Bopping Around Charlotte, NC

Every Fall the travel bug bites me and I get the crazy notion that K and I need to spice things up with a trip (much to his chagrin). One year we went to Jamaica, one year I took a girls’ trip to the beach. This October my parents gave us their hotel points and we headed to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We left home Wednesday night after work & got back on Sunday.

Typically we follow the same path south through the mountains multiple times a year, whether we’re going to the east coast or Florida (that’s a hellish drive) or the NASCAR races in Bristol. We’re usually in a car full of people and/or adhering to a strict schedule. Since this trip was just K and I, we decided we wanted to veer off our usually path, add about 45 minutes (which turned into two hours thank to traffic), and spend some time in Charlotte, NC.

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We started talking about a side trip a few days before we left, but we didn’t decided to go for it until we were on the road. (I am a Type-A anal-retentive planner/traveler, but I summoned all my strength to plan nothing [save the hotels and such] and just go with the flow.) We’d both never spent any time in Charlotte- home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame/admin. offices- so it was a unanimous decision to stop and explore.

Originally we planned to leave Thursday, but K and I said ‘goodbye’ to the dogs and packed up the car on Wednesday night. We drove about two hours south to meet my brother & his wife in Circleville, OH. If you’ve never been, there’s really not much except the Annual Circleville Pumpkin Show. K isn’t one for festivals or fairs, but I was annoyingly persistent- plus my baby brother was begging to hang out with us. Around 7 or 8 pm we arrived in town, spent 20 minutes trying to park, and finally left my car in the sketchy backyard of a town resident (for like $10 bucks). Despite a Cleveland Indian’s win that he’d listened to the whole way down, K’s mood was not stellar. Still, he plastered a smile on his face and walked around the crowded streets with us while I stuffed my face with french fries and pumpkin spice pulled pork (oh my gosh- SO good) and apple cider.

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We said goodbye to Fred & Xtina around 10pm and drove an hour to our hotel in Lancaster. We arrived just in time because an insane storm blew in just as we got settled in our room. I have never heard rain and thunder so clearly while staying in a hotel. The flashes of lightning through our drawn curtains were so intense. Of course K slept through the whole thing.

The next morning we packed up our car again and started south. It was a mostly uneventful drive. Traffic getting into Charlotte was a pain, but once we were in the city it was actually pleasant. Brace yourself… here come all the pictures…

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The building was architecturally incredible. The museum was intricate and modern, too. We purchased standard tickets (as in didn’t include a simulation ride or food) and they handed us two access cards. When we registered the cards outside the small informational theater we were able to enter our name, pick out a helmet design, and choose our race car driver tour guide. Obviously I picked Kasey Kahne. K chose Jimmie Johnson.

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This was the waiting area where you registered your card & wait for the 12-minute film.

Upon exiting the theater there was an entire exhibit dedicated to Tony Stewart or “Smoke.” He’s retiring after the 2016 year ends so some of his cars, fire suits, trophies, etc. are on display in the hall. From there you walk up a long, winding ramp that follows the progression of racing and the stock cars involved. It has winning cars from various years as well as details on each NASCAR track- both in-use and retired.

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Cars/Pixar fans might recognize the ‘Hudson Hornet’- which was a real race car!

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Our race track :)
Our race track 🙂

We practically had the entire museum to ourselves, which was glorious. I regret that I took so many pictures & didn’t read more of the information. That said, we were finishing up just as the museum was closing so if I’d have read all the things I wanted to we’d have never made it through in time. We’ll go back someday soon.

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There’s a circular room with all the HOF inductees. Each person has a pole like this that includes their image, information, and a video about their involvement in the sport.

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The museum has a Hall of Fame Room, a pit crew challenge (K beat me… stupid tire was so heavy!), a race simulator, and a top floor dedicated to the history of the sport. Kyle Busch was the champion last year and they had his car and the trophy on display at the museum.

The race simulator was awesome. Our package didn’t include it so we were prepared to pay $5 but the staff member just let us slide through since it was the end of the day. (Honestly, the customer service at NASCAR was ridiculous. Everyone was friendly and helpful and attentive. It was a really great experience for us!) K ran second for most of the race, but he was wrecked right at the end and finished 6th. I got 4th place after blowing my engine at the beginning. Oops…

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We didn’t want to eat at the museum’s BW3 because we have one in our town, so we wandered down the street and found Carolina Ale House. Blogger-fail on my part because I didn’t take any food pictures, but trust me when I say it was delicious! Our pulled pork nachos were incredible. We also has a window seat so I could watch downtown Charlotte and over-analyze everyone. #MyFavorite

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We both wished we’d had more time Charlotte (a.k.a. we later decided we should’ve just vacationed to Charlotte), but it was only meant to be a short stop on our way to our destination. After dinner we hopped in the car and started on the 3 hour drive to the beach.

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Cape Cod [ 2 of 2 ]

Monday I tackled the first half of the alphabet in regards to Cape Cod. Today I’ll tackle the second half.

This will essentially sum up my vacation 🙂 I have a guest post next month with Olya  on The Siberian American with more details on Nantucket, so keep an eye out for that!

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Boston

N -New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This was our first trip to this race track! I’m glad we got to experience it!

O – Oysters. Three of us (not K) tried oysters for the first time. Um…. we all agreed that they’re gross. Haha!

P – Pit passes. We had passes to go down into the race track pits. It was awesome to see the cars and crew up close.

Q – Qualifying. I’ve never watched the Sprint Cup (NASCAR) qualifying races but we had tickets to all three days of racing in NH!

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R – Restaurants. We had a kitchen in the hotel & we ate-in a few times, but we hit up so many delicious restaurants in the cape.

S – Shipyard. We didn’t have a set plan for Boston so when K suggested the shipyard we put on our walking shoes and went!

T – Two hours and 15 minutes. That’s the length of the ferry ride from Hyannis Port to Nantucket.

U – Unscheduled. We took an unplanned, unscheduled stop in Plymouth, MA to see Plymouth rock!

V – Vehicle… er, land vehicle. We took a DUCK boat all around Boston Friday morning & learned a little about the city and it’s history!

W – Whale watching! I loved whale watching- especially seeing the moms and calves!

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X – eXhaustion. (Ok, that’s a stretch…) On Wednesday I found myself tired & nauseous. I think heat exhaustion got the best of me.

Y – Yelping. Our dogs actually cried and yelped when we walked back through the door. (Or maybe that was me….)

Z – Zee end. Overall, it was a ridiculously packed vacation that came right on the eve of my brother’s wedding… Which means I’m already dreaming about a tropical beach and spiked drink  😉

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Cape Cod [ 1 of 2 ]

Hi ya! I thought I’d do a quick two part recap on our trip to the Cape today & Wednesday! Instead of rambling on and on about each day I’m going to give an abbreviate alphabetical version of our trip. Before I do, here are the basics:

K and I left Sunday morning with my parents for a 9 day trip. We spend Sun. night in Greenwich, CT and M/T/W in Dennis Port, MA with a quick day trip to Nantucket on Tues. Thursday afternoon through Friday morning was in Boston with the remainder of Friday & Sat/Sun spent in Loudon and Lincoln, NH at the NASCAR race. We drove home (+12 hours) on Monday.

A – Ascend. On Thursday we climbed the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. 294 steps in +80 degree weather!

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B – Biking. We biked over 18 miles while on Nantucket! It was exhausting.

C – Connecticut. We spent our first night of vaca. in Greenwich, Connecticut- just as a resting point.

D – Dogs. I missed our babies terribly but I tried to pet at least two dogs every day on the trip. Ha!

E – Excursion. We traveled in my Dad’s three-row, black Ford excursion. For over 1,600 miles total.

F – Fred. This was my first family vacation without my little brother 😦

G – Good weather. We had mostly warm, rain-free weather all week! At times it was so hot but overall it was fantastic.

H – Humidity. Seriously, you just can’t escape it!

I – Island. It was so fun to introduce my parents to the Island of Nantucket!

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J – Juice Bar. The Juice Bar is a delicious ice cream shop on Nantucket!

K – Kyle. It was another one of those whirlwind, jam-packed vacations & K was such a trooper.

L – Lincoln & Loudon, New Hampshire. We stayed in one city & watched the races in the other!

M – Massachusetts. We spent four days in MA and this was my firs trip to Boston!

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You can find the second half of the alphabet here!  🙂

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Another Weekend in the Books | #gratefulheart

Short & sweet today, friends. I’m home from my girls’ beach vacation and last night I felt incredibly blessed to open the back door to two excited dogs and a cheerful husband. What did I do to deserve such unconditional love? I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel and relax with friends. I’m also incredibly thankful to have a husband that holds down the fort and doubles the love for the dogs for a few days in my absence. I also got a 1am phone call, which can be a really good thing or a really bad thing, and thankfully it was excellent news! (More on that later- I promise!)

For now, I’m happy to be back at work, back in Ohio, and back to my side of the king-size bed, smothered by dogs and soothed by K’s breathing.

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Louise

Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey

What Happened When I Took A Week Off

A few months ago I put in a vacation request at my full-time job & at my part-time job for an entire week. The plan was to travel to a small resort just outside St. Louis, MO and spend the week with K, my parents, my brother & his gf, and my grandparents. My uncle lives in St. Louis so we’d be spending time with him, too. A week before the scheduled trip my husband told me that business was too good and he wouldn’t be able to take a week off. (K owns his own business.) I held out hope that we might be able to join my family halfway through the week, but K’s agenda just wouldn’t cooperate. He told me I could vacation without him, but I knew my absence would make for a miserable week for him and the pups. Last Sunday we waved goodbye as my family set off for Missouri… without us.

Last week I had a free week. No work, no part-time job, no family obligation. I am a Type-A planner so the idea of 7 days of “nothingness” freaked me out. I thought about going in to work. I thought about trying to figure out a way to join my family. I thought about filling my days with a strict schedule. But then I didn’t do any of that.

Lots of time for some adult coloring
Lots of time for some adult coloring

I slept in (even though I had intentions of doing early-morning hot yoga). I staying in athletic shorts all day. I didn’t touch the vacuum until Sunday and I let dishes pile up in the sink (for a few hours until I washed them…) I only did laundry when we ran out of clothes and I ignored my car that desperately needed cleaned-out. I completely ignored my blog and put aside all the other blogs I typically read. I only opened my IG app once or twice and I made 3 Facebook posts… two of them were just photos.

But I honestly feel like I got a lot done. I reorganized my craft room/office. I hung some photos and built some book shelves. I prepped some meals and make sure we had dinner and snacks all week. I went shopping and treated myself with coffee. I fed my parents’ (7) pets and spent some time relaxing on their back porch.

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I spent a morning in Amish Country with my mother-in-law and I took a trip to Columbus, Ohio with Enzo to visit friends. (More about our dog park adventure on Friday!) I took time to just lay in bed, relax on my couch, and sort through memories. For the first time in a long time, gave myself permission to do nothing.

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All worn out from our Columbus trip!

I’m back at work today and I feel incredibly refreshed. My family is home and safe, my house is clean and my laundry is done (thanks to some Sunday cleaning), and my husband is more caught up and feeling better about his work load.

I am so grateful for the past week. I’m so grateful to have the vacation time to spend doing nothing. I’m so grateful to start the week with a happy, refreshed heart.

Did you have a nice weekend? When is the last time you took the time to do nothing? Have you even been to Columbus Ohio? How about a dog park? I’ll see you on Friday for my puppy-park recap!

-Louise

Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey