Monday, August 27, 2007

Charlotte 500, Lap 3: D.H. Hill

This one is for Civil War buffs.

On North Carolina 115 in the town of Davidson, just a couple blocks from the campus of Davidson College, there is a small graveyard wherein lie the remains of Lieutenant General Daniel Harvey Hill.

Hill, who also served during the Mexican War, participated in many major Civil War battles, including Seven Pines, the Seven Days, Second Bull Run, Antietam, and Chickamauga. By the end of the war, Hill was reduced to serving as a volunteer due to disagreements with Robert E. Lee and Braxton Bragg, two of the Confederacy's leading generals. He was with General Joseph Johnston in North Carolina when Johnston surrendered his army to William Tecumseh Sherman on April 26, 1865.

As you can read on the sign, Hill also taught at Davidson College and was superintendent of the North Carolina Military Institute. After the war, Hill served as the first president of the University of Arkansas and edited The Land We Love, an influential southern magazine based in Charlotte. Hill died in Charlotte in 1889.

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August Top Ten Part 2

Last week I reminisced about what I'll miss about Chicago, which got me thinking about what I won't miss. Here are the top ten things about Chicago I'll be happy not to see again if I can help it.

1. January

2. February

3. Traffic - There is a heavy rush hour here, but it is just that - an hour, not an all day event.

4. Crowds in every direction

5. March

6. Illinois government - not that NC is run by saints, but when it comes to corruption, Illinois is hard to beat.

7. Bears coverage - I love the Bears, but the TV coverage is just too much.

8. Gas prices

9. Property taxes

10. "Dollar" Bill Wurtz, owner of the Blackhawks - I never would have thought I could move to North Carolina, home of NASCAR and moonshining, and actually find myself closer to an NHL team with a legitimate shot at winning the Stanley Cup!


Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Charlotte 500, Lap 2: Where Baseball and Racing Meet

Although it doesn't have a major league team, Charlotte is a great area for baseball. There are nearly two dozen minor league teams, affiliated and independent, within two hours.

Today's featured team is the Kannapolis Intimidators. Formerly the Piedmont Boll Weevils, the Intimidators were renamed after the 2000 season when NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt purchased a share of the team. Earnhardt, whose driving style (tough or dirty, depending on whether or not you were a fan) earned him the nickname The Intimidator, never got to see the team play as his namesake. He was killed in February 2001 on the final turn of the final lap at Daytona. The team has retired uniform number 3 in Earnhardt's memory.

The Intimidators are part of the Class A South Atlantic League and are affiliated with the Chicago White Sox. Their games are played at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, which is named for the textile company that built the town of Kannapolis, approximately 25 miles northeast of Charlotte. The most well known athletes to wear the Kannapolis uniform are Jimmy Rollins, now starring for the Philadelphia Phillies, and Ricky Williams, the dreadlocked former Heisman winner whose NFL career went to pot, literally.

These photos (can't you just feel the action?) are from a game we attended in May. As you can see, you won't have to fight for a seat and the price is right.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Book Review: St. Dale by Sharon McCrumb

Even before getting our drivers licenses, and even before we moved, I signed up for library cards for the Chalotte/Mecklenburg County Library. A day after unpacking, I headed to the local branch intending to get back into the Carp 500 (click the Carpe Libra link on the right for more information). However, when I came across Sharyn McCrumb's St. Dale, it seemed appropriate, as a NASCAR fan, that this was the first book I check out as a resident of North Carolina.

St. Dale tells the story of a group of diehard Dale Earnhardt fans embarking on a memorial bus tour the year after Earnhardt was killed on the final turn of the 2001 Daytona 500. The book is less a story, though, than a bundle of NASCAR trivia and history wrapped loosely around a very simple plot. Each fan, or pilgrim, on the tour had reasons to say their final goodbye, including one whose car Earnhardt had fixed on a dark Mooresville road - several months after his fatal wreck at Daytona. The story doesn't get very complex, so there isn't much else to say. It was occassionally funny, and I enjoyed the old racing stories and the characters were very well done. McCrumb managed to be both respectful and skeptical of the outpouring of grief, which really did become a bit bizarre, following The Intimidator's death.

Speaking of which, the author claimed to be exploring how Americans choose their saints these days, as opposed to canonization by the Church, but I didn't really feel educated after reading the book, so either she failed in her presentation or there just isn't much substance to the subject. Or it could be that I just don't care.

If you're not a race fan, you probably wouldn't appreciate St. Dale, unless you happen to be a big fan of Sharyn McCrumb. I liked it, though, and I rate it a 7 out of 10.


The Charlotte 500: Lap 1, Getting Fueled

I thought if I was going to go with a racing motif for my list of 500 things to do in Charlotte, I'd better carry it through the whole way, no matter how corny it sounds. Plus, I couldn't quite bring myself to call the items on the list "adventures" or anything else that might indicate an experience to raise the hair on your arms (though some might actually do so). So, "laps" it is.

Anyway...Any race needs fuel and shameless plugs for some business or another, so that's how I'll start. Before we got our home internet access installed, I had to go to the local coffee shop, Jackson's Java, in order to check e-mails and find out how the Cubs were doing. So, in acknowledgement of their service to me, Jackson's Java of Huntersville is the first stop, and The Fuel Stop of Choice, for The Charlotte 500. They've got the usual coffee selections you might expect, plus a great choice of smoothies, teas, and even ice cream! Located in a strip mall that's a step or two above the average strip mall, Jackson's features a cozy interior perfect for surfing the internet for an hour or two, sipping your coffee or smoothie all the while.

My personal favorite is the Mango/Banana smoothie made with soy milk. I also enjoyed the southern pecan coffee, and I can't wait for the coconut coffee to be one of the brews of the day.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

August Top Ten

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a top ten list. I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy compiling top ten lists so it doesn’t bother me that there might only be four of you reading this. Having moved to North Carolina, I've been thinking about what I’d miss most about Chicago. I didn’t want this to be a mushy, tear-stained list, so I’m not going to say things like family or friends. And that doesn’t leave much else other than food, now that I look at my list. Anyway, here goes:

1. Pub chips at Goose Island Brewery, two locations - 1800 N. Clybourn and on Clark just south of Wrigley Field. If you go to a Cubs game, I recommend grabbing a bag of chips at the Goose to bring to the game.

2. Goose Island’s blackened catfish poorboy. If ever I wind up on death row, this, along with the chips, would be my last meal.

3. Chicago hot dogs. Other places say they make ‘em, but they don’t.

4. Northwestern football on Saturdays in the fall.

5. Gulliver’s Pizza, Howard Avenue, Chicago. Gulliver’s has great stuffed pizza. The parking lot is actually in Evanston, so it’s a convenient stop after an NU football game. Plus, they’ve got the country’s largest collection of “turn of the century” antiques cluttering or adorning, depending on your point of view, the entire restaurant, which makes for a unique atmosphere. I assume “turn of the century” means late 1800s/early 1900s. If I had a list of Chicago adventures, Gulliver's would be included.

6. Wisconsin. For all that we like to make fun of it, the land of cheese is really a beautiful place with a lot of great things to do.
7. Downtown and the lakefront.
8. Major League Baseball. I went from two teams to none, but I can be thankful for WGN.
9. Skate Wing at Brasserie Jo or Mon Ami Gabi, two really good French restaurants that don't mind if you come in semi-casual. The accompanying crispy garlic chips give Mon Ami Gabi the edge when it comes to the skate, but I prefer Brasserie Jo for its location and atmosphere.
10. For dessert, Black Goose at Goose Island. Tiffany and I went to Goose on our honeymoon (Tuesday, May 16, 1995, to be precise) so it holds a special place in our hearts and bellies.


Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Charlotte 500

Now that Tiffany and I have moved, if not completely settled, into our new home in the heart of Nascar country, I thought it's about time I started a new feature inspired by, a blog that, among other things, explores the joys that can be found close to home, if only you take the time to look. Not being quite so motivated to come up with a list of 1002 things to do in the Charlotte area, I decided to cut my list in half to 501. While trying to come up with a name for the list, I thought 500 suited itself well to a to-do list in the land of stock cars. So, that's the name - The Charlotte 500. Hopefully, this will help those of you reading my blog keep in tune with what Tiffany and I are up to. And it might also give you an idea of what you'd like to do if/when you decide to visit.

So, please check in soon for the first installment. Hopefully, I'll get the Charlotte 500 started in the next few days and I also hope to update my blog more frequently than I have been once we get our house in order.