President Obama and first Lady Michelle Obama chose the beautiful mountainous town of Asheville North Carolina as one of their vacation spots for 2010. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains Asheville’s population of roughly 79,000 residents were not surprised by his choice. Our town is an eclectic mix of artists, musicians, and sustainable community environmentalist all drawn by the bucolic rolling greenery, the Blue Ridge Mountains and of course our southern cuisine. On the president’s last political visit he made a promise to come back for a vacation. He kept his promise. Like many others he fell in love with our small gentile town.
Less than 10 miles from our rural home the Obamas arrived Friday afternoon at the Asheville Regional Airport at 1:16 pm. The distinguished vacationers were welcomed by countless excited Asheville residents. The smaller version of Air Force One was used due to the fact our airport’s runway isn’t long enough to accommodate the larger one for landing.
The vacationing couple’s motorcade whisked them to the Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa. A landmark Inn had entertained past presidents looking to get away for some rest and relaxation. Rutherford B Hayes, 19th president – 1882. Hayes stopped in Asheville on a trip through the south. He came just a few months after leaving the White House. Woodrow Wilson, 28th president came to Western North Carolina decades before he assumed the country’s highest office. Asheville played a major role in his romantic life. Grover Cleveland, 22ndand 24th president – 1886 – Love, not politics, also brought Cleveland to Asheville. He was married in the White House and then brought his new wife to Asheville in 1886. The president and his new bride drove through Asheville in a coach drawn by four snow white horses adorned with white ostrich plumes.
The Obamas wasted no time beginning their vacation activities. There first destination a return visit to 12 Bones Smokehouse located in The River Arts District of Asheville, NC. Being a loyal 12 Bones customer myself I can totally understand how the lure of their southern style BBQ ranked number one for lunch. Moving on the Four Star Grove Park Inn Resort and Spa they quickly changed into their hiking attire for an hour-long hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail north of Asheville. The president’s hope to play a couple of rounds of golf was shortened due to our legendary unpredictable mountain weather.
I was surprised the couples did not have the world famous Biltmore Estate on their, “Places To Visit” list. For over two years I’ve worked part-time at Biltmore House and still am overwhelmed at its majestic beauty and history. The house, a comfortable 175,000 square feet, was the mountain vacation home of then bachelor George Vanderbilt. After marrying Edith Stuyvesant Dresser in June 1898 it became their permanent residence.
The presidential couple will wrap up their mountain vacation on Sunday. As we say here in the south, “Y’all come back real soon!”
UPDATE: April 25, 2010 – I’m happy to say that the president was able to fit in a visit to Biltmore House Saturday evening. Bill Cecil, Jr the CEO of Biltmore and the great grandson of George Vanderbilt personally gave the couple a private guided tour through the house.
The Citizens Time Newspaper, Asheville, North Carolina
The Associated Press