After graduating from college in 2000, my best friend and I packed all of our belongings into my Mercury Sable sedan and set out on a cross-country drive to move to San Francisco. Our Let’s Go USA travel book and customized AAA map guided us in a two-week trek from Greensboro, North Carolina to California with many cities, hostels, local dishes, landmarks and laughs along the way. Once in San Francisco, we found jobs and a 1970’s chic apartment in Pacific Heights with a view of the downtown skyline. On weekends, we hiked the city’s steep streets to explore new neighborhoods or navigated the Pacific Coast highway’s curves in a rental car. Though mesmerized by the dramatic coastline of California, I soon missed the soft white sand beaches and warm oceans of North Carolina.
In 2003, I followed my roots back to the east coast to live in Charlotte, North Carolina closer to friends and family. Every summer growing up, my family headed south from Massachusetts to North Carolina, where we trekked in between my mother’s hometown Greensboro, the coast near Wilmington, and the Blue Ridge Mountains. My sister, brother and I couldn’t wait to visit to our favorite Southern spots each year, from Tweetsie Railroad in Boone to Jones seafood restaurant on Highway 17 in Wilmington. Despite occasionally torturing each other in the back of the family station wagon, we loved every moment of our hazy summers in the South.
After countless trips to the north and south since moving to Charlotte, I often shift into auto pilot until reaching my planned destination. The signs on I-85 and I-77 serve as mile markers in between point A and Point B instead of potential excursions. To discover (and rediscover) the sights, sounds, tastes and stories of the South, I am starting a year of mini-road trips in North Carolina and beyond the state line in 2010. To stretch my limited travel budget, destinations in and around my hometown of Charlotte (i.e. NASCAR country) will be on the itinerary. I am looking forward to recruiting my friends and family as travel companions for a tourist-style travel experience in our home state.
Destination #1, the new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art in Charlotte.