When we left off last week, the delightful town of Asheville, North Carolina had just appeared out of the dense mountain fog like an oasis. After having just spent the past 14 hours of my life driving through miserable weather (and after navigating the intestinal tract of the eastern United States) Asheville couldn’t have been a more welcome sight. The town itself was so quaint and attractive that it almost seemed out of place. I say that with no malicious intent and with no offense toward those from the surrounding areas. What I mean is that the town seemed to literally just pop up out of nowhere. It had almost a Brigadoon quality to it in that respect.

The moment we pulled in to town, it was easy for me to see why my son has chosen this place for his new home. Unfortunately, since we had arrived roughly 6 hours later than originally anticipated, my sleepy little girls would have to wait until tomorrow to see their big brother. The excitement and anticipation from them getting to visit him on this trip was palpable the entire way down. The 9 year old and the 3 year old are completely enamored by him to the point of almost being star struck. When he enters the room it’s as if they are a pair of teenage girls in the 60’s and he’s Elvis. The 2 year old on the other hand is an entirely different story. She is very slowly and reticently allowing him into her world. (And make no mistake, it is in fact her world, we just live in it.) She definitely makes it abundantly clear to him that his existence in her universe is strictly on her terms. When he came to visit us on Father’s Day, she barely acknowledged him and I could tell that he was genuinely hurt. So I’m hoping for a warmer reception from her this time.

We checked into our hotel at about 1:30 a.m. and quickly came to the realization that our window for consuming dinner this evening had opened and closed. All 3 girls had been asleep for the last several hours as we carried their limp bodies into the room. Renee and I were both completely exhausted at this point and could not wait to join our girls in their angelic slumber.

This fantasy was fleeting however and would not come to fruition in the near future. As I brought the last of our luggage into the room, my lovely little trio all seemed to simultaneously realize that they were now in a hotel room. The two youngest were in a hotel room for the first time in their cognitive memory. At this moment, the trio that just moments ago were all asleep immediately started behaving as if they had just main lined Red Bull through a bamboo stalk. When I say that they were bouncing off of the walls, I mean it quite literally. The concept that there may have been other human inhabitants above us, below us, and on the other side of each wall was completely lost on these kids.

I was now posed with a pair of equally daunting tasks. First was to calm these loons down and keep us from being asked to leave just moments after checking in. And the second was to figure out a way to feed all of us. I went back down to the lobby to have a chat with the nice young man blessed enough to draw Wednesday evening slash Thursday morning graveyard shift at the Residence Inn in Asheville N.C.  As expected, his response was simply a chuckle when I asked him where I might obtain a meal at this time. Fortunately, as I mentioned, this was in fact a Residence Inn which means that each room is equipped with a small kitchen and all necessary appliances. They are also equipped with a sort of miniature grocery store in the lobby. It’s actually more like a large vending machine with the face plate removed. I shamefully grabbed as much as I could carry of the standard fare found in an all male freshman dorm, paid the guy at the front desk and went upstairs to utilize my culinary degree. It most certainly was not the first time I had consumed this caliber of meal at this time of night. It was however the first time I’d ever done it sober and while feeding it to my spawn. It was also the first time I had such a feast when I was coherent enough to realize that meals that have the words “oodles” or “cup-o” in the name are just plain bad ideas. It was like being on an episode of Chopped, only this time it was filmed on location at spring break.

After a hearty meal of things with a shelf life of eternity, a few moments of self loathing that I had just allowed the people I love most to consume said items, and about an hour or 2 worth of musical sleeping arrangements, eventually we all dozed off.

Fortunately for us, our breakfast date the next morning was a 23 year old guy, so there was no pressure to get up very early. In fact I think we slept until about 7 minutes before check out. I had the room for less than 8 hours, and I was now dangerously close to having to purchase a second day. With the help of Madge, and some partial jumbled directions from my son we eventually arrived at his apartment across town. My girls were overjoyed as their idol climbed into the van with us. I guess I was pretty stoked as well.

Having only been an Asheville resident for about a month, my son was not that familiar with all of the local eateries. To his credit though, he had solicited the help of some friends and had a list of potential places to dine. Knowing that both Dad was buying, and that one of the very few things I take seriously is food, he made sure to set the bar high on his list of potentials.

One of the names on his list immediately jumped out at me. It was a restaurant called Tupelo Honey. Catchy name, I always liked the song, and we were in the south, so why not. I didn’t think that we would need reservations for 11:30 on a Thursday, so we found the place, parked, and went inside. A nice young lady at the front desk greeted us. I told her we had a party of 6. She informed me that it would be about a 2 hour wait. She then, with a straight face, and pen in hand asked if she could take down our name. I painfully resisted the urge to reply; “not unless Thomas Jefferson, George Carlin, Jesus Christ, and my Mom will be dining with us.” Instead I smiled, thanked her, and humbly turned away feeling that as patriarch of this crew who had eaten its last 2 meals out of Styrofoam, I had failed once again. Little did I know at this moment that just a few yards away I was about to have one of the most memorable meals of my life.

Thanks for playing along. Until next week, Syd Nichols