(NOTE: This is a 'Classic Trip.' Prices and other details have probably changed in the intervening years.)
Over the course of the years we've been to a lot of nice places. Sometimes really nice places. At the end of each trip though, we were always ready to call it a day and retreat to home sweet home. Out of all the places we've been, none have beckoned us beyond a visit except for one. North Carolina was a place I hated to leave and actually enticed us to try to relocate.
It didn't happen. Oh we tried, I even put in for a transfer to Raleigh, but it just wasn't meant to be at the time although we still hope for the right circumstances to allow us to make the move.
I wasn't expecting it to be that good. In fact, I'd never given the Tar Heel state a second thought until one day we were at my inlaws house, knockin' a few back while we were watching a stock car race on TNN. A commercial came on from the North Carolina tourism board with an offer to call an 800 number for a free visitor's brochure. What made me make the call? I don't know, maybe in the heat of the race (we're big race fans by the way) I thought it'd be cool to see a race at one of those good ole boy tracks down south.
Well the brochure arrived and the timing was right. There was a fall race at Charlotte and we could get dirt cheap tickets. We even found an open room at the Motel 6 nearby (as race fans could tell you, a cheap room during a race weekend is an extremely rare thing...try getting one at Indianapolis during Memorial Day weekend). This would allow us to see the race and then give us 10 days afterward to explore.
Flying to Charlotte, we took US Air which is about the only choice you have since they have 90% of the gates locked up there. It was a great flight and we had the bonus of several celebrities on the plane with us like Jeff Conaway, Don Knotts, and some we recognized but didn't know their names like the guy who played Kevin's older brother on the Wonder Years.
It was a fun flight (It's Jason Hervey - Ed).
Arriving at the airport, US Air have their sponsored car with driver Ted Musgrave waiting to greet arriving passengers. To those of you who wonder why it's a big deal, in Charlotte a big race weekend is comparable to Super Bowl weekend. Anyway, we did the meet and greet with Musgrave who was a superb gentleman and even put our son Tim in the driver's seat of his Winston Cup racer. All in all a wonderful way to start the trip.
We caught a taxi to our motel, which was just your basic Motel 6. Upon checking in, a young man came in behind us at the lobby and held the door for us as we went to our room. 10 minutes later, reality came down on us as the manager who checked us in came to our room and asked us if we remembered what that man looked like because right after we walked out he robbed them!
Luckily, no one was hurt. He just took the money and was actually polite about it. We gave our statement to the police and went on with our trip. We were a little shaken up, but that was the first and last bad thing to happen on our trip.
The motel soon turned into race central and was full of fans. Motel 6, though basic, is pretty advanced when it comes to accessibility with a roll-in shower and two double beds. Nowadays, I'd look for something a little more comfortable but back then, it was available and cheap.
We soon realized that Charlotte has one thing in common with Southern California...you need a car. God must have been smiling on us because after calling several agencies, we must have got the last available car in North Carolina at Enterprise Rent a Car.
The next day we drove over to the speedway for the race. Charlotte Motor Speedway is a marvelous place to watch a race. We had great wheelchair accessible seats in turn one and could see all the action easily. It was also quite warm, pleasantly so, we sat in our shorts and t-shirts soaking up the sun enjoying some great NASCAR Winston Cup action.
Stay tuned for Part 2 where we head to the hills of Western North Carolina...
Copyright 2000 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved