Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: So I’ve had a couple of readers ask me if I’ve tried using the ChatGPT artificial intelligence software to answer my questions, as it could save me a ton of time — and it doesn’t look that hard, anyway. They also made semi-disparaging remarks about writing abilities, journalistic chops and my waistline (not sure how that factors in, but that’s what you get with your swimming “friends”).

My answer: Man, sometimes I feel like I have not commanded the respect I deserve after 20-plus years of smart-aleck responses.

Real answer: So for this little exercise, I took two questions I’ve recently gotten and sent them to the ChatGPT artificial intelligence bot, with the instruction to write answers in the style of John Boyle, Answer Man columnist from Asheville, North Carolina.

So here are the questions, with the ChatGPT responses. I’ll follow them up with my own research and yes, more accurate answers.

Question 1: Will Asheville, North Carolina ever have another Trailways/Greyhound transit center, since they closed the one down on Tunnel Road a while back? Does Asheville have any Trailways/Greyhound service now?

ChatGPT Answer: Ah, the nostalgia of Asheville’s transit centers! It’s true that the Greyhound and Trailways transit center on Tunnel Road, which had been serving the city for quite some time, closed its doors a while back. However, the future of such a facility in Asheville remains uncertain.

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, Asheville does not have a dedicated Trailways or Greyhound transit center. However, fear not, for the wheels of transportation keep turning. Greyhound still operates bus services in and out of Asheville, with a conveniently located bus stop near the Asheville Regional Airport (Note from John Boyle: this is not correct!).

To catch a Greyhound bus from Asheville, travelers can head to the Asheville Regional Airport and find the designated pickup and drop-off area for Greyhound services. Though it may lack the charm of a dedicated transit center, it still offers a means for folks to embark on their journeys.

As for the possibility of Asheville getting a new Trailways/Greyhound transit center in the future, it’s challenging to predict with certainty. However, transportation needs and services evolve over time, so it wouldn’t be entirely out of the realm of possibility. Keep an eye on the developments in Asheville’s transit infrastructure, and you may see the return of a transit center down the road.

Actual Answer from John Boyle: First of all, I’ve said, “Ah, the great whatever debate” maybe once in my life. 

Secondly, ChatGPT got this one wrong, mostly. It correctly stated Asheville does not have a dedicated Greyhound/Trailways bus station any more — it used to be just on the East side of the Beaucatcher Tunnel — but we do have a place where you can catch these buses.

It’s just not at the airport. 

“We do not have Greyhound or Trailways bus stations at AVL,” Asheville Regional Airport spokesperson Tina Kinsey said via email.

For the record, the Greyhound/Trailways bus pickup location for Asheville is the Shell station at 605 Swannanoa River Road, Asheville, NC 28805.

Mike Ogulnick, a spokesperson for Greyhound (which bought Trailways years ago), said prospects for a new station here are dim.

“I’ve been told there are currently no plans for another transit center in Asheville,” Ogulnick said via email. “Our pickup and drop off location is at 605 Swannanoa River Road in Asheville. If I learn more, I’ll let you know immediately.”

Question 2 for ChatGPT: How would one go about having “First in Freedom” removed as a license plate tagline in North Carolina? It’s an embarrassment, being so ahistorical. Where to start. Slavery? Civil War? No right to vote? It’s offensive and false in so many ways.

My answer: Seriously, I’m going to smack ChatGPT upside the head when this column is done, and then say, “Ah, the enjoyment of smacking ChatGPT upside the head!”

ChatGPT answer: Ah, the great debate surrounding North Carolina’s license plate tagline, “First in Freedom.” Indeed, it’s a phrase that has sparked discussions and controversy among residents who question its historical accuracy and appropriateness.

If you believe it’s time for a change, here are some steps you can consider:

Engage in public discourse: Begin by sharing your concerns and initiating a conversation around the issue. Write letters to local newspapers, participate in community forums, or utilize social media platforms to express your viewpoint. Engaging in civil discussions can help raise awareness and garner support for your cause.

Connect with like-minded individuals and organizations: Seek out groups or individuals who share your concerns about the tagline. Collaborating with others who are passionate about the issue can amplify your efforts and provide a stronger collective voice. Consider reaching out to historical societies, advocacy groups, or local community organizations to find allies in your cause.

Petition for change: Explore the possibility of creating a petition to demonstrate public support for revising the license plate tagline. Online platforms make it easier than ever to gather signatures and present a case for change to relevant authorities.


Regenerate response

John Boyle response: I feel I must say once again, for the record, I do NOT say, “Ah, the great…” whatever it is all the damn time. But I shall reflect on my usage of that term, and never use it again.

While ChatGPT offers some decent generalities here on working on a change, in this case the “First in Freedom” license plate tag came from state legislature approval, and they would have to change it.

Or as N.C. Department of Transportation spokesperson Marty R. Homan puts it, “General Assembly wrote it into law, they would have to strike it out.”

The Division of Motor Vehicles, part of the DOT, states on its website that North Carolina historian and license plate collector Charles Robinson designed the “First in Freedom” plate. 

It “recognizes two important events: the signing of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence on May 20, 1775, and the Halifax Resolves on April 12, 1776,” the DMV states. “These two events are also commemorated on the North Carolina state flag and are regarded as the first steps toward independence from Great Britain during the early stages of the American Revolution.”

The General Assembly approved the plate in 2014, and the DMV started issuing them in January 2015.

The DMV also notes that no one has to choose the “First in Freedom” plate. For decades, North Carolina has had the “First in Flight” plate, commemorating the Wright Brothers’ historic first powered flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in 1903.

That plate has generated some controversy with Ohio, however, as the Wright brothers hailed from that state, and Ohioans get a little persnickety about us claiming the duo and their achievements. But, as founding father George Washington once said, “Tough noogies.”

At any rate, “First in Freedom” certainly does not recognize slavery or Jim Crow laws or anything the reader mentioned, but that would be a lot to get across on a license plate.

Western Carolina University political scientist Chris Cooper said getting the tag killed or significantly changed would be an uphill battle.

“I’ve never seen the General Assembly get rid of a tag,” Cooper said, although he noted a bill has been working its way through the legislature to add another specialized tag to the state’s repertoire.

Of course, this is different from the taglines, “First in Freedom” or “First in Flight.” The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles notes that it “issues specialty license plates that feature designs representing more than 100 causes and interest groups.”

Of course, anything could happen, theoretically.

“There’s a bill right now in front of the General Assembly to make the Moravian cookie the state cookie of North Carolina, so it wouldn’t be unprecedented to introduce such a bill,” Cooper said. “I’ve got nothing against the Moravians nor their cookies. They seem like fine bakers.”

I think we can all agree on that.

Meanwhile, if you have a “First in Freedom” plate and really hate it, you can swap it out.

“You can swap your ‘First in Freedom’ plate back to the “First in Flight’ design for no charge at your next registration renewal,” the DMV states. “If you want to change it before you renew, you must pay $20, plus a notary fee.”

So, allow me to wrap things up by saying, “Ah, the great ChatGPT debate appears to be settled. I think I can count on my job being here … at least for a few more weeks till they perfect that AI business.”

Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at or 828-337-0941.

3 replies on “Answer Man: Has Answer Man tried using ChatGPT to answer questions? Ah, let the great ChatGPT debate begin!”

  1. In 1975, Durham`s district attorney refused to prosecute a Black man accused of putting tape over “First in Freedom“ on his North Carolina license plate.

Comments are closed.