Heralded by Cycle World, American Motorcyclist, and comedian Jay Leno, the Wheels Through Time Museum recently picked up even more exposure on an episode of History Channel's American Pickers. In "The Belly Dance," hosts Mike and Frank come to the museum in need—they've found a rare belly-tank racer, but unless they can get it to run, the find will have cost them more money than it's worth.
That's where museum founder and curator Dale Walksler, automotive enthusiast par excellence, comes in. In 1993, Walksler invited crowds and fellow bike buffs to join in the astonishing details of his obsession: more than 300 rare and historical classic motorcycles amid a collection of tens of thousands of related artifacts. Free from the ghosts of vengeful traffic cops, the double-decker garage resembles a fever-dream cycle showroom gleaming with vintage and contemporary models by Harley Davidson, Indian, and Excelsior, and one-of-a-kind machines that include the handsome Traub. The ahead-of-its-time machine was discovered bricked up inside a Chicago wall in 1967, built by a brilliant designer who apparently never built another bike before or after. Despite dating back to the 1910s, nearly all of the machines can still run—often zooming straight through the 40,000-square-foot museum floor¬—and lecture passersby on four-way intersection etiquette.
While the Hampton family owns and operates French Broad Rafting and Ziplines, Mitch, Michael, and Korey Hampton have also had their personal share of ups and downs, both on the water and off. At age 10, they began exploring eastern Tennessee rivers with their grandfather, and they followed that passion for whitewater rafting into their business, which had been family-run for nearly 30 years. But then their dream was threatened. A fire swallowed the business, and the family lost everything. Slowly, though, with the help of family, friends, and staff, they rebuilt their company, learning patience and perseverance while finding comfort and strength in the support of their community.
Today, in addition to their traditional water-based excursions, the family also takes to the trees on their zipline course. Ripping through the clear mountain air, they've charted mid-air trails for zipline canopy tours that send guests soaring from tree to tree more swiftly than a caffeinated eagle. The course's ten ziplines stretch in distance from 75' to 1000', ensuring the guests have plenty of time to admire their sky-high view of the woods on adventures that also incorporate rappels, short hikes, and a rumbling jaunt on a hard-nosed utility vehicle.
Display cases filled with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds are a treat for the eyes at any jeweler's, but at Colburn Earth Science Museum, they dazzle visitors intellectually as well. More than 1,000 cuts from around the world make up the museum's extensive gemstone collection, which guests learn about via a gem-mine replica featuring a faux dynamite charge and gem pockets. The museum's additional exhibits showcase mineral specimens from the museum's collection of more than 4,500, as well as fossil specimens including teeth from a wooly mammoth complete with calcified floss.
Guests can take a more hands-on approach to scientific discovery during the museum's school programs and spring-break camps, which focus on subjects such as fossils, gravity, and space rocks. Voyage deeper into the galaxy during Spaced-Out Saturdays, when a digital spaceship whisks passengers on journeys throughout the solar system. After expeditions, stop by the Museum Gift Shop to pick up your own minerals or crystal-filled, 44-million-year-old geodes that museum staff can crack in half for you during your visit.
For 17 years, third-generation and FAA–certified sky engineer Addison M. Brown has hoisted panorama junkies into the sky by harnessing the power of hot, blustery air. Each morning, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., he and his team pile up to 8 to 14 passengers into the basket of their giant balloons. Then, firing off the burner, they slowly lift off as the sun begins its own ascent, typically reaching heights from 500 to 2,000 feet. Below them, the rays of the sunrise wash over vistas of downtown Asheville, a patchwork of multicolored crop fields, and the tree-covered backs of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Maneuvering with the morning's mild wind currents, they ferry the group over hills and hollows for a 3- to 5-mile float. Upon a gentle landing, the crew celebrates with passengers by offering them a champagne toast and helping them dust the clouds out of their hair. Passengers are welcomed to bring their own cameras or video cameras to document the flight.
The clopping of hooves echoes across Winding Creek Stables’ wide-open pastures and jumping arena, where a staff of ex-competitive equestrians takes a comprehensive approach to riding instruction. In private and group lessons, instructors share their wisdom about handling and technique while impressing upon students the importance of respecting their steeds. Adults and children alike can pick between the hunt-seat riding style popular at horse shows and the western style, which includes instructions for chasing down robber barons and lassoing feral cacti. Students learn to groom and care for their horses before and after the lesson—a gesture of respect to the animals and a key takeaway should novices desire to advance to competitive riding. Before riding off into the sunset, check out the stable’s other horse-related services, which include pony parties and pony rides.
Since 1976, area merchants and knowledgeable experts from around the country have gathered to swap ideas, inspiration, and advice at the Western North Carolina Home Show. Throughout the Asheville Civic Center, hundreds of local businesses and experts set up booths where they explain the nuts and bolts of their industry, whether landscaping, interior decoration, window installation, or furniture crafting. Meanwhile, speakers present seminars on a wide variety of topics throughout the weekend-long extravaganza, from hyperpractical subjects, such as setting a budget, to more abstract topics, such as the definition and history of green building. Visitors to the show depart with rekindled enthusiasm for projects, as well as an arsenal of facts that give them an edge when vetting contractors or performing standup at interior-design conferences.