Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Charlotte 500, Lap 55: The Pit

The Pit, located on NC Hwy 150 in Mooresville, is one of the largest and fastest go-kart tracks around. Housed in a former textile factory, The Pit gives you an opportunity to drive cars that are a lot bigger and with much more horse-power than the usual go-kart track. It is a bit pricy, but if you go with a friend, or, as in our case, with a neighbor who has a son that's turning 13, you can go just to watch. Decor and warmth are not a concern at The Pit, it's all about the racing. So if you're in the mood to feel the wind blowing through your hair, or across your scalp, if that's your follicular condition, then The Pit is the place to go.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Charlotte 500, Laps 52-54: Lexington Day Trip

Lexington, NC, is, as the sign says, The Bar-B-Q Capital. I hate it when people can't just call it "barbecue" but Lexington has the right to spell it how they want as they are the only town I know that has lent its name to a specific style of barbecue.
Lexington barbecue, also known as Western North Carolina style, uses only the dark, fatty meat of the pork shoulder and adds ketchup to the sauce. Also, the accompanying cole slaw is usually a tomato-vinegar based slaw (my favorite), rather than a mustard-based slaw (also excellent), or that awful mayo-based junk you find in the rest of the country. If for no other reason, North Carolina living is great because I actually eat those little sides of cole slaw that come with the meal rather than throwing them away. But, I'm off the track a bit. Those are the basic rules of Eastern versus Western NC barbecue, although the cole slaw rules don't seem to be hard and fast.

Anyway...the next three laps of the Charlotte 500 all revolve around the city of Lexington, about an hour or so northeast of Charlotte on Interstate 85.

Lap 52: Childress Vineyards. North Carolina has become a wine-lovers (which we are not) haven, with a number of vineyards popping up across the piedmont. We chose to go to Childress Vineyards not because of its reputation as wine-maker (to be honest, I don't even know how they rate with the wine snobs), but because it is owned by Richard Childress, NASCAR team owner. We went in the spring, before the grapes had begun to grow, so we didn't see much in the fields beyond bare grape vines, which look rather sickly when they're naked (as most of us do, I'm sure). The tour was very interesting and educational, at least for people like me who only knew that making wine had something to do with grapes. As for the tasting, we both felt the Scupperdine Red, a twist on Scuppernong, the classic poor-man's wine of the South, was great. I also enjoyed the sweet dessert wines - Polar and Starbound (made with blueberries). Even if your not big on wine, Childress is beautifully situated and worth a visit. And the in-house restaurant serves up some nice, unique but simple sandwiches.

Lap 53: Lexington Barbecue. We chose to have dinner at Lexington Barbecue - it's the name of the town, it's the name of the style of barbecue, so we had to eat at the bbq joint that also carries the name. So far, after numerous samplings, Lexington Barbecue, founded in 1962, is my favorite. The meat was hickory smoked, and the taste came through wonderfully. Also, the hush puppies were among the best, with a nice corn meal flavor. The slaw was a bit on the vinegary side, but still good.

Lap 54: Monty's Ice Cream. Just outside the entrance to Childress Vineyards, Monty's carries on the NASCAR theme. The ice cream is wonderful. I don't normally like the overly sweet flavors like cotton candy but Monty's version is fantastic. The owner also was very friendly and we had a nice long conversation covering myriad topics, as it wasn't busy at all (since the rest of the businesses in the complex had yet to open their doors).

All in all, a great day, especially as the sky was deep blue and the temperatures were in the 70s.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Walking Soundtrack

I like lists and I like music, so, if only to entertain myself, I thought I'd provide some highly intellectual commentary/criticism on the songs that came up on my Shuffle while I was walking the neighborhood. Some days I walk with Tiff, so I don't listen to music, but when I'm on my own I normally try to do ten songs - that's a good number to fit in for a nice walk - but sometimes the songs are so short, or long, that I don't always do ten. Anyway, here are the songs that came up on my walk the first time I thought about doing this, which was about a week ago.

1) Run-Around - Blues Traveler: Great mid-90s song that has stood the test of years.

2) Crazy - Willie Nelson: Made famous by Patsy Cline, this song, written by Willie, wouldn't be considered exercise-worthy by most people, but to me, if it's good, it'll help you get through a workout, even if it is a slower tune.

3) My Generation - The Who: The first step, arguably, on the road from rock & roll to punk and heavy metal, and a song that gets your heart moving.

4) Graceland - Willie Nelson: Cover of, and, in my opinion, superior to, Paul Simon's famous mid-80s hit; it sounds natural coming from Willie's lips.

5) You Better, You Bet - The Who live in Chicago, actually Hoffman Estates, IL, 3/5/07. Some songs weren't meant to be played live, and this is one. However, this particular version sounds very good, the only live version of this song I like. And I was there to see it in person.

6) Cluck Old Hen - Alison Krauss & Union Station: Awesomely spirited bluegrass instrumental.

7) From Me to You - The Beatles: Classic pop from a highly over-rated band. Did I say that out loud??

8) Roll Me Away - Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band: Bob Seger is the musical version of Cal Ripken - he's been around forever and you never really noticed he was there. Then, one day, you suddenly wake up to the fact that he's built himself a solid career with a boatload of wonderful and noteworthy accomplishments.

9) For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield: Great 60s protest song, not like the hateful junk we hear today. This is the type of song, and attitude, we could use more of in today's USA.

10) The Sea Refuses No River - Roger Daltrey, recorded live, with full orchestra, in 1994 during a tour paying tribute to the songs of Pete Townshend (as if he'd died). Surprisingly, the orchestral stuff really works, and this is a thoughtful, well-written, though not radio-friendly, song.

11) Greyhound Girl - The Who live at Lyon, France, 2006. The only widely available version of this song, included on a live bonus disc with some versions of the Who's 2006 album, Endless Wire. Not a great song, but as a fan, it's a nice curiosity piece.

12) Octopus's Garden - The Beatles: Whatever, dude.

13) Let's Go - The Cars: A fun summer song.

14) Ocean's Away - Roger Daltrey: This ballad is one of the few great (and I use the term generously) songs from Roger Daltrey's solo career.

15) Kody - Matchbox Twenty: Another mid-90s classic that has stood the test of time.


Saturday, September 20, 2008


Whenever I hear the word "spectacular" I think of Marv "YES!" Albert announcing the 1991 NBA Finals.

But Marv has nothing to do with this post. I have been tagged by Kelli and Linda to list six unspectacular things about myself, things that make me just like most everyone else. Since everyone I know of who reads this blog has already participated in this exercise, there is no reason for me to explain further. Also, don't be offended if I don't tag anyone else - like I said, if you're reading this, I'm pretty sure you've already been tagged.

1) I blog. Not very often. And not as with much care as I have in the past, which fits the profile of 99% of all the other bloggers out there.

2) I am a passionate sports fan and thank God that's something that only brings distraction and entertainment rather than fulfilment and peace. In my lifetime, my favorite teams have never won the World Series, the Stanley Cup, the NCAA tournament, the Rose Bowl (or any bowl of any kind for that matter), etc. And the Bears, the supposed dynasty of the mid-80s managed to fade away after a single Super Bowl. Since only one team at a time can win a championship, I suppose all that disappointment is shared by a great majority of sports fans around the world.

3) I like to walk. Yes indeed.

4) I love music, but get very little out of it other than enjoyment and entertainment. Music rarely inspires or moves me. Sometimes it gets me moving (not dancing, just moving), but that's usually because I'm in an active mood anyway.

5) My first job for which I got paid was at a place off Howard St and Wolf Rd in Des Plaines that did catering for the ground crews at O'Hare Airport. I mopped the floor and took out the garbage, and cleaned the grease trap, which, in its way, was, in fact, spectacular. I couldn't eat or drink for a day after performing that task because the rancid stench became so embedded in my senses that everything, even water, tasted and smelled foul.

6) I have difficulty narrowing down the final selections when I put together lists like this.