Last year after leaving Williamsburg we traveled south along the coast, so this year we decided to travel inland. We headed southwest across Virginia and into central North Carolina to Salisbury. We stayed at Bass Lake RV Resort, which is part of Western Horizons Resorts. Although it is a membership campground, they accept a membership in any campground organization including Passport America. (Note: Bass Lack RV Resort is no longer Passport America.) The sites are fairly generous in size and are gravel with grass between.
There are numerous trees, but we asked for a site that would be good for satellite and had no problems. The campground had no traffic or train noise and was very quiet...except for a maintenance worker running a leaf blower almost all day...almost every day, even though not many leaves were falling yet. The campground was planning to stay open only through the weekend of October 13-14, which is a NASCAR race weekend at nearby Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte.
Salisbury, NC is about mid-way between Winston-Salem and Charlotte and is near the heart of the area where many NASCAR Nextel Cup and Busch Series race shops are located. Many of the shops have museums with cars that were driven by famous drivers and with trophies their teams have won. A lot of the shops also have viewing areas where fans can see some of the work that is being done on the race cars.
Paul has been a race car fan since he was in his teens. Margery had a short-lived interest in racing when we were first married. We both drove autocrosses garnering a few pewter trophies in the process. An autocross is a timed automobile gymkhana where drivers navigate a course set up on a parking lot using pylons. Of course, that was when shopping centers were still closed on Sundays. :) We drove our everyday road cars and sometimes had to race against dedicated weekend race vehicles, making for keen competition. That made walking away with a trophy a thrill or, in some cases, it meant the competitor who usually had the fastest car didn't show up that particular weekend. :) We even traveled to Watkins Glen for the Grand Prix in October the first couple years of our marriage. We still marvel at arriving home at 2 a.m. on a race weekend and going to work a mere 5 hours later at 7 a.m. Ahhhhh, youth! Anyway, in recent years Margery has adopted a renewed interest in motor sports, and now we both enjoy NASCAR. With Lora marrying into a family of NASCAR fans and being able to play in the Bell NASCAR Family Challenge (a fantasy racing league where you are awarded points based on how well the drivers you picked that week did) has added to our enjoyment of the sport.
The first race shop we stopped at was Richard Childress Racing, home of Nextel Cup drivers Kevin Harvick (#29), Clint Boyer (#07), and Jeff Burton (#31). All three of these drivers are in the top group of 12 drivers vying for the championship as the season nears its end.
Richard Childress Racing (RCR) moved into new shops and offices in 2002. They converted their old shop into a museum dedicated primarily to Dale Earnhardt (Sr.), who raced for RCR prior to his death in an accident during the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Although there are differing opinions, Dale Earnhardt is considered by many to be the best stock car driver ever. He won 67 races and is tied at 7 with Richard Petty for the most season championship wins. His aggressive driving style earned him the nickname of "The Intimidator." The museum displays many of Dale's cars. Some of them are set up as though they are in the process of being worked on to be prepared for a race using some of the equipment from the original race shop.
When building the new race shops, RCR designed the Fan Walk, which is on the second floor of the building where some of the offices are located and which overlooks several areas of the shop. You can see the garage where they back in the haulers that carry the race cars. We were there on a Tuesday and they had already unloaded the haulers from the race the weekend before and were cleaning the trailers out in preparation for loading up for the next race. The platform at the back of the truck lifts the race cars to the upper level of the trailer. Parts and tools are stored in the lower level.
You can get a great overhead view of the assembly shop. Each driver has numerous cars representing a sizable investment for the team owner. Different types of car are used for different types of track and each type of car will have one of more backup cars.
We also visited the Hendrick Motorsports complex in Charlotte. Hendrick is the home of drivers Jimmy Johnson (#48), Jeff Gordon (#24), Kyle Busch (#5), and Casey Mears (#25). Of these, all but Casey Mears are in the top group of 12 drivers in contention for the championship. Here is Margery in the Hendrick museum looking at cars driven by Jimmy Johnson and Jeff Gordon that won the Daytona 500 over the past several years.
The blue and silver car to the left was the same car we saw as the 2006 Daytona 500 winner when we toured the track at Daytona last December. They keep the winning car on display for a year. The car still has champagne stains and confetti on it from the celebration in the winner's circle. As the 2007 winner, Kevin Harvick's car (#29) is on display at Daytona now and will remain there until is replaced by the 2008 winner in February.
Both the race shops we visited were absolutely spotless. The floor in the individual work areas is covered with a steel plate. There was a technician working under the car on the left in the photo above and he was sliding around on the steel plate on his back without a creeper. When he got up his shirt was spotless - not a spec of dust nor a drop of oil!
There are more photos of the NASCAR race shops in Photo Album 024: Central North Carolina.
Charlotte is also the location of one of the more popular NASCAR tracks, Lowe's Motor Speedway. Last December when we were in Florida, we drove to Daytona for a tour of that speedway. So, while we were in Charlotte, we took advantage of the tour offered at Lowe's Motor Speedway as well. We were there about 2 weeks ahead of the upcoming races (October 13 & 14), but they were already setting up tents for souvenir vendors in one of the parking lots. The infield, garages, and camping areas were empty, but in a little over a week they would be bustling with activity as fans and race teams arrive.
At Lowe's, as at Daytona, the tour went through the garage areas, past the pits, past the grandstands (which hold 165,000 fans), past the infield camping areas, and included a stop at the winner's circle.
The Daytona Speedway tours are done in open trams while the Lowe's tours are done in vans. With the open trams, you could see more and get better photos; but the tour in the vans at Lowe's includes one lap around the 1.5 mile speedway at 85 mph. While the NASCAR drivers will be doing close to 200 mph, 85 was still a thrill in a big, clunky van. You could feel the G-forces as we rounded the turns with the 24 degree banking.
During times when there are no races at Lowe's, they host several driving schools. The driving experiences range from several laps around the track riding with an instructor ($), to driving a race car yourself ($$) following an instructor's car (to insure you take the proper line around the track and that you don't get carried away and go too fast), to a multi-day driving school ($$$$). Here is one of the cars from the school coming up on the start/finish line. He was probably going about 140 mph.
We found this central area of North Carolina to be loaded with interesting things to see, even if you are not into NASCAR. For example, the town of Salisbury, where our campground was located, had a National Cemetery that dates back to the Civil War. In addition to more recent veterans, there are 11,700 Union soldiers buried here who were prisoners at the Salisbury Confederate Prison. This monument was erected to the memory of the unknown Union soldiers who died in the prison.
Salisbury has a 6,000 sq. ft. mural on the side of a downtown building. The mural was painted from 1978 to 1981 by a local artist and depicts downtown Salisbury at the end of the 19th century. The artist used real people as models for the characters in the mural.
Salisbury is also home to Catawba College and Livingstone College and Hood Theological Seminary. Catawba bears the name of an Indian tribe in the area and was founded in 1851 by German pioneers. During the Civil War the college was operated as a high school before returning to college status in 1865. In 1890 Catawba became co-educational graduating its first woman student in 1893. Today it continues to be affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Livingstone College was originally founded in 1879 by group of A.M.E. Zion ministers as Zion Wesley Institute for the purpose of training ministers. Dr. Charles Joseph Price, an African-American born in 1854, was the impetus to moving the Institute to college status in 1882. It was re-named Livingston College in 1887 in honor of the Scottish physician and missionary to Africa Dr. David Livingstone. Hood Theological Seminary is named after James Walker Hood who was a bishop of the A.M.E. Zion Church and one of the founders of the above-mentioned Zion Wesley Institute. During much of his career, Bishop Hood cherished a dream of training qualified Negro youths for the Christian ministry. It took ten years but on October 7, 1903, the first class of a new bachelor of divinity program was enrolled. In 1904 the theological department was upgraded to a school and in 2001 the seminary began operating independently of the college.
Being a product of a public education that focused on only the high points of our history, we have become fascinated by all the history we are learning as we travel. It's like putting muscle and flesh on the skeleton. Margery, particularly, has always had an interest in learning about the history and life on college campuses. She continues to be amazed by the number of small colleges there are across the U.S. Surfing through these college websites not only enlarges our understanding of the history but also the social culture of the schools...a microcosm of society. For instance, what is the first thought that comes to mind when we think of the Civil War? For us, it's slavery. But who was to know that following the Civil War Charles Joseph Price, an African-American born in 1954 in Elizabeth City, NC, would receive an education that would prepare him for higher education. He eventually studied theology at Pennsylvania's Lincoln University graduating valedictorian in 1879.
A few miles north of where we stayed in Salisbury is Winston-Salem. Old Salem was founded in the mid-1700s by the Moravians, who were German-speaking Protestants originally from an area of Europe that today is known as the Czech Republic. The Moravians first came to Georgia in 1735 as part of a missionary movement to preach the gospel to the America Indians. Because of the Moravians were continually threatened by the constant battles between the English colonists and the Spanish in Florida, they left Georgia for Pennsylvania where they established Bethlehem, Lititiz, and Nazareth. The Moravians in Bethlehem, PA, were approached by the Earl of Granville, who owned the vast Carolina tract. He wanted the Moravians to settle in his frontier territory because they were known as honest, industrious people. Two other area towns were settled first, then Salem was established in 1766 with the intention that it would be a more central town and serve a wider geographical area than the first two towns. Salem would be a trade and craft center.
The church was the center of life in Salem. It owned all the land. Although individuals could build houses and shops, they leased the land from the church. The people were pious, industrious, and peace-loving.
Today there are about 100 restored and reconstructed buildings in Old Salem ranging from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s. Although the streets and shops are open to visitors, tickets are required to tour various historic buildings. Since it was rather late in the day when we got there, we decided not to purchase tickets and just tour the streets and view the buildings from the outside. The photo below is the hat shop.
The Moravians divided themselves into groups called choirs (from a Greek word meaning "group"). Each group or choir had definite community tasks for which it was responsible in addition to religious and educational activities. The choirs were instituted because of a belief that the church could best meet the needs and interests of its members if they were divided according to age, gender, and marital status. This is the single brothers' house where single men lived dormitory-style until they married.
Abutting Old Salem is Salem College, the 13th oldest college in the nation and the oldest educational institution for women. The college was founded by the Moravians in 1772 because they believed that women deserved an education comparable to that given men...a bit forward-thinking for the 18th century! Salem is also noted for being one of the top ten character-building colleges in the nation because of their unique Salem Signature program integrating career and life preparation with study in the liberal arts.
Please see Photo Album 024: Central North Carolina for more photos and information on Old Salem.
The Moravians also brought us delicious spice cookies. These cookies are thin and crispy and are loaded with cinnamon, ginger, and clove. We were first introduced to Moravian cookies when Margery received some as a gift years ago. There are a number of bakeries in the Winston-Salem area, including the bakery at Old Salem; but we found Mrs. Hanes' Cookies to be a little less expensive. One reason they were less expensive is we were able to buy cookies in cellophane bags at the factory. All the other cookies we found were in the traditional cardboard tubes or in tins, which protect the thin, crisp cookies from damage during shipping. Although Mrs. Hanes' Cookies uses the tubes and tins for shipping as well, the bags are available only at the factory. Mrs. Hanes Cookies still rolls, bakes, and packs all their cookies by hand. We prefer the original Moravian spice cookies, but there are also other flavors such as sugar, lemon, and black walnut.
Mrs. Hanes Cookies is a 7th generation business of making these thin, crisp ginger cookies. EACH cookie is hand rolled and hand cut. They make 100,000 lbs. of cookies a year. At 100 cookies per pound of dough, that's 10 MILLION cookies a year...hand rolled, hand cut, and hand packed! The ladies in the photo below are packing cookies at the end of the day.
Personal tours of 1 hour in length are available January - September. We'll be back for a tour....and more cookies!
While in Winston-Salem, we found Ronnie's Country Store. It was a neighborhood store opened in 1925 by W. G. White where rural Piedmont residents would come into town by wagon and mule to buy supplies. The store was bought by Ronnie and Carolyn Horton in 1994 and continues to operate today with the same look and feel it had years ago. They sell fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, nuts, country ham, and bulk candy. It was fun looking around and Paul (aka Candyman) found some Sunkist Fruit Gems candy to take home.
We found out barbecue is almost a religion in North Carolina. We are talking pork barbecue (generally "pulled" or chopped), not ribs. Eastern-style NC barbecue is all about the meat. It is made from the whole hog and is slow cooked (up to 18 hours) at low temperature. There is a small amount of vinegar or vinegar-based sauce, but it is more a moistening agent rather than a flavoring.
Western or Lexington-style NC barbecue is made from pork shoulder and has more barbecue sauce. North Carolina barbecue (or "Q" for short) is traditionally served with sides such as cole slaw (frequently served on the barbecue sandwich), hush puppies, onion rings, and sweet tea.
Even though we were pretty far west in North Carolina, there were still a few good eastern-style "Q" restaurants in the area. However, since we like the flavor of good barbecue sauce and since we were very close to Lexington, we decided to try Lexington-style "Q."
Our first stop was Bar B Q King in Charlotte. Bar B Q King is an old fashioned drive-in with curb service. We picked Bar B Q King because of the good review it received by Jane and Michael Stern on their website roadfood.com. Roadfood.com is dedicated to regional foods found along the highways, byways, small towns and cities of America. Their website identifies themselves as follows: "Roadfood is almost always informal and inexpensive; and the best Roadfood restaurants are colorful places enjoyed by locals (and savvy travelers) for their character as well as their menu." Bar B Q King has also been featured on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.
We each ordered a barbecue sandwich, and we got a large sweet tea and an order of onion rings to share. The barbecue was served with slaw on the sandwich and was good, but it didn't quite have enough sauce for our taste. However, the Bar B Q King onion rings were outstanding! You usually only get about a half a dozen onion rings (if you're lucky) with a regular-size order, so we asked for a large order. We got the biggest pile of onion rings we ever saw! Their onion rings are hand cut and hand dipped. They were nice and crunchy and not too greasy. We were stuffed by the time we were done. Dinner was canceled. :)
Our second sampling of North Carolina "Q" was at Speedy's Barbecue in Lexington, NC. Their barbecue sandwich was also served with cole slaw on it and with extra sauce on the side. The extra sauce allowed us to add more to get the flavor we wanted, but the pork had an excellent flavor all its own that could still be tasted even with the extra sauce. Even though we liked Speedy's barbecue better than Bar B Q King, Pierce's in Williamsburg is still our favorite. As with Bar B Q King, it was one of Speedy's side dishes that we really loved. At Bar B Q King it was the onion rings, and at Speedy's it was the hush puppies. Hush puppies are small globs of corn bread dough that are deep fried. All the ones we had seen up to this time were more or less round balls. Speedy's were little logs about 1 1/2" long. The cornbread was deliciously sweet and soft on the inside, crisp on the outside, and not at all greasy. We thought we would get 8 or 10 hush puppies. There had to be 30 or 40 in the basket! There were so many we couldn't finish them and took a bunch home.
We enjoyed our stay in central North Carolina very much. We definitely plan to come back someday, and we'll have to allow more time.