can do any time.”

Head to Main Street
Hendersonville first came to prominence as an escape for Charleston residents from Lowcountry summers, and any exploration of the community, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, should begin downtown. Streetscapes feature wide, pedestrian friendly sidewalks with flowers and trees in brick planters, benches and gazebos. Many of the 20-plus independent restaurants along Main Street offer outdoor seating as well.

Visitors can attend shows and concerts at Flat Rock Playhouse, officially designated as the State Theatre of North Carolina, or shop at the must-see Mast General Store with its original tin ceiling in the circa 1905 building. Inventory includes clothing, footwear, outdoor and travel gear, housewares, gift items, classic toys, gourmet country foods and more than 500 old-fashioned candies.

“Our most popular candy is vanilla bullseye,” says S.A.G.E. (Service Ambassador for Guest Experiences) Travis Spencer.

The Hendersonville store is one of nine Mast locations, including the bellwether that opened in Valley Crucis, North Carolina in 1883 with everything from “cradles to caskets,” in the Carolinas and Tennessee.

Additional downtown attractions include art galleries, Henderson County Heritage Museum and McFarlan Bake Shop, which opened in 1930 and is one of the few remaining “made from scratch” bakeries in America.

Area dining options range from the casual HenDough, specializing in chicken and doughnuts, in Hendersonville to the upscale, award-winning Season’s at Highland Lake Inn, featuring seasonal menus based on produce from its organic gardens, in nearby Flat Rock.

Hit the Trails
Henderson County, North Carolina’s top apple-producing county and the seventh largest in the nation, also is home to almost 30 tourism trails including its Orchard and Cheers! trails. As the apple of the eye of the hard cider industry, the Cheers! Trail includes three cideries, which all use locally sourced apples, two wineries and six breweries.

The award-winning, Virginia-based Bold Rock Hard Cider, the largest craft cidery in the United States, opened its second production facility and tasting room in Mills River in 2015. Dog and kid friendly, Bold Rock includes a cider garden, outdoor music venue and food truck that serves barbecue and other Southern staples. The taproom offers hard cider tastings as well as pints, flights and local craft beer. Complimentary tours are available Saturdays and Sundays at 1, 3 and 5 p.m.

Flat Rock Ciderworks, the area’s first cidery, began operations in 2014 with its flagship ciders Wicked Peel and Blackberry Gold. Two years later the cidery opened a tasting room in downtown Hendersonville. “We take the product all the way from the orchard to the bottle, keg or can,” says co-owner Jim Sparks. “It’s all local. We want to promote the local agriculture in our community.”

Appalachian Ridge Artisan Ciders, located in a renovated 1940s-era barn surrounded by an apple orchard, produces dry, European-style cider. “You can taste cider in a grocery store, but when you taste it here, in the middle of an orchard, it gives you more of an experience,” says owner Alan Ward.

For those who prefer fermented grape juice to fermented apple juice, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards makes wines from 14 varieties of grapes. Also owned by Ward, the winery is located on farm acreage that has been in his family for more than nine generations. The tasting room includes indoor and outdoor seating with views of the vineyards.

The family-owned, award-winning Burntshirt Vineyards crafts its wines from fruit grown in its two vineyards. The vineyard’s name comes from mountain lore that says farmers of yesteryear tossed their shirts into the fire for good luck – and a bountiful crop – when they burned their fields to clear the land for planting. A visit to Burntshirt includes tastings, tours, live music, covered patios, a food truck, a fire pit and corn hole.

Breweries include Sierra Nevada, a California-based enterprise that opened a Mills River location in 2014 to increase brewing capacity and to provide fresh beer more quickly to fans east of the Mississippi River. Various tours led by guides, aka beer adventurers, are offered seven days a week, and reservations can be made online at sierranevada.com.

The family friendly Sierra Nevada also includes a taproom, restaurant, gift shop, amphitheater, indoor music venue, oversized fire pit, corn hole, bocce ball, children’s playground, hiking trails, gardens and kayak pull-offs into the French Broad River. No wonder it’s affectionately nicknamed “Malt Disney.”

Outdoor lovers can explore DuPont State Recreational Forest. With 90 miles of trails, the forest is home to spectacular waterfalls including Hooker Falls, where a scene from Last of the Mohicans was filmed. Farther upstream, hikers will find Triple Falls, featured in The Hunger Games, and High Falls.

Five miles from downtown Hendersonville, Jump Off Rock climbs to an elevation of 3,100 feet and offers panoramic views of the Blue Ridge and Great Smoky mountains. The rock gets its name from a Native American legend that says an Indian maiden threw herself off the rock after learning the warrior she loved was killed in battle. On a clear day, four states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee – are visible from the granite rock.

At ground level, you might spot a white squirrel in Henderson County. They’re not albinos, though – they have dark eyes.

Home on Tiffany Hill
It’s impossible to see and do everything in one day, so overnight accommodations are essential. One of the best places to set up home base is Bed & Breakfast on Tiffany Hill in the rolling countryside of Mills River. The B&B, owned and operated by Selena Einwechter since it opened 10 years ago, became a Select Registry property in 2011. Tiffany Hill was the first B&B to become part of the Southern Living Hotel Collection, and in April 2018 Southern Living named it the South’s Best Inn, based on an online reader survey.

“At Tiffany Hill,” Selena says, “we celebrate something every day.”

Breakfast at Tiffany Hill is a party unto itself. The three-course meals, served at a table that is set to perfection, always end with dessert. However, it’s hardly a formal affair. Some guests come to the table in their pajamas, and Selena is happy to help them plan their daily itinerary.

Because she has thought of everything to satisfy her guests’ every whim, some people may be reluctant to leave the property at all. And Selena doesn’t indulge their desires in typical fashion. Why take a formal tour of the beautiful 6-acre grounds, for instance, when you can explore them on a scavenger hunt? Where else would you get a massage other than the human birdhouse? Feeling a little chilly at the Thursdays on the Porch music series? A basket full of blankets – or a soothing glass of wine – will warm you right up.

When it’s time to check out (sadly, that day will come), the fond farewell will put your grandparents’ goodbyes to shame. Spoiler alert: Selena helps guests bring in their luggage, but she doesn’t help them take it out. In fact, she asks that travelers don’t even let her see them take their suitcases to their cars. That’s how much she hates to see her guests leave. As for the rest of the sendoff, well, you’ll just have to find out for yourself.

By Betsy Gilliland

Tuna Lemon Cups

Entrees
  • 1 can (5 ounces) tuna, drained
  • 1 teaspoon fresh dill
  • 1/2 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons capers
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (or Italian dressing)
  • Sea salt and fresh pepper, to taste
  • 4 large lemons
  • Fresh dill, for garnish

Place tuna in a bowl and break chunks into small pieces with a fork. Stir in dill, celery, cucumber, onion, eggs, capers and lemon juice. Gently stir in extra virgin olive oil or Italian dressing and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes. Slice off bottoms of lemons so they stand on their own. Scoop out pulp (save it to make lemonade, basil-lemon mayonnaise, lemon butter or sauces) and fill lemons with the salad. Garnish with fresh dill and serve. Makes 4 lemon cups.

BRAG-ging Rites

Sports

Photos courtesy of Bike Ride Across Georgia, Rich Dimenna, Jim Parkerson and Dennis Moberg

The Bike Ride Across Georgia, aka BRAG, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

With the inevitable passage of childhood into adulthood, some sacraments of youth are too prized to leave behind. And that’s the way it should be.

“Remember when you were a kid, and you learned to ride a bike?” asks Dennis Moberg of Martinez. “I never stopped.”

Moberg and his wife, Marita, travel far and wide to explore the planet on two wheels. They already have taken bike tours in New Zealand and Patagonia, Chile and Argentina this year, but they’re just as happy sticking closer to home. Since 1996 they have ridden in the Bike Ride Across Georgia, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer, about 15 times.

The first one began in Savannah with 120 riders and ended in Columbus, when 60 saddle-sore cyclists completed the 300-mile tour. Now, however, BRAG, the second-oldest intrastate bicycle tour in the world, attracts about 1,200 riders for the seven-day event.

With bike routes that vary from year to year, BRAG showcases the best of Georgia from its food and drink to its diverse terrain to its hometown hospitality.

This year BRAG, scheduled for June 1 – 8, begins in Ellijay in the north Georgia mountains. The route winds its way through Gainesville, Covington, Milledgeville, Swainsboro and Hinesville before ending in the waterfront town of Darien. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the riders always stay overnight in the same place for a rest day, and this year the layover is in Milledgeville.

“It’s not a race. It’s incredibly peaceful to just ride a bike with a friend or your brothers,” Evans resident Rich Dimenna says.

Joy Ride
Dimenna rode in his inaugural BRAG in 2006 after a friend asked him to do it. “At first I looked at him like he was out of his mind,” he says. “Six days of riding about 400 miles?”

His friend dropped out on day one because of heat exhaustion, but Dimenna kept pedaling and has participated ever since. His younger brothers later joined him in the annual event. Although they no longer take part in the bike tour, he has continued to ride with a friend and “honorary brother” from Columbus, Georgia since 2008.

Dimenna rides a few times a week, averaging 40 – 50 miles per week or about 2,000 miles a year. He bikes around his house through subdivisions and on lightly traveled roads as much as possible, and sometimes he goes on group outings on Saturdays and Sundays.

“It’s great exercise. It’s fun,” says Dimenna, who also does other rides around the country. “I’ve had a bike for as long as I can remember. When my wife and I got married in 1969, we bought each other bikes as wedding presents.”

To train for BRAG, he rides about 1,000 miles starting in January and works out at the gym two or three times a week.

Augusta resident Jim Parkerson, who also got started at the urging of a friend, has ridden in BRAG since 2003. Not that it took much persuasion, though.

“I like riding bikes because I like the exercise and being outside,” he says. “I’ve never done a spin class. I’d rather bundle up and put on leather gloves and ride outside in a snowstorm.”

Parkerson doesn’t have a particular training regimen for BRAG. He just rides – a lot. During the winter, he rides about 400 miles a month. He usually rides 40 – 50 miles on Saturdays and 40 miles on Sundays. He bikes to and from work every day in an eight-mile round-trip commute, and he likes to ride on FATS (Forks Area Trail System) and Bartram Trail.

He also does bike tours in other states and BRAG-sponsored events including the three-day BRAG Spring Tune-Up Ride and the two-day Challenge of the Centuries. During “Big” BRAG, Parkerson usually spends “rest day” doing the optional 100-mile ride, and he has the century bandannas to prove it.

For the Mobergs, BRAG is a good way to explore the Peach State. “The ride goes through small towns that tend to be away from the interstate. A lot of people can live in Georgia all their lives and never go to these towns,” he says. “If you like exercise and touring, biking is a good way to combine the two. It’s not like being in a car when you’re buzzing by things at 60 miles an hour.”

Moberg and his wife ride their bikes whenever they can. When they’re in town, they ride an average of 50 miles a week. When they travel for bike tours, they ride about 500 miles in two weeks.

“We ride every day when we’re home, and in Georgia, we can ride all year long,” says Moberg. “All you do is ride farther when you do those rides.”

Along the Route
To begin the tour Parkerson and the Mobergs drive to BRAG’s final destination, park their cars and take the BRAG bus to the starting point. Dimenna’s wife, Sharon, drives him to the start of the race and picks him up at the finish.

Once the event gets underway, BRAG-gers typically start pedaling at daybreak and put on the brakes in the early afternoon to beat the heat. Cyclists average 55 miles a day, and well-stocked rest stops with beverages, snacks, first-aid kits, mini bike shops and porta-potties are set up every 12 to 18 miles.

Some riders, like Dimenna and Parkerson, camp overnight in school gymnasiums “with 500 of your best friends,” Dimenna says, or in tents. Others, like the Mobergs, spend the night in hotels. Showers are available for the campers at the schools or BRAG shower trucks, and baggage trucks transport bedding and extra clothes from one town to the next.

“Each night at the schools, there is a bigger stand with a bike shop truck for significant repairs,” says Dimenna. “Some of them will even sell you a new bicycle.”

Along the route, bikers carry items such as energy bars, water bottles, a pump, a patch kit, an extra tube, sunglasses and cell phones with them. Raingear is a must as well. Parkerson always takes a couple of mustard packets – his trusted cure for cramps – along for the ride.

“My wife and I ride with a blinking light on the front and a blinking light on the back, and we wear brightly colored clothes,” Moberg says.

‘A Big, Rolling Party’
BRAG is about much more than pedaling, however.

One of its highlights is the daily after-ride parties that include BRAG-tivities such as bike trivia, one-legged bike races, educational classes, yoga, massages, live music and entertainment. Of course, riders also enjoy finding their favorite beverages at the BRAG bar. For lunch or dinner, they have the option of eating at a restaurant in the town where they stay overnight.

“You catch a bus, and you go drink beer,” says Parkerson. “You can drink and eat as much as you want because you have earned it. That’s part of the appeal. It’s just a big, rolling party.”

Socializing with other riders or people that live along the route is part of the fun as well.

“I’ve met a lot of people. Usually, I’m slow to go up to people I don’t know and start a conversation,” Dimenna says. “But when we’re riding, I’ll to talk to almost anybody.”

Other cyclists include wounded veterans riding improvised bikes and parents on a tandem pulling behind their child in an attached trailer.

“It’s quite an experience. It’s like a family reunion now,” Parkerson says. “It’s a convivial atmosphere. You see the same people year after year.”

He even met his girlfriend, Joan Alden, in 2013 when she did BRAG Lite in which bikers ride for three consecutive days.

The Mobergs have met townspeople who gave them shelter from rainstorms on their front porches. At a rest stop near a filming location for “The Walking Dead,” they met people dressed like characters in the TV show.

Although BRAG is a bicycle tour, not a race, Dimenna once encountered a rider with a canine companion that thought otherwise. The dog seemed to enjoy the adventure, except for a single – yet persistent – complaint.

“Every time someone passed them,” Dimenna says, “the dog whined.”

For more information on the Bike Ride Across Georgia, visit brag.org.

By Todd Beck

Triple Play

Sports

In the near darkness, Evans players celebrate their win.

Twenty-five years ago, the Evans High School Knights overcame a formidable opponent, nasty weather and three appeals to win the 1994 state AAAA baseball championship

Winning has been a habit for Evans High School baseball teams through the years, and this month marks the 25th anniversary of the Knights’ 1994 Georgia AAAA baseball championship.

The Knights were defending the title they had captured the previous year in a 17-inning Game 2 thriller against Sprayberry High School, and they defeated the Fayette County High School Tigers with a flair for the dramatic as well.

After the teams split the first two games of the three-game series in Fayetteville, the stage was set for the decisive Game 3 at 4 p.m. on May 21. The late afternoon start time avoided the heat of the day, but it allowed for little wiggle room in the event of inclement weather.

Through four innings of Game 3, the teams matched each other run for run. Clint Sauls’ home run to right centerfield in the top half of the fifth inning put Evans ahead, 5-4. Within seconds, though, the weather in Fayetteville went from pleasant spring afternoon to a surreal combination of high winds and swirling cement mix.

er rains thoroughly soaked the field, the Fayette County coaches, players and fans set the field on fire in order to make it dry enough to continue play.

A quarry-like factory located over the left-field fence housed a long, high mound of the cement mix. The windstorm that roared in from over the fence brought with it a powdery cloud of blinding, choking, sand and stone and who-knows-what-else to the baseball diamond.

As television camera crews rappelled off a media platform that overlooked the outfield fence and fans fled for cover, I urged Channel 6 photographer Keith Brown to remain aboard the swaying wooden structure and capture the scene on video.

You can’t imagine that the game continued in those conditions, even momentarily. If the raging sandstorm wasn’t enough, the rainstorm that followed forced a two-hour game delay.

By the time the storm hit, enough of the contest had already been played to render it official in the books. Evans would be declared the state champion if the game could not be completed in its entirety. Whatever hopes Fayette County held for winning a state championship were quickly running out.

More than an hour later, when the rain stopped, the infield was saturated, compounded by puddles of standing water. The dark clouds that hung over Fayetteville were also not in their favor.

The Evans Knights held a 25th anniversary reunion last April to celebrate the state championship baseball teams from 1993 and 1994. Teammates from shroughout the United States attended a weekend celebration.

In an attempt to hasten the drying process, the Fayette County faithful poured gasoline on the drenched infield and fed it with matchsticks.

To quote a few lines from the Channel 6 television report for the 11 o’clock news that night, “trouble is, the field is a mess, it’s going to get dark and there aren’t any lights here. You get the picture. Desperate men will do desperate things.”

The soggy field was deemed playable as darkness crept in, and the ballgame resumed. In the bottom of the sixth inning, local legend Keith Brownlee, the second man up for the Tigers, launched a home run over the left-field fence to tie the game at 5.

As the Fayette County fans erupted in jubilation, Brownlee slowly trotted around the bases, enough time for Evans scorekeeper Amanda Eckert to get coach Terry Holder’s attention and question who had batted.

The pen proved mightier than the sword that night. After a 15-minute delay to sort things out, the umpires ruled that Fayette County had batted out of order and took the run off the scoreboard. The Tigers appealed in vain that the umpires made an error on their lineup cards earlier in the contest.

Coach Terry Holder with Augusta sports historian Stan Byrdy

A stunned Fayette County team got in its final at-bat as nighttime descended on Fayetteville, and the game was called due to darkness with Evans in the lead, 5-4. The Knights carried off their fifth state championship trophy in seven years.

After the game, a gracious Holder remarked, “I feel sorry for their team… it was just a mistake in the heat of the battle, so to speak. This time it went our way, and so I’m proud for our kids.”

Nine days and three appeals later, the Georgia High School Association officially ruled in the Knights’ favor and declared Evans the rightful winner of the 1994 Georgia AAAA baseball championship.

The video even made its way to CNN and ESPN, and living rooms throughout America reveled in the story. The Environmental Protection Agency also caught a glimpse of the video and the baseball field at Fayette County was cordoned off. The playing surface had been exposed to hazardous material and would need to be dug up.

In the record books, the Knights won back-to-back titles, and the report won the Associated Press TV Sports Report of 1994 in Georgia.

Twenty-five years later it’s still the darndest thing you ever saw.

By Stan Byrdy

Photos courtesy of Stan Byrdy and Grady Blanchard

Hot Cross Buns

Side Dishes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk, lukewarm
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon oil

Glaze:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Cream cheese icing:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon water

In a large mixing bowl, mix together salt, nutmeg and 4 cups flour until combined; set aside. In a small bowl, combine lukewarm milk, sugar and yeast. Stir and let rest about 10 minutes until yeast activates (you will notice bubbles forming). If yeast does not froth up, do not continue — your dough will not rise.

Add eggs and butter to yeast mixture and stir. Pour yeast mixture over flour and mix about 5 minutes using the dough hook attachment. Add raisins and mix another minute or until dough is soft and elastic. If dough is too wet, add more flour as needed. The dough is done when it doesn’t stick to the sides of the bowl anymore.

Place a tablespoon oil in a large bowl and add dough. Roll dough around until completely coated with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place dough on a clean, lightly floured work surface and divide into 15 even pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball and place on the prepared pan, leaving enough space for dough to expand. Cover (but don’t wrap) with a clean damp towel and let rest 30 minutes until doubled in size. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

While baking, make glaze by mixing sugar and water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over low heat and then boil another minute or until glaze thickens; set aside.

Place icing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together until combined. Add to piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use. When buns are done, remove from oven and brush with glaze. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes and then pipe icing over buns to form a cross. Makes 15.