Monday, August 25, 2014

Carolina on My Mind

H. Lou Gehrig. We'll come back to him.
So I'm back from a pretty cool vacation.

I hatched the plan a month or so ago (maybe less, hard to say) but had wanted to do it for some time. The bottom line is that things came together where my niece, Kristy, her husband, Hector, and their three kids (Evelyn, Eleanor, and Isabel) welcomed us (me, my mom, and Sean) to their home in North Carolina. Sprinkle in my niece Laura, her boyfriend, and a cameo by her two kids (Kendall and Emma) and it was a Fayetteville Family Fest!

Let's call this "Three Soldiers." At the Airborne and Special Ops Museum, Fayetteville, NC
It can be easy to get really stressed when family comes together (ooooohhhhhh yeah) but this was five days of peace and harmony. For Sean, mom, and I, roughly 12 hours in a car can threaten ones sanity, but we survived.

By the way, have I mentioned how much I love to drive? Yeah, probably.

Pure. Evil.
I've created a monster, by the way. Not only has Sean picked up the love of Waffle House, but he is now obsessing over Golden Corral. I mean...seriously. It's the reason we stopped there in Colonial Heights, Virginia, and not too far from Baltimore, as well as near Fayetteville.

Looking into South Carolina on the state line at South of the Border.
I was worried as we arrived at South of the Border. Yes, it seems it gets a touch more dilapidated with each visit, but I worried Sean would find it boring. Plus I worried that it was even open at all, given that I didn't see a SOB billboard until we were within roughly 100 miles. Then we stepped into the base of the sombrero tower - the ONE THING the kids were excited about - to find out it was closed.

In fact, only the shops and restaurants were open. No rides. No mini golf. A few arcade games.

Yet. They. Loved. It.

"Daddy," said Sean. "Now I see why you LOVE it here!"

Big sigh of relief for the guy sweating in the 98 degree* heat.

*That reminds me of the godawful trend of boy bands we had at one time. Yes, I know, One Direction makes our ears hurt, but there was a proliferation of utter dreck. Now the dreck is in other genres (and every song still sounds the same.

Given the military presence in Fayetteville, it seems fitting that America's Dog lives there.

Fayetteville, NC is never going to be known as a destination town. It's a good stopping point, and a fine place to live. They've got shopping, restaurants, the major brands, and a few points of interest. The Airborne and Special Ops Museum is a must-see, for instance. For a baseball geek like me, the Babe Ruth plaque at the corner of Gillespie and Southern was a quick diversion.
Easy to find and near a highway office!
There is more I'd like to go back and see. Apparently Fort Bragg has a museum worth checking out. Plus I dig just seeing how a city/town/place gets by. I like going into a grocery store to see what's on the shelves. You learn things that way. Just strolling through the Target was interesting to get a feel, believe it or not.

The drive reminded me of just two years ago, when I went to and from Charleston, SC. This one was pretty good as well, despite a false start to go retrieve a DVD player that was left at home. Otherwise, it was basically a 12-hour jaunt south that could have been significantly less if I didn't stop at the aforementioned Golden Corral (and a stop in Arlington, VA). But I don't push my travelers like that, so we made sure to make good time while being leisurely about it.

The drive home...well, lesson learned. Don't travel on a Sunday unless you have a good alternate to Interstate 95. Of course, I had a backup plan but got lulled into not using it. Shame on me, I guess.

We also made sure to enjoy ourselves with a group dinner in honor of Gabriel Hernandez, who would have been five on Saturday (the same day as my brother - his grandfather). I wish we could have all met him.

Oh, so why is Lou Gehrig at the top of this post? Well I initially had some more thoughts on the Ice Bucket Challenge, but they seemed clumsy and, well, I've probably said all I need to say about it. But I found that great picture of him and wanted to use it. So I did. Again, somebody will need to explain to me how it's cyber bullying**, or how it is so bad when $60 million has been raised.

Like I said, I've probably said enough about it.

** OK, last thing (for now): I challenged four people. I don't know that any of them did a single thing. I'm not aware of them getting ice or writing a check. I was challenged with three other people. To my knowledge, I'm the only one that did a thing. Here's the thing: I genuinely don't care one way or another. If that's bullying, then I need a new dictionary. Just know that his thing is very personal to me, and will remain that way.

Oh, and Richmond still rocks.
Looking towards downtown Richmond, VA.

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