"I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be honorable, to be compassionate. It is, after all, to matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all."
– Leo Rosten
Hi y'all. We are here in North Carolina and have been in the South for so long that I believe both Steve and my vocab is being seriously impacted as a result. Just the other day he was telling me a story and said the word "yella" to describe the color of something. Really? Yella? I'm just saying.
We began our week with a trip over to Ft. Mill, South Carolina (just south of Charlotte) to see the Del Webb community there (called Sun City Carolina Lakes). We absolutely LOVED IT!!!!! Loved the two houses that we are interested in: the Muirfield (which is a villa) and the Surrey Crest (with the loft option). We loved the way the neighborhoods were landscaped and maintained. We loved the pool, the fitness center, the number of clubs and activities available to us, just everything. Steve and I could both see ourselves living in this community and it has vaulted to the top of our list of potential relocation sites. Not just because of the Del Webb community, but after spending a week in the Charlotte area, we loved everything about it. It's close enough to our family that traveling wouldn't be burdensome, it still has 4 seasons (albeit winter is very mild) and has a large metropolitan city that offers all the sporting and cultural activities we are both looking for - - not to mention the mountains and lakes and all the outdoor activities that come with those. Yep, I think we've found it but we aren't making any firm decisions until we see the west side of the Mississippi River next winter.
Most of the week, as you can imagine, was Nascar related. We visited the Richard Childress Museum, which was a pleasant surprise. Of course, the bulk of that museum was dedicated to Dale Earnhardt, Sr. but that was okay. There was a moving tribute to him in the area where his old hauler is on display. The walls of that area are covered with these 3" x 3" tiles which were signed by all the Nascar drivers and friends/family of Dale Sr. Seeing the tile that Dale Jr. signed brought me to tears. It simply said "Miss you Dad" and it made me cry. Made me think about how much I miss my mother and how sad I was when she died. Anyway, we learned that Richard Childress is also a big proponent of Ducks Unlimited, an organization dedicated to the preservation of wetlands and the conservation of our natural resources. The display of his hunting trophies was quite impressive, too.
Keeping with the Nascar theme, we visited the Nascar Hall of Fame. Just as we arrived, they were doing a Q&A with this year's Hall of Fame inductees - - Darryl Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, and Glenn Wood. Man was that fun and interesting. The interplay among these three was just so entertaining. They told stories about themselves and each other that had the entire audience cracking up. After the Q&A, we walked around the facility and viewed the exhibits. Both of us were impressed with how it was put together and enjoyed our time there very much. The highlight of the visit for Steve was meeting Cale Yarborough. Well, he didn't actually meet him per se. Steve was using the facilities and while doing so Cale Yarborough stepped up to use the one next to him but sadly urinal etiquite forbids eye contact or chatting while both men are indisposed. Handshaking is out of the question too. Steve said he washed his hands twice trying to waste time so he could meet this legend of the sport but alas, it wasn't enough time. Now Steve is concerned that Cale has a prostate issue... men!
Our last Nascar entry for this blog will be our experience at the All-Star race on Saturday night. Let me just say that Steve and I agree that Charlotte Motor Speedway was the coolest track that we have ever been too. It is well laid out, small enough that you get a good view of the entire track, but large enough that the drivers really get up to some high speeds. The seats were comfortable and not the standard 12" in width (thank God for that). The race format was a little strange, however, but we enjoyed it very much. The race begins with a two segment showdown of 20 laps per segment. The break in-between the segments is designed for pit stops if the teams feel they need one. At the end of this showdown, the first and second place drivers move into the All-Star race - - the winner of which gets $1,000,000 prize. The winner of the Showdown was Dale Jr. which made the fans go crazy since he's the hometown boy. Second place went to AJ Almendinger ("Dinger") who honestly had the absolutely fastest car in that race.
For the actual All-Star race, there are 20 drivers automatically entered - - made up of recent race winners and past champions that are allowed to race, plus the two from the Showdown, and then a fan favorite is voted in (Bobby Labonte was the fan favorite). This race is broken down into 4 segments of 20 laps each, and then a 10 lap shootout at the end. The 4 segments were very exciting, but the shootout at the end was not so much. The winner of this race was Jimmie Johnson (yawn) and I would say that most of the crowd was disappointed with the outcome. Not because Jimmie is a bad guy, but because he has been so dominate over the past 6 years that it was sort of anti-climactic.
Alright, enough with the Nascar already. If you are still awake at this point, I will tell you about the North Carolina Transportation Museum we visited in Spencer, NC. To say that Steve and I were pleasantly surprised by this museum is an understatement. Apparently, as we learned, Spencer was the main and central hub for the Southern Railway and acted as the service center for all steam engines while they were in their heyday. Steve was thrilled because while we were watching the video about the importance of Spencer to the railroad industry, he realized the song "Wreck of Old 97" (sung by Hank Snow and Johnny Cash) was about Spencer and it gave the tune more meaning to him. Anyway, we toured several interesting train cars - - mail cars, hospital cars, luxury cars owned by the Duke Family, etc. Fascinating. This museum also housed an excellent classic car collection as well as a replica of the Wright Brothers plane flown in Kitty Hawk (which actually is not the location of the first flight. Kitty Hawk was the closest city from which they could send a telegram - - piece of trivia for you!) We met some very interesting people who volunteer at the museum, too. What a nice time we had there.
The most meaningful place we visited, however, is not about cars or even a beautiful natural wonder. It was the Billy Graham Library, which was dedicated to telling the story of his life. The quote above was chosen for this week because I believe it best describes the impact of this man on our generation. Billy Frank Graham began life on a dairy farm in North Carolina. His family was fairly well-to-do as their dairy business was pretty successful. The museum takes you through the various stages of Billy Graham's life - - beginning with the tent revivals in Los Angeles in 1949 where he was a keynote speaker, through his radio and newspaper columnist career, and into his world-touring evangelistic endeavors. What an impressive man he was, gifted by God with unbelievable oratory skills. It is interesting to note that he did not believe that he was a Bible scholar at all. He actually claimed that his wife, Ruth, was a greater Bible scholar than himself. Yet he was able to draw tens of millions of people to his crusades and lead hundreds of thousands to Christ. In one picture of him in South Korea, there were 1.1 million people in the audience, a sight which absolutely astounded me. Can you imagine addressing an audience of that size? I would be scared to death to say the least, yet he never seemed to be affected by the overwhelming responsibility he had at all. I want to be that kind of person. Not that I have any ambition to be a Billy Graham - - I simply want to impact people in a positive way and leave a legacy of service in a way that glorifies God. As most of you know, I am working through my Master's degree in seminary right now and am anxious about where this degree will take me. My motivation to serve was hugely impacted by this visit to Billy Graham's library and if you are ever in the Charlotte area, please take the time to visit this wonderful place. It is completely free and I guarantee you will walk away inspired.
The rest of our time here in North Carolina was spent relaxing and getting familiarized with the Lexington style of barbeque. This barbeque is completely different from that we enjoyed in Atlanta which was a more tomato-based barbeque. The Lexington style is a vinegar based marinate, which may sound weird but it was actually delicious. With respect to relaxing, that consisted mainly of going to the pool and getting some sun and doing some swimming. Steve is getting pretty tanned. Me, however, not so much. I must admit that I am no longer ghostly white. I have advanced to a version of "mother of pearl". I guess I should be happy about that as I am not a tanner at all. I did swim in the pool though. I was proud of myself because the water wasn't exactly warm, but I went in anyway. It was very refreshing!
Ok then. That's it for this week. Steve and I head to Wytheville, Virginia (pronounced "wifful" by the locals). We plan to hook up with our vagabond children - - Terry and his girlfriend Jill (and our granddog Rooney). We haven't seen them since we sent them on their journey back in Georgia on April 8. Terry is very experienced with a gruelling hike of this nature, but I am anxious to hear how Jill feels about the experience. "Poopy" - - as we affectionately refer to her - - is a trooper, though, and has hung in there so far. But as they are only 25% of the way through their journey, I am curious to see if the remaining 75% is a tad daunting to her, or perhaps, she is even more encouraged to complete the task. I will report back next week.
Take care peeps. Love ya.