ABC News' Vija Udenans reports: Barack and Michelle Obama broke away from Washington to take a weekend for themselves in the Blue Ridge Mountains, without their daughters.
The smaller AF-1, an Air Force C-32, arrived mid-afternoon in North Carolina. The president’s motorcade drove directly to 12 Bones Smokehouse, a barbecue restaurant in an industrial park he had visited during the presidential campaign.
The astonished diners stood on picnic tables and rushed to take pictures and get a glimpse of the couple as they walked in. The Obamas greeted the other diners, posed for pictures and shook many hands. After a brief consultation with his wife, when they got to the cashier, the president said “We’ll take two rib plates”, which included greens, baked beans, corn pudding, macaroni and cheese, corn bread and sweet tea.
As the Obama’s sat a nearby table waiting for their order, a restaurant employee told reporters “Everybody waits in line here. We serve 600 people in five hours here on Fridays."
Friendly Asheville crowds gathered on highway overpasses to watch the motorcade pass thru town. Home made placards read, “Free lemonade for the president”, “I love Sasha”, “Howdy Malia”, and “I weeded my garden for you."
After a quick stop at the hotel, the President and first lady set off for more than an hour long hike on a Blue Ridge Mountain trail with a park ranger and the usual entourage of secret service agents.
White House staff said the first hikers encountered four other hikers including an elderly woman, who queried, “Are you who I think you are? You just made my day. You made my year!”
The Obamas are staying at the Grove Park Inn, an old classic Mission-style resort, for the two days in Asheville, where the first couple will be joined by long-time family friends, the Nesbitt and Whitakers.
Originally planned as 3-day weekend, the trip was shortened so the President could attend the memorial service Sunday in Beckley, WV for the miners who perished in the Upper Big Branch Mine on April 5.
The President has made three previous visits to North Carolina, including Camp Le Jeune, Raleigh and Charlotte.