I am still working on starting a travel blog, but in the meantime, here I am. This blog seems to encompass my whole life at this point.
I left for North Carolina on Saturday, September 3rd and commenced my health quest on Sunday the 4th. The program included a beautiful and brand new contemporary one bedroom apartment with my own washer/dryer. It also included unlimited exercise classes, all meals, and all the other wonderful classroom classes I have discussed previously. There was a lovely pool and for the first couple weeks the weather was gloriously warm and slightly less gloriously humid. Then there were a smattering of days of rain mixed with sunshine and then back to solid sunshine. The pool was often my afternoon haven of relaxation and introspection.
I really enjoyed Durham, however, sometimes I get antsy. I had never been outside the Charlotte airport on my previous visits to NC. Since Saturdays and Sundays are quiet days on campus, and I was dying to see more of the state, I started planning my excursions. Most guests don’t really like to leave the property for more than a couple hours. There are a smattering of water aerobic and yoga classes on the weekends, but not much else. People generally don’t want to miss out on the balanced and healthy (and included in the cost) three meals a day. I, on the other hand, am very used to choosing healthy balanced meals away from home. The only real issue eating out for me is sodium. But I was not deterred.
The first weekend in Durham I stuck pretty close to the facility. Truth be told I had overdone it a bit on my right bicep on that Friday and was a little afraid I was going to have to curb my exercise during the week if I didn’t give myself a day’s rest. Honestly, I was in so much pain, I had to brush my teeth with my left hand. Total disaster. I rubbed my muscles with some magic concoction shared with me by one of my new friends, and then iced the thing on and off for a few hours. I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting a blog follower in Durham. I had planned to drive up to see her in Virginia, but as circumstances would have it, she graciously made the drive down to Durham. I love meeting blogger friends.
During the second week, however, I was plotting my weekend escape. Although I was getting to know Durham quite nicely and even went to see the traveling show of Kinky Boots at DPAC: the Durham Performing Arts Center (and it was awesome!):
I wanted to visit the North Carolina coast. For anyone who cannot already tell from my blog, I love the ocean… any ocean, all oceans. I figured I would drive myself to the closest beach town and take a look around and then head home, only missing the lunch time meal. People were suggesting Wilmington. I never actually made it to Wilmington. During that week I made a new friend. Even though it is rare that they get visitors from Portland way out there in North Carolina, there were two of us there and this new friend lives about two miles from my house. We clicked. He mentioned that he really wanted to head to the Outer Banks. I asked if the Outer Banks included a beach. The Outer Banks is a chain of barrier islands in eastern North Carolina, so pretty much all water and lots of beach. We left after breakfast on that second Saturday. He told me it was quite a drive to the Outer Banks and we might not make it back for dinner. I was up for the adventure.
We headed straight up to a little beach town named Duck, a four hour drive from Durham. Talk about cute.
On our way back down the Outer Banks, we stopped at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk.
The visitor center was a fun little diversion which included information about the brothers and their famous glider experiments. It also included a couple of reproduction gliders and other buildings plus the hill and the flight line with markers where the flights actually landed.
After we crossed over to Hatteras Island, we stopped and spent a little time on the beach and in the warm Atlantic Ocean.
Next stop, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse:
At this point we were at the bottom end of Hatteras Island and we had two choices. We could turn around and drive back the way we came… an approximate four and half hour drive home (it was approaching 5:30pm at this point), or continue a little further south and take the ferry to Ocracoke Island, which had been his plan all along. Without really knowing much about the North Carolina ferry system, or really about anything, I told him I was good with going with his original plan of taking the ferry. That is when I actually started paying attention to where we were and what it was going to take to get home. As we waited in line for the little ferry from Hatteras to Ocracoke, I realized that Ocracoke is also an Island and we would then need to take a ferry over to the main land at Cedar Island. On the map, the ferry lines were teeny tiny. I figured they were short little hopper ferry rides and we would hit mainland in no time. Boy was I WRONG! I asked my new friend if he had planned this whole thing out. When did he think we would return home? He said he hadn’t really thought it through, but he really wanted to take “the ferry.” Men!!!! Um, okay. I quickly looked up the ferry schedule. We would be on that ferry in a short 10 minutes, BUT, the ferry ride itself would be approximately an hour. That little tiny dotted line on the map was an hour. Then I looked at the other line on the map, the second ferry ride, much longer. I started adding things up. By my calculation, we would return back to Durham at 3:00AM!!!! I asked him if he was really up for that. He questioned my calculations. He didn’t believe it would take that long. I’m a trooper, so I just went with the flow. The first ferry ride was gorgeous:
The sunset was amazing:
My new friend is a little bigger than me. He was getting very hungry. We had eaten our healthy lunch about five hours prior. I could tell he was starting to lose it a little. We looked up the ferry schedule from Ocracoke Island to Cedar Island. There was only one we would be able to make: the 9:40pm. We planned to drive straight to the ferry, purchase our tickets, and then grab dinner on the island. It should all work out.
It did all work out and we had a lovely fish taco dinner on Ocracoke Island. We ate on the patio and although I didn’t know it at the time, while we were feasting on tacos, mosquitoes were feasting on my legs. I have pictures, they are too ugly to post. At one point during my trip to NC, I counted over 40 mosquito bites on my legs. They have some mighty potent mosquitoes out there, down there? I even had to see the doctor at one point because my legs were a swollen mess. I tried every spray at the local Super Target, nothing kept those bugs off my legs. Anyway…
The ferry ride to Cedar Island was two and half hours. We arrived on main land at about midnight and still had approx. 200 miles to drive to get back to Durham. My new friend informed me he was too tired to drive. I took over driving and got us safely back to Durham by 3:15am… don’t ask me how. It was quite the adventure. I would probably do it again.
The following weekend a group of us visited the Sarah P. Duke Gardens at Duke University. It was so hot and humid I thought I would collapse, but it was definitely gorgeous and worth the trip.
That week Blue Eyes sent me a lovely arrangement of roses, which brightened my sparse apartment for two full weeks.
As my fourth week away approached, I knew I needed, wanted? to stay longer. I felt I wasn’t ready to return home. Blue Eyes was planning to come out to North Carolina on that last weekend and we would spend the weekend together and then fly home together. As it turned out, he flew out for a long weekend and then flew home alone. I planned a nice little excursion to Asheville for our time together.
We stayed near downtown Asheville, which apparently has over 100 wonderful places to eat. Deciding where to eat the first night was a bit daunting. We were really hungry after our drive over. I chose an Indian Street food restaurant named Chai Pani, highly rated. The meal was amazing, but because we were so hungry, of course we ordered too much.
We ordered the Kathi Kabab Roll: Chicken seared with onions, cilantro & tandoori spices with roasted lentils and tamarind, green chutneys in a grilled wrap, which we split. But my favorite was the Samosa Chaat: Two vegetarian Samosas served on a spicy garbanzo bean stew topped with tamarind & green chutneys and yogurt. Mmm.
There was a decadent candy store right next door, but we passed it on by (after I took a picture, of course):
On Saturday we took the DuPont Forest Hike, which took us to three different and beautiful waterfalls.
We then headed back into Asheville and toured the Biltmore Estate and Gardens:
My favorite was the conservatory of plants and flowers in the gardens:
We walked A LOT of miles that day in North Carolina. On Sunday Blue Eyes flew home and I went back to my routine in Durham. The following Saturday was the day Hurricane Matthew really hit North Carolina and I stayed put in my little apartment, drinking tea, and watching the storm, which looked a little like a stormy day in the Pacific Northwest.
The following day my new friend from Portland wanted to visit High Point, the “Furniture Capital of the World.” It was a sunny, blue skied afternoon. After lunch we took off for High Point only to find out that the entire town is closed on Sundays. So strange, and also a stark reminder to me that if I was going to continue going on little trips with my new friend, I was going to need to do more planning myself. Truth be told, once we arrived there, it didn’t look all that interesting to either of us, potentially a bit of a tourist trap. We drove around a bit and then headed back towards Durham. On the freeway outside High Point, I noticed a sign for Winston-Salem. Old Salem had been on my list of places to visit, and this was my last chance. He turned the car around and we headed to Winston-Salem.
Old Salem is a historic district of Winston-Salem and features a living history museum specifically commemorating the Moravian Community. It was cute, we took a walk around. Lots of eating and shopping. Again, a bit touristy but while we were there it was quiet and the weather was perfect. I grabbed some packaged Moravian cookies at the bakery that I will serve at Thanksgiving.
For my final week in North Carolina, I had one last place to visit on my list. Well, there were lots of places I didn’t get to, but Duke Chapel at Duke University was right around the corner, so on another beautiful North Carolina afternoon, with friends, I headed to the Duke Chapel.
Above: exterior of Duke Chapel from the Duke Campus.
I really enjoyed my time in North Carolina, and if I ever return, I have a whole Pinterest Board of places I still want to visit. Politics aside, I wish I could spend this much time in every state of our vast and beautiful country.