Driving from North Carolina to Colorado: heading home!

by Heidi Obermeyer

Happy 27th of December everyone! I just got back from visiting family in and around Aspen, and it was lovely to enjoy part of my white Christmas in the mountains. My holiday was fairly uneventful, but I did get a copy of this book about baking, which I’m pretty excited about. I don’t want to accumulate more and more stuff as I prepare to head overseas again, so it’s been nice to chill out on the gift-giving this year.

I took lots of pictures on the drive back from North Carolina, which I completed with my uncle over the course of 3 days. We went through a little bit of West Virginia and Kentucky this time around, whereas Emily and I had driven the length of Tennessee when I first moved in August. Image

It’s kind of tricky driving back from NC, because all of the exciting stuff along this route is right at the beginning in this direction (the Blue Ridge Mountains, Nashville, Lexington, etc.) and all of the boring stuff (aka all of Kansas) is at the end when you’re really sick of driving.

Our first stop was about 4 hours away from Chapel Hill at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, which, if I’m not mistaken, was the largest privately owned home in the United States when it was built in the late 1800’s at 175,000 square feet. It’s HUGE!

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Tickets are wicked expensive- about $70- so this was definitely a treat. They decorate the entire house really ornately for Christmas, which is absolutely gorgeous.

ImageThe house is amazing, but you’re not allowed to take any photos of the interior (or even sketch while inside!) on the self-guided tour. The estate is stilled owned by the Vanderbilts and they are definitely running the place for a profit, with gift shops and expensive restaurants all over the place. 

ImageThere are also huge gardens, which weren’t blooming since we were there in December. It must be extraordinary in the summertime or spring as well.

ImageThe whole place was built for just 3 people. Isn’t that insane?! 

ImageThe estate is several thousand acres and situated right in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which aren’t nearly as big as the Rockies, but still pretty beautiful. The views from the house were breathtaking.

ImageIt’s always strange to visit places in the winter. I usually don’t like it, but the Christmas decorations at Biltmore made it much more festive and fun, which made up for the lack of greenery outside.

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We made it all the way to Lexington, Kentucky that night, after passing through Tennessee again briefly….

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Kentucky is a weird-looking state. It’s really rocky, and apparently full of lots of caves and cool rock-related things, which was interesting to see from the highway. Plus…. tons of horses! What a horse-crazy state. The next morning we visited Kentucky Horse Park, which is where they host the Rolex Kentucky (a huge three-day-eventing competition). Sadly, the place is pretty dead outside of the summer months, but we did stop by the International Museum of the Horse, which is located on the grounds. It’s actually a branch of the Smithsonian Institution and was pretty well done!

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They had this funny horse mannequin (horsequin?) hanging to display how horses were brought to the New World (hint: it was done very dangerously and with lots of equine casualties).

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In the summer they also have tons of different breeds of horses living in the complex, as well as some old “champions” such as Funny Cide (a Kentucky Derby winner) and some other famous horses that you can go visit. Pretty neat!

Next up we drove about an hour down the road to Lexington, where Churchill Downs is located and where the Kentucky Derby is run each year! As you walk up, there’s a new(ish) statue of Barbaro at the entrance, which was sweet, since the Derby winner’s story was so tragic.

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Again, since it was winter…. nothing was happening. Oh well! We actually entered into an area where you can distance gamble on other racetracks (which was really depressing to see) to get to go look at the track and finish line, thanks to some friendly gate attendants who let us in for free since we weren’t actually trying to gamble. It was perhaps even cooler that we got to go out into the stands with no one else around- it’s amazing to think of the horse-y history that has been made there.

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We had some fun hanging out in all of the reserved box seats…

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I have to wonder- do the people in Kentucky involved in horse racing do it for the money or for the animals? It’s kind of sad to think of racing as a profits game instead of being about the animals, but as a casual fan I’m obviously a little biased towards the ponies.

The rest of the drive was extraordinarily uneventful. Kansas, man. It’s a doozy. I would genuinely prefer to never have to drive that again.

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And then we were finally there! Welcome to Colorful Colorado.

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And that was that! One interesting thing we noticed once we got into Colorado is that you can tell that you’re getting closer to the mountains by how the clouds are looking. They certainly get more interesting as the ground gets bumpier and weather forms over the Rockies.

I’m going to be busy getting ready to leave again (!!!) on the 11th for Berlin- and there’s plenty to do before that. Friends to visit, dentist appointments to make, bags to pack, possessions to pack that are staying here for the next year, and maybe even some skiing to do. Plus New Year’s Eve! It’s so strange to think that this time last year I was hanging out in the ‘Staufen with my German relatives and getting ready to celebrate 2012’s beginning in Munich. What are your exciting NYE plans?

 

 

 

 

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