*Keep checking back for updated photos.* Updated pool reports below:
Hello Asheville! The first couple continued on to a barbecue lunch (which you can read about in the Food section).
A post-BBQ hike at the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, N.C.
President Barack Obama, right, waves as he walks out after a dinner at the Kitchen Table restaurant in Asheville, N.C., Saturday, April 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
President Barack Obama, right, takes an umbrella from an aide as he and first lady Michelle Obama walk out after touring the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C., Saturday, April 24, 2010. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
UPDATE 7:00 PM:
AF1 and POTUS touched down at Andrews at 7:04 pm eastern. POTUS is in marine one heading home.
This comes to your pool from Bill Burton:
The President and the Vice President are visiting with each family individually. Also in this room are Sens. Byrd and Rockefeller and Gov. Manchin and his wife Gayle Manchin.
POTUS and VPOTUS arrived at the Beckley-Raliegh County Convention Center just before 3. They are meeting with members of the families of all 29 miners, according to White House officials.
Pool is told that remarks should be coming shortly, embargoed for delivery.
POTUS landed in Beckley, West Virginia at 2:39 pm eastern. We are now rolling toward the memorial service.
VPOTUS greeted POTUS at the bottom of the stairs, the two men shook hands, and then both got into a limousine together.
For the record, we are still using the smaller plane, dubbed "baby AF1" by politico's carol lee.
UPDATE 2:00 PM:
POTUS is aboard AF1. We are rolling shortly.
The following readout from Burton.
The President had a private prayer and conversation with Rev. Graham. He is extraordinarily gratified that he took the time to meet with him.
Franklin Graham was also in attendence.
POTUS left Rev. Graham's cabin at 1:16 pm eastern time, and headed to the airport for the flight to Wva.
As on the way in, there were lots of people standing and waving along the route.
Potus arrived at the mountaintop log cabin of Rev. Billy Graham and the two are now meeting in private. Josh DuBois is with him. Your pool remained in the van, seeing and hearing nothing. Bill Burton came aboard to informally fill us in: Potus has never met Graham; they have only spoken on the phone. He tried to see the reverend in 2008 when here for debate prep but the timing did not work for Graham at the time. When Potus called Graham last November to wish him a good 91st birthday, they renewed their discussion of a visit so when the North Carolina trip came up, the White House arranged a stop.
"Reverend Graham has obviously been an important spiritual leader for past presidents and for the American people for decades," Burton said. "He's a real treasure for our country. The president apprecites the opportunity to visit him at his home."
Burton added: "It's a fair guess that they'll pray together." Asked whether the military's decision to rescind an invitation to Graham's son, Franklin, would make the visit awkward, Burton said: "I don't know. We'll see."
On Graham's health, he said: "Sounds like he's pretty good. Sounds like he's got some of the creaks that come with advancing age bu the's still as sharp as he ever was."
In other developments, Burton said the first couple played tennis this morning before leaving the resort. He passes along the program for the later memorial service in West Virginia, attached below.
POTUS departed the Grove Park Inn at 12:16 pm eastern time, headed for Rev. Graham's house.
It's a beautiful, blue-sky day here with fluffy white clouds and a temperature of 68 degrees.
A few guests are waving as the motorcade rolls by.
UPDATE SUNDAY 4/25
The President is going to visit with Rev. Billy Graham at his home in North Carolina early this afternoon. They have long tried to get together and when they last spoke on the phone, when the President called Rev. Graham on his 91st birthday last November, they agreed to do so as soon as possible.
Potus, flotus and friends left the Corner
Kitchen restaurant about 9 pm.
Potus, wearing a dark jacket against the rain, got a round of applause
from diners as he left. Standing outside he waved at the pool.
Someone inside the restaurant yelled, "Come back soon."
"We will!" he said.
Michelle followed him out, with someone holding an umbrella above her
Motorcade rolling back to the hotel.
The first couple and friends are dining at the Corner Kitchen
restaurant in Asheville. Motorcade dropped them off about 7:30 p.m.
We're now holding at a nearby Mexican restaurant.
Below is a list of tonight's entrees from the Corner Kitchen:
Prosciutto, Sage and Smoked Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breast with
Bleu Cheese Panzanella 20~
Macadamia Nut Pesto Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Coconut Rice, Snap Peas and
Pineapple Salsa 22~
Country Fried Portabello Cap with Sweet Potato Salad, Butter Beans and
Pepper Sage Gravy 17~
Walnut Crusted Chilean Salmon over Orzo Salad with Italian Style
Greens and Tomato Aioli 22~
Sweet Mustard Glazed Three Meat Meatloaf with Collards, Cheddar Grits
and Three Sauces 18~
Tomato Ginger Cioppino with Black Mussels, SC Baby Clams, Monkfish and
Jumbo Shrimp 23~
Black Pepper Molasses Pork Chop on Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Southern
Style Green Beans 21~
Herb Grilled NY Strip Steak with Fingerling Potatoes and Mediterranian
Vegetable Julienne 26~
Pecan Crusted Mountain Trout on Sweet Potatoes with Green Bean Salad
and Bourbon Sauce 21~
Potus, flotus, the Nesbitts and the Whitakers left the Grove Park Inn
at 6:00 pm and drove 20 minutes to the Biltmore House, where they
received a 50 minute private tour.
The house, which gives the White House a run for it's money, is a 4-
story French Renaissance manor with 250 rooms and 65 fireplaces. Built
by George Vanderbilt, it is said to be the largest privately owned
home in the U.S.
Steady rain now falling. Motorcade has left the grounds and we're
rolling toward a restaurant where the 3 couples are having dinner.
Saturday 1:38 PM:
Potus finished playing 18 holes of golf at 12:54 pm, nearly 5 1/2
hours after teeing off.
One glimpse of the foursome as they played what appears to be a par
4. A witness said potus waved to a group of hotel guests watching his
tee shot from a glassed-in lounge above the course.
As the long convoy of golf carts made it's way to the green (well
protected by bunkers), guests clad in blue bathrobes emerged from the
nearby spa to get a look.
Weather cooperated during the president's round, though skies are
We're now holding in hotel, awaiting word of next activity.
Update Saturday 8:48 AM:
Potus is golfing. He teed off at 7:30 am at the Grove Park Inn course, the White House says. No press coverage was permitted.
The foursome included Chicago friends Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitaker, and White House Trip Director Marvin Nicholson.
Weather is overcast. Pool is holding at the hotel, where a large banner above the front entrance welcomes visiting chiropractors.
Update 5:00pm: The Obamas went for a post-BBQ hike.
From the pool report:
After a more than hour-long hike that your pooler didn't get to (or have to, depending on your view of hikes) go on, the president and the first lady emerged from the trail off of Blue Ridge Parkway at 4:34 p.m.
A string of sweaty USSS agents and support staff emerged first. POTUS and FLOTUS, each carrying a bottle of water, exchanged a few words with a couple of rangers at the top of the trail. Marvin Nicholson was also at there waiting.
Neither of the first hikers seemed winded, and FLOTUS, who had on a tank top and her shirt around her waist, even did a light jog to their SUV.
At 4:36 and motorcade was rolling.
Bill Burton sends along this anecdote from POTUS and FLOTUS's hike:
Quote from chance encounter with an elderly woman on the hiking trail. They stopped briefly to say hi.
"Are you who I think you are?
You just made my day. You just made my year!"
Burton says the first couple encountered about 4 other hikers.
By PHILIP ELLIOTT, ASSOCIATED PRESS:
ASHEVILLE, N.C. � First stop for the first couple's weekend vacation 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, mac and cheese, greens, baked beans, corn bread and corn pudding before motorcading to their mountaintop hotel.
Deputy press secretary Bill Burton said the couple – vacationing without their two young daughters – washed their midday meal down with sweet tea.
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."
Back, he is. And 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. His 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.