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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tales From The Road: The Magical Mountain Tour (Asheville Away)

As another Silverbacks season has come and gone, I feel like it's important to reflect on all of the good times that were had while the season was going on, and boy did I have some good times. Whether it be at Silverbacks Park, Tara Stadium in Jonesboro, Blessed Trinity High School in Roswell, Asheville, Greenville, Nashville (too many "villes"), and at the end Chattanooga; it was so much more than just driving to the game, watching the game, and driving home from the game. I like to think I have enough stories from this season to last me a lifetime, especially from the road trips. I feel like I could make a whole series of posts about my road trips, which is EXACTLY what I'm doing. Hopefully, it'll help make up for how many chances I missed to write articles because I was neck deep in homework after all of my weekends away.

Seeing as how I missed the trip to Knoxville to see the Silverbacks play Emerald Force, this series will begin on a rainy Saturday in Asheville.

After one particular friend I agreed to carpool together for this trip, it came down to the next order of business, constructing a playlist for the ride. The main thing I tried to avoid doing was making it too Pop Punk heavy because I had a reputation to uphold as someone who puts a lot of variety into road trip playlists. I did a good job of this... until about 3 hours before we were set to leave when I added roughly 20 additional Blink-182 songs, to the 3 preexisting songs on the playlist. Not that it mattered in the long run because I had so many songs on a playlist for a relatively short drive so we went a long time without hearing any of those impulse songs

With a full tank of gas in his car and my still decent playlist playing on his stereo, we were on our way. Once you get out of Georgia the typical route from Atlanta to Asheville is pretty scenic. Both years I've gone it ended being a mix of Interstates, State Routes, and Backways as well. The best part is when you get closer to Asheville and the mountains are suddenly in the distance. We made good time throughout the ride and made it before all but one of the other Silverbacks fans we met up with.

When you get to downtown Asheville you will have no trouble finding cool little gift shops, amazing dogs being walked on every sidewalk, breweries in abundance, as well as hipsters doing hipster things, but a parking spot? That's far more challenging to find in Asheville and may involve a couple of trips around the block. When you do find a spot, however, you can walk pretty much anywhere you want in the area. For my friends and I, that was a place called Burial Brewing Company. Burial was where my friends and I hung out before attending the game last year and it left a good impression on us so we decided to return. The main attraction at Burial, apart from the beer, of course, is the fact that their door handle is shaped like the Grim Reaper's scythe, which unfortunately it took me a whole year to figure that out, but better late than never.

Memorial Stadium itself is just uphill from McCormick Field where Minor League Baseball's Asheville Tourists play. It's a multi-use facility so, in addition to Soccer Goals, there are also Football Goalposts. The thing I like the best about the venue it personally is how good the view of the mountains is. What can I say? I have an infatuation with mountains.

The game itself was pretty much gut punch after gut punch because in addition to the Silverbacks losing 3-1, I found out that 3 of Asheville's players were also players from my school, Georgia State University. I hadn't had much time to look up Asheville's roster but I heard the PA announcers mention them by name and I had to do a double take. Sure enough, it was the same people I had watched pretty much every week of College Soccer season. When the reality finally sunk it, I couldn't resist the urge to jokingly yell "you're playing for the wrong team! You go to school in Atlanta" at them. I don't know if they could actually hear me say it but I did get to talk to one after the game. He said he did recognize me, but for some reason, he wanted to say my name was Robert, as opposed to Taylor. Little did I know, next time I talked to him it would be after the game at Silverbacks Park the very next week, and I had to ask him what was going through his mind when he showed Westside 109 his underwear after one of his teammates scored a goal.

One moment that probably sticks out for me more than anything else that happened on this trip was after the full-time whistle. The PA system in Asheville started playing "Come On Eileen" and one of my friends spontaneously changed the lyrics to "Come On You Backs" and we all loved it so we joined in, and it has since become a tradition that we sing it everytime we're either on our way to or from an away game.

 After the game, there was the task of getting home, which was one-half walking back to the car in pouring rain and trying to say all of our goodbyes, as well as one-half driving. My carpooling buddy decided a few days in advance that he didn't want to go all the way back so he suggesting spending the night with some people he knew in South Carolina, relatively halfway between Asheville and Atlanta, which I was totally fine with.

Remember when I said my friend had a full tank of gas in the beginning? Well by this point we did need to stop so we found this gas station, and for the life of me I can't remember the gas station, but it turned out to be the best one I had ever been to. It had been a while since I had eaten so I grabbed a LOT of snacks. The kind of snacks that would cost me somewhere near $12 the gas station nearest to my house, but my some sort of miracle it only cost me half that at this magical South Carolina gas station, which is what I will forever know it as because I can't remember the name.

So that was my adventure to Asheville to watch the Silverbacks. As good of a trip as it was, it was probably the trip that was the least memorable. Perhaps I was still just getting into the swing of things, perhaps I've forgotten about one or two other things that happened (I'm sure one of my friends will tell my right away if that is indeed the case), or maybe Asheville just didn't have as much to offer as the other places I visited did.

In the next part of this new "Tales From The Road" series, I will be telling you all about my trip to Greenville. Stay tuned for more reading about the adventures of a lower division Soccer traveler.