Hendersonville downtown 9230Image via Wikipedia
I stole this pic from the Interweb
Okay, so technically this is North Carolina and not actually part of the South Carolina Upstate. Should I call it “Upstate Over Your Nose” for the day? Or can we just agree that if it is close enough to drive there from The Upstate without stopping to pee then it is close enough to write about for this blog?

I think we should move on before I being to ramble about the size of my bladder…  Last Monday one of my five part time jobs required me to drive to Hendersonville, NC to measure a shower for a frameless glass door.  It seemed silly to drive 45 minutes to work for only 10 so I decided to go all Lewis & Clark on a part of western North Carolina that I have somehow neglected all of my life. 

When I want to visit the mountains I usually keep it close since there are so many great destinations right here in The Upstate. When I feel like venturing a little further north my sights are usually set on Asheville or Boone. I graduated college in Boone and even though it has been a while since I lived there, it still feels like home to me.  Asheville possesses the same great scenery but with more of the offerings of a bigger city.  Chris and I never get tired of the great music and food we always find in Asheville and it tops our list of places to go when we want to have a traveling weekend adventure.  As a result, I have never found much reason to visit Hendersonville even though it is only about 45 minutes north of downtown Greenville.

I would like to take this time to publically admit that I am stupid.

Hendersonville and Flat Rock are wonderful little towns that I am a fool for not visiting sooner.  I started to sense this as I drove through Flat Rock on my way to work last week. It is a quaint little, blink-and-you-will-miss-it community but quite a few things caught my eye as I passed through.  I had a contractor waiting for me though so I just took a few mental notes and focused on Google’s convoluted directions to my jobsite.

Twenty minutes later I was done working for the day. Seriously, that was it. It was 9:15 AM and I had no more paying assignments lined up for the rest of the day.  I should let the adventure begin, right? The contractor I had met pointed me toward downtown Hendersonville and my official exploration began.  I parked on Main Street and set off on foot to see what the town had to offer.

My first impression of Hendersonville was that it is significantly smaller than Asheville but with a friendlier, mountain community vibe to it.  There are less concert halls and more art galleries but there was plenty to peak my interest as I explored the main drag and side streets. I wandered aimlessly in and out of book stores, antique shops, art galleries and sporting good stores making new friends every step of the way.  I repeatedly told people the people that I met that I had never been to town and asked what I should do with my limited time to explore.  Needless to say, the answers were endless and far exceeded what I could do with only four hours before I had to pick Ivan up from school.

This is a great way to get to know a town as I received local, first-hand recommendations on hiking trails, waterfalls, parks, museums, restaurants, stores and nearby towns that my new friends felt I should experience. I will not share all of this information as I have not had the pleasure of testing it our first and I would hate to pass on bad information that I got from some unknown, yokel mountain folk (I kid of course. Everyone I met was super nice, helpful, and had amazingly great tastes in food and entertainment around town. Yes, even the lady with the beard.)

First of all, I could have spent a day just shopping on Main Street.  Yes, I know I am a man that generally has no interest in shopping but book stores and art galleries peak my interest. I do not shop for clothes and barely care what I look like but my bookshelves and walls would look great covered in the works of some of the local authors and artists I discovered.  Plus, there was a great little kitchen store called The Rabbit that had Chris’s name all over it.  Between the cookbooks, kitchen gadgets, and specialty wine selection, the two of us could bankrupt a small European nation in an afternoon in that one store alone.

After several laps of Main Street and the surrounding blocks, my thoughts turned to lunch. Actually, they turned to food in general.  I believe I need to return for a weekend just to eat as I picked up menus from breakfast, lunch and dinner destinations that I cannot wait to try out with Chris.  Local delis, sushi, pasta and wood fired pizza are all calling our names.  For this trip, however, I kept it cheap and simple with a burger from Hannah Flanagan’s, the popular Irish pub right in the heart of town.  

With my plans laid out for a return trip I started working my way home by way of Flat Rock.  Chris had requested that I make a stop at The Wrinkled Egg and I had an interest in visiting Carl Sandburg’s home.  Both visits were way too short and deserving of some quality time and attention.

Lake on the Carl Sandburg estateImage by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via Flickr
Lake @ Sandburg Home
Carl Sandburg is an American Pulitzer Prize winning author that spent his last 20 years of life as a resident of Flat Rock. His farm is open to the public and is notable to me only because many of my schoolmates ventured there on field trips when I was in elementary school.  For reasons I cannot explain, none of my classes ended up there which probably does not matter as I do not recall having the same interest in writing or history at 10 years old that I do today.  My visit was worth the wait as I thoroughly enjoyed my too-short 30 minute self guided tour of the farm that Sandburg called home.  There is much to see and learn there and I am eagerly anticipating my next visit with more time on my side.

I did not know what a wrinkled egg was before I got to Flat Rock and I am no more educated today. The best I can gather is that The Wrinkled Egg is home to a neat little local gift shop and Flat Rock Bakery.  By the time I got here the clock was ticking so I just grabbed a menu and left.  I was only there 3-5 minutes but I can tell you this – I can still smell it. The scent of fresh baked bread consumed me and I cannot wait to go back. Actually, I might make another field trip before this week is over.  I do not know how it tastes but if the scent in the room is any indication, I might have just stumbled across the bakery equivalent of crack. It is calling my name and demanding my action on scent alone.  This could be trouble.

I was only in Hendersonville and Flat Rock for a total of four hours so I cannot recommend a bunch of destinations like a local or frequent visitor might. What I can say is that in just a short amount of time I picked up the flavor of an area that I am eager to visit again.  Next time I hope to go with my family and more time.  With my scouting trip out of the way, I am sure that we will be dive into an adventure that we will look back on for a long time to come… and we will not even have to stop and pee on the way there. 

THE END

Wait a minute… that is not really the end...

I wrote the preceding story a few days after my first trip to Hendersonville two Mondays ago but I got busy and never posted it to the website. Yesterday I went back with my friend and owner of Carolina Custom Kitchen &Bath to install the shower that I originally went to measure. This trip was more work-focused but I still had a chance to do a little more exploring and decided to add some thoughts to the original story. 

The shower that got me here
We got to Hendersonville at about 9:30 in the morning and finished right around lunch time.  Since Jeff had never had an opportunity to explore Hendersonville he asked me (being the now self-proclaimed expert on the area) where to eat.  I directed us to the West First Wood Fire Grill. Several people had told me that this was a great place to eat but they are closed on Mondays so I could not try it out on my first visit to town.  The experience was well worth the wait.

West First Wood-Fired Pizza on UrbanspoonWest First Wood Fire Grill specializes in pizza with a unique style and local ingredients. The dough comes from The Flat Rock Bakery (located in the back of The Wrinkled Egg in Flat Rock) and was unlike anything you will find from your average pizzeria.  We each had 9” personal pizzas that were nothing short of amazing.  Mine was the Bianco with a ricotta cheese base topped with fresh mozzarella, roasted chicken and fresh herbs.  Jeff went a little more adventurous with the Caribbean special which had a black bean base topped with mozzarella, plantains, chicken, onions, peppers, feta cheese, and cilantro and then finished with a hot pepper sauce.  It occurred to me to trade a slice of my Bianco for his Caribbean but they were both completely consumed before I could make my proposal.  The style of the pizza was strikingly similar to what I regularly enjoy at Summa Joe’s but with a wood fired twist.  This is definitely on my hit list for my next trip to the area.

The best thing about this second trip was that we measured and sold another shower enclosure after lunch.  This means that next Wednesday I will return for my third trip to the area in just three weeks.  My mouth is watering already.
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