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Asheville, NC
Miles Today: 68.4
Total Miles: 2103.5
Days on the Road: 78

Why we're not millionaires
George's average books read
per week: 2 1/2
Our monthly average, combined: 1 1/2
Liz: 270 Anthony: 261
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The House That George Built
N 35°36.056 W 82°33.241
Wednesday, April 16, 2003 - Day 78

The $36 price tag at the gates to palatial Biltmore Estate, George Vanderbilt's decadent castle in Asheville, VA, left us immobile and contemplative for a few seconds. Thirty-six dollars! Each? The cost of admission is about what we'd pay for a full day at Disneyland, but this century-old home promised no Tomorrow Land, no Space Mountain and no autographs from Cinderella or Snow White. It did, however, promise free wine tasting, so we coughed up the $72 admission plus an extra $6.75 each for the audio tour. (Note: The mp3 audio guide is well worth the money. You learn about all the trap doors and bits of family scandal, whereas all the headphone-less tourists point absently and wonder what's behind door number three or who's the dame in the portrait. His lover, perhaps? We'll never tell.)

The estate tour, and the winery, proved worth their fare. It's the single place on earth where you can see 250,000 acres landscaped -- yes, painstakingly landscaped -- for a personal residence by the illustrious Frederick Law Olmstead. He introduced nearly three million plants to the estate's grounds, which have now evolved to look, surprisingly, not manmade.

Here's something to remember: If you ever open a tour of your estate, organize a winery tour -- or at least a complimentary wine-cooler tasting or something -- in such a location where the soused tourists have no choice but to exit via the gift shop. A guaranteed sell. They got us for a bottle of wine, some crackers, cheese, more wine, some sausage and a bunch of other knickknacks we're sure to lose.

But that was yesterday. Today, we set out to find the "huge trails" described to us by the monster-calved dudes at Biowheels who did some minor repairs on our bikes. The trails we rode at the North Mills Rec. Area outside of Asheville probably didn't meet their hugeness rating -- baby huge at best. But it was plenty big for us, especially the initial single track that led straight up, for at least a mile, into the forest. It was a hell of a cruel way to start a ride and left one or both of us feeling defeated and grumpy for most of the next eight hours. Luckily, we're camped tonight at Yogi's Jellystone Park - nothin' like a little pic-a-nic basket humor to help us forget how our bikes really took us for a ride. (In all fairness, the Biodudes were right about the North Mills Rec. Area being a great biking spot. What can we say? We're wimps when it comes to riding up hills.)

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yesterday tomorrow