Each day as I sit to write these posts (no standing desk here) I start out with a story in my mind. This is how it’s always been though. When I worked in news and I was assigned to cover a story I would always jump into the news van with my camera op and as we would drive to the story – typically down the FDR Drive in Manhattan – I would have enough of a skeleton story in my mind to begin jotting down a script. This not only saved time but it also allowed me the freedom to actually “tell” the story. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not as if I ever supplied facts ahead of time without knowledge of them. But the details could easily be dropped into the framework if I had been doing my homework.
And so it is with the Grill’n & Chill’n blog. As we drive from one city to the next across this great land I have an idea of how the event will pan out. Usually this is supplemented with my knowledge (or the knowledge I can easily acquire thanks to a hotspot on my phone) about the town in which we will land. I like to begin these stories by writing about something off-beat, perhaps notable about the places we visit.
And then there’s Burgaw, North Carolina…
The truth is that this hamlet along the Cape Fear River inlet in the southeastern Tar Heel State is quite charming. Lovely homes, kindly people, incredible scenery all make for an ideal spot to stop down along this summer of madness for us. But for the life of me I cannot figure out this town’s deal. What happened here? Who’s deep secrets went to a grave with him under the topsoil of this marshy scape?
Nothing, that is, unless you factor in these two gems. First, the town hosts a blueberry festival each year so there is that. Second, and perhaps most telling, the town had a police force totaling 21 members in 2013. By April of 2015, however, the force had lost 14 members and its police chief. I don’t know what this bodes for Burgaw but I’m itching to find out.
Day 6/Event #3
Burgaw is currently home to Patrick and Trisha (Folsom) Dean, class of ’98 and our most gracious hosts for an evening of fun. The Dean’s and their children opened their beautiful home to the tour by way of a last minute plea to stop by after reading this blog! We were happy to oblige. Other guests came, too, including Rebecca Deucher, ’14, and her brother who graduated just last year. Again, bringing the younger, newer alums into the picture is part of what this is all about.
It had been years since I last saw Pat. I was wondering what he was up to so I asked him. Turns out he still works in the family business. What’s that, you ask? Let’s just say that Pat has a lot of wood.
The Dean family of North Carolina trades in wood – timber, lumber, beams, pressure-treated, you name it. Fittingly for a man with a lot of wood at his disposal and a vast knowledge of all things plank, Pat’s home is a masterful expression of woodworking skill. The best part of their home, to me, was the Chickering piano, a baby grand, in the living room which I was invited to play. I immediately felt at home at the bench. My piano teacher when I was growing up had a Chickering. Pat explained to me that this piano had been his parents’ piano and he inherited it as a wedding present of sorts. Funny, that’s how I got my first piano as an adult as well. It also turns out that the Dean’s used to supply lumber to Chickering and that, in all likelihood, my teacher’s piano probably came from their mills. You learn something new every day.
We grilled (and chilled) until late into the evening before saying our goodbyes and promising to head back one day. Then it was on to…
Day 7/Traveling up the Coast
The drive from Burgaw lead us first to a hotel about an hour and a half north in the town of Greenville, NC. Although Greenville had more to offer in terms of shopping, the town lacked the nascent charm of Burgaw. I had to find something to catch my fascination here or I would consider myself a failure.
Thanks once again to Roadside America (an app you all should download if you plan to road trip) I found a cemetery in a mall parking lot.
There is no explanation other than that a family graveyard was displaced for construction of a shopping center and the graves were reinterred, paved over, and walled in. Take a look for yourself.
From here it was on to the Outer Banks.
On our journey we made stops of an historical nature. As a kid I remember reading about the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke Island. Well we found it. It was fun explaining to the kids about how Sir Walter Raleigh returned to England for “supplies” and when he came back to the Carolinas the colony and her people had vanished. Sure he tried to find them, I think. Let’s put it this way. He set sail for Hatteras, some 70 miles south, but a storm blew up and he instead returned again to England, some 3000 miles east. Because a trans-Atlantic voyage in a sailing ship was so much easier than waiting a day or two for a storm to pass. Yeah, I’m thinking he didn’t really want to find them that badly. The colonists had left only one clue in the mysterious carving of the word “Croatoan” on an oak tree. Like a fool I asked a park ranger where that tree is today. I was so excited to see it and take a selfie. “Who knows?” came the reply. “Might be under water for all I can figure.” Thanks for that.
Our final stop today was at the Wright Brothers National Monument. The kids bought a National Parks Passport with their savings and our plan is to stop at as many of these places as we can for them to get stamps. High atop Kill Devil Hill in Kitty Hawk we took in the astounding vista. I gazed out with my son and wondered what brought two bicycle salesmen from Ohio to this beach to try the impossible. I peered down the primitive runway and thought of every take-off and landing cycle I’d ever experienced in an MD-80 and realized just how far the human race has come. That was a mere hundred years ago. And they say we’ve landed men on the moon. One man (or two in this case) and one dream can make a huge impact on the world.
Rolling down our windows for the final 45 minute trek we took in the familiar salt air of the Atlantic coast. When we arrived at the beach house in Corrolla I got the pleasure of unloading EVERYTHING from our car. I’ve been working out like a beast so it was pretty easy. Did the whole thing in one trip. Pretty soon the drink in my hand helped me forget the fact that we had taken 8 hours to drive something that would normally take 3. And mingling with friends helped reinforce why we’re doing this.
Guess what I’m going to ask you now.
Have you filled out the survey? Trisha Dean did. Keep reading, folks, we’re only getting started.
And if blogging about grilling doesn’t pan out for me I suppose I could always find work as a cop in Burgaw.