ASHEVILLE, N.C. — First stop for the first couple's weekend getaway on Friday was a roadside restaurant that President Barack Obama visited during the final month of his White House campaign. First meal on the trip: barbecued ribs.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama landed in the Blue Ridge Mountains and made a quick stop at Twelve Bones Smokehouse on the way to their resort. The White House said the first couple ate ribs, macaroni and cheese, greens, baked beans, corn bread and corn pudding and washed it down with sweet tea.
And then a short time later, they set about working off the meal; the Obamas went on a mountain hike and the president then hit the golf course.
"In the hole," Obama urged his ball as it rolled on the green, the sun setting on his afternoon game. The White House allowed reporters to cover the president's putts on the 10th hole.
This trip was meant to be vacation, and Obama didn't even plan to make calls on the fierce debate over financial reform legislation in the Senate, press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters at the White House on Friday.
"Knock on wood," Gibbs said.
On Obama's previous visit to the city, in October 2008, the then-senator prepared for a debate and rallied supporters – and lamented he couldn't play golf.
"What a spectacular place," Obama said during the Oct. 5, 2008, stop in Asheville.
"The only thing I don't like about it is that I had to drive by the golf course, and it looks really nice. And my staff won't let me play. I'm going to have to come back."
And back, he is. Not just for the golf: The president always keeps his eye on politics.
Obama was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win North Carolina since Jimmy Carter in 1976. He defeated Republican Sen. John McCain by just 0.4 percentage points in a state that favored President George W. Bush's re-election by 12 percentage points four years earlier. The Democratic nominee's aggressive campaign – and volunteers from bordering South Carolina – helped turn North Carolina in Obama's favor.
As Democrats' fortunes have sunk, though, Obama's trip to North Carolina reflects a nod to a middle-class vacation – in contrast to last year's trips to Martha's Vineyard, Mass., and his native Hawaii.
Asheville, a city of about 73,000 residents, is home to the Vanderbilt family's Biltmore Estate, a tourist draw, along with scores of art galleries and restaurants.
The White House says the Obamas have no public plans while in North Carolina, although the president will speak at Sunday's memorial in Beckley, W.Va., for the victims of the worst U.S. coal mine disaster in 40 years. The April 5 explosion at Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine took 29 lives.
The Obamas plan to return to Washington on Sunday evening.